By Brittany Hanson/Garden Grove Journal
Budget cuts, then a finally-balanced budget, park closures, then re-opening and community projects defined the year of 2012 for Stanton.
Seeking to close a budget gap estimated at $1.8 million, Stanton sought to reduce costs (and services) connected with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement, and the Orange County Fire Authority, which operates firefighting and paramedic services.
Together, the protective services take up about 80 percent of the municipal budget.
The Stanton City Council voted to approve the reworked Orange County Sherriff’s Department budget, reducing it by $1,128,218 it from $8,420,000 to $7,291,782.
The total count of the reductions tallied up to five staff; one investigator and four deputies.
Those removed from their Stanton police services location were moved to other positions within the OCSD.
After the negotiations with the OCSD and OCFA, the city looked at a balanced budget for the first time in a few years.
It was hard won and came at a very high cost to the city.
“We have no expenses accounts here,” said Al Ethans, council member, “We pay out of pocket for everything.”
Ethans had explained that the city council members don’t make a sizable sum per year, that all of them rely on their day jobs for actual income.
As a part of the budget cuts, all non-regulation required departments and city functions were cut.
The most notable was the closure of recreational parks in the city.
A meeting of the city council saw closure of Zuniga Park, Hollenbeck Park and the water feature at Harry Dotson Park, the layoff of 20 city employees or appointees (full- and part-time), the dissolving of the parks and recreation commission, the closure of all non-fee based recreation programs across the city, the elimination of youth programs and after school programs, the elimination of summer programs, the reduction of city wide maintenance, the elimination of senior citizen special events, among other non-state mandated items or items of public safety.
It was a darker day for the city, one that all council members said they wished they could have avoided.
“Nobody wants to do this and it isn’t as if we [the city council] aren’t feeling this too,” said Ethans.
Shortly thereafter, the residents around Zuniga Park banded together to form a volunteer based team in order to maintain the park themselves and keep it open.
“We just want a place for our kids to play, if they can’t play here [Zuniga] then they would have to play there [Stanton Park behind city hall] and there are lots of homeless there,” said Stephanie Mujica, before the meeting. “We are more than willing to put in the time and money to help out.”
“This is your park now, take care of it,” said Al Ethans, council member. “Brian [Donahue, council member] and I were there to plant trees at the opening of that park, we’re very proud of it. We’re very happy that you’re here.”
Also, over the summer at Harry Dotson Park, the OC Sherriff’s deputies banded together to keep the water feature open to help the community during one of the hottest summers on record.
Hollenbeck Park was reopened with a dollar for dollar match between city council members and a community action team.
“We will match you dollar for dollar,” said David Shawver.
The bill to open the park covers water costs for irrigation. Only the northern end of the park, on Lola Street, will be re-opened and watered.