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Council to Discuss Proposed Ojai Park


OJAI — If the city decides to spend $336,000 to help turn a former gas station into a downtown public park it could delay two public projects already budgeted, officials said Monday.

But renovating Arcade Plaza and burying utilities on East Ojai Avenue have already been delayed for various reasons and would still be finished within a year if the council approves the park project money, said City Manager Andy Belknap.

The park proposal calls for $131,000 from the city for street and sidewalk improvements for the triangular half-acre at 304 W. Ojai Ave. The city would spend $205,000 to help build the park.

The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, the leader of the park fund-raising efforts, would use the $205,000 as a "challenge grant" to spur an equal amount of donations from residents, said Jim Engel, the nonprofit conservancy's executive director. City staff reports estimate the total construction costs at $410,000.

The City Council, acting as the city's Redevelopment Agency, will consider the park at its meeting tonight at City Hall, 401 S. Ventura St. Also at tonight's meeting two members will be sworn in following their win in the Nov. 7 election--incumbent Sue Horgan and new member Rae Hanstad. The council will also elect a new mayor.

The conservancy has raised $35,000 for park construction, Engel said, and would try to raise the remaining amount by Dec. 30, 2001. The city's contribution--as proposed in a city staff report--would match only the amount raised by the conservancy, up to $205,000.

Last year, the conservancy raised $290,000 to buy the blighted land and deeded it to the city last December for use as a public park. The conservancy is also raising an additional $200,000 for a separate fund to pay for the park's upkeep.

Last week city officials unveiled an architect's model of the proposed park with a pavilion, trails, benches and two small ponds, one trickling into the other. The designs were created using input from community workshops.

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