Santa Paula Times

GMSP: City Manager Fontes sees brighter future for Santa Paula

April 21, 2010
Santa Paula News

Santa Paula’s new City Manager Jaime Fontes gave a wide-ranging address at the April Good Morning Santa Paula, noting better things are ahead for the cash-strapped city although challenges remain.

The Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event, hosted by E. J. Harrison & Sons, was held at Logsdon’s at the Airport.

Fontes, who joined the city in February, noted the presence of Mayor Jim Tovias and Vice Mayor Fred Robinson, and said his hometown of Nogales, Arizona is similar to Santa Paula. “They’re both a produce producing city,” multilingual and multicultural.

“I know not to get involved in the stock market, but I’m very foolish about Santa Paula,” which he first visited years ago to attend the wedding of his friend and city native Ron Araiza, Fontes’ law school classmate. And, “I can’t wait to bring my wife and children out here... yes, they all will be attending Santa Paula schools.”

The bad news is, “Obviously the city is in a tight financial condition.... We don’t want our credit rating to go down,” but Fontes said the “good news is we’re supported by a very strong council who know how to provide services” while tightening the city’s budget belt.

“The good news in terms of one of our main endeavors is East Area 1,” Limoneira Company property east of the city slated for development. Fontes said the homes and commercial development, as well as “light industrial related to the homes, will be a benefit... and I believe as the economy picks up the Adams Canyon project” of 425 custom home sites “will be revived.” The two projects, he noted, “complement each other.”

Santa Paula is one of the few cities poised to take advantage of a bettering economy and new housing, and Fontes said that could also include the planned Dickenson-Mobley Fagan Canyon development. “I think the way it has been redesigned has merit” that will be considered by voters.

Combined, Fontes said the projects represent sustainability and a job base. “I hear a rising tide raises all boats,” a statement Fontes said he believes. “I will do everything possible” to facilitate development while maintaining the “delicate balance” of Santa Paula’s historical and cultural aspects.

One thing the city must do is “keep the financial ship afloat” to provide services, maintain infrastructure, and keep the city “graffiti free and well lit,” among other community quality of life issues. “I know the Chamber is a willing and very good partner in this endeavor.”

Fontes noted Santa Paula’s variety of attractions will benefit from a strengthening economy, offering a “hub of activities” that will draw visitors to the area. “We just have to give it an extra push” and encourage other businesses such as Garman’s Irish Pub, which Fontes said he thinks “will lead the way. You members of the Chamber are the greatest resources we have,” and are the future of the city.

“I think we can be good partners... when I look around town I get advice from everyone. I get ideas, don’t let those die of loneliness. I think many great things will happen.”

Fontes noted, “Santa Paula has me very happy” by what he said has been a warm welcome. “It speaks very highly of the type of folks that are here. And,” added Fontes, “it is much appreciated.”