OCOTILLO – Surrounded by dignitaries and supporters, Chairman of the Board, Jesus “Jack” Terrazas, gave the State of the County report Thursday evening at the Imperial Valley Museum.
He began by saying the State of Imperial County was more than good and thanked the board of supervisors for their hard work and support.
“Every year brings challenges and opportunities and 2015 was no different,” said Terrazas. “I am proud of our Board, our executive staff, our department leaders and our incredible county employees for meeting the challenges and seizing the opportunities.”
Terrazas pointed out that unemployment numbers are down, the county survived the closure of two major employers and over 7,600 additional jobs were created compared to 2008 when the economic crisis hit.
“For every challenge, we have worked hard to create opportunities and we are prepared to meet whatever 2016 will bring our way” said Terrazas.
Terrazas said that the county finances and financial outlook are considered solid despite the years of financial difficulties and challenges; the County remains financially stable due to the strong and disciplined leadership.
“Strong leadership is nothing new for Imperial County,” said Terrazas. “In December, we rolled out the Imperial County 2020 Strategic Plan. Past chairman of the board, Ryan Kelley, made this plan one of his goals during his address last year and led the way to its completion.”
He pointed out work has begun on Phase 1 of the Calexico Downtown Port of Entry commending District 1 Supervisor John Renison for being aggressive on the project, moving it forward from concept to completion.
“With the support of our Congressmen, President Obama’s request for fiscal year 2017 now includes $248 million funding for Phase 2 of the port expansion project,” said Terrazas.
Terrazas recognized District 5 Supervisor Ray Castillo for working together with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Juan Vargas in protecting sensitive areas of the Desert with the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act.
Additionally, Terrazas said District 3 Supervisor Michael Kelley had been a strong voice for Imperial County in Sacramento as an active board member on the Rural Counties Representative of California and locally on the Imperial County/Imperial Irrigation District 2&2 Committee.
Emphasizing the Salton Sea, Terrazas said the Board had secured $80 million from the State, lobbied the federal government to match the state’s funding, and thanked Congressman Juan Vargas for his efforts in obtaining an additional $3 million in federal funding for various Salton Sea projects.
“Progress on Salton Sea issues, solar energy policy, and an improved relationship with the Imperial Irrigation District have begun to yield positive results for our valley,” said Terrazas.
Acknowledging agriculture as the County’s number one economic sector, Terrazas said that even though there had been a small decline in overall agriculture values, the County’s focus is pest control. For that reason, the Agriculture Department along with the California Department of Food and Agriculture released more than 57,000 wasps in 129 sites to perform work as a beneficial insect to impact the Asian Citrus Psyllid.
Terrazas said a total of 16 new buses were added to the public transit fleet designed to serve residents in the community.
“As a result of its outstanding work and programs such as these (24/7 Dad), the Corrections Division was the recipient of the National Association of Counties prestigious “Achievement Award,” said Terrazas.
24/7 Dad is a unique set of programs designed to equip fathers with the self-awareness, compassion, and sense of responsibility. Throughout 2015, Imperial County Sheriff’s Office-Corrections
Division hosted three graduation ceremonies with a total of 33 inmates successfully completing the program.
The Imperial County Fire Department opened its eighth fire station in the Algodones area.
“This station has been in progress for several years and was accompanied with a Quechan Indian Tribe agreement for providing emergency services,” said Terrazas. “This opening also created several promotional opportunities and twelve new jobs.”
In an effort to align department goals with the County’s strategic plan to create a culture of customer service excellence, the Department of Social Services purchased a mobile vehicle to increase access points and provide on-site services to communities in outlying areas or throughout the county during a disaster.
“This mobile office will be staffed by experienced program technicians who are able to complete eligibility determinations, process changes to active cases, issue benefits, and receive documents for Medi-Cal and other Social Service programs,” said Terrazas.
Terrazas reminded everyone that on February 1, 2015 the County entered into a historic Memorandum of Understanding with Sistema para el Desarollo Integral de La Familia del Estado de Baja California (State DIF of Baja California) to benefit mutual clients seeking access to the establishment and enforcement of child support services.
“Imperial County Department of Child Support Services was among the top 5 most cost-effective child support programs operating in California,” said Terrazas.
The construction of the Heber Community Center was one project that was dear to Terraza’s heart he said. The facility includes a small library, outdoor boxing ring and basketball court, kitchen and large meeting or recreation room.
“I’m thankful that we were able to accomplish this facility and am extremely thankful for the support from the board members,” said Terrazas.
Terrazas speech accentuated various programs that took place such as the 5th Annual Youth Summit hosted by the Imperial County Probation Department, the bicycle giveaway hosted by Centinela State Prison and the Imperial County Probation Officers and the 10th Annual Senior Appreciation Day.
Finally, Terrazas highlighted “hunger issues” in Imperial County and shared statistics and strategies he and board members have to end this problem.
“Our County is world famous for its diverse and abundant food production and yet we face a conundrum” explained Terrazas. Among the abundant varieties of food our County produces, it is estimated that 22% of our residents live with food insecurity. 40% of our children face hunger on a regular, if not daily basis. This represents 55,000 plus people of which 27,000 are children who do not have enough food to eat, yet they are surrounded by thousands of acres of the best food and the best beef that can be produced. Among the plentiful harvest, Imperial County has a “huge” hunger problem, but we can do something about it; one person, one meal at a time.”
The Imperial Valley food Bank serves over 20,000 people a month who suffer from “food insecurity.” This represents 5,000 households or 12% of our county residents. The I.V. Food Bank utilizes programs such as; CalFresh Outreach, Nutrition Education, Weekend Backpack, Community Gardens, Mobile Food Pantry, Fresh Produce PDP, Shared Maintenance, Box of Basics and the USDA Commodities to reach those who need food assistance.
“I want to highlight the work of the Imperial Valley Food Bank for their efforts to fight hunger in the Imperial Valley,” said Terrazas. “Thousands of people facing food insecurity in our county do not engage with the I.V. Food Bank. They either seek help elsewhere, such as churches or other resources, or simply get by with what little they have.”
“As Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, I am establishing a goal in 2016: the elimination of hunger, bringing an end of food insecurity in Imperial County,” said Terrazas.
Terrazas referred to a passage from the Dalia Lama 14th; “To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized in our lifetime, is largely irrelevant. What we must do, therefore, is to strive and persevere and never give up.”
Terrazas said the future of our Valley lies in the development of the younger generation who need to be nourished with the right amount and kinds of food to live healthy lives and grow to their full potential.
“We cannot expect to educate and nurture our children on empty stomachs,” said Terrazas.
Terrazas spoke in depth and ask all those who attended to consider donating to the Weekend Backpack Program that consists of assigning a backpack to a student who on Friday discreetly picks up food to fill their backpack.
The Backpack program currently reaches more than 360 students in 35 schools in the Valley and at a cost of $180 a student will receive a backpack full of food every week for an entire school year.
“In 2016, our County will work to expand existing food and feeding programs, such as our new program FEAST,” said Terrazas.
FEAST is a community organizing process that allows participants to engage in an informed and facilitated discussion about food, education and agriculture in their community and begin to work toward solutions together to help build a healthier, more equitable, and more resilient local food system.
“For too long, too many have faced insecurity problems. Eliminating hunger is a big goal, but one our residents need and deserve,” said Terrazas. “Although we may not achieve the completion of our goal in 2016, we will begin the journey and strive and persevere and never give up.”[envira-gallery id=”72511″]