CITY HALL — The City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a massive $167.8-million, 10-year capital improvement plan, ending an unprecedented eight months of deliberation with a strong endorsement of the need for more outdoor recreation space.
Packed into the budget are allocations for fire stations, an expansion of the library system, street repair, parkland acquisition, a full-scale aquatic center, disability access and technology upgrades.
“I don’t think any one of us thought it would take us on as many twists and turns as it did,” Mayor Ara Najarian said.
The capital improvement project plan goes through fiscal year 2016-17, but the City Council revisits the budget each year to modify spending priorities as the fiscal landscape changes.
The budget approved at Tuesday’s special meeting adds to about $54.5 million approved in July for “basic” capital improvements.
It also includes $4.2 million to help fund the purchase of the Rockhaven Sanitarium in Montrose for a new library on the site, with $2 million more for refurbishment. City officials are engaged in ongoing negotiations to purchase the site. And an additional $5.5 million was allocated for the reconstruction of Fire Station 29 on Honolulu Avenue should the Montrose Library move to a newly acquired Rockhaven site.
City officials hailed the robust budget, even in the face of an economic downturn, as proof of Glendale’s “very aggressive commitment” to infrastructure and services.
“It shows the capacity the city has,” City Manager Jim Starbird said.
It also proved flexible, after the council directed city officials to speed up a $500,000 allocation for the preliminary site development of “Parksite A” — a swath of land off Fern Lane near the Glendale Sports Complex — after American Youth Soccer Organization officials pressed for quicker action in addressing a severe soccer field shortage.
The money was recommended for the 2011, but in passing the budget, the City Council moved that up to this year and 2009 so that parks officials can begin what is expected to be a lengthy site review and concept process — nevermind what is sure to be an intensive community input period.
Once those actions are completed, the city would be ready to move on-site development by 2012, when $5 million is scheduled to become available.
“We need to make that first step,” said Ross Paulson, assistant regional commissioner for AYSO Region 88, which includes Glendale.
The volunteer-run organization is grappling with a 10% annual growth rate that last year forced about 350 children onto a waiting list, AYSO officials said.
Without any new fields dedicated to soccer, they argue, Region 88 will soon reach total capacity.
“I would say that we do have a tremendous need right now,” Paulson said.
To bolster his argument, soccer parents, coaches and volunteers sent about 60 e-mails to council members ahead of Tuesday — and they did not go unnoticed.
In supporting the shortened timeline for developing the Fern Lane site, Najarian also pointed to the council’s adoption of development impact fees last year which, in addition to the capital improvement funds, will help pay for more open space that could be converted to soccer fields.
The proposal at the time received strong support from AYSO and other sports organizations.
“Your voices were heard then, and they are certainly being heard now,” he said.
The council was enthusiastic about pursuing development of Parksite A off Fern Lane despite a forthcoming $3.5-million plan to develop a soccer field at the soon-to-be-reconfigured Columbus Elementary School, citing gloomy school district budget forecasts and a recent project funding snafu that added an additional $6 million to the overall cost of the campus project.
“Something else might come up,” Councilman Frank Quintero said. “[Parksite A] is all in our hands. It’s ready to go.”
Even with the new timetable, Quintero and others on the dais said they weren’t satisfied with the allocation, with Councilman Bob Yousefian pushing for more money from the general fund to ease the field shortage.
During the City Council’s regular meeting just an hour later, Quintero also called for a report on the possibility of forming a committee — which would include AYSO members — to explore options for increasing the city’s stock of soccer fields.
Later this month, the City Council will begin preliminary deliberations for the 2008-09 fiscal year budget, which begins in July.
JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.