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KINGSBURG – In order to make building plans for the next five years, and shape the budget for next year, City leaders are taking a look forward at major capital improvement plans. Since there were 38 the previous year and 45 projects planned for the upcoming year, it seems Kingsburg will continue it’s measured but steady growth plan into 2019-2020.

City Manager Alex Henderson summarized previous building projects and highlighted upcoming ones during a Capital Improvement Plan discussion at the May 1 City Council meeting.

“This is a developing document right now so you’re not approving something. All this will get approved when we approve the full budget, which will hopefully occur in the second meeting in June.”

Henderson highlighted the installation of the new blue and yellow, Dala horse theme signs installed at key locations around town. These are just one of the suggestions set in motion back in 2017 when a visiting Community Planning Assistance Team lead by Robert Paternoster came to town. Paternoster and a group of planners suggested a number of improvements Kingsburg could make to grow business Downtown and throughout the city.

One of their chief suggestions was to capitalize on Kingsburg’s Swedish history and capture business of its own residents, as well as that of tourists passing through on Highway 99.

“Any place that I can think of that was successful was first successful with the locals,” Paternoster said during an April 2017 workshop. “The community supported it first and it was so good, it brought people in from the outside.”

Thus, the City recently installed the new signage in town to direct visitors and residents to key locations in town.

To improve structures in town, Henderson reminded Council of the façade and alley program that businesses such as Bella Bakery and the Mercantile and others have already taken advantage of, and the alley improvements made along Draper Street.

“It’s our fourth year of doing it and it’s grown every single year as other people have learned about it.”

Henderson also highlighted road improvements made in the previous year, including Bethel Avenue and 21st Avenue, and said streets planned for renovation next year include 16th Avenue from Sierra to Winter and Washington from Draper to 18th. All the city’s streets are ranked according to their condition to determine which are higher on the repair list.

Some of the projects are carry-overs and they’re funded out of six different sources such as the general fund, water, Measure E, local transportation, impact fees, and Measure C.

Mayor Michelle Roman said she liked seeing the report as it reminds Council and staff of what’s been accomplished in just one year.

“I like to see this since it just reminds us of how much we’ve done through the year. There’s been a lot of improvements in the Downtown area and throughout town. Staff has done a lot of great work.”

Councilman Sherman Dix added that residents are noticing and commenting that “a lot of things are happening.”

Here are some of the highlights:

Public Safety

  • First full year of Measure E impacts
  • Replacement of nine Police vehicles
  • Equipment Upgrades for Police and Fire departments
  • Security camera Installation at City Hall

Infrastructure improvements

  • Wells #12 & #13 treatment facility construction to remove Trichloropropane from those city wells
  • Aggressive road improvement plan using both grant and local funds
  • Sidewalk repairs for convert to ADA compliant sidewalks
  • Phased sand filter replacement at Crandell Swim Complex
  • Downtown Parking Study funded through a Transit-Oriented Development Grant

Economic Development and Quality of Life Improvements

  • Residual Property Tax Program (Economic Development Fund)
  • Upper floor rehab program
  • Façade/alley grant program
  • Funding for Athwal improvements, including a skate park carry over

Fire Department report

In other matters, Council also heard a Fire Department report where Interim Chief Tim Sendelbach said there’s been a 14 percent increase in calls to date this year.

“We’re about half through the year, and we’re already at 14 percent and this isn’t even our high point. That’s something to take into consideration as we weigh the decision to put another unit in service.”

With the summer months approaching, Sendelbach said the number of calls will only likely increase. He also updated Council on the final inspections on a new fire engine that was purchased with Measure E funds. Sendelbach said they’d like to have a competitive wet-down ceremony to welcome the new engine. The engine will be sprayed, dried off and then pushed into the Fire Department bay as part of its official welcome. Look for the fire truck in the upcoming Swedish Festival parade.

Senior Housing

Council also heard an update from Fresno Housing Authority’s Michael Duarte on progress on the planned senior housing project to be built across the street from the Kingsburg Historic Park. Two different color schemes were presented, with the blue and tan views favored by Council members, and the timeline for final financing was detailed.

Chaffee Zoo

Mayor Roman also chairs the Fresno Chaffee Zoo Authority Board and gave a report on number of topics regarding the zoo.

“If you haven’t been to zoo and seen the changes, you are missing out,” she said of new exhibits such as Wilderness Falls that opened in the past year and a wart hog exhibit that is just about to open. In 2018 there were 828,264 guests with visitors come from around the globe to visit the Chaffee Zoo, she said. Underground pipes were overhauled in 2019, walking paths were paved over and a new Kingdoms of Asia area will be constructed.

“The whole idea now is where you go to Africa, instead you’ll go to Asia. You’ll go to different continents at the zoo. It’ll look like Southeast Asia and it’ll look like temple ruins,” she said.

Roman also highlighted zoo fundraisers, major events, further expansions, new animal care equipment, scholarships and a program for free passes for the underserved populations.

“Something we could consider here in Kingsburg is the pass giveaway. I reached out to KCAPS to talk with them about that,” she said.

In addition, two new elephants have been welcomed to the Zoo and hopes are that eventually babies will arrive. There is already a new baby orangutan, Hantu, who was born Nov. 4, and a new baby rhino.

“It takes a long time to move [the elephants] as you can’t move them too quickly. They came cross country from Florida.”

The Zoo is funded in part from the one-tenth of one percent sales taxes through Measure Z that voters first approved in 2004 and then again in 2014 by Fresno County voters. Over the past ten years, Measure Z has generated $110 million for the Zoo. One-third, or about $33 million, of Measure Z revenue is being used to support Zoo operations, and two-thirds, about $66 million, is dedicated to capital improvement projects.

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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