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Posted on: October 22, 2021

Merced County Connection - October 2021 Newsletter

Newsletter - Merced County Connection

Editor's Note – The Merced County Connection has returned to regular quarterly production after temporarily being put on hold due to COVID-19 staffing reassignments. Development of the online video edition will also resume. Keep reading and watching for up-to-date news!

INSIDE THIS ISSUE:

Printable Formatted PDF Newsletter (With Photos)


County, Community Break Ground on Remodel of Houlihan Park in Planada

In August, Merced County was joined by members of the community and partnering agencies to break ground on a renovation project at Houlihan Park in Planada. 

The project is funded by a $2.4 million California Department of Parks and Recreation grant secured by Merced County. 

The remodel includes: 

  • A splash pad; 
  • A lighted walking loop;
  • Ten outdoor Gym exercise stations in five areas;
  • A new water-efficient irrigation system throughout the park; 
  • Playground improvements, with shade and drinking fountains; 
  • A renovated basketball court with lighting; 
  • Eight iron benches created by Le Grand High School students; 
  • Five new picnic shelters with 24 total graffiti-resistant tables; 
  • An additional 11 new graffiti-resistant picnic tables throughout the park; and, 
  • An outdoor performing arts stage with lighting.

In total, $2,451,250 was awarded to Merced County through a Statewide Park Program Proposition 68 Grant. The grant was highly competitive, as the State received 478 applications with 62 projects receiving funding. In addition to the work being funded by the grant, Merced County recently upgraded the restrooms at Houlihan Park. Construction began the day of the groundbreaking and is expected to be completed by April 2022.

“This is a big win for the residents in and around Planada,” said District 1 Supervisor Rodrigo Espinoza, who represents the Planada area. “This community loves Houlihan Park, and this is a great investment for the residents of Planada.”

During the August groundbreaking, County officials (past and present) were also joined by Kathleen Houlihan and her daughter Sue Rusk. The park was named after Kathleen’s father, William Houlihan.

Merced County is currently applying for additional funding for parks in other areas of the County.

Rental Assistance Program Extended

In August, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an extension of the Merced County Emergency Rental and Utility Assistance Program. 

The program, which is fully-funded through federal resources, is now being administered by the State through its “Housing is Key” program. 

The program will continue to assist eligible applicants who are: 

  • At or below 80 percent of the area median income; 
  • Rent within Merced County; 
  • Meet income eligibility determination; 
  • Incurred significant costs or financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic; or
  • May be at risk of homelessness/housing instability due to past-due rent. 

To apply for funding:

Community Encouraged to Get Involved in Redistricting

Every 10 years following new population data from the U.S. Census, voting district boundaries are redrawn in order to accommodate for population changes and shifting demographics. 

In Merced County, that process is currently underway and will impact how residents elect their district supervisors for the next 10 years. As part of this process, the County is trying to get residents engaged in the process through workshops, public hearings, and town halls. Residents can also draw and submit their own maps to the County for consideration. 

To submit a map or find out how to participate in Merced County’s redistricting process, you can visit DrawMercedCounty.org or visit Merced County on Facebook.

County Launches "It's Your Shot" Vaccine Campaign

In an effort to boost vaccination rates, Merced County recently launched a vaccine campaign aimed at educating and encouraging the public to get the shot. 

Studies have shown that the three vaccines currently available are our best way to protect ourselves from COVID-19. All the vaccines have proven to be safe and effective. 

The current campaign incorporates newspaper advertisements, radio commercials, billboards, handouts, website advertisements, social media, video, and other multimedia in an effort to communicate the importance of vaccination across various populations within Merced County. 

The ads are being paid for through a competitive grant secured by Merced County. The funding provides $350,000 to promote the vaccine. 

“We’ve seen the devastating toll this disease has had on the community,” said District 2 Supervisor Josh Pedrozo. “The more people that get vaccinated, the more lives will be saved.” 

To sign up for the vaccine, you can visit MyTurn.ca.gov or call 1-833-422-4255. There is no cost to receive the vaccine and proof of healthcare coverage or citizenship is not required.

Auto Testing Site Expanding at Castle

In August, Merced County started construction on a $2.1 million expansion of the automotive research and testing site at Castle Commerce Center. 

