Council marks grant funds for senior center, ADA work

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

After much deliberation, Ridgecrest City Council revised its plan for Community Development Block Grants to spend $150,000 on installing ADA-compliant ramps in the city and $147,000 in improvements to the Senior Citizens Center.

City Manager Dennis Speer had originally recommended that the council approve some $300,000 in ADA compliance when he presented the item in December. Councilmember Lori Acton said she wanted to see the money benefit the Boys & Girls Club, and from there the council developed a list that included that project along with senior-center improvements and street art.

But when the staff recommendation came back around — this time asking for approval of some $197,000 for the senior center and $120,000 for the BGC — members of the public, and some members of the council, pushed back on whether that formula best represented the needs of the community.

Before the council began discussing the issue, resident Tom Wiknich asked if Acton was a boardmember of the BGC. She replied that she was. He said in that case, she should ethically recuse herself from the discussion.

She did not recuse herself, but she did vote in favor of the compromise which saw BGC funding disappear.

Among the concerns that arose during council and public discussion was the liability of the city if it did not take action to comply with ADA standards.

Speer said that the city had some leeway, since the mandate was unfunded. “There are funds,” noted resident Phil Salvatore. “You are just choosing not to use the funds for it.”

Several members used the public microphone to express that expansion of the BGC was “nice to have” rather than a necessity, particularly when other more critical needs were not being addressed. One member suggested that the club headquarters be moved to the City Hall complex, which had room to spare, since that move would also give members great access to recreational facilities.

Mayor Dan Clark and others, however, stood firm on the needs of the seniors.

Mayor Pro Tem Jason Patin said that the city was not just taking care of the needs of the seniors and youth, but spending money to improve its own infrastructure.

The eventual compromise was proposed by Councilman James Sanders. Vice Mayor Chip Holloway noted the compromise could be achieved by deferring improvements to kitchen cabinets and counters, as well as new paint outside, to next year.

Story First Published: 2013-02-13