ESCONDIDO — For the 12th time since taking office, Mayor Sam Abed held his bi-annual town hall meeting for residents to discuss any city issue.
Unlike several months ago, residents peppered the mayor and city staff about numerous concerns.
However, Abed did address the one topic discussed ad nauseam during the May meeting, the proposed desalination plant. The plant has since been relocated from the nearby Chaparral neighborhood to city property at Washington and Ash streets.
Several residents voiced their concerns about noise and chemicals, but Abed assured them the city has taken the necessary steps to quell the noise.
As for chemical concerns, Abed said previous claims about odor and possible toxins were blown out of proportion and neither he, the City Council nor city staff would ever put residents in harms way.
“We want to ensure home values and your quality of life,” the two-term mayor said.
Director of Utilities Chris McKinney said there was some confusion about the plant and its use. He said the plant is for desalinating water and then pumping to residents and farmers.
McKinney said the environmental reports are close to completion as are the building’s designs. If all goes well, the city will bring the proposal to the planning commission Dec. 13.
Of course, recent developments concerning city trees was also a hot topic, as several residents voiced their concerns and displeasure with the city attempting to remove numerous trees along 5th Street.
The issue blew up in August when tree removal began and caused a roar among residents in the neighborhood. Several councilmembers, city staff and Abed met with about 50 people after they complained about a lack of notice and whether or not healthy trees were being cut down.
In an ironic twist, another resident said the trees along Citracado Parkway are an eyesore, along with the landscaping in the median on the parkway. Abed said due to the state’s previous water restrictions, the city was forced to cut back on watering, although now the landscaping can have more water due to recent action by the state.
“We will engage with the community about the trees,” he continued. “We are not going to start a project without communicating with you.”
One of the biggest concerns for Abed and the city, he said, is the rising homeless population. He said a lack of facilities throughout North County puts stress on all cities, but especially Escondido, which has one of the largest homeless populations in San Diego County.
He said city staff and neighboring cities must “share compassion” about the issue.
Abed railed against recent state laws concerning reducing the prison population and lowering sentencing thresholds for criminals, who wind up on the streets.