Waters meets with city officials on coming stimulus cash infusio

Waters meets with city officials  on coming stimulus cash infusion

Rep. Maxine Waters met with officials of area cities last week to discuss shovel-ready projects that could take advantage of federal economic stimulus funds. (Photo by Gary McCarthy)

By LEILONI DE GRUY, Staff Writer

Story Published: Feb 25, 2009 at 8:54 PM PST

Story Updated: Feb 25, 2009 at 8:54 PM PST

Just two days after President Barack Obama signed off on a $787 billion economic stimulus bill known officially as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, gathered mayors and city officials from Gardena, Hawthorne, Inglewood and Lawndale to discuss shovel-ready projects.

And with crumbling streets, missing and eroding pipelines, highways in need of repair and lack of space and recreation, the cities are eager to resolve them. But strict guidelines and bureaucratic intervention may keep many of the projects from even getting off the ground.

Shovel-ready projects "meet the normal eligibility requirements under the existing federal highway, transit or other grant programs; have completed all necessary design work and right of way acquisition; have completed all environmental reviews or on the state transportation improvement plan that are ready to begin within 90 days," Waters said. "That's a lot to ask."

She added: "I'm trying to think of ways to get around some of these requirements that are so bureaucratic that it slows down the possibility of getting anything done."

Hawthorne Mayor Larry Guidi agreed. According to him, his city has several shovel-ready projects to go but "by the time [the money is] funneled through every agency and comes to our cities we're dead. We're not going to be able to do half of our projects because it has to go through," so many third parties.

"Caltrans is already backlogged, Department of State Architects - to build schools - they're already backlogged. [It will take] six to seven months to get plans through. They need more people, they need bodies. Our city needs more bodies," he said. "I predict this money will be gone - as the banks did to us - within seven to eight months. There will be no money left. By the time bureaucracy takes their chunk out of this, as we are seeing with the state budget now."

Due to a vast backlog of state projects, Waters said much of the more than $4 billion that California will get from the stimulus bill to address infrastructure will go to repair and maintenance instead of new construction.

A major issue, said Hawthorne's Director of Public Works Arnold Shadbehr, are aging and eroding sewer pipelines.

"Our sewer system is 80 years old. [This] replaces almost one mile of underground sewer pipeline. We have almost a half a mile of aging and eroding pipeline. ... Under our city we have pipelines missing that have been dissolved by acid."

This project he said should be shovel-ready in one month. The design was started three months ago. Prior to the stimulus bill's passage, the project would have been mostly funded by the city's general fund and though they plan to continue to use some of those funds toward the project, Shadbehr said it is not enough, which is why his department has submitted the project, as well as others, to Waters in hopes of it meeting the shovel-ready requirements so that funds can be distributed to resolve the issues.

Lawndale, according to City Manager Keith Breskin, has "narrow streets, worn out streets, an old infrastructure." In addition, the city has been filled out so much that parking has become a problem. Because Lawndale shares all of its parking, except for a half acre, with the school district, city workers as well as some residents do not have access to parking all the time. Another issue is recreation.

"Lawndale has the least amount of recreation space per capita than any city in the South Bay," Breskin said. "We are proposing to build a new [25,000-square-foot] community center," across from City Hall. The project is expected to cost approximately $9 million and will include, but is not limited to, two level parking, a senior program and computer labs that can also be used for arts and crafts.

On March 16, Breskin will ask the city council both to approve the design and a financing plan. Thus far, Los Angeles County has given nearly half-a-million dollars toward the project.

Inglewood will be focusing on its roads - including Manchester, Crenshaw, La Cienega, La Tijera and West boulevards; La Brea, Florence and Fir avenues; and 64th Street - in addition to a senior citizen project and the revitalization and redesign of the city's civic center.

The road repairs are estimated to cost approximately $25 million. The senior citizen project is estimated to cost $6 million and the revitalization of the civic center is estimated to cost $14 million.

But because of the "shovel-ready" guidelines and the length of time it takes to prepare documentation, send it to the necessary agency, have them review it and get permission and funds to begin projects, Inglewood's City Administrator Timothy Wanamaker said, many of the new construction that Inglewood had planned will have to fall to the wayside. Instead, they will have to focus on projects that are already in the works or are simple to fix - such as some of those listed above.

"The Manchester [Blvd.] project is really a grind and overlay project. ... You grind down the asphalt then you lay over new asphalt," said Wanamaker. "So, it's not a lot of design work. Although you have the same environmental departments, the forms are shorter and it doesn't have a significant environmental impact."

He added: "Most of us are banking on that we have started it with other resources and now we can finance those resources with the stimulus money to get it done."

In total, Inglewood, according to Wanamaker, has $52.6 million worth of shovel-ready projects.

Gardena will also be focusing on its streets. The exact streets in need of repair or maintenance were not discussed, however, they are estimated to cost $4.6 million. But City Manager Mitch Lansdell is not hopeful.

"Your office helped us get earmarks to put filters and grates on all of our storm drains. It was a good amount of money," Lansdell told Waters. However, the "EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] took 45 percent off the top ... because that [was their] administrative charge."


Posted by erniemixon on 02/27/2009
Sponsored Links
Advertise Here!

Promote Your Business or Product for $10/mo


For just $10/mo you can promote your business or product directly to nearby residents. Buy 12 months and save 50%!


Zip Code Profiler

90037 Zip Code Details

Neighborhoods, Home Values, Schools, City & State Data, Sex Offender Lists, more.