We’re learning more about this week’s controversy over a $10 million dollar grant from Desert Healthcare District to help fund CV Link, the proposed biking path through most of the valley.
The Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) and the Desert Healthcare District have been in talks over the grant for years.
There has been renewed discussion this week after a District board meeting Tuesday night. After reviewing the audio from that meeting posted online, it’s clear some comments were made raising concern that the money might not go towards CV Link afterall.
“Is it more important to put in a bike trail, or is it more important to take care of people’s health?” asks a board member heard in the recording of Tuesday’s meeting.
Desert Healthcare District representatives seem to be reevaluating now that CVAG wants to cash out on that $10 million dollar grant for the continued construction of CV Link next year.
“It’s a very political issue you’re already reading about it in the newspaper…there will be things brought to the board,” said a boardmember.
CVAG says they’re ready to move forward based on a memorandum of understanding from 2013 in which the District requested they secure an additional $12.6 million for CV Link before accessing the $10 million.
“We’ve more than done that through grants and outside funding,” said Erica Felci, CVAG’s governmental projects manager, in an interview with News Channel 3 on Thursday.
But comments made in Tuesday’s District meeting suggest that MOU is not binding and that priorities have changed: “Years ago we approved, when we had a five-member board, with three cyclists on it…a ten million dollar grant to fund that portion.”
District board treasurer Mark Matthews added the entire grant program could be at risk: “The Healthcare District doesn’t have the kind of funds it used to have. They’re winding down.”
However, another board member is then heard adding that without the funds, she fears the entire project could be doomed and that CV Link would be beneficial to the health of the community: “I see this as our responsibility. I would hate to see us renege on our commitment.”
CVAG is hoping the district sticks to the original plan. “We look forward to finalizing a grant contract with them and using those funds to build,” said Felci on Thursday.
The District concluded in Tuesday’s board meeting that they want to make their final decision after hearing from the public. They encourage people to show up to share their thoughts on October 22nd at the UC Riverside Campus in Palm Desert.