The City of Santa Clarita held its annual State of the City luncheon for over 300 people at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Valencia Thursday to highlight city achievements in 2011, and showcase what the city has in store in 2012.
The theme of the luncheon, “A New Chapter,” was named for the construction of the city’s newest library in Newhall. The new “environmentally friendly” facility, according to Santa Clarita officials, will feature a teen room, reading lounge and fireplace, among other amenities.
“It is a new 30,000-square-foot library in Newhall that is going to serve the entire community,” said Marsha McLean, mayor of Santa Clarita. “It’s going to be oriented toward youth programs, as well as adults and seniors.” The library is expected to open in summer 2012.
This past year, Santa Clarita kept it’s unemployment rate down at 7.8 percent, which is lower than the state’s 12.7 percent.
Another 2011 achievement for Santa Clarita was the decrease of its crime rate to its lowest point in the history of the city. Santa Clarita has also been named one of California’s safest cities, according to McLean.
“We … have the most improvement over 23 other counties,” McLean said. “Our sheriff’s department … the programs that they have implemented have made us the lowest in crime and the best improved in all of those 23 counties.”
However, one crime at the city has been fighting is the use of heroin, which has been on the rise in Santa Clarita over the last few years. Councilman Frank Ferry says the problem is coming from outside the city.
“Heroin, today in our valley, you have people coming up here because we are an affluent community. They’re giving it away for free,” Ferry said. “If you try it one time, you’re either going to be addicted or your dead. … It’s that strong.”
Ferry has created a task force to battle those who come into the valley looking to handout free heroin. The city also held a symposium last month to educate the community about the effects of heroin.
The luncheon itself was attended by city workers, local business owners, as well as the public. Each councilmember spoke briefly before introducing a video highlighting their year’s worth of work, but perhaps none were more excited to be standing at the podium than Ferry, who nearly lost his life after complications from routine surgery earlier this year.
“To come back and serve, it meant a lot. … It’s a great feeling,” Ferry said. “The doctors are all saying I’m healthy.”
Ferry spent 3 weeks in a coma after going sepsis during a routine surgery last November. 14 doctors told him that he wouldn’t live much longer. This is Ferry’s 14th year n the council.
Other achievements include budgeting in six new fire stations over the next six years, and the city’s film office saw its most successful year-to-date, bringing in $19 million into the local economy, a 20 percent increase from 2010. While many cities are scrambling financially, McLean added that the city has been able to keep its 15 percent budget reserve, which the city is trying to increase to 17 percent.