DHS approves bonds for new fire station, police station improvements and animal hospital

The Desert Hot Springs City Council has voted to issue and sell bonds for a number of projects, including the potential purchase of a former animal hospital and a new fire station.

The board on Tuesday approved the issuance and sale of rental income bonds to fund $14 million for capital improvement projects and $1 million for the purchase of real estate, possibly the former animal hospital in Desert Hot Springs.

The Board voted 3 to 2 to approve the bonds. Pro Tem Mayor Russell Betts and Councilman Roger Nuñez voted against the bonds, saying they oppose the city’s plan to eventually buy the animal hospital, which closed in 2018 amid the controversial.

On June 15, council authorized the city manager to move forward with a finance team, underwriter and bond adviser on the issuance and sale of 2021 rental income bonds to fund $14 million in capital improvement projects and $1 million for the purchase of real estate. . The Board then formally approved the issuance and sale of these bonds by the Desert Hot Springs Public Funding Authority on Tuesday, and also authorized the bonds while acting in the role of funding authority.

The $15 million budget for capital improvement projects and purchase is broken down as follows:

  • $6.6 million for a new fire station
  • $1.4 million for upgrades to the existing fire station
  • $5.2 million for the new police station annex building
  • $500,000 for improvements to the police station
  • $300,000 for improvements to the Carl May Center
  • $1 million for the purchase of the veterinary hospital

“Individually, each of these projects is considered important to the City’s commitment to improving customer service delivery. Collectively, the projects demonstrate a historically significant one-time investment in the safety, security, and quality of life for all who live, work, and visit this community,” the city staff report reads.

The largest project funded by bond sales will be $6.6 million budgeted for Station 98, the city’s long-awaited new fire station on the east side of Desert Hot Springs. Station 98 will be located on Hacienda Avenue near Long Canyon Road and is expected to reduce response times by relieving Station 37 on Pierson Drive, the busiest fire station in Riverside County.

After:Desert Hot Springs Fire Station is the busiest in Riverside County, but help is on the way

The bonds will also fund the expansion of Station 37 and a new police annex building, which will be located next to the existing police station and will house the new police service dispatch and communications centre. The existing police station will also benefit from $500,000 worth of upgrades to the interior of the building. The former Town Council Chambers at the Carl May Center will also be converted into additional space that could be used to expand the senior center.

But the most controversial aspect of the bonds is the $1 million allocation for the potential purchase of the former animal hospital at 13700 Palm Drive, which closed in December 2018.

The facility’s closure “has left a major void in our city” and a functioning veterinary hospital “would provide an essential service to all pet owners in the city and our surrounding sphere of influence,” the official said. staff report.

The closure of the establishment in December 2018 took place after the resignation of its medical director and a period of upheaval on the nonprofit board of the Humane Society of the Desert, which owns the hospital.

In May 2018, the hospital’s medical director filed for a civil harassment restraining order against Melinda Bustos, the association’s former board chair. The request alleged that Bustos ordered the medical director to euthanize two 10-week-old puppies in February 2018, and when the medical director refused, Bustos “further escalated his direct harassment” of the medical director. This request was ultimately rejected by a judge after neither party attended a hearing.

In 2015, The Desert Sun also reported that the Human Society faced criticism after reaching a deal to transfer dogs and cats from another shelter called Registering a Pet at a Humane Society Facility. After the animals were transferred, a dog was euthanized in controversial circumstances.

Nuñez and Betts said they supported planned capital improvements for the city’s police and fire stations, but could not support the potential purchase of an animal hospital.

“We really, really need funding for the fire department and the police department. But having it tied to the animal hospital, it’s a shame it’s even being considered, after all the details that are still tied into this “Nuñez said.

Betts called the potential purchase of an animal hospital “one of the worst proposals I’ve ever seen on this board.”

“I want an animal hospital as much as anyone else, but there are all kinds of ways to do it without spending a million dollars,” said Betts, who added that he had seen residents on social media say they would rather see $1 million spent on other amenities like parks and fountains. “As long as it relates to the animal hospital, although it pains me to have to vote no on a fire station, when we need the fire station and the police station, this animal hospital is such a bad deal that I can’t go on record to support it in any way.

But Tuesday’s bond approval does not commit the city to buying the animal hospital. The board would still need to vote on the potential purchase of the hospital at a later date, after negotiations with the landlord and a price and contract have been finalized.

If the Council decides not to go ahead with the purchase of the animal hospital when a deal is on the table, then the million dollars could be reallocated to other projects or returned. Other council members said they saw the allocation as an opportunity to buy the animal hospital or focus on another project in the city.

“That’s $1 million that can be spent on an animal hospital or other projects in our community. So let’s say the animal hospital doesn’t cost us that much or we choose not to buy the animal hospital when the case comes to us, or the deal just doesn’t work out. That gives us another $1 million to spend on something like a wading pool or a park,” Mayor Scott Matas said.

“To sit here and say this is the worst case in the world, I just don’t agree with that. I think it’s an opportunity. We haven’t committed to the animal hospital. “It’s part of the discussion, and negotiations are ongoing for this animal hospital, but we don’t know what the price will be, or even if it will happen. The city council hasn’t had this before us yet” , he continued.

Board member Gary Gardner reiterated that “we’re not choosing whether or not to buy the animal hospital, we’re just choosing whether or not to fund up to that $15 million and allow the bond sale.”

“The beauty of this is that if the sale of the animal hospital doesn’t go through, we have the money in our pockets to spend on other projects that benefit the community…If and when the purchase of the animal hospital is waiting for us, then we can have the debate about whether it’s a good deal or not,” Council Member Gary Gardner said.

Erin Rode covers the western Coachella Valley towns of Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs. Contact her at [email protected]

Benjamin M. Yerger