Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/28/2010 09:46:13 PM PST
RIALTO – This city has had its fair share of controversy over the years, and 2010 was no different, with concerns over the size of public pensions, opposition to a new residential development and an alleged sex scandal that led to two city police officers leaving the force.
Right out of the gate, officials warned that sweetened pensions kicking in this month could place the city’s finances in peril.
The budget will be squeezed to fund the new “3 at 50” pension plan, which allows firefighters and police officers with 30 years of service to retire as early as age 50 and collect up to 90 percent of their highest annual salaries for the rest of their lives.
The city’s 400 general employees get a slightly less generous package.
City Administrator Henry Garcia said this year that unless the economy turns around, and without additional employee concessions, the city is on pace to deplete its $31 million in reserves in just three years.
In June, Councilman Ed Scott, who was among a 3-2 City Council majority that voted to approve the pension deals in 2008, warned about service cuts after voters shot down Measure RR, a measure seeking voter input on whether the city should restore a property tax to pay for a portion of retirement benefits.
“What’s going to happen in 2012 if we haven’t (gotten) some other revenue streams, we’re going to have some serious service cuts,” Scott said.
The council in July approved the Lytle Creek Ranch project, against the protests of Northside residents who said the sprawling development poses safety issues in a flood- and fire-prone area.
Those against the project, which could bring an estimated 25,000 new residents into the area north of the 210 freeway, said it will harm critical habitat and destroy the tranquil life of longtime residents.
The Endangered Habitats League and Save Lytle Creek Wash filed a California Environmental Quality Act lawsuit in opposition to three of the four neighborhoods proposed for the 30-year project, saying the neighborhoods encroach on a delicate flood plain and will endanger the San Bernardino kangaroo rat as well as other species.
Officials said the project is needed to bring Rialto up to speed with surrounding communities and to keep tax dollars from escaping into other cities.
Living rooms and break rooms likely were filled with chatter about the city’s most explosive controversy this year, when in the heat of summer a bartender at the Spearmint Rhino strip club said she had sex with on-duty police officers.
Nancy Holtgreve’s accusations led to two officers leaving the Police Department and four others being disciplined.
She filed a $500,000 lawsuit against the city and police department, alleging that she suffered emotional and physical abuse as well as violations of her civil rights in the wake of her relationships with the police officers.
While enduring the alleged misdeeds of a few men in blue, the city continued to go green.
Two 2010 Audi A3 TDI vehicles made a stop here on a publicity drive from Eureka to San Diego in October.
The cars were powered by low-carbon, synthetic fuel produced by Rentech, a Los Angeles- based company looking to build a renewable energy center here.
The Green Car Journal, which was one of the tour’s organizers, named the Audi car its 2010 Green Car of the Year.
In November, city officials gathered with Southern California Edison representatives on the rooftop of a commercial building at 1464 W. Merrill Ave. to celebrate a solar station of 16,300 advanced solar panels.
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