The new site will offer vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and innovators a variety of test areas that will replicate real-world highway, rural and urban scenarios. Autonomous vehicle technologies and electrification will be two primary focuses of the facility. 

The 225-acre site formerly known as the “California AutoTech Testing and Development Center” has been renamed to “TRC California.” Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC Inc.), an Ohio-based leader in automotive testing and innovation, has led the design of the facility improvements and took over operations of the site on May 1, 2021. 

“This site embodies the future of transportation, and these technology developments are taking place right in our backyards,” said Chairman Daron McDaniel of the Merced County Board of Supervisors, whose district includes the TRC California at Castle. “This project represents real-time job growth and economic development, with enormous potential as it continues to grow.” 

The current phase of the project includes construction of a 2.2-mile high-speed test track, installation of privacy fencing along the perimeter, assembly and placement of vehicle barriers, modification of pavement markers, and improvements to onsite infrastructure to increase the safety, confidentiality, security and capabilities of the test facility. 

Work on this phase is expected to be completed by November 1, 2021. Construction will temporarily impact small portions of the facility while other areas remain open for testing. Other activities on the site include work on a control building and workshop, and installation of test equipment, with a total project budget of $6.5 million—funding that was secured by Assemblyman Adam Gray through the California State Transportation Agency. 

The site is expected to continue its expansion in the future as more companies look to use the facility for their own testing purposes.

Campus Parkway Update

Segment III of the Campus Parkway project is approximately 80 percent complete. Most recently, roundabouts were installed at the intersections of Campus Parkway and Olive Avenue as well as Campus Parkway and Yosemite Avenue. Studies have shown that roundabouts are safer than more traditional stop sign or traffic-signal controlled intersections, resulting in a significant reduction in vehicle collisions, pedestrian collisions, injuries and fatalities. They also reduce delays and congestion while improving the flow of traffic. 

Construction of Segment III of the Campus Parkway project remains on track to be completed by 2023.

The overall Campus Parkway project includes the construction of a four-lane expressway from Highway 99 to Yosemite Avenue. Segment I from Highway 99 to Childs Avenue is complete. Segment II is also complete and connects the expressway with Highway 140. Segment III is under construction and will extend the expressway to Yosemite Avenue. $100 million was secured through the Senate Bill 1 Transportation Package to fund Segments II and III of the Campus Parkway project. Once finished, Campus Parkway will complete the south-eastern portion of the “Merced Loop System,” which will circle the City of Merced and connect surrounding communities, including the City of Atwater.

Local Olympian Recognized by Board

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were a little extra special for Merced County residents thanks to a familiar face among the athletes. 

Merced-native Madilyn “Bubba” Nickles took home a silver medal as a member of the United States Women’s National Softball Team. The Board of Supervisors recognized her efforts during a meeting in August. 

Thanks in part to Bubba and her teammates, Team USA came out on top in total medal count (113) and gold medals won (39). 

Congratulations, Bubba!

Final Budget 'At-a-Glance'

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2021-22 Final Budget is $844.8 million, which is an increase of $118.2 million from last year’s Final Budget of $726.6 million. This increase is primarily due to a $45.6 million increase in Health and Human Services from State and Federal funding, and a $63.4 million increase in Capital Projects, including flood control, community and veterans halls, and county facilities. Of the $844.8 million, $679.4 million is programmatic funding, and $165.4 million (up from $146.3 million in FY 2020-21) requires funding from local discretionary resources (Net County Costs).

Total Budget (by Category) – $844.8 Million

CategoryPercentageDollar Amount
Health & Human Services47%$ 399.2
Municipal / Countywide Services21%$ 176.6 
Local Public Safety / Justice System16%$ 135.4
Support Services / CIP16%$ 133.6
(Figures in Millions)

General Fund Budget (by Category) – $634.7 Million

CategoryPercentageDollar Amount
Health & Human Services59%$ 375.9
Municipal / Countywide Services8%$ 48.4
Local Public Safety / Justice System21%$ 135.4 
Support Services / CIP12%$ 75.0
(Figures in Millions)

