PALO VERDE – On June 4, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors held a town hall meeting here to discuss residents’ concerns and desired areas of improvement.
Since that meeting, members of the community say there has been no follow-up and that their calls and emails were not returned.
Residents asked for five areas of improvement at the meeting, and at the request of Supervisor Chairman Ryan Kelley, sent those requests in a letter to all five supervisors with 36 signatures in July. They said they have not heard back since.
On Nov. 4, Kelley conceded the small town of about 270 persons, 20 miles from Blythe, should have been called with a status update, if nothing else, and added he was going to immediately contact the county’s administration office to make sure this occurs.
This is one thing some Palo Verde residents say they have been waiting on for months.
“Is it too much to ask to have the supervisors be responsible and transparent to the residents of Palo Verde?” said Patsy Calvert who owns properties in the town. “Do something. We have had these complaints for years.”
“It’s not like we have not given them time to respond,” she added.
An issue involving the ambulance contract for Palo Verde residents and the response times appears to have been resolved.
Imperial County Public Information Officer (PIO) Linsey Dale in an email said American Medical Response (AMR) in both Riverside and Imperial counties developed a response agreement for the Palo Verde and Blythe regions, where ground ambulance service from Blythe is available.
Dale said the agreement includes the provision of back-up ground ambulance coverage to the area through AMR Imperial.
Ron Woods, president of the Palo Verde Improvement Association (PVIA), said almost everyone living in the small town was aware the county had resolved the ambulance concern.
A request made to the supervisors was to provide abatement enforcement for Palo Verde properties that are considered to be a public nuisance.
Dale did not really answer the question in its entirety, according to residents, writing in an email that the county’s planning and development services follow guidelines outlined in Title IX of the Imperial County Ordinances, which are in line with the state’s guidelines.
Calvert, who does not live in Palo Verde but owns properties there, said this is a big concern to the residents who call the town home.
There have been community complaints regarding properties that have trash, rubbish and abandoned vehicles stored on their property and abandoned properties that are structurally unsafe. These go unresolved due to the county’s failure to fund the abatement process, she said.
Palo Verde residents also requested speed warning signs to be installed on Highway 78. However, Dale wrote that the state route is a CalTrans (California Department of Transportation) roadway over which Imperial County has no jurisdiction.
On Friday, she wrote that the public works department will follow up with CalTrans on the request.
Another issue was the equipment and training of the fire department in Palo Verde. Dale said that has been resolved, noting the county’s fire department recently conducted a community-wide CPR training that 30 residents attended.
In addition, she said, there are two hours of mandated training each day for fire crews in Palo Verde.
Palo Verde residents also wanted to know if there had been an assessment of road and bridge conditions in and around the town.
Dale said public works inspected the roads and bridges after the town hall meeting in June and determined they were safe for passage. She added more information will be coming in June 2020, when the department recommends a list of roadways for upcoming work.
Calvert said that while the roads may be safe for passage, the sidewalks and rails need to be improved, and she is also not happy the town will have to wait until June to see if Palo Verde is included on the list.
Supervisor Ray Castillo, whose district includes Palo Verde, said four of the five concerns have been dealt with. He added that the county has no control over a state highway, so questions on speed limit flashing signs need to go to CalTrans.
“We do need an update on all the things the department has done on the various issues,” Castillo said. “On Tuesday, I will ask for an update.”
Kelley said the Board of Supervisors first heard about road, bridge and ambulance service concerns of the Palo Verde residents at the June town hall meeting.
Kelley said the supervisors asked the residents to send a letter to them with their concerns.
He said the only action taken so far on the concerns is working on an agreement so there will be ambulance service in Blythe residents can use.
“I can see that they had their concerns,” Kelley said. “The others are (larger) projects.”
He also said there are other projects in other parts of the county that have to be done, but he added the residents of the town should be given an update.
On the public nuisances, Calvert said she thinks liens should be attached to the properties in question, but she added she has yet to see the county do an abatement.
“We have investments in that community,” she said. “We are not just going to go away. If we do that, the town will die.”
Woods said he disagrees with Calvert on at least one point, saying the county came out to Palo Verde and repaired the road with the most damage, even though it was not the most traveled.
“You have to fix the worst roads first,” he said.
He also credited the county for its part on the ambulance service for Palo Verde residents being in Blythe since Imperial County is 98 miles away, compared to Blythe being 20 miles.
He said most of the people living in town knew about this ambulance service Palo Verde residents could use.
“Imperial County has been very receptive to what we have asked for,” Woods said. “Ultimately, there is a big county (to cover).”
Nevertheless, Woods said he also would like more information from the county.
“I think a status update would be a good idea,” he said.