HEBER – Heber residents gathered at the Heber Community Center Wednesday for an opportunity for members of the Imperial County Community & Economic Development Department to discuss, outline, and take input on the community’s needs and concerns on upcoming and potential projects.
The meeting was opened and led by County Supervisor Luis A. Plancarte (District 2) as he explained how projects are funded from higher entities such as federal and state levels, and how they are disseminated down to the communities for projects based on pre-approved rules, agreements, and regulations.
Imperial County Public Works Director John Gay discussed and explained Imperial County’s responsibilities over 2,550 miles of county roads and approximately 130 bridges that includes 19 miles in Heber alone.
Gay discussed the County’s 2017 budget and highlighted the recent decline in state funding over the past four years that started in 2013. Since then, the county has had to budget funding and adjust and maintain commitments with declining funding.
Gay explained Senate Bill 1, funding designed to be directed to basic road maintenance, rehabilitation and critical needs on state highways and local streets and roads. SB 1 was signed in April 28, 2017, and will inject $2.65 million dollars to bring the county funding for these projects back to levels previous to the beginning of funding decline in 2013.
“Outreach is extremely important,” said Gay. “We want to know where you want this money to flow and that’s why we are here.” Additional funding this year has allowed for the county to add funds to eligible projects like safety projects, complete street components, traffic control devices and road maintenance and rehabilitation, he said.
“This is a community decision, so that’s why we are here. I need to understand what your priorities are,” said Gay.
Members of the community spoke out and expressed needs and requested clarification on some of the technical terms to better understand what type of projects were being planned. They also expressed their frustration over years of being overlooked and passed up in previous rounds of funding periods.
Heber residents also said they wanted to ensure that their Heber roads, projects and community needs were going to see quality attention and that the work and funding is being put in the portions of the community that are in most dire need.
Mark Baza, executive director of Imperial County Transportation Commission, explained improvements on State Route (SR) 86 and Heber Road in Heber slated for the coming week.
The project will bring the construction of sidewalks with the addition of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramps at the intersection of SR 86 between Heber Avenue and Heffernan that will be broken down into three phases.
The first phase will be between Heber and Parkyns avenues. The additions will also bring new benches and shelters at bus stops.
“A couple years back, this community said it had a need in this stretch of Heber Road and State Route 86,” said Baza. “The reasons that we know we have problems (is because) we have a lot of pedestrian traffic in front of Kennedy’s Market. We have a lot of school traffic in this intersection there were no ADA Act access ramps on the corners and there are no sidewalks over here,” continued Baza.
Imperial County Community and Economic Development Manager Esperanza Colio Warren spoke on upcoming funding opportunities through the Housing and Community Development Services. Attendees were asked to attend the design meetings in the upcoming months to get the community’s input and identify the needs of the residents.
An example of these meetings and how the provided funding helps the community includes certain pre-qualified sections of (under funding requirements and restrictions) and Heber’s eligibility to participate in a Neighborhood Cleanup Event. The event is funded through federal funding and will take place October 24-28.
This project was brought to the attention of officials a few years ago, and has been in the works through application processes and the county was finally able to secure the funding for the clean-up project.