With new ordinance, road work around mall can begin
What began two weeks ago, ended Wednesday night when the Yuma City Council gave its final blessing to an ordinance that will allow about $10 million worth of road work around a proposed new outdoor mall to proceed.
Despite an impassioned plea by local activist Jack Kretzer to not pass the ordinance as an emergency - which prevents citizens from challenging the council's action by taking out referendum petitions against it - the council did just that.
The vote was unanimous to give final approval to a four-part ordinance that amends the city's original development agreement with WDP Partners of Phoenix. WDP is building the 128-acre outdoor mall known as Yuma Palms Regional Shopping Center at 16th Street and Pacific Avenue.
WDP has agreed to pay $3 million up front as its share of the off-site roadwork.
Wednesday's amendment does four things:
*It awards an $8 million road work contract to Tanner Companies, which is a multinational company with a branch in Yuma.
*It authorizes the city to go out for nearly $7.3 million worth of bonds to pay for its share of the roadwork.
*It allows the city to use an improvement district that was formed in November to pay for the roadwork. The improvement district consists of two lots owned by the mall developer.
*It sets the assessments for the improvement district and identifies the lots involved in the district.
City spokesman James Stover said city officials will meet with Tanner Co. officials in about two weeks to sort out the construction schedule for the road work. Tanner was the only company that bid on the project. Actual work on the underground portion of the roadwork should begin sometime in March. All of the roads should be built by December at the latest.
The mall itself is scheduled to open in October or November. Although work has already begun there, a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the mall is scheduled for Wednesday.
Questioned at a work session Tuesday about the reason for declaring the ordinance an emergency, Deputy City Administrator Bob Stull said the emergency clause is typically used when the city must issue debt. That way the interest rate is locked in, Stull said.
He said bond underwriters are unwilling to accept bonds that they have to wait 30 days on.
He also said that although the city has tried to avoid using its emergency powers recently, he feels more comfortable using it this time because there have already been two public hearings on the issue and a protest period that began Nov. 17.
During that time, Stull said, no protests were received. He also said that waiting 30 days would delay the start of construction and he noted that city officials have been saying publicly for months that the city would use an emergency clause on this amendment.
City Attorney Steve Moore told the council that the use of an emergency clause is allowed by both the state constitution and the city charter.
However, Kretzer insisted there was no emergency and pleaded with the council not to take away his right as a citizen to resort to a referendum.
"You don't like it, but that's my right," Kretzer said.
Stull said the bonds will be sold at 10 a.m. on Feb. 18 and he expects the interest rate to be around 3.65 percent.
Stull also answered questions Wednesday about rumors that the agreement is structured in such a way that WDP will end up getting its $3 million road work contribution back.
"In no circumstances do they ever get any of that $3 million back," Stull said.