VISALIA – New chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, Pete Vander Poel, delivered his state of the county last week. While he touched on achievements over the last year, he spent a significant portion of the address on homelessness.
“It’s no secret, there is a homeless crisis in California and here in Tulare County, we too, are experiencing a crisis,” Vander Poel said. “I appreciate the work of our county-wide Task Force on Homelessness and their efforts in analyzing our systems, developing solutions and most importantly bringing all stakeholders…to the table.”
Vander Poel took time to thank the staff for their daily effort to help combat homelessness, and turn the tide to a housing direction. He pointed to connections made to point homeless toward services for housing, healthcare and mental health.
“The newly formed Homeless Outreach Team within our Health and Human Services Agency is serving as the primary means to doing this. We have also coordinated services with the St. Paul’s low barrier warming center in Visalia,” Vander Poel added.
The new chairman made mention of the county’s work with the Visalia Homeless Outreach Proactive Enforcement (HOPE) team. County social workers have been assigned ridealongs and assisted in making 155 contacts that ultimately led to 18 individuals being housed.
Vander Poel rattled off some additional statistics including: $379,000 through CalWorks Housing Support program that has provided housing and rental assistance to 942 families in the county; 13 disabled individuals were housed through the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program; 123 former foster youth were provided housing with funds from AB12.
“These are just a few examples of how the County is continually working to establish methods to provide available funds to those in need to prevent them from becoming homeless,” Vander Poel said.
He added that permanent housing projects are already underway but said that he would like to see the county continue to help those with mental illness. the county recently opened housing facilities in both Porterville and Tulare geared to provide over 150 beds and supportive housing for mental health consumers and/or members of our homeless population.
His final notes on homelessness included the Health and Human Services Agency’s Whole Person Care pilot program in 2020. The program is intended to realign how the county provides services for mental health from a single approach to a collaborate approach. Over the course of 2020 the program will include the establishment of numerous multi-disciplinary teams at various locations throughout the county, including targeted locations within the county’s major cities.
“This effort will engage county departments and community partners in providing services to those who frequent emergency rooms and individuals within our criminal justice system,” Vander Poel said.
Vander Poel continued on to note some of the major infrastructure projects coming done the pike, starting with expansions to the county’s central road yard at the corner of Ave. 256 and Rd. 140. The $12 million facility will also include a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station and house the county’s fleet of TCaT buses, transit dispatch maintenance and administration offices.
He added that construction of Fire Station One will also be completed in 2020 and located next to the new transit facility. The new fire station has been in the works since 2006 when the county broke away from CalFire and started their own fire department.
“The timing of construction for these two additions was strategic as we were able maximize the economies of scale and save on costs in establishing utility lines and infrastructure development for these new buildings,” Vander Poel said.
Beyond the county’s own facilities, Vander Poel says they are actively involved in building and restoring infrastructure in the rural areas and within unincorporated communities.
“It’s no secret, we maintain a lot of roads in Tulare County – over 3,000 miles to be exact. This year we will be investing over $24 million in infrastructure projects on our roads. Through the Road Repair and Accountability Act also known as SB 1, we plan on providing $11.9 million in road rehabilitation to over 30 miles of roads throughout the County,” Vander Poel said.
Vander Poel looked forward to fall of this year when the county hopes to break ground on their 2020 Intersection Improvement Project. The project is expected to provide pavement improvements to intersection several communities throughout the county including Traver, Ivanhoe, Tipton, Tulare, Dinuba, Exeter and Earlimart. The intersection improvements work in conjunction with the “Farm 2 Market” project where the county will invest $11 million into rehabilitation of 21.5 miles of roads essential to delivering goods from local farms to market outlets.
In his address as chairman, Vander Poel also looked back over 2019 and noted several accomplishments.
He denoted the South County Detention Facility in Porterville and the solar energy projects on county buildings generating $40 million in savings over the next 25 years. Vander Poel also mentioned the clean energy moves private industry made.
“Notably was the completion of the Calgren Dairy Fuels pipeline cluster project with the Southern California Gas Co. This Renewable Natural Gas Facility in Pixley is expected to be the largest dairy biogas operation in the country,” Vander Poel said.
Noted as the first of its kind in California, the facility will eventually capture methane produced from 75,000 cows and prevent 130,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere each year.
Vander Poel reminded the county that they had reached new, yet sustainable, heights when it came to the county’s budget. Last year the county passed a $1.38 billion balanced budget.
“This Board also adopted financial policies to ensure continuous funding of a healthy strategic reserve in anticipation of uncertainties in the future. I would like to see us be mindful of these financial policies and continue to prepare for any unforeseen challenges that inevitably will come our way,” Vander Poel said.