County officials: Subdivisions' best option to join Somerton
SOMERTON — Residents of two subdivisions who have ongoing complaints over the level of services they get from Yuma County may be better served if annexed by Somerton.
That was the message of Yuma County officials in a recent meeting with a group of residents of the La Mesa and Orange Grove subdivisions who complain they've been neglected by the county for decades.
And, county officials said, residents must share the responsibility of improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods.
Residents are calling for sewer service to replace aging septic tanks, street paving and street lights, better protection against crime, plus crackdowns on zoning violators and stray animals.
Supervisor Marco Antonio Reyes, one of the county officials who met with residents this week, told them their best option was to be annexed by the city.
“Many of the needs that you have are the same as those of people who live in the city,” said Reyes, whose district include the subdivisions. “I think the best thing is for you to be part of Somerton so you can get those services.”
But before the city will agree to annex them, he cautioned, the residents will have to assume the expense of putting in underground lines that would connect to the city's water and sewer plants. That, he said, would mean forming an improvement district that would tax them to pay for those upgrades.
The meeting, held this week at Orange Grove Elementary School, was the second gathering in recent months among county officials and residents seeking solutions to longstanding complaints over the level of service they have gotten from the county.
The two subdivisions, home to about 320 households, are located along County 16th Street and west of Avenue B, in an unincorporated area along Somerton's eastern boundaries.
Apart from failing septic tanks and dirt streets, residents complain that burglaries, graffiti, gang activity and other crimes have become a growing problem because of lack of law enforcement.
“There's lots of vandalism,” said La Mesa resident Amparo Maldonado. “On every corner there's gang activity. Since there's no enforcement, they laugh at you. I have been robbed twice in two weeks.”
Sgt. Francisco Pereda of the Yuma County Sheriff's Office said residents need to help the sheriff's office by forming neighborhood watch groups.
“We have three officers for all the west side of the county,” he said. “It would be a luxury to have an officer assigned here (full time), but we can't. They have to go back up other officers on some calls.”
Diana Gomez, director of the county health department, said her agency is planning a campaign to inform residents about its newly created animal control office, given that their concerns include stray dogs roaming the neighborhoods.
As for complaints about substandard construction and zoning violations in the neighborhoods, county planner Fernando Villegas said residents must take it upon themselves to report violations.
“We act according to complaints. If (residents) don't call us, we don't know about them.”
In general, residents need to help the county by reporting violations or problems in their neighborhoods as soon as they see them, Reyes told residents.
“The county can take care of some of the needs, but government can't solve everything. We need you to participate. No level of security or service is going to be enough without your participation.”
Reyes, who was re-elected earlier this month to his seat on the board of supervisors, pledged to work with residents to settle their issues.
“I have said that this will be my last term (as a supervisor). I would be ashamed if after 14 years and another term as your supervisor, things had not improved in the places where you live.”