Menifee State of the City addresses changes, growth in the past year

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Menifee holds its virtual State of the City address Thursday, Oct. 15, with city council members and the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce. Valley News/Shane Gibson file photo

The Menifee City Council and mayor presented the city’s first virtual State of the City address Thursday, Oct. 15, extolling the progress the fifth fastest growing city in California has made in the past year. The virtual event presented on YouTube, Facebook and the city’s webpage was created in partnership with the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Tony LoPiccolo, president and CEO of the Menifee chamber, and George Mills, chamber chairman of the board, made the introductions on screen as hundreds of chamber members, business persons and Menifee residents watched on the different venues. It was far different from the 2019 event, which was held at the Menifee Lakes Country Club where meet and greet discussions were prevalent before the mayor’s address.

Mayor Bill Zimmerman followed, giving a recap of what the city has done to maintain its city services since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March.

“The lingering effects of COVID-19 are impossible to ignore,” Zimmerman said. “It’s fitting that we begin this state of city address highlighting the city’s ongoing business and community response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This year’s State of City theme was “Investing in our Legacy.” Zimmerman thanked the city’s employees for serving through the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the first and most important thing the city is responsibility for is the public safety of all its citizens. The federal, state and county health officials, due to the coronavirus pandemic, ordered the shutdown of all public facilities, and a state of emergency was called in every city, closing Menifee’s City Hall for a time.

Zimmerman said in response, the city staff put together a series of programs to keep the business of the city moving, opening a “Virtual City Hall” where most important business could be maintained online. In the early phases of the pandemic, city officials worked mostly at home.

This effort was followed by a “Zero Stop and Shop” where local developers and businesses could work with the city online or by appointment to forward their projects that are still in effect. The plan has decreased the time required to obtain permits and development plan approvals.

The city established its own municipal police department with improved law enforcement coverage.

Zimmerman said the city accomplished these improvements while facing a $5 million deficit due to the pandemic. Tight budget controls were put in place, but no layoffs were necessary, he said.

Supports local business.

City manager Armando Villa on the screen said the city formed a committee to find ways to support local businesses and give them some relief from their loss business due to the pandemic. He said a “Shop Local” plan was put together to encourage residents to shop only in their own community and the city provided $5,000 grants to businesses most in distress.

“Now we are looking forward to seeing our local businesses reopen,” Avila said.

Looking ahead Avila said Menifee is still seeking to be a “New. Better. Best.” community for all its residents. He foresaw a 3% to 4% yearly growth rate and with the addition of 37,000 more residents in the next five to 10 years.

Zimmerman addressed the city’s homelessness noted that the city is ranked the second lowest city in the county for those persons. He said the city has worked with the city police department, code enforcement and social services to continue to reduce the numbers of those homeless on the streets.

District 1 makes improvements.

Greg August, District 1 councilmember who is leaving office this year, said, “I leave this office knowing several milestones, improvement if you will, have been reached and remain in progress.”

He said he saw the passage of Measure DD as the “springboard” of many of the improvements in his district leading to the police department and upgraded fire service and badly needed infrastructure upgrades. District 1 covers most of Sun City and northern Menifee areas.

The district has seen seven new residential projects, three commercial projects and the Rancho Community Medical Center open in the past year. August cited the revitalization of the Cherry Hills Plaza was a highlight in his district this year. He saw a number of projects, like the Cherry Hills Golf Course, that are now ongoing enhancing the senior residents and others in the district.

Police Department successes

Menifee police Chief Pat Walsh said the homeless problem in the Sun City area is slowly being resolved with a planned police department substation coming into the plaza area soon. He attributed the gains in improving the district’s area is most attributed to Measure DD as August said.

The Menifee Police Department now has 44 pursuit vehicles, the up-to-date law enforcement equipment and high-quality training for its 60 officers now patrolling the city. Its recruiting efforts that involved 4,400 applicants won national police chiefs’ awards, Walsh commented and praised the department in creating its own “culture” to best serve the residents.

District 2 sees greatest growth.

Matt Liesemeyer, District 2 councilmember, supported August’s views on the police department’s impact on the city and Measure DD funding. District 2 encompasses most of the city’s downtown area along Haun and Newport roads west of Interstate 215. Liesmeyer said his district experienced the greatest growth this past year with 14 new commercial projects and 23 residential projects. Goetz Plaza in the Quail Valley area was mentioned as the latest approved project, the first in 12 years. Other projects include Menifee Plaza in the Menifee Town Center, the huge Krikorian Theater complex to restart after COVID-19 lets up, The Fairfield by Marriott hotel with a conference room and other amenities will open soon. The planned Mid-County Courthouse is moving along with groundbreaking in spring 2021. There were a number of other major projects either under construction or soon to begin in the district mentioned in the state of the city virtual meeting.

New infrastructure is welcomed.

Inserted into the presentation, Avila said the many infrastructure and freeway improvements completed in the last year especially the Scott Road/I-215 interchanges and more than 50 miles of road resurfacing and fixing 1,150 potholes that are still continuing throughout the city. Many new sidewalks and curbing have been finished. A major drainage and flood control channel is also being constructed along the main highways of the city. Soon-to-begin construction on the Holland Road Overpass will improve traffic flow in the city.

District 3 builds high school and library.

Lesa Sobek, District 3 councilmember, said her area, including Menifee Lakes, The Lakes, Centennial and Mosaic also has new landscapes surrounding Liberty High School, which is now under construction, and the new Menifee Library. The district in the past year has seen eight new commercial and four new residential projects come into the city.

She announced the coming of the new 5,000-seat Mt. San Jacinto College Stadium and what it will offer the students and all the community. In February, Menifee completed and annexed Centennial Park, adding two baseball fields, four half basketball courts, a tot lot and picnic shelter and restroom, Sobek said.

The city also had many of its 28 special events in the District 3 area including the Independence Day Drive-in Fireworks show in the MSJC parking lot, only one of two in Riverside County.

District 4 had a busy year.

Dean Deines, District 4 councilmember, said the district has had a busy year.

“Already this year my district has seen the addition of industry, amenities and job creation all underway with a total of 19 commercial and 15 residential projects.” Deines said.

Mentioning how many improvements have come to his district in the past few years he said he is “proud of our current trajectory.”

District 4 includes Heritage Lake, portions of Romoland, the Oasis and parts of Sun City.

Deines said the city was happy to see the Forterra concrete pipe company expanding its industry in the district and welcomed A Plus Urgent Care. The district in the Romoland area welcomed the 330-acre Legado commercial and residential center with 30 acres of new parks planned. Also coming is a 300-room senior center and expanded RV Supercenter. He cited a number of new eating establishments that have also made their home in his district.

Measure DD presented a boon to Menifee.

Recapping the virtual state of the city presentation, Zimmerman said, “Measure DD, a 1% sales tax in the city, is responsible for many citywide projects. Due to this funding we have been able to provide 30% of the police department budget, 30% of the fire department budget and kickoff large infrastructure projects.”

He gave the names of the major projects the Measure DD funding provided and what it will help in providing in the future of the city.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at tault@reedermedia.com.