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Moorpark Has High Hopes for High Street

The council has OKd funds to concentrate city services in the area. It's expected the presence of city workers downtown will attract businesses.

June 23, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

As part of a $20-million plan to reshape its downtown, the city of Moorpark expects to begin construction this fall on a new police station.

It's the next in a series of municipal projects that include a new fire station and a City Hall six times the size of the current one.

When the project is finished in three to four years, the east Ventura County city will be able to consolidate 53 employees -- now dispersed among five small buildings -- into a $10-million 32,000-square-foot City Hall on the western end of High Street. Further east, at Magnolia Street, construction has begun on a $2.4-million county fire station expected to open in May.

"These will be the anchors for the High Street area of downtown," said Mayor Pro Tem Keith Millhouse.

At about 5,000 square feet, the current City Hall on Moorpark Avenue is considered too small to efficiently serve residents.

"We have a great staff, but they're working in difficult and challenging conditions," Millhouse said. "It's very cramped.... It's just not conducive to easy access for the public."

City Councilwoman Janice Parvin said it's tough to find a place to hold even a small meeting. The only spot large enough for a builder to display architectural drawings is at the front counter, she said.

"It's almost like people are working on top of each other," Parvin said. "We had outgrown our City Hall several years ago."

The city also plans to spend more than $2 million to build a new, larger maintenance yard on 3 1/2 acres adjacent to a Caltrans facility at the eastern end of Fitch Avenue.

And Moorpark plans to join nonprofit groups in developing a three-building human services center, with a total of 28,000 square feet. It would include a one-stop social agencies building, a permanent home for Catholic Charities and a private medical clinic to serve patients with low to moderate incomes.

The $6.6-million complex on Spring Road, south of High Street, also would have a covered area for day laborers to gather while looking for work.

The City Council approved a $48.2-million budget last week that projects spending $8.6 million in the next fiscal year, beginning July 1, on the police station and nearly $1.7 million on preliminary plans for City Hall.

"The city is in a position to finance all these buildings with funds that it has," said Assistant City Manager Hugh Riley. "The city has been planning to do this for a long time."

But officials may decide to secure financing instead.

"It's a matter of what's more prudent -- to incur debt and save the money, or spend the money and save on the interest," Riley said. "It's a nice position to be in. We wouldn't be in that position if we hadn't been frugal collecting fees and saving all these years."

The $7.3-million police complex will be built at Flinn Avenue and Spring Road. The 25,000-square-foot building will allow the Sheriff's Department, which is contracted to police the city, to vacate space it leases from the school district.

Plans also call for setting aside 4,500 square feet in the building for California Highway Patrol personnel.

Construction on the police station could begin in November and be completed by next fall, Riley said. The council also voted last week to spend $653,000 for a two-acre site for the human services center on Spring Road, north of the new police station.

Once municipal buildings attract employees and residents downtown, Millhouse said, the city expects private investors will follow by opening restaurants, shops and other offices.

"It's another way to revitalize the original core of Moorpark and to bring all of our residents into the downtown area," Parvin said.

The Ventura County Fire Protection District also is replacing a building more than 50 years old that doesn't meet seismic safety standards.

This is part of a five-year effort to replace or build 11 stations across the county at a total cost of between $30 million and $40 million, said Abbe Berns, assistant director of fire services. The district is paying for the station.

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