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City Set to Aid Conejo Schools

Thousand Oaks council is expected to use $3.1 million in developer fees to fix three stadiums.

June 03, 2003|Gregory W. Griggs | Times Staff Writer

With education dollars from Sacramento jeopardized by the state budget crisis, the Thousand Oaks City Council is poised tonight to approve spending $3.1 million to help the local school district make improvements to athletic stadiums at three high schools.

Dozens of residents implored the council during a special meeting at Newbury Park High School in February to set aside developer funds to put in all-weather running tracks, install artificial turf and upgrade bleachers there and at Thousand Oaks and Westlake high schools.

"We decided the stadiums should be upgraded," said Councilwoman Claudia Bill-de la Pena, who joined Councilman Dennis Gillette in working with district officials and residents to decide how to spend the money. "It would have the most far-reaching impact on the community."

Conejo Unified School District officials estimate that nearly $5 million in improvements are needed at the schools: $2.05 million at Newbury Park, $1.65 million at Westlake and $1.26 million at Thousand Oaks.

Of those amounts, each school needs about $1 million in renovations to its athletic fields and fencing.

In addition, Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks each needsmore than $200,000 worth of stadium lighting and improved seating.

The improvements could be in place by fall 2004.

"We're ecstatic with the outcome," said Jacqui Irwin, president of a youth football group that plays at Thousand Oaks High School. "We never expected all the schools to receive the same amount of money because there were varying needs."

Gary Mortimer, Conejo Unified's assistant superintendent for business services, doesn't expect any problem finding money for the remainder of the projects and for long-term maintenance of the stadiums.

The district expects booster groups to contribute $150,000 to $200,000 per campus to help pay for renovations, he said.

"When you have the city ponying up $3.1 million it becomes a very high priority to find the rest of the money, because it's really an incredible opportunity," Mortimer said.

The city has about $3.9 million in unrestricted funds paid so far by developers of the Dos Vientos and Rancho Conejo housing tracts in Newbury Park.

An additional $2.5 million in fees is due as the final homes in those neighborhoods are built in the next few years.

Bill-de la Pena and Gillette also suggestedhat the city continue working to reduce road noise problems for residents of Blackwood Street, whose homes back up to Lynn Road.

A consultant has been hired to suggest solutions, such as building sound walls or installing double-pane windows, to keep out the roadway din.

"They have had to put up with all the Dos Vientos construction traffic.... It's gotten so bad over the last few years that they can't have barbecues in their backyards," Bill-de la Pena said.

"But we couldn't wait that long to help the stadiums, because the school district has to go through the designing and bidding process. We have to make a decision sooner [rather] than later."

The $3.9 million comes from fees the Dos Vientos and Rancho Conejo developers agreed to pay to directly compensate for the effects of creating new housing. This extra money has been used over the years for city building projects and to acquire open space.

Tonight's council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd.

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