Revenues vs. Expenditures


07/0808/0909/1010/1111/1212/1313/1414/1515/1616/1717/1818/1919/2020/21
Revenue$ 307$ 304$ 306$ 309$ 299$ 308$ 325$ 345$ 387$ 389$ 415$ 408$ 445$ 480*
Expenditure$ 297$ 317$ 319$ 323$ 306$ 307$ 322$ 343$ 376$ 382$ 411$ 410$ 439$ 458
*FY 2020-21 had one-time revenues in the amount of $17.9 million. FY 2020-21 General Fund revenues would have been $462.1 million were it not for the one-time revenues.
(Figures in Millions) 

Total Budget (by Funding Source)

Fund SourcePercentageDollar Amount
General Fund75%$ 634.7
Other Funds25%$ 210.1
(Figures in Millions)

General Fund (by Funding Source)

Fund SourcePercentageDollar Amount
Net County Cost26%$ 165.4
Departmental Revenue74%$ 469.3
(Figures in Millions)

Net County Costs

CategoryPercentageDollar Amount
Public Safety / Justice System52%$ 85.5
Support Services / CIP32%$ 52.8
Health & Human Services4%$ 6.2
Municipal / Countywide Services12%$ 20.9
(Figures in Millions)

Net County Cost: Prior Year Comparison

CategoryFY 2019-20 ApprovedFY 2020-21 ApprovedFY 2021-22 Final
Local Public Safety / Justice System$ 75.4$ 77.9$ 85.5
Health & Human Services$ 5.8$ 5.8$ 6.2
Municipal / Countywide Services$ 18.1$ 18.1$ 20.9
Support Services / CIP$ 41.7$ 44.5$ 52.8
Total Local Requirements$ 141.0$ 146.3$ 165.4
(Figures in Millions)

Total Reserves


07/0808/0909/1010/1111/1212/1313/1414/1515/1616/1717/1818/1919/2020/2121/22
General Fund
$ 23.6
$ 31.1
$19.6
$ 19.6
$ 19.6
$19.6
$ 18.6
$ 18.6
$ 18.6
$ 23.6
$ 30.1
$ 31.1
$ 31.1
$ 31.1
$ 39.1
Fire Fund
$ 4.7
$ 7.1
$ 7.1
$ 7.1
$ 6.7
$ 6.6
$ 6.6
$ 6.6
$ 9.7
$ 6.9
$ 6.9
$ 6.9
$ 6.9
$ 6.9
$ 6.9
(Figures in Millions)


Upcoming Meetings

Board of SupervisorsPlanning Commission
  • October 5, 2021
  • October 19, 2021
  • November 2, 2021
  • November 16, 2021
  • December 7, 2021
  • December 14, 2021

Regular Board of Supervisors meetings are held on scheduled Tuesdays at 10 a.m., unless otherwise specified. Meetings are held in the Board Chambers located in the County Administration Building at 2222 M Street, Third Floor, Merced, CA 95340.14
  • October 13, 2021
  • October 27, 2021
  • November 10, 2021
  • November 124, 2021
  • December 8, 2021
  • December 22, 2021

Regular Planning Commission meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month (with the exception of December) at 9 a.m. in the Board Chambers located in the County Administration Building at 2222 M Street, Third Floor, Merced, CA 95340.8


Municipal Advisory Councils
  • Delhi MAC meetings:
    7 p.m. second Thursday of the month,
    16091 Locust St., Delhi
  • Franklin-Beachwood MAC meetings:
    6 p.m. fourth Wednesday of the month,
    Franklin Elementary on Franklin Road
  • Hilmar MAC meetings:
    6 p.m. fourth Monday of the month.
    20077 Falke St., Hilmar
  • Le Grand MAC meetings:
    7 p.m. first Monday of the month,
    13038 E. Jefferson St., Le Grand
  • McSwain MAC meetings:
    7 p.m. fourth Thursday of the month,
    926 N. Scott Road, Merced
  • Planada MAC meetings:
    6 p.m. first Wednesday of the month,
    9167 Stanford Ave., Planada
  • Snelling MAC meetings:
    6:30 p.m. second Wednesday of the month,
    Old Snelling Courthouse, SR 59, Snelling
  • Winton MAC meetings:
    7 p.m. third Tuesday of the month,
    7091 W. Walnut Ave., Winton


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