By Tonya Little
The Del City City Council meeting on Monday, October 3 had a line item up for discussion, consideration and possible action to approve or deny Right-of-Way, Public Utility and Encroachment Agreements with ODOT for the 15th Street and Crutcho Creek bridge replacements on I-40. However after discussing that although the city is in agreement with the work to be done, they are not in agreement with who has to pay for it.
“It’s still going to be about 16-18 months before ODOT actually starts construction, they are trying to get all of their mid documents and engineering and everything out of the way so they can start letting them bid, but this program is for a specific federal year when the funds will be available. But in the meantime there’s still certain things they can be doing that they have to do to meet the guidelines the federal government has to access the funding and that includes clearing some of these right of ways that we have, for example the Welcome to Del City sign down there by 15th and Vickie,” explained city manager Mark Edwards.
City Council Member Floyd Eason of Ward 4 brought up the fact that approving this line item might seem to ODOT as if Del City were agreeing to the $300,000 charge to the city that ODOT are asking for the movement of the utility lines, and Eason didn’t agree to the city being on the hook for that amount. In fact neither were Mayor Brian Linley or Edwards either.
“They are saying because the utilities are in our town and it’s part of the ODOT project, the city is responsible for paying for the relocation of these private utility lines which are really the oil companies property. It just doesn’t strike me as fair that taxpayers have to fund it,” explained Edwards. “This is another thing to consider, whenever the city does a project, any type of street project, and there’s a utility that needs to be relocated, it’s the responsibility of the city to pay for that if it’s our project. Several years ago when we widened 15th street, we had to move the ONG gas line and the OGE electric line, we paid for all of that. But now they are coming along with this archaic old state law saying well you’ve got to pay 20% and that can be a budget crunch. We can try to get them to change it or try to change the law.”
Because of this hesitation at agreeing to pay for the cost of the relocation of the utilities, the council decided to table the discussion until a further time when it can be explored more thoroughly.
“Why should the citizen of Del City pay for that? We don’t get a franchise tax off of that, if we were getting a franchise you know, I’ll partner with you, but we don’t. This is the state’s project, not ours,” said Linley. “We even met with them two years ago, we met with their senior staff and our state representative and senators and said this is not a good deal. We need to revisit this, If we need to change legislation, then change legislation.”
The original price of the project was actually in excess of $700,000 when ODOT first brought the project to the table during that first meeting. They have since lowered Del City’s portion to approximately $330,000.
“We didn’t want to pass and support that item tonight and give false premise to the state out there that we’re on board with this because we’re not. We’re not on board with this. We’re not in any way looking to hold up the project, that is not our goal, but it needs to be fair. That’s where we are at,” explained Linley.
Edwards also explained that the city does have a water line directly under the bridge that they have already done the engineering on that the city will have to relocate, and they don’t have a problem with that. ODOT also plans on making Reno one of the major detour routes during the construction and the City has planned on redoing the Cherry Creek Bridge and having it completed before ODOT starts the I-40 bridge project to make that detour route more manageable.