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February 19, 2011

DHS City Council - February 15

The audio recording of this meeting of the Desert Hot Springs City Council is available here.

DHS Senior Center Recognized As Community Focal Point

What Riverside County calls a "focal point" we should call a "vortex," I think. This was a presentation of recognition by both the Riverside County Board of Supervisors and the Riverside County Office on Aging/Advisory Council. Two plaques, two representatives, Ed Walsh and Leo Sullivan. Mayor Parks accepted the proclamations on behalf of the Senior Center [despite her youth, all insist].

Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District

Branka Lothrop, the General Manager of the Vector Control District, spoke first. She gave a short history of the district - founded in 1928 to deal with eye gnats (if you don't know what an eye gnat is, that is testimony to the district's effectiveness). There are 58 full time employees. Karl Baker is our representative on the district's board. Dr. Lothrop thanked Mr. Baker for working on ad hoc committees and getting the district going in the right direction. The district has jurisdiction over all disease vectors (since 1995) plus red imported fire ants since 2005 (which are not a disease vector). Then Maria Kylis (who may work part time as a tobacco auctioneer) ripped through the rest of the presentation. Eye gnats, mosquitoes, rats, flies; those are the big ones. They catch mosquitoes in several ways so that they can find out if West Nile Virus or other diseases are present in the district. Last year they found West Nile Virus in 69 mosquito pools. No humans reported WNV last year. In 2010 they had 33 "neglected pools" in Desert Hot Springs. A "neglected pool" (also called a "green pool") is usually a swimming pool with some water in it at an abandoned house. The district had 37 requests for mosquito service in DHS in 2010. First, they try to get rid of the water source. The second line of attack is mosquito fish, which the district will supply to anyone at no charge who has a pool (a decorative fountain, a replica of Lake Michigan, whatever). Failing that, they have poisons which are very mild. They call them "biorational."

In 2010 the district had 5 service request for red imported fire ants in Desert Hot Springs.

The control method for eye gnats and flies is sanitation. That is, clean up that wet, rotting material that attracts them. There were no service requests in DHS for flies or eye-gnats last year. IOW, a complete success by Mission Springs Water District.

They do surveillance for hantavirus above 1,500 feet, which excludes most of Desert Hot Springs, but if you are exploring the mountains above the city, keep an eye out for rodent infestations.

They aren't going to do much for rats except to (1) provide glue traps, (2) inspect your home and four neighbors, and (3) advise you how to keep rodents out of your home.

Their website is cvmvcd.org

Councilmember Baker said that every district truck is computer equipped and they keep track of their locations and how much chemicals they use, making the district extremely efficient. He also said that twice a year the district pays for aerial photos of the valley so they can spot abandoned pools, but if you see a pool that you think might be hosting mosquitoes, just call the district and they will respond.

Councilmember Pye asked why the district did not remove bees. The short answer was that bees are not a disease vector, but Dr. Lothrop explained that as Africanized bees have blended with European bees, the only way they can be distinguished is by a DNA test (and the state no longer does DNA testing). In any case, if you remove bees, you remove the pollinators, which could harm agriculture. And worse, they'd be in direct competition with private extermination businesses.

Ms. Pye suggested that CVMVCD have a booth at Earth Day at Cabot's.

Public Comments

Ward Riggins from Desert Eco Events who produced Earth Day at Cabot's last year. He said it set the record for the most people visiting Cabot's which was "at least 125 people" he said. Obviously he misspoke himself. His number is off by at least a factor of 10. Last year we were told there were at least 1,400 visitors and 138 tours. Earth Day 2011 will be at the Aqua Soleil Hotel, "while continuing to benefit Cabot's." They are not asking for any funding from the city, but they are asking for "an in-kind sponsorship with police, fire and emergency services." I think that means they want extra police and fire on hand at no cost to them.

Yolanda Rustad said that the musical act Pretty Ricky had been secured for Earth Day.

John Card speaking for DHS Jr. All American Football & Cheer, said they will be having a function at the Dillon Roadhouse on Sunday, February 27, 2 to 6 PM. The cost will be $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Contact John Martin for tickets at 760-775-5303.

