The Tulare County Board of Supervisors started the business of the new year with the election of a chairman and vice chairman for 2018.
Steven Worthley was elected chairman, and Kuyler Crocker was elected vice chairman. Both were elected unanimously, 5-0, a voting trend that continued through the meeting.
Worthley, who has previously served as chairman several times, is starting his 20th and final year on the board.
After the meeting, he said there is still some unfinished county business he intends to address this year.
Interest on pension bonds for retired county employees is at 7.25%, but he said the cost could be reduced to almost 4% with refinancing.
Worthley wants to evaluate public safety in Tulare County, and deal with the increased expenses of staffing the new prisons being built in the county. He also wants to look at improving the appearance of county buildings.
“We’ve done a lot inside our buildings, but we need to look at our buildings from the outside,” he said, suggesting improvements such as landscaping.
In Other Business
Being their first meeting of 2018, the supervisors had a long list of appointments to make. They also voted to extend the designation of the Arts Consortium as the official arts council of Tulare County. (See related article in Scene.)
The most important business, however, affected the quality of water in the communities of Seville and Yettem, and the development of affordable housing in Goshen.
Water service in Seville has 75 active connections, with customers paying the current rate of $60. There are 65 active connections in Yettem, with customers paying a $58 rate. For their money, Seville residents have a water system described in the presentation by county engineer Ross Miller as “antiquated” and “substandard,” with “water quality challenges, currently under ‘boil notice.’” There are also reoccurring outages. Worthley reported that some of the current pipes have been in service since 1918.
The water in Yettem has nitrates. Neither community has water meters, so those who use water responsibly are charged the same as those who overuse it.
A partnership of state, county and community organizations is looking to fix those problems with the Seville and Yettem Water System Project, a plan that will first provide a new water distribution system with smart meters and fire hydrants in Seville, and then connect a pipeline between Yettem and Seville, and build a new well in Yettem.
An application for funding from the Water Resources Control Board had previously been submitted and “up to $5 million has been authorized,” according to the presentation. Supervisors approved the plans at this meeting, which include advertising for bids for the first phase of the project. Following the bidding and awarding of the contract, construction is expected to begin in June and be completed by the end of the year.
“There are so many positives coming out of this project,” said Worthley. “It will be locally controlled and the county will be out of it.”
Supervisor Pete Vander Poel described it as a “model-type project.”
Supervisors also approved a memorandum of understanding with Self-Help Enterprises and the Tulare County Association of Governments for improvements at Sequoia Commons, an affordable housing complex in Goshen. A total of 215 housing units are planned along Riggin Avenue featuring sidewalks and bike lanes, along with fixed-rate bus service.
According to the report submitted by Michael Spata, county administrative officer, the memorandum “is not a commitment of funding for the project.” The county’s main responsibility would be providing general oversight.