Oxnard City Council on Tuesday allocated $ 48 million in federal funding for investments across the city, ranging from a $ 3 million skatepark to $ 4 million in new radio equipment for the police department.
The city will receive a total of about $ 60 million from the American Rescue Plan Act, a federal stimulus package enacted by President Joe Biden in March. The money is to be paid in two installments of $ 30 million, the first of which was received in May. Oxnard will receive the second payment in May 2022.
“We have to be very smart with what we do with these funds,” said city councilor Bert E. Perello, who compared the manna to a buffet. “We will have to respond to the public and to ourselves at future council meetings. “
Restricted by a preliminary rule from the Treasury Department, city council could only spend the money on specific projects. To encourage the recovery of local governments, projects must fit into six investment strategies: support the public health response, replace lost public sector revenues, improve water supply and sewage infrastructure, address negative economic impacts, pay bonuses to essential workers and upgrade broadband infrastructure.
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Oxnard City Director Alexander Nguyen said the city will delay some of the most important items until a final Treasury Department rule is set, which he expects from a week to a week. the other.
He said the first construction of the projects funded by the stimulus funds, which are mostly deferred maintenance and capital projects, would likely take place by the end of the year.
The city is to allocate the stimulus funding by December 31, 2024, and all projects are to be completed by December 31, 2026. Nguyen said five years should be enough to complete all projects, although the city may having to juggle some general aspects. finance projects to meet the 2026 deadline.
Ahead of Tuesday’s city council, 83 possible projects were recommended by city staff or requested by council members for a total of $ 88 million. City council approved 75 of the points by unanimous vote, for a total of about $ 48 million. Next spring, when the city receives its second stimulus check, city council will decide how to spend the remaining $ 12 million.
Nguyen said the majority of the supported items should be submitted to the city council for final approval before the money is spent.
Grocery and drug store workers and city workers will receive a one-time bonus for working on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June, city council approved checks for $ 1,000 for employees of grocery stores and pharmacies to be paid with the stimulus money. Those who worked at least three months in the first year of the pandemic are eligible for checks.
Nguyen said the city’s big box grocery stores had not provided information on eligible employees, although he hopes to get the checks in the coming months. City documents estimate that there are around 2,000 grocery store workers in the city.
City employees who worked at least nine months in the first year of the pandemic will receive a bonus of $ 1,200. The city employs around 1,500 people, Nguyen said.
City Council also allocated $ 600,000 to repaint the two town hall buildings. Mayor John Zaragoza, who applied for funding for the project, said the town hall has not been improved since it was built around 40 years ago.
“Here we are at the entrance to the city center,” Zaragoza said. “We set standards for residents and visitors to the city. We tell them to clean their homes. Yet our town hall right here is in dire need of a little maintenance and painting.
City staff have recommended that $ 6.5 million be spent on building a sports park at the corner of Gonzales Road and Oxnard Boulevard. The sports park was to be dedicated to baseball and softball, but city councilor Gabe Teran asked the city to gather feedback from surrounding neighborhoods first.
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“There are concerns that this is just a baseball complex,” Teran said. “I have nothing against baseball, but I have constituents who say this is not a good place for baseball only.”
City council has chosen to send the issue of which sports and sports park it should host to a committee, setting aside $ 1.5 million for the process.
The stimulus money will also fund a $ 3 million skatepark built to Olympic standards in the La Colonia neighborhood. Nguyen called the skatepark a “huge investment” because it would provide a space for nearby young people to participate in a sport that has a community of support and encouragement.
With city council divided, a separate vote had to be taken to determine whether to allocate $ 600,000 to the River Ridge Golf Course to expand its wedding venue.
The city is expected to support the economic growth of the city-owned golf course by attracting more people to the city, council members argued in favor of the investment.
“At some point, the city will be responsible for carrying out repairs, renovations, upgrades and so on,” Nguyen said. “It is a way to generate income to pay for these repairs in the future and to keep dollars in the general fund.”
City Councilor Oscar Madrigal said the city also owns the Carnegie Art Museum, although the city is only investing $ 160,000 in a seismic survey of the building with the stimulus money.
He also noted that couples outside of Oxnard generally chose to get married at the beach rather than the golf course.
In a 5-1 vote against Madrigal, city council chose to allocate funding to the golf course.
City council approved $ 4 million to upgrade the police department’s radio communication system. The department will be switching its radios from the current analog system to a digital system compatible with other law enforcement agencies and county first responders.
In addition, there are several places in the city where officers do not have reception on their radios, said Police Chief Jason Benites. The communications system upgrades would also include installing new antennas in the city to ensure officers can communicate anywhere in the city.
“If you were to look at Oxnard’s radio infrastructure, you would probably be very surprised at what you would see,” Benites said.
Brian J. Varela covers Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Camarillo. He can be reached at [email protected] or 805-477-8014. You can also find him on Twitter @ BrianVarela805.