County gears up for Planada talks
The Merced County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday formally accepted $20 million from the state to help residents of Planada recover losses from floods that damaged homes, schools and businesses in the town last January.
“This is not Merced County’s money,” Board Chair Scott Silveira pointed out. “This is not any individual supervisor’s money. This money is taxpayer money that came from the state, and we are tasked to get that money into the hands of the folks that need it the most. But understand that it all comes with strings attached.”
Before the decision, Mark Hendrickson, an assistant county executive officer, detailed ways the county will help facilitate the funds, including through direct financial assistance, vehicle replacement, home inspections, home repairs, remediation and infrastructure enhancements — the latter being assessed as a possible priority for use sooner than the rest, depending on an evaluation of “immediate needs.”
Hendrickson reminded leaders that the resources in all areas will be distributed “regardless of immigration status,” and that the funding comes with state guidelines. He said the assistance cannot be duplicated by other available grants and/or insurance proceeds, and it is also subject to audits.
In early November, Hendrickson said county staff members will conduct a series of five community-outreach workshops in Planada during evening hours and on weekends so that residents can offer their input regarding distribution of the funding.
He added that the funding program for Planada should launch in early 2024.
Research by the Community and Labor Center at UC Merced found that more than 83 percent of Planada residents suffered some type of economic loss when a levee broke during heavy rains in early January. The study also found that many of the affected households and individuals didn’t qualify for federal aid because of immigration status.
The $20 million in aid was secured in the most recent State Budget thanks to the legislative efforts of Senator Anna Caballero and Assemblywoman Esmeralda Soria who championed the community of Planada, along with community-based organizations and state and county staff members who were instrumental in providing support.
Hendrickson said that he expects other state resources will become available to help others affected by the floods, included community members in the areas of McSwain and southwest Merced.
Delhi housing plan OK’d
Supervisors have OK’d a new housing development that is expected to bring more than 1,050 residential units to the community of Delhi.
The recent decision involves some 270 acres of land east of Highway 99 and the Union Pacific Railroad track that dissects this unincorporated rural town — the largest of its kind in the county. The project site is also bordered by the roads Bradbury, Vincent and Shanks.
The project will also include a community park, bike paths and some commercial areas, along with the development of an adjacent K-8 school and fire station.
City Council update:
The Merced City Council on Oct. 16 voted 4-3 to reject a $264,000 contract to continue around-the-clock graffiti abatement throughout commercial areas and neighborhoods.
Mayor Matthew Serratto and council members Sarah Boyle and Shane Smith voted NO, arguing that the contract work by the successful bidder, Thunderbird Maintenance, was sorely needed after a similar contract with another provider ended earlier this year.
A majority of the council — including Jesse Ornelas, Bertha Perez, Fue Xiong and Ronnie DeAnda — sided with the concept that graffiti abatement could be done in a different way — perhaps by promoting public art or utilizing local artists. One local street muralist, Patricia Pratt, spoke up saying the cost of the proposed contract was too high. Another speaker suggest that graffiti is also used as an art form, as opposed to identifying gang activity and the “tagging” of private property.
Mayor Serratto and police officials have noted a recent rise in graffiti around town, along with complaints from residents.
The Council decision put forth an action to re-bid a new graffiti abatement contract.