Ventura Pier Repair to Take at Least 2 Months : Storms: Officials estimate it also will take that long to clean debris off beaches--if they can find the funds. A section of the Port Hueneme Pier won't be replaced immediately.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ventura's crippled pier will take at least two months to repair and its debris-cluttered beaches equally as long to clean up--and that's assuming no more storms strike this winter, city officials said Monday.

The city also continued making plans for the homeless washed out of the flooded river bottom, organizing a social services center that will open later this week.

Ron Calkins, the city's director of public works, said he is not worried that the state's longest wooden pier will collapse. "But if we had more of that heavy surf, there's a chance that we could lose sections of the pier," he said.

As of Friday, he said, the pier had lost 61, or about 10%, of its pilings in the January storms. Eight pilings have been replaced. Since City Hall was closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, Calkins did not have figures for the weekend. But workers at the pier said it has not lost any more pilings since Friday.

The Port Hueneme Pier is expected to reopen in four weeks, but the T-shaped part of the pier, lost during the storms, will not be replaced until spring at the earliest, said Doug Breeze, the city's public works manager.

"The city has no funds right now to fix that part of the pier," Breeze said, "and the pier does not need the T-shaped part replaced to be open to the public."

Breeze said all the lost pilings will be replaced by Friday. By early next week, he said, city workers should be fixing the water and electrical systems on the pier, as well as building about 200 feet of handrails.

Calkins said he also is worried about cleaning branches and other debris off Ventura beaches. The city generally does not clean its beaches until the winter storm season ends in March or April.

"We have a modest amount of money each year to clean up the beaches, but we're sure it's not enough to dent this," he said.

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The city, however, is negotiating with county officials to dump the debris for free at the Bailard Landfill in Oxnard.

John Conaway, director of solid waste for the Ventura County Regional Sanitation District, said he is waiting for waivers from the county's planning and environmental health departments before extending an offer to Ventura.

He estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 tons of debris cover the beaches from Ventura to Port Hueneme. Dumping costs $33.50 a ton, but Conaway hopes if the fee cannot be waived, it can at least be significantly lowered.

But he noted that cities will have to pay for loading and hauling the debris to the landfill--a sizable expense that could come to $150 per ton or about half a million dollars for the beach debris.

Ventura city officials said they hope that the council's declaration of a local emergency last week will attract state and federal funds for debris removal.

In the middle of all the cleanup and repair, Ventura's new city manager, Donna Landeros, starts her job today, facing problems exacerbated by the floods--the pier, the debris and the displaced river bottom homeless.

About 200 people lived in the Ventura River bottom until last week, when their makeshift dwellings got washed away by the swollen river. Ventura city officials vowed last Tuesday that not one homeless person would be permitted to return to his or her encampments. Instead, officials said, Ventura would provide alternative housing for the transients.

On Monday, many of the river bottom homeless remained in the warming shelter at the National Guard Armory in Oxnard while city officials continued to search for long-term housing in Ventura.

Ventura police said one police officer and one sheriff's deputy continued to guard the riverbanks Monday, waving away homeless people trying to return, but making no arrests. However, at 4:30 p.m., neither homeless people nor police officers could be seen from Main Street, where it crosses the river and heads toward the freeway.

City officials said they hoped to open a needs assessment center for the homeless Wednesday in a vacant building at Santa Clara and Garden streets. They want various social service agencies--from nonprofit service providers to county departments to the city's housing authority--to set up shop in the 1,500-square-foot space.

The building belongs to the county, and county officials have agreed to let Ventura run the assessment center there for no charge for the next 90 days, Councilwoman Rosa Lee Measures said.

The only costs the city will incur are the electricity and telephone bills, said Carol Green, assistant to the city manager.

Staff writer Christina Lima contributed to this story.

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