OCEANSIDE — Plans are underway for the city to use Measure X funds to construct a new Fire Station 1 and beachfront restrooms, and to develop a financing plan for a new swimming pool.
Mayor Peter Weiss and Deputy Mayor Jack Feller asked council at its Feb. 6 meeting to consider allocating funds from the future Measure X half-cent sales tax increase revenue, which is set to go into effect April 1, to construct a new Fire Station 1, beachfront restrooms, and the El Corazon Senior Center Community Room and Aquatics Center projects.
The sales tax is estimated to generate $77 million over a period of seven years, or about $11 million annually.
During the same meeting, Weiss also appointed members to the Citizens’ Oversight Committee, which will oversee how funds from Measure X are spent and will advise Council on how to spend those funds.
“It seems premature since we just appointed the Measure X oversight committee, but I did that on purpose to eliminate that committee from having to decide particularly which priority projects were a higher priority,” Weiss said.
The mayor said by his estimations, the two highest priority projects for Oceanside are the El Corazon projects and the beachfront restrooms. He noted the beachfront restroom project is particularly important after construction of the new Oceanside Beachfront Resort broke ground earlier that same day.
“The last thing we need when that project opens its doors are the restrooms that are down by that amphitheater,” he said. “I don’t know if you use them but I no longer do.”
Weiss explained the funding to advance those projects would come through a loan agreement from the city’s portfolio that would be paid back with future Measure X revenues. He said those projects would cost less than half of the total Measure X revenues.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez suggested advancing Measure X funds to construct the New Fire Station 1 and beachfront restrooms, and extending bonds from the Civic Center to pay for the pool. Council voted 4-1 to direct staff to prepare a plan for advancing Measure X funds for the fire station and restrooms, and voted 5-0 to develop a financing plan for the Aquatics Center anticipating the issuance of bonds.
Councilman Chris Rodriguez opposed advancing Measure X funds for those projects until the city actually receives the sales tax revenues.
“At this juncture all we have are estimations,” he said. “I want to see funds start coming in and see those numbers … ”
He also noted it was premature to give staff direction on how to use Measure X funds before the oversight committee gets a say.
Several residents spoke in favor of funding the Aquatics Center.
“The swim center will help fulfill that promise made almost 10 years ago for El Corazon, a park in the heart of Oceanside,” said Diane Nygaard, secretary and outreach chair for Friends of El Corazon.
Arleen Hammerschmidt opposed advancing Measure X funds for those projects before the oversight committee could deliberate on them.
“We had the promise of citizen oversight on these expenditures, therefore it is premature as the mayor mentioned,” she said.
Jimmy Knott took issue with the projects being considered high priority for residents, explaining he understood a series of public surveys that were conducted indicated road repair, city cleanliness and public safety as top priorities to be addressed using Measure X funds.
Sanchez said those surveys identified public safety infrastructure, fixing roads and addressing homelessness as some of the city’s top priorities, and suggested the fire station and beachfront bathrooms fit that criteria.
“We’re not prepared for a fire in a mid-rise building or even in an underground parking lot,” she said.
Sanchez also said the city could be liable for incidents around the bathrooms in their current conditions, which have “crumbling concrete” and need walkway improvements.
According to Sanchez, the beachfront bathroom improvements and construction of Fire Station 1 will each cost about $8 million.
Samantha Taylor covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son