WRCOG explains its role in local government

Almost $200,000 has been awarded to Hemet for Downtown Specific Plan

Photo by Melissa Diaz Hernandez/The Valley Chronicle
WRCOG’s Executive Director Rick Bishop gives his presentation to the Hemet City Council.

■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor

For those of you who tune into city government and wonder what Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG) is all about, Executive Director Rick Bishop gave a presentation to the Hemet City Council at a work study prior to the regular meeting Oct. 24.
Council of Governments (COG) are “voluntary associations that represent member local governments, mainly cities and counties, that seek to provide cooperative planning, coordination, and technical assistance on issues of mutual concern that cross jurisdictional lines,” according the WRCOG website. “In this sense, COGs serve to develop consensus on many issues that need to be addressed in a subregional or regional context.”
According to Bishop, population growth will occur everywhere. WRCOG presented some figures in a slide showing Hemet’s 2012 population at 80,602. The projected population in 2040 will be 114,275 — an increase of 42 percent.
The Council of Governments (COG) is guided by the interests of [city councils] and other members agencies.
There are six core areas identified by the executive committee and reconfirmed earlier in the month that fall under WRCOG’s engagement, including economic development, education/higher education, environment/energy, health, water/wastewater and transportation.
Councilwoman Bonnie Wright is the current city of Hemet representative to WRCOG.
Bishop said that the intent of the organization is that as WRCOG is vetting ideas and making recommendations, they are reviewed by top level staff at the city.
“So when it comes [time] for our executive committee to act on [the recommendations], they have confidence their staff is fully on board with the recommendations that are provided,” said Bishop. “I think that is one of the things that has made us successful.”
“Some of the things we’ve been undertaking pursuant to your direction is our BEYOND Program — a grant program that we have seen upwards of $4 million [$3.85 million] now that has been allocated to our member jurisdictions to facilitate local sustainability and economic development consistent with those six core areas that we talked about earlier,” added Bishop.
“So far almost $200,000 of it has been provided to the city of Hemet for its Downtown Specific Plan activities [$86,597],” said Bishop. “We have round two, which was focusing on Hemet Helping Everyone Realize Opportunity, Equality & Sustainability (HEROES) program [$107,257]. I have just been hearing recently that there may be a change in direction on that from the city so we will wait to see what comes our way. This has been a real successful program for local jurisdictions to do complete projects.”
The regional streetlight program is also being headed up by WRCOG.

“Right now we are working with 11 of our member jurisdictions to purchase about 48,000 street lights in our sub-region from Southern California Edison,” said Bishop. “Once we are able to help local jurisdictions make the purchase, it is anticipated WRCOG will administer a contract that would retrofit all of the street lamps to LEDs and include operation and maintenance activities. This can be done with considerable savings to our local jurisdictions.”
There is about $50 million in savings to local participating jurisdictions over a period of 20 years with this program, according to Bishop.
“This does not include what we refer to as SMART city applications that come along with it,” he added. “So the jurisdiction owns the street lights, then they can do things with the street lights or create revenue generating opportunities.”
Other programs from WRCOG include Community Choice Aggregation, solid waste recycling and used oil filter collection program, the Public Service Fellowship Program with University California, Riverside and California Baptist University, and Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee (TUMF), a program that ensures that new development pays its fair share for the increased traffic that it creates — just to name a few.
According to Bishop, one of WRCOG’s goals is to become the region’s purchaser of energy.
When asked how WRCOG is funded, Bishop responded via email.
“WRCOG’s operating budget is comprised of a variety of sources, mostly from administration of programs like the Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee (TUMF), Property Assessed Clean Energy Programs, and from various grants,” stated Bishop. “We [WRCOG] also receive dues from members (approximately $300,000 per year). Hemet’s dues are approximately $7,900 of that $300,000 collected per year. Dues comprise a little more than 1 percent of the operating budget.”
How are the funds managed?
“The funds are managed ultimately by the Executive Committee by way of their approval of the budget,” said Bishop. “The Committee is comprised of elected officials from each of the member agencies.”
For more information on WRCOG, what they do and a calendar of meetings and events, visit http://www.wrcog.cog.ca.us.

Photo by Melissa Diaz Hernandez/The Valley Chronicle
The Hemet City Council listens to speakers during the Oct. 24 work study conducted prior to the regular scheduled meeting.

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