New chair to head board of supervisors

Kelsey takes the helm after a year of challenges, innovation

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 15, 2013 

Supervisor Deidre Kelsey will spend the next 12 months heading up the the Merced County Board of Supervisors.

Kelsey, who's served as chairwoman four times, was nominated during Tuesday's board meeting by Supervisor John Pedrozo.

Kelsey said she's "very pleased and honored" to serve as chairwoman, noting there's much to do in the year ahead, including implementing national health care changes, finalizing Merced County's general plan and approving a balanced budget.

Supervisor Jerry O'Banion will serve as vice chairman for 2013.

Departing Chairman Hub Walsh said 2012 was a "year of challenges" with many transitions.

He highlighted some of last year's accomplishments, including progress on the Atwater-Merced Expressway project, opening the One-Stop center, launching a new emergency notification system and appointing several new people to department management positions.

During the first board meeting of the year, the supervisors unanimously approved a contract with Congressman Jim Costa to lease a room on the third floor of the county's administration building for his use.

The county will receive $2,320 per month for the two-year lease, with $1,600 covering the rent, according to Dana Hertfelder, director of Merced County Public Works.

Costa's team is requesting a few changes to the room's interior, including adding a waiting room and partitions, which will cost close to $17,000.

Hertfelder said the county will pay for those remodeling costs upfront, but will be reimbursed through the monthly lease payments.

Although its unclear how many of Costa's representatives will work out of the office, Hertfelder said it will provide a clear advantage to Merced County residents.

"We think it's a benefit to the public because they can talk to Congressman Costa or his representatives directly, instead of calling them," Hertfelder said.

Costa said Tuesday an office in the heart of the city of Merced is critical in serving the interests of the people of the new 16th District.

"From assisting you with federal agencies to hearing your concerns about what's going on in Washington, I'm here to help," he said. "My staff and I look forward to working with you for all of Merced County."

The supervisors also approved unanimously two temporary analyst positions in the Human Services Agency to fill the shoes of two employees who left to assist with a project in Los Angeles County.

The two employees were selected to help update an automated system that determines eligibility for CalWORKs, Medi-Cal and food stamps.

Human Services Agency Director Ana Pagan said the system originated in Merced County. She said her agency is proud the two employees will contribute to the updates.

"Rules change constantly and we have to adapt," Pagan said. "We're very proud that Merced has been the leader in many projects, certainly in the efficient use of technology."

The two temporary positions are paid for by state and federal funding, and will end in Spring 2015, Pagan said. Once complete, the new system will be used by 40 counties.

The board approved unanimously the purchase of 28 new tablet computers for the attorneys at the District Attorney's office at a total cost of $24,232.

Jeannette Pacheco, administrative services director, said there will be no cost to the county because the purchase is covered by the DA's budget and a trust fund.

The new computers will allow management staff and attorneys to sync their computers with the new court calendar. Each tablet will run on a virtual private network, reducing the risk of potential security breaches.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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