THIS MONTH'S FEATURED NEWS

Jeff Pratt

Jeff Pratt

Director’s Note

Welcome to THE WORKS, our internal newsletter with information and stories from team members and leadership at Ventura County Public Works. Each issue of THE WORKS demonstrates our staff is on track and following our True North ideals of Innovation and Excellence.

This month, we learn about Engineering Services and their current projects. The Engineering Services teams, led by Director Chris Cooper, manage a wide range of services and contribute amazing projects to our communities – fire stations, hospitals, and libraries are just three examples.

In Pathways, we meet Lou Negrete and Tony Golson and hear directly from them on how their Pathways intertwined: as friends in high school, the Marines (Semper Fi), and now at Public Works! A fascinating read, and please, we invite you to join us by sharing your Pathway story, too! Contact Joan Araujo, Joan.Araujo@ventura.org, to join the lineup.

Do you have photos from your job site? We learned that our social media audience of 14,000 fans across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter LOVE to see your day-to-day work, projects, and people behind Public Works! In February, people most liked photos submitted by Rudy Munoz, Sean Hanley, Susanna Arroyo, and Jon Jacobson – congrats and thank you! This month, we are starting a contest for who submits the most-liked photo for April. Please send your on-site photos or project updates to vcpwasocial@gmail.com and include a one-liner describing the photo. Can’t wait to see and share your submissions.

Lastly, a call for help arrived for a grade-school homework assignment, and Roads and Transportation Superintendent, Rudy Munoz, came to the rescue. Connecting with our youth is something that’s very important to our agency. Beyond reading Rudy and the student’s story, we invite you to share the Public Works Week invitation with an educator using this link.

Thank you all,
Jeff Pratt, Public Works Agency Director

Pathways: Lou Negrete & Tony Golson

From classmates in high school, to joining the Marine Corps together, to current coworkers at Ventura County Public Works Agency, Lou Negrete and Tony Golson’s bond is the actual definition of friendship.

Lou and Tony first met during their freshman year at Fillmore High School in 1984. Now, 38 years later, they work together at VCPWA. Lou is the Superintendent for Watershed Protection, Zones 3 and 4, and Tony is the PWA Maintenance Supervisor in the same division. Tony started working at the County in 1991 and Lou in 2000. Lou said, “I recall seeing Tony driving a Watershed Protection truck while I was working for an asphalt paving company and thinking to myself ‘If Tony is working for the County of Ventura, then it must be a good place to work.’”

Now, 21 years later, Lou and Tony reminisce on their friendship and pathway to VCPWA.

Can you explain the pathway that led you to where you are today?

Tony: “My mother raised four kids on her own, while holding a steady job, and my siblings and I were expected to contribute with chores around the house. Although I didn’t know it then – that’s teamwork. I have a simple education, I grew up going to Piru Elementary, Fillmore Jr. and Sr. High School. I am married to a wonderful wife, Monique, of 17 years, and we have a beautiful 20-year-old daughter, Aliyah, and three dogs, Chica, Chito and Dakota.”

Lou: “Initially, I wanted to be a Physical Education teacher and coach sports. When I graduated from Ventura College in 2000 and was accepted to California State University Northridge (CSUN), I was also hired by VCPWA, Roads & Transportation. My plans then were to get a good paying job with medical benefits for my wife and daughters (while attending CSUN at night), earn my degree, leave VCPWA, and begin teaching and coaching. In 2004, I graduated from CSUN with my B.A. and started looking for teaching opportunities. However, in 2005, Mother Nature put a damper on my plans of leaving VCPWA when she unleashed a big rainstorm that caused flooding, destruction, and chaos throughout Ventura County. During that time, as a first responder and essential worker with VCPWA Road Maintenance Division, we were working around the clock, seven days a week, clearing roads, repairing bridges, evacuating people, and removing storm debris. It was during that time that my plans changed, and my PATHWAY did an about-face, guiding me to stay with VCPWA R&T. The work and services we were providing during and after the storm of 2005 were critical. Law enforcement, Fire Department, local and state agencies, and citizens relied on VCPWA to clear, repair, and open roads in order to recover and get back to some type of normalcy. I recall during that time I told myself that this was my calling, and I would make VCPWA my career! When I decided to stay with VCPWA R&T, I started looking into furthering my education to better provide for my wife and daughters, and potentially advance within VCPWA. I enrolled in supervision classes, construction classes, and applied to CSUN’s Master of Public Administration Program in 2008 and completed it in 2010.”

 

What do you enjoy most about your job and about VCPWA?

Tony: “Every day is different. One day you’re in the office all day; the next day you’re out in the field assisting/mitigating county constituents with Watershed Facility questions concerns and/or complaints.”