Saturday, March 26 they will have a golf fundraiser at Hidden Springs Country Club. To register contact John Card at 760-844-4964. The cost is $25.

A second round of football clinics is scheduled March 12 8 AM to 12 noon, March 13 1 PM to 5 PM. They have a Facebook page with more information.

Mike Platt said little league baseball has gone through its first week of sign-ups and tryouts. Tryouts and late sign ups will take place on Saturday the 19th. They are still looking for sponsors. Sponsorship needs to be in by the end of this month if you want your name on the team shirts. Umpire training in Yucca Valley on March 5 and 6. They will carpool from Desert Hot Springs. Contact Mike Platt at 760-408-4452

Dot Reed announced that there will be concerts in Tedesco Park, March 11 from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM, and again on March 12 at the same time. The DHS High School band will be performing. the first evening will be the jazz band. The steel drums will perform the second night.

There is art from five different artists on display in the Carl May now.

Bruce Montgomery said there will be a Party At Grace, Saturday, March 12, 1 to 5 PM, 17400 Bubbling Wells. There will be medical clinics, free food, music and a petting zoo.

Also, there will be a low cost musical program for children of Coachella Valley. Quality group lessons will be taught by Ellie Ward. He asked people to donate used musical instruments. They will be refurbished. Instrument repair will also be taught. Classes begin March 12. Enrollment is February 26 at Grace Church. It is not a ministry of Grace Church. More info contact Ellie Ward at 760-329-5338.

George Fisher said the earthquake expo is coming up on Saturday, February 26 at DHS High School, 10-2. Life Stream will be there taking blood donations.

DIF Deferral For The Village at Mission Lakes

City Manager Rick Daniels gave the history of the Village at Mission Lakes. When the project was started, the developers were allowed by then City Manager Ann Marie Gallant to delay payment of the Developer Impact Fees until a Certificate of Occupancy was issued. Usually DIF is due at the time the building permits are issued. There was nothing in the ordinance to allow for a such a delay, but that's what happened. The project went bankrupt. The five principals of the financial institution that was financing the project are now in federal prison. It's been a constant eyesore and source of problems for more than three years now. A number of people have come to the city over that time to inquire about what needed to be done to pick up the project and finish it. About six months ago Dr. Suresh Shah began to meet with city staff. He acquired the property a few months ago and has been working with staff to re-activate all the permits. Dr. Shah initially requested to have the DIF waived. His request now is to spread the DIF over three annual payments, beginning one year after the issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy.

The total DIF that is due is $259,512.39. These are the old, much lower impact fees. The AIPP ordinance does not apply. If recalculated at current rates, the DIF would be about double.

City staff does not have the authority to reschedule the DIF payment like that. So Dr. Shah is appealing to the city council.

The building permits have been issued, conditional upon the city council's decision in order to allow work on the project to get started.

Mr. Shah came to the podium and said he is from Rancho Mirage. He has been a developer in the valley for the last 20 years, constructing about five buildings in Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Rancho Mirage, plus the Town Center Mall in Yucca Valley. He said he was not aware of outstanding impact fees. The project will cost him about $3 million to make all the improvements. It will be finished in 120 days. As the places in the development are leased, they will be happy to pay to the city. He pointed out that the city will also receive sales tax. He does "Class 'A'" buildings only, he said. He will make this project a really beautiful place for shopping and restaurants. His request is very fair, he thinks. He is willing to give a Letter of Credit from his bank to guarantee payment of the DIF.

Mayor Parks said it is her understanding that he came to the city before he purchased the property to ask what was due, and the city advised him about all fees that were due prior to his purchase. She said he had tried to negotiate with the trustee to get them to reduce the sale price of the property because of the outstanding DIF. "You knew when you purchased it that these fees were due."

"No, that's not really true," Mr. Shah replied. He made an offer and had 30 days to do the due diligence. After the 30 days and the trustee signed and the judge approved, then he had 90 days to close the deal. It was during those 90 days that he came to the city. That was when he found out the fees were due [before he closed the deal]. He is willing to pay the DIF, but he wants time.

