Rattlesnake interchange barriers fall

Annexation hurdle cleared when landowners sign off on proposal

KINGMAN - The annexation of nearly 800 acres of land necessary for the Rattlesnake Wash traffic interchange looks all but certain to happen following a City Council work session Wednesday afternoon.

City planning administrator Tom Duranceau informed councilmembers that he had received the necessary signatures needed to meet the 51 percent thresholds for number of owners and land valuation of the property to the north and east of the proposed interchange. Duranceau received the final signatures on Monday afternoon, only hours after telling the Miner that he was still several signatures short of the goal.

Following Duranceau's report, Council directed staff to return with an ordinance for the annexation at its next meeting April 6. In accordance with state statute, Duranceau said staff would also prepare a resolution for a plan policy to serve infrastructure and city services in the annexation area for the next 10 years.

With that out of the way, the remainder of the hour-long meeting was spent discussing the interchange project itself - namely, how Kingman and the property owners would pay for it and whether it might happen anytime sooner than fiscal year 2013.

The Arizona Department of Transportation's local district engineer, Mike Kondelis, addressed the desire of some property owners to see the project moved further up in ADOT's five-year program.

"We would have to bump a project or projects of equal value out of that year in the five-year plan," Kondelis said. "Basically, if we wanted to move something into fiscal year '11, we would have to bump a fiscal year '11 project into fiscal year '13."

Kondelis said there were only a handful of projects in the FY'11 and FY'12 programs whose value compared to ADOT's share of Rattlesnake Wash, and most of them, he noted, would be difficult to displace, being located on major interstates in heavily populated areas. He added that the only project he had any direct control over was a lane-widening project on State Route 93 at Antelope Wash, from milepost 104.1 to 101.8, slated for FY'12.

"Really, there's one year of opportunity there, and we'd have to have a pretty good discussion about whether the merits of the Rattlesnake Wash interchange, how they compare to the safety impact of the widening project on 93," Kondelis said.

In summary, Kondelis said FY 2013 remained the earliest ADOT could commit to Rattlesnake Wash without any additional outside financial assistance.

In response to a query from Councilwoman Robin Gordon, Kondelis conceded that it was possible ADOT might bump the project up if some other municipality was unable to match its share for an existing ADOT project. As far as he knew, however, there were no indications that anything of the sort was likely to happen anytime soon.

Kondelis added that the new tentative five-year plan through FY 2014 had not yet been presented. He said there was a possibility that the new plan could rearrange the schedule of projects, and he indicated he would update the city as the situation develops.

In looking for ways to meet the city's $11.8 million share of the project's cost, Development Services Director Gary Jeppson gave Council an update on his investigation into whether the city could secure a federal grant for the interchange from the Economic Development Administration.

Jeppson said he had spoken to an EDA representative in Seattle who indicated the administration did not like to go over the $3 million mark when issuing grants, and that any grant Kingman might receive would likely be in the $1.5 to $2 million range. He said the likelihood of securing an EDA grant would rely on the assurance that the project would create jobs.

"We talked about having to get the project on the comprehensive economic development strategy and that we need to get the commitments that the jobs are going to be created as a result of this project," Jeppson said.

He said the earliest Kingman might be able to secure a grant would be after Sept. 30, when the next federal fiscal year begins. To do that, however, the city would have to show how the interchange and its accompanying new road to the Kingman Industrial Park would lead to new industries moving to the area.

As an example, Jeppson said the city would have to be able to say, "If they fund this project, x number of jobs will be created as a result, we're going to open up the industrial park, and ABC Industries is going to move here and we're going to employ 300, 500 people, whatever that number is.

"We need to get a commitment from industry that they will expand their business or locate on this location if we do the project," he added.

Jeppson said since the Industrial Park would likely be the lynchpin of any permanent job creation resulting from the interchange, he said the money from an EDA grant would go to the construction of the roadway from Industrial Boulevard south to the interchange, rather than the interchange itself.

Having had experience writing a few grant applications himself, the Airport Authority's director of economic development, Bob Riley, suggested that the city should apply for as much money as possible, since any grant it receives will probably be less than what it asks for, regardless of the amount.

One of the property owners present, Paul Shuffler, said a handful of property owners had been willing to help fund the project if it could be moved up in ADOT's calendar. Since that didn't seem likely, Shuffler said he thought it only fair that all property owners should be involved in some kind of development agreement with the city to ensure everyone paid their fair share. Another property owner, Bill Bowers, agreed that an improvement district was the only reasonable way to go.

Council directed staff to draw up a resolution to hire a legal representative to proceed with financing such a development agreement with the property owners, as well as to initiate a formal Intergovernmental Agreement with ADOT that would make official an earlier letter of intent calling for ADOT to finance 70 percent of the project, with the city funding the remaining 30 percent.