Lou: “I enjoy the challenges of striving to perform our work efficiently and safely while complying with local, state, and federal regulations. I also enjoy going out into the field to investigate and resolve citizens’ concerns. Most of all, I enjoy working alongside an incredibly talented and motivated group of people at Watershed Protection and all VCPWA.”

 

Why do you work at VCPWA?

Tony: “I like being a small part of developing coworkers who are willing to step up to challenge, and over time, observe them mature into PWA leaders.”

Lou: “I enjoy working at VCPWA because our work requires us to work outdoors, in different environments, climates, and locations, from the Oxnard Plains to Santa Susana Mountains to Santa Rosa Valley area.”

 

What is the biggest obstacle and learning lesson you have learned while working at VCPWA?

Tony: “The pandemic and employee high turnover rate are definitely a challenge with employee vacancies and absenteeism when planning, scheduling, and executing a work plan. Learning to work together and expect the unexpected when planning and scheduling work has also been a lesson learned for most of us at PWA.”

Lou: “Learning to be patient and understanding that there is more than one way to safely and efficiently complete tasks and assignments.”

 

What is something you have learned from one another?

Tony: “I have learned that coming from a financially challenged family, being raised by a widowed mother in a relatively poor community, anything is possible with hard work.”

Lou: “Mostly core values regarding mutual respect, discipline, and hard work.”

 

What is your favorite memory together?

Tony: “Seeing Lou and another lifelong friend, Chris Ramirez, in basic training, MCRD – San Diego. We had a small window of opportunity to get a picture together and did.” (Pictured on the left)

Lou: “My favorite memory was driving home to Fillmore from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for weekend leave on Fridays. Tony and I where both stationed at Camp Pendleton. Tony owned a car and would pick me up after we were secured for the weekend. Driving home to Fillmore was always a fun time knowing we would each have time to spend with family and friends. Then driving back to Camp Pendleton on Sunday night to get a few hours of sleep and be at formation by 0600 hours on Monday morning.”

 

Have you had any mentors in your life? If so, who and why were they your mentor?

Tony: “My mom was a great mentor growing up – a widowed, single, hard-working parent that would do anything possible for us – poor financially but rich with love. My wife is my mentor now, she keeps me going through life’s peaks and valleys. She will keep me grounded when needed and will pick me up when life knocks you down.”

Lou: “Not necessarily mentors, but rather great examples such as my parents, especially my mother Maria Magana Negrete, who set an excellent example for me and my 5 brothers and 5 sisters of hard work, determination, and the importance of family. When times are tough, I think of my mother and draw strength and inspiration from her.”

 

If you could explain your pathway to where you are today in three words, what would those words be?

Tony: “Blessed by God.”

Lou: “FFG: Faith, Family, & Grit!”

 

Do you have any hobbies? Or what do you do to relax and unwind?

Tony: “No hobbies currently, but I do enjoy family, friends, good music, good BBQ, and making memories.”

Lou: “To relax and unwind, I exercise 3-4 times per week. One of my hobbies is gardening. I enjoy working the soil and watching my plants grow, produce vegetables, and eventually enjoying those vegetables with my family.”

About Pathways: This newly added section to our monthly “The Works” newsletter – “Pathways” – will highlight the unique pathways that each of us has followed to the Ventura County Public Works Agency. We hope to highlight the “pathways” of an individual in each newsletter. If you have a story you’d like to share for a Pathways feature, please contact our Director of Central Services, Joan Araujo at your earliest convenience.

Educate Yourself On SB1383

Eye on the Environment: New rules on food waste

By David Goldstein

Over the past couple of weeks, I have received several inquiries about California’s new food-waste recycling law that took effect Jan. 1. The law requires residents and businesses to recycle their food waste and other organics.

Here are my answers to some of the most common questions:

Why did this new program start?

To combat climate change and conserve resources, the state Legislature in 2014 passed Senate Bill 1383, setting deadlines for cities and counties to implement, monitor and enforce programs to reduce landfilling of organics.

Organics are anything derived from living matter, including food and yard clippings. In landfills, organics decompose without oxygen, emitting a powerful climate-changing gas called methane. Aerated composting emits far less methane.

Is curbside food waste recycling available in my area?

If you’re unsure, call the phone number on your refuse bill. Call center staff will ask for your address and give you information specific to your area.

Should I bag my food scraps?

In cities served by Harrison Industries’ trash collection — Ojai, Ventura, Camarillo and Fillmore — residents should keep food scraps in a bag and put it in their yard waste cart, now called an “organics” cart. The bagging allows trash haulers to keep food waste separate from yard clippings and other organic waste taken to local composting facilities, which are not yet permitted to accept food.

Oxnard residents are also asked to bag their kitchen waste.

