EL CENTRO — When the Measure P half-cent sales tax was rolled out during the campaign in the spring of 2016 it offered two coveted prizes: a library and police station. Both were deemed indispensable since the police station is aging and the library is in a converted retail store after the main library was irreparably damaged in the 2010 earthquake.
Measure P passed with a clear majority
winning by nearly 10 percent. Yet despite earning more than $5 million dollars
annually it may not be enough to build the two projects that were the
foundation of the ballot measure, city officials said.
The initial forecast to complete both
projects was recently estimated at $60 million. As such, the El Centro City
Council brainstormed with Richard Romero, financial director, to investigate if
funding could be secured to make these projects ago.
“It was not based on a study but the
city’s bonding capacity, determined by the annual revenue projections generated
by Measure P,” said Mayor Efrain Silva. “Our expectation is we will
come up with some adjustments that provide most of our original vision when the
council meets on Jan. 21.”
Mayor Pro Tem Jason Jackson noted first
calculations were thought to be $48 million but further review found the city’s
bonding capacity was actually at $55 million and “will allow us to build
most of what we want.”
However, the city must engage the
expertise of a bond consultant to confirm expectations, cautioned Council
Member Cheryl Viegas-Walker.
“We essentially determined if we trim
a bit on the amenities on both projects we can stay within our $55 million
budget,” she said. “The good thing is we own both properties. That
helps us stick to our timeline since we don’t have to go looking for a
Walker noted the bonds could be issued by
mid-year, construction be underway before 2020 ends, and the projects completed
Affordable housing is also on tap in 2020.
On Dec. 17 the council approved 4-0 the issuance of $15 million in tax exempt
bonds to support the Countryside II Apartments to be built by developer Chelsea
Investment Corporation. The vote only authorized a public hearing on Jan. 21
that will allow the public to weigh in on support or opposition to the project.
After the hearing the council could vote
to approve or deny the issuing of the bonds.
The proposed 56-unit project of one-, two-
and three-bedroom apartments would be built at 1725 W. Adams Avenue. The city
of El Centro will have no financial or legal responsibility for the project so
all obligations are assumed by Countrywide II in partnership with Chelsea
“Since we are aware there is a significant
shortage of housing for this income level, we know it is certainly needed,”
Silva said in Dec. 23 interview.
Park Project Underway
The coming greenspace known as First
Responder Park is approximately three acres next to El Centro Fire Department
station No. 3 at 1910 Waterman Avenue and had ground broken recently, explained
Abraham Campos, city Public Works director. The $2 million project is paid with
Measure P funds.
When completed later in the spring the
park will include a playground, a tree-lined walking path with pedestrian
lighting and a shaded picnic area. The playground will be named Michael Benavides
Memorial Playground, honoring the late firefighter.
Imperial Avenue Interchange
Another project coming online is the
California Department of Transportation’s Interstate-8 Imperial Avenue interchange
project to prepare for El Centro’s project to extend Imperial south of the
interstate. Caltrans will start a public outreach campaign about mid-January.
“Phase I takes most of 2020 will
allow access on the westbound on/off ramp, but the eastbound on/off ramp will
be closed,” said Campos. “Exact details and the timing must be
confirmed by Caltrans.”