As my year as Board Chair comes to an end, I want to start this message with a heartfelt expression of gratitude.
I am grateful to our County staff, our public health team, and community partners, who stepped up with great courage and determination to serve our community during this unprecedented public health emergency. As we begin to administer the vaccine, we have reason for hope.
Working together, we’ve faced the pandemic head-on. It’s not over yet, but armed with the facts, we know what we need to do to protect the health and safety of our families, friends, and neighbors: wear face masks, wash our hands, and maintain social distance. By taking these common-sense precautions now, we can return to a strong economy, open schools, and normal day-to-day activities.
These are trying times, but the generosity of our community won the day. One highlight is the Nevada County Relief Fund, which leveraged public dollars with personal donations to the tune of more than $1 Million – helping small business across the County and many of our most vulnerable residents.
With our kids distance learning, our parents accessing telemedicine, and so many of us working remotely, 2020 will be remembered as the year where reliable internet access moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have. I commend my Board colleagues for allocating $1 Million to expedite broadband access to over 500 residents in the Peardale area, which wouldn’t otherwise have happened for another year. The Board also funded the Distance Learning Center and Youth Hub, which connects students to the internet - an innovative solution developed by Bright Futures, the Fairgrounds, and County staff. Next, we must expand service countywide so everyone can connect to the internet. (note that expansion will need to have federal/State intervention)
New innovations are making our community safer. A case in point is our first Mobile Crisis Team, which pairs one deputy sheriff with one therapist to respond to mental health, substance abuse, or homelessness calls. I commend Sheriff Shannon Moon and the Behavioral Health Department for launching this initiative which will help people get the services they need, reduce arrests, and save lives.
I am grateful to our brave first responders whose swift actions during the Jones Fire prevented a larger calamity, and to our Sheriff’s Office deputies who coolly managed one of Nevada County’s largest evacuations. I want to commend our Office of Emergency Services who worked hard to support our first responders and evacuees during the Jones Fire and helped us navigate PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shut-offs and set up cooling centers for vulnerable residents on the hottest days.
While we know we can respond to crisis, we demonstrated our ongoing commitment to connect unhoused people with stable housing and wrap around services. Looking ahead, I’m heartened to see Brunswick Commons under construction – creating 41 housing units by spring of 2022. Nevada City approved Cashin’s Field project, which thanks to a $25.8 Million Federal Tax Credit allocation secured by the Regional Housing Authority with support of the City of Nevada City and the County of Nevada, will have 51 affordable units when it opens its doors and is currently estimated to be completed in the fall of 2022. The County’s purchase of the Coach and Four Motel in Grass Valley will provide permanent affordable housing for families, seniors, and veterans when the renovation’s completed.
Our commitment to improvement this year also included a handful of changes to our first time cannabis ordinance, eliminating obstacles in order to bring more farmers into compliance without affecting the health of the community.
In addition, our ongoing South Yuba River Cohort, which has achieved multiple objectives in its short four years and has been credited with creating a new and trusted collaboration among fire agencies, State and Federal agencies, environmental organizations and the County, completed its first report on high priority actions for the coming years. I look forward to working on big goals in this unprecedented collaboration.
Through it all, this Board vigilantly maintained core services and carefully stewarded County funds. I want to take this opportunity to thank my friend and colleague, Richard Anderson, for his eight years tirelessly representing the Fifth District, and to welcome his successor, Hardy Bullock, who shares our commitment to represent all of Nevada County from east to west.
We are one County, united more than ever. With our faith in one another, our innovation and creativity, I welcome 2021, knowing that together, we will remain “Nevada County Strong.”