Mayor Parks said doing this would set a precedent. Buyers of other half complete developments might ask for the same.

The assistant city attorney, Bianca Sparks, said there is no specific language in the ordinance about the deferral of DIF, but the section that allows for fee adjustments and waivers could be interpreted to allow for a deferral. If he were asking for a waiver, the developer would have to demonstrate that there is no nexus between the fee and his development. Mr. Shah has not made the contention that there is no nexus. If this deferral is approved, the city council could be creating a precedent that would override the requirement to show that there is no nexus to approve a waiver.

Mr. Shah said that a precedent has already been set by granting an exception to delay the DIF on this project already and the city told the developer the DIF would be payable upon issuance of Certificate of Occupancy. [I'm sure Mr. Shah thought this strengthened his argument somehow.] He said that most of the half-done projects have already paid their DIF.

Mayor Pro Tem Betts said he thinks everyone agrees that they are happy to see progress on the Village at Mission Lakes. Mr. Shah said it will be Class "A." He was told it would cost between $500,000 and $1.5 million to complete the project, but his contract is for $2.5 million to make it really beautiful. Also, he is installing $10,000 of artwork in the center of the project.

Councilmember Baker asked why the old DIF rates apply. Since a new permit has been issued, shouldn't he pay the new DIF? C.M. Daniels said city staff had determined it was a re-activation of the old permits that expired in November 2007, and that brings the old fees with it. He went on to say that when he first came to Desert Hot Springs in September 2007 he got more questions about this project than anything else in the city. He directed the Community Development Director to create a fact sheet on the project so that everyone who inquired about it would get the same full and consistent information about it. It listed code enforcement issues, offsite road improvements, re-activation of the building permits, and the DIF. So, all potential developers have been informed that the DIF would be due upon issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy.

Mr. Baker reminded us of how we've been let down by Letters of Credit in the past and asked what the normal assurance would be. Mr. Daniels refreshed the council on their policy on financial assurances. Now, a Letter of Credit would have to come from a third party (the original L of C at the Village of Mission Lakes was issued by the financial institution that was financing the development), and that third party has to have assets of at least $10 billion, and the bank has to be investment graded. The terms of the default in the Letter of Credit must be clear. The city's policy prefers deposits of cash, performance bonds or a lien over letters of credit.

Mr. Baker said he thought the new DIF rates should apply and he does not want to wait until Certificate of Occupancy. He wants the DIF paid now. He asked what sort of legal bind the city might be in if the new DIFs were applied. The attorney said doing so could open up the city to risk, but since the building permits expired the city might have a leg to stand on. IOW, city council can override staff on this point. Councilmember Baker tried to make a motion to deny the developer his request and that the new DIF fees be applied with payment due immediately. Mayor Parks reminded him that the public hearing was still open, so no motion could be made.

Mr. Shah said he had tried to get financing for the project, but no one would give a loan because there are no leases. So he has put up his own money, $2.5 million. If he had a loan, he would have no problem paying the DIF right now. He said the letter of credit would come from California Bank and Trust (which on its website claims to have assets of over $10 billion). Mr. Shah said it has more than $50 billion in deposits.

Councilmember Matas said the city has been taken to the cleaners many times by past developers, but he's been working on the economic development committee with Councilmember Pye and City Manager Daniels on outlining programs to bring business to DHS. He said he is thrilled that the project is being completed. He suggested that Mr. Shah pay his first one-third payment now, then perhaps the city could consider allowing delayed payment of the other two-thirds. He said he would take Mr. Shah's word for it that he did not know about the DIF.

Mayor Pro Tem Betts said the project has sat out there as a major eyesore for a long time. He said it was his view that a letter of credit was not acceptable assurance prior to the Village project. He asked the attorney if when a developer comes forward with a proposal like this, that he must show there is a nexus to justify the request. The documents do not establish a nexus. The attorney replied that the developer is required to show that there is no nexus between his development and the impact of his development and the fees. Mr. Betts asked "He would come to this point where he's making his request, he would have submitted some sort of nexus to justify that?" The attorney answered "He would make the showing of no nexus." He would have to show that the development is having no effects on the city that would cost the city any money.

