Community meeting sparks new ideas for Exeter’s beautification

The city of Exeter decides to submit two applications for the Clean California Grant after they held a community meeting and heard residents’ opinions

EXETER – After a community meeting this week, many Exeter residents expressed their opinions on how the new grant funding should be used within the city.

On Jan. 4, the city of Exeter hosted a meeting about the Clean California Grant so that they can hear residents’ opinions on how the money will be used. The city plans to apply for the grant in April, and if they get approved, the funding would allow Exeter to start beautification projects that will enhance the city’s charm. The city will be submitting two applications for this grant; one for renovating a six-block area near downton, and the other for restoring Exeter’s City Park. All applications submitted can receive up to $5 million dollars.

“This is a community grant, where it really is driven from what the community is really looking for to beautify and make our places better. So getting your input is really critical to really form and scope this project,” Sheela Bhongir, a regional planner of the Tulare County Association of Government, said.

The first project the city will tackle is renovating a six-block area in downtown that also surrounds one of the most important areas of the project, which is the alley between the Hometown Emporium and Mandarin House. The city is hoping to use the grant funding to restore the old jailhouse that is located behind the fire station, look at options on renovating the city’s public restrooms, paint new murals and install 48 new LED streetlights. The second project would be to restore Exeter’s City Park, by adding street lights and possibly more amenities.

The alley between the Hometown Emporium and Mandarin House is one of the main focuses of the beautification project. In this alley are ideal brick walls for murals, in which Ennis said they are hoping to add around two. They also want to put pavers in the alley, and make the old jailhouse look similar to the historic Kingsburg jail.

 The new street lights would be energy efficient, and would remedy the city’s current issue of outdated light fixtures they have. Some light fixtures, such as the ones Exeter currently has, only have one manufacturer that can send new parts when they break. However, the manufacturer the city used to go through for their street lights had closed, leaving them with little options to fix the lights. 

“Our biggest challenge as a city right now is that the [street] lights are currently going out, and you can’t get parts for them,” Daymon Qualls, the city’s public works director, said. “It’s rare that you get an opportunity to have a way to have the lights actually replaced [through a grant], because most of them come out of the general fund.”

City manager Adam Ennis said that this time around, they would like to find lights that have more than one manufacturer. Residents also said that they would like to see light fixtures with security cameras built in. 

Another reason they chose that specific alley was not only because of the jail, but also because the public restrooms in that area are used frequently during public events. Since the public restrooms continually get vandalized, the city has had to renovate them, only to find them plagued with taggings and broken fixtures. Ennis said this was a similar issue in Visalia, which is why Visalia does not have any public restrooms anymore. During the meeting, residents suggested putting codes on the bathroom doors, or even just renting porta potties. 

After hearing public comment, the city hopes to have their project deadline nailed down by April. They will be hosting another meeting around that same month, to update the public on the plans, numbers and cost estimates. 

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