What’s True and What’s Not in Federal Grant
Desert Hot Springs, CA – This article examines the multimillion dollar federal grant aimed at improving health care in the city with creating a new health clinic. Everyone agrees about the importance of solving the city’s health care problem. Most third world countries have more doctors than this city where there are just three physicians for nearly 25,000 people.
The city was banking on a plan by Borrego Community Healthcare Foundation, Inc. but was told at the December 18 city council meeting the planned sale of the property from the city to Borrego was falling apart. After 14 years of working to solve the health care problem the city manager made the announcement that Sacramento was screwing things up.
Up in Sacramento the Department of Finance was swamped with 435 cities creating an impressive backlog of hundreds of projects from dissolved Redevelopment Agencies. Desert Hot Springs was not the only city with an urgency trying to crowd to the front of the line. The problem was that waiting months for a resolution from Sacramento meant months of delays for construction and that risked losing the grant. So the finger pointing began.
Hopes for a new city health clinic dimmed when the city manager Rick Daniels reported Sacramento was not approving the sale as quickly as needed and the federal grant required construction be complete before the end of 2013.
The city council sensed panic for the project that the city genuinely needed. The project was also expected to add another feather in the cap of a beleaguered city manager and to serve as positive campaign fodder for three council members seeking reelection in November 2013.
To counter the plan evaporating before their eyes, a two pronged approach was designed to enlist Assemblyman Manuel Perez to twist some arms in Sacramento and for new congressman Raul Ruiz to intervene in Washington. A resolution was also unanimously passed to empower the city manager to “do whatever is necessary” short of litigating against the state of California. An editorial was published in The Desert Sun imploring the state to solve the problem with a much needed health clinic.
However there is a lot more to this than meets the eye – so we’re peeling back the onion to expose the underlying layers of this matter. Proof can’t be argued with so we have a link to the grant application at the end of this article so everyone can read it themselves. Reading the source documents of the health clinic grant application explains why someone in the city made it hard to get copies of the documents.
“This grant cannot be used for any other property and must be used on the site of the Jewish Temple,” said City Manager Rick Daniels.
This is not true. There is not one single reference anywhere in the grant application to any physical property address, any parcel number or any physical property description. At the December city council meeting Councilman Adam Sanchez questioned why would the city would not adopt a “plan B” to consider alternatives to getting a health clinic built. Councilman Betts supported Sanchez by encouraging the city to undertake a “parallel path” exploring other properties so as not to lose the funding. Still, Daniels insisted that it must be used for a “city owned building” and the site of the former Jewish Temple specifically. That is not what is written in the grant application.
“We are not the ones who picked the site. Borrego picked the site” said City Manager Rick Daniels. That is not what is written on the grant application and not what we were told by representatives from Borrego.
“No other building in the city can be used by Borrego for the health clinic,” said Daniels. That is also not true. There are many buildings and properties in the city that are for sale or lease that could be utilized to meet the needs for a health care clinic.
No Public Transportation to Health Clinic
“The bus doesn’t go down Pierson? I didn’t know that,” said a representative from Borrego Foundation. The proposed property located at the Jewish Temple site is four blocks from a bus stop and not easily accessible to the general public. That was not addressed in the Grant Application.
Remodel Not Mandated
“This grant cannot be used for new construction,” said City Manager Rick Daniels.
This also is not true. Many of the recipients of this federal grant built new health clinic facilities. In fact half the grant application specifically states “A new healthcenter will be constructed.” As a matter of fact there are many references worded in the grant for NEW construction OR remodel but no statements that it must be used exclusively for rehabilitating an existing structure.
Perhaps someone in Washington DC at the grant source of Health and Human Services said it best, “The funding is for new construction OR rehabilitation,” said Division of Grants Management Operations representative Mona Thompson.
Why The Wait Until the Last Minute?
The city has been painted into a corner by continued insistence for using the former Jewish Temple property. The grant is for using 2009 Stimulus Funding so why didn’t the city make this project happen in 2010 or 2011 before the state dissolved redevelopment agencies? That question was put to a representative from Borrego and the answer was they don’t know why the city delayed the project until it was too late.
City Recovers Nothing – $1.4 Million Lost
“The city agrees to sell the property for $1,” wrote Mayor Yvonne Parks in a July 28, 2009 letter to Borrego Community Health Foundation. However there is no record of the city authorizing sale of the property and no minutes from any city council meeting in 2009 or 2010 or 2011 where the issue of this property came before the council for a discussion or vote approving sale for $1.
“The city will recover all $1.4 million spent on the property,” said City Manager Rick Daniels.
At a city council meeting December 4, 2012 the city suddenly voted to sell the property to Borrego for $290,000. That is $289,999 more than Mayor Parks offer of $1.00 and $1.1 million less than Daniels’ statement that he will recover all $1.4 million the city spent on the property.
Importance of Health Care
The health care district identified lack of health care as the single biggest impediment to economic prosperity of our area. Yet the insistence of City management to utilize this particular property – and not considering alternatives for the location -has moved the city dangerously close to losing a health clinic much needed by the people in the city.
Read Grant for yourself…
Hear and see for yourself…