As the Holtville holds
onto about $1.5 million in bond funds to pay for a new downtown public-safety
building, increasing costs seem to continuously to put the project out of
The last estimate on the
combination fire/police station has reached $9 million due to elevated seismic
standards on the construction of public-safety buildings in California,
Holtville City Manager Nick Wells said.
“The City Council would
very much like to get the project on track. They realize there’s no money for
it, but they check on it regularly,” Wells said during a Nov. 14 interview with
Mayor Ginger Ward did not
return several calls seeking comment for this story.
Holtville officials are
hoping Assembly Member Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, can come to the rescue.
Wells said he spoke with
Garcia’s office about four weeks ago to ask for assistance with alternative
sources of funding, and that he was told Garcia would help.
In response to a request
for comment, Garcia stated in a Nov. 18 email to this newspaper, “As always, my office and I strive to make ourselves
accessible to identify and share resources. We were able to help direct the
city of Holtville to some potential public-safety grant programs. We offered
our continued support and assistance with anything they might need moving
forward to pursue funding.”
The development of the
public-safety building has a long history that started in 2001, when former
Holtville resident Milton Meek donated 1.71 acres of land just north of Holt
Park to be used specifically for a new police and fire station.
The site north of Sixth
Street between Pine and Holt avenues.
Back in 2007, Wells said
the city took out several million dollars in bonds for city projects, including
what Holtville Fire Chief Alex Silva said was originally supposed to be a
combined police/fire station and community center.
Wells said bond money was
used to complete the architectural renderings and final design work on the
public-safety building, with $1.5 million set aside for the construction.
With the project ready to
go out to bid, the city council at the time held up the process at the 11th
hour when a council member got the backing of his fellow council members to
stop the process and call for a redesign, Wells said. It was to incorporate
environmentally friendly features to the building, such as solar panels,
eco-friendly building materials and other green features, Wells added.
Eventually, timing and
the new green features put the costs to build the station out of reach. Wells
said with a construction boom making building materials more expensive and
wildfires also affecting the price of new construction, the price tag on the
project ballooned to $3 million, then $3.5 million, even several years ago.
In another complicating
factor, Wells explained city officials had to fight to get the state to release
the Meek property back to the city. When the state dissolved redevelopment
agencies in 2012, the state tied up the donated land. Wells said the city had
to make the case that the land was donated and not purchased by state RDA
This year, Wells said,
the project became a priority of the council again, and the city got all new
building estimates in February that came back at $9 million.
What’s more, Wells said
the city began to get its “ducks in a row” to attempt to get state Community
Development Block Grant program funding, but with CDBG requests capped at $3
million, Wells said, “It was no longer a realistic goal.
“We knew we had to start
looking at other avenues” for funding, Wells said, and that led him to Garcia’s
Silva said the project
was already downsized several years ago to drop the community center component
when construction costs began to rise.
Designed to have three
large bay doors for storing the fire department’s vehicles, Silva said the
building’s plans include sleeping quarters for fire personnel and separate
administrative offices for fire and police staff. The Imperial County Sheriff’s
Office handles city police duties under contract.
Silva said the renderings
also include a holding room, interrogation room, and changing quarters He said
there is also room for a two-man ambulance crew and room for one ambulance.
Silva said Holtville fire
usually has three staff members on duty per shift and has three fire engines,
two command vehicles and one brush-fire vehicle to store.