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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: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: American Veteran

A fellow veteran to another thank you Mike Evans for fighting for liberty and standing up for the voters. Justice will be served in November and somehow I belive your promise of less managers will be final without the renewal of the city managers contract.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: EL PICA BUYAS

So the City Council wants to have a shovel ready project. Maybe next week, 6 months from now or in 5 years. So what is the shelf life of these plans? I say let them spend that 60,000 dollars and let them waste the tax payers money. Because once they do that, and we get no new money coming in to do this project. They will have no face to run for office again. 60,0000 is a drop in a bucket. Just to get rid of the people that are running Blythe. Then we can say Good Bye to the Good Old Boy Club.

Maybe our friends from the North, maybe they can donate money for their cause. Since it is they who want it more the the people of Blythe. It would be a nice place for them when they are going to Palm Springs they wouldn't have to stop at a Expensive Gas Station here just to go to the restroom. They got the J across the river, and then the Welcome Center for a pit stop for them and the pooch. That way they will not have to buy new tires or fix their axles from being on the roads here in Blythe.

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

Mayor Galvan and Deconnick r not trying to recall Evans. Evans doesn't need help.sticking his foot in his mouth or spitting on someone he's not well liked the longer he stays in council. Just finish the project, quit being haters and complete the project so we can move on. We keep talking about the same thing till we beat it in the dirt. Keep the snowbirds coming to Blythe. And next we can fix the roads, basically it the side street that need fixing hobsonway and lovekin streets where just fixed. Come on Evans quit crying and start trying to listen to people that have more experience, and are willing to get along with another or your going to be out voted every time something comes up. You enjoy being the outcast (deleted) Stick up for the old people (snowbirds) we would love to support your town.... We love coming to Blythe every year from Canada.?Evans we had a councilman in our city that got rid of because he was so radical and was always negative and disrespectful?

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

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: Sun Is Shining

Some common sense is alive! It's alive! Even Pico has spurts! Why are we lacking it on the City Council? We listen to the words that "sound" good - what we want to hear, and then we find where their real heart is. And it's certainly not where the people - rich AND regular - of Blythe are. I like the talk of November, but the fact is that we need to find more real guys like Mike Evans to stop this crap. Mike was a bit "rough around the edges", but we truly knew where his heart is and what his intentions were. It's a wonder he didn't get his tires slashed. But the wise "elders" on the council are taking their slashes anyway. Yep, they're joining with the hospital group of three and starting a re-call movement. Just like them. Get RID of anyone who has a different and good idea. Blythean folks need to come together to fight the cancer of greed and power that has over-run our great town. Keep the fire sizzling. There's light at the tunnel I'm beginning to see.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: iagreewrichard blytheboy

.Intake is probably the closest 4 people entering California Who want to take pictures. But it sure looks like #%$4 and does not represent our beautiful little town. The truth is nobody really wants to pull off the freeway. They are excited about enteringa into California and they want to pull over real fast and just take a picture and get to palms springs or LA. Want to get people to stay in Blythe send them to the river, improve the view from the freeway and lower gas prices.

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: Eddy McGillicutty

So, with a money crunch, the council still wants to spend money to build a Welcome Center that will be nothing more than a big cigarette butt, and dog dump for motorist passing through. What council member's family will be getting the maintenance concession?

Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013
Article comment by: Richard Gilmore

If the city is going to big money to attract travelers why not invest in one of the existing off ramps that serve established businesses. Lovekin gets all the traffic now but why not Intake or 7th Street. Hopefully the city will not build a place with restrooms and snack bar that allows travelers to fuel in Arizona make a quick pit stop at the new Travel Center and bypass Blythe completely.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Crazy Town

I agree with Mike. We are throwing good money after bad. The city needs to address other issues that affect us DAILY, like the roads. It doesn't matter if it's not enough to do one street, we don't need a Welcome Center, no one stops here anyway and the town has run off most of our regular snow birds. I don't know who Kathy is friends with but she has no say in OUR town, or she shouldn't anyway. The powers that be made this decision long before Kathy came along. Follow the money and traded land into the future and see where it leads. Someone, again, is getting rich while our poor town is dying. I'm sick of it.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Zidar Fan

I must say I agree with El Pica Buyas. Eh Kathy can you help us eh, with hirring more city workers for the streets,eh. Eh, when your at it eh, can you tell us how to fix our hospital? Eh....9

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Votr Counter

Hey Councilmen, do you have an election coming in November? Good Luck. I'm sure you will get elected again. NOT.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Blythe Taxpayer

Excuse me snowbirds rule. We appreciate your tax dollars, but don't tell us how we want to invest the revenue into OUR TOWN!

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Desert Farmer

Hey Joey, that seems like a fair trade. Farmable land for non farmable land. Is that how you made your money, (deleted)?

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: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: EL PICA BUYAS

Know what's funny, we got people from another country telling us what to build here. I wonder what would happen to me if I did such a thing in that person's country. Maybe we are going at this all wrong. Why not hire that girl and more like her to be on that same road that they want to build the Welcome Center. To do what she was doing. If you build a welcome Center before fixing the road they will Hate this town by the time the reach the center of town, due to the fact that they will have to buy new tires and axles. Hey it's not their money so who cares what people think about a Welcome Center.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: walt wittman

This project will bring so many of blythe ppl out of poverty! so many jobs will be created and people wont have to live on minimum wage anymore! ya right. there wont be any benefit and in 5 years all the walls are going to be cracked and tagged like the rest of blythe.

Posted: Friday, February 1, 2013
Article comment by: Bob Weete

Well, the hospital folks are probably glad the city council is around to take the heat off them for awhile. It couldn't possibly be a co-ordinated activity, could it? At any rate, all the "facts" given here are fine, but the real issue seems to me that the Council leans toward putting the frrosting on the cake without baking the cake first! Had they been more interested in taking care of making a great cake with all the proper ingredients such as decent roads without 2-3 inch destructive pot holes seeing to it that residents keep their property in good, clean shape co-ordinated efforts to provide a city without grafitti by making SOMEONE seriously responsible for defacing property, etc. and THEN put some of the niceties associated with the fluffy frosting, then we might support this little project. For years in the past at least, we had a golf course that was in the red that a relatively conservative number of full-time citizens use, and now this. I have no problem with these "niceties", but the truth is, at least some of us would like to see more serious concern for us, as has been clearly the intent of the much-maligned council member, Mike Evans. We welcome everybody - truly - to enjoy our city, and not simply because of the money you bring. We love that you love our town, our weather, and all that, but we need our leaders to consider our needs and desires, too.

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