The annual goals workshop, which maintained a cordial tone, highlighted challenges facing the fastest economically growing city in the region. Economics, fiscal responsibility, challenges working within state bureaucracies and general growing pains were at the center of the discussions between council members, city staff and the public.
The discussion included 15-minute presentations from each of the city’s seven department heads covering the topics of planning, engineering, public works, recreation and community services, fire, police and finance.
Questions and answers followed the presentations during the marathon meeting, which lasted more than three hours.
Complaints about Caltrans
One of the biggest points of contention during the night turned out to be the speed of conducting roadway projects, most specifically a project that would seek to streamline traffic at American Eagle Parkway and Ward Avenue.
That project, which is within a block of Del Puerto High, Northmead Elementary and Sacred Heart Catholic schools and close to Patterson High and Creekside Middle schools, was slated to begin construction late last year. Yet it still faces final approval from the state Department of Transportation.
Under the plans, new traffic signals will go up, and the roadway will be restriped to create left-turn lanes in every direction.
Councilwoman Deborah Novelli expressed her dismay at the project delays. Problems at the intersection were among the factors that prompted her to run for council in 2010, she said.
“Any parent that wants to drop off their child at school in the morning is frustrated,” she said. “Do I dare ask when this project will be completed?”
While he could not give a definitive answer about when the project would be completed, Capital Projects Manager Curtis Jorritsma shared his frustration about state-run road improvement projects.
“Caltrans is the poster child for inefficiency,” he said. “Any project that goes through them typically takes two years to approve.”
He said he expected the project to take another four to six weeks for final approval before a construction firm could be secured.
The project would then take another 90 days to complete, Chief Engineer Ken Irwin interjected.
Master plans a priority
Priorities on master plans and water usage were also discussed.
Councilman Dominic Farinha expressed his concern over the time it was taking to finish six city master plans that have been in the works since 2011.
Those master plans will serve as blueprints for transportation, storm drain and sewer collection, water, sewage treatment, parks and recreation, and public safety and will help implement the vision of the city’s 2010 general plan. They initially were slated to be finished in fall 2012.
Farinha said the city was having a difficult time moving forward without the master plans in place.
Councilman Larry Buehner urged Irwin, who is reviewing the plans; to prioritize which ones he should work on first.
“It is a major task to do it all at once,” Buehner said. “Do half first and another half later.”
Irwin said city staff had been prioritizing. Though he did not delve into specifics, he said some plans were near completion while others were more complex and required more time.
Additional water source needs to be procured
Irwin also discussed the city’s need for more water for it to continue to grow.
He said one of his top priorities was to procure an outside water source in the next three years so growth could continue to happen. The city — which is beginning to run near its water capacity and is now only using groundwater — needs more surface water if it wants to expand, he said.
Water is one of the city’s biggest needs, Novelli said.
“Public safety and water are our two top priorities,” she said, lauding Irwin for placing water near the top of his goals. “I don’t want to sit on this. I want everyone to know where we are on this.”
• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org.