Norwalk balks at senior center renovation costs

NORWALK - Citing the significant costs, the Norwalk City Council on Tuesday abandoned plans to renovate the city senior center, which would have received an upgraded billiards room and activity space.

While earlier assessments valued the project at roughly $38,000, architectural consultant Meyer and Associates estimated the two-room renovation could easily surpass $77,000.

"That's a lot of money to add one pool table," said Councilman Mike Mendez, making it clear that the renovation would have to be sidelined for the time being. "This isn't new to us, we've had growing pains for a long time. We'll have to put this on the list as one of the possibilities down the road."

Last year, the council directed staff to look into the feasibility of enhancing the senior center's billiards room by adding another pool table.

According to the staff report, the current billiards room is too small for an additional table, requiring the city to move the tables into the adjacent TV lounge room.

However, city officials say the new pool room would require new flooring to maintain level play, specialized lighting, chair rails, cabinet and counter modifications, wall repairs, and plumbing fixes. The former billiards room would have been converted into an activity room.

The price tag, including architectural services and construction expenses? A figure to rich for Vice Mayor Marcel Rodarte.

"I was on the fence about this...I was hoping the numbers were going to go the other way," he said. "But the number is not feasible."

Despite the council's decision, staff said they will work with pool room patrons to improve efficiencies through facility use guidelines if possible.

*Council members also voted on Tuesday night to initiate a general plan amendment and zone change at a triangular parcel on Firestone Boulevard, in the hope of eventually merging the vacant lot with the adjacent Bhakta Cultural Center.

Due to its limited size and irregular shape, the city council in 2007, changed the site's land use designation from general commercial to low density residential in order to prevent substandard commercial uses.

Recently purchased by Shree Remkabir Bhakta Samaj of Southern California, city staff now believe that a lot merger will prevent issues resulting from multiple land use designations in the future.

Representatives from the Bhakta Cultural Center, however, insist that the organization is still unsure how it will develop the 5,200-sq.-ft. property, located at 12323 Firestone Blvd. They say mandating a lot merger would cost them upward of $1300 -- an amount they cannot afford.

Nonetheless, Director of Community Development Kurt Anderson says the two lots should be merged.

"Our concern is if the zoning is not changed, it can be turned back into a single parcel that could be sold for commercial purposes," Anderson said.

The council voted 4-0, with Mayor Luigi Vernola absent, to process a new general plan amendment and zone change at the site only when the property owners initiate applications for a lot merger and precise development plan.

*The city will move forward with plans for two, new air-conditioning units at the Norwalk Arts and Sports Complex after the city council approved authorization to advertise for replacements.

According to the staff report, the original air-conditioning units, installed in the 1980s, have reached the end of their service life. Nearly $60,000 is currently budgeted for the new equipment, which will meet current standards of efficiency and air quality.

The work is scheduled to begin in May and will take close to 30 days to complete.

*Remediation activities at the Norwalk Tank Farm will continue this year as the Norwalk City Council on Tuesday granted a non-consumptive water use permit to the agencies handling the groundwater cleanup.

The Water Replenishment District of Southern California requires both Kinder Morgan Energy Partners' pipeline contractor SFPP, L.P. and the Defense Logistics Agenecy, operator for the U.S. Department of Defense, to obtain a water use agreement with a local water agency.

While the city is not a part of the remediation activities, the agreement allows the agencies to continue extracting groundwater through February 2019 or upon completion of the groundwater remediation activities.

********** Published: Feb. 6, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 43