Why it matters?
Fresno County received approximately $194 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal stimulus plan following the COVID-19 emergency in 2020. Eligible uses for the funds are broad and give the county discretion for how the money is used.
The county has at least $13.5 million left to allocate, which will be managed by the County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland, but the public may participate in the process by making comments in support or against allocations.
Here’s what you need to know
- At the Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 8, 2022 the board approved a plan to manage approximately $13.5 million of remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, to be allocated by March 2023. The supervisors voted to dissolve the ad-hoc committee of Supervisors Magsig and Brandau and have the country administrative officer oversee allocating the remaining funds.
- Supervisor Magsig called for purging voter rolls to prevent fraud, though no proof of fraud exists.
- Department of Social Services staff promoted adoption, and representatives of a non-profit and a local hospital advocated for prevention of premature birth and accident prevention among children. Premature births occur at a high rate in Fresno County, higher than the state or national average.
Brian Pacheco, 1st District, Chairman
Sal Quintero, 3rd District, Vice-Chairman
Steve Brandau, 2nd District
Buddy Mendes, 4th District
Nathan Magsig, 5th District
Paul Nerland, County Administrative Officer (CAO)
Daniel C. Cederborg, County Counsel
Bernice E. Seidel, Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
Chairman Pacheco opened the meeting at 9:30 a.m. and acknowledged that it was Election Day. Clerk Seidel called roll; all were present. Pacheco introduced Darryl DuChene, pastor of Faith Worship Center in Fresno. DuChene’s wife Linda is a deputy director of the department of social services. “Let’s bow our heads,” said DuChene, and began a prayer full of references to “father god” and “lord.” He said, “Lord, you have ordained these men” to be supervisors. Father, we pray for your guidance. Father god, I pray that conflict be resolved in a good manner. In Jesus’ name, we pray.” DuChene then led the flag salute. The meeting was just under one and a half hours. The room filled and emptied as items were introduced and completed. Meetings are accessible to the public in person, at Fresno County Hall of Records, 2281 Tulare Street, Room 301, in Fresno; meetings are also live-streamed here.
Agenda Item #1 The board approved the day’s agenda by 5-0, after Clerk Seidel noted that item #17 from the closed-session agenda would be deleted.
Agenda Item #2 The board approved items #18-41 on the consent agenda, routine items grouped together for one vote, 5-0, with the exception of item #23 which Supervisor Quintero pulled for discussion.
Agenda Item #3 A plaque was to be presented to Salem M. Youssef, who retired after 20 years with the Information Technology Services Department. His department manager said that “the man of honor was running late,” so the item was postponed. Later, when he arrived after discussion of agenda item #6, Youssef’s colleagues praised him, saying he was “like an embedded war correspondent” among his co-workers. Another colleague said that he received a leather wrist band from Youssef as a souvenir from a family trip to Egypt, which he said “took five strokes off his golf game.” Youssef had worked in the district attorney’s office and a written comment by District Attorney Smittcamp praising him was read aloud. Youssef said he “appreciated the chance” to work with Fresno County.
Agenda Item #4 The board approved by a 5-0 vote a proclamation introduced by Pacheco declaring November “Prematurity Awareness Month.” Shantay Davies-Balch, a commissioner of Fresno First 5 and CEO of Black Wellness and Prosperity Center, was present to speak about the matter, premature births, of which Davies-Balch noted there is a relatively high rate in Fresno County, higher than the state or national average.
“Pre-term birth affects all of us,” Davies-Balch said, by driving up health-care costs, parents’ loss of work time and productivity, and other such consequences. She further remarked that air pollution is a “direct link” to pre-term births. Extreme heat was another factor, she said. Poor women who work outside have long exposure to heat. Outdoor employers should consider extra cooling periods. Pregnant persons, not just seniors, should be reminded to visit cooling centers, and landlords can install better windows to reduce heat in inside spaces. Smoking and second-hand smoke are factors affecting pre-term births, and support for quitting smoking was recommended.
Agenda Item #5 The board unanimously approved a proclamation presented by supervisor Quintero declaring November “National Adoption Month.” Several employees of the Department of Social Services, including Dalvin Baker and Jessica Jones, were present to speak on the matter. Baker said that last year, 307 children were adopted. He noted that there is an upcoming “adoption day” event, and people interested in becoming a “resource family” can call 559-600-4446 for more information. Jones talked about a resource parent who was the paternal aunt of the adopted child. Attempts to reunify the birth family were unsuccessful, but the adoptive parent keeps the birth parents “in the child’s life.” When Jones visits the home, she sees “a family,” she said, describing a successful adoption scenario.
