Space center sets new opening date

DOWNEY - With the City Council's approval Tuesday of a budget of $1.74 million, the eagerly anticipated opening of the Columbia Memorial Space Center is set for August 1. Breaking ground on April 12, 2007, the city dedicated the space center on Nov. 15, 2008, in honor of the 7-member crew of the space shuttle Columbia who lost their lives Feb. 1, 2003 during re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. The two-story Columbia Memorial Space Center will feature exhibits, labs and simulators, including an impressive-looking photo mosaic mural and robotics, meant not only to capture the five-decade history of the site but also inspire future generations of kids to pursue careers in science and technology-based industries. The "one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art" facility, on whose construction the city has invested $10 million, is nearing completion. The approved budget of $1,741,062 is broken down into $822,212 for operational expenses, $740,000 capital outlay for equipment and building improvements, and $178,850 for building maintenance. Initial staffing provides for four full-time positions, including an executive director (to manage the space center), a special program coordinator (with special attention to education programs), a Center supervisor, and an administrative assistant, and at least a couple of part-time positions. The original proposal to assign one-half of the salary of the assistant deputy city manager to the Center budget was revised downwards to one-fourth. 2009-10 funding sources for the Center include: $766,062 from the General Fund, $700,000 NASA grant, $200,000 miscellaneous grants, and a projected $75,000 from admissions, memberships and fees. With sufficient staffing and a viable operating budget in place, the aim, said executive director Jon Betthauser, is for the Center to be open to the general public at least five days a week. In other action, the Council: •Turned down an impassioned request, on a 3-2 vote, by William and Marlene Griffin to waive or defer the mandated installation of a fire sprinkler system and a so-called Cultec Recharger 330 (filtration) system on the couple's property at 7803 Puritan St., with the couple citing economic hardship after being victimized by unscrupulous contractors; the city attorney meanwhile cited the city's statutory obligation to safeguard it against potentially serious litigation were it to violate both letter and spirit of both federal and state Clean Air Act laws; in the end, after an extended and circuitous appeal-and-Council discussion, the Council directed staff to look at alternative ways with which to assist the couple; •Approved the first ever amendment to the Solid Waste Handling Agreement executed by the city with Calmet Services, Inc. on Jan. 1, 2006; the amendment, a result of a one-year period of analysis and negotiation by both staff and outside consultant, and which arose because of "unclear language in the contract," revolves around certain items including: a rate adjustment across the board of 7 percent, effective April 1, 2009; a new annual rate adjustment formula for future years to be implemented on April 1 of each year (rates will be adjusted accordingly up or down on April 1, 2013 if it's determined that Calmet is earning a profit of more or less than 10 percent); and bin service roll-out charges will apply to bins that have to be moved more than 10 feet or are located in bin enclosures; •Appropriated $5,000 from the SB 2766 AQMD fund (a special revenue fund-Fund #22), for the assessment from Gateway Cities Council of Government needed for a special study which will evaluate the requirements of SB 375. SB 375 (Transportation Planning) requires local governments to identify land uses and transportation strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; •Approved the plans and specifications for a citywide residential street pavement rehabilitation project submitted by Kabbara Engineering for the rehabilitation and resurfacing of 57 residential neighborhood streets at various locations, and granted authority to advertise for bids for Cash Contract No. S.S. 571); •Approved the agreement with KFM Engineering, Inc. for the preparation of plans, specifications and engineer's estimate, as well as bid documents, for Phase 3A of the Lakewood Blvd. Improvement Project (between 5th St/Cecilia St. And Florence Ave.), in an amount not to exceed $161,000; •Proclaimed March 28 as Arc Walk for Independence Day; •Presented a certificate of recognition to Ahmed Husain, senior civil engineer, "for his exemplary work" with the Public Works Department since 2000; •Presented a certificate of appointment to Dorothy Van Zuilen, Emergency Preparedness Committee; and •Presented the mayor's Diakonia (servant) award to Downey Unified School District board member Martha Sodetani, for her "multidimensional service" to Downey's citizens/residents; recipient said afterwards that she was "humbled and touched deeply" by the award, first given to philanthropist Dr. Mary Stauffer; The third and wrap-up segment of the City Council Priority Workshop, designed to integrate departmental goals and priorities with those of the City Council, is scheduled for March 31 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall chambers. The first two sessions were held on Feb.14 and March 21. The next regular public meeting of the Council will be at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14 at City Hall, 11111 Brookshire Ave.********** Published: March 27, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 49