From the daily archives: Tuesday, May 29, 2012

By Mario Conde

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved the Solar Gen 2 project that will bring three solar projects to the valley.

The project is a150 MW single axis tracking PV solar plant that will be located on east side of Calipatria and will be the only solar plant on the IID system with a customer 25 year contract with SDG&E. Solar Gen 2 pays more than $60 million to community of the Imperial Valley. There will be 3 sites totaling 1,500 acres less than half of 1% of agricultural land in the County. Solar Gen 2 will own the land and return it to agricultural use as a permit condition. SDGE wants power starting in summer 2012 and construction would begin in early 2013.

The benefits this project will bring to the valley are new $600 million dollar clean energy solar project in Imperial, paid for by SDG&E. Keeps IID’s power and water rates low since Solar Gen will pay $60 million to IID to use their transmission system. New skilled jobs: more than 300 during construction, 30 permanent jobs. Better air quality, less green house gas equivalent to 21,000 fewer cars. More water for the Valley, project uses less than 1% of current water usage on each site.

Solar Gen 2 has committed to employ local people and has also committed to establish a $375,000 scholarship fund to train local residents for these higher paying jobs. Solar Gen officials said that they work for Imperial Valley College to issue these scholarships and help local students that pursue a career in these related fields continue their education.

Todd Evangelist representing Imperial Valley College said that this will be a good incentive for valley students since this scholarship will be perpetual once they raise the initial $50,000. Supervisor John Renison it is important for IVC and SDSU work together in order to support higher education in the County.

Also supporting this project was IID Director James Hanks who said that by having this project in the Imperial Valley will make the services more robust and having better services to IID customers.

“Having Solar Gen 2 will allow us to have as stronger system and maintain of electricity rates stable for many years to come.” Hanks said.

Supervisor Mike Kelley asked if there was a possibility that this could make having a reduction of rates. Hanks didn’t want to speculate on that but said that this will make the services more robust meaning that they will increase and improve the level of services that the IID currently makes.

IID Director Stella Mendoza was also present and agreed with Hanks that the project should be approved by the Board.

The County Board of Supervisors approved the project unanimously by a vote of 5-0.



Calendar Announcement



June 13 B The Colorado River Citizens Forum of the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission will have a public meeting at 4:00 p.m. PDT/MST at the Imperial Irrigation District Board Room, 1285 Broadway Blvd. in El Centro. An update on the Quantification Settlement Agreement and the Colorado River Delta Restoration Project will be discussed.  For more information:  928-782-1598 or


Suicide prevention experts say getting students to talk about their problems could help save their lives



A little more than a year ago, Devon Minor disappeared from the campus of Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, Penn. Local police officers and college employees spent weeks searching for the freshman engineering student on the 55-acre campus and in the surrounding town before winter snow and ice made further searching impossible. A little more than three months later, on May 5, workers at a nearby dam on the Beaver River discovered Minor’s body, about three miles from where he should have been taking his first end-of-year final exams.

Minor’s death was ruled a suicide by drowning, although his family disputed the finding, suggesting he fell into the river by accident. Questions about what really happened to Minor remain, but his death helped raise awareness of the need for more visible campus counseling services and better training for student support staff about the signs of depression and anxiety.

As the rate of mental health issues among college students rises, school administrators across the country are searching for ways to persuade troubled students to seek help before they become desperate. Prevention is key, experts say, but few students who need help actually ask for it.

A 2010 study conducted by James C. Turner, executive director of Health Services at the University of Virginia, shows suicide to be the second most common cause of death among 18- to 24-year-old college students.

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Like Geneva, many colleges and universities have responded to the increased rates of mental illness on campus by hiring more mental health professionals and extending their hours of availability. But fewer than 20 percent of the students who committed suicide used the counseling services at their schools, making the biggest challenge encouraging at-risk students to seek help in the first place, said Anne Haas, research director at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“The students who are most at risk often have barriers that prevent them from using those services,” Haas said. Reticence may be due to bad experiences with counseling in the past, concerns about confidentiality of counseling within the college or university, fear about parents being notified or uncertainty about what effects counseling may have on future academic or careen goals, she said.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention encourages schools to use online assessment tools that allow students to get information about depression and other mental health problems that might lead to suicide, without feeling embarrassed about seeking help in person. The program developed by the foundation, now in use at 42 colleges, targets students who otherwise might not seek help and connects them to their school’s onsite counseling center.

At Baylor University in Waco, Tex., counselors take a more personal approach, using a program called Question, Persuade, Refer to train faculty staff and students to recognize signs of depression and mental illness.

“Historically, one of the problems has been that students are not coming to counseling centers first,” said Jim Marsh, director of the Baylor Counseling Center. “They’re going to go to their roommate or friend.”

The school wants that roommate or friend to refer a troubled student to the counseling center 100 percent of the time, Marsh said.

Every semester, Marsh spends one morning at chapel talking about suicide. He also speaks to groups of incoming freshman about depression, anxiety and other suicide warning signs. Every time he stands in front of a group, Marsh asks students to raise their hands if they know someone who’s either attempted or committed suicide. Those who do far outnumber those who don’t, he said.

“We just need to talk about this,” he said. “It’s sort of the thing no one wants to talk about.”

At Geneva College, no one knew Devon Minor was struggling with anything that might cause him to commit suicide. Friends and family described him as something of a loner but said they knew of no personal problems. School officials confirmed his grades were good and said he was not in any trouble.

But in a cryptic message posted on his Facebook page just before he went missing, Minor said he had a problem no one could help him with.

As part of the school’s increased emphasis on suicide prevention, administrators urge anyone with personal concerns to seek someone to talk to, even if they don’t go to the counseling center right away.

Amy Solman, head of Geneva’s counseling center, encourages students to talk to resident directors in the dorms, whom they probably already know and might have talked to about other issues. Solman also urges students who are worried about a friend to seek help, even if their friend doesn’t want it.

“Do not try to handle the situation alone,” she said. “You have to act on that concern. If someone confides [in a friend], there’s a part of them that wants to live.”


By Mario Conde

The Board of Supervisors authorized the Probation Department a continuation of funding in the amount of $501,956.00 through the Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act as approved by the Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council on April 23, 2012.

The Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act is a state funded initiative created by the Crime Prevention Act of 2000 to provide a stable funding source for the local juvenile justice programs aimed at curbing crime and delinquency, in addition to supporting juvenile probation programs with a record or reducing crime and delinquency among at-risk youth and young offenders.

The JJCPA requires each participating County to establish and maintain a multi-agency Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council for the purpose of developing, reviewing, and updating a comprehensive plan that documents the condition of the local juvenile justice systems and outlines proposed efforts to fill identified service gaps.

Benny Benavidez, Chief Probation Officer, asked the board to approve the resolution the JJCC’s vote to accept the proposed JJCPA application FY 2012-2013. The funding allocated to Imperial County Probation under this plan is $501, 956.00.

In other news, the County approved funding to repair all the streets of Seeley. Public Works Director Bill Burnett asked the board to approve the bid by Hazard Construction to do the repair over in Seeley.

Chairman Mike Kelley said that this was a long time coming and is something that has been asked by its residents for quite some time.

The board approved it 5-0.

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