State of the City: Mayor Ralph Fernandez urges citizen involvement
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: February 27, 2013
The message from Mayor Ralph Fernandez is it’s important to the community to stay involved, advice he gave during the State of the City address at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards ceremony.
Fernandez gave his address at the luncheon held February 12 at the Ventura County Agriculture Museum (The Mill), where Citizen of the Year Fred Robinson, Larger Businesses of the Year Vintage Production and Calpipe, Small Businesses of the Year Tisa’s Salon and Garden Market and Beautification Projects of the Year Santa Paula Chevrolet and America In Bloom were lauded. “California Dreamin’” was the theme of the annual luncheon attended by City Councilmen Rick Cook and Martin Hernandez, City Manager Jaime Fontes and Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long.
Fernandez said good news included the city having a balanced budget after projections had forecast a shortfall offset by dramatic cuts in services and personnel furloughs among other measures. Another balanced budget is forecast for the 2013-2014 Fiscal Year, but reviews will be ongoing for “revenue enhancements” as well as reduced spending.
The state deficit has been reduced, and next year expectations are it will be balanced as the economy continues to slowly recover from the national Great Recession. Fernandez noted the state’s dissolution of Redevelopment Agencies cut off a source of funding for various city programs that now must be drawn from the General Fund.
Community involvement with making Santa Paula Beautiful features strong efforts by America In Bloom - creating a corps of volunteers for the Bike Path program - and other organizations that have already adopted public areas for regular maintenance and grooming.
Phase 1 of the approximately $1 million grant-funded Las Piedras Park renovation launched in February 2012 should be completed in late spring, and the Harding Park project - the approximately $900,000 is funded by the park trust fund - is close to completion. Also planned is a new covered recreation/BBQ area at Teague Park.
Santa Paula Fire has expanded by five grant funded firefighters, has 35 reserves, and with supplemental staff continues to provide Building & Safety Department functions such as code enforcement and overseeing building permits.
Housing includes The Orchards, 20 apartment units for seniors created from a former convalescent hospital, and Williams Homes, 42 single-family homes being built on Hospital Hill. Limoneira East Area 1 and East Area 2 are on track, with the former slated to break ground in 2014 and the latter awaiting final approval by LAFCo. The city’s Housing Element finally mustered state approval.
Fernandez noted growing Santa Paula businesses including the remodels of Carl’s Jr. and MacDonald’s, the 4,100 square foot expansion of Fruit Growers Lab, and the remodel and expansion of Santa Paula Chevrolet. Santa Paula Materials will widen their business services after receiving a special state loan.
New businesses include Clearwater Industrial Park (Lemonwood), Little Caesar’s Pizza, Panda Express and Chase Bank. Calpipe also opened last year.
The Santa Paula Police Department continues hiring efforts and has 40-plus reserve officers, the Bike Patrol is again on the streets, and cadets are assigned to the Downtown and other public parking areas. Neighborhood Watch programs are growing, as is Citizens Patrol, which also oversees parking enforcement issues. A new bicycle safety program has been implemented.
Infrastructure continues to be worked on, with street and water/sewer projects ongoing Public Works priorities. The $7 million, 4.0 mg water tank, the second largest project in 20 years, also required that Steckel Drive be fully reconstructed between Main and Santa Paula streets.
Ongoing projects including water meter replacement, a problem that often is only discovered, said Fernandez, when customers notice bill increases. Sewer pipe is being replaced and sidewalks and medians repaired.
In 2013 a program to improve one water well a year will start, Harvard between 10th and 12th streets will be the scene of a sewer pipe replacement project, and street slurry and overlay will be done on targeted city streets.
Major beautification will result from a $600,000+ grant that targets 10th Street/Highway 150 from Highway 126 to Santa Paula Street, an effort that will include America In Bloom. The Bike Trail has a $1.1 million grant, and improvements will target rail crossings.
Fernandez praised city department heads, most who attended the Chamber function, and thanked Elisabeth Amador, the assistant to the city manager, for creation of the State of the City PowerPoint presentation.
Fernandez noted although he recognized the efforts of city staff as well as the at times “tough decisions” made by the council, the Santa Paula community in actuality is “made up of you.” And he added it is important for citizens to stay involved for several reasons, but mainly because “We can’t do it alone.”