The Mayor’s State-of-the-City address in its entirety Part 2
■ Michael Perciful / Contributed
One of the most visited locations in the City of Hemet is our wonderful Hemet Library. Because of the requested-material pick-up and browsing collection available in our outside 24/7 kiosk, residents are able to access our library 24 hours a day. Hundreds of thousands of e-books, e- audio, magazines, movies, and music are available online and can be accessed through the library website. In the last year, our library hosted its first “Get Your Comics On” event where we celebrated comic book superheroes and villains.
The first event attracted over 400 participants, and we look forward to the announcement of our follow-up event in early 2019. This past summer our library served over 3,000 meals to children 18 and under, and our library allows card-holders to study for SAT tests, and citizenship practice tests, as well as tips to enter or re- enter the workforce. Our children’s events programs attracted approximately 5,000 children, who participated in the story times, reading clubs, stargazing, dance parties, and magic shows.
On the adult programming side, the library offered 25 genealogy classes, a geology lecture, and computer literacy classes that served approximately 2,000 adults. Grant funding has helped provide for books, staffing, and reading programs at our library. Operationally, our library now offers internet speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second, which is significantly faster than the 50 megabytes per second it once offered.
In just the last year, the library circulated 441,701 items, provided service to 61,289 computer users, served 230,195 patrons to the library, and this year, the library hit an astonishing 4,000,000 patrons who have visited the Hemet Library. The library is a shining example of the high-quality programming available to our community, and is partnered with one of the foundations that continue to provide a stable presence in our community.
There is much to be said about the people in our community and their commitment to improving the quality of life here. There is no shortage of stories that highlight the positive work that happens in our community every day.
The Community Development Department plays a significant role in economic development by coordinating land and planning projects. Over the last year, the City of Hemet welcomed 211 new businesses within our jurisdiction, many of which filled in existing buildings.
These new businesses represent a mix of retail, restaurant, office, and medical uses. In the last year, we welcomed the following businesses to our community:
1. Waba Grill
2. Nanami Sushi
3. Ono Hawaiian BBQ
4. So Cal Tacos and Beer
5. El Patron
6. Tamale Caliente
Additionally, we saw the completion of the Circle K gas station and store, Chase Bank construction at the Winco Center, and numerous commercial developments proposed including multiple restaurants and improvements to existing commercial locations.
Newly built homes
We have many new dining options for you to choose from, and we are excited to see the ones currently underway finished and open for business in the near term. We have also seen quite a number of residential developments in our community. William Lyon Homes, a new residential development on Fruitvale includes 193 single family homes under construction with model homes available for viewing.
Additionally, we continue to see builders interested in existing approved subdivisions including South of Del Webb, McSweeney Farms, and Stoney Mountain, and there are good values in Hemet for those interested in purchasing a home.
The new residential developments offer a number of opportunities for new and young families to establish roots and raise their children. The welcoming of new businesses is crucial to the growth of our community, and we are poised to attract high quality businesses to our community.
Auto Mall investment
There are long-standing businesses that serve as anchors that continue to invest in our community. In the last year, we have seen extensive remodels at the existing Gosch Ford and Hyundai dealerships and a new Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram location going in. This type of investment not only makes their business more welcoming, but it also provides job opportunities.
The overall investments in the Hemet Auto-Mall in the last year will enhance the look and appeal of our dealerships. People from all over Southern California flock to the Hemet Auto Mall to make their auto purchases.
The Hemet Auto Mall serves as a solid foundation for the rich and diverse businesses in our community. We thank those businesses for continuing to remain in Hemet and for continuing to invest in our community. It is clear that businesses are investing in Hemet, and the City of Hemet is making its own investments in the Hemet Fire Department.
Our fire department is one of the most active fire departments in the State of California and the men and women of the department continue to make strides in operational efficiencies. In just the last year, the department responded to over 16,000 calls for service. Over the last year our department initiated a heavy recruitment plan, which included the hiring of five firefighters, three captains, and a battalion chief.
Getting the fire department fully staffed was crucial to getting Fire Stations 4 and 5 staffed with paramedics, so now all five fire stations have paramedics. The implementation of the Part Time EMS peak demand unit, which was staffed with 10 and 24-hour shifts, aims to provide staffing when it is most needed. In October, Medic Unit 1 was fully implemented.
Because of this, operational efficiencies gained with the deployment of these units has had a remarkable impact on our community. We are also making investments in the fire stations, with kitchen remodels currently going on at Stations 1 and 2, and work on Station 3 to begin in early 2019. These remodels will all be paid for with community development block grant funds.
Effects of Measure U
With the passage of Measure U, we have been able to hire new staff including an office specialist, emergency-services and emergency medical services coordinators who will help tie in various aspects of the fire department together in a cohesive manner. In this upcoming year, we plan on hiring additional firefighter/paramedics and bringing on emergency medical dispatchers.
Just recently, the council received a report on the Standards of Coverage Risk Assessment Study. We look forward to the near-term work in the areas of process improvements, operational and administrative enhancements, and policy discussions by the city council, which will set the path for moving the department forward. This year, our department marked its 110th Anniversary—we are proud of that milestone and had an outstanding turnout from the community to celebrate.
It is clear that the City of Hemet is making investments in some of the most critical areas, and this is especially true in the area of the city’s infrastructure. In late summer 2018, the city partnered with San Jacinto to complete the Esplanade Street Rehabilitation project, which was fully funded with Measure A funds.
The project, which consisted of roadway grinding, asphalt concrete overlay, striping, and loop detection, ADA compliant access ramps, and updated curb and gutter sections, was completed in August and delivered on time and within budget. City staff also oversaw the completion of sidewalk, curb, gutter, and ADA ramps on Alessandro Street from Mayberry Avenue to Acacia. The Gilbert Street Rehabilitation project included curb-to-curb roadway pavement rehabilitation and repair of damaged sections of adjacent curb and gutters to support the design life of the roadway.
Tons of asphalt
Our Hemet Public Works team continues to make strides and improvements around the community. Over 22 tons of asphalt were utilized in the last year while filling 1,389 potholes. The teams also replaced approximately 3,300 linear feet of damaged sidewalk. Crews replaced 497 streetlight lamps, and retrofitted over 240 lamps to LED’s in the downtown area, which will provide for a longer operational life as well as provide energy savings for the city. City crews planted 78 trees and trimmed 1,421 trees in our community.
In 2016, the residents of Hemet passed Measure U, which added a 1 percent sales and transaction tax, which aimed to help bolster public safety efforts. This additional revenue, which helped bring in an additional $11 million per year, has been utilized to hire additional staffing and purchase much needed equipment. This infusion of additional revenue helped bring about the investments in our public safety departments, but we must remain fiscally prudent and aware of future budgetary increases.
Increases in PERS rates and health benefits continue to plague all communities in the state of California, and we must exercise fiscal restraint this year and in future years. The City of Hemet continues to maintain a 20 percent reserve, which sets it apart from many other communities, and we remain committed to maintaining a healthy reserve balance. While we project modest increases in revenues for the next year, we must remain committed to our fiduciary responsibility.
As a former police officer, I understand the importance of investments in our police department. With the passage of Measure U, we have been able to hire and retain 16 additional police officers. Prior to the passage of Measure U, the City authorized 69 sworn, and today we have authorized an additional 9 officers.
The ROCS team, which is comprised of police and public works personnel, conducts proactive police work and has made great strides in cleaning up the community. While we are thankful for the work of our officers that stand on two legs, we have great assets in the form of four-legged help. Our K-9 program, which aims to maintain a team of highly trained officers and canine partners, is equipped and prepared to assist with critical incidents, which go beyond the scope of normal police operations.
One of the more popular teams is made up of Officer Reynoso and Duke. Since 2017, Officer Reynoso and Duke have been deployed 403 times in the city. Because of the training of the K-9, we save hundreds of personnel hours each year since they are able to clear an area much quicker than an officer. Earlier this year, Officer Reynoso and Duke were awarded first place in Handler Protection in the Murrieta Police Department’s First Annual K-9 trial, and fifth place in the Area Search.
New K-9 team
In July 2018, due to the graciousness of several local organizations in the community, the City approved the purchase of a new K-9 for the department. Detective Benjamin and his K-9 partner River completed their training this past August — we are pleased to announce that both graduated in the top of their class.
Our police department has modeled community engagement by collaborating with a variety of stakeholders, continuing to hold their recurring Coffee with a Cop, and expanding their engagement efforts.
Rebuilding our police department is crucial to the well-being of our community.
Part of that includes investments in our Police Explorer Post. The young men and women of this Post meet weekly and actively participate in several events such as the annual Christmas Parade, Tinsel Triathlon, Every Ramona Play, National Night Out, and our other community events. Speaking of rebuilding, our police station, which is the oldest operating police station in Riverside County is in the beginning of a 2 million dollar renovation. This is a four-phase project, and phase one is just about complete.
Finally, I am proud to report that our response to priority calls in 2017 was 3 minutes and 27 seconds. Our department remains committed to service excellence, and they exhibit this day-in and day-out—for all 80,253 calls they responded to in 2017 and as of yesterday afternoon 68,610 calls for 2018.
Over the last year, our city departments have diligently worked toward moving the city forward. Our investment into public safety in our community will underlie growth and stability relating to economic development and quality of life.
Our City has invested in the Foundations for the Future. Our strategic investments in City operations sets the stage for future private and public investments, of which we all will benefit from. The programs offered to the community through the City, and through its partners offer opportunities that many other communities can only imagine—yet this is the standard in our community.
As we move forward in the coming years, I hope a sense of community is instilled in every member of our community. Each of us holds a piece of Hemet’s success, and it is up to us to ensure we build the Hemet we want it to be. We will continue to make room for improvements to our business and nonprofit sectors by engaging the residents and people who care greatly for our City.
To those of you that took the time to join us this morning, I appreciate your willingness to hear about the progress in our community. I hope that you all have taken away small pieces of Hemet with you, and that you realize that many of the longstanding traditions, people, locations and events in our community today are excellent “foundations for the future.”
Thank you, I hope you all have a wonderful day and drive safely.
Michael Perciful is the Mayor of Hemet, a member of Hemet City Council, and a local real estate broker who owns SoCal Realtors & Associates.