Residents in cities served by Athens Services or Waste Management — Thousand Oaks, Santa Paula, Moorpark and Simi Valley — should put the scraps directly into the organics cart — no bags.

A truck unloads organic waste to be used for composting at the Anaerobic Composter Facility in Woodland on Nov. 30. A state law that took effect this month requires residents to recycle food waste so it can be turned into compost or energy. The goal is to reduce climate-warming emissions from landfills.

What happens to the food scraps?

Because composting facilities in Ventura County do not yet have permits to process food waste, scraps collected here are hauled to businesses outside in the county, most commonly in Kern County. The compost and other soil products are sold to farmers, landscapers and gardeners.

Agromin expects to open an organics processing facility in Oxnard later this year. Residential and commercial food waste will be mashed and sold as animal feed or sent to other facilities to make compost or biofuels.

Agromin also expects to have a permit to accept food waste at its Limoneira composting facility, though upgrading the operation to required standards could take over a year.

How much is this going to cost me?

Some cities, including Thousand Oaks and Santa Paula, have newly negotiated contracts with a refuse hauling company that already include organics recycling in rates.

Other cities have so far managed to add the service without rate increases, but this added recycling is expensive and likely to affect rates in the future.

If bagging food scraps proves successful, it could hold down the recycling cost in areas using that program. With bagging, food can be pulled out of the mix at sorting centers, so only a small portion of the waste in organics carts needs to be hauled to distant operations that have a full solid waste facility permit. This enables companies to recycle yard clippings and lumber locally.

When Agromin’s Limoneira facility begins accepting yard waste with food waste, costs may decline, as all material will be locally recycled.

Who is going to buy all this compost?

Farmers balance the cost of buying and spreading compost against the agronomic benefit, which doesn’t always pencil out. Farms are not expected to buy enough, so the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has required cities and counties to increase their purchase of compost, mulch,  or bioenergy in the coming years.

Residents can keep public costs lower and benefit from organics recycling programs by buying locally produced mulch and compost.

— David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or david.goldstein@ventura.org.

Ojai Valley News – Eye on the Environment: New rules on food waste

Ventura County snow on roads

Science, Sand, and Snow

Beacon Hill Classical Academy Julia Moore is a 5th grader at Beacon Hill Classical Academy with a passion for science and learning. Since moving to Ventura from Tennessee with her family, she thought she was leaving the snow and winter weather behind. However, a science project study quickly proved that was untrue.

When Julia’s teacher assigned a science project on snow removal and how to melt snow on the roads, Julia did not know where or when there would be snow in our county. She interviewed Roads and Transportation Superintendent, Rudy Munoz, for her report.

“It was so fun to talk to Julia about snow in our county. Since many people do not know that the Northern region of Ventura County receives a fair amount of snow during the winter months and that Lockwood Valley has a microclimate, it’s always great information to teach young students,” says Rudy.

Rudy shared with Julia that Public Works uses sand instead of salt during snow removing operations, as sand is less damaging to the environment in a protected area. The sand’s primary purpose is to improve traction on icy road surfaces, and Roads & Transportation applies it after they clear the snow from the roadway. The sand that Ventura County PWA Roads & Transportation uses is called #1 Sand, and Arcosa Lightweight produces it locally at the aggregate plant on Lockwood Valley Rd. Thanks to Rudy for sharing his insight and experience!

Ojai Fire Station construction

Engineering Services Recent Projects

VCPWA’s Engineering Services administers a wide range of services, including managing consultant and construction contracts issued on all Public Works Agency projects. They also oversee all vertical construction projects for the county, land development, surveying, and mapping. Some current projects our engineers are working on are the following:

Ojai Fire Station

This project has constructed an 8,070 square-foot, single-story fire station with associated improvements on a 2.16-acre vacant land site for the Ventura County Fire Department. The fire station includes two pass-through engine bays, an office, fitness areas, living quarters for four firefighting personnel, and a garage. Today, this Fire Station is open to serve our community.

Fillmore Library Expansion

The current library space is too small to meet the community’s growing needs; the proposed expansion adds 2,500 square feet to the existing 3,000 square foot library building. Included in the addition are a meeting room, innovation lab, community classroom, reading room, computer lab, two new study rooms, and restrooms. The library expansion will finish in the Fall of 2022.
Ventura County Todd Road Jail Health and Programing Unit construction

Todd Road Jail HPU

The new Ventura County Todd Road Jail Health and Programing Unit is being built on a site adjacent to the existing Ventura County Todd Road Jail facility. This 64-bed expansion offers a holistic approach to treatment for inmate-patients with medical and mental health needs. The facility will have a dedicated clinic located adjacent to housing, and it will include both medical and dental exams and associated staff support. The new unit will open in the spring of 2023.  Learn more about the project here.

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