As presented by the City of Blythe, in conjunction with Riverside County and Palo Verde College (PVC), the 62nd Annual Palo Verde Valley Community Outlook Conference brought local municipal partners and vested regional representatives together at the college’s Francis “Ted” Arneson Fine & Performing Arts Theatre to discuss a bevy of updates and ongoing projects around the city, April 11.
The full morning’s program and presentations are currently available for free viewing under the videos section of the Times’ social media Facebook page at: facebook.com/blythenews
Notably, retiring Blythe Police Department (BPD) Police Chief Jeff Wade was recognized with a standing ovation by the conference’s attendees, visiting dignitaries and area officials for his 34-year commitment to public service.
Wade was also presented with an honorary plaque as well by former Blythe Mayor and Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP) Community Resources Manager Kenny Kalian, Ironwood State Prison (ISP) Community Resources Manager Carey Ochs, ISP Warden Neil McDowell, and CVSP Warden Charles Callahan.
“Thank you all very much. It’s been a good time. It has been an honor to serve Blythe and to be at the police department as long as I have been. It’s another family — all law enforcement is a family, we have to watch out especially in a remote area like Blythe,” said Wade. “So, we appreciate our partners in the prisons, and the (Riverside County) Sheriff’s Department, the (California) Highway Patrol, Border Patrol, everybody — we appreciate the help, so thank you all very much for being here and for the acknowledgement.”
• Longstanding community patron Dr. George Thomas was also introduced and recognized as the 2019 PVC Academic Senate Citizen of the Year for his continued efforts around Blythe and the greater Palo Verde Valley.
• PVC Foundation Executive Director Stephanie Slagan noted the non-profit will be awarding $97,065 in scholarships this coming 2019-2020 year. An additional $20,000 in Dorothy Rupe Caregiver CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) Success grant funding will be infused into the college’s resident program toward students’ textbooks, uniforms, licensure exams, and more (outside of tuition).
• PVC Superintendent/President Dr. Don Wallace introduced PVC Basketball Coach Ryan Copple to attendees, who will be helming a student-athletes Pirates renaissance at the campus this coming fall. Wallace also noted the hope for a full-fledged RN (Registered Nurse) program in the future of PVC.
• Riverside County 4th District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez presented an update on the homelessness abatement Blythe Community Needs Program, which is helmed by the local Riverside County Behavioral Health Outreach Team of Cecilia “Cecy” Gallegos and Paul Lee. Perez noted, since July 2018, the duo have engaged over 80 members of the homeless community in the greater Palo Verde Valley area. At a meeting later in the afternoon, Perez’s public policy advisor Greg Rodriguez further noted roughly 2,700 encompassing support services made thus far to those in need by the Homeless Outreach Team.
• Perez noted on the importance of following through the Mayflower Park project as a tourist destination revitalization effort. “In San Diego, folks have a, ‘Concert by the sea’ — Something like that I think we can try to work on here locally,” said Perez. “And I’m hoping that that is something that you would engage in and help us in participating in moving this along.”
• Perez also presented two infrastructure projects across the city — including the Felix J. Appleby Elementary School roadway safety project to help fix the traffic safety issue, as well as provide a sidewalk from 14th Ave. to Appleby. Perez also noted the Blythe Jail’s Exam Room renovation project, expected to be out for bid before the summer. Perez also noted a commitment to the Ripley and the area’s public park.
• Palo Verde Valley Transit Agency (PVVTA) General Manager George Colangeli announced a $50,000 grant approval to provide all area K-12 kids with busing to school for free.
• Blythe Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius highlighted the current status of local commercial cannabis license approval: “In 2018, 18 cannabis licenses were issued to 10 businesses,” noted Crecelius’ presentation. A total of eight for the commercial cannabis category of cultivation; two for the category of dispensary; two for the category of distribution; and six for the category of manufacturing. As previously reported, the first Blythe cannabis business to officially open — and pay according taxes — went live in January 2019.
• New developments highlighted by Crecelius included a Holiday Inn Express, 80-room hotel; the Edgewater Lane, 30-riverfront residential real estate project; a new SCE (Southern California Edison) facility; and a developing Kangaroo Gas Station and convenience store project.
“In closing, I’m going to ask everybody who lives in Blythe to please stand up,” noted host and Blythe Mayor Dale Reynolds to attendees. “These people love their community. I love this community and I can’t say enough about — when somebody is in need — our community comes together. Our community needs you; it needs everybody in this room. We are family; extended family; close family; friends — we need you. And we thank you for coming to our gem in the desert.”