With the economy improving in 2013, Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa says that he hopes to see the trend continue into the New Year.
"The most important thing is seeing the economy pick back up and unemployment dropping, as it indicates less required service from the County," said Chiesa, a Hughson area grower. "It has been a real good trend, and I'm looking forward to seeing it continually rebound."
From housing prices to unemployment rates, Chiesa says that 2013 brought significant improvements for Stanislaus County.
The local economy was not the only area to see momentous strides in 2013, said Chiesa as he brought attention to the county's efforts in public safety realignment - the 2011 state law making counties responsible for housing low-level felons.
"This last year with realignment, we had a better handle on the magnitude of what the state asked us to do," said Chiesa. "We're continually doing a good job with the very limited resources we have, and seeing real strides there."
Since realignment took effect, the county has been able to secure state funds to build additional facilities with more jail beds. As in many other counties across the state, some low-level offenders had been released early in Stanislaus due to limited jail space for inmates. With additional state funding, however, Stanislaus County has made significant progress with realignment, opening new facilities on Hackett Road west of Ceres. Stanislaus was also the first county in the state to receive funds through a new state program, securing an $80 million grant, allowing the county to begin the planning process of building another jail expansion to house 384-maximum security inmates in 2016.
Supervisor Chiesa predicts that the most pressing issue for the new year will be water, as the precious resource continues to diminish throughout the county.
"Water will be a big issue in 2014," said Chiesa. "Water quality and quantity is the most pressing issue as we move forward right now."
In late October, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors approved new groundwater mining and exportation regulations to help end the over drafting and exportation of the diminishing resource. With few exemptions, the new ordinance prohibits the mining of groundwater within the unincorporated areas of the county and the export of water.
"We'll be appointing a committee in January and begin looking at the quantity and quality of water along with our partners, including stakeholder groups like irrigation districts and the cities. This will be a huge task."
Chiesa said other big issues for 2014 include the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Stanislaus County, as well as continuing to work on realignment.
"We have some big issues facing us this coming year," said Chiesa. "We'll continue to work as cooperatively as we can with the cities. Our goals may not always align, but we can continue working together. "