Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vacaville Mayor Cautiously Optimistic

Vacaville Mayor Cautiously Optimistic
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | February 20, 2008

VACAVILLE - Mayor Len Augustine is fairly restrained when he describes the state of the city's fortunes for this year as 'OK.'

Although he is very optimistic about leading a city that doesn't face layoffs and cuts in services, Augustine is careful to note Vacaville still faces many challenges in keeping the city's ship on an even keel.

'I am cautious and not trying to think it is better than it is,' Augustine said. 'We have to keep on top of it and deal with any problems before they become big.'

That has included action taken by city officials last month to impose a hiring freeze and to carefully reach into the city's reserves to cover expenditures.

On the flip side, Augustine is looking forward to ribbon-cutting ceremonies for businesses such as the Kaiser Hospital and the State Compensation Insurance Fund that will bring more jobs to the city.

'The future looks bright. This is a tremendous opportunity for people to find employment,' Augustine said.

Augustine's comments are a preamble to the state-of-the-city address he and City Manager David Van Kirk will give Feb. 28 at the Hampton Inn Suites.

Augustine said he doesn't foresee any changes in city services, adding he is pleased city police and fire departments are fully staffed and doing well.

One indication of that is a 15 percent drop in major crime across the city in the past year, he said.

Vacaville has also seen a small, but appreciable rise in the number of new home construction permits, Augustine added.

Foreclosures are a problem in Vacaville, Augustine said, but the city's home foreclosure counseling program has helped some residents through that.

Retail areas such as Vacaville's Nut Tree Village and the area around it are adding tenants, Augustine said. The Olive Garden recently opened just south of Interstate 80, and the site for a Elephant Bar restaurant in the Nut Tree is in the process of being graded.

Augustine also pointed out that some of the city's older shopping centers, which suffered from vacant store fronts, have been doing better.

County Square Market, a major Asian specialty market, is close to opening its doors on Peabody Road, and the owners of the Alamo Plaza center recently got city approval to make significant improvements, Augustine said.

Augustine attributed much of the city's good fortune to its residents, community groups such as the veterans and faith-based organizations that are involved with the community.

The one thing that could really derail Vacaville, according to Augustine, is the state's massive budget crisis. He said the state could take a run at local revenues to make ends meet, a tactic that has been tried in the past.

'I am very cautious about what is happening with the state,' Augustine said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

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