VC declares state of emergency

Ventura County Supervisors have declared a local emergency due to last month’s storm damage, which officials said was the worst experienced in Ventura County since 2005.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services Director Patrick Maynard said in a statement that the board’s Jan. 24 decision should help affected residents receive federal aid.

“We are hopeful that our county will soon receive approval from FEMA for the Individual Assistance Program,” Maynard said. “This program is vital to supporting residents through the recovery process. The Individual Assistance Program provides several types of help to residents including temporary rental assistance as well as funding for debris removal and repairs.”

In other storm recovery news, officials with the Ventura Land Trust announced a long-term closure for the popular Harmon Canyon hiking trails in the hills north of Ventura.

“At Harmon Canyon Preserve, we are dealing with deep mud, sinkholes, unstable slopes and loose rocks,” Preserve Director Dan Hulst said. “Repairs are underway, but it may be as long as two months before the preserve partially opens and public access is restored. The message we need to get out to the public is that this closure is necessary for their safety.”

Johnson named interim chief probation officer

Ventura County has a new interim chief probation officer following the recent retirement of Mark Varella after 34 years of service with the department, including 13 as chief probation officer.

Chief Deputy Probation Officer Gina Johnson will fill the top role while county officials continue a search for a permanent successor for Varella.

“We look forward to welcoming Interim Chief Probation Officer Gina Johnson to this important leadership position for the probation agency and I want to thank her for being willing to serve during this time of transition,” said Ventura County CEO Dr. Sevet Johnson, who made the appointment. “We thank Chief Varela for his many years of thoughtful leadership and dedicated work at the probation agency and within the community.”

New names for CMH

Ventura County residents will need to remember new names for hospitals operated by the nonprofit health organization formerly known as Community Memorial Health System. Officials announced a major rebranding for the operation, which now has a new master brand, Community Memorial Healthcare.

In addition to the new name for the umbrella organization, its two main hospitals also got renamed. The main hospital in Ventura will now be known as Community Memorial Hospital-Ventura, and the former Ojai Valley Community Hospital is now called Community Memorial Hospital-Ojai.

There’s also a new logo which resembles a layered wave, which officials called a nod to Ventura County’s coastal location.

Reckless driving leads to impounds, arrest

Oxnard police have announced that three cars were impounded during a recent crackdown on reckless driving and one driver was arrested. Officials said in a news release that the drivers’ actions were extremely dangerous.

“These vehicles were observed conducting burnouts, donuts and other dangerous behavior that vandalized Oxnard’s roadways and put others’ lives and property at risk,” according to police.

Police say violators can see cars taken away for 30 days or more, and some could face suspension of their driver’s licenses.

Oxnard police say they’ll continue a “zero-tolerance” enforcement stance on reckless driving.

New therapy dog joins Ventura Fire Department

The Ventura Fire Department has welcomed a new therapy dog in training.

Officials said Hope is a Labrador retriever and Cavadoodle mix who began her puppy manners class last May and is on track to complete therapy training by December. Once she’s certified, Hope’s duties will include providing support to those impacted by traumatic events and visiting community events for educational purposes.

Fire Chief David Endaya said Hope will also comfort firefighters as they deal with workplace trauma.

“First responders face higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, depression, and anxiety issues related to the volume and severity of tragic incidents they respond to each day,” Endaya said in a statement. “I am thrilled to welcome Hope to our team to help alleviate some psychological trauma impacting our firefighters.”

Dist. 26 Congressional App Challenge winners

An Oak Park High School ninth grader has been honored as the winner of the 2022 Congressional App Challenge for California’s 26th Congressional District by Rep. Julia Brownley.

The Congressional App Challenge involves middle school and high school students from across the nation creating their own software applications to gain experience with computer coding. Rohan Philip won for creating an app called VetConnect, designed to help veterans dealing with mental health issues.

“Submissions tackled various pressing issues including mental health support, water conservation, and healthy living,” Brownley said in a statement. “Every year, I am impressed by the collection of stellar applications we receive. This year was no exception. We are so fortunate to have such promising innovators in our district.”

Second place in the contest went to Jai Garg and Mia Lesser of Westlake High School for an app called Drought Buddy. A notetaking and collaboration app called PalaNote came in third, created by Alexander Sherbrooke, Hershraj Niranjani and Ryan McCombs – all students at The High School at Moorpark College.