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Retrofit money in jeopardy

A shakeup by lawmakers in Washington, D.C., could have repercussions in Burbank if a big earthquake hits.

Burbank City Council, which issued its stamp of approval for federal appropriation requests last week, is angling for another $500,000 to complete a seismic retrofit of Olive Recreation Center.

The project, one of 19 buildings in Burbank left on the schedule to be reinforced, will include wall anchoring and other structural work to increase the strength of the recreation center at 1111 W. Olive Ave.

The funding for the retrofits and other projects is now in jeopardy after an announcement by the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations to enact a two-year moratorium on earmarks.


President Obama has said he will not sign any bills that include earmarks.

Burbank, which has made an aggressive effort to secure more federal funding for projects over the past two years, has spent more money on an outside consultant to lobby lawmakers.

“We were advised to keep on course, so at the very least we will be positioned to strike should things change in Washington, D.C.,” said Deputy City Manager Justin Hess.

Burbank budgets $72,000 annually for David Turch and Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based firm that lobbies for the city.


The consultants also advise local officials on federal grant opportunities and assist with any pending federal issues or litigation that may affect the city.

The city also budgets $25,000 each year for grant-writing support.


If the appropriations don’t come this year, Hess said he hopes additional federal grant funds could open up in other departments as a result.

“There may be more money coming out of the Department of Energy or any other department,” he said. “This way, we are already ready to apply and say our requests are approved.”

Council-approved projects typically add more weight in the appropriations process.

The city has already secured $2.4 million in grant funds for the seismic retrofits, and Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford said she is confident the retrofits will continue as scheduled, either with additional grants or a combination of outside money and the city’s Building Maintenance Fund.

“[The Federal Emergency Management Agency] likes to fund this type of work that is preventative,” Teaford said. “Pre-event mitigation work — or fixing something before the Big One hits — really makes a lot of sense.”


Despite the possible federal earmark tie-up, she said the Olive Recreation Center and other remaining city properties on the seismic-retrofit list should be finished within the next five years.

Burbank has submitted 11 requests for projects totaling around $11 million, including improvements to the traffic management center, railroad crossings, Burbank Bus vehicle replacements, converting city light bulbs to energy-saving LEDs and $500,000 for in-car cameras for Burbank Police Department patrol vehicles.

“Burbank has done well as far as receiving federal funding, so we’re definitely disappointed with this development,” Hess said. “But we understand the issues at the federal level.”