Hemet mayor looking for more rapid growth in the coming years

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Hemet’s rapid growth in the past year was praised by Hemet Mayor Bonnie Wright giving the city’s annual “State of the City Address,” Thursday, Nov. 7, in the McSweeney Farms Banquet Hall.

More than 100 Hemet residents, businessmen, Hemet San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce members, medical professionals, teachers, other city and county elected officials, fire and police personnel attended the breakfast event at 21915 Village Loop Road in Hemet.

“Honoring our Past, Excited for Our Future,” was Wright’s theme for the special address. “We have seen incredible growth in just one year, and our staff has worked diligently to ensure that we can sustain long-term success through budget solvency and efficient service delivery.”

“This past June, the council adopted a completely balanced budget, maintaining the city’s 20% reserve for emergencies and maintaining the current service levels. Honestly, with every budget comes concerns, but we have highly competent staff who are determining how to maximize service delivery and are developing a financial model to more effectively forecast our expenditures while we work on boosting revenue. After being designated as a high-risk entity by the California state auditor, the staff has worked toward addressing the items described as potential threats to our city’s health. The Hemet voters, who approved the 1% transaction and use tax play a vital role in our effort.

“With your partnership Measure U revenue has been allocated to improve public safety staffing, service delivery and to maintain service levels. And, due to the hard work of our staff, and leadership from our interim city manager, our most recent letter from the California auditor’s Office acknowledged the progress Hemet has made, and we are one step closer to being removed from the high-risk Classification,” Wright said.

In her speech she praised, Dr. Kali Chaudhuri, who took ownership of the almost bankrupt Hemet Hospital some years ago and for transforming it into Hemet Global Medical Center and KPC Health, now employing more than 3,600 employees as one of the biggest employers in the city.

She said, “Dr. Chaudhuri, an orthopedic surgeon, led an effort to acquire and stabilize the hospital, and today, the hospital’s financial position has completely turned around.

“Hemet Global Medical Center is now home to a medical education and residency program that is attracting some of the brightest young doctors from around the world. The team continues to make improvements to the facility, including a $30-million capital improvement project that includes a brand-new senior waiting room, a state-of-the-art catheterization lab and a complete Emergency Room remodel,” Wright said.

She directed her talk to the Mayor’s Business Advisory Group working with businesses through their issues to help them toward success. She cited a number of businesses that have chosen to remain in the city for decades and named a number of new businesses now moving into the city.

Looking at the Hemet Fire and Police chiefs’ tables, Wright said, “Thank you, police and fire, for all that you do to keep our community safe. We are committed to doing all that we can to maintain the safety of you all who run toward danger while we take cover.

She said with Measure U funding, Hemet Fire Department has been able to improve emergency response by adding six additional employees who encompass a full medic squad, and three fire captains that contribute to the fully staffed Station 5 that serves East Hemet. The Department’s response times continue to improve, with its current time for a unit to arrive on scene being eight minutes from when the call is placed.

“Our 109-year-old fire department responded to 16,510 calls for service in 2018! They rendered emergency medical service to 14,000 people; responded to 552 fires; dispatched to 1,818 non-emergency calls and, were on the front lines of every major fire incidents in California.

“Last year Measure U funded six additional Police Department staff members, including two dispatchers and two Community Service Officers. This year, three new vehicle requests, a radio system replacement and two public safety operators will be funded,” she said. “It is clear that our continued investment helps the department, because in this past year, crime continued its downward trend, as the department focused its effort toward community engagement.”

She listed a number public safety classes scheduled for interested residents from the Police Department Citizens Academy to the Police and Fire Explorers.

“Not to date myself, but I have lived in Hemet for 38 years. I was here to witness McSweeny Farms start from an empty plot of land, to this beautiful community; Florida Avenue morph into our busy town center; the old Coco’s (soon to be the Habit Burger Grill) and now the old Stater Brothers will become a brand-new Grocery Outlet,” Wright said.

She said the city was happy to welcome Burlington, Sprouts and Ulta after renovating the old Walmart site.

“As we continue our efforts, I look forward to welcoming several more chains to Hemet as we grow.” Wright said.

She showed a video of McCrometer calling it “one of Hemet’s best kept secrets.

“Having worked for the Water District for 12 years, I have become familiar with their flow meter technology… After 65 years, McCrometer is still headquartered on the old family farm here in Hemet, but there are four more buildings than what originally existed back in the day,” Wright said.

With that introduction, Wright called Rob Collier, president of McCrometer to come forward to receive a plaque from the city in commemoration of their 65th anniversary in 2020.

“We are privileged to highlight McCrometer and your longstanding commitment to our community and to your industry. Your imprint on water metering is undeniable, and the evolution of your technology and growth is a testament to your commitment to excellence,” Wright said with the city council standing with her.

Continuing her address, she spoke of plans the city council and staff are looking into with the Community Development and Engineering divisions that facilitate business plans, housing development proposals and other major components of expansion for Hemet.

In the housing area, Hemet will see several developments begin next year that may include the construction of 3,000 new homes and condominiums along with a hotel.

“If you don’t have neighbors, you may have some coming soon,” Wright said. “Hemet will continue to grow into a thriving Riverside County community. It has been a long time coming, but we are definitely moving forward. It is impossible to look behind us and not be confident in what lies ahead for our community. As your mayor and council members, I want to encourage you to use the lessons from our past to succeed in the future – that is what this team is committed to doing. We will continue to position ourselves to engage our residents, businesses and neighbors as we grow… Doesn’t our growth serve as a reminder of how far our 109-year-old city has come and how much we’ve accomplished?”

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.