11:55 PM PST on Saturday, March 12, 2011

By GAIL WESSON
The Press-Enterprise

They set a longest-meeting record, at more than five hours, made it clear that a balanced budget does not mean tapping reserves and have moved forward on items like a downtown facelift and a levee project.

The four new San Jacinto City Council members just passed the 100-day mark in office on Friday and took time to review their start and challenges ahead.

“In a nutshell, for me this first three months has really been about getting back to work,” Mayor Scott Miller said by phone. “Getting back to work not only in the city but regionally.”

Four councilmen caught up in a campaign financing criminal corruption probe lost their seats in a recall election in November. Voters chose Miller, Vice Mayor Andrew Kotyuk and Councilmen Mark Bartel and Alonso Ledezma to take their places.

Because of the still-pending criminal case, the fifth councilman, Steve Di Memmo, had to represent the city on regional boards last year, which Miller said was “kind of tough on him.”

Now those committee duties are split among the councilmen.

“Both in the city and regionally, our voice is being heard now on all these regional projects,” Miller said. For example, Miller has lobbied for focus on the proposed Mid-County Parkway on the San Jacinto end and a Metrolink extension to the city..

The city has a healthy reserve in the millions created under the past council and the new councilmen don’t want to tap that reserve to balance the 2011-12 budget.

Di Memmo proposed switching from a policing contract with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department back to a city-run police department to save money, but questions about the accuracy of the numbers sent the proposal to a council committee reviewing public safety services.

Ledezma, for one, wants to keep the sheriff’s contract.

“I don’t want to change to police, where we’re going to have to train and after two or three years, they’ll go to another place,” he said.

Part of Ledezma’s “homework” has been to go out, for example, when heavy rains flooded a westside neighborhood “making sure everything was under control” as the city tried to help residents, he said.

The March 1 council meeting ran late because department heads reviewed a priorities list compiled by Kotyuk with feedback from other council members.

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