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Cindy Avila outside board chambers on Tuesday (courtesy MCAS Facebook)

Madera Supervisors Appoint New Animal Services Director

MADERA — Madera supervisors held their first regular meeting of the County’s new 2020-21 fiscal year this week — and it was a busy session.

The start of a new business year means the County must renew various departmental agreements with outside contractors. So Tuesday’s lengthy list of agenda items involved the auditor’s office, behavioral health sciences, community and economic development, probation and corrections, public health, public works and water and natural resources.

The board also present its 2020 quarterly Chairman’s Culture of Excellence Awards for the first and second quarters of the year.

Madera County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Joey Wilder was recognized for his outstanding work — virtually — by District 5 by Supervisor Tom Wheeler. 

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Wheeler has been participating in the board meetings remotely from his ranch in Ahwahnee via web teleconferencing. Supervisors Frazier and Rodriguez also have taken part from their homes during board meetings over the past few months. The arrangement allows for adequate social distancing on the dais.

This week, supervisors also voted to refinance outstanding “lease revenue” bonds in order to fund planned improvements to the County’s Hall of Justice and Juvenile Hall facilities. The bonds will also help finance pre-construction activities for Madera County Fire Station No. 3 in Madera Acres.

San Luis Obispo-based RRM Design Group was awarded the $489K design and engineering contract for Station No. 3. RRM is the same firm that designed Madera’s Fire Station No. 58. Total construction costs for the new fire station are currently estimated at $6.4 million.

On Tuesday, the board also OK’d (retroactively) County Administrative Officer (CAO) Jay Varney’s application for Corona Relief Fund (CRF) payments from the State.

On June 29, the governor signed the 2020 Budget Act, which included $1.3 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) for counties. The State budget also includes about $750 million for pandemic relief.

According to a County staff report, on June 29, “the State released two certification forms that were required to be signed and submitted by each county’s Chief Executive in order to be eligible to receive the allocated funds. Although the deadline for submission of the certification forms is July 10, 2020, the order of disbursement of the funds will depend on the date the State received the signed certification forms.”

Due to the “critical need” for the funds, the forms were actually completed and submitted by Varney under his authority during declared emergencies — like the coronavirus pandemic.

County staff reportedly is in the process of putting together a plan for using the CRF funds and is expected to brief supervisors within the next week or two on a potential spending plan.

“The plan will be consistent with both federal and state guidance,” the staff report said, and will support “pandemic response activities,” provide community assistance for small businesses impacted by the pandemic and also will support safety-net organizations helping the most vulnerable resident populations.

Madera County Department of Public Health officials briefed supervisors Tuesday on all of the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

Also on Tuesday:

Supervisors heard an update on the Madera County Mission 2023 Strategic Plan — and Cindy Avila was formally approved as director of Madera County’s animal services department, which includes the Madera County Animal Shelter.

Avila has worked at the animal shelter for nearly three decades, including serving as interim director since Kirsten Gross retired at the end of 2019.

Meanwhile, no word yet from organizers on when the new Eastern Madera County SPCA’s shelter in Ahwahnee may be ready to open.

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