Mayor’s State of the City notes SP on its own but will succeed

February 10, 2010
Santa Paula News

When it comes to funding Santa Paula is on its own, but the city will succeed, Mayor Jim Tovias told a crowd of almost 200 people at the February 2 Chamber of Commerce Awards luncheon. 

Held at The Mill, the future home of the Farm Heritage Museum of Ventura County, the event honored Ginger Gherardi as 2009 Citizen of the Year, Business of the Year Santa Paula Times and the Depot Plaza as the Beautification Project.

During the State of the City address, Tovias said neither the state or federal government will offer financial help, and the former continues to tap present and future city coffers. Tovias said the state has become the “X factor” in the city’s plans, with borrowing or holding back local tax funds to deal with its own fiscal crisis.

And the fickle state “makes it difficult for us to plan” new streets, fixing potholes, or even offering housing and other funds through the city’s Redevelopment Agency. It is likely the state will borrow an additional $422,000 in property taxes, withhold $250,000 in gas taxes used to pave and repair roads, and hold on to $770,000 in Redevelopment Agency funds due the city.

Due to proactive planning and belt-tightening, the city has a balanced budget, and “We have a tremendous staff keeping an eye on revenues” and a tight grasp on the city’s wallet when it comes to expenditures. Subsequently, a $1.1 million deficit was closed without layoffs or salary cuts.

Capital improvement projects utilizing outside projects included the 8th Street overlay project and the 5th and Harvard Boulevard crosswalk improvement project serving Isbell Middle School students. Infrastructure replacement projects include the Felkins Road wastewater main pipeline installation and the cross-town pipeline construction project. 

Coming online is the city’s new wastewater treatment plant and a two million-gallon recycling facility. Others include the Craig Drive water pipeline replacement project and the Santa Paula Creek cleanup. Harding Park will be spruced up and Limoneira Company/East Area 1 soccer fields added eight acres of parkland.

A high point for the historic city was being designated a federal Preserve America Community, one of only 800 such communities in the nation.

The state announced in February 2009 that with its $20 billion deficit it would be broke by April, a statement, Tovias said, that has been repeated for the new year - again with an April deadline.

The early release of 27,300 state inmates have potential impact on public safety and quality of life, and Tovias said the community “must take advantage of what we already have,” and expand involvement in Crime Stoppers, Neighborhood Watch and Citizens Patrol. “Neighborhoods need to get together” to help in crime fighting.

The Santa Paula Police Department is soliciting public input for its new five-year strategic plan, using a community survey available to complete with hardcopy or computer access. Tovias said the SPPD’s 30-member Reserve Officer program offers strong support to officers, and last year provided 9,145 volunteer hours, equal to more than four fulltime officers and saving the city the $320,000 cost of same. 

The Santa Paula Fire Department, which has only 15 fulltime staff and is supplemented with 35 Reserves, responded to more than 2,200 calls in 2009. “Once again,” he noted,” we rely on volunteers, reserves, to sustain services.” In addition, Tovias said, the SPFD absorbed the Building & Safety Department, which provides code enforcement, building permits and other services for private development.

But things are looking up in Santa Paula, where Tovias said a variety of cultural attractions - and a new bike trail - continue to draw visitors and positive attention to the city.

Housing is on the move with Comstock Homes and the soon to be launched East Area 1 development, Paseo Santa Barbara as well as the unique Santa Paula Airpark, just a few examples offered by Tovias. Businesses, said Tovias, are also exploring Santa Paula.

The Murals of Santa Paula, Depot Plaza, California Oil Museum, Santa Paula Airport and Aviation Museum, Santa Paula Theater Center, soon to be opened Farmworker Monument, Santa Paula Art and farm heritage museums are among the city’s cultural offerings.

Visitors flock to Santa Paula for the Citrus Classic Balloon Festival, Pumpkin Patch, Citrus Festival, Hot Summer Jazz & Art, and Moonlight at the Ranch that Tovias said has raised more than $150,000 for public safety training and equipment. 

“Strong community pride and spirit,” is reflected in dozens of community and city-sponsored events, ranging from Cruise Nite and Fandango to Ghost Walk and community parades. It is Santa Paula’s “major attractions and community involvement” that Tovias said guarantee the city will succeed. “Community involvement” and residents’ pride in their hometown “is what makes Santa Paula special.”

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