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City and county responsibilities differ vastly
Stanislaus County Supervisor Jim DeMartini - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

As I travel around my district it is apparent to me that many people do not understand how county government differs from city government.

Both are local government entities, and each has separate but related functions to perform. City government is responsible for services such as waste water disposal, drinking water, parks and road maintenance within the city limits. Cities are also responsible for fire and police protection. Most cities have six basic departments: planning, parks and recreation, public works, fire, police and city administration. Cities provide the important and necessary services we all expect from local government.

County government is more complex than city government providing a vast array of services at a local level. Stanislaus County has 27 departments that provide consistent and reliable services to every resident whether living within city limits or in rural areas. We differ from city government in that we are charged by the state of California to provide specific services that the cities do not provide.

Although the county may be thought of as the provider of a variety of state and federal mandated social programs, the county departments do much more. For instance, restaurant inspections are not done by the cities, but by the county Environmental Resources Department. This department also operates the landfill and is responsible for maintenance of regional parks, such as Frank Raines. Scales of all types, whether it is to weigh meat and vegetables at your grocery store or measure the gas you put into your car are checked for accuracy by the County Agriculture Department.

The county also provides various services in public safety, costing more than $175 million annually. After city police make an arrest their job is essentially over. The county, through the District Attorney's Office, investigates and prosecutes the case. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the county's Public Defender provides a defense attorney. Should the defendant by found guilty, the Sheriff's department is in charge of the jails and will incarcerate the defendant. After release from custody, the county's Probation Department then supervises that person. These examples illustrate the differences in responsibilities between city and county governments.

County governments also provide many other important services such as public health, behavioral (formerly mental) health, libraries, welfare and support for agricultural research through the University of California cooperative extension and much more. Stanislaus County's 27 departments employ 4500 people with an annual budget of $1.1 billion. This is a lot to keep track of for sure.

Cooperation between all levels of governments is essential for efficient delivery of services. Stanislaus County is committed to building strong relationships with city, state and federal governments to best serve local communities. The county has sought innovative ways to utilize partnerships, leverage resources and expand services to the people of Stanislaus County.

The cities and Stanislaus County generally work well together and why shouldn't they? Both are in the same business, which is providing the necessary services that give us the quality of life we all enjoy.