Although 2010 looks to be another tough year, the city of Hesperia will be doing its best to insulate residents from its financial challenges.


"We have a five-year project implementation plan," said City Manager Mike Podegracz. "[Despite] the economy, we have projects we'll be building and we're still continuing to plan."


Transportation


Some projects are on hold, due to the recession, including a plan to widen Main Street to six lanes from Interstate 15 to 11th Avenue. The work was originally scheduled to begin late in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. (Hesperia's fiscal year begins on July 1 of each year.)


But others are continuing, since they were paid for before the recession started, and were just waiting for the last bit of government agency approval. Foremost among them is -- at long, long, long last -- breaking ground on the Ranchero Road Underpass that will give Hesperians another way to cross the BNSF railroad tracks.


"In 2010, we will break ground on the Ranchero Road Underpass," said Podegracz. "I won't give you a date, but we will break ground."


The one remaining roadblock: There are approximately four landowners whom the city needs to negotiate with for right of way through part of their property, including absentee landlords city staff are having a hard time tracking down. But once that's done, construction should take between 18 to 24 months, depending on the weather.


A plan to connect Ranchero Road to Interstate 15, though, is on hold, since it's reliant on state funding that may well evaporate in the face of continuing budget woes.


"With the downturn in the economy, we just don't see that happening."


But a federal transportation bill that had been delayed while congress battled over proposed health care legislation may have some funds in it for the Main Street/I-15 project, Podegracz said.


A rail spur in the industrial section of the city should also break ground in 2010 -- the city is in the process of acquiring right of way -- although the California Department of Fish and Game has raised some concerns about burrowing owls living in the area. But businesses are already asking about the new track.


"We're getting a lot of calls on that," Podegracz said.


The city will also break ground on fire station 301, which will be located on 11th Avenue south of Main Street, although the city is holding off on picking a start date.


"We have the money to build it, but we were hoping to get federal stimulus dollars," said Podegracz. In addition, Station 304, located at 11th Avenue and Eucalyptus Street, will be expanded in 2010. The city's new police station, located next to city hall, is scheduled to open in October and the adjacent county building soon thereafter.


The city will also continue its road paving work, with a plan to spend $7 million to pave 17 miles in 2010. While it was once the top issue officials heard about from residents, the past five years of work have cut down on many of the complaints, Podegracz said.


"To be honest, we hear more from people on dirt roads," he said. "The [city] council's policy is to repair all paved roads first."


The city will also hold a ribbon-cutting on the "township area" -- face lifts for Spruce and Smoketree Streets in Hesperia adjacent to city hall -- early in the new year.


New and returning businesses


The recession has stopped some new businesses in their tracks -- it's not hard to find signs on Main Street announcing the imminent arrival of businesses that still have failed to break ground, more than a year after the signage went up -- but Ross, Marshall's, Golden Corral and a revamped Sizzler will all be opening their doors in 2010.


And more may be coming:


"We have also seen these bankrupt [commercial] tracts that the bank has foreclosed on are starting to sell."


The Hesperia Civic Market & Street Faire -- a joint project of the city and the Hesperia Recreation and Park District -- will be coming back in the late spring or early summer. An exact date is still being worked out.


Other city plans


Finally, for the first time in its history, the city will update its general plan, which provides a unified overview of zoning and future plans for the city. The Main Street specific plan was completed in 2009, and current uses won't be changed.


"For most of the city, there's going to be no change at all," said Podegracz.


Residents should also see no changes in services provided by the city.


"The council has been adamant about not reducing services," said Podegracz. Hesperia is the only municipality in the Victor Valley still open five days a week, and was one of the few open the last week of December. "[Residents] came to expect that we're going to be open."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 760-956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/HesperiaStar.