A renovation of Carlos
Aguilar Memorial Park on El Centro’s north side will move forward after the
city overcame a funding shortfall of more than $850,000 through creative
accounting and a contractor honored an expired bid, officials said.
Located across Pico
Avenue from the large Posada Del Sol apartment complex, the park will get two
new soccer fields, a new snack bar and restrooms, redone sidewalks and a
repaved alley. Also included are a new parking lot, renovated playground
equipment, new walking trail, new shaded picnic areas and a perimeter fence.
“We’re really excited to
see improvements to that park,” El Centro City Council Member Cheryl
Viegas-Walker said Nov. 15. “It serves the community there and gets a lot of
use. We’ve got our fingers crossed that grants we have applied for allow us to
use grant funding in lieu of Measure P funds” re-allocated to cover some of the
Measure P is the
voter-approved half-cent city sales tax passed in November 2016. It is meant to
“maintain general city services
and facilities including police, fire protection, library, parks and
recreation, senior programs, and street maintenance and upgrade,” according to
the ballot measure.
The Aguilar project is
complicated by a mix of funding sources, additional requirements and the city’s
sudden need for fiscal prudence with its Measure P dollars as it sets its
sights on other projects, according to council members and documents.
During a special meeting
the afternoon of Nov. 14, the council voted 4-0 to award a construction
contract for the Aguilar project to low-bidder A&N Quality Builders of El
Centro. As part of the same action, the council re-allocated about $130,000 in
Measure P funding previously earmarked
for work at Bucklin Park.
Mayor Edgard Garcia was
absent from the meeting.
The vote came even as two
council members expressed concern over the city’s use of Measure P funds for
The council and city Community
Services Department worked to arrange project funding without making
significant changes to the planned work. In early August, Community Services reported
a project budget shortfall of about $850,000.
Council Member Jason
Jackson explained Nov. 15 some initial funding complications arose due to
requirements of a grant that was to pay for most of the project. They included redoing
sidewalks to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other additions
that were not part of the original scope of work ballooned project costs as
In addition, Community Service’s
August presentation detailed other unexpected costs, including the demolition
and relocation of the basketball courts. That was needed to make way for a
planned expansion of the neighboring Humane Society of Imperial Valley,
re-paving the alley along the west perimeter of the park and increased costs to
replace pieces of damaged playground equipment.
The bidding period on the
park’s renovations closed in July, and the city received three qualified bids. A&N’s
amount of $2,183,962 was the lowest. Other required expenses brought the total
to $2.34 million.
Yet it appears the city
only had $1.48 million of the costs allocated when the project went out to bid
in June. There was $960,000 from a California Youth Soccer and Recreation
Program grant and $526,100 in Measure P funding.
That left the $850,000
shortfall. Records show Community Services used a patchwork of other sources to
make up the difference. They include $172,000 in state sidewalk funds, $82,700
in local sidewalk funds and $130,000 in Measure P funds that came free when the
Bucklin project came in under budget.
Even with those
additions, going into the Nov. 14 special meeting, the projected shortfall for
Aguilar park was still about $466,000.
Viegas-Walker said the
city cut about $140,000 out of the project costs during the Nov. 14 meeting by
eliminating the demolition and relocation of the basketball courts. The city
had that option because the Humane Society was not ready to move forward with
its expansion, and she said the basketball courts are in relatively good
The remainder of the
funding, again, came from Measure P when the council moved over about another
$330,000, Viegas-Walker and Jackson said.
The shuffling could have been moot if A&N Quality Builders had not agreed to honor its July bid, which technically had expired in October, Jackson said. A rebid would have added up to 10 percent to the cost, he said.
Work on Carlos Aguilar
park is scheduled to be completed 120 days after the awarding of the contract,
according to city documents.
Measure P Concerns
Meanwhile, Jackson and
Viegas-Walker maintain the city needs to watch how it’s spending its Measure P
funds. Viegas-Walker said the city has applied for some parks grants that could
supplant the Measure P funds that have already been used for Aguilar and other
Jackson said the city has
been using a lot of Measure P funding lately on projects like First Responders,
Plank, Bucklin and Aguilar parks. He and Viegas-Walker warned the city needs to
be mindful of its Measure P funding to help pay for the debt service on
municipal bonds the city intends to take out for major projects in January or
Jackson added cost
estimates on a new library, which came in two or three months ago, and a new
police department, which came in three or four weeks ago, are higher than
anticipated. Both projects combined are more than $60 million, he said.
Department Director Adriana Nava did not immediately return messages to discuss
the Aguilar park project.