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Council delays decision on request for more bridge funding

May 23, 2019 GMT

BULLHEAD CITY — Members of the Bullhead City Council on Tuesday postponed making any decision on whether the city should try to come up with an additional $4.5 million to pay for a second bridge over the Colorado River linking the city with Laughlin.

The council members instead will schedule a workshop and come up with a response to Clark County’s request when they hold their next regular meeting, which likely would be on June 4.

After years of project delays for various reasons and by numerous parties, “now we’re being asked to bite the bullet,” City Manager Toby Cotter said.

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Cotter noted that the existing Laughlin bridge “soon will be rated as failing” and eventually won’t be sufficient to serve the traffic over it. A new bridge would alleviate the congestion there, he said.

Mayor Tom Brady laid out his reasoning why it was a bad idea to pay the money but prefaced his remarks by saying the project has caused him many sleepless nights.

The current site for the bridge is far from ideal and the overall route configuration — starting at Bullhead Parkway, going over the river to a three-mile extension of Needles Highway — won’t save people time “getting to Harrah’s,” Brady said.

He pointed to the idea voiced last fall by Kathy Ochs, the only member of the Laughlin Town Advisory Board who didn’t withdraw support for the project. She thought it would be possible to construct a bridge in a different location without federal money — which is tied to its siting from the Arizona side at Bullhead Parkway.

He mentioned the numerous locations given serious consideration in the past: Laughlin Ranch Boulevard, Hancock Road, Marina Boulevard and Riverview Drive were among them.

Some were next to park land, others too close to the existing bridge.

“Do a two-lane bridge. Get people to the casinos,” Brady said while advising that this move would allow for freedom of placement. “Screw the fed handout.”

Brady also said the city likely couldn’t afford the $4.5 million addition to the more than $3 million it will spend on infrastructure for the Arizona side of the project. The project total has been estimated at up to $58 million. The bridge itself is expected to cost $30 million. There is a $9 million gap; Clark County would like Bullhead City to come up with half of that — $4.5 million.

“I can’t say what is the best choice,” said council member Sheila Shutts, who said she felt as if council members haven’t had time to discuss the matter, but that talking about it was necessary.

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She expressed concern about spending that much more money on the bridge after many project delays and asked if the amount requested now would ensure that another lengthy project postponement wouldn’t result in an even higher monetary request.

Council member Mark Clark said he was for the project though he was initially “P-O’d” about the request for more money and described it as “extortion.”

However, he said, the bridge is needed because of the benefits it will bring to the community, such as improving future economic development efforts.

“For the long-term future of Bullhead City, we need to build this bridge,” Clark said. “I think it’s part of the future of this city.”

To allay concerns detailed by council members Shutts and Steve D’Amico about future money requests, Cotter said a written intergovernmental agreement and Memorandum of Understanding would go a long way in sealing the deal.

While project cost wasn’t part of earlier agreements and letters among parties on both sides of the river, “we knew today would come,” Cotter said.

Most residents who spoke during the meeting said they want to see the bridge built and supported the council spending the additional $4.5 million.

“I think we should do this,” said Royanne Ortiz. “It’s thinking about the future. If there’s a failure on the bridge we’ll all be in deep doo-doo.”

“If you want the city to grow you cannot survive with just one bridge,” said Lori Deschene, co-owner of Culver’s. “Laughlin will profit. (But) to me it’s a safety issue.”

Several people criticized the Laughlin Town Advisory Board for deciding not to support the project last fall.

“I don’t get why the (Laughlin) town board is trying to screw us,” said Scotty McClure, who said he read through a large portion of the material provided to the council about the project’s need, viability and long history. “It was shorter than the Mueller report. But not by much.”

Cotter also pointed out that the cost to do a two-lane bridge wouldn’t be low enough to be more financially viable — especially when looking toward a future with many more people living in the area.

Land near Fieldhouse redesignated

Council members approved a request that more than 78 acres west of the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse be redesignated as commercial resort. It’s currently considered medium-density residential land. The change would allow for a mix of retail, office, commercial, and high-density residential uses on the two parcels that have land facing the river (2,373 feet) and Bullhead Parkway (1,750 feet).

A connection to the bridge project has been “proposed,” according to the staff report.

Decision about statues postponed

The council opted to let the Parks and Recreation Commission decide what to do with Poki the Tortoise after residents asked that the statue not be moved to a location in Community Park near Laughlin Ranch Boulevard. Bravo the Bull has been slated to take Poki’s current site near Highway 95 in front of the Bullhead Area Chamber of Commerce building. The commission meets Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

The council approved these agenda items:

The 2019-2020 Memorandum of Understanding with the Bullhead City Fraternal Order of Police Officers Association.An intergovernmental agreement between the state and city for administration of the city transaction privilege tax.Another intergovernmental agreement, this one between the city and Mohave County Flood Control District for flood control with an allocation of $880,094.An amendment to the city’s municipal code to reflect changes in state statutes regarding cable TV regulation. The language will be voted upon at a future council meeting.

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