WHITTIER – Staff members from Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe’s office have called for a meeting today between community leaders and Sheriff’s Youth Foundation officials to “work out differences” regarding a long- awaited youth center. The foundation is overseeing the construction of the Joe Valverde Boxing and Learning Center in South Whittier which is designed to serve mostly low-income children and has received nearly $2.5 million in donations and funding. The center will feature classrooms, computer labs, a gym and a boxing ring. Long delays and a series of controversies have plagued the center since construction began in July 2004. Building on the project stopped in December 2004 when the foundation fired contractor Como Beever after only a few months of work and it has remained untouched ever since. “Basically, the goal of the meeting is to get everybody around the same table to see what kind of resolution we can find between the community leaders and the foundation to get the center going,” said David Sommers, spokesman for Knabe. “We have a center that sat vacant for a long time and people have given a lot of money to the project. It’s time to get this from being an empty construction site to a productive center for our youth.” The removal Jan. 9 of popular deputy Joe Feliz from the Sheriff’s Youth Activity League – which the foundation funds – capped a tumultuous year for the center and brought angry residents out to a heated local council meeting that night to complain. Feliz – who donated $20,000of an inheritance to the Valverde center – had publicly criticized the foundation’s handling of the project and some saw his removal as retaliation for speaking out. The Sheriff’s Department has denied the allegations. Numerous requests for information about the status of the project by Feliz, Valverde – the project’s namesake – and others went unanswered for nearly a year, said Valverde. Ralph Pacheco, president of the Whittier County Community Coordinating Council, wrote a letter in November to the foundation demanding to see financial records regarding the planned center. After receiving a 990 tax form from the foundation – which shows only overall contributions received – the WCCCC sent another letter Jan. 17requesting more detailed information about expenditures and construction schedules. “I’ve been a management consultant for 20 years,” Pacheco said. “And I tell my clients there is either good management or the absence of management. There’s no such thing as bad management. You’re either doing it or you’re not, and (the foundation is) not.” Lt. Bondell Golden, executive director of the foundation, has maintained that “diligent efforts” have been made to find a new contractor to begin construction by June. She has also said that the foundation shares the interest with the community in completing the project. But according to Pacheco, Norwalk Sheriff’s Capt. Ralph Webb has shown a callous disregard for the youth program and underestimated the effect of removing Feliz. “The only thing worse than killing the program is what they’re doing to it,” Pacheco said. Foundation Chief Sandra Hutchens said she will attend the meeting along with Knabe’s chief of staff, Curt Pedersen, his deputy, Joe Matthews, Pacheco, Golden and Webb. “I will just try to answer their questions and assure (the community representatives) that we are committed to completing this project,” Hutchens said. [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!