Signs of progress for Fresno County

FRESNO, Calif.

Money, overcrowded jails and animal control are top issues facing Fresno County. That was the message at Thursday's annual State of the County address.

Debbie Poochigian said, "We still need to keep our eye on the fiscal ball and work with every department to stay in budget and we still have a lot to do, we are not of the woods."

Financially, the county says employee payroll remains a major cost. The board of supervisors is waiting to see how the state's new pension retirement plan initiative will affect the county.

"But we have moved forward," Poochigian said. "In January we did institute a new retirement tier which is for new employees only, but it will save us about $100 million over the next 25 years."

Another major concern is public safety, when it comes to AB109, the state's prison realignment law which sends parole violators to county jail, not prison.

Poochigian explained, "They're sending back people that should still be in prison and so we're just very concerned that our community is not as safe as it could be."

The board's top priority right now is get the last jail floor open.

"We are working diligently," Poochigian said. "It's going to cost us another $3 million if we can open the floor by the end of this year."

Additionally, the county has been tasked with finding a solution to care for stray animals. In a few days, the old county morgue parking lot will be turned into a temporary animal shelter.

"We did a contract with a private vendor and did save the county some money, actually we saved the county substantially," Poochigian said. "We will be ready for operations October 1st. We are mandated to offer animal control service."

Although the county faces a laundry list of challenges, leaders believe it is heading in a positive direction.

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