Friday, February 29, 2008

Vacaville Leaders Say City Is Making Ends Meet

Vacaville Leaders Say City Is Making Ends Meet
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | February 28, 2008

VACAVILLE - Times may be tough, but Vacaville has been fortunate and will continue to be so in 2008.

That was the message that Mayor Len Augustine and City Manager David Van Kirk gave to a gathering of civic leaders Thursday morning at the Hampton Inn.

Local leaders were told Vacaville faces tight times, but that won't affect city services and the city is continuing to see more commercial development.

Augustine's biggest concern is how California's budget problems may affect Vacaville when the state attempts to deal with its $16 million deficit.

The sales tax revenues on which Vacaville depends dropped from a predicted 6 percent increase to a 1 percent increase, which cost the city $1.7 million in income.

A $700,000 increase in property tax revenue softened the blow. Van Kirk also instituted a hiring freeze and dipped into city reserves to make ends meet.

'All in all, we are hanging in there, but we have to be very vigilant,' Van Kirk said.

'Our philosophy is that you can't spend more than you take in,' Augustine said.

Augustine then lauded just-released crime statistics that show serious crime in Vacaville dropped by 13.4 percent in 2007.

Vacaville is moving forward in its efforts to be ready for potential disasters, especially flooding.

Last year, the city started its Vacaville Emergency Response Team to train residents to help deal with emergencies in their neighborhoods.

It is also building the first two of four planned floodwater detention basins this year along Alamo Creek. The third is planned for 2010, and a local developer has promised to build a fourth.

'A lot of progress has been made,' Van Kirk said.

On the economic front, the city is seeing some of its older shopping centers revived, Augustine said.

The center on Peabody Road will soon have Country Square Market open its doors, and the owners of Alamo Plaza are planning to renovate the shopping center on Alamo Drive and Merchant Street.

The city has also seen a lot of activity in what Van Kirk called 'the $1 billion triangle,' between interstates 80 and 505 in northeast Vacaville.

He specifically pointed out Kaiser's hospital expansion, the construction of the State Compensation Insurance Fund building and the Koll Company office project.

Some businesses are also relocating from western Fairfield to Vacaville, such as Camping World, which is moving out of Cordelia.

Portions of the Nut Tree shopping center have 'experienced some growing pains,' according to Van Kirk, but the city is looking forward to seeing more businesses such as The Elephant Bar move in there.

Augustine applauded the economic good fortune of the downtown area, which has 99 percent of its businesses occupied.

That is 'phenomenal in this day and age,' the mayor said.

Vacaville's next big redevelopment project, Opportunity Hill on the east side of the downtown, is the negotiation process with developers to create mixed-use office, retail and senior housing projects, Augustine said.

The nearby Creekwalk along Ulatis Creek is slated to be repaired and open to pedestrians by May, and renovation of the aging Great Wonders playground will be done in October.

The city's residential housing growth has been 'a mixed bag,' according to Van Kirk, 'but we are faring a lot better than the rest of the Bay Area.'

Vacaville is issuing fewer housing permits than before, but still more than neighboring cities. The city's foreclosure rate is 'a lot less than elsewhere,' Van Kirk said.

Van Kirk described a proposed growth boundary ballot initiative as one the city can live with, adding it will be 'adequate to handle the city's growth for the next 20 years.'

Persistent lobbying of the state Department of Transportation to fix I-80 through Vacaville has paid off, Augustine said. Plans to repair the highway has been moved up two years and will start this spring.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

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