By ROBERT RICKMAN
San Joaquin County Supervisor
It is with great pleasure that I wish you all a Happy New Year full of good health and happiness, and success in your personal endeavors. As we celebrated the New Year, I hope you were able to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoy time with your family and friends. I am honored to serve as your County Supervisor, and I am proud to share some accomplishments of the past year.
The County infused our local economy with tens of millions of dollars through grants made available to our local small businesses and state and federal funding to assist families. My office assisted many constituents overcome communication gaps with the state and receive their unemployment benefits.
Last year, I supported the Board’s authorization of $2,450,000 for the Relief Across Downtown (RAD) Card Program, a county program that aims to help small businesses.
I collaborated with the Mountain House Community Service District, developers, and business owners, to provide local jobs and enhance our economy. Safeway grocery store and gas station are now open, Starbucks, Uni-Fab Industries, Inc., and several more retail and commercial establishments now call Mountain House home.
As Chair of the San Joaquin Council of Governments and Member of the Megaregion Working Group and Valley Link Board’s, I am proud to report continued progress of several projects that are vital to the economy and quality of life as the San Joaquin region continues to grow, such as; the State Route 120-McKinley Avenue Interchange Project Groundbreaking in August, State Route 99/State Route 120 interchange connector (Phase 1A) expected to begin in the spring of 2023, and the I-205 Managed Lanes environmental analysis for widening and improvements to I-205.
In May, I attended the annual San Joaquin One-Voice trip to Washington D.C. meeting with federal officials, seeking funding for projects crucial to improving infrastructure and transportation in San Joaquin County. As a result, the SR 99/120 Project was awarded $5 million and the Grant Line Road Corridor Improvement Project $2.5 million.
In April of 2022, I wrote to the Governor asking him to task his administration with outlining and implementing a plan to increase energy production and reduce costs, to provide relief for our residents from historic high prices at the gas pump and energy costs in general.
I am proud to have fought for equipment and training that will help keep the residents of Escalon and the surrounding communities safe, such as: $1,230,000 for a Ripon Consolidated Fire District Station Dispatch Center, Ambulance and Supplies, and for Escalon Community Ambulance; $207,000 for two additional ambulances, $100,000 for the purchase of two Power Load Systems (patient transportation equipment), $37,000 for a command vehicle, and $3,000 to add EMS training equipment for staff to better serve the community.
For our Veterans, I was proud to support; $4,000,000 for facility repairs, upgrades, and equipment purchases at eligible Veteran Service Organizations located in San Joaquin County and, the completion of Victory Gardens, a 48-unit permanent supportive housing development for homeless veterans in French Camp, now operational.
Law & Justice
To keep our communities safe, we responded in our 2022-23 Budget by adding staff and related resources to both our Sheriff (18) and District Attorney (15) offices.
Beginning in 2022, the Special Services Division became a new standalone division, responsible for the Agriculture, Gang, and Narcotics Enforcement Team (AGNET), the Community-Oriented Policing Unit, the Community Revitalization Unit (CRU), and the Crime Analysis Unit.
The County continues to engage in regional, long-range planning for county-wide water issues, development of water rights and new surface water supply, groundwater management, monitoring of groundwater resources, and defending water supply and quality for future water resource sustainability in San Joaquin County and the San Joaquin Delta.
Agriculture is still our number one industry. Our most recent (2021) gross value of agricultural production was nearly $3.2 billion, signaling an increase of 5.34 percent. Water is the lifeblood of Ag.
The state is still moving forward with a single-tunnel conveyance system, which the County adamantly opposes and will continue to fight against. Conveyance is not the biggest issue, storage and supply are.
As I represent our county on the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, I’m proud of the significant progress that has been made to improve our air quality. We’ve reduced emissions by over 75 percent since 1980. The District has made more air quality information accessible to the public and continues to implement incentive programs designed to assist our farmers meet stringent state and federal rules. Finally, the District has the following residential incentive programs: Fireplace and Woodstove Change-Out, Clean Air Room Pilot Program, Clean Green Yard Machines, Repair or Replacement of older polluting vehicles, and the Tune in Tune Up Car Repair Program. More information is available at www.valleyair.org.
People experience homelessness for a variety of reasons including housing, substance abuse problems, and those who have serious mental health issues and lack available resources. In addition to securing funding for city shelter projects ($3.6 million to Tracy), the County is proactive in its efforts to provide behavioral health services such as; increased outreach to homeless encampments, the Adult Residential Treatment Services 16-bed modular facilities for justice involved adults with a serious mental illness who may also have a co-occurring substance use disorder and are at risk of homelessness, which will serve up to 96 individuals annually and is expected to be open and operational in March 2023, Behavioral Health Services (BHS) Housing and Employment Services increased capacity now capable of housing 75 individual adults experiencing severe and persistent mental illness through their Progressive Housing project, BHS – in partnership with Housing Authority of the County of San Joaquin – has expanded our Permanent Supportive Housing to include three newly reconstructed apartments specifically for Behavioral Health Consumers, and the Board approved increased funding of $213,000 from the State Department of Health Care Services Mobile Crisis Program, which supports an agreement with the Tracy Police Department Familiar Faces alternative police program.
Non-County Organizations (NCO) Funding:
I led the charge to expand funding for NCO’s to include greater participation from smaller organizations resulting in awards of: Tracy Interfaith ($60,000), Tracy Boys and Girls Club ($10,000), Empowered Men Built to Win ($60,000), Chest of Hope-Manteca ($103,930), Community Partnership for Families in San Joaquin ($110,000), and Bread of Life ($220,000).
EMS & Student Health Services
The County EMS Agency continues to make sure our local hospitals and physicians have access to prescribe therapeutics and vaccinations.
The Board approved a contract for student mental health services. Funding will offer substance use disorder screening and referral in high schools, suicide prevention services to elementary students, professional learning and development and an associated parent project, and will serve up to 144,000 San Joaquin County students annually.
Again, I am honored to serve as your County Supervisor. As we continue to progress forward, we will do so with determination and perseverance. Our strength resides in the spirit and determination of our residents, employees, and businesses. We will embrace new challenges and opportunities and strive forward to embrace the future for a better tomorrow.
Robert Rickman is the San Joaquin County Supervisor for District 5, representing Escalon, and serving as Chair for the 2023 Session.