Lawmakers OK 3 Area Projects at 11th Hour
A proposal to reimburse Santa Fe Springs $65,000 for a hazardous waste study--rejected by the Senate earlier this month--was revived in a bill approved by the Legislature shortly before it adjourned at 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
The bill also set aside $500,000 to build a long-planned swimming pool in Downey, which had earlier been vetoed by Gov. George Deukmejian, and $550,000 for a sound wall along the 91 Freeway in Artesia.
Officials in the three cities were caught off guard by the action.
“We were somewhat surprised,” said Santa Fe Springs Assistant City Manager Fred Latham, after hearing that the plan to repay the city had been revived. “We felt that the issue was dead in the Legislature.”
Proposals Return to Life
But Latham and other city officials failed to reckon with lawmakers who have a way of bringing proposals back to life, even in the final hours before adjournment.
The pool, sound wall and reimbursement for the study were among about two dozen legislative “pet projects” hastily inserted into a 33-page “mini-budget” bill that earmarked $375 million in federal offshore oil revenues the state expects to receive.
The bill by Assemblyman Jack O’Connell (D-Carpinteria) was approved by the Senate, 38 to 0, and the Assembly, 61 to 12, and sent to Deukmejian. The governor’s legislative secretary has said he is likely to approve the projects in the bill.
Highway, Road Funds
The lion’s share of the money went to projects sought by Democrats, who control both the Assembly and Senate. The largest single item was $125 million to fix highways and roads.
The projects in Santa Fe Springs, Downey and Artesia were put into the measure by Assemblyman Wayne Grisham (R-Norwalk), whose 63rd Assembly District covers the area.
Carrie Harper, Grisham’s legislative deputy, said the money for those projects came from the portion of the oil funds that Assembly Republicans split among themselves.
Grisham was traveling in Oregon and unavailable for comment this week.
Harper said the projects would provide a boost to Grisham’s district but speculated that the Democrats “didn’t think (they) would be too helpful” to Grisham in his reelection contest next year. Grisham won his seat last November in a hard-fought race in the normally Democratic district.
At the beginning of the month, the Senate rejected Grisham’s bill to pay back Santa Fe Springs for testing at the former Waste Disposal Inc. site near Greenleaf and Los Nietos avenues.
Meantime, Grisham’s office called to see if the city had any public works it wanted to include in the O’Connell bill. Latham said the city did not even mention the reimbursement for the hazardous waste study. Instead, the city sought funds for other, more expensive things, such as freeway sound walls, but those were not included in the bill.
Harper explained that Grisham decided to seek funds for projects that he had already worked on.
Freeway Noise Barriers
Artesia got $550,000 for sound walls on the 91 Freeway, along 170th Street and Jenkins Street, near Pioneer Boulevard.
“Those communities need to be protected,” said Artesia Assistant City Manager Eugene Romig. He said that without the money from the O’Connell bill, the walls would not be built for some time.
Felicia Archer, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation, confirmed that the sound walls have a relatively high priority but without the money from the O’Connell bill, they would not have been built for at least five years.
Downey High to Get Pool
City officials in Downey also were surprised that $500,000 for a swimming pool to be built, probably at Downey High School, was in the O’Connell bill.
Earlier this year, Deukmejian had blue-penciled funds for the pool from the state budget. The pool was included among projects to be financed with environmental funds, and the governor said he did not regard the pool as a suitable project.
The $500,000 has been sought as seed money for the pool, which could cost as much as $1.3 million.
“We weren’t really expecting it (the state funds) at this point,” said Jim Jarrett, Downey’s community services director. “We’re now trying to find the rest of the money.”