Glendale could see $57 million-worth of improvement projects in the pipeline

Glendale officials have proposed budgeting $57 million next fiscal year for capital improvement projects, including park, street and utility improvements, adding to what City Manager Scott Ochoa this week said was "a lot of good stuff" coming in the next year.

The council is scheduled to consider the capital improvement budget when they take a final vote in June on the overall budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1. So far, the council has had three budget study sessions, but there are more to come.

Included in the list of projects are sewer and wastewater infrastructure improvements, Beeline bus maintenance, continuing work on the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk — a recreational zone along the Los Angeles River — and construction of bicycle facilities throughout the city.

Nearly $100-million-worth of projects are already underway, but are planned to continue through next year. Ongoing projects include upgrades at Carr and Maple parks, batting cages at the Sports Complex and railroad crossing improvements at Grandview and Sonora avenues.

"There's a lot of good stuff being delivered in the coming 12 to 18 months," Ochoa said at a meeting this week at City Hall.

Glendale Water & Power also has a slew of projects on deck, many of which are related to maintenance of the utility's infrastructure.

"It's in good shape right now. We want to make sure it stays that way," said Glendale Water & Power General Manager Steve Zurn.

The City Council approved $35 million in bonds for the water utility in November and $24 million in electric revenue bonds in January for capital improvements. But for future electrical work, officials said the electric utility needs another $50 million to $60 million bond issuance.

The plan is to use bonds for the next four or five years to do capital improvements and then transition into paying for the work with cash on hand, officials said.

The budget report proposes spending $94 million on electric-side work and $39 million on water-side improvements through fiscal year 2017-18.

Amid continued financial struggles at Glendale Water & Power, the City Council is scheduled to vote on a multi-year electricity rate hike later this summer. Rate increase details have yet to be released, but Zurn said earlier this week that it could be more than 14.7% over five years.

The electric-side of the utility has $67.5 million in cash on hand, far below the $124-million minimum cash balance called for under city policy. Ochoa said his goal is to get the electric side's cash balance to at least $125 million by 2018.

"We need to look at moving this up north," said Finance Director Bob Elliot.

Although the water side has $13.9 million in cash on hand, most of is due to bond proceeds and there is still a $16.4-million cash reserve deficit.

The City Council raised water rates last year in an attempt to bring the water utility back into the black by 2017.


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