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Escondido invests in streets, public utilities, and new parks, but some safety projects remain unfunded

ESCONDIDO — At the advice of city staff, Escondido’s City Council supported investment in streets, public utilities, and new parks for fiscal year 2014-15 on Wednesday night. Yet budget limitations caused over $2 million in public safety projects to remain unfunded.

The city was able to finance about $36.4 million worth of capital improvement projects for the next fiscal year with funds from development fees, gas tax, hotel tax, user fees, and bond financing, according to the city’s accounting staff.

Millions of dollars are devoted to expanding the distribution of recycled water throughout Escondido and upgrading the city’s water treatment plant. A significant portion of funds are also being dedicated to improving streets and upgrading traffic infrastructure.

Some projects that residents have advocated for in recent months were also incorporated into the capital improvement project. The city will be granting $40,000 for the completion of an environmental impact review of the master plan for El Caballo Park.

Deanne Sanderson, President of the Valley Center Vaqueros riding club, said that funding for the future equestrian park’s environmental impact review will help residents fundraise for the park’s eventual construction.

“I think it would be really great for the city to get that ball rolling,” she said.

Escondido set aside $257,000 for the completion of the first half of the conceptual design of the city library expansion.

The city was unable to fund all capital improvement project requests with its budget, and consequently multiple equipment upgrades for the police and fire department were not funded.

The city is holding off on upgrades to the Escondido Police Department’s laptops and radios as well as new self contained breathing apparatuses for the Escondido Fire Department until future years.

Escondido Fire Chief Michael Lowry explained to City Council that the fire department’s current self containing breathing apparatuses were bought in 1999 and do not meet the most recent standards for the devices.

Mayor Sam Abed urged staff to prioritize the unfunded public safety projects before financing new public services for upcoming fiscal years.

“These are basic public safety things we need to address before we create new public programs,” said Abed.