A heated Long Beach City Council meeting Tuesday over borrowing for retirement payments was made worse by a broken air-conditioning system at City Hall.
The city was unable to fix the cooling unit because a contractor was still owed money, officials said. The shortfall came after the city council failed to pass a bond measure in April to finance payouts for retirees and accrued time to former and current employees.
Temperatures topped 90 degrees in Long Beach City Hall’s sixth floor chambers. Residents aired profanities, and officials tried to cool hostilities by opening windows. The packed crowd booed acting City Manager Michael Tangney when he said the air conditioning was not fixed because of the failed bond, but without further detail.
Long Beach Public Works Director John Mirando later explained that some of the budget shortfall for retirement payments had to be cut from other parts of the city’s budget.
“At the end of the year, when the bond wasn’t passed, we didn’t have enough money to pay the contractor for the air conditioning system through the end of the year because we still owed them money,” Mirando said.
The council failed to approve the April bond after questions arose over payments made to retirees and about 15 active city employees, and a $108,000 payment to former City Manager Jack Schnirman.
The city had to wait until the new fiscal year to start July 1 to pay the contractor and have maintenance done to fix the air conditioning unit. A contractor completed testing for Legionnaires' disease and completed a chemical cleaning of the system Monday and Tuesday. The new air conditioning system was fixed when City Hall opened Thursday.
“As soon as we had new money available in the budget to issue a new purchase order, we did it,” Mirando said. The city in June passed a $95 million 2018-19 budget with an 8.3 percent tax increase.