When city of Ventura voters passed Measure O in November 2016, along with it came a Citizens Oversight Committee tasked with reviewing projected revenues and recommending expenditures for the funds raised by the one-half percent sales tax increase. The committee held a special meeting on Aug. 10 to receive public comment on Ventura’s fiscal year 2017-2018 Measure O proposed budget and the Measure O Five Year Plan.

The 2017-2018 proposed allocation of $13.5 million in Measure O funds includes $1.6 million for staffing Fire Station No. 4, approved by the City Council, leaving roughly $11.9 million. The committee emphasized the importance of reserving funds for maintenance and repairs to the city’s infrastructure.

For fiscal year 2018, Measure O funds appropriated toward issues involving the homeless include $100,000 toward the city’s Safe and Clean Initiative, which promotes a higher police presence in areas of particular concern to deal with so-called antisocial behavior such as drug use and vandalism, funds clean-up efforts, and promotes social services and philanthropy over hand-outs to the homeless. Beginning in fiscal year 2019, funds allotted to the Safe and Clean Initiative would increase from $322,000 to over $500,000 by 2022. Also included in the budget beginning in 2019: $205,000 toward the city’s Ambassador Program – Response to Homelessness.

Assistant City Manager Dan Paranick says that $622,000 allotted for the Neighborhood Drug and Crime Prevention program is a priority because drug crimes are a leading factor in other crimes around town, such as vandalism, property crimes and assaults. Those funds are expected to be approved by the City Council soon. In the proposed draft budget from 2019 to 2022, those funds increase to nearly $1 million annually.

As this is a draft proposal, allocations can change. Funding notably missing from the budget: any funding toward a permanent shelter until fiscal year 2020, when $250,000 will be allocated each year through 2022.

The city of Ventura approved a zoning ordinance in 2016 for the future site of a permanent shelter, located in the Arundell District at Market Street and Telephone Road. Paranick says that the city is currently searching for an operating partner to assist with staffing, programming and cost.

“It’s going to take a while to get that shelter potentially going,” said Paranick. “It may happen next year, in two years or in three years, but all we did was put a place holder in, based on looking at other shelters for the city’s contribution.”

For now, Measure O funds are being used to bolster current programs, such as cleaning up homeless camps, picking up shopping carts, and funding the patrol task force thatmakes contact with homeless individuals, says Paranick, adding that for 2018, the $100,000 will be used to bolster staffing to enhance services and to hire more individuals to help clean up trash.

“Our year 1 philosophy is deferred maintenance and public safety. The fire station was going to close; it was on a grant that ended,” said Paranick. “The chief [of police] has to get on his hiring for new police officers and that takes time. The rest of it is focused on mostly deferred maintenance; we’re focused on infrastructure, taking care of what we have first.”

BATHROOM DILEMMA

Kellogg Park broke ground on the corner of Ventura Avenue and Kellogg Street in March 2016, and construction is well underway. A community gathering place, amphitheater, playground area and more will sit on the 2.41-acre park. Missing from phase 1 is a bathroom, which is included in phase 2.

At the Aug. 10 meeting of the Oversight Committee, proponents of Kellogg Park raised the question of using Measure O funds for a bathroom at the park. The city and partners have raised $3.5 million of the park’s $4.5 million budget, and phase 2 will progress as funds become available, according to the city.

The Trust for Public Land purchased the lot in 2013 and gifted it to the city. Since, the park has gone through a series of concepts, and is being built in partnership with The Trust, Kaiser Permanente Heal Zone and the community.

Kellogg Park’s funding is made up of $1 million from California Natural Resources Agency, Urban Greening for Sustainable Communities Program grant and $815,650 from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, Housing and Related Parks Program grant, as well as from The California Department of Parks and Recreation Land and Water Conservation Fund that awarded the city a $1.5 million grant. In early 2017, Ventura Community Partners Foundation raised $160,000 for the park, and the community has contributed $166,000, including $30,000 from Aera Energy.

Arroyo Verde Park on Foothill Road on the city’s east end is in need of a new bathroom, according to Paranick, who says that the issue falls under the city’s year 1 strategy of addressing deferred maintenance issues.

The bathroom proposed for the park is a fabricated stainless steel facility, inspired by the same type being used in Portland, Oregon, which is easy to clean and sterilize. Paranick says that the Arroyo Verde bathroom will be used as a pilot to see how well it works before placing more in other public parks and areas in the city. But as far as using Measure O funds for Kellogg Park’s phase 2, Paranick says that he would recommend pursuing grants first, though funds from Measure O could be used “over the course of time to get Kellogg Park completed if needed.”

“We are on schedule with construction and they are wrapping up installation of all the playground equipment, the cobble walls, finished installing all the concrete pathways, all of our irrigation lines are in, and we’ll be moving on to finishing up the decomposed granite, safety surfacing and eventually landscaping,” said Diane Silva, projects manager with The Trust for Public Land. “The park should open to the public in April of 2018.”