Tulare County’s 2023 Recap: Floods, funds and forward steps

Photo by Rigo Moran

Board of Supervisors Chairman Larry Micari updates the community with State of the County for 2023, explains what people can expect moving into 2024

VISALIA – During the State of the County report for last year, the board of supervisors circled back on some noteworthy efforts for flood mitigation, development and public safety, and set the stage for a hopeful outlook going further into 2024.

At the Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting on Feb. 27, Chairman Larry Micari gave an update on the state of the county after 2023, as well as his high hopes for the remainder of this year. Micari explained the county’s plan to prepare for statewide financial struggles by being fiscally conservative moving forward.

“Even though we have a bright future and a thriving community, we’ve always wanted to be responsible with our money. State projects and multibillion-dollar deficit and black revenues for a few years,” Micari said. “We have physical safeguards in place that will help us succeed in times like these.”

He went on to say the county’s department heads and chief administrative officer (CAO) will work on a budget plan that makes sense, is sustainable and adapts for unforeseen issues.

The chairman also noted the county spent a good amount of 2023 recovering from flooding from last year’s March storms.

“At this time last year, we were experiencing severe weather emergency not seen in generations,” Micari said. “The third wettest year on record for our region required a rapid response from our county personnel.”

He continued to explain how the storms cost the county over $100 million in damages in infrastructure. This included 31 bridges and 60 levees in over 300 locations along county roads.

Micari also acknowledged all of the hard work put in to help recover from the severe weather impacts from the different county departments, including first responders, health and human resources (HHSA), general services agency (GMA), resource management agency (RMA), agricultural commissioner’s office as well as other community partners.

“Thank you for your countless hours for consecutive weeks to help save lives and property in this county we call home. Our flood recovery continues, and just as we press forward to rebuild it and rehabilitate, we pride ourselves on our business as usual,” Micari said.

For “business as usual,” some of what Micari was referring to was the planning done by the RMA, who issued 4,800 building and planning permits, 5,000 building inspections, closed 500 code enforcement cases and oversaw 50 million grant funding agreements while applying for nearly 75 million more.

“Our economic and development department is hard at work making Tulare County a desirable area to invest,” Micari said.

The department is also creating opportunities for residential and commercial developments throughout the county. Micari said there have been several new businesses joining the county, as well as new housing such as the 500 new homes being built in Goshen.

The chairman also brought up the work of the HHSA, which serves nearly 62% of Tulare County. HHSA is responsible HHSA, for its part, puts in the effort to help decrease homelessness in the county.

In 2023 specifically HHSA acquired Casa Granda, which provides 90 beds and transitional housing to those in Tulare County. HHSA also helped with adoption efforts in 2023 through the child welfare office by closing 106 adoptions.

Micari also commended the work of some particularly noteworthy first responders, who were recognized with a medal of valor for assisting the fire department in response to a house fire in Strathmore that resulted in the death of two children.

Public safety was also addressed this year through the police department.

“This year our sheriff’s office recovered approximately $2 million in stolen agricultural property, seized over 250,000 fentanyl pills and 535 pounds of methamphetamine,” Micari said.

He continued by explaining that public safety is more than just law enforcement. This year the county put in comendered 500,000 illegal fireworks to prevent wildfires as well as made sure that agricultural pesticide and herbicide containers were properly disposed of.

The county is also making efforts to keep citizens safe by providing programs and opportunities to ensure the region’s youth communities and those in the criminal justice system are productive members of the community. One of the ways the county is doing this is providing free youth sports and clinics through the sheriff’s department, as well as updating the local parks to give citizens safe outdoor spaces.

“Our probation department is so vital to the ongoing upward trajectory of our county,” Micari said.

According to Micari, this year the county brought on 10 new vendors to offer support services, including diploma completion, substance abuse programs and behavioral and mental health services folks moving through the system.

As another part of these efforts the county started adult transitional programs, which 93 people took part in.  Out of that group, 55 people have made successful transitions back into the community.

For the youth in Tulare County, juveniles in custody have evidence-based therapeutic programs to help them with education and vocational skills while in custody. Once the individual turns 18, the county has transitional care programs that provide up to a year of housing for kids aging out of the system.

Micari reassured the community that the county’s efforts to care for the citizens will continue regardless of what happens in the coming year.

“Despite what the statement of federal government financial forecasts might be, we will adapt to whatever is headed our way,” Micari said. “In closing, 2023 was a consequential year, but it’s behind us now. We have our resolve firmly fixed on 2024 and beyond.”

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