City reviews plans for street, road, park projects

Improvements to roads, parks, beaches and public safety in Huntington Beach were the focus of a City Council study session last week on the proposed 2013-14 budget.

City administrators have proposed allocating about $37.5 million for the Capital Improvement Program, which pays for infrastructure programs through a combination of city, state and federal funds, according to city engineer Tom Herbel.

Funding for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, should be on par with the $38 million allocated in 2012-13 and $34.7 million in 2011-12. The City Council has not yet approved the spending plan.

The last two fiscal years, however, represented a drop from the $52.6 million spent in 2010-11, but the budgets are slowly recovering from recession-era lows, said public works director Travis Hopkins.


Senior center, transportation

Though talks about the new senior center have progressed in recent months, the estimated $18.5 million project wasn't included in the proposal because funding sources have not been identified, Herbel said. However, $1.5 million in seed money was set aside for the project in the proposed budget.

Hopkins wrote in an email that a funding plan is to be presented to the City Council once the design and construction estimates are completed.

Streets and transportation are the dominant focus for 2013-14; Surf City looks to spend about $14.5 million on improvements. About $3.2 million of that will go toward new asphalt and street rehabilitation while $1.86 million is set aside to synchronize traffic signals.

The city also is looking to spend about $2.9 million on the long-debated proposal to widen Atlanta Avenue between Huntington and Delaware streets.

Funding for these projects is expected to come from Measure M, a half-cent Orange County sales tax aimed at congestion-relief projects, and various federal and state grants, Herbel said.

Water projects are also being proposed — some $9.5 million for mains, reservoir upgrades and corrosion control. Funding would come from the city water fund.

In the current fiscal year, about $11 million was budgeted for street and transportation projects while about $6.2 million was set aside for water improvements, according to city reports.

In the 2009-10 fiscal year, the city budgeted about $20.9 million, nearly half the Capital Improvement Program's budget, for water projects alone, including a multimillion-dollar improvement to the Public Works Department' utility yard, according to the reports.

Huntington Beach is also planning to spend $2.7 million on park and beach improvements.

One project that council members said they wanted to see get moving on is the Bartlett Park redesign, for which about $130,000 has been appropriated.

Safety concerns about the park increased last month after police found two bodies related to an alleged murder-suicide in an area heavily covered in trees and brush.

"The last time I was there I had to call the police," Councilman Joe Shaw said. "There's always a problem at that park."

Police records indicate about 16 reports of solicitation, lewd acts, vandalism, battery on a police officer and drug possession in Bartlett Park since 2012.

The city will look at its long-term financial plan during the Monday study session before opening the proposed budget to the public during the Sept. 3 council meeting. The City Council has until Sept. 30 to adopt a budget before the fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

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