For 2014, we renew our commitment to work together for a future of opportunity and hope for our county, state and nation. Through strong community partnerships with our town councils, civic associations, community groups, non-profits, and legislative and municipal offices, we will build on the accomplishments of 2013 to improve public safety, recreational opportunities, mobility, and economic vitality for our Santa Clarita Valley residents.
My office joined officials from Caltrans, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the City of Santa Clarita, and other officials to celebrate the official ribbon cutting of the new I-5/SR-14 HOV Interchange. This roughly $176 million project added an elevated, two-lane, HOV connector and two miles of carpool lanes to provide a seamless freeway-to-freeway transition for thousands of daily commuters.
A new $1 million frontage renovation at William S. Hart Park was unveiled in Newhall and included a new chain-link fence, a beautiful masonry wall with decorative wrought iron and a pedestrian entrance that will interface with the City of Santa Clarita’s ongoing Old Town Newhall redevelopment. This project was funded through a combination of 5th District Safe Parks Funds and Capital Funds.
Joining officials from the LA County Fire Department and the City of Santa Clarita, we opened Fire Station #150 – home of the new Battalion 22 and Division 3 headquarters and HazMat Task Force 150. At 19,000 square feet, the state-of-the-art facility includes community rooms, fire class training rooms, dormitories, a gym and civic art from local artists.
The Board of Supervisors approved an additional $22 million for unincorporated Sheriff’s Department patrols to maintain patrol service levels. While the state’s reckless prisoner realignment program has resulted in increased crime across California, the Santa Clarita Valley continues to experience some of the lowest crime rates in the nation.
Every April, the County of Los Angeles honors the contributions of a select number of volunteers throughout the county. Keeping with the Santa Clarita Valley’s deep commitment to service activity, three local residents received this prestigious honor in 2013. Flo Lawrence and Frank Louis Willard were the Fifth District adult and youth honorees, respectively, and Nadiya Littlewarrior was honored by the Museum of Natural History.
Along with numerous local officials, we attended the ground-breaking of Castaic High School which is scheduled to open to ninth graders in 2016 who will help select a mascot and school colors. School district officials will begin the search for a principal in 2015.
After years of public involvement, we opened the doors to the completed Vasquez Rocks Interpretive Center. The center includes a museum, interpretive exhibits, a community multi-purpose room, staff offices, and a civic art piece that has been named one of the “50 Best New Public Art Projects”, by Americans for the Arts in the United States. The center also achieved the LEED Platinum certification for efficiency. Vasquez Rocks receives over 105,000 estimated visitors annually.
A large crowd turned out for the opening of our new Castaic Sports Complex Aquatic Center. This $13 million facility features a 12,500 square foot building with offices, locker rooms and showers; a 6,245 square foot competition pool; a 4,435 square foot recreation pool; a splash pad; and a civic art piece that greets all visitors. The center provides numerous programs, services and classes for the public. The Aquatic Center also achieved the LEED Platinum certification for efficiency.
In June, The Board of Supervisors passed a roughly $25 billion budget, which saw the first increase in spending and estimated revenue since the beginning of the recession. Revenue is expected to increase in the range of 2.9% to 4.1% in fiscal year 2013/2014. While other municipal governments suffered heavily, and even filed for bankruptcy during the recession, the county remained intact without major service reductions and without layoffs or furloughs. The Board of Supervisors has demonstrated many years of fiscal restraint, has set aside a rainy day fund that is still near $200 million, and was able to reach an agreement with county employees that froze cost of living wage increases over the past five years.
As part of an agency-wide upgrade of safety and technology in the wake of deadly crashes in 2005, Metrolink received its final order of train safety cars, dubbed “The Guardian Fleet.” A total of 137 cars were purchased, featuring: energy-absorbing crumple zones, redesigned seats, breakaway tables, fire retardant materials, anti-derailing devices, and improved escape hatches and rescue access.
The Board of Supervisors allocated $1.4 million to fund a new exhibit space at the Placerita Nature Center. The space will include a series of interpretative exhibits with large displays of the natural environment and native species. We anticipate this project will be completed in September 2014.
In partnership with Caltrans and MTA, ground was broken on the SR-126 Interchange Improvement Project. This project will widen the 126, grade separate the interchange with Commerce Center Dr., add on and off-ramps at Commerce Center Dr. and Henry Mayo Dr., realign Henry Mayo Dr., install new traffic signals, relocate utilities, and add landscaping and bank stabilization for the Santa Clara River.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved two different versions of Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch Project – a larger plan with 12 sound stages, and a smaller plan with 8. This will allow Disney to move forward with whichever product best meets their economic considerations. It is estimated that the project will create up to 3,152 permanent jobs and have an annual positive impact of $522 million on the Santa Clarita Valley economy.
For over two years, our office has worked closely with the West Ranch Town Council, our local schools and school districts, and west side homeowners associations to provide a full-service library. In September the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a lease agreement for a new library in Stevenson Ranch. The new 12,000 square foot library will open in May 2014 and will include: a large adult reading area; teen center; children’s area; an 80 seat community room; group study rooms; express checkout machines; public computers and Wi-Fi; and a collection of over 60,000 books.
To provide library service to unincorporated Castaic area residents, the Board of Supervisors exercised its option to purchase the Castaic Library facility. The library is currently undergoing an expansion that will include: an additional 5,247 square feet of space; an upgraded collection of 60,000; a public meeting room; group study rooms; children and teen areas; and a filmmaking and digital project space. The purchase will be finalized upon completion of the expansion in June 2014.
The county partnered with the City of Santa Clarita, the Wildlife Conservation Board, the Trust for Public Land, and Caltrans’s Environmental Enhancement & Mitigation Program to purchase 550 acres of the former Las Lomas property. The county put forth $1.3 million in grant money for the purchase, which enhances our environment, adds to protected open space land in the Fifth District, and provides a direct link between the San Gabriel and Santa Susana Mountains.
Citing our “very strong budget flexibility” and “very strong management with strong financial policies”, Standard & Poor delivered an early Christmas present by raising Los Angeles County’s long-term credit rating to AA+. This rating increase will allow us to secure lower financing rates for capital projects and it reflects the conservative budgeting and good fiscal policies of our board. Unlike many other municipalities, the county has been able to stop the hemorrhaging of our tax dollars by reforming our pension systems and increasing productivity.
These accomplishments would not have been possible without your vital participation, input and dedication to our communities. We look forward to working with you for a successful 2014.
Christine, Michael Jr., Mary and Anthony join me in wishing you a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year.
If you would like more information on county-related services or have a question or concern, please feel free to visit my Santa Clarita Valley field office or contact my office at (661) 287-3657 or by email at email@example.com. Also get the latest county updates by following me on Facebook and Twitter.
MICHAEL D. ANTONOVICH
Supervisor, Fifth District