Huntington Beach can no longer afford to paint the town.
Because of budget cutbacks, "we don't have the staffing to do what we've done in the past," said Don Noble, city maintenance operations manager.
The number of city painters was reduced to four last year from seven, with one of the remaining employees spending most of his time removing graffiti.
With the city facing a budget crunch for fiscal 1996-97 too, the painting program may have to be eliminated, officials said, except for graffiti removal. The City Council will consider the issue when it reviews the budget in September.
During the fiscal year that just ended, funding for the Public Works Department's painting program was cut by about 50% to $273,000. That meant only high-visibility areas at the beach and parks could be touched up, Noble said.
Beach restrooms were painted inside and out, the lifeguard tower on the pier got a touch-up, and parking lot booths, gate arms and railings south of the pier were redone. The exteriors of most beach buildings were also painted, along with picnic tables and playground equipment.
Left out, however, were the interior of the Junior Lifeguard Headquarters building, 32 park restrooms, picnic shelters in parks, community centers and sport courts for racquetball, basketball and tennis.
The budget cuts also meant that the city could not pay for labor or materials to complete the sealing of the municipal pier to preserve the structure from the elements.
Prolonging the life of the structures is as much as factor as aesthetics in periodic repainting, Noble said. "If you have them painted on a regular basis, you won't have problems," he said.