Mr. Betts asked the attorney to review the various forms of financial assurance. First, there would be cash. The attorney said that in northern California where letters of credit have been accepted for something like this, when the city has gone to collect on the letter of credit, the developer "has made representation that the fees have already been paid," so no default has occurred. Then, of course, it goes to court. The attorney said a performance bond could be obtained, but it wouldn't be a true performance bond where certain improvements are required to be built. Such bonds for something like DIF are often not renewed, because there is nothing securing them, leaving the city without assurance. The attorney said a letter of credit is the least desirable form of assurance for a city to take.

Mr. Matas asked Mr. Shah how he could be sure that he could get a note if he couldn't get a loan. Mr. Shah said he has been a developer for 22 years and has never had a problem with any city fees. He has already paid about $35,000 in fees to the city. He's paying about $20,000 to the water district. So the city is not out any money, he said. He is only asking for a deferral on the impact fees. He said there is no expense for the city on impact fees.

Mr. Matas repeated his question. Mr. Shah said the note would only be for $259,000, while the original loan request was for $2.5 million. He is worth $60 million to $70 million. He is not going to fight with the city for $259,000. He is giving his word and a letter of credit. He said he is putting urgent care in the project, also a medical lab, a dental clinic and a chiropractor.

Mayor Parks asked if he had these, why doesn't he have leases for them. Nobody wanted to sign a lease until they saw people working on the site, Mr. Shah explained. Now he is getting 5 to 7 calls a week to show the property.

Mayor Parks said that it was originally a $12 million project, and about $7 million to $8 million was already invested. The mayor said he picked up the project for a very reasonable amount of money. Something like $1.6 million, she suggested. Mr. Shah agreed he did get a good price. He said the $8 million that was withdrawn from the bank, half the work was not done. Fraudulent photos were shown to the bank to justify advances of money. The developers took that money and walked, Mr. Shah said.

Mayor Parks said his investment would turn out to be a good one. The impacts on police, fire and parks is the basis for the DIF. Her recommendation would be to deny his request and to have him pay the old DIF fees now. Otherwise, he might end up with a higher DIF. Mr. Shah said "If I get all the tenants there when I finish I will be happy to pay you."

Mr. Baker acknowledged he wasn't going to get any support for his idea to assess the DIF at the current rates, but he said he could not consider delaying payment of the DIF to any time later than the Certificate of Occupancy. He said he would not support a letter of credit. Letters of credit can be "negotiated away. We have a history in this city, unfortunately, of bad decisions when it comes to cutting slack to people and we've been left holding the bag."

Mr. Shah said he can make a letter of credit irrevocable. It had already been explained by the assistant city attorney that the only sort of letter of credit that would be acceptable would be an irrevocable one. Mr. Baker said it sounds like he could also put cash up. Mr. Shah said that in addition to asking him to break the egg, which he did already, the city is asking him to buy a stove to cook it too. He agrees to put the eggs out, but he can't buy a stove.

Councilmember Pye asked either the attorney or Jason Simpson to talk about an "irrevocable letter of credit." Mr. Simpson said the letter of credit is a contract with the bank and it is only as good as it is written. The trigger for the default has to be worded right for the bank to release the funds. He said he has done this before in a prior job, and if the letter of credit is written right it works great. He said there are only 3 or 4 banks that are big enough to qualify, and Mr. Simpson wasn't sure if Mr. Shah's bank was big enough. The attorney said that generally all letters of credit her firm drafts are irrevocable, but the problem comes when the developer makes the representation to the bank that there has been no default. Mr. Simpson said it was not up to the developer, though. He didn't necessarily agree with the attorney on that. He said the letter of credit is a contract between the bank and the city. The developer has no say in that contract. Everything needs to be spelled out in the letter of credit as to what needs to happen.

"Could it be just a date?" Mayor Pro Tem Betts asked. "Yes," was the answer from Mr. Simpson.

Mr. Simpson said the city would dictate how the letter of credit would be written. If the bank wouldn't accept that, then the city would not agree to a letter of credit.

Mayor Parks confirmed with Mr. Shah that he has 120 days to complete the project. She asked him if he could pay the DIF at the end of those 120 days. Mr. Shah said he was willing to pay the first installment (of three) at Certificate of Occupancy. He won't have any income. He is wiling to pay as he makes the money. He says he plans to do more development here in housing projects, so he won't fight with the city or create a bad aura between himself and the city.

Councilmember Pye said she agreed with the Mayor that a precedent of delaying DIF payment should not be set. She said the issue of the letter of credit is not her main point. Her point is that the city should be paid at the time it incurs cost. The city incurs cost when the Certificate of Occupancy is issued. She is not in favor of delaying payment. The city has not incurred DIF costs yet. The costs that have been incurred so far have related to code enforcement and legal reviews, which are not DIF reimbursable. Building plan checks and inspections are covered by the building permit fees. But as soon as a Certificate of Occupancy is issued and somebody moves into the development then public safety, fire and public works is affected, costs are incurred, and DIF should be paid. The only letter of credit she would consider is one that would guarantee payment of 100% of the DIF (old rates) upon issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy.

Mr. Matas asked if instead of a letter of credit, could we just draw up a contract. Mr. Simpson said yes, the city could just do a promissory note. The security of that would depend on what assets were used to back it. "He owns the property free and clear and he's putting cash into it, I don't understand why he cannot borrow the $259,000 and just pay us," Mr. Simpson said [and hit the nail right on the head, as far as I'm concerned].

Mr. Daniels said one alternative that had been offered to Mr. Shah was to create a Community Facilities District, similar to the CFD Skyborne has which allows the homeowners to pay for the fire station there over time. He said that anything other than immediate payment of fees in full incurs some risk. The question is how much. He said if Mr. Shah was willing to pledge his high net worth the city's risk is greatly diminished. Mr. Matas asked for more explanation of how the CFD would work. Mr. Simpson said it would work the same way it does for residential developments. Tax-exempt financing would be done at a certain interest rate, investors would buy the bonds on the open market, the cash from that would cover the DIF, and the bonds would be paid back over time through the property tax bill of the property owner over 20 or 30 years. But the cost is excessive for such a small amount. There's a minimum cost of $50,000 to $100,000 in attorney fees and underwriting, Mr. Simpson said.

Mayor Parks closed the public hearing. Councilmember Baker immediately moved to deny the request. Councilmember Pye immediately seconded. Mr. Baker observed that cutting the DIF almost in half is a pretty decent economic incentive, so he would go along with it, although he disagreed with it. Mayor Parks said she thinks the city is giving up a lot. Mr. Baker said "I think we're giving up a whole lot!"

Mr. Matas said the council should not discourage the appeals process. The council needs to open minded to the fact that these are economically trying times. More requests like this might come to the council in the future. Mayor Parks said that's exactly why she doesn't want to set a precedent.

Mr. Baker reminded us all that when the new DIF fees were set up, the city got a lot of flack from the building industry because times were terrible. We negotiated somewhat lower fees that were acceptable to all parties at the time. Those negotiated fees are about double what Mr. Shah is going to pay.

Mr. Matas said it's an unusual situation, going back to the old DIF rates. He's not encouraging every developer to bring their impact fees to the council for an appeal. He said the council needs to be creative when it comes to incentive programs. Mr. Baker said he was afraid a precedent was being set that the old fees would be applicable. Mayor Parks said she thought this was the only project in the entire city that has not paid its DIF. Mr. Daniels said he couldn't think of another situation in the city where a building permit was issued and then development stopped. It's not true of Tuscan Hills, he said, because we'll be able to get their DIF when building permits are issued for that. Mr. Baker brought up Hidden Springs, the partially done development where he lives. Mr. Daniels said that in a residential development the DIFs are paid per site, and the developer only got building permits for the four show homes he built and paid the DIF for those four homes. No building permits had been issued for the empty lots, so there will be question of "re-activation," so no question of paying old DIF rates.

The vote: 5-0 to deny Mr. Shah's request to delay payment of DIF.

Sign Improvement Loan Program

Mr. Betts recused himself from this.

This loan program would be available to any business that occupies RDA-owned property or who participates in the RDA facade program. [Actually, I'm not so sure about that - the staff report says that businesses participating in the facade program are eligible, but the loan agreement form in the agenda packet is restricted to RDA-owned property - up to now, of course, all facade participants are RDA-owned properties, but some privately owned properties plant to participate as well.] The RDA will pay up to $8,000 to design, manufacture and install business signage. The business owner will immediately reimburse the RDA for half of that. The remaining half will be paid back over a 36-month period at 3% interest.

Approved 4-0 with virtually no discussion.

Visitors Center Lease

This is the lease between the city and the Chamber of Commerce and Cabot's Museum to lease the building at Pierson and Palm and to run the Visitors Center, and to sublease a portion to the Historical Society. The rent is $1 per year. The RDA will pay up to $400 per month for electricity and the RDA will maintain the building and grounds. The term of the lease is for two years.

There will be a monument sign on the corner identifying it as the Visitors Center. In addition each of the three entities will be identified on or near the doors on both the east and west sides.

Councilmember Pye asked the city attorney to write pro bono the sublease between Cabot's/Chamber of Commerce and the Historical Society.

Jeff Bowman, President of the Historical Society, came forward to comment. He said this is a great day in Desert Hot Springs. That we'll have a Visitors Center right there where it should be, at Palm and Pierson. He's proud of the city and our city manager. He gets visitors from all over the world who want to know more about DHS. Now they'll have a place to go. He thanks Rick Daniels, Rudy Acosta and the RDA for converting this building at a prominent location to a Visitors Center.

Approved 4-0 (Mr. Betts having recused himself from this one as well).

Consent Calendar

Approved 5-0 without discussion.

  • The year-end financial statements of the RDA for fiscal year ending June 2010. This must be that report the auditor from the Controller's office said we needed, or maybe it's just a coincidence that this report from the November audit showed up now. $32 million in assets. $48 million in liabilities.
    During the audit process, the auditors identified and proposed various adjustments to correct material misstatements in the Agency's financial statements. This included a $3.4 million adjustment to properly record expenditures and interfund advances for the 2009-10 SERAF payment, a $750,000 adjustment to record notes receivable, and a $1.2 million adjustment to record land held for resale. Adjustments were also identified relating to pass-through expenditures.

    It appears the adjustments resulted from inadequate and/or untimely analysis and reconciliation for certain balances and activity in the Agency's accounting records. This may have been caused by various factors, including staff cuts and turnover in Finance and other City departments. However, applicable audit standards state that identification by the auditor of material misstatements of the financial statements, which would not have been detected by the entity's internal control, is an indication of material weaknesses.

    We recommend the Agency take necessary action to help ensure that the accounting records are being maintained in a timely and accurate manner, in accordance with applicable accounting principles. The Agency may need to evaluate whether current staffing levels are sufficient to perform all the necessary accounting functions in a timely manner each fiscal year.

    City staff responds:

    The funding and intent of the FY2009-10 SERAF payment of $3.4 million was recorded appropriately, however, the legislation was written by the State Legislature after the payment was made by the RDA which recommended presenting the information in accordance with what the auditors have proposed and advised the City of after year-end. The advance being recorded is not expected to be repaid by 2015, which is acceptable, so an adjustment is expected to be booked during that year to essentially reverse the Advance recorded this year. As such, staff will present the Advance as recommended by the auditors. Furthermore, the City's position is that this amount represents a "theft" of our local funds by the State Legislature which the lawsuit pending is currently under appeal.
    and...
    The $750,000 notes receivable was expensed for the BIASA, LLC or aka "The Terraces" project because it was initially treated as a grant to the non-profit, however, the transaction was converted to a 55 year note with a lump sum at the end of the term due. Essentially, the covenant was setup to ensure the property remains available for affordable housing under the term not necessarily to ensure repayment of the note. It is not expected that the note will be repaid. Nonetheless, the auditors have advised that a receivable be booked for the next 55 years until final disposition of the note is realized.
    and...
    The $1.2 million adjustment to record land held for resale related to the purchase of the Motta Building at the corner of Palm and Pierson in the Vortex. Staff tracks the costs as expenditures and then typically capitalizes those costs until the building and property is sold. The auditors noted that staff did not capitalize these costs as we had for the other properties previously under this program. When the property is sold, the appropriate accounting entries will be recorded to reflect the nature of the transaction.
    and...
    The adjustments related to the pass-through expenditures were minor, but the City has retained a consultant to prepare and track the AB1389 pass-through calculations and transferred the accounting duties to a higher level staff person.
  • The year-end financial statements of the city (not the RDA) for fiscal year ending June 2010. Assets $91 million. Liabilities $66 million. The Art In Public Places fund received $326 giving a total balance of $326.
  • The single audit report required for federal programs.

Reports

Councilmember Matas said that for a 24-hour period in March the Palm Drive/Gene Autry/I-10 interchange will be completely closed for all traffic in all directions. The CVAG Transportation Committee was given an update by the county on the subject of emergency procedures to be in place on I-10. The county is working with Caltrans, the state and CHP to come up with revised plan. The previous plan approved by CVAG was never approved by CHP (who, I guess, never bothered to tell anyone). One thing they will consider is building some crossovers into the median so that traffic could be re-directed to the "wrong" side of the highway.

At the RCTC retreat workshop the main discussion was rail. It would be extremely expensive to build a third line into the Coachella Valley so that we could be part of MetroLink. Robert Manning, a rail advocate, has been working closely with Amtrak and they are looking at upgrading Amtrak service to cover 5 or 7 days a week with perhaps 2 trains into and 2 trains out of L.A. every day. In May they be able to have "the newest Amtrak train" come to Coachella Valley so people could enjoy a test ride into L.A. and back. MetroLink may get as close as San Jacinto.

Mayor Pro Tem Betts said that the switch to the new bridge at Palm Drive/Gene Autry/I-10 is tentatively scheduled for March 22. The old bridge will be demolished a few days later. He discussed various aspects of the proposed Whitewater detention facility. He said he is firmly opposed to it. He said he doesn't want to see a glow coming over the ridge line west of the city. [I'm sure he meant to say "more glow."]

Mayor Parks said that SunLine has a great reputation because of its fuel cell buses. They are just about to upgrade to the 7th generation fuel cell buses.

She and Rick Daniels met with PSUSD staff to clear up misunderstandings. All are in agreement now that the school district and city work closely together (and always have). Anything else you've heard is a misunderstanding.

Councilmember Baker said there is a Little Hoover Commission report that says special districts have $19.4 billion in unallocated reserves and he asks why the state is not going after that money rather than our RDA money. The report is over 10 years old. The Desert Health Care District has $70 million in reserves.

Police Chief Pat Williams announced that DHS Police are one of three recipients of the James Q. Wilson Award for Excellence in Community Policing. The official announcement will be March 1 in Anaheim at the California Police Chiefs Association annual symposium.

City Manager Daniels reported that Supervisor Marion Ashley had included $6 million of county-RDA funded projects in Desert Hot Springs. That will go for a new public safety substation and road and traffic control improvements.

Public Comments

Al Schmidt got a phone call while driving this evening from a friend who had been watching the council meeting on TV and said he understood Mr. Schmidt had come into some money. He said he was amused at the idea that the original principals in the Village project had made off with some money. He had met with Mr. Shah some months ago and Mr. Shah had made the same comment to him at that time. Mr. Schmidt described it as "nonsense" and "goofy." He asked those in attendance if it looked like he had run off with a few million dollars. He said he thinks the development will turn out to be fabulous.

Russ Martin said he attended the community policing initiative town hall meeting at Tedesco Park and he wanted to point out something very interesting. The people there identified problems in their respective areas of the city. When they looked at those lists at the end of the meeting, they all saw that not one person mentioned gangs. Two years ago that would not have been true.

He also said he was very impressed by the members of the Youth Council, and he invited them to attend one of the Mission Springs Water District board meetings, too.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | February 19, 2011 at 06:09 PM

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