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City says funding will be available for senior center

Piece by piece, Huntington Beach's city staff has worked meticulously to find the funding to build the long-awaited senior center in Central Park.

After months of work, city administrators on Monday discussed the financing options with the City Council in what could be one of the last study sessions before the $21.5-million project gets underway.

The city initially had a ballpark idea of how much the proposed senior center would cost but only a faint idea of how to pay for it. Now officials are confident they have identified adequate funding sources.

Finance Director Lori Ann Farrell said the city has about $6.5 million on hand to start the project, some of it coming from budget remainders accumulated over the last couple of fiscal years.

About $2 million of the $6.5 million would come from private donations, possibly some of it from Hoag Hospital.

The rest of the project is slated to be funded by a $15-million bond, which the city will refund over a 30-year period with annual borrowing costs of about $1.2 million.

Should the city secure the needed funds, the project could break ground at Central Park by November.

"I suggest to every one of my colleagues that we go over there with a shovel in the ground and show the seniors that we're in unity, that we want this to move forward now," Councilman Joe Carchio said. "It's been seven, almost eight years, and nothing's moved."

The only remaining hindrance for the city is the long-standing lawsuit with the Park Legal Defense Fund, a citizen group that sued the city in 2008. City officials had planned to use money it would have received from the Pacific City project to fund the senior center, but the group asserted that was a misuse of those funds.

"We have wasted over a million and a half dollars in legal fees because of some stubborn people that live in the city," Carchio said. "And who are punished? The seniors."

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