By Deb Murphy
One thing nobody every taught us in Civics classes was how long and how entangled with red tape government projects actually are. Take for example, the City of Bishop’s Seibu to School Bike Path, included in Inyo County’s Collaborative Bikeways Plan in 2008.
At Monday’s Bishop City Council’s meeting, the members had to take a gamble and try to beat a 2-1/2-week deadline to build the project that will run from the City and Bishop Paiute Tribe border to the elementary school grounds. The project could be built, if the red tape can be cleared by March 18 when the grant funding disappears, on Los Angeles Department of Water and Power land.
The project had been widely accepted by area residents and would provide safe passage for grade school kids to get to school.
The City and the department agreed to a purchase price of $45,000, but Bishop will have to pay $200 in rent on the land until the sale is completed. In the interim, the City will have to sign off on a Right to Enter and Construct.
Public Works Director Dave Grah provided the back story:
The design and environmental work was funded through a Transportation Enhancement Activity grant in 2008.
In 2013, $30,000 in TEA funds were intended to finalize the design and get right-of-way from LADWP.
LADWP wasn’t interested in granting right-of-way. The City offered the appraised price of $17,900 to purchase the land; DWP declined the offer.
LADWP warmed to the project two or three years ago, but came up with an appraisal of $117,000. In mid-2018, the department and Bishop settled on a $45,000 purchase price.
So now, the only way to secure the $480,000 Active Transportation Program funding is to sign off on the Right to Enter and Construct which includes language that Grah described as “problematic.” The scary language includes LADWP’s right to terminate the project for any reason or “no reason at all” in which case Bishop would have to tear out any work completed. Grah anticipated having the project in Limbo for “not more than a few months” while the sale is finalized.
All these machinations bumped the cost up by $4-$6,000 which will have to come out of city funds.
Grah wasn’t optimistic. “There’s a one in four chance of meeting this deadline,” he told the Council. “But this is the only chance we have to complete the project.”
Grah also said the local LADWP staff had been helpful in the process.
Councilmember Karen Schwartz summed up the Council’s discussion. “Safe pathways are important. Go for it.”