Mesquite to be paved... at last
(This story originally appeared in the Hesperia Star Tuesday, March 7, 2006)
If you were attending Mesquite Trails Elementary School during the 1998-1999 school year, odds are that, seven years later, the quality of Mesquite Road is no longer a major issue for you, now that you’re a student at Hesperia Junior High School or Hesperia High School.
But the class of 2006-2007 will, at long last, have a paved road leading to campus.
Paving the stretch of Mesquite Road between Maple Avenue and Escondido Avenue was one of the first projects Councilman Jim Lindley took on after he was elected.
“I had just gotten elected in November of ‘98 and I was appointed to [the San Bernardino Associated Governments] in December of ‘98,” he said. “The issue was the Hesperia Unified School District had built Mesquite Trails Elementary on a piece of dirt they owned … and the parents were upset, and said it was unsafe.”
The need to pave a road that fronted an elementary school seemed pretty obvious, so Lindley, the “newbie” politician, picked up the project, thinking it would be relatively quick to resolve.
“I think it’s even less than a mile, if I’m not mistaken.”
But as he was to learn, paving that one mile of road wasn’t going to be that easy.
“There’s been a hold-up over the years. The first has been just grinding through the system and getting it put on as a priority,” he said. “Then we looked at it, and a lot of it was in the county and half of it was in the city, and we wanted to do it as a joint project and had to do a cost sharing agreement.
“Then we looked at that, and said ‘that’s great, where are we going to get the money?’”
The city and county hit upon getting the money from a fund that would pay for the road, because it would take “particulate matter” out of the air.
“It took forever to get state and federal officials to acknowledge that paving this dirt road would reduce particulate matter in the air.”
In other words, they had to convince federal and state officials that driving school buses on unpaved roads creates dust that could be avoided by laying down asphalt.
“Then we do property acquisition. And everyone sells their easement for the going rate.”
Well, not quite everyone.
“There’s one property owner who felt that his easement, which I think was four feet wide and 50 feet long, was worth 50 times what the property was worth.”
By law, the easement could only be used to build, say, a paved road.
“Finally, they accepted an offer for their little strip of land. They were holding up the project for months. So, now we can build the project, but time has gone on, and costs have gone up.”
At last Wednesday’s meeting of the Hesperia City Council, the council approved a measure to spend an additional $207,000 towards the project, bringing the city’s contribution into the neighborhood of $400,000 total. Seven years after the project first began working its way through various government bureaucracies, the final bill will be $1.4 million, including the money for keeping the dust being knocked up in the air by school buses.
“Sometimes, the fun of government has worn off,” said Lindley, who now works for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and is a man who unabashedly finds government fun and interesting as a rule. “This is an instance where every government agency that was involved … realized that this has to get done, so let’s get on it and let’s do it.”
But it still took seven years to pave the road beside Mesquite Trails Elementary School.
“This was harder to get done than the Main Street interchange. And that was a $22 million project,” Lindley said. “In the annals of history, no one will ever remember the struggles to pave this strip of pavement. But in the annals of Jim Lindley, I sure will remember this one.”
The next meeting of the Hesperia City Council will be held on March 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 956-7108.