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Nothing Spared in Proposed Budget Cuts : Services: Supervisors consider closing parks, libraries and health clinics, and eliminating funding for the Arboretum. The Sheriff's Department would take the smallest hit, 3%.

July 15, 1993|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THE REGION — The San Gabriel Valley could lose four parks, nine libraries, four health clinics, two swimming pools--and maybe even county funding for the Arboretum--under the budget now before the Board of Supervisors.

The county is also considering slashing welfare payments, mental health programs, recreation programs and the monitoring of child molesters.

The Sheriff's Department would take the smallest cut, 3%, and no sheriff's substations would close.

Los Angeles County supervisors must make $600 million in cuts to balance the county's $13.1- billion budget by Aug. 1. Nearly half of the deficit is what the county expects to lose under a $2.6-billion shift by the state in property taxes from local governments to schools.

Supervisor Gloria Molina on Monday proposed eliminating $2.3 million in funding for the Arboretum and other botanical gardens to save 23 parks that are slated for closure.

The Aboretum, whose lagoons appeared in "Gilligan's Island," "Fantasy Island" and classic Tarzan movies, opened in 1948 and draws 207,000 visitors a year.

"We're stunned," Aboretum Supt. John Provone said. Nearly all of the Arboretum's funding comes from the county.

Arcadia City Manager Donald R. Duckworth said the suggestion left him speechless. But, he added: "Just because Molina is taking that position, it does not mean the other supervisors will agree."

Parks officials took control of the Aboretum, and of the South Coast Gardens on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in January, after the county eliminated the Department of Aboretum and Botanical Gardens in a cost-saving move. The county owns four botanical gardens. The two others, in Beverly Hills and La Canada, are run by foundations.

Tony Yakimowich, county Parks and Recreation Department budget chief, said it would take time to set up a similar foundation for the Arboretum that would raise private funds to keep the gardens going.

"We're finding it difficult to get trails and parks adopted. I don't think there's a lot of money out there for the Aboretum," he said.

Arcadia also stands to lose its Community Regional County Park. City officials have asked supervisors to use revenue from the county golf course next-door to keep the 37-acre park open, Duckworth said.

Other San Gabriel Valley parks listed for possible closure are Charter Oak County Park near Covina and Gloria Heer County Park and Trial View County Park in Rowland Heights. In Pasadena, the city has agreed to take over Oak Grove Regional County Park, which was originally on the list.

Swimming pools in Arcadia and Temple City are among 24 slated for closure in the county.

Yakimowich said the Recreation might as well be dropped from the Parks and Recreation Department's name, because all recreational programs would be eliminated under the budget proposal.

If the recreation staff is eliminated, he said, it is unclear who will open and shut community and senior centers at county parks. The centers themselves are not scheduled to be closed.

County Librarian Sandra Reuben said the doors of 43 of the county's 87 libraries would also close Aug. 1 as a result of a proposed $35.7-million cut to library services.

Among the nine targeted in the San Gabriel Valley is tiny Live Oak Library, which has served the unincorporated area near Arcadia for 85 years and is conducting reading classes for 200 children this summer.

"We can pay for it now, or later, when our children's education suffers," said David Hall, president of the newly created Monrovia-Arcadia-Duarte Town Council. Tuesday, Hall gave supervisors a petition with 1,300 signatures to keep the library open.

In addition to Live Oak Library, Charter Oak Library near Covina, Norwood Library in El Monte, Sunkist Library in La Puente, and libraries in La Verne, South El Monte, Duarte, San Dimas and Walnut could close.

"Our war on illiteracy must continue, and the battleground must remain in our libraries," warned Patricia Wallach, El Monte's mayor.

Reuben said the libraries could be saved if the state Legislature allows the county to create a tax assessment district to fund libraries. Or, she said, an extra $7 million in county funding could keep all libraries open, but at reduced hours.

Health care may fare little better. Although El Monte Comprehensive Health Center will stay open, small clinics in Azusa, La Puente, Monrovia and Alhambra are among 20 or so that could close to help offset a $102-million cut in health services.

Nearly 150,000 patients, most of them uninsured, visited the San Gabriel Valley clinics last year, for everything from treatment for sexually transmitted diseases to X-rays, county officials said.

"These people will show up at hospitals or will go without treatment until they get acutely ill," said Fred Gudson, deputy director of county health center operations.

Mentally ill people in the San Gabriel Valley would lose many outpatient services, members of San Gabriel Valley Alliance for the Mentally Ill say.

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