TWENTYNINE PALMS — From parking to time without water and power, property and business owners in the Project Phoenix downtown redevelopment area learned more about how the project will affect them in the short and long term.
The project, which will include construction of a downtown community center, involves businesses on the south side of Twentynine Palms Highway from Cholla to Tamarisk.
It will also involve construction of a new Joshua Tree National Park visitor center, complete with a museum housing the Campbell Collection, Native American Artifacts collected by a pioneering Twentynine Palms family.
City Manager Frank Luckino said Park Superintendent felt the visitor center would draw a million people a year to downtown Twentynine Palms.
Property and business owners were invited to hear from city and utility officials at a meeting Thursday, Feb. 20, in council chambers at city hall.
They learned more about how the first phase of Project Phoenix construction, replacing individual septic systems and placing power lines underground, will affect their businesses.
Among other things, they were concerned about reports that some would be asked to pay hundreds of dollars a month in sewage treatment fees once their businesses are hooked up, first to a large communal septic tank and later to a package water treatment plant.
City Manager Frank Luckino noted that numbers found in a draft of a rate study plan have since been revised and that the amount business pay, based on the amount of water they use, will vary from a high of $180 a month to, in one case, a low of $2 a month.
He added that general fund money will be used to pay expenses for the sewage treatment system in order to keep costs low for property owners.
“It’s all about usage,” he said.
“What is the benefit to us?” Karon Masterson, who co-owns several downtown buildings, asked.
“Septic tanks are not sustainable,” Luckino replied, noting that the longer the city waits to implement sewage treatment the more expensive it will get. “It’s not getting any cheaper.”
He added that the downtown revitalization project will create 200 parking spaces in the downtown area.
“I can’t wait until we have a parking problem downtown,” he said.
Owners also learned that plans were being made to minimize disruption to businesses caused when new sewer and power lines are hooked up to businesses.
City officials, Luckino said, are hoping to have all the sewage work done by the end of April.
They learned that Edison officials are hoping to limit disruption caused by hooking businesses up to new underground lines to a single night, possibly a Sunday night.
“We will do all 21 meters in one night,” Brian Kalka, from Edison, told owners.
“We’ve had to deal with outages before,” Cora Palamino, owner of the Virginian Bar, said. “We’ve had to shut down, no power, no business.”