On Jan. 7, Riverside County 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone was chosen chair of the Board of Supervisors for 2014. He succeeded Supervisor John Benoit (4th District) as chair. This is Stone’s second chair term. He also served as chair in 2009. The new vice chair is 5th District Supervisor Marion Ashley.

This is an excerpt of an interview Stone gave the Town Crier on Jan. 8. Visit idyllwildtowncrier.com for the full interview.

This year will again bring many challenges to the Board of Supervisors, and Stone looks forward to a busy year.

When asked about his priorities, he had no hesitation listing several. Jail capacity was at the top of his list. Besides progress on a new jail, Stone wants to assure that improvements are implemented at the Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.

While the need for more jail capacity will continue to be on the board’s agenda for years, Stone stressed that there are also other important issues the board should address this year. “We don’t want to be known as the jail capital of California,” he said.

Also, he said the board will have to address the long-term solvency of the county hospital.

As chair, Stone will serve the entire county — the size of New Jersey — but will still direct attention to his district, which includes Idyllwild. “This year, I hope we can work with Idyllwild on the new community center. Riverside County can do a lot to help get the plan approved.

“We’ll be looking at the new [Emergency Medical Services] contract. There are many underserved areas in Riverside County. Idyllwild will be one factor in the new EMS plan,” Stone said. “I’m concerned about people laying on extra taxes and other fees for this. I hope to halt the service inequities.

“We need the same comprehensive ambulance service [that we have] in cities and suburbs [for] rural areas,” he explained. “I know it’s difficult because you can’t spread the cost in Idyllwild over as many [people] as in Riverside.”

Public safety will also be an important item on the board’s agenda. “More resources need to go the Sheriff’s Department. We need more deputies on the street and hope to raise the ratio [of deputies to 1,000 residents in the unincorporated area] to 1.2,” Stone stressed.