Magsig asked how many children were in foster care; the reply was 2,600. How did that number compare with other counties? It was “a little higher,” said Baker, before everyone posed for a group photo.
Agenda Item #6 Quintero presented a proclamation declaring Nov. 10 “Luis Santana Day,” which was approved unanimously. Santana, who was present, was honored for starting and expanding the “Reading and Beyond” program, a non-profit which offers educational and social services to families in need. Santana said that as an immigrant, he has noticed the need to support families economically and educationally and that the goal of Reading and Beyond was “self-sufficiency” for families. Some of the programs include citizenship, English-language learning, and a work program for parents. Santana asked the board to “please continue to support” the organization and introduced the incoming CEO, Sandra Flores.
Reading and Beyond board members William Winchester and Vivian Sojo were present; Winchester said that during the pandemic, they also helped with distribution of emergency rent funds. They also help parents with applying to college and purchasing their first homes.
Supervisor Brandau said, “Luis, it’s good to see you, my friend.” Then he described a memorable visit to the organization, when he was “impressed” by it. “I’m one who is very skeptical of outreach efforts,” Brandau said. But he was “thankful for the presence of Luis.” At this, Pacheco expressed surprise and said that was “pretty high praise coming from him—I did a double-take!” Laughter was heard following this remark.
Mendes’ opinion was that “reading was the cornerstone of life,” and he said that “as a 20-year school-board member,” he noted.
Quintero mentioned funding sources for the non-profit, and Santana thanked those who have invested but cited the support of the board of supervisors. “These programs are close to the people you represent,” he said.
Agenda Item #7 Mendes presented a proclamation declaring Nov. 18 “National Injury-Prevention Day.” A trauma nurse from Valley Children’s Hospital, Kristina Pasma, gave a brief presentation. She preferred the term “unintentional injury” rather than “accident,” because such injuries are preventable. She said that unintentional injury was the leading cause of death among children. She emphasized the importance of education and outreach. Addressing the board, Pasma, who also is a member of a child-death review board, said, “You are part of our trauma team.” Mendes repeated the word “prevention” in his comments several times.
Agenda Item #23 The board voted 5-0 to fund $40,000 toward the purchase of electric bicycles for the sheriff’s department; this item had been pulled from the consent agenda by Quintero.
Sheriff Margaret Mims and some uniformed and armed members of the volunteer reserves were present to make their case for this funding. Mims said she “couldn’t overstate the importance of bikes as part of the fleet.”
Danny Boyajian, a 34-year veteran of the volunteer force, was present to reply to Magsig’s comment that he was “jealous” of the battery-powered bikes: “We still pedal,” he said.
Quintero remarked that Danny’s late brother was the bartender at Pardini’s, a local restaurant.
Agenda Item #8 The board approved 5-0 a request from Mims, who appeared again to request that the competitive bidding process for inmates’ medical and behavioral health care be waived. She wanted to retain the current vendor, because she was satisfied with their service and didn’t want to risk trying out another who could be inadequate. Counsel Cederborg confirmed doing so was acceptable, with a legal caveat or two.
Agenda Item #9 The board approved 5-0 a plan to manage remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Clerk Seidel read the agenda item, and all items, so fast she was almost unintelligible. CAO Nerland introduced his staff member, George Uc, who reviewed objectives, priorities, total funds received, eligible-use categories, restrictions, value of funds remaining, and expenditure plans.
Nerland clarified that at the last board meeting, it was noted that about $10 million remained, but the amount was closer to about $13.5 million. Reasons for the larger amount are, for example, that some projects didn’t spend all of the money they were allocated. Nerland expected that there would likely be more money available over the $13.5 million.
Groups could apply for these funds toward new projects, or they could be used for additional funding for established projects.
Pacheco said that he supports the proposal for the remaining funds but was inclined to favor funding County Service Areas (CSAs) or Community Service Districts (CSDs). Pacheco was in favor of funding replacement of county HVAC systems to improve indoor air quality but asked Nerland how the remaining funds appeared as $13 million in one accounting and then as $9 million and $4 million on another with different proposed distributions. How would there be enough for CSAs and CSDs? Nerland said that some CSAs and CSDs may not be feasible projects, so the current accounting permits flexibility, as the vetting process is the same as before. Pacheco said he could accept that.
Mendes, smiling sheepishly, said, “Not that the committee has done a great job” [sic], but that the ad-hoc subcommittee (Magsig and Brandau) should not be involved and that staff should do the work of “pushing it forward.” Nerland appeared to agree, saying that he had input “from everyone’s office,” that the vetting process was the same, and that it was something staff could do.
