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Challenge Center, ElderHelp Among Groups Losing Funding in Council Vote

Five previously funded public service agencies were left with nothing from the city for fiscal 2012.

La Mesa said sorry Tuesday night to the Alzheimer's Association, the Challenge Center, the East County YMCA Day Camp, ElderHelp and San Diego Youth Services. They'll get no city allocation from federal sources in fiscal 2012 as they have in previous years.

Constrained by an allocation that was 15 percent less than last year, the La Mesa City Council voted to fund only five public service agencies with some of its federal community development block grant (CDBG) monies.

The council decided on an option to fund only half of the 10 groups, all which had hoped to receive CDBG money from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development.

The groups, which will be receiving $4,000 each, are the , the Center for Social Advocacy's shared housing program, the Interfaith Shelter Network,  and Senior Community Services.

The council heard public comments from many representatives of these groups, and had to choose among three staff-suggested options. The option they chose is an adapted version of the original proposal, which would have given $5,000 to four groups, instead of $4,000 to five.

"We recognize that certain things can't go forward without capital improvements," Councilman Ernie Ewin told the council and attendees. "It was so much more fun when we had $800,000 (to work with)."

In addition to the $20,000 distributed, the city's fair housing program (another aspect of the Center for Social Advocacy) will receive $27,000, and $63,000 goes toward program administration. The rest of the grant money will go toward capital improvements for the city of La Mesa, including a new parking lot and fitness center at the senior center, and improvements to

The vote was 3-1, with Councilman Dave Allan voting no. Councilman Mark Arapostathis was not present for the meeting. Allan voted no because he said that he wanted to distribute the funds to each group, noting that he did not want any groups to think that their cause was not important. 

In other agenda items, the council voted 4-0 to approve traffic calming measures on Harbinson Avenue, including two traffic circles, six medians and a "pork chop island." The petition was first submitted in 2001, according to Kathy Feilen, traffic engineer with the city.

The most contentious issue of the night was the proposal to install two timed turn restriction signs at the intersection of Sacramento Drive and High Street. Sacramento Drive has become a cut-through for both students and parents coming from Lemon Grove en route to Helix Charter High School, and residents have complained of high speeds, exorbitant traffic and litter, among other concerns.

A motion not to install the signs but further evaluate more comprehensive speed abatement measures came to a 2-2 vote, with Allan and Ewin voting no. Allan said that he thought the approval to install the signs was warranted, as concerned residents in the neighborhood had gone through the process and deserved to have something done.

A motion to install the signs immediately also was met with a 2-2 vote, with Mayor Art Madrid and Councilwoman Ruth Sterling dissenting.

Madrid said he was was concerned about "playing favorites" and setting a precedent for other neighborhood issues to be passed without further evaluation. As it is now, the project on Sacramento Drive was No. 16 on the "priority list" for the city Traffic Commission.

It was ultimately decided that the council would readdress the issue at the next meeting, April 10, but that the Traffic Commission should expedite a more substantial proposal at calming the traffic and speed on the residential road.

"It's very irresponsible of you to not at least consider putting these signs up," said Frank Baggett, who lives on Sacramento Drive, before the vote. "How did people get to Helix High School before Sacramento existed? I ask you. How did they? Are we going to have to wait 10 more years like the people on Harbinson Avenue did?"

In other items, Madrid and the council honored the outgoing Miss La Mesa Katie Martin and Miss Teen La Mesa Monica Popp. He also : Lindsey Palser, who is Miss La Mesa 2012, and Jaclyn Combs, who won Miss La Mesa Teen 2012.

Ken Stone March 28, 2012 at 09:32 PM
How sad that the feds forced La Mesa to cut funding to the Challenge Center especially. That La Mesa institution — on the site of a former Chargers training camp— is led by much-honored President Bill Bodry: http://patch.com/A-jRHw
Things I Learned March 28, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Mmmm....Pork Chop Island....
Scott H. Kidwell March 29, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Or maybe the local government has become too used to feeding at the federal trough.
Barbara March 29, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Maybe it's time for all of us in La Mesa to quit looking to the Feds to fund these kinds of things. If we value them, we should step up and contribute our own money. This may be a blessing in disguise.
Selina Forte March 29, 2012 at 03:08 PM
All are worthwhile organizations. It's too bad that the city couldn't distribute the available funds among all of them.

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