Claremont Insider: Public Works News

Monday, August 25, 2008

Public Works News

We received this bit of park and trolley news from one of our Insider spotters:

Friday, August 22, 2008 9:32 AM
Subject: Padua Sports Park Friday am
To: Claremont Buzz

Just practicing driving with my teen at 8:30 am on Padua and noticed a lot of contractors arriving and parking w/clipboards for what looked like a pre-construction mtg and "walkabout"... Wednesday on Monte Vista heading north we spotted an unmarked red trolley headed to the Public Works Yard.... Hmmmmmmm It must be nice to be rolling in $$$ like the City of Claremont... Full speed ahead!!!

Yes, you might recall that Claremont didn't have the $10-12 million it needed to build all of Padua Park (originally called Padua Ave. Sports Park), so they've broken it up into phases. Phase IA, which involves one unlit soccer field, some hardscape such as bathrooms, walkways, security and parking lot lights, and a small, 50-plus car parking lot (as opposed to the original 260 spots), has gone out for bid and is supposed to break ground in the fall. Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor wants the park to be a centerpiece for her reelection bid next March, so it's important that the city get started on it now.

The city has set aside something like $2.4 million to build Phase IB and is trying to secure a grant from the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) for something like $1.6 million. Another of our readers whose been in contact with the RMC informs us that the city is telling the state conservancy that Padua Park is going to be a passive interpretative park (hence the dropping of "Sports" from the title).

Of course, they're also said publicly, most recently in Saturday's Claremont Courier piece with a quote from recently retired Human Services Director Jeff Porter that they city is looking to complete Phase 1A in order to attract other grant money to build the rest of the park.

From what we're hearing from our readers regarding that RMC grant, it sounds like the Human Services Department might be looking to secure some state money under false pretenses in order to get started on Phase IB of the park, which includes the lit soccer field. They've done this sort of thing at least once before in another state grant application, claiming that Padua Park was needed because the city's Wilderness Park might have had to close for three years because of damage from the 2003 Padua Fire (it was actually closed for just a couple weeks).

Is there a crime of grant writing fraud? If there is, the city's skating pretty close to that line. We'll let you know if they cross it.