NORWALK — “Team Norwalk” did well during the past year and will do more in the future to serve the community, according to Mayor Leonard Shryock and City Manager Mike Egan.
“I am excited about the future,” Shryock said.
“We have done a lot and will do more,” Egan added.
They commented before a large crowd at the annual State of the City luncheon March 4 at the Doubletree Hotel, sponsored by the Norwalk Community Coordinating Council.
Also speaking were Capt. Curtis Jensen of the Norwalk Sheriff’s Station, who noted that major crime is down in the city, to 218 per 10,000 residents with the average 300 per 10,000; and Julia Emerson, president of the Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, who outlined services of the business organization, noting it existed before city incorporation in 1957.
Shryock introduced Egan as the “quarterback of the team.” Egan carried a football on stage and threw it to Vice Mayor Mike Mendez in the audience, saying a quarterback needs a good team.
As a good team, Norwalk is following a plan, Vision 20, with six goals, all aimed at “providing a safe environment for the community,” Shryock said.
He noted a $3.8 million public safety grant that will be used to upgrade traffic lights and flow and a switch to non-polluting compressed natural gas, which is now fueling14 city buses and will eventually power the entire fleet of 30 vehicles.
Egan said sound fiscal management is one of the goals, noting the city’s hotel tax has increased thanks mainly to expanded business of the host site, Doubletree; and said city management employees have agreed to pay 100 percent of their pension costs to the state while the general employees will pay 50 percent.
He said a number of ethnic markets are doing well, singling out the Gonzalez Northgate market, which was recently renovated; and the AMC 20 Theatre chain, which this month expects to complete a $9 million upgrade including reclining seats in all theaters.
Egan said aging city parks have been upgraded with $800,000 spent during the past year and another $800,000 budgeted for this year. The most recent upgrade was a new playground at Glazier Park.
In another park project, Los Angeles County has taken over the Norwalk Golf Course and will complete major upgrades there this year.
Nearly 500 trees have been planted in the city and a $14 million project to widen the bridge taking Firestone Boulevard over the San Gabriel River has been completed.
Also, ground was broken March 4 for an art project honoring all branches of the military services replacing the current large planters in the parking lot leading up the back door of City Hall, which also will be improved.
Shryock noted some challenges, including the increase of homeless persons in Norwalk from 235 to 352 at this year’s count in January. Also the continuing drought will no doubt increase water costs and job growth is lagging, he said.
Egan said the city hopes to increase job growth and resident income to attract new businesses with a program to increase educational opportunities to residents, partnering with Cerritos College, the Chamber of Commerce and a federal job training program.
Future plans are to place representatives of the partners in a one-stop center at San Antonio Drive and Foster Road.
He noted anniversaries of the Senior Citizen Center, 15 years; Cerritos College, 60 years; and Metropolitan State Hospital, 100 years. The hospital is the city’s fourth largest employer with 80 percent of the employees living in Norwalk.
Egan noted future plans to extend the Green Line commuter rail line from his depot at Studebaker Road and the Glenn Anderson (105) Freeway east to the MetroLink station at Bloomfield Avenue and Imperial Highway. A more distant connection could be the state High Speed Rail Line from San Francisco coming through the city.
“The city of Norwalk has tremendous potential,” Egan said. “I can’t wait to see what the future will hold.”