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Action will likely require repayment of  more than $70,000 already received from state and federal grants

CALIFORNIA CITY – The city will miss out on substantial funding from grants and be required to repay a smaller, but also substantial amount, following action by City Council Oct. 8. Council also approved several zone change and General Plan amendments and witnessed the oath of office to new Fire Chief Jeremy Kosick and introduction of new firefighters and recently promoted fire captains.

Contracts for construction of a proposed visitor center to be built at Borax Bill Park, funded largely through federal and state grants, were not approved. Cancellation of the project leaves the city on the hook to pay back more than $70,000 in funds already received.

The Council had approved the proposed $1.1 million combination visitor center, shop and garage at its Aug. 27 meeting.  As approved, it would not have required contributions from the city’s General Fund to complete, instead relying on retained funds from a development grant, the city’s Off Highway Vehicle Program permit fees and estimated revenue from future sales. Program officials had also recently started a memorial brick paver fundraiser as a way to offset some of the anticipated costs.

The program received a Recreational Trails Program grant for $748,990 for the project more than three years ago. The project was required to be completed by Aug. 7, 2020, per the grant. Estimated costs for construction had increased in subsequent years.

Planning Commission Chairman James Creighton pointed out errors in the contract language at the Sept 24 council meeting. Council moved to pull the item for clarification and added the revised request to the Oct. 8 agenda.

During the most recent meeting, council also expressed concerns over electrical work to be performed under the supervision of acting Public Works Director Joe Barragan. His involvement was an attempt to save money and keep the project alive.

Mayor Chuck McGuire questioned whether he would have time to supervise the work, given his other responsibilities.

“He does not have time to do this,” said City Manager Anna Linn in response to McGuire’s question.

Council voted unanimously not to approve the contracts for its construction, also citing concerns over potential cost overruns. As a result, the city will be required to repay approximately $74,674 in funds already received related to construction of the project.

In other action, eight GPA/Rezoning projects, comprising 160 parcels of property on 374 acres of land were approved. Seven of the projects were initiated by private property owners: Two by Red Rock Canyon Holdings, Michael Ellison; two by Innovative Real Estate Investment, Leland Krelle and three by Canna Systems Corporation, DJ Twohig.

One project was initiated by the City of California City in order to expedite the expansion of industrial development within the community. Rather than waiting for individual property owners to apply for rezoning, which can be a slow and tedious process, the city initiated rezoning in what is being called the Airport Area Rezoning Project.

The 146 parcels on 50 acres of land of the project was selected by the city for the Airport Area Rezoning Project were designated because they meet certain criteria: The property does not encroach upon existing residential development; property is vacant; property is proximate to good roadway access; property is proximate to utilities and the project area offers numerous property owners the opportunity to facilitate development.

All had previously been reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission.

Councilman Don Parris recused himself from voting on two of Ellison’s projects near Neuralia Road.

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