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2010: A year of growing pains

The year 2010 will perhaps be remembered most for its growing pains. Reforms at the Burbank Police Department have been ongoing while at the same time the web of legal action in and out of the department continues to ebb and flow.

A new $120-million transit center was approved for Bob Hope Airport, new bike lanes on Verdugo Avenue created a stir, and city officials sought to stall L.A. sewer upgrade plans under Pass Avenue — despite experience with a faulty pipe that burst on Nov. 2 and sent 30,000 gallons of sewage down Burbank streets, forcing officials to divert flow into the shared Los Angeles system while repairs were completed.

These are all signs of a city in flux, even as it prepares to celebrate its centennial throughout 2011. But 2010 was also punctuated by significant incidents — the officer shooting outside the Kmart and several major car crashes come to mind.

But there have been other issues left to simmer on the stove. Burbank has more recently resisted public information requests for the amount of bonuses paid to individual employees over the past several years, although a final determination is expected from the city attorney’s office in the coming weeks.


And the airport authority has locked horns with Lockheed Martin over liability claims for an order by EPA to clean up contaminated groundwater underneath Bob Hope Airport.

In no particular order, here’s a look back on some of the more significant headlines and issues of 2010.

Salaries and bonuses: The city posted employee salary information on its website that showed that more than 500 of 1,600 city employees make $100,000 or more a year — a figure that has grown steadily over the last decade, according to other records obtained by the Leader.

The calculation excluded the cost of pension-related benefits and some health insurance, but showed that several six-figure earners added to their base pay with overtime and “other pay,” which includes payouts for unused vacation days and cash benefits toward heath plans, professional development, uniform allowance and other perks.


While those records were made available, city officials have pushed back on releasing specific merit-based bonuses payouts per employee, saying it would be against workplace confidentiality rules. They are currently reevaluating their response, with an answer expected in the coming weeks.

Glendale, it should be noted, posted the per-employee bonus information on the city website.

The Burbank City Council has since called for a “careful discussion” on the bonuses, which city officials say have been an important part of the compensation culture at City Hall. They handed out more than $1 million last fiscal year, and could get up to $1.89 million in the current year.

Transit center: The transportation hub will consolidate rental car facilities and bus transit on the current airport property, a covered moving walkway to the airport terminal and the second compressed natural-gas fueling station in Burbank.

The council also approved the airport authority’s request to acquire land owned by Union Pacific that is currently used as a parking lot. The authority was granted city easements for the location at 4500 Empire Ave. for a planned pedestrian bridge over the street.

“The authority is gratified to have the city’s endorsement to move ahead with this project, which will bring significant enhancements and efficiencies to the traveling public while reducing traffic impacts of the airport on Burbank residents,” said airport authority President Frank Quintero in a statement.

Currently, the airport authority must secure other financing for the “Empire Bridge” that will connect the transportation center structure with the train station.

Airport officials expect a December 2012 opening date for the Regional Intermodal Transportation Center, but do not yet have completion dates for each phase of the project.


Porto’s robbery fallout: Ten Burbank police officers were known to be fired this year following a probe into the investigation into alleged misconduct during the response to a 2007 robbery of Porto’s Bakery. This after the City Council voted in January to spend a pretty penny — $1 million — to bring on former U.S. Atty. Debra Wong Yang and law enforcement expert Merrick Bobb to help right the ship at the Police Department, which continues to grapple with civil rights lawsuits and federal probes into allegations of excessive force.

Officers shot outside Kmart: Two Burbank police officers recovered from gunshot wounds they sustained while responding to a shoplifting call at Kmart in July. Police say Jamie Willard managed to reach around, grab an officer’s gun and begin firing despite being handcuffed behind his back outside the store on July 2.

Burbank Police Officer Alex Gutierrez was shot repeatedly in the chest, but was protected by his bulletproof vest. A bullet fragment ricocheted and hit his leg. He was released from the hospital to recover at home.

Officer Derek Green was shot in his hand and required multiple operations. He also hurt his leg.

Willard, of Gresham, Ore., was Tasered during the incident and treated for cuts and scrapes. He has remained in custody in lieu of $1 million bail, and is due back in Los Angeles Superior Court Jan. 12.

— Jason Wells