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November 07, 2019

New State Budget Funds Massive Local Projects

July 18, 2019

     The $215 billion 2019-20 state budget signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in late June contains good news for Imperial County, including funding for government buildings that will absorb dormant lots on El Centro’s south side, state officials reported.


     The budget includes restoration of more than $40 million for the California Highway Patrol El Centro Area headquarters planned for South Fourth Street and Danenberg Drive. The project had lost funding in 2018.  


     Newsom’s pen also released an additional $17 million for the new county courthouse planned for Wake Avenue east of South Eighth Street. It will augment current court facilities, including the historic downtown El Centro courthouse.


     Imperial Valley College was another beneficiary, getting an $8.6 million match to modernize several classroom buildings and construct a modular building for its Disabled Students Programs and Services, college spokesman Bill Gay said.


     Remodels to the 200, 300 and 800 buildings will include “smart” classrooms that allow instructors access to computers and audio-visual technology while during class time.   


     “It’s really upgrades—smart classrooms are boom for instructors,” Gay said. “It gives the faculty more tools to work with.”


     The college’s portion of the funding, which Gay estimated at $12 million, will come from bond funding under the 2010 voter-approved Measure J.  While work has begun on design, Gay said he did not immediately have a timeline on the start and completion of construction.


     The new CHP facility would replace the 50-year-old current office at 2331 N. Highway 86 in Imperial that a state report has deemed unsafe and inadequate for the agency’s current staff size.


     The $40 million funding for the project was originally announced in a press conference at El Centro City Hall on July 11, 2018. It was jointly staged by Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia and state Sen. Ben Hueso.


     However, progress on the design-build stage of the project was halted less than two months later by a loss of funding, a state official said.


     Funds for the project were no longer available from the original source—the state motor vehicle fund. That meant a request for funding was made to the state Public Buildings Construction Fund, which needed approval by the legislature and governor as part of the 2019-20 budget.


     The new courthouse is another project that lost funding and has now regained it. Though the land for the project was purchased by the state Judicial Council several years ago funding was lost due to budgetary concerns, officials said.


     However, when funding was restored, the price went up, which precipitated the need for more money in the new budget, according to a state official.


     “As you probably know, the Governor signed the FY 2019-20 state budget last night (June 27),” Blaine Corren, a Judicial Council public affairs analyst
stated in an email. “There is $17,152,000 included for construction of the new Imperial County courthouse in El Centro.”


     He added, “Last year there was $41,944,000 included in the FY 2018-19 state budget for construction of the new courthouse in El Centro. But construction contract bids came in over that amount, so the council went back to the Legislature to request the additional $17,152,000.”


     Construction is anticipated to start this fall, and completion is expected in fall 2021, Corren added.

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