Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing series that tracks the city’s expenditures appearing on upcoming Santa Monica City Council consent agendas. Consent agenda items are routinely passed by the City Council with little or no discussion from elected officials or the public. However, many of the items have been part of public discussion in the past.

CITY HALL — Those charged with selling Santa Monica abroad will have to be slightly more frugal this year.

That’s because the City Council tonight is expected to slash the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors bureau by 1 percent, or $26,372, a reflection of the murky financial forecast and City Hall’s fear of looming budget deficits. The CVB, a nonprofit formed in 1983 to promote Santa Monica as a premier tourist destination, is expected to receive just under $2.5 million for 2010-11 under a three year contract with City Hall.

The contract is part of a roughly $3.75 million spending package expected to be approved tonight, covering everything from new buses and computer software to marketing materials for a new loan program to help homeowners and businesses install solar panels.

Life’s a beach <p>

Tourism is a significant economic engine in Santa Monica, supporting nearly 12,000 jobs while bringing in over $1 billion dollars a year in the form of sales tax and the fee charged for hotel stays, according to a city staff report.

It is the CVB’s responsibility to visit foreign lands and educate travel agents and others about the city by the sea and its attractions. The CVB also provides services to visitors once they are here, helping them plan day trips and order tickets to area attractions, exchange currency or find a new place to eat.

City Hall recognized the importance of a tourism agency and in 1983 participated in the creation of the CVB, which is funded almost exclusively by taxpayers.

City officials believe the budget reduction will not have an adverse effect on the level of service CVB provides, however, the organization will have to put off on hiring more support staff.

The amount of money the CVB will receive for the remainder of the three-year contract will be re-negotiated on an annual basis.

Water world <p>

The council is expected to move one step closer to restoring local wells contaminated by a gasoline additive with the approval of a two-year contract with Siemens Water Technologies Corp. in the amount of $556,048.

Siemens will be responsible for overseeing the operation of a water treatment plant at the Charnock Well Field in Brentwood that is expected to be fully operational later this summer.

In June of 1996, City Hall shut down drinking water wells at Charnock because the deadly chemical MTBE was detected. The chemical is said to have leaked into the groundwater from underground gasoline storage tanks and pipelines owned by various oil companies. City Hall sued those companies and won a multi-million-dollar settlement, money from which is being used to build the treatment facility and operate it for the next decade.

City staff felt hiring an outside agency would be more cost effective than hiring and training more full-time, permanent employees. Siemens was the lowest bidder, according to a city staff report.

Spreading the word <p>

Protecting the environment is a priority at City Hall and the powers that be want you to know about.

For $225,000 over the next three years, Cowan Communication Arts will produce marketing materials, including advertising and event displays, for the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

The office circulates information on how to properly dispose of hazardous materials, conserve water and live more environmentally friendly. Information is dissemination through direct mail, websites and community events.

Cowan is located in Santa Barbara.

Computer tracking <p>

The council is expected to approve a contract with INFOR in the amount not to exceed $231,948 for the purchase of new computer software that keeps track of repairs. The new software is expected to streamline and improve maintenance efforts thanks to a “powerful workflow engine,” according to a city staff report.

In for repairs <p>

Being environmentally conscious costs. Just ask City Hall. The council is expected to spend an additional $150,000 for diesel engine overhauls by Ironman Renewal LLC.

The money will cover additional expenses related to installing filters on Big Blue Buses equipped with diesel engines. The filters capture 85 percent of soot and 25 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions, according to a city staff report.

When the contract was first awarded, the effectiveness of the filters was unknown. When city officials saw the benefits, they ordered more filters to be installed, therefore increasing the scope of the contract.

The Big Blue Bus is reducing the number of diesel buses in use, with the fleet being reduced to 62 in 2011. Since 2001, BBB has replaced 99 diesel-powered buses with those running on cleaner, liquefied natural gas.

Keeping tabs<p>

The council is also expected to modify another BBB contract, this one covering security at the maintenance facility on Colorado Avenue. The modification is an increase of $55,647.26, to be paid to A&A Protective Services. The increase is caused by the construction of an expanded maintenance facility.

Helping residents go green <p>

In keeping with its dedication to all things green, the council is expected to spend $70,000 educating residents and business owners about the Los Angeles County Energy Program, which allows property owners to take out a loan through the county to purchase solar panels and other energy efficiency upgrades.

Property owners take out a loan and pay it back through assessments levied against their property. The assessment remains with the property should the owner sell or transfer the property before the loan is paid back.

City Hall plans to use a grant to fund the marketing efforts. City officials support the loan program because they said it eliminates the need for a property owner to pay out of pocket up-front and gives them more purchasing power and better rates.

The Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant funding is provided by the Department of Energy.

It is estimated that property owners could start taking out loans through the county as early as September.


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