Pacheco summarized the situation regarding remaining funds, and Nerland said that he was open to both new and CSA/CSD projects. Pacheco asked Nerland for a timeline; Nerland said submissions would be open till end of the year, vetting would take place in Jan and Feb, and by March 2023 proposals would be presented to the board for approval of allocations.
Magsig said he could support dissolving the ad-hoc committee, but that organizations should be informed by staff about scoring and ranking. He smiled and looked in Mendes’ direction, saying he did have “other things to do.” It appeared Mendes’ suggestion was a surprise, because Mendes then defended his position: “No, you guys have done a great job.” The CAO’s staff “should kind of wrap this up,” he added, making a “wrapping” motion with his hands.
Quintero asked Nerland if despite this being an agenda item, hadn’t he heard from any non-profits. Nerland said there had been inquiries about a second round, but nothing since this item was posted. Quintero said that sometimes people will complain about not being informed, “but this is an agenda item,” implying that was notice enough.
Mendes said that there was “so much need” in places such as Del Rey, Caruthers, Raisin City, and other areas. “This is the only way they’re going to get some of this stuff fixed,” he remarked. Nerland said there would be “more needs than we have money,” but that they would use the guidelines which Uc reviewed to help make decisions. Quintero commented that “if we don’t take care of them now, they’ll become ghost towns.”
Pacheco called out to a member of the public in the audience who frequently is present to comment during the “public presentation” section of the meetings; though he often speaks without much clarity, he often mentions the town of Del Rey. “Mr Loza,” said Pacheco, “I see you in the audience, I do want to let you know that the Del Rey CSD has a groundwater recharge program in the category of half a million dollars. So your community is being taken care of, should this item pass.”
Pacheco then thanked Brandau and Magsig for working on the ad-hoc committee but agreed with Mendes about letting the CAO’s staff finish the remaining work, though final decisions will be made by all 5 supervisors.
Agenda Item #10 The board approved by 5-0 a petition for partial cancellation of an agricultural land conservation contract to remove a 2-acre portion of a 50-acre parcel to permit the building of a residence. The matter was presented by Will Kettler of the public works department. There were no objections, no discussion. A young man approached the podium and said the land belonged to his family—did he need to speak on their behalf? Mendes said, “Don’t mess it up, you’re good,” to laughter, and the man sat down.
Agenda Item #11 Supervisors’ comments
Magsig said that “today was Election Day” and encouraged voting. Then he talked about voting “fraud,” without citing any evidence of it, and the need to “purge” voter rolls. He said that current state law mandates a 1% manual recount, but he’d “be open to doing 2%” or “other things.” He thought it was a good idea to hire credit-card companies to “purge” voter rolls, though he didn’t say how that would work or what the cost would be, or why it was necessary. “I’m open to any ideas,” he remarked.
Quintero had no comments
Brandau had no comments
Mendes said, regarding Magsig’s comments, “I’m gonna chime in on that. I’d have [county registrar of voters] James Kus come back. Today is the peak of harvest season for him.” Mendes added that Kus was to have hired more employees to “keep voter rolls clean,” suggesting that this subject “needs to come back” as an agenda item. Then Mendes commented about a remark made earlier by Shantay Davies-Balch, calling her “a person making a presentation,” about bad air quality affecting maternal and fetal health: he called it “fake information” and said that the air in Fresno County is now “80% cleaner” than it was in 1990, a statistic he’s mentioned before but whose source he doesn’t cite. He conceded, however, that the air quality is nevertheless “not great” but the “80%” figure was a “fact.” He added, “People don’t like to look at facts; they like to make shit up and run with it,” suggesting that Davies-Balch was lying.
Pacheco said that he was asked to sign a letter on behalf of the National Association of Counties (NACo) regarding a behavioral health issue; it was an amending of the inmate Medicaid exclusion policy, as well as the use of federal funds for recruitment of behavioral-health providers. Pacheco signed the letter as it had to be completed by the previous Friday.
Agenda Item #12 Board appointments. Mendes made 1, Quintero 2, and Magsig 3.
Agenda Item #13 Public comments regarding items not on the agenda. Only one member of the public spoke, Jaime “Carlos” Loza, a regular, and the person Pacheco addressed earlier. “Here goes,” he began. Then he complained, as he has before, about sheriffs using the Pom Wonderful parking lot in Del Rey for “training.” He also said that Pom Wonderful should drill its own well and not use Del Rey’s. He added that “corporations are gang-affiliated” and “you guys just don’t know what happens out there,” but that “I know what goes on out there.” He concluded, “Del Rey needs help. You guys have a nice day.”
Pacheco asked Cederborg if there would be any anticipated comments from the closed session portion of the meeting; Cederborg said no. The public portion of the meeting ended at 10:52a.m.
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