[Updated 5:11 p.m.] On the same day Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina blasted a long-stalled New Horizons day-care center as an example of wasted federal stimulus funding, the nonprofit’s executive director said the project has been scrapped altogether and the vacant lot will be sold.
The two-story project would have expanded child-care services for low-income families at the center, which has been grappling for years with how to accommodate growing demand and longer wait lists.
But amid the economic recession, planned private donations didn’t come through, leaving the multimillion-dollar construction project short, said the nonprofit’s founder, Maria Rochart.
With the center struggling to keep its doors open, Rochart said she was left with no choice but to sell the vacant Maryland Avenue properties, which carry a $7,000 monthly mortgage payment.
“I’m trying to be very strong, but it’s horrible, and I wish somebody could come tomorrow and say, ‘Here, you can make the project,’” she said Monday.
Founded in 1994, the New Horizons Family Center has long been a government darling, but found itself as the bull’s-eye of politicians who said its long-delayed expansion — and receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants — was an example of poor judgment.
In a congressional report released last month, the New Horizons “Children’s Village” child-care facility ranked No. 34 in a list of 100 projects that conservative lawmakers said were examples of wasteful spending that have done nothing but add to the federal deficit.
Last year, the City Council allocated $131,000 of Glendale’s stimulus money to New Horizons for the $4.1-million new child-care facility in the 1200 block of South Maryland Avenue. The facility has also received $170,000 in federal block grant funding allocated by the city.
Fiorina on Monday also seized on the project during a news conference overlooking the vacant lot, criticizing Sen. Barbara Boxer for her support of the federal stimulus package that helped fund the scrapped project.
“The stimulus bill that Barbara Boxer promised would bring help, business and jobs to California — that stimulus bill has failed,” Fiorina said. “I am standing here because we have a demonstration right behind me of this ridiculous waste of taxpayer money.”
Asked if she was aware the Glendale City Council, not Boxer, had chosen to allocate funding to the project, Fiorina said the senator remains responsible.
“I expect her to know the facts” about projects paid for with stimulus money, Fiorina said.
Boxer’s campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, rebuffed Fiorina’s assertion that the New Horizon’s project was in any way indicative of how the stimulus bill impacted the recovery.
“Barbara Boxer voted for the Recovery Act because it provided middle class families with the largest tax cut in American history,” Kapolczynski said in an e-mail, adding that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had said the stimulus had already saved or created more than 150,000 jobs.
Monday’s announcement comes about six months after Rochart told city commissioners that construction on the long-awaited children’s center was to begin after years of delays.
Mayor Ara Najarian, who had voted in favor of the allocation, said he understood the criticism.
“I am disappointed that we committed funding,” he said. “Perhaps we as a council were overly eager to have this project funded before it was ready to be funded.”
In future funding cycles, city officials need to ensure all projects are given proper city oversight, he added.
“We can’t just think with our hearts,” Najarian said. “We’ve got to use our heads as well when we’re committing funding.”