There was nary a discouraging word Wednesday from Fresno County Supervisors Chair Henry R. Perea during the annual State-of-the-County speech.
Unless downtown Fresno counts, that is.
In a 41-minute breakfast speech at the Fresno Convention Center's Valdez Hall in the heart of downtown, Perea told a large crowd that things are going in a positive direction for Fresno County.
"The good news is the county is healthy," he said early on in the speech. "We are financially sound."
And in the private sector which Perea praised on several occasions things are looking better, too.
Touchy subjects like some unhappy county employees who don't like their contracts and the county's growing pension obligations weren't broached at all.
Even the controversial areas he touched on like Fresno city-county service consolidation, urban sprawl, Friant Road development and the proposed Carmelita Mine on the Kings River were given a positive spin.
But downtown, Perea said, has been a lesson learned from his days as a Fresno City Council member. He recalled pushing the baseball stadium and new Exhibit Hall, as well as other infrastructure improvements.
"I could spend every dime that we have in a certain area, but if the synergy isn't there, if the timing isn't right, if business isn't there to be with you, to move with you, it isn't a good use of your money," Perea said.
He spoke of developers like Ed Kashian and Granville Homes' Darius Assemi "the money dogs in this town."
"Like they say, if we wanted to be in downtown, if the economics were right for downtown, we would be there," Perea said of the developers. "If downtown was ready for that, they would have been there already."
By contrast, Perea said, the county is pushing the Friant Corridor study because there is a private-sector demand for the Friant Road stretch between Copper River Ranch and Table Mountain and including the Assemi family's planned California Health Science University at Millerton Lake. City officials had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Assemi family to locate the university in downtown Fresno.
"I know there are some folks saying 'well, gosh, what does that mean to downtown Fresno?' " he said. "What does that mean to the inner city? Is it going to hurt it more? Some will call it sprawl. I don't. I mean, there was a time I would have, but I think downtown will rise and fall on its own."
Perea also praised Fresno-based agricultural giant Gerawan Farming and the Gerawan family, which is planning the Carmelita Mine along the Kings River near Sanger. The mine and asphalt plant, Perea said, will provide badly needed building materials for the coming Valley building boom he foresees.
The mine, however, has been opposed by Friends of the Kings River.
Perea acknowledged the opposition, but said: "We're confident that at the end of the day it will be done."
Addressing government itself, Perea talked about a new emergency medical services dispatch center that American Ambulance might build on county-owned land at Maple and Hamilton avenues in southeast Fresno.
Already, Perea said, the county's EMS system dispatches for 15 ambulance providers and nine fire departments including both Fresno and Clovis fire departments.
"We have cost savings because we have the efficiency of consolidating services," Perea said.
With the Fresno County Sheriff's Office possibly moving into the older dispatch center that American Ambulance will be leaving, he said, it might be time to again explore consolidation of some law enforcement services which has been a touchy subject for years.
"We have opened dialogue with the city of Fresno to say, long term, let's talk again about starting with the consolidation or integration of communication services in Fresno County," Perea said.
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