Norwalk lands $140K grant to renovate park

NORWALK - Thanks to a $140,000 grant from First 5 LA, the city of Norwalk will renovate Gerdes Park, at 14700 Gridley Road, with nearly $90,000 in brand-new playground equipment next year.

Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved an agreement with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, who contacted city officials earlier this year regarding the grant money, which must be used to renovate local playgrounds for kids ages 5 and under.

"The LACC also reached out to Downey and Pico [Rivera]. Normally, they do smaller pocket parks," said Dave Verhaaf, director of Norwalk's recreation and park services.

While the LACC originally planned to renovate both Gerdes and Norwalk parks, it became evident after a community input meeting that the scope of the project was much too large.

"A lot came up in the community meeting -- the people wanted a lot of things," Verhaaf said. "But the LACC realized that the best deal was to take the two projects and make them one so the funds could be used for one complete playground set."

City staff recommended Gerdes Park because of its popularity with youth programs and day camps.

The LACC will now put its entire $140,000 budget towards equipment, tax and shipping, surfacing and building materials for the new Gerdes Park playground, which is slated to include swings, slides, spinners, chining bars, and a teeter-totter.

Council members voiced their appreciation of the unexpected grant, directing staff to choose bright, multi-colored sets. Verhaaf says the park's current play station is over ten years old and will most likely be recycled.

*The city council also agreed on Tuesday to contribute $20,000 towards a regional jobs creation program, which provides small businesses with free one-on-one consulting.

Offered by the Los Angeles Regional Small Business Development Center in conjunction with the Gateway Cities Council of Governments, the program will provide 120 businesses in Compton, Downey, South Gate, and Norwalk with comprehensive training to assess their financial condition and create a plan for substantial growth.

The Small Business Development Center, located on the campus of Long Beach City College, is part of an accredited system that is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

City officials are hopeful the program, which starts next month, will help strengthen local small businesses that have struggled since the economic recession.

"The goal is to work with the Chamber [of Commerce] to get the word to businesses in and out of the Chamber -- we want to reach out to every business," said Bing Hyun, the city's economic development manager. "This is just for existing businesses in the city. The contract says 30 businesses from Norwalk, but hopefully we can serve more."

Hyun said city staff will provide the council with regular updates on the progress of the program as businesses begin their one-on-one counseling and training.

The total cost of the program is $115,160. Each of the four participating cities are contributing $20,000 and the remaining $35,160 is being matched by the Small Business Development Center.

"This is for small business development, not for commercial businesses," said City Manager Mike Egan. "If people know any businesses interested, let us know. We want to get the word out."

*Council members also approved additional environmental assessments and the installation of a new biosparging well at Holifield Park, located at 12500 Excelsior Drive.

According to administrative services manager Adriana Figueroa, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board has requested the studies and asked that a non-functioning air sparging well be decommissioned.

The biosparging wells, which inject oxygen into the groundwater for easier removal of contaminants, are a part of the city's remediation efforts at Holifield Park, which has tested positive for hazardous materials in the groundwater and soil.

********** Published: Dec. 5, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 34