Escondido, CA

City council postpones action on controversial water plant

~ Farewell to Chief Lowry

Mayor Sam Abed left, commends retiring fire chief Mike Lowry. This is the chief’s last week at work. Photo courtesy of the City of Escondido

Mayor Sam Abed left, commends retiring fire chief Mike Lowry. This is the chief’s last week at work. Photo courtesy of the City of Escondido

Residents irate that the city was contemplating putting a water plant in their residential neighborhood found that you can fight City Hall. Or at least slow it down a little bit.

After hearing outraged comments at the May 18 Town Meeting on May 25, the city council decided to continue a vote on a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to develop a facility to provide advanced treatment of recycled water that the city’s Hale Avenue Resource Recovery Facility (HARRF) creates for agricultural use.

The council had been scheduled to hear an appeal by city staff of a denial of a building permit by the Planning Commission.

Mayor Sam Abed commented, “We decided that staff needs to evaluate the whole project and we need more time. We heard a lot of comments. We need to go through and make sure this is the right location for this facility.”

Councilmember John Masson moved to continue the matter to a fu­ture meeting, with the date not certain.

“The staff needs months,” said the mayor. “We need to explore every al­ternative to minimize the impact on this nice community.”

City Manager Graham Mitchell told the council that the additional time was needed “to evaluate some alterna­tive sites and revaluate sites that have been considered in the past.”

The motion by Masson was second­ed by Ed Gallo and passed by a vote of 5-0.

Previously the Planning Commis­sion voted to deny the Conditional Use Permit for the city to construct a water filtration facility (membrane filtration/ reverse osmosis, MF/RO) on a 3.25- acre City-owned parcel located at 2512 East Washington Ave. The purpose of this water plant is for the distribution and sale of water to San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Eagle Crest Golf Courses, Oak Hill Memorial Park, agricultural facilities and other industrial purposes.

Goodbye to the Chief

The city bade a fond farewell to a man who has been fixture at the city for many years, Fire Chief Mike Low­ry, who is retiring on June 3. Mayor Sam Abed presented him with a certifi­cate of commendation at the beginning of the May 25 city council meeting.

Mayor Sam Abed told the chief, “We have twice before tried to keep you from leaving. Well, third time is the charm! We are honoring a great fire chief. Someone who cares about Escondido. Someone who cares about the city he serves.”

Abed noted that Lowry began his career in 1979 in Alpine with the U.S. Forest Service, which he left in 1982 to join the Escondido Fire Department. He worked his way up in the ranks un­til eventually he became Escondido’s seventh fire chief.

He described how Chief Lowry has led numerous wildfire deployments, including a rescue deployment in Tex­as. He is the current president of the San Diego County Fire Chiefs Asso­ciation.

The mayor declared, “I serve on both the LAFCO and SANDAG boards for the city, and wherever I go people come up to me and say, ‘You have a great fire chief!’ “ He added, “Chief Lowry has dedicated himself to this city. For nearly 35 years he has led by example. Chief Lowry is a tireless worker and mentor who has earned the utmost re­spect. Mike Lowry cares about his city and cares for his community.”

Taking the lectern, the outgoing chief said, “We have felt the support and care for this entire time. I want­ed to thank the men and women of fire department, our counterparts on law enforcement and our dispatchers. My success—and it’s our success—is based on what the men and women of our department achieve. It’s nothing I’ve done on my own. It has been com­pletely through teamwork.”

Choking up for a moment, Chief Lowry said, “It has been an honor and privilege to serve you. We’ve been able to focus on things with a positive attitude and to get through hard times. We stayed focused on our mission and our values.

“I have had such a blessed career and such a great family. It has been that community that is such an honor to serve.”

Lowry introduced his family includ­ing his wife, Sherry, “Who has put up with me for thirty-five years. I know she has enjoyed being here.” The cou­ple plans to continue to live in Escon­dido.

The chief talked about a conver­sation he had many years ago with a fellow firefighter who said that most people get through a career without making a difference.

Lowry said he disagreed. “If you want to you CAN make a difference.”

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