Council approves lifeguard tower contract, mural

ENCINITAS — Encinitas’ $3 million Moonlight Beach lifeguard tower construction project moved closer to fruition this week, as the council approved the construction contract as well as a mosaic donation for one of the tower’s walls.

The City Council unanimously approved a contract with EC Constructors, Inc. for no more than $3.19 million to construct the project, which is called the Moonlight State Beach Marine Safety Center.

The plans call for the city to demolish the 60-year-old tower and replace it with a 2,200-square-foot facility that officials said should serve as the hub for city marine operations for the next 50 years.

The council also approved a $682,000 addition to the project’s budget after the project bids came in higher than expected, but the council also directed the contractor to search for ways to reduce the cost to bring it back in line with original estimates.

City council members applauded the vote; however, saying that the new lifeguard tower has been a long time coming.

Encinitas staff said that the city and its marine operations — including its lifeguards — had outgrown the current tower, which serves 3.5 miles of coastline with more than 3 million annual visitors. The City Council, in 2014, approved the selling of bonds to pay for the project, along with the purchase of the Pacific View Elementary School site. The city will pay a little over $800,000 annually over 30 years to pay off the debt.

“Congratulations to Larry, because I know Larry put a lot of work into this,” City Councilman and former fire chief Mark Muir said of Marine safety Capt. Larry Giles, who has spearheaded the project.

The new tower, when completed, will also be adorned with a $20,000 mosaic made by the same people who created the Surfing Madonna Mosaic, as the council unanimously approved the acceptance of the donated artwork.

The Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, which spawned from the original guerrilla art piece that received international attention, announced in August it was commissioning the new mosaic, which will depict the various fish and marine wildlife below the surface of the ocean. Several artists are collaborating on the piece: renowned ocean artist Scott Walt, illustrator Peggy Sue Florio Zepeda, glass producer/finisher Bob Zepeda, and Mark Patterson, who created the original “Surfing Madonna” mosaic in 2011. The tower is expected to be completed by Memorial Day.

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