City Dips Into Reserves Again
$2.5 Million Shortfall, Fireworks Hazards Debated
By Lynne Bronstein
The hazards involved in examining the finances of Culver City were avoided on June 23 when the City Council, without much ado, approved the 2014-2015 budget. However, the Council took some time to discuss the potential hazards posed by the planned Fourth of July fireworks display at West Los Angeles College.
The fireworks issue was raised during public comment by a speaker who was concerned that the fireworks were set to be detonated close to gas and electric power lines as well as uncleared brush around the college campus. In addition, the campus is not far from the Culver Crest community and the Culver City portion of the Inglewood Oil Field.
Dave White, Interim Fire Chief, replied to the concerns raised. He said he had spoken to the company that is staging the fireworks show and they assured him that they had reviewed the site and found it safe.
"They have a reputation for safety," he added.
White also said he had spoken with the Los Angeles County Fire Chief as the surrounding areas of potential hazard fall within Los Angeles County's jurisdiction and said "They're comfortable with the plan."
The County Fire Department promises a "quick response" to any problems. Culver City Fire Department officials will be "on the lookout" throughout the show.
Interim Chief White also explained the meaning of the "drop zone" in fireworks. In pyrotechnics, a drop zone is the area where spent fireworks fall. The drop zone is based on the size of the shells detonated.
In the case of the West L.A. College fireworks display, there will be a 280 foot drop zone.
"Fireworks are basically mortar [shells]," said White. "The debris zone has lots of leeway before it hits the brush."
White noted that there had never been a problem when the fireworks were held at Culver City High School's athletic field. The fireworks were moved to the West L.A. College field this year due to construction at the high school site.
Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells suggested that the speaker talk with city staff after the meeting if she still wanted to check safety precautions. She noted that the petition had over a hundred signatures and obviously a lot of people wanted to be reassured of safety regarding the fireworks.
Council member Andrew Weissman asked city staff if notices were going out to warn residents about illegal fireworks and was assured that a notice is being sent out.
When it came time to look at the budget, there was barely a spark compared to the explosive cutbacks of recent years.
CEO of Finance Jeff Muir did not even give an extensive staff report, as he had done most of his reporting at the previous meeting.
The proposed budget provides $181,034,780 of appropriations authority in all funds (including Internal Service Funds). It anticipates
$178,470,852 in revenue, with the balance to be made up from reserves. General Fund operational costs are anticipated to be fully covered by operating revenues, with some use of reserves for one-time costs and Capital Improvement Projects. "Budgeting," said Mayor Sahli-Wells, "is not the most accessible part of city government. But it is a statement of our values. It shows what our priorities are as a community. I want to say how happy I am with this budget. It reflects a lot of what we've been hearing about from the public."
Council member Jim Clarke also gave a "shout-out" to the members of the citizens' advisory finance committee for their help with the budget.
With no further discussion, the Council approved the budget for 2014-2015.
The Council also approved a resolution to adopt a Specific Plan for the Culver City portion of the Inglewood Oil Field and approval of an amendment for the existing professional services agreement with Aspen Environmental Group for preparation required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for as additional non-to-exceed amount of $350,000.
A Specific Plan is a tool that can be used to implement the City's General Plan for a defined geographical area.