Fair game: employee salaries

The Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District is going to consider yanking Bill Robinson on Tuesday from his appointed post on the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California after he questioned whether the labor unions are immune from budget cuts.

In the meantime, Irwindale City Manager Robert Griego said that he will meet with the police officers union and managers union on Wednesday to inform them of possible ways to control cost measures such as controlling overtime, modifcation to different benefit programs, and modifying things like tuition reimbursement to reduce operating costs.

Need medical coverage? Just move to Irwindale

Jennifer McLain reports today that the “Jardin de Roca” or “Garden of Rocks” city has been offering subsidized medical and vision coverage to residents for 30 years. The price tag: $1.

The plan cost the city $1.1 million last year.

In many cases, the coverage is better than what some residents get from employers, said City Manager Robert Griego.

Residents in the 2008-09 fiscal year paid $3 for a 34-day supply of generic medication. The $3 refills were unlimited.

Glasses frames less than $55 were free. So were lenses. And for a $25 deductible, a resident could get contact lenses.

“Our program should be the last resort,” Griego said. “Unfortunately, residents are turning to this program first.”

The city is looking to trim the program back a bit, but the coverage will still be there. Nice perk for simply being a resident.

Our cops love IN-N-OUT Burger ***********

*****I find it very interesting the comments made on this post. So I will just say this: When we decided to put this up, in no way was it to make any other statement then, ‘Hey, that’s funny – on our way to lunch, we saw two different police agencies in the drive-thru across the street in a matter of days. Wow, I guess they love In-N-Out as much as we do.’ Nothing more. And yes, this is located in borderline Baldwin Park, West Covina and even close to Irwindale. The end.

Our office is located right across the street from a very popular In-N-Out Burger in West Covina.

So popular, we spotted two different police agencies grabbing lunch in the drive-thru in the last five days: Irwindale and Baldwin Park police. Hey, we love In-N-Out too….

***Just to make it clear, this is the address for the In-N-Out straight from the Web site:

15610 San Bernardino Rd.

West Covina, California 91790


No more police escorts

The bad economy affects each of us in different ways. For me, I save money by going for the cheaper brand of pasta sauce and no longer buying bottled water. For the city of Irwindale, the bad economy means no more police escorts during funerals, according to its agenda.

Apparently, as a way to help make up for some of the $2.7 million deficit, Irwindale residents are going to be asked to make do without some things. Aside from the funeral escorts, which are provided for private, non-official use at a cost of anywhere between $600 to $1,000 an event, the city will also suspend the practice of waiving rental fees.

At its meeting on Wednesday, the Irwindale City Council will be asked to adopt the ammended budget, form an ad-hoc budget advisory committee to oversee the 2009-10 fiscal year.

On the closed session agenda is the city manager.

More time to complain

Hey, Baldwin Park residents: Good news. The city of Irwindale extended the length of time for you to get your comments in there about your concerns of the proposed Materials Recycling Facility at Live Oak and Arrow Highway.

This is the facility, remember, that Baldwin Park residents are against because they believe it will bring with it lots of traffic, odor and noise. It is being proposed by Athens Services in the city of Irwindale.

You have until Feb. 13 to get your comments in, according to the city’s Web site.

To fax your comments, dial (626)962-2018.
To call planner Paula Kelly, call (626)430-2209.
To email your concerns, use paulakelly@ci.irwindale.ca.us

Trash talk isn’t going away


The city of Baldwin Park is rallying behind efforts to stop a trash-sorting facility from being built on the border of Irwindale and Baldwin Park.

The City Council unanimously adopted a resolution Wednesday night opposing the project, created an ad hoc committee to track the project’s progress, and directed staff to look at the city’s options against the project.

Athens Services wants to build a material recovery facility on a 17-acre site across from the Santa Fe Dam at Live Oak Avenue and Arrow Highway in Irwindale.

“We don’t need what potentially could be known as a cesspool right next to the residents of Baldwin Park,” Mayor Manuel Lozano said at yesterday’s meeting. “Yes, obviously they have indicated they have this filtration system that’s state of the art —- my foot … that air has to be let out somewhere.”

Councilwoman Marlen Garcia told me today she hopes Irwindale will see the potential risks to Baldwin Park residents and reconsider the location of the facility. She said Irwindale has had this site in mind for five years, but Baldwin Park just found out about it.

“It’s disheartening to see this, they are our neighbors,” she said.

Athens and Irwindale officials contest the potential risks, and say if any impacts are found, they will be addressed in an environmental impact report. But, they argue, the new state-of-the-art facilities used to sort trash from recyclables are safe — even for the employees working on the inside.

More on the issue in tomorrow’s paper.

More public input expected

Just got this from City Manager Robert Griego about the proposed materials sorting facility in Irwindale.



This letter is in response to the article published on January 14, 2009, titled “Residents Trash Talk Athens Proposal”. Athens Services is proposing a Materials Recovery Facility and Transfer Station (MRF) on a 17-acre site at the intersection of Live Oak Avenue and Arrow Highway in the City of Irwindale. The facility will receive residential and commercial waste, green waste and construction waste from the San Gabriel Valley region, up to a capacity of 6,000 tons a day. All waste will be sorted and then distributed to recyclers, landfills, and compost facilities. All loading, unloading, and sorting activities will take place in completely enclosed buildings incorporating state-of-the-art technology. For example, air from the building will be vented through the roof after it passes through odor-neutralizing scrubbers. As with any other MRF operations, the disposal of hazardous materials is illegal and prohibited.

This proposal will only be considered after a thorough Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been prepared. The EIR provides information about potential impacts to traffic; aesthetics; air quality/odors; greenhouse gases; water quality; land use as well as other related matters. The EIR should be ready for public review and comment by June. The City will continue to be open and work with neighboring cities about the process of this proposed project. At least one more public workshop on the project will be held before the EIR is released for public review and comment.

The Puente Hills Landfill is scheduled to close in 2013 and solutions need to be found for future solid waste disposal. The proposed MRF will meet this critical need for trash disposal for the San Gabriel Valley.

Please call the Irwindale Planning Department at (626) 430-2208 if you have any questions, comments or concerns about this important regional project.

Robert Griego
City Manager
City of Irwindale

This stinks, Baldwin Park residents say

Foul odors, traffic, noise, pollution, and declining property values are among just a handful of concerns Baldwin Park residents have about a proposed trash sorting facility to be located at the edge of the city of Irwindale at Live Oak and Arrow Highway.

On Monday, more than 200 residents crammed in to the Irwindale Council Chambers to hear Athen’s Services proposal for the 17 acre site. The materials recycling facility would receive a maximum of 6,000 tons of trash a day. Here is a mock up of the proposed facility.



The site would not be a place where trash was dumped — it would only be a place where trash is sorted from the recyclables. It would also bring in an estimated $2 million to $4 million annually to the Irwindale’s coffers.

Baldwin Park residents seemed especially irritated because even though it is Irwindale’s project, it wasn’t Irwindale that notified them about the meeting — it was Baldwin Park City Hall. Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano and Councilman Ricardo Pacheco were at the meeting. Lozano prepared a statement to read at the meeting expressing his disappointment in Irwindale.

Irwindale Mayor Larry Burrola was there, as was Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District President Al Contreras and a director from the Valley County Water District. Apparently, Valley County has been considering purchasing that property through the years.

More to come later on Tuesday.

Scams in the San Gabriel Valley

Irwindale is warning its residents and business owners that a scammer is out there claiming to be distributing a “2008 Best of Irwindale Award,” and that for $100 or more, they can get a plaque. According to Irwindale’s Web site:

To claim this “award” you just need to submit your credit card information to purchase the plaque which runs upwards of $100. On November 13th, the Chamber received this award too!

Of course, no award is ever distributed.

Irwindale is not the only city that is reporting scams. Weekly, we receive calls about everything from email scams to door-to-door “salesmen” that try to bilk residents of up to thousands of dollars.

Do you have any scammer stories to share?

Irwindale’s deficit grows

Irwindale’s deficit hit $2.6 million, up from its earlier projection of $1.6 million. While Irwindale has been grappling with the downturn in the economy, the hit to the budget came from an employee liability cost of $850,000.

Experts predict that pensions and other non-pension costs, such as healthcare, will have a significant impact on our local government’s budgets in the near future, especially as the baby boomer will begin retiring in droves.

Below is the advisory report sent by the city:


December 10, 2008
Robert Griego, City Manager

You are aware that the global economy has taken a downturn and the general opinion is that it will take some time to turn around.  Cities all over the United States are facing precarious fiscal conditions due to falling revenue and rising costs from inflation, energy, infrastructure needs, salaries, healthcare and pensions. With our state in economic crisis, the City of Irwindale also finds itself in a fiscal dilemma.  In these difficult times, I am asking that the City Council, residents and staff unite and work together as a team so that we can take the necessary steps now to protect the City’s future and avoid more drastic cuts.  It will take courage and some sacrifices to keep the City fiscally sound and I am asking that we work together towards a common goal—-the future wellbeing of the City, its residents and its businesses.

The City will be entering another difficult budget cycle for FY 2009-2010. As you may recall, for the current fiscal year, we began with a planned $1.6 million operating deficit that the City Council backfilled with general fund reserves and approved some minor cuts. Results from the GASB 45 Pension Fund Actuarial Valuation require the City to fund approximately an additional $850,000 annually in order to begin funding our retiree healthcare obligations. This figure was not included in our original planned deficit and brings our current year’s total operating budget deficit to $2.4 million.

For FY 2009-10, the City will again face a serious situation where its operating costs are more than revenues earned. We have already seen the State look to cities to help its financial crisis, and we should expect that to continue. The national forecast for the next several years is not good, so we also have to plan for a further drop in revenues next year and beyond.
If the City Council wants to sustain the City’s long term financial future, it needs to start with this next fiscal cycle. As the City Manager, I need to provide direction and guidance to the staff on how to prepare and plan for this year’s budget cycle.

Last year, I thought a 5% reduction in operating expenses would start the City on a path to adjust spending levels to match the revenue income; the City Council did not support that action. It would be very helpful and save a lot of staff time if I knew where the City Council stood on further reductions to operating costs in order balance expenditures to revenues.
In February, once we can project incoming revenue, I will be presenting another budget outlook report to the City Council. At that time, I will need to know if the City Council will support any further reductions in operating costs. My experience has taught me that gradual cuts over time are a better way to deal with deficits. The longer you wait the more difficult and drastic the cuts will need to be.

I will let you know then exactly what reserves you can use to fund operating cost deficits and project when they will be depleted. If the City’s revenue situation does not improve and the City does not reduce expenditures, the City will most likely deplete all available reserves within the next two to three years.

The “good news” is the City is moving forward with important revenue projects that will help in the future:

Cal-Mat site development projected to bring in $2.5 million for the first 10 years.

The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) expected to bring at least $2 million each year.

Shannon site potential Executive Hotel/Retail development possibly $200,000 to $300,000 per year of sales and a new transit occupancy tax.

These projects were initiated this past year. The revenue from these projects will not be available for two to three years; therefore these revenues should not be relied upon to get the City through the next few difficult years.

I am providing this budget advisory report so that the City Council, City staff, and residents can begin thinking about the City’s financial future. The City is not expected to attain another financial windfall like the mining tax, which is now built into the City’s operating budget due to the 100% increases made in the operating budget in the 2000 to 2005 fiscal years. The Federal government has said it expects the global financial crisis to last 10 years. The State of California expects to be in financial stress for the next 15 years. Therefore, the City can only expect more take-always from the State, such as tax increment, housing funds and other revenue adjustments. The City currently relies on $1million of tax increment each year to supplement its operating budget. When the Redevelopment Agency expires in 2017, the City will need to backfill from other sources to maintain service levels.

It is going to take some very smart and tough decisions from the City Council, City staff and residents to adjust to the financial dilemma we are facing in the next three years. But, to survive and sustain governmental operations in the future, some major thought needs to be made about the level of service the City is able to continue to provide. In order to adjust, the City will need to start to reduce expenditures this fiscal year, or face more drastic cuts in the future where some services will need to be reduced or eliminated.

In January, I will be recommending that the City Council allow the City Manager to establish a resident Budget Advisory Committee to work with the City Manager to develop recommendations to the City Council on how to reduce service levels and operating expenditures to address budget shortfalls.