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Partnership key to county success in 2010, says Grover
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Chairman of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Jeff Grover delivered the 2010 State of the County address on Tuesday, offering a message of cautious hope for the county despite dismal economic conditions.
“Solutions are not easy,” Grover said. “But if we work together they can be found.”
Grover cited diminished property values and sales tax revenues, high unemployment, and an unfair share of state tax revenues as just a few of the critical issues facing Stanislaus County. Despite the tough budgetary times for local government — and local citizens — there are still many successes to be found through creative problem solving, Grover said.
“I’d like us to step back, focus on what we have, what we are doing well and what opportunities we may have for improving things,” Grover said. “There are bright spots out there.”
Grover returned several times to a story of a county island on Marshall Avenue in Modesto, where residents had only one privately owned security light on a street of 33 properties. When the security light was set to go out due to the owner’s financial problems, property owners chose to partner with the county to tax themselves $3 a month to install five streetlights.
Two additional property owners opted to install their own streetlights, bringing a safe glow to the once dark neighborhood.
“Instead of continuing to allow the circumstances of history and the poor choices of others to trap them, they marshaled the resources they had, partnered with others and resolutely improved conditions for themselves,” Grover said. “… The spirit of what the Marshall Avenue group did can influence all of us.”
Grover called for an emphasis on law enforcement consolidation to survive declining revenues, pooling resources for dispatch and combining departments to create more efficiencies — and to keep more officers and firefighters on the streets. The establishment of a Family Justice Center — effectively a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence — was also pushed by Grover, so that victims don’t have to drive around the county to seek medical care, counseling and legal assistance.
Continuing work on roads was a priority in Grover’s speech, including the North County Corridor that would link Oakdale, Riverbank, and Modesto. That infrastructure could be a must-have if Grover’s prediction that the county is in for another population boom comes to pass.
“Home prices have fallen significantly in the Central Valley, but the Bay Area counties’ home values have stayed much closer to their 2007 highs, creating as much or more price disparity than there has ever been,” Grover said. “When the economy turns, our region will once again be faced with population growth pressures.”
Finding jobs for the new residents — and existing ones — will remain a focus for the board in the coming year, with Grover casting the approved West Park inland port as a “huge job generator” that can help business parks around the county. Grover acknowledged, however, that agriculture would remain at the core of the local economy.
“Stanislaus County’s economic engine is agriculture,” Grover said. “We emphatically want that to continue. This county is a leader in forging forward in the fight against misplaced restrictions and inappropriately managed population growth that has crippled or killed agricultural communities in the past.”
Grover lauded the county’s unique acre-for-acre ag land set aside program for housing developed in Stanislaus County, and the local ag recycling ordinance. He said the county would continue to partner with the agriculture industry and community in the years to come to develop similar solutions.
Water is always a crucial issue to agriculture, and Grover saw immediate opportunities in irrigating parched Westside agriculture. A plan to reuse treated wastewater to irrigate land has been successful in coastal counties, and Grover — along with the federal government — sees promise in a program that could bring the practice to the Del Puerto Irrigation District.
Healthcare also garnered Grover’s attention, as he said that county government is tasked with providing care for 70,000 while the federal government hems and haws about a long-term solution.
The local healthcare system looked to be in trouble last year when the county’s family practice doctor training program was decertified and stripped of funding, but the county stood up and fought the ruling and was recently granted a stay. To ensure the county’s healthcare safety net survives, a new coalition of local hospitals has joined together with the county to start a new, stronger residency program to train doctors.
Grover acknowledged other problems facing the county — including pension and retirement fund issues — but said that despite all the difficulties, there was hope and opportunity to be found in the months ahead.
“It won’t be easy — all will have to sacrifice — and we may not see improvement in the overall economy for some time,” Grover said.
“But as partners, I can assure you that we will keep the lights on.”

In other Board of Supervisors news, the final design for the New Animal Services Facility was adopted.
The final design is much as was previously accepted, but with additional soundproofing to reduce barking noise that an acoustician said could otherwise reach 110 decibels. An additional $61,000 will also be spent on  “modest” exterior improvements to make the building more visibly appealing, but the project is still projected to come at $8.2 million, less than the $11 million originally budgeted.
Construction on the New Animal Services Facility will begin in February, with dedication and opening expected for December.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.