Supervisors head up Town Halls

 

Supervisors Lloyd Pareira and Daron McDaniel met with local residents in the communities of Winton and Atwater in recent days as part of the annual Merced County Town Hall series.

Pareira, who represents District 4, led a town hall event at Winton Community Hall. The event was an opportunity for the community to ask questions and share their perspectives face to face with their supervisor, as well as department heads and staff. More than 40 people were in attendance. 
Pareira highlighted at the beginning of the evening some of the recent successes he had experienced in his role as district supervisor, including road improvements and development of local parks. He then opened the floor for questions.

The state of county roads were a recurrent topic of concern amongst residents in attendance. Some questioned whether Measure V funds were being poorly utilized. Pareira pointed to the past to insist that progress was being made.

“We are paving roads,” he said. “Before Measure V came along, we were paving five, six, seven miles a year… now we’re doing 40 miles of road. In Measure V, there were carve outs for sidewalks, there was money set aside for busing, there was money set aside for regional projects. I think we’ve been doing really well with the money we were given, and we’ll continue to do so.”
“The county has 1,750 miles of roads to maintain — that would stretch from here all the way to Chicago,” added Public Works Director Nathan Bray. “District 4 has 700 miles of roads … since SB 1 and Measure V were passed in 2016, we have paved roughly 200 miles.”

Pareira also pointed to changes and new hiring in the Public Works Department and stated he remained hopeful for continuing a good job in the future.

Staffing issues at the Sheriff’s Department were also mentioned by both the public as well as staff.

“Healthcare costs and pay are all being negotiated. We’re trying to figure out where the money is coming from — we’re not a wealthy county,” said Pareira. “All five [district supervisors] want to fix this issues.”

He added: “We were relatively full for a long time. Dynamics have changed, and so we are where we are. It doesn’t feel good — I don’t like it.”

Roberto Torres, who is DSA President and a patrol deputy with the department for 17 years, shared his perspective: “It roughly costs one of my members, with their whole family, $23,000 annually to have their family on the medical plan. That’s the cost of buying a brand-new Toyota Corolla.”

Torres suggested this contributed to the staffing problem as well. “It’s a two-part problem: recruitment and retention … It takes roughly six years for a deputy sheriff to be comfortable and proficiently do the job of law enforcement. We’re losing individuals…that the county has invested a lot of money in.”

He clarified that some employees are leaving to neighboring counties for more affordable medical coverage.

Torres was not the only one to mention concerns about county employee benefits at the town hall. Others, including AFSCME Local 2703 Representative Jerald Phelps, shared their frustrations.

“We’re angry, and every day we’re getting more and more angry,” said Torres. “At some point we have to realize the hemorrhaging is self-inflicted.”

Pareira remarked regarding healthcare costs: “I can share that we are working diligently. … We’ve heard you, and we have to figure out what we can do, but we are working on it. At every closed session, that’s what we spend most of our time on.”

When the event concluded, Pareira shared with the Times that he was happy with the turnout  from the community, and hopeful for his district.

“I have a good district, and I have a lot of folks who care and are engaged,” said Pareira. “I would call [District 4] up and coming. We’ve got a lot of good projects going, the park here in Winton, developments in Delhi. We’ve done some safety projects in Hilmar with CalTrans.” He mentioned that safety projects in Gustine were also in early stages.

“There’s a lot of good things going, I just wish they could be done faster.”

 

McDaniel in Atwater

During Supervisor Daron McDaniel’s town hall in Atwater, the supervisor provided an extensive list of recent victories for District 3, including progress on the Atwater-Merced Expressway, progress on the Black Rascal Creed flood project, and grants obtained for development in the Franklin/Beachwood area.

Additionally, McDaniel celebrated developments at Castle, including movement toward to development of an inland port that connects to a major, statewide and international transportation network.

“One that I’m most proud of is Castle, both doing work on the development side as well as the airport side,” shared McDaniel. “The development of an inland port is now underway, after being awarded a grant from the California State Transportation Agency. We were fighting very hard with other counties. … We prevailed. We got the $49.6 million. We’re moving forward very rapidly with it.”

When the town hall was opened up for questions, some city employees shared their dissatisfaction with the current rates of pay and costs of benefits.

McDaniel stated he was unable to give specific details regarding future circumstances because of the confidential nature of collective bargaining, but provided some insight into how they were approaching the problem and future options the county is exploring. He specifically mentioned solutions they were exploring specifically for the Sheriff’s Department.

“There’s a gap,” he said. “There are kids in high school who want to go into law enforcement, and we’re losing them from the time they’re 18 and graduate from high school until the time they’re 21 when they can join the sheriff’s department. We’re trying to figure out what that gap is.”

McDaniel suggested that the county was in communication with both the Sheriff’s Department as well as Merced College to look into ways to more efficiently foster increased eligible employees for the department.

MercedMerced CountyMerced County Board of Supervisors
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