Taxpayer-funded rest stop near Searchlight finally opens
By Michael Lopardi. CREATED Feb 15, 2013
Searchlight, NV (KTNV) -- A new, roughly $3 million rest stop and visitor center off U.S. 95 near Searchlight finally opened to drivers on Thursday after months of sitting unused.
"It looks great," said driver Al Vierra. "And it's perfectly clean inside, which works for me."
Taxpayers already paid for the project, but they could also be left with the bill for thousands of dollars in extra fixes to get the facility opened to the public.
"We drove by it several times and it looked like it was ready to be open but it wasn't," said driver Steven Kistler.
Most work on the new restrooms, picnic areas and drinking fountains finished up last May, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation. The facility, which was paid for with federal stimulus money, was supposed to open by July, but that never happened.
"My wife and I kept wondering, well, are they ever going to open it?" said Kistler.
What led to the delay? NDOT said an inspection completed after work finished revealed several problems, primarily with the facility's water system. For starters, the chlorine system wasn't working properly and needed to be replaced. Some tanks and a pipe controlling water pressure also had to be fixed so the facility could have water service, according to assistant district engineer Mohamed Rouas.
"We upgraded and made some improvements to the well system and now it's fully operational," said Rouas.
The fixes came with an extra cost of roughly $10,000, Rouas said. But who will have to pay those costs?
"We're still in negotiations right now. We had to pay for it in order to expedite it and get it open," Rouas said.
While NDOT said it covered the initial tab, the state said it's investigating to see if a contractor, for example, could be forced to pay the extra bill.
Action News asked visitors if the facility was worth the tax dollars.
"Hopefully, it will get utilized and be well worth