In addition, there are a number of competitive grant categories that municipalities such as Calexico can apply for and there will be opportunities for the state Legislature and Gov. Gray Davis to appropriate funds for projects, according to the Sacramento-based California Parks and Recreation Society.
Recently, Calexico City Councilman Frank Montoya, City Manager Richard Inman, city Planning Director Ricardo Hinojosa and city Parks and Recreation Department representatives met with Steve Shiflett of the state Parks and Recreation Department to discuss strategies for funneling as much of the $2.6 billion as possible to Calexico.
Shiflett was in town to make sure the $750,000 in state money allocated for Nosotros Park was actually used in its construction. He approved the park and said the state will reimburse a good percentage of the money the city spent to finish it.
Shiflett then talked about the money available from Prop. 40.
Hinojosa said, "He told us the city should be very aggressive applying for those funds. We should be planning the future needs of Calexico so that when we get the money we can expend that money."
City Recreation Director Javier Gonzalez said he is going to look into finding money to build exercise trails at each of the city's parks.
"Equipment for pull-ups, chin-ups and stretching out," he said.
Montoya said, "There is revenue we have not reached out to obtain. Other cities are taking advantage and I don't think we are."
Montoya said the city should consider hiring a grant writer.
A Sacramento-based grant writer, Doug Houston of the Houston Group, said hiring a person in-house is one way to go but, "The city could decide to source out the grant writing — to someone like me."
He thinks Calexico has a terrific opportunity to get a lot of Prop. 40 money because of its unique blend of geography, demographics and economic status.
Houston has heard the city has been looking to fix its Carnegie Library. He said it could apply for a $500,000 grant from a Prop. 40 fund set aside for historical and cultural resources.
Told about plans to pipeline and cover the New River, Houston said there is $75 million for river parkways. He isn't sure if a grant writer could get money for the pipelining project, though.
Houston explained: "That's kind of tricky. Typically they don't like to take natural waterways and underground them.
"My suggestion would be to develop some wetland areas within the bed itself."
Told about talk of an aquatic center, Houston said, "Pools … they always sound like a great idea but entities sometimes miscalculate how much it costs to maintain one."
He said a less-expensive idea that would get funding easier would be a spray park.
"They are popping up all over. It's a sprinkler park. The jets are all timed and there is little to no maintenance," Houston said.
Houston said the city is in an enviable position because there is a specific category for "non-urbanized folks such as yourself — $28-29 million is available."
In El Centro, Mayor Larry Grogan said the city has a list with the needs for each park.
"Every park has something," he said.
Needs range from compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act to upgraded restrooms to improved parking Grogan said. "Believe me, we'll never fill the list."
Brawley Parks and Recreation Director Karin Morgan said, "We are excited to get this money."
She said she has two projects she'd like to see the grant go to but it's mainly up to the council board to decide.
The projects include renovations to the Lions Center showers and bathrooms. The other would have new play equipment for children installed in the parks.
She said the funding would help for one but not be enough for both.
>> Staff writers Rudy Yniguez and Mario Renteria contributed to this story.
>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or firstname.lastname@example.org