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Monteith highlights countys successes, challenges
In his annual State of the County address
Dick Monteith, a former California State Senator and now chairman of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, gave last weeks State of the County Address. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Board of Supervisors Chairman Dick Monteith delivered his state-of-the-county address on Tuesday morning, Feb. 9 which covered the past, present and future of Stanislaus County.

As Stanislaus County enters the sixth year of financial recovery from the great recession, Monteith stated the county has refunded its reserves, significantly paid down debt, found ways to improve efficiency of county operation and launched a major community initiative to improve quality of life over the next 10 years.

Monteith assured those in the seats filled at 1010 Tenth St. in Modesto that the organization is working harder than ever to serve the community and make the future better for the residents of Stanislaus County.

"While we still have major challenges that face our community, we are pleased at our direction and have great hope for our future," he said.

The Board of Supervisors priorities are directed to focus on safety, health, local economy, partnership, agriculture, infrastructure and the efficient delivery of public service.

In 2014 there was a three year plan to build back critical public safety services through millions of dollars of investment, and Monteith explained that the goal is to add back 75 positions by the 2017-2018 year.

Overall, Monteith says the County is strong and growing stronger every day with the local economy as a focal point for the Board of Supervisors.

"Our agriculture heritage is a part of our foundation and we should continue to protect it," he said. "Stanislaus County has been the leader in the state addressing water challenges that California faces."

In 2015, a temporary water assistant program installed 46 tanks for families to get quick access to water after their wells had gone dry. According to Monteith, the project is working, as it has removed six tanks after new wells were drilled.

The county set up a financial loan program in the summer of 2014 to prove financial assistance to repair domestic water wells for those citizens living in the unincorporated area of Stanislaus County.

"This program works to assist those who have no other option when it comes to paying for well repairs," said Monteith. "Today, loans have been approved to fund wells for six households of senior citizens."

The Board of Supervisors has allocated an additional $200,000 in September 2015, and there is currently $300,000 remaining that can be loaned to those in need.
Additionally in the past year, the Board of Supervisors launched a major initiative called the Focus on Prevention, where the county helps to facilitate a long term solution to major community issues.

"Our focus on the homeless issue has gained traction countywide, and while it is a highly complex issue, we are hoping it is a springboard to tackle other issues impacting our residents," he said.

Stanislaus County's mentor program continues to impact the lives of young people in the community with more than 25,000 hours of volunteerism since its conception and the program is recognized nationally for its impact.
The Board of Supervisors was able to negotiate through a significant change in solid waste area, and as a result was able to reserve a 10-year service agreement with all city jurisdictions.

After taking its solid waste to Merced for nearly two years, the Turlock City Council voted in May 2015 to return trash dumping services to Stanislaus County with a relatively small fee hike for customers, but also rate stability for the next 10 years.

"Keeping the cities together was challenging as interest of the cities can vary widely, but in the end being together makes us stronger and more cost effective to provide greater value to the community," said Monteith.
In conclusion of his speech, Monteith reviewed the past, discussed the present and acknowledged the future with a concern for the agriculture industry as California's population continues to grow.

"That means, for Stanislaus County specifically, we will have people moving here with their closest relationship to agriculture from a supermarket where they pick up their food from the shelf and go to the checkout counter," he said.

This demonstrates their lack of knowledge with agriculture in a direct result with a misunderstanding of how the water challenges can be impacting.

Monteith concludes that the growth of population also requires a need to address issues for the improvement of transportation in the area, as well as a need to provide jobs throughout the community.