CAO's Newsletter - Feb.13, 2018
Dear County Staff,
I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to reach out to thank you all for the support you’ve given me and my team through our first six months on the job. It’s been a treat getting to know many of you, and I hope to get to know even more of you as we move forward together. I’d also like to thank the hundreds of you who gave us your time to help kick off our strategic planning process. That effort is coming along well, and you should be hearing more about it in the very near future.
In the meantime, I wanted to share a few words about recent activities that impact County staff. Going forward, I hope to do this through a newsletter, which we will email directly to you but will also be archived on the CAO’s web page, http://www.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/Departments/CountyAdministrativeOffice.aspx. It’s a way for me note milestones, address issues and share information with you directly as we continually work together to improve County operations. It is also a chance to highlight and say thank you for all the excellent work you do on behalf of County residents.
As we prepare budget proposals for the next fiscal year, it seems timely to provide some additional thoughts regarding steps the County is taking to assure economic stability in the near and intermediate terms.
As some of you may have heard, I have implemented a hiring review process that allows critical positions to be filled, with preference given to existing County employees, while minimizing to the greatest extent possible the likelihood of future cutbacks to County services.
In addition to uncertainties due to the federal budget and an expected economic downturn, local governments across California face enormous financial pressures due to a steep rise in retirement costs. Despite recent state-level pension reforms and generous concession by several County bargaining groups, our PERS costs are expected to increase from $43 million to $73 million over the next six years, most of which comes out of the general fund. We are not alone. Some local cities will see their retirement costs double over similar time frames. (See http://bit.ly/2GcVurh or http://bit.ly/2BrKzek).
Positive statewide economic indicators alone are not enough to overcome this challenge, and we continue to seek new ways to address this problem. In the meantime, I believe it is prudent to be deliberate and thorough as we consider bringing new employees that we may not be able to support in the long run. The short-term picture may seem fine at the moment, but the long-term picture is much different.
As many of you heard, Public Works Director John Presleigh will be retiring in April. John joined the County family in 1991 under former Director Tom Bolich, worked his way up and in 2009 was named a department head.
His tenure has been eventful, including guiding the department through the winter of 2016-17, which caused more than $122 million in damages and stretched our crews to the breaking point in order to keep as many roads open and passable as possible. John's leadership during this difficult time will not be forgotten.
He is also the immediate past president of the County Engineers Association of California, and oversaw that agency as the state passed the biggest transportation spending package in decades in SB 1. Thanks to his efforts, our residents will reap the benefits for years to come.
As I've said elsewhere, we will miss his experience, wisdom and passion, and I know we all hope to join him someday on the beach in Kauai. We wish John the best.
As you may have read, the City has plans to relocate the homeless encampment along the benchlands to an empty lot along River Street. We still do not know many things about this planned move, including the timing, although the city has selected a manager to oversee the site.
Recently, the city displaced the encampment in order to clean the site, something it has done periodically since it was established last October. Unfortunately, many campers relocated under the Water Street Bridge, along the pathway that provides access to the employee parking lot by the Main Jail. We are aware of the inconvenience this posed for many of our employees, and are working with the city on any future site cleanups so that we may send advanced notification to our staff. Please be advised that a new cleanup will begin tomorrow, Feb. 14, and should last through Thursday.
The County is currently providing services to homeless persons at the benchlands encampment through our Health Services Agency and Human Services Department. We expect to continue providing services once the encampment relocates to River Street, though the extent of those services are still under discussion.
The County has staffed extra security, providing on-site personnel from 7 a.m.-4 a.m. daily. The Sheriff's Office also makes frequent patrols of both 701 Ocean St. and the Emeline campus. For those who work at 701 Ocean, parking is available to employees in the main lot after 3 p.m., and we encourage everyone to take advantage of the lot's availability. First Alarm will also escort you to your car if necessary.
If you feel threatened or witness illegal activity, please do not hesitate to call 911 or the Sheriff's Office non-emergency number, 471-1121. In addition, if you see pets being victimized or displaying aggressive behavior, please call the Animal Shelter at 454-7200. We thank everyone for their patience.
As many of you have noticed, our solar project is well underway. The arrays will eventually offset 637 tons of carbons annually, thanks to leadership from the Board of Supervisors. All but the array at Rountree will be completed by May, which I'm sure many of you are glad to hear. We wanted to provide everyone an update at how work on those sites is progressing.
Work at the Animal Shelter is completed. We must still complete final commissioning with PG&E, so the panels are not active (yet), but construction there is complete.
Construction at 701 Ocean St. is nearly finished, with electrical work to be completed in March. Working with our General Services Department, the contractor found a way to fix the panels to the roof without drilling. See the attached photo.
Work at the Emeline campus is nearing completion. The arrays in front of 1080 Emeline are about 90 percent complete after which crews will move to the back. Work should begin on the roof at 1400 Emeline on Feb. 19.
Work at the Public Safety Center, Brommer Street Yard and Simpkins Family Swim Center all began recently. Those projects should be completed by early- to mid-March.
Thanks again for being part of the great County team. Your service and dedication to the residents of Santa Cruz County are what makes this county so special.
Until next time,
Carlos J. Palacios
County Administrative Officer