On January 26 Tulare County Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Mike Ennis presented the State of the County Address.
Ennis reiterated before he started the address that because of the collaboration and dedication of the current board that the county was able to remain fiscally sound, and that they will keep it that way in the years to come.
2015 Held many challenges
2015 held many challenges for California and Tulare County was no exception. According to Ennis, the biggest challenge of 2015 was the fact that Tulare County was ground zero for the drought.
As one of 2015’s accomplishments Ennis said that the county obtained grants to drill a new well right outside of Porterville. The drilling started in August and is now complete and almost ready to go on-line.
In addition, the County Office of Emergency Services was successful in establishing the Household Bottled Water Program which has approved deliveries to 1,551 households to date, and the Water Tank Program that provides tanks to residents whose wells have gone dry.Ennis thanked the City of Porterville, United Way, CSET and Self-Help Enterprises for helping the County install the tanks and procure the water
The County established the Parks Advisory Committee in order to receive input from citizens to improvement the county’s 10 parks and improvements have already been made. Step Up continues to empower the county’s youth to stay out of gangs with the Summer Night Lights Program expanding to include more communities.
The Tulare County Film and Tourism Commission permitted a total of $2.8 million in overall film production projects last fiscal year.
One of the biggest projects for the Film and Tourism Commission this year has been a Virtual Reality series filmed for Samsung to promote their new Android phone and Virtual Reality gear. The Commission is also getting ready to market Tulare County filming opportunities at the upcoming Oscars.
Goals for 2016
Ennis started with public safety when talking about the county’s goals for 2016. The purchase of body cameras for all patrol officers will continue to take the County to the next level of state of the art law enforcement technology.
The sheriff’s department will add a second airplane that will be used for search and rescue, pot eradication and to support our deputies on the ground.
A new prison is being built in Porterville and is scheduled to break ground in February of this year.
Once this facility is operational, it will help cut the costs of transporting prisoners from Bob Wiley and the Main Jail to the new justice center.
The Tulare County Library will continue to increase access to literacy services, resources and programs for adults.
TCAG will implement a transit discount program for both active and retired military personnel in March of 2016. TCAG will also be widening a portion of Highway 65 and improving the Betty Drive interchange. In all, our Resource Management Agency intends to complete $2.5 million in community based road improvements,
In addition to the departmental goals, there are other countywide goals and projects Ennis mentioned.
The Water Resources Program Manager, Denise England, will continue to work with our local water agencies to implement the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act by forming Groundwater Sustainability Agencies and begin formulating Groundwater Sustainability Plans for each of Tulare County’s three critically over drafted sub-basins.
Ennis included in his comments about water, “We have worked diligently with our local water agencies to move the Lake Success Enlargement Project forward. This is an important project for local water supply reliability, flexibility, and flood protection for our communities. After several years of storage restrictions and delays while our federal partners completed studies, we now can use the lake at full capacity once again. In order to increase the pool and, local storage potential, our final obstacle is addressing possible overtopping risk by potentially widening the spillway. The partnering agencies will be working to continue the momentum.”
The Board of Supervisors will continue to meet with the Tule River Tribal Council on an annual basis, strengthening our communication and collaboration on the needs of both the County and the Reservation.
Another challenge for 2016, will be the fire risk. Due to lack of significant progress and pressure from environmental groups, the county was unable to complete the tree thinning necessary to reduce the risk of losing trees in our forests as seen with the rough fire. Having too many trees per acre combined with the lack of water due to the drought has severely affected the health of the trees, leaving us with 29 million dead trees statewide.
Ennis stated, “Tulare County was one of the first in the California to draw attention to this issue at the State and Federal levels. One of the main reasons we are concerned is that over half of our county is federal land. The last fire season had significant implications, and future fires due to large amount of dead trees could easily endanger our Giant Sequoia groves.”
Ennis finished his State of the County address by saying, “There’s no doubt there will be challenges in 2016. We will continue to watch for changes from the state and how they will handle medical marijuana enforcement. We will continue to monitor the drought and work with our communities to help ensure that the future water needs of our residents are met. As a Board, we will continue to do whatever it takes to keep this county fiscally sound. I look forward to working with everyone and the Board as your chair in 2016.”