Springs Town Hall meeting sprouts ideas

Armed with more ideas – and hopefully more participants – from the Oct. 10, Springs Town Hall meeting, organizers are looking at single-topic meetings in the future.

The Springs Community Alliance had single-topic meetings in the past, but the single topic was usually what to do about kick-starting the Highway 12 sidewalks and streetlights project. But since the county’s Board of Supervisors decided to fund the project out of money that would have gone to the redevelopment agency, the group has been looking for new projects to tackle.

After last spring’s Town Hall meeting, the group collated the visions and problems and tried to put them into one of six topics – Beautification; Business; Community Identity; Health and Wellness; Safety; and Youth and Family. Within each of the topics was a list of items that participants identified – and there was some crossover with topics such as gangs, gardens, drug abuse, bike paths and code enforcement.

After a brief introduction of what would happen, the 40 or so people who showed up split into groups to look at problems and solutions. It wasn’t nearly the 100 people who showed up for the spring meeting, but organizers weren’t discouraged.

“I thought it went well,” said Ellen Conlan, a member of the group’s steering committee. “People were enthusiastic.”

Conlan said the Springs Community Alliance would take the ideas on the various topics, collate them and email them back to the people who were in the various groups.

“Targeting a project is our next effort,” she added.

Numerous projects came out of the six topic groups, some strictly conceptual while others are probably doable.

The Business group suggested cleaning up some of the businesses; forming a “Springs Business Group,” and pushing for some façade improvement. Gina Cuclis, who facilitated the group, also suggested more code enforcement and taking another look at the Springs Strategic Plan that was developed by the Springs Redevelopment Advisory Committee.

The Safety group was concerned with gangs. Ideas included changing the laws so that violators aren’t out of jail by the time the booking officer finishes the paperwork. The Youth and Family group also looked at gangs and safety.

Even though he wasn’t in the group, Juan Hernandez, La Luz Center’s executive director, told the overall group that families need to get involved.

“Families are working too much and not paying enough attention to the kids,” Hernandez said. “The police can’t do it themselves.”

He said La Luz is getting a $50,000 grant for gang prevention.

“Third grade literacy is critical,” he said. “If kids aren’t literate by the third grade, then things start to spiral out of control in the fourth and fifth grades,” he said. “Parents are just not engaged – and that’s a red flag.”

Madolyn Agrimonti, who reported for the Health and Wellness group, said there needed to be more outreach for health awareness.

“We need to talk about nutrition and physical activity,” she said. “And we need healthier school lunches.”

First District Supervisor Susan Gorin, who attended and floated from group to group, filled people in on where the Highway 12 project stands.

“Isn’t it exciting that we’re no longer having to talk about Highway 12,” she said about the town hall meeting. “It starts with you. You need to identify where you want to go.”

And then she launched into the Highway 12 update.

“We’re working on the final design,” she said. “As you know, Caltrans is extremely difficult to work with.”

But she said the county is still looking to put the project, which includes sidewalks, streetlights and a left-hand-turn lane from Boyes Boulevard to Agua Caliente Road, out to bid as early as February.

“Construction could start by April or May, and it’ll take about a year,” she added. “It’s a bare-bones project.”

The county has committed about $5.2 million in what used to be redevelopment money, and has another $2.2 million in unsold bonds for the project.