BULLHEAD CITY — The Bullhead City Council voted 6-1 to spend additional money toward building a second Bullhead City-Laughlin bridge during its meeting on Tuesday.
Mayor Tom Brady voted against the motion to create an intergovernmental agreement with Clark County, Nevada, and other entities involved with the bridge project that would keep the payment from topping $4.5 million for Bullhead City’s half of the $9 million funding gap to construct the bridge.
The city already had pledged to pay for expenses related to bridge infrastructure on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. That amount is expected to total more than $3 million. Bullhead City’s share of the estimated
$58 million project could reach about $7.7 million.
While there were a variety of opinions expressed by residents who spoke at a workshop prior to Tuesday night’s regular meeting and at that meeting itself, council members said more constituents said they wanted to see the bridge built than not.
Some residents asked if the bridge could be a toll route. City Manager Toby Cotter explained that Arizona doesn’t allow for that arrangement.
Brady made a presentation to the council during Tuesday afternoon’s workshop.
“This is one of the most important decisions to make for years to come,” he said. “There’s no need to make a hurried decision tonight.”
He advised council members to back off for up to a year to negotiate with Nevada entities to potentially reduce the city’s share of the cost, and to see if Arizona state legislators or the state’s U.S. senators and congressional representatives could find money.
The proposed location of the bridge would link Bullhead City and Laughlin at Bullhead Parkway and go over the river to meet a three-mile extension from Needles Highway on the Nevada side.
Brady suggested that, instead of paying for the bridge, the $7.7 million be used to pay for road improvements on routes to serve as alternatives to Highway 95 so more drivers would be able to stay off of it.
Council Member Sheila Shutts said she had concerns, including having only Veteran’s Memorial Bridge available should something happen to make the Laughlin Bridge inaccessible. She said waiting too long to build another bridge could end up making that project “much more expensive.”
And when Shutts worried about how businesses on the south side of the city would be affected by a long wait for a bridge near there, Brady said that locating the new bridge that far south may cause people coming in from Laughlin to go to the Fort Mohave/Mohave Valley area instead of spending their money in Bullhead City.
Shutts said that there will be many more people living on the Parkway — and south of it — 20 years from now. Other potential sites for the bridge to meet the river, such as at Riverview Drive, would greatly increase traffic through the middle of the city.
“We’re looking to the future,” she said about the project.
When it came time for the vote during the meeting, other council members agreed with Shutts’ opinion is that it’s time to move forward and get the project under way.
“This is a long time coming,” said Council Member Annette Wegmann. “We need to move forward.”
Even as Council Member Steve D’Amico said he didn’t want to spend the money, he admitted that “we need a bridge.”
His route from home to work was one highlighted by Brady because, by Brady’s calculations, it would take longer for D’Amico to get to work in Laughlin using the bridge at the Parkway than his current route.
Council Member Mark Clark pointed out that the project isn’t part of the city’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, and was among those who also noted that the project likely won’t begin for at least another year.
That will give the city some time to try to negotiate its share, as well as work with state and federal officials in the hopes of obtaining some money from the state or federal government to offset the cost, Clark said.
Brady said he has started working with Arizona State Rep. Regina Cobb, R-District 5, on obtaining partial funding from the state. He asked the council members to wait until negotiations and funding assistance options were explored before making a decision.
Whatever the amount Bullhead City would pay, it would have to borrow it, said City Manager Toby Cotter.
The mayor and several others again expressed anger with the Laughlin Town Advisory Board for withdrawing support for the project last fall. Not only had Bullhead City officials already arranged for a bond to finance the agreed-upon infrastructure work on the Arizona side leading to the bridge site, Mohave County was going out to bid on the project for construction to begin in January, Brady said.