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Vernon agreed to pay $60 million in deal to avoid disincorporation

December 13, 2011 | 12:39 pm

Vernon

The city of Vernon agreed to set aside $60 million to fund community projects in neighboring cities as part of a deal that helped kill a bid in Sacramento to dissolve the city.

Vernon is still figuring out how it will pay the hefty sum. The city has struggled financially in recent years, and some within its business community are questioning whether Vernon can afford to provide generous handouts to other cities.

"I don't know where we're going to get the money because we don't have it," said Peter Corselli, a member of a new city advisory committee and manager of a large cold-storage company in Vernon. "From a business standpoint we're very concerned."

State Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) said he supported the agreement as an alternative to disincorporating Vernon, in part because the pact would provide tangible benefits to the people who live around the largely industrial city.

The fund, he said, will help mitigate years of pollution, traffic and other problems caused by Vernon's factories and the "predatory" policies of its top officials. The 5.2-square-mile city, located south of downtown Los Angeles, has about 1,800 businesses but only 112 residents. It is surrounded by the densely populated Latino communities of Bell, East Los Angeles, Maywood and Huntington Park.

Critics have long argued that Vernon's heavy concentration of businesses robs neighboring cities of tax dollars.

"It's no secret that for decades the city of Vernon has run roughshod over its neighbors," De Leon said. "This is an opportunity for them to step up and do the right thing."

Vernon officials had been expected to release more information on the so-called Environmental and Community Benefit Fund at a City Council meeting Dec. 6, but no such announcement was made. City spokesman Fred MacFarlane said discussions about the fund were in a preliminary stage but he said Vernon remained committed to all components of the De Leon plan.

"City officials in Vernon view this as an opportunity to create a new dialogue with its municipal neighbors," MacFarlane said.

Grants from the fund are to be administered by a special nine-member committee appointed mostly by state lawmakers and officials in surrounding cities. Vernon would have one representative.

MacFarlane said the city is working on a system that would prevent conflicts of interest on the committee regarding organizations that ultimately receive funding.

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-- Sam Allen

Photo: A bicyclist rides through Vernon, which has about 1,800 businesses and 112 residents. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

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