PALMDALE COULD TAKE OVER DAM PROJECT.
Facing possible delays in completion of a dam spillway because of the standoff over the Ritter Ranch housing project, the city is considering taking over the project to meet a Nov. 1 state deadline.
The 60-foot-high earthen dam near Elizabeth Lake and Godde Hill roads is completed, but 85 percent of the concrete spillway must be completed by Nov. 1 or else state dam safety division officials will ask that the dam be taken down, officials said.
``It's the beginning of the rainy season,'' said Stephen Williams, Palmdale public works director. ``It's a health and safety issue. It's critical we get moving on the project.''
According to city officials, a June 17 deadline to resume work on the 7,200-home Ritter Ranch project passed without any progress, putting the massive master-planned community in default on a $50 million bond issued to finance public improvements.
The spillway and dam is part of the $50 million of work that is being funded by the Ritter Ranch Community Facilities District, a special-tax district. The primary purpose of the dam is to act as a flood-control detention basin.
In addition to the dam, the project includes plans for flood-control channels and basins, straightening and widening Elizabeth Lake Road, and extending sewer, water and other public utilities into the rolling hills and valleys west of Palmdale.
The project was designed to primarily benefit the Ritter Ranch and City Ranch housing developments, which were expected to bring more than 12,000 new homes to Palmdale over the next 20 years.
The City Council will meet tonight at 6 in the council chambers, 708 E. Palmdale Blvd., to discuss a design services agreement with Woodward-Clyde Consultants for the Amargosa Creek detention basin dam spillway.
Oakland-based Woodward-Clyde was hired by Ritter Ranch to redesign the spillway after the cost estimate for an earlier design by a different company came in higher than the budget projections, a city staff report said.
``Woodward-Clyde is approximately 85 percent complete with their design and has been put on hold by Ritter Ranch pending the outcome of Ritter's negotiations with the city and bondholders,'' the report said.
The entire spillway is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 1, 1997, the report said.
``Due to the potential delays in getting Ritter Ranch restarted on the design and construction of (community facilities district) improvements, it is imperative that the city proceed to have the design completed so that construction of the 85 percent spillway can be completed by Nov. 1 of this year,'' the report said.
Williams said Ritter Ranch is not moving forward with finalizing the design of the spillway as part of its ``negotiating position'' with the city.
The costs of the contract is $81,000 and will be paid for with money from the city's drainage fund and later be reimbursed by the special tax district ``when negotiations have been completed with Ritter Ranch and the bondholders,'' the report said.
The city also anticipates to administer the spillway construction as well as the installation of irrigation and landscaping for the dam and spillway area, the report said.
In February 1995, Palmdale authorized the sale of $50 million of bonds for the Ritter Ranch project. Palmdale administers the bonds but is not responsible for their payment.
The bond agreement requires Ritter to make privately funded improvements along with improvements financed by the bonds. Ritter Ranch is behind schedule on about $5 million of privately funded projects, city officials said.
Plans for the master-planned community call for five ``residential villages,'' ranging from housing for first-time buyers to larger, upscale homes. Ritter Ranch wants to shift about $2.5 million of bond financing from a village of larger homes to a village of lower-priced homes.