Advancements, obstacles acknowledged during State of the County address

Chairman Michael W. Kelley gives the State of the County at the Old Eucalyptus Schoolhouse, Thursday, February 16, 2017. Photo by Brett Miller.

EL CENTRO — Looking back on the last twelve months, Michael Kelley, Chairman of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, gave the 2017 State of the County address Thursday evening at the Old Eucalyptus Schoolhouse. The speech was preceded by live music, an invocation by the Rev. Dr. Ron Griffin of El Centro, and a presentation of colors by the Naval Air Facility Color Guard.

During the address, Kelley highlighted the Imperial County’s accomplishments, addressed pressing concerns, and closed with several remarks on the importance of character when making decisions. A nod to national politics also found a place during the night.

“I think we can all agree that these are indeed interesting times,” Kelley began, referring to what he called one of the most divisive elections in recent memory. “We will survive and we will be on top of the world again. It takes us all to do it, not just one man.”

Projects from various county departments were presented, with Kelley noting renewed emphasis on efficiency amid recent financial uncertainties.

“Our Department of Public Works continues to find ways to stretch shrinking dollars to maintain more than 2500 miles of county roads, as well as 138 county bridges,” the chairman said. A pothole reporting webpage was also established, which according to Kelley, has drastically reduced the repair response times.

The County has continued to solicit interest from companies exploring the Valley’s renewable energy potential.

“Over 133 separate land-use applications were processed. Several new solar and geothermal developments began the application process and others started construction.” According to Kelley, a review has been undertaken of a new phase of the energy sector; including large-scale energy storage facilities that will help existing renewable energies integrate with the California grid.

Nine of the evening’s sixteen sponsors were companies involved in the energy industry, including Centinela Solar, 8minutenergy, and Solar Frontier.

Regarding agricultural production, Kelley highlighted improvement in pesticide disposal and detection, as well as the County’s issuing of “over 18,000 quarantine certificates to agricultural products being exported to 96 foreign countries and 15 U.S. states.”

Additional developments included the expansion of the Oren R. Fox Detention Center, due to a $33 million grant, which is expected to be completed next year, and a revamped disaster response plan and communication procedures from the Office of Emergency Services, in light of increased risks from earthquakes.

Aside from these examples of recent progress, Kelley also gave his list of what made Imperial County unique.

“I’m talking about our amazingly productive farmland, our water rights, our city beauty, our vast natural resources, our renewable energy potential, and most importantly, our people,” Kelley said. “We are blessed to live in a dynamic melting pot of folks from diverse racial, culture, and ethnic backgrounds, and this diversity makes us stronger.”

Future obstacles were also noted, including unemployment and the threat of pollutants.

“Our jobless rate is still too high, though down somewhat from recent years,” admitted Kelley. “The Salton Sea remains an important issue for us, though we are going to keep pushing, along with our partners at the IID, to increase restoration efforts and get support in Sacramento and Washington, so that our communities, and most importantly our children, don’t suffer from the impeding environmental and public health impacts resulting from dust emissions from the exposed playa.”

The addressed was closed with the chairman sharing his personal template for decision-making.

“Never ever make a decision based on envy, greed, jealously, ego, power, fear, anger, or retaliation. Unfortunately some people make decisions based on those elements,” said Kelley. “They may win a battle but they will lose the war, and the war is: a lifetime of successful fulfillment in making your life great.”

Kelley also expressed the need to recognize opportunities: ”Anything can happen to anyone. Tomorrow may not come. Take advantage of what the good Lord gives us each day,” Kelley pleaded, “and do what you can to make Imperial Valley and the world a better and safer place to live for years to come.”