Features

City Manager Will Hold Public Meetings to Answer Citizens’ Budget Questions

By JOHN GELUARDI
Friday May 16, 2003

The City Manager presented his proposed biennial budget to the City Council on Tuesday complete with plans to deal with an expected $4.7 million deficit next year and a possible $7.6 million next year. 

In addition, the proposed plan has contingency plans in case the state assembly approves a budget sometime next fall that further shrinks expected state funding. 

The council will hold two public hearings on the proposed budget and, in an unusual step, the city manager is holding several community meetings to answer questions about his budget proposal because of the expected cuts. The council is scheduled to adopt the budget, perhaps with some alterations, on June 24 

For the coming year, the city manager’s proposes to balance the $4.7 million deficit by the elimination of 23 city staff positions, 16 of which are already vacant, and raising parking fines from $23 to $30.  

If the state approves a more draconian budget, the city manager’s contingency plan still calls for the increased parking fines and the elimination of 29 city jobs. 

In addition the city will reduce spending by continuing a selective hiring freeze, reducing travel and restricting cell phones and pagers.  

The budget proposal also calls for the reorganization of certain city departments and functions. One measure will be having non-sworn police department employees carry out duties that are currently the responsibility of sworn officers. Other departments that could be effected are Health and Human Services, the Office of Information Technology and the Office of Economic Development.  

Public hearings on the budget will be held in the City Council Chambers on May 20 and June 17. For information about the city manager sponsored community meetings call (510) 981-7041. 

 

Community Grants Approved 

At the meeting, the council also approved $4.4 million in Community Development Block Grants, which will fund numerous nonprofits organizations that serve the most vulnerable people in the community including the homeless, at risk teenagers and substance abusers.  

The adopted grant allotments held some good news for several nonprofits. A Better Way received an extra $15,000 for an office expansion, the West Campus Pool received extra money to stabilize it’s roof and the Berkeley Food and Housing Project received an additional $24,000.  

 

De-chroming the skate park 

The council unanimously approved $57,000 to get the Skate Park up and rolling again. The money will go to a geotechnical consultant who will devise a permanent solution to the persistent, and expensive problem of contaminated water bubbling up into the park’s concrete skate bowls.  

During construction of the park in 2000. Contractors who were excavating the nine-foot-deep skate bowls struck groundwater that was laden with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, or chrome 6. Construction was halted while the city spent thousands of dollars to clean up the site and devise a new design that would prevent the contaminated groundwater from seeping into the bowls.  

However, last December, just four months after the park opened to rave reviews from skaters and skater magazines, chrome 6 was discovered in small pools of water that had formed at the bottom of two of the park’s skate bowls.  

The park was immediately closed to the public — although many skate boarders continue to use the park.  

A report from the Department of Parks and Waterfront does not include an estimate for when the park might possibly be reopened, but so far the second discovery of chrome 6 has cost another $102,000, which brings the total expenditure on the skate park to $850,000. Originally, construction of the park was estimated at $380,000.