Project on schedule despite discovery of drainage channel
By Mary M. Long
A sense of accomplishment filled the air Tuesday at City Hall as reports were submitted on the city’s two biggest projects, the Skate Park and the rebuilding of Libbey Bowl.Updates on the construction of Ojai’s Skate Park came in from Skate Ojai representative Bob Daddi, who thanked interim city manager John Baker for taking on management of the project. The major features of the park have been poured and it remains only for the concrete to cure at least 30 days before the park has a skateable surface. According to Daddi, the bowl coping is being finished and, “everything is going down the way it’s supposed to.”Daddi thanked the council, but at the same time reminded them that they had taken years working on the project. and that Skate Ojai intended to do more fund raising at the end of the project to pay for some enhancements for the park. Daddi also thanked the supporters of Skate Ojai for seeing the “daunting task” to completion. The last apparent hurdle for the skate park is the installation of the rest rooms, which they are trying to get on public sewer.Skate Ojai found an ally at the meeting in Neva Williams, who said she thought that a sewer hookup was a terrific idea and that she had taken the opportunity to attend the last Sanitation District board of directors meeting. Williams said she asked them directly to waive the fees as a good will gesture to the youth of Ojai. She added she hoped that others would keep the momentum going on her appeal and that she hoped Baker would reinforce her suggestion. “I think they will take it under consideration,” Williams said.While she had the floor, Williams formally thanked the council for “relieving Mr. Kersnar of his duties as city manager.” Public Works director Mike Culver reported that the Libbey Bowl construction project was well under way, but that they had hit a snag when they discovered a small drainage channel behind the building, which had been missed in their preconstruction biological study. This was found to be under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fish and Game, which requires the involvement of the Army Corps of Engineers and the Regional Water Board. With a change of biologists, Culver said they were able to expedite the permit process and complete in three weeks what normally takes three months. The end result is that they lost about 21 days in the construction schedule, but he doesn’t believe that it will impact the completion date of the bowl. “We will be coming on time,” Culver promised.Culver provided photos taken of the demolition process, which had a bittersweet taste to many in the audience who cheered and groaned as he related the destruction process of the aging and fragile shell. Pointing out the cracker-box construction of the old dressing rooms, which were the first to go, he explained that, even in August, there was 6 inches of standing water found under the building. “That explains why the floor was rotting out and why we kept having to replace it,” Culver said, adding that it was even more proof why the bowl needed to be replaced. The only real lament that was heard was from City Council candidate Dennis Leary who said he “had a completely different emotional reaction to the photos and was shocked to hear people cheering since he felt like he had been to a funeral.” Culver said for those who had missed the activities, the video of the Libbey Bowl demolition could be found on Youtube. Wrapping up the summary of Libbey Bowl construction, Culver brought to the council the monthly accounting of the funding to date.Total budget, including the alternatives, which were approved by the council, stands at $3,908,600. Funding is coming from the $820,000 allocated from the city, with the remaining $3,202,558 coming from the community fund-raising efforts. The actually total amount of cash in pledges that have been identified by the fundraisers to date is $3,202,558, although $100,000 of that will go to cover the cost of the fund-raising campaign. That leaves actual funding of $3,102.558, which exceeds what is needed to complete the project as it currently stands by $13,958.00. As to actual cash in hand, the figure in the bank as of July 31 was $1,240,000. Combining that with the city’s $820,000 the total available funds for the project in fully secured funding is $2,060,000. At this point the total of expenditures is sitting at $570,724, so according to Culver, “We’re not even close to dipping into the reserves. Assuming all those pledges come in there will be plenty of money to finish the project,” Culver said. Several attempts were made after the meeting to secure the name of the new soil engineer for the project. According to Baker, they have to do some excavation and bring in rock to provide a more stable base for the bowl. “As it’s been explained to me,” he said, “the problem is in the quality of the sub-earth, and its ability to hold the bowl that is going to be constructed there.” The soil engineering service that has been brought in was identified as Earth Systems Consulting, which is the same company that is handling the soil engineering for the Skate Park. The additional work on the foundation is still remaining within the bowl budget, according to Baker. With school starting up, the issue of safety was a point of topic on several fronts. With OUSD funding cuts unfortunately limiting the school resource officer to part time, it has at least allowed funds from the Cops Grant Funds to bring back the bicycle patrol for downtown Ojai. Police Chief Chris Dunn said that people seemed to respond well to the “more approachable” officer and that the soft uniform of shorts and a polo shirt seemed to created a better rapport with the public. He said that several citations had been given over the weekend, and the patrol should have a positive effect on city security. Safety for schoolchildren is also a concern of the Complete Streets Subcommittee, which has just completed the application of sharrows striping on Grand Avenue. Along with the beefed-up back-to-school traffic control by the Police Department, the Complete Streets Subcommittee is promising to explore the possibilities of making bike travel safer though the Arbolada. According to Complete Streets representative Suza Francina, Matilija has been steering the after-school bike traffic of its students down the narrow pedestrian path on Ojai Avenue since they have decided that it’s too dangerous for the students to pedal home through the Arbolada. Daddi has promised that he will walk the route with Francina to help find a solution to the shrinking of the Arbolada streets, which have become narrowed through the encroachment of landscaping and inattention to preserving the original easements for foot and equestrian traffic.
Other topics that were discussed during the evening were the possibility of reviewing the Chain Store Ordinance. This was strongly opposed by city attorney Monte Widders and Carol Smith, who felt confident that the ordinance was doing its job and had been well thought out before it was implemented. Paul Blatz’s concept of a blighted building ordinance also came up for discussion, with positive reception and will be a subject of further study. At the close of the meeting Mayor Steve Olsen took a moment to remember the three tragedies that had occurred since their last meeting and asked that the gathering close in memory of Cody Doolittle, Jerry Myers, and Michael Ferrante.