VICTORVILLE — The State of the City presentation Wednesday showcased the city’s recently relaunched Fire Department and continued economic growth.

Rows of new Victorville Fire Department firefighters filled the Victorville Conference Center at the Hilton Garden Inn as City Council members presented their annual address. The event’s theme was “Ready for Takeoff” — a reference to city leaders’ assertions on the future of the city.

Following the theme, Mayor Gloria Garcia and the rest of the City Council told the audience to “sit back, buckle up and enjoy the flight” as the presentation began.

“I am so proud of our new Fire Department,” Garcia said as the new firefighters walked in, each wearing a crisp black uniform with the new Victorville Fire logo. The Fire Department is expected to begin operations at the end of March.

The startup of the Fire Department follows more than a year of debate over fire protection services. Last year, Victorville officials, citing millions of dollars in potential savings with a city-operated fire department, chose to end a 10-year contract with the county. Victorville last ran its own fire department in 2008.

New Fire Chief Greg Benson was on hand to introduce the new firefighters, many of whom are already being stationed across the city.

The City Council also expounded on the city’s continued economic growth.

“One of our most critical indicators to our city taking flight is fiscal responsibility,” Councilwoman Debra Jones said. The city added about $1.3 million in revenues to its coffers last year, Jones said, and issued more than 100 construction permits.

At the center of much of the future growth is the Southern California Logistics Airport. Jones said the airport, which added new businesses and an industrial park last year, would play “a critical role” in the city’s future. The city announced late last year that payments on bonds tied to the airport authority were back on track.

City leaders also touted improvements in infrastructure last year. Mayor Pro Tem Rita Ramirez talked about the “Safe Routes to School” project, which used $4.3 million dollars from federal grants to install sidewalks, crosswalks, new lights and signage to roadways along many of the city’s schools. There were also upgrades to the city’s water and sewer system.

City officials also celebrated efforts to combat illegal dumping. Councilwoman Blanca Gomez spoke about the city’s #DumpItRightVV campaign, started last September, which used geographical marketing ads to remind residents of the options available to get rid of trash.

“The goal was to change behavior by offering alternatives to illegal dumping,” Gomez said, and it was clear the effort was successful. More than 310 tons of trash was collected last year, double the amount from 2017, Gomez said, and 3,100 illegal dump sites were found.

Councilman Jim Cox praised Victorville Sheriff’s Station Cpt. Rick Bessinger and his team for their efforts in connecting with the community.

“It’s common for pilots to experience turbulence,” Cox said, keeping with the event theme, “but I’m very proud to be on the council and work on your behalf for a better city.”

Paola Baker may be reached at 760-955-5332 or PBaker@VVDailyPress.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DP_PaolaBaker.

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