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Lancaster planning for project investments

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LANCASTER — The city will invest an estimated $191 million over the next three years, including $44 million on 22 projects for the Fiscal Year 2022-23 proposed budget that include improvements at Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park, Lancaster Performing Arts Center, city streets and right-of-way, and facilities and fixtures.

That money comes on top of an estimated $200 million in capital improvements the city spent over the past three years on projects such as two roundabouts, renovation of Eastside Pool and Skytower Park, the skatepark at Jane Reynolds Park and City Hall renovation.

The city’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget includes an estimated $324.4 million in total revenues and $218.3 million in total expenditures, with $44.4 million for the capital improvement program, according to Finance Director George Harris.

The Fiscal Year 2022-23 proposed general fund budget has revenues of about $107.2 million and expenditures of $107.2 million. The projected ending fund balance is $48.2 million.

Proceeds from Measure LC, the three-quarter cent sales tax increase approved by Lancaster voters, in November 2020, are outperforming the original projection of $12 million a year, with an estimated $21 million in revenue per year.

“Without Measure LC, we would not be able to do a lot of these projects,” Harris said.

The Fiscal Year 2022-23 proposed budget includes $2.5 million (plus $1.5 million from the current fiscal year) for the design of the state-of-the-art, $40 million, 150,000-square-foot event and evacuation center to be constructed at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds.

“We hope to go into construction, fall of ’23, and finish that construction, in 2024,” Assistant City Manager Trolis Niebla said during a presentation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

The city has another $28 million budgeted for the Avenue J interchange project. Pending approval from the California Department of Transportation, the project is expected to go out to bid and start construction, this fall.

Lancaster will also spend some $13.7 million in pavement preservation projects.

“Yes, the roads are going to continue to get smoother,” Niebla said.

The proposed budget includes $28 million for the master plan of streets for Medical Main Street. The city will build the roads, sewers and storm drains for the future $800 million Antelope Valley Medical Center that will be the center of the project.

The city has another $1.5 million budgeted for parks improvements, including new basketball courts at Rawley Duntley Park, a new tennis court and four new pickleball courts at Sgt. Steven Owen Memorial Park. The park will also get 17 new benches, accessible drinking fountains and more trash receptacles.

There is an additional $525,000 budgeted for public art at Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, a pocket park at Lancaster Boulevard and 10th Street West, and the shopping center under construction at 15th Street West and Avenue K, the future home of Lancaster’s Sprouts Farmers Market.

The city will continue to beautify its streets with $2 million in landscape and maintenance projects. There is an additional $3 million previously bid that will start construction this summer.

“There will be a lot of drought-tolerant planting as well as an abundance of palm trees,” Niebla said.

Another $3 million is budgeted for a biotech incubator. The future biotech incubator will serve as a home to help start-up companies and entrepreneurs by providing the resources needed, such as a high-quality, well-equipped research lab. The project is in the design process.

The Lancaster Performing Arts Center will get an $835,000 to finish remodeling the 30-year-old venue. The city has another $1.25 million in lighting improvements scheduled for this summer.

Lancaster will also spend $1 million for a recreation and workforce training center. The city will purchase the former Antelope Valley Union High School District administrative offices on Sierra Highway for $1.75 million. The city will relocate the Public Safety team to facility and build out the hybrid law enforcement program.

Lancaster and the City of Palmdale will each contribute $5 million for a wellness center to house a drug treatment program for Antelope Valley residents. There is another $1.6 million to operate the Lancaster Community Center, $1.3 million in events, $2.3 million for the city’s illegal dumping cleanup program and $400,000 for Lancaster TV.

The City Council will consider the Fiscal Year 2022-23 proposed budget for adoption, on June 28.