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1-for-3 Economy Stalls City Projects
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Budget woes have forced City of Escalon officials to put what were once a couple of promising projects on the back burner.

The Robert Cabral Regional Park, in memory of the late longtime county supervisor from Escalon, and the Liberty Business Park on the west side of the city, are basically now in limbo.

"We just haven't had any money to develop it," Escalon City Manager Greg Greeson said of the Cabral Regional Park, a 31-acre parcel at the corner of Brennan and Ullrey.

The plans for the park were developed out of a series of public workshop sessions hosted by the city a few years ago, but the park still has not come to fruition. Proposed were multiple playing fields, storage sheds, parking and picnic areas and more, with San Joaquin County also slated to contribute financially for the 'regional' park.

"They had set aside some money but we were the lead agency," Greeson added of working with the county.

While the park is something Greeson said is still on the books, right now there is no timeline for action. Instead, the city is looking at options.

"We are considering short term ag leasing just to keep something on the ground there," he said. "Keep the dust down, be a good neighbor in that area."

It also would bring in a little revenue, Greeson said. Not much, but a little.

Another project that has faded into the background is the Liberty Business Park, at Highway 120 and Brennan. Though there are plans for a traffic signal at the location in the future, there are no takers yet for setting up shop at the site.

"The infrastructure is not provided out there," Greeson said of sewer, water and electricity.

City council members, in fact, by a 3-2 vote during final budget deliberations, pulled the proposed city well work out of this year's spending plan, a well that was slated to serve the business park.

Greeson said there have been periodic inquiries regarding the site but, unless a firm coming in would be able to also finance the infrastructure/utilities work, there's no reason to locate there at this time. In the future, once the economy turns around, officials are hopeful of developing the parcel and enticing business and industry there.

In that project, the city is working cooperatively with the San Joaquin Partnership, which is an economic development corporation, to seek prospective tenants for the industrial park.

One project that is moving forward - and swiftly - is the Civic Center, where the police department will relocate this fall. Located in the 2000 block of McHenry, the new site for the police department is part of a two-facility purchase the city made, covering two shell buildings on McHenry. Only one building is being done at a time, with the police department first on the list. The second phase of the project will see development of the new building and relocation of offices including engineering, building and planning, finance, the city management team and city council chambers.

Greeson said officials are very pleased with how smoothly the construction work on the new police department facility has gone.

"The construction part is probably three to four weeks away" from being finished, he noted.

"They've done a great job, they are on schedule," Greeson added of the lead contractor (S.W. Allen of Sacramento) and subcontractors brought in for the work.

Once the construction is completed, it will be another month or so to get the phone and computer systems up and running, with the move of the police department from its current Coley Avenue location out to the McHenry site anticipated sometime in October.

"Right now we're trying to clean house, get rid of some surplus equipment," Police Chief Doug Dunford explained. "Come September we'll start packing up stuff."

The McHenry Avenue facility has gone from a simple shell to taking shape as a secure police facility relatively quickly, Dunford said.

"The building is changing unbelievably fast," he agreed. "We're getting close."