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1/31/2013 5:00:00 PM
Welcome Center project to continue unabated

Marty Bachman

BLYTHE - The Blythe City Council is moving forward with its plan to build a Welcome Center, according to a staff report at its Jan 22 meeting, with only Councilman Mike Evans showing any opposition.

Public Works Director Jim Rodkey said the newly re-named Hobsonway, Riviera Drive/I-10 Ramp Improvements project has cost the city $377,000 as of November 2012.

"It is estimated we need an additional $60,000 to complete the PS&E (plans, specs and estimates) and environmental documents," Rodkey wrote in his staff report. "We will be well within the budget of our cooperative agreement, which is $533,000. Please remember that the $60k is an estimate."

The costs Rodkey quoted are for the study and design to move the current I-10 off-ramp that now is a few feet west of the California Ag Station entry-point into California. Moving the off-ramp and building the Welcome Center will cost several million dollars more and the council has no source of money to move forward beyond completing the current study.

Rodkey said that the outstanding items necessary to complete the study were a modified access report and a geotechnical design report/material report, both of which the city re-submitted to Caltrans in late December 2012. He said he expected to receive comments on the reports from Caltrans in the coming week. He said Caltrans approved the soil testing memo and he had received numerous comments from Caltrans concerning the historic property survey report (HPSR).

"Consultant is going through comments and we will have a better idea next week on the status of the re-submittal," Rodkey wrote in his staff report. The status of other items is dependent upon the approval of the HPSR and the plans, specs and estimate package.

Evans asked about the use of Measure A tax funds for the study and Rodkey said that the money spent already was not just for a study but that it included survey design drawings and engineering to actually build the project, "either next week or next year or five years from now."

"It is in the drawer, it is ready for construction, and when you're looking for funding for projects, transportation funding that is not Measure A, when you have something shovel-ready in the drawer it moves you way up the list as far as qualifying for that funding," Rodkey said. "That's what the previous council's objective was - to have this shovel ready so that we could find other funding..."

Rodkey alleged that to not spend the additional $60,000 would mean the council had wasted the other $377,000 already spent.

Evans also questioned the straight-up land swap between the city and property owners Bob Hull and Mike Farrage, with whom the city has memorandums of understanding. City Manager Dave Lane said that it is too early to have appraisals of properties.

Councilman Joey Deconinck said the landowners of property the city wanted had had trouble getting water to it. He said owners abandoned the property for farming when the freeway came in back in the 1970s. Deconinck said that the city was trading farmable property.

Evans asked if the council did not spend the additional $60,000, if everything the city had done up to this point would still remain valid for a time so that the council could re-evaluate the project before spending more money on it.

"If the council elects to kill the project, then the environmental documents will be incomplete, the comments from Caltrans for the historical property survey will be lost and they will have to be revisited and re-engineered at a later date at a significantly higher cost," Rodkey said.

Rodkey said that if the council did not get approvals now and opted to table the project, the council would risk having to spend the money again in the future if it decided to move forward.

Evans said that even with the completion of the design, he didn't see that as broke as the city is and as broke as the government is, that this is going to actually be a reality.

"I am totally against this project and I think this money should be put into our roads," Evans said.

"It makes sense to finish the project and put it away," Lane said.

Evans said that he understood the foresight and vision behind the project but he doesn't believe the city can move forward with the project and suggested tabling it.

"Granted, $60,000 isn't a whole lot of money for our roads by any means," Evans said. "But after that happens we'll be talking about a Welcome Center after they build our ramp and I believe that's going to be more money that we're going to have to find, and I just don't know when enough is enough..."

Deconinck said that Caltrans is excited about the project and that people were talking about it in the Coachella Valley where it has many supporters.

"They'll have some money, I believe, cause they're behind this," said Deconinck. "There's not one negative thing through the state about this project."

Kathy Zidar, a Canadian who winters in Blythe, questioned why the council was having a discussion on the Welcome Center project.

"This is exactly the conversation that we had a few months ago... and I think at that time we decided, or it was thought, that the $60,000 was a pittance for getting road work done in Blythe," Zidar said.

She said that the city had a better chance of receiving a grant if the project were ready to go.

"I'm just wondering why this all is coming up again now?" she said.

Evans responded he represents the citizens and voters of Blythe and that the majority he has spoken to were not behind the project or willing to spend any more money on it.

"Are they willing to throw away the $377,000 that has already been spent on the project," she asked. "To me that makes a lot less sense than spending a few thousand dollars more to complete it."

Evans said most of his constituents think the city had thrown away enough money already.

The council then marked the item "filed and received" without taking any action.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Article comment by: just me

I didn't vote for Mike Evans but it is clear, he is the only member of the council that can see the welcome dump is a waste of money..

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Dear four blind mice, the test of your progress is not whether you add more to the abundance of those who have much it is whether you provide enough for those who have little. Listen to the man with the plan and stop wasteful spending of tax dollars.

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: Eddy McGillicutty

Make sure this "Welcome Center" does it up right with a dump receptacle for the snow birds holding tanks. As for folks stopping there on their way into California, well, don't think they'll see much business. Especially when they can get gassed up and relieved cheaper on the AZ side, and once their tank's full, why would they want to stop? I can see it now. Members of the council will rotate weekly throwing nails on the road just before the Welcome Center to bring'em in.

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: Tyler McMillin

When I-10 is built through the city 41 years ago, why did the engineers built the Riviera Drive exits as a sharp-curved exit while many towns like Banning CA, Winslow Az, Benson got offramps that took drivers straight to their main streets? If Blythe is given an offramp in Riviera, this shouldn't happened.

The main problem to the town is cultural ignorance. No good films, books, whatever set/made here. I can't afford further complications in town and chances to see my childhood ruined by vandalism.

Remember what they say! Ignorance is Blythe. Stupidity is Ripley.

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: I'm just saying

Mike Evans have you people fooled! He is not.for the people.he is just playing the people. He just tells the people on our little town.what they want to hear. He is fool of it. Really wants 60,000 to fix road where did he get his figures. That who u want running his mouth OPPS!!! I mean this town. He can't even run his place of employment more less this council. Just because he does agree with anything that your vote on why this guy is good. He will never have the support even if he was the mayor because he will always get out voted! He is a menese to this council always has ridiculous way of thinking. What ever happen to clean up Blythe he was in charged of. Oh, OK will give him a pass because he disagrees with everyone and only like his ideas and ignores other. Wake up people this guy has a loose canon!!

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: Another Blythe Citizen

The biggest issue here that people are failing to realize is the politics running this poor town in the ground. The actual grant that Blythe applied for this ridiculous "Welcome Center" was a "park" for obese children to play. What a farse!! Its for others like councilman Patel to pad his wallet by putting flyers to all their Hotels and coupons for Subway. It will be nothing more than a place for "visitors" to take a (deleted) and laugh at our town. Now Blythe will have to pay to keep it maintained and clean. Spend money on needed things to draw people. Every other city along the river is growing and thriving, except Blythe. The politics here are getting worse than Obama in D.C.! Our city council (except Evans) and our Hospital Board are becoming a joke. Some of the conflicts of interest are so bad, they should be arrested. Keep up the good work Evans, while the rest drive the town down the sewer of the Welcome Center.

Posted: Monday, February 4, 2013
Article comment by: @ desert farmer

Have you been around (deleted) shops.One by the freeway has bums living on it and the one on 4th looks like a junk jard for tractors. He'll get what he wants cause if that was me, the code enforcement would have shut me down a long time ago.

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement. Personal attacks are not tolerated, and are a direct violation of these Terms of Use.

Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Article comment by: @ just more waste

yes,and don't forget the new sign @ the hospital .palo verde hostile hospital enter @ own risk..ducks for doctors.

Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Article comment by: Desert Punky

Here's an idea. Why don't the people of Blythe change the way a mayor is elected? YOU don't elect the mayor-he is chosen by the council. Why don't you insist you vote for a person to be mayor and make him/her answer to the people instead of the council? As the system is now, I really don't know if that person then becomes a hand puppet, but pretty much everyone on the council (there are exceptions that are there as a voice for the people) have been out for themselves or getting kick-backs for a relative. This town has been famous for spending money on stupid things. I hear you on the black box. Do you remember the 'Shop Blythe' signs (times two)? They were WAY more expensive than reported and to think two little 'dog house' sized signs cost more than a new house. Substantiated expense in comparison to what Los Angeles spent on their 'Welcome to Los Angeles' sign-good comparison, Maynard. Who approves this stuff? If we don't want to spend the money, why is it still being spent? Give the $60,000 to the youth center. Don't build a welcome center--you don't just 'happen' to end up in Blythe by accident. Build something that will turn a profit and contribute to the youth. Oh, city council and mr. mayor, when you get off your high horses, don't forget to clean up your trail of (deleted) legacy you are leaving in Blythe...

Site Administrator's note: A portion of this comment has been removed because it violated our Terms of use Agreement.

Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Article comment by: @Snowbirds Love Blythe

Mike Evans is TOO RADICAL for you? Are you a Blythe citizen? Your opinion, I am sorry to say, is not tops on my caring list. Mike is "radical" because: (1) he disagrees with you and your council buddies, or (2) because his priorities are right on target, doing what Blythe citizens have asked him to do, and expect him to have his constituents' needs uppermost in his mind, which the other councilmen AND manager apparently do not. We are rightly concerned that we have DECENT, relatively smooth roads throughout our town, not just out to the golf course. We need our town to look like we give a hoot about our town, where we live, rather than a cute little place along the highway for people to use the bathroom and keep on going. OR a "park" for fat kids. (What a doozy that idea was.)

Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Article comment by: Just MORE Waste !

How kind of Kathy to come alll the way from Canada to tell Blythe how to spend our money.? I know for a fact there are plenty of people that live in Blythe that have a pretty good idea of what to do with our own hometown. There's about as much use for a welcome center as there is for that useless info box/sign that hangs over Hobsonway. At this rate the next sign will read "Blythe, out of business...Closed" Mike Evans, you have my support!

Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Article comment by: @Snowbirds Love Blythe

We are glad you do, but would YOU want out-of-towners to run YOUR town? With all due respect, I don't think so.

Posted: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Article comment by: EL PICA BUYAS

@ Snowbirds. Last month I went across the river with family. We were sitting in a place eating lunch. When we over heard a fish and game guy talking to another law enforcement guy in Spanish. They were trading horror stories about snow birds. Bottom line they thought that the snow birds were more of a problem that a benefit. Parking anywhere leavings trash everywhere, and trespassing everywhere, getting lost, driving too slow. I could go on and on. But I would go pass the 300 words. I guess you people did not learn anything during 1812.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: snowbirds love Blythe

Snowbirds do not suppot MIKE EVANS he is to radical , before we got to Blythe and we follow the Palo Verde times on the internet. can't imagine him (deleted) NO RESPECT !! Canada snowbirds

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Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: @Snow Bird

With all due respect, Mike Evans is the one person who is doing the job CITIZENS of Blythe elected him to do. The others, being "adult men", oppose anything he proposes like childish bullies. They don't have the good sense to think as individuals. For some reason, I don'think you are a visitor, anyway, just one one of the chicken bullies hing. Or, you could just be one of the hospital people. Go for it, Mike! Blythe supports you!

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