Less than a year after rejecting a $500,000 federal grant to upgrade the medians on Lampson Avenue, the Seal Beach City Council voted Monday to spend $200,000 from city coffers to upgrade the medians on Lampson Avenue.
The new improvements are a much smaller-scaled version of what the city had sought to do last year with funding through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act. Along with the federal grant money, the city would have had to spend more than $600,000 to complete the ambitious project by the grant’s deadline, according to a city staff report. Instead of spending the additional money and concerned that residents were experiencing roadwork fatigue from all the nearby freeway construction, the council opted to give the grant money back and postpone the project at the suggestion of College Park East Councilman Gary Miller.
On Monday, the council voted 3-2 to approve a $200,000 version of the work – adding 25 trees, relandscaping tract entries, replacing plants in patches that are barren due to poor soil, and replacing the bad soil.
Miller, who voted along with Mayor Mike Levitt and Councilman David Sloan in favor of the $200,000 upgrades, came under fire for proposing to reject the grant money for his district last year and pushing the project back to this year when it could conflict with the Seal Beach Boulevard overpass work.
“I really can’t agree to do this now,” said Councilman Gordon Shanks, who voted along with Councilwoman Ellery Deaton against funding the project now. “We’ve got to plan to do it better. Pursuing the project after already getting rid of $500,000 – I just don’t like.”
However, Miller sees the move as something that saves the city money rather than costing it. In Miller’s view, the city saved more than $600,000 by not pursuing the larger project. The initial project called for some unnecessary work such as tearing out all the existing medians between the tennis center and the Garden Grove border, said Miller.
His hope is to get the smaller project done before the Seal Beach Boulevard overpass is torn down to spare his district’s residents from additional frustration.
“I just want to get it done,” said Miller.
But, in terms of roadwork fatigue, the timing may be worse now than it was last year.
The soonest the Lampson Avenue work could get started would be June, said Assistant City Manager Sean Crumby. But this summer is also when the Orange County Transportation Authority plans to start work tearing down and replacing the Seal Beach Boulevard overpass, a nearly two-year project. During that time, the 605-405 freeway connector will also close down as part of the West County Connector Project, sending 50,000 daily drivers along Seal Beach surface streets.
“I hope you get it done before the bridge comes down,” Deaton told Miller and city staffers.
Miller said he pushed to approve funding for the project now instead of waiting for the city’s budget annual budget hearings in order to get the project finished before the Seal Beach Boulevard overpass is torn down. The city has a small window to get the Lampson project done before surrounding projects begin, said Miller.
“If we don’t do it now, it won’t be until the spring of 2014,” Miller added.
Correction: The story was clarified to reflect the full $500,000 that the original project's bid came in over budget.