Vander Poel sets high sights for County in 2017
By Paul Myers
tulare county – Settling into his chairmanship supervisor Pete Vander Poel issued 2017’s State of the County address. Not only reflecting on 2016’s accomplishments, Vander Poel set his sights on the future and in particular the County’s finances.
“In maintaining the Board’s focus on fiscal responsibility, I would like this Board to consider the adoption of a Strategic Financing Plan to address current and future financial challenges that will serve the best interests of the residents of the County,” stated Vander Poel.
The key components of Vander Poel’s strategic financing plan will likely include: potential reorganization of the County’s financial departments; construction, operation staffing and provision of health services for the criminal justice and public safety facilities now under construction; construction of transportation improvements and infrastructure to better our rural communities, roads, bridges, water facilities, wastewater facilities, flood control facilities, and parks; public employee compensation including health benefits, retirement and salary; and structural balances of key departmental budgets that are routinely in deficit.
Vander Poel called for the County Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Spata, to return to the board with an item that establishes an ad hoc committee made up of board members to help guide the preparation and presentation of the plan.
The new chairman also discussed the County’s want to improve economic development. Noting first that, “It continues to be our policy to help create private sector jobs, increase the income of our residents, and add value to our local real estate and businesses.”
Vander Poel stated that to help continue economic development in the county, the CAO and the Board will need to approve a “Target Marking Plan” geared to promote economic development countywide.
Aside from Vander Poel’s economic aspirations, he turned toward projects coming to fruition throughout County departments, but not before reintroducing evening board meetings. Vander Poel stated that there will be five evening board meetings throughout 2017, located in each of the five Tulare County supervisorial districts.
“This effort brings the County to the people and improves the accessibility of the Board to members of the public unable to attend Tuesday Board meetings at 9 a.m.,” stated Vander Poel.
In his notes Vander Poel turned to the Sheriff’s department commending Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, “For continually bringing forward innovative ways to strengthen local public safety.”
Just recently the Sheriff’s department established an internet child safety campaign geared toward engaging parents, educating the public and enforcing laws. But the Sheriff’s department is not the only law enforcement agency in Tulare County making waves, as Vander Poel pointed out the District Attorney’s progress in 2016.
“The District Attorney [Tim Ward] moved just weeks ago to also strengthen efforts by the Child Abuse Response Team to provide comfort to younger victims during various interactions by deploying Fortune, a K-9 who in just a few short weeks of service has become one of the most popular members of the District Attorney’s team,” joked Vander Poel.
Outside of law enforcement Vander Poel made mention of the $5 million worth of road and school safety projects, presented later at the Jan. 24 meeting. As well, he mentioned a slew of other Resource Management Agency (RMA) projects including; the Akers to Highway 99 road widening project worth $14 million, the Earlimart Community Park, the $5 million design and construction of the Seville water system, and the avenue 196 at Orange Belt Signal Project worth $400,000 of grant funding, just to name a few.
Also, this year the County will make use of their recently purchased CIGNA building on Akers. The chairman made mention of the lease agreements in the building that will provide additional revenue to the County, while also housing the Sheriff’s and Fire Administration department.
Technologically, Vander Poel is looking forward to significant improvements to broadband internet service in 11 library branches, in addition to the opening of three additional branches in London, Farmersville and Pixley.
Lastly, Vander Poel touched on the growing issue of mental health in the county. Vander Poel noted that the mental health branch of the Health and Human Services Agency, in cooperation with the Tulare County Authority, has begun construction on two permanent supportive housing sites. One of which is in Porterville and the other in Tulare.