EL CENTRO — With nearly $1 million for El Centro’s Aguilar Park improvements coming from Measure P revenue, the voter-approved half-cent tax, that could leave plans for a new library and police station in need of additional resources, officials said.
The city council gave the $2.3 million park project final approval at a Nov. 14 special meeting. The funds included $526,000 from Measure P in the original project allocation and another $460,000, again from Measure P, to make up for a shortfall.
The shortfall bridge included $130,000 moved from a Bucklin Park project that came in under budget.
But in what may be a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, there is concern dipping too much into Measure P could affect larger projects, officials warned. Those funds have been used for a number of park projects.
Mayor Pro Tem Efrain Silva explained the initial cost projection for the proposed new library and police station were underestimated. It is now known both projects together will cost $60 million.
Plans are for the city to issue bonds along with Measure P to cover the library and police station construction costs. As such, council members, city services staff and Financial Director Richard Romero will meet to examine if the bonding capacity of El Centro can afford these two projects, explained Council Member Cheryl Viegas-Walker.
Relying Less on Measure P
The city is trying to close the funding gap so it does not rely so heavily on Measure P, she added.
“I compare it to buying a fully loaded new car with all the bells and whistles,” said Viegas-Walker. “If the first car they show you is beyond your means then you have to scale back.”
She further explained that is precisely what the council did with Aguilar Park by foregoing rehabilitation of the basketball court.
“So, once we know what the city’s bonding capacity is we can issue bonds for the library and police station,” Viegas-Walker added. “The design team that drafted plans included a number of high-end amenities. If we discover we only have $50 million then we’ll have to dial back on some of our goals.”
Silva expressed a similar view, saying, “My impression is we’ll go forward with the library and police station. But the council must evaluate all possible solutions because the city needs both. Ultimately, we must increase resources or reduce costs since the city currently doesn’t have funding to fully cover both projects.”
A library and police station funding solution are expected at a January council meeting, noted Silva.
This story is featured in the Nov 28, 2019 e-Edition.