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City Look: - Abrew Gazes At 2013
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With the start of a new calendar year - and at the midway point of the fiscal year - The Times sought out Deputy City Manager John Abrew and asked him to offer some insights into what Escalon residents can expect in terms of changes and services in the city in the months ahead. Following is the question and answer session.

Q - You came in as deputy city manager partway through the year - how was the transition for you and what were the biggest projects/issues that (former city manager) Henry Hesling had to hand off when he left?

A - The transition went as well as it could have, there are parts of the job, however, that you cannot understand or be prepared for until you are actually in the position. The most significant ongoing issues center around reduced revenue and continuing to provide essential service levels to the community with reduced revenue. Providing essential services with reduced revenue will continue to be a top priority for the near future.

Q - The city council remained stable, without having any challengers for the two incumbents this past November; how was that helpful to the city in general, in terms of cost savings and continuity with the issues before the council members?

A - Continuity is important with the current fiscal obstacles communities are faced with today. The advantage of having a stable council allows the organization to stay on track with its goals and direction.

Q - The city also has a new (interim) police chief in Milt Medeiros, a longtime department member; is the city planning to stay with the interim arrangement this year?

A - The city's expectations are for Chief Medeiros to continue to be successful as the Acting Police Chief. Chief Medeiros' nearly 35 years of law enforcement experience, 11 years of which has been with the City of Escalon, and knowledge of the community has made the transition a positive one.

Q - What were the main accomplishments for the city in 2012 - budget wise, project wise or otherwise?

A - Completing City Hall and breaking ground on the McHenry Avenue Widening Project were, from a project standpoint, major accomplishments for the city. Both projects were several years in the making and will have a positive impact on the community.

Q - Major concerns as the city enters 2013?

A - Beyond the top priority of fiscal sustainability, staff is currently advancing the council's goals for Fiscal Year 2012-2013. McHenry Widening is scheduled to be completed this fiscal year, staff is in the process of identifying and recommending surplus property and assets, and the sewer enterprise fund is being evaluated.

Q - There were some staff changes late in the year at city hall as well, how has the staff adapted to no formal city clerk position and how have those duties been carried out?

A - Staff continues to weather the storm and adjust for the good of the organization. Staff has been an asset in assisting in finding solutions for the current economic downturn.

Q - Any other thoughts at the start of the new calendar year and will the city be doing a financial check-up at the midway point of the fiscal year?

A - Staff is scheduled to bring forth a mid-year budget review in February. The review will provide an update of the current budget as well as recommending proposed adjustments for the remainder of the fiscal year. In regards to thoughts as we start a new calendar year, I am continually impressed by the dedication and resiliency of our staff. The last few years have been extremely difficult on staff as they are tasked to provide the same if not better service for the community with drastically reduced resources available to them. The staff has the same dedicated and enduring qualities as the community they serve.