By Greg Caput, County Supervisor
It is no surprise to most of us that this has been an unprecedented year with the emergence of Covid-19 and the CZU fires. During these times of uncertainty, we are facing deep emotional distress. The residents of Santa Cruz county have endured economic hardship and loss.
We are actively watching the spread of the virus and following the directives of the state public health officer as ordered by the Governor. Although these regulations have been cumbersome and disruptive, we are doing this to prevent people in our community from dying. To date, more than 80 county residents have died in Santa Cruz County with Covid-19 as a contributing factor.
This past July, the Board of Supervisors voted for a 10% cut in salary for all Supervisors and department leaders. In addition, the remaining employees’ wages were reduced by 7.5% and 56 jobs have been cut from the county payroll.
We have three homeless shelters in the Pajaro Valley providing food, shelter, clothing and showers for over 120 men, women, and children. During the CZU fires, the County fairgrounds became a staging area for evacuees. More than 2,000 residents received shelter and meals at the fairgrounds, Lakeview Middle School, Watsonville High School and local churches. Over 200 RVs were provided with water electrical hookups, blankets, clothing, toys and regular meals. Thousands of local livestock including horses, cattle, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, pets, canaries, turtles, dogs, cats, and etc. were cared for by county staff, the American red cross, Salvation Army, the National Guard, local hospital staff, mental health counselors and volunteers from local churches.
In addition, farmworkers were supplied with more than 400,000 masks, 60,000 respirators, 50,000 cloth coverings and 25,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.
On a different note, we are still working on the 100-year flood protection plan for the Pajaro River. The good news is that the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have cleared us for approximately $120 million in funding. In addition, federal funds of $280 million and local Santa Cruz and Monterey county funds for a combined $40 million are actively being pursued.
The county road conditions are a huge concern, and we are currently banking funds for big projects while working on short-term road maintenance. The coming rainy season can add damage to our infrastructure. It should be noted that Riverside Road (Highway 129) to Highway 101 was completed and that major work on Lakeview Road, East Lake avenue sidewalks, pedestrian-activated crosswalks near schools and, other dangerous crossings, have all been done. A “thank you” should be noted to the City of Watsonville and the Pajaro Valley Unified School District for their support in seeking funding.
With regards to parks, we currently have funds for purchasing land in South County and are focused on this mission. We were also able as a board to pass a resolution in support of the local Pajaro Valley Ohlone Indians in their endeavor to seek federal recognition.
I am personally disappointed in both national political parties in the months-long delay in passing any federal stimulus money benefits for those facing economic failure. The board has written requests to state and federal representatives to put partisan differences aside and pass a stimulus bill now.
This past year, it was an honor to help pass Measure Y in Watsonville for the funding for the fire and police departments, we need to protect the value and services that we receive from our first responders. They are the front line against crime and disasters, and we must be vigilant in protecting this indispensable resource. I also want to thank the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office for its work and sacrifice to the county, and in particular for those who gave their life for us, Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller. Furthermore, I want to recognize a fallen member of Cal Fire, David Lutz, he will be sadly missed. We are fortunate to have these people on our side and making sure we are all safe, it is with a deep appreciation that we must all thank those who did so much and continue to do so through these stifling times. Lastly, the veterans’ services office is open in Watsonville four days a week to assist veterans to receive the help they earned by serving in our military.
We need to show compassion and strength to work through the tragedy and sorrow we are dealing with. We need to be patient and vigilant and make sure we use our hearts when we find the reason for our solutions. With hard work and God’s help, we will heal and become stronger. It is an honor to be your county representative.
Greg Caput is Santa Cruz County Supervisor for the Fourth District. Reach Caput at [email protected]. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.