Orange County officials have informed more than a dozen cities that $2.7 million in urban park grants they were promised this year will be suspended indefinitely because of the bankruptcy.
The move places in jeopardy park improvement projects from Yorba Linda to Costa Mesa and was described Thursday by city officials as another sign of the magnitude of the financial crisis.
"It's a disappointment, and it hurts," Brea Mayor Bev Perry said. "(But) given the magnitude of the county crisis, it's not unexpected."
City officials will now try to determine if they will have to delay or cancel some of the projects, which range from the repair of equestrian trails to the installation of basketball courts.
The county informed agencies about the grant delays this week. Cities affected by the move include Brea, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, Stanton and Yorba Linda, as well as several local youth groups. The grants ranged from $5,000 to $385,000.
Kenneth W. Scattergood, chief of program support for the county's Harbors, Beaches and Parks Department, said the grant money is frozen in the county treasury because of the bankruptcy and cannot be distributed.
The grant money came from the Harbors, Beaches and Parks District, a special district that is funded through property taxes. Cities applied for the grants earlier this year, and county officials selected recipients in the fall, Scattergood said.
Among the hardest-hit cities is Yorba Linda, which expected to use $385,000 in grants for a variety of projects at parks and other recreational facilities.
The situation has placed in limbo the Adventure Playground at Hurless Barton Park. City officials had hoped to use $150,000 to relocate the playground, according to Parks and Recreation Director Steve Rudometkin. The city plans to build a gymnasium where the playground is. The city also planned to use grant money to build an access road at Arroyo Park and improve equestrian trails.
Another community feeling the pinch is Rossmoor, which was set to receive $300,000 in grants that officials intended to use to help convert a vacant school site into a park.
Now, those plans are on hold, said Jim Alexander, a board member of the Rossmoor Community Services District. "We're sitting in a very precarious situation," Alexander said. "We can't (spend money on the park) unless it's an absolute necessity."
Los Alamitos city officials planned to use $239,000 in grants to improve five parks and install lights at the McAuliffe Middle School athletic field.
City Manager Robert C. Dunek said the city cannot afford to finance the work on its own and will have to delay the projects.
Costa Mesa planned to build outdoor basketball courts at TeWinkle Park with its $216,000 grant. Officials said that they were still trying to assess the impact of the county's action.
In Placentia, the delay of a $55,000 grant has jeopardized plans to repair the edge of a lake at Tri-City Park. City Manager Bob D'Amato said he put the project on hold even though the city has not been officially notified that the grant was frozen.
"We were on the verge of awarding the contract" when the county filed for bankruptcy Dec. 6, D'Amato said. "We decided on our own to go into a hold mode. I'm assuming the grant will be canceled."
A $90,000 project to put up lighting and resurface a basketball court at Brea Junior High School has been suspended indefinitely, officials said.
The frozen grant money has prompted Los Alamitos' Dunek to order a review of all grants the city receives through the county, including Community Development Block grants, which are used to improve blighted neighborhoods and finance programs for low-income families.
He said the review is intended to determine how much money the city is owed and what the city would do if the county cannot turn over the money.
Parks On Hold
Because funds are frozen in the county treasury as a result of bankruptcy, Urban Park Grants promised this year will be delayed. Here is a list of the cities and agencies involved:
Recipient Amount Project Anaheim YMCA $30,000 Bldg. renovations Brea 90,000 Junior high court resurfacing Costa Mesa 180,000 Athletic fields 15,000 Community ctr. gym floor 21,000 TeWinkle Pk. basketball Cypress Boys & Girls Club 45,000 Remodel Phase III Cypress Rec. & Pk. Dist. 59,070 Veterans Park Fullerton 100,000 Independence Pk. pool La Habra 5,000 Children's Museum exhibits Lake Forest 16,250 Darrin/El Toro Park, Phase II La Palma 50,000 Central Pk. restrooms Los Alamitos 200,000 McAuliffe Schl. lights 39,000 Neighborhood park renovations Mission Viejo 33,000 Various park improvements 27,500 Irrigation conversion Orange 75,000 Santa Fe depot park 5,000 Handy Park 100,000 Belmont (Southridge) Park Orange Unified 100,000 Ana Hills School Schl. Distr. field lighting 150,000 Modular rec structures Placentia 42,000 Parque de los Ninos 10,000 Jaycee parkette 100,000 McFadden Park Rossmoor Comty. 300,000 Rush Park Phase II Svcs. Distr. Santa Ana 250,000 Jerome Park master plan Stanton 150,000 Boys/Girls Club play area 50,000 Cultural/Rec. Ctr. acoustics Tri-City Pk. Auth. 15,000 Lake shoreline repairs 5,000 Irrigation controller Tustin Boys/Girls Club 25,000 Modular rec structures Westminster Boys/ 75,000 Bldg. renovations Girls Club Yorba Linda 100,000 Arroyo Park vehicle access 150,000 Hurless Barton Pk. 10,000 Community center 50,000 School field lighting 75,000 El Cajon trail improvements
Source: Orange County Department of Harbors, Beaches and Parks