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The value of all building permits in Kings County at the mid-year mark is under half what it was during the same six-month period in 2016. Construction Monitor reports that permits for $57.4 million were issued so far this year, compared to $120.2 million through mid-2016. Both residential and commercial activity is lower this year.

So far this year, local jurisdictions have issued 104 single-family home permits compared to 178 through mid-2016. So far, the county’s’ busiest home builder is Blue Mountain Construction Service who is building a new subdivision in midtown Hanford called Greenbrier Terrace, with 32 new permits this year. Last year at this time the busiest contractor was Lennar with 44 home permits.

Commercial construction is down this year as well, at $19.1 million compared to $57.2 million through mid-2016. Last year the top category was commercial solar projects valued at $22.9 million. So far this year, the same category has recorded about $2 million in what are smaller projects, although the number is similar. Construction of motel, retail and industrial projects have also fallen off this year.

New home construction could rebound

The past six months may have been slow for new home construction in the county but there are about a dozen projects waiting in the wings in Lemoore and Hanford alone including annexations. Case in point, San Joaquin Valley Homes has started construction on its first phase at Mountain View, a new residential neighborhood located at the northwest corner of 11th and Houston in Hanford, that will offer 32 single-family homes. The subdivision is expected to be complete in February 2018.

Chicken production up in Kings County

More so-called broiler chickens are roosting in Kings County these days noted in the recently released 2016 Kings County Crop Report - now listing 5.27 million head sold last year in the county compared to just 27,000 a year before. The category includes more than chickens (ducks, goats, etc.) but almost all are indeed, chickens.

Local ag officials are not saying why Kings County has seen a surge in poultry but it could be how companies report their flocks. While Kings County has never been known for chicken farms, next door Fresno County has been a huge poultry raising county with the 2012 Census of Agriculture listing the population there at at 12.3 million.

One key change has been the coming of Sanger-based Pitman Farms to Kings County as well as its expansion in Tulare County with the company investing millions in new growing houses and feed facilities (Hanford) in the past few years.

Long awaited Kettleman water project to start

Considered key to getting clean drinking water to the large low-income population of Kettleman City as well as finally allowing commercial expansion in this I-5 town, there is good news to report this month on the new water treatment plant.

The treatment plant, pulling surface water from the California Aqueduct, should fix what has been an explosive issue of babies in this Westside town, continuing to drink tainted water high in arsenic, benzene and nitrates.

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The Kings County BOS heard a report this week that the Kettleman City Community Service District has just awarded a construction contract as of June 20, to build a surface water treatment plant to be completed by the winter of 2018. The county has received two grants to build the complex including $8.5 million from the state and $2.4 million from USDA. Residents have been receiving bottled water at a cost of $10,000 a month, set to expire as of now. New funding is being solicited to continue the program until construction is done. The county has been working on a solution for the tainted well-water problem here since 2004.

Residents and activists have blamed the bad water for health concerns in the community including birth defects although they also blame the Chemical Waste Management facility. The water project is intertwined with Chemical Waste Management’s effort to get a new operating permit, now secured, with WM agreeing to pay down the debt of the CSD in return.

Area pistachio processors expanding again

This fall’s Valley pistachio crop is big again this year and local processors are making more room again this summer.

Through May of this year, California shipped nearly 500 million pounds of the popular nut, eclipsing 2013/14 at 351 million pounds through May of that season.

The 2016 pistachio crop was a bin buster at 905 million pounds, largest ever for this alternate-bearing tree. This fall’s crop, 2017/18, is estimated to be around 650 million pounds says Setton Pistachios CEO Lee Cohen, the number two processor behind Wonderful Pistachios.

"I think all the processors are growing incrementally,” he says, "including us.” Cohen says the company is building a 30-acre reservoir to recycle waste water near its Pixley plant this summer as well as new 60,000 square feet of warehouse expansion in its Terra Bella headquarters.

Also, Valley-based Horizon Nuts is expanding its new facility five miles south of Firebaugh, in a project being heard July 20 by the Fresno County Planning Commission. The company wants to permit a new 42,000-square-foot pistachio huller processing facility. Specifics include a huller, seven dryers, bin stack, fumigation, guard shack and office as well as shop buildings. There would also be the installation of nine 48-foot high storage silos to hold hulled nuts waiting for shipment off-site for processing, a truck scale and parking. The county application says the plant will employ up to 150 during the peak season and have 24 employees the rest of the year.

In Kings County, pistachios were the number four crop in 2016, valued at more than $178.5 million. The crop in 2015 suffered a lack of chill hours, cutting production that year. Prices for pistachios dropped around 30 percent in 2016 from the year before even as the state's acreage grows.

RoundUp to be listed as cancer causing

The state of California has vowed to add GLYPHOSATE, Roundup, the nation’s most-used herbicide, on their list of chemicals known to cause cancer. The state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment said this week that the listing would be effective July 7. Manufacturer Monsanto said they will continue a legal battle to stop the listing.

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John Lindt is an independent business reporter. He can be reached at sierra2thesea@gmail.com

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