March 26, 2020

Message from the City Manager, Jeffrey Epp:
As things change constantly, City staff have been working around the clock to closely monitor the COVID-19 situation. Our Emergency Operations Center continues to be open and meets daily for briefings on County and State guidelines. I encourage you to check our website and social media accounts for updated information on the City’s response, closure information and much more using the links listed below. At this time, we are following the County of San Diego’s lead and will be keeping all of our parks and trails open; it is important for residents to have an opportunity to get outdoors and exercise as long as strict social distancing is practiced and gathering rules are followed. We all need to work together to make a difference during these unprecedented times. 

Video: Click here to view a message from City Manager Jeffrey Epp from the March 25 City Council meeting.

COVID-19 Information:
The City of Escondido continues to follow the State and County orders as well as direction from County health officials to help slow the spread of COVID-19. There is a dedicated page on our website where you can find our latest news releases, closures, information about City appointments, and links to resources and other agencies:
https://www.escondido.org/covid-19.aspx

Pursuant to Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-25-20: Members of the Escondido City Council and staff may participate in meetings via teleconference. The Wednesday, March 25 City Council meeting was conducted virtually, view the meeting here.

Mayor Paul McNamara shared a message with the Escondido community about the COVID-19 situation, watch the video here.

With City facilities closed to the public there are many ways to do business online with the City:

You can get preparedness tips, the latest details and a host of resources (videos, fact sheets, etc.) on the County’s website at coronavirus-sd.com. The County also has information relating to the virus on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Communications and Community Services:

Communications:
Communications staff continue to prioritize COVID-19-related messaging - supporting the Emergency Operations Center, providing other departments and facilities with standardized signage, communicating official information to the public and staff, and sharing positive social media messaging about the vital role our City employees play in keeping the community safe and healthy.

Community Services:

Community Services staff continue to operate the Senior Nutrition program out of the Park Avenue Community Center in partnership with the California Center for the Arts, Escondido who is providing the food. Staff displaced from facility closures and program cancellations have been redeployed to fulfill other departmental needs. Work continues on existing capital projects.

Community Development:

Building Department:
Although City Hall is temporarily closed to the public, the Building and Planning Divisions remain open for business. Building permit applications are accepted on an appointment basis with an assigned Building Technician. Customers are directed to call the Building Division at 760-839-4647 to discuss their needs with a staff member and determine whether drop-off or some other method of receiving plans and documents is most appropriate for their building project.

Planning Department:
The Planning Division is also accepting project entitlement and permit submittals by appointment.  Please call the Planning Division at 760-839-4671 to be directed to the appropriate planner for your project. All plan review services are continuing as before and public hearings have been shifted to an electronic format to maintain critical project timeframes.

The Planning Department has received the following applications:

  • Strata Development - 350 10th Avenue. The proposed condominium project consists of 8 units on a 0.32-acre site.  They are all two-bedroom units, market rate.
  • Ivy Valley Affordable Housing Project - 337 E. Valley Parkway. The proposed multi-family housing project is planned for 50 rental apartments, 100% of which will be affordable to residents at 30% to 60% area median income.

Governor Newsome has determined that construction is an essential service that is not subject to the current shutdown. The Community Development Department remains committed to serving our customer’s needs during these difficult times to keep entitlement and construction and projects moving forward. 

Economic Development:

Supporting Local Businesses:
There are many ways you can continue to support Escondido’s local businesses and workers. The Economic Development department has put together a list of restaurants, wineries, and breweries that are currently offering to-go food and beverage service: https://www.escondido.org/support-local-food-drink.aspx

This list is updated continuously as we are informed of establishments that are open for business and offering food and drinks (including alcohol to-go with food purchase, per ABC) for takeout, curbside pickup, and/or delivery during the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. If you know of other places that are confirmed open for business, please email the business website and phone number to Business@escondido.org.

You are encouraged to help spread the word, purchase food and drink to-go, gift cards and gift certificates from your favorite local establishments.

In addition, updates and resources for local businesses and workers impacted by COVID-19 can be found here: https://www.escondido.org/business-news.aspx. This information is updated continuously so check back regularly for the latest business and workforce news.

Lastly, the Escondido City Council will be considering protection for commercial and residential tenants from eviction or foreclosure during this emergency at the April 8 City Council meeting.

Engineering:

Engineering staff continue to support the City’s essential services.  Construction inspection services are being provided to SDG&E’s gas main replacement project on Midway, several Cox and AT&T communications projects, and multiple housing construction projects in accordance with the Governor’s Order. In addition, work continues on major street maintenance and drainage improvement projects. The City is accepting permit applications by appointment with staff working remotely to continue processing of plans for proposed development projects.  This week, the City’s traffic signal programming is being migrated to an updated software program designed to improve analytics, communication and responsiveness. 

Escondido Public Library:

Library staff are transitioning as many programs and services to virtual participation as possible. The Second Saturday concert last weekend streamed on Facebook Live with over 500 views! Staff are creating online tutorials and podcasts to promote eBooks and eAudiobooks, digital library cards, and Text a Librarian reference services. Instagram Author Q&A and digital meetings of Rincon Literario Book Club and the Escondido Writers’ Club will be offered. Additionally, they have completed a shifting project of the physical materials and are working to purchase even more.

Finance Department:

In preparation for and in response to the COVID-19 situation, the Finance department made the following changes to our business processes to ensure that our core services are maintained while also implementing social distancing practices for the safety of our staff during this emergency.

Utility Billing/Accounts Receivable:
Utility Billing customers are encouraged to sign up online to receive paperless utility bills via email and to pay their utility bills online. During the City Hall closure, utility billing payments continue to be received online, by mail, and cash payments can be deposited into the Utility Billing Drop Box in the circular driveway at City Hall. 

Purchasing/Accounts Payable:
Accounts Payable is currently accepting electronic signature approval for invoices to ensure prompt payment of the City’s vendors and to reduce the flow of paperwork and contact between City staff. 

Budget:
Both the Operating and Capital Improvement Program budgets are progressing on schedule using the new budget software that was rolled out this current year. This software allows Departments to enter their budgets online and share information with Finance staff concerning Department budget priorities, major budget changes and the impact these changes have on City services. The ability to share this information within the budget software has made the process more efficient and transparent and allowed Finance Staff to cancel budget meetings with Departments reducing contact between City staff. 

Payroll:
The Payroll Department has developed a plan to ensure the timely processing of employee pay checks during this COVID-19 situation.  This plan involved identifying all the processes that are critical to paying employees and then making sure these processes could occur remotely.  In addition, Payroll staff is currently working staggered shifts to practice social distancing and to ensure that staff will be available to process payroll.  All employees that still receive paper payroll checks have been encouraged to sign up for Direct Deposit.  

Grant Management:
The Finance Department is working with other City Departments to track all emergency protective measures taken by the City to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. Costs associated with these measures need to be tracked as they may be eligible for reimbursement by FEMA.  The Finance Department is also coordinating the FEMA grant application process. 

Fire Department:

The Fire Department’s Firefighter Paramedic who tested positive for COVID-19 on March 13, 2020 has completely recovered and will report for normal duty on March 26. Fortunately, none of the other firefighters he worked with prior to testing positive have had any symptoms. The Fire Department remains at full staffing at each of our seven fire stations.

EMS Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply levels are being closely monitored. As of now we have an ample supply of N95 masks for our first responder use and we have received shipments of supplies from the County.

The Fire Department’s EMS staff is in daily communication with their counterparts from all North County Fire Agencies, our Department’s medical director and the County EMS and Public Health staff. This close collaboration has allowed us to react quickly and methodically to very dynamic circumstances.

Even during these extraordinary times, the essential business activities of the Fire Department continue. This week we welcomed two new hire Paramedics. This week they will be completing orientation training and then they will begin field mentorship.

Over the next few days the Fire Department will be conducting training with brush engines and other wildfire equipment at Station 4 (Bear Valley) in preparation for fire season. While the weather is cold and rainy now, we know that hot dry weather is coming soon and we must maintain our training and preparedness.

Police Department:

All uniformed police officers are working 12 hour shifts to place more officers on the streets while creating more separation of the different patrol squads to minimize contact between the squads. Dispatchers are also on 12 hour shifts to achieve the same goals. All other personnel are either staggered on work days/hours or working from home in order to minimize contact with one another.

The department is focused on gaining voluntary compliance with Public Health Orders rather than enforcement. When not responding to radio calls, all uniformed officers are conducting high visibility patrols throughout the city. Minor offense crime cases are being handled via phone or online reporting in order to free up uniformed officers to respond to emergency calls for service. The police department lobby continues to be closed to the public.

Public Works:

Although Public Works operations have slowed, Public Works is operating business as usual. Streets staff are continuing to provide essential Public Works functions and complete ongoing projects.

Parks staff have been reassigned to focus their efforts to cleaning all park restrooms twice daily, and mowing and landscaping in the parks will remain constant with normal operations. Building maintenance is operating at full capacity, projects are being completed and deep cleanings are taking place by custodial staff in buildings that are shut down; counters are being disinfected three times a day in buildings that are currently staffed.

Fleet Services has had a reduction in their workforce, and three people are at home self-quarantining. Streets and Parks has identified staff to move over and assist Fleet operations if needed. As of now, Fleet Services is operating business as usual. Over in the Warehouse, Recreation staff are assisting with cleaning and organizing.

Utilities:

Water Treatment Plant and HARRF (Wastewater Treatment Plant):
Staff members critical to the continuity of daily operations (e.g. operators, maintenance staff, water quality lab) continue to report for work as usual.  Administration staff, engineering staff, environmental compliance inspectors, and control systems programmers are working remotely as much as possible and are only reporting to the plants when necessary to directly support operations.

Water Distribution and Wastewater Collection:
These staff members are critical to the continuity of daily operations, so they continue to report for work as usual.

Administration and Environmental Programs (City Hall staff):
These staff members are generally working remotely.  As necessary, they are available report to the City Hall, one of the treatment plants, or to field locations to complete inspections or support the operations staff.

Lakes:
The fishing, camping and playground areas at Dixon Lake and Lake Wohlford are closed, while the day use area are open.  The lakes are being patrolled by Rangers.  Most seasonal Park Attendants are not at work because the functions they support (fishing, camping) are closed.