City of Visalia plans to use extra funds to build fire station, hire community service officer, replace aging downtown street lights
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – Measure N is expected to bring in more than $26 million over the next two years, $4 million over what was projected by the initial plan.
The increase in projected funding led to several changes in the Year 2 and 3 spending plan that were approved by the Visalia City Council last month. As part of the $29 million, two-year spending plan, the council unanimously approved $4 million for relocating Fire Station 56 in the 2018-19 fiscal year that began on July 1. The project was originally planned to be spread over three years beginning in 2022 but the timeline was moved up when the state notified the Visalia Fire Department that it will no longer be allowed to lease space at the Cal Fire station on Lovers Lane after 2019. The $4 million will be used to purchase property, design the facility and construct the new Station 56.
Moving up that project will delay a project to improve Station 51 by one year to 2020.
Measure N will fund three more positions in the next two years, including a community service officer (CSO). CSO duties include completing police reports, collecting evidence, performing traffic control duties, and handling non-emergency calls for service. Measure N will also fund a vehicle for the CSO.
Another public safety issue addressed by the changes is downtown street lighting. A 2006 study of downtown discovered that the lighting system was installed in the 1930s, requires 4,000 to 5,000 volts to operate, and includes approximately 225 lights. The city allocated $5.5 million over the next two years to design and replace the lighting system on Center, Main and Acequia between Conyer and Burke.
The plan also sets aside more than half a million dollars to replace police, fire and parks and recreation department vehicles.
The City Council also made a policy change to Measure N allowing capital projects to roll-over from one fiscal year to the next. Under the original plan, Measure N expenditures were specifically approved annually with the budget. This posed a particular problem for capital projects that take more than one year to complete. Staff used the example of purchasing a fire truck which must be built to order over the course of a year before being delivered upon completion. Since there were capital projects funded in the fiscal year that ended on June 30 but will not be completed until the 2018-19 fiscal year that began on July 1, the policy became retroactively effective for the 2017-18 fiscal year.