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Classrooms Prevail Over Toilets for Burbank Aid

Times Staff Writer

The restrooms versus classrooms dispute between the Burbank City Council and the Burbank Unified School District was resolved Tuesday when the council agreed to redirect $100,000 in federal funds so they can be used for improvements to schools.

The funds, part of a recent grant from the federal Community Development Block Grant Program, had originally been targeted by the council for the repair of toilets in the Golden Mall, prompting school district officials to complain that the council cared more for the restrooms than classrooms.

Only $70,000 of the federal funds had been allocated to the school district, although the district had requested $2.8 million for school improvements during the 1985-1986 fiscal year.

School officials’ complaints prompted city officials to seek other sources of funds for the bathrooms and free the $100,000 to be spent on schools.

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Used General Fund

During Tuesday’s meeting, the council decided to fund the Golden Mall restroom improvements from the city’s general fund. The council also reiterated the importance of that project.

Voting to advertise for contractors to repair the restrooms, the council approved a resolution written by Richard Inga, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, stating that the restrooms had been damaged so much by vandalism and deterioration that they are “completely unacceptable to the public and mall merchants.”

“I think this is a way to meet both needs,” Burbank Mayor Mary Lou Howard said of the council’s solution to the controversy. Earlier, Howard had criticized school officials for questioning the council’s commitment to schools.

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Gary Brown, Burbank’s community development block grant administrator, said he would evaluate proposals from the school district for using the $100,000. According to federal requirements, the money can only be used for schools in low- to moderate-income areas.

District Supt. Wayne Boulding said McKinley Elementary School qualifies for the money, and that it would be used to replace all the windows at the school. The district also would like to install air conditioning before the start of its summer program.

Conciliatory Tone

The conciliatory tone between the school district and the city this week was in contrast to a sharp exchange last month after officials of the school district implied in a report that the city cared too much about its toilets.

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“If members of the City Council concur that the Golden Mall restrooms are more important to the residents of Burbank than the condition of its schools, it is the hope of the district that the needs of the public schools will be given more consideration in the years to come,” said a preliminary report from Boulding’s office. The report was written after district officials learned of the block grant allocations.

Although the statement was withdrawn from a later report presented to the council by school board President Bill Abbey, Howard said she was angered by the questioning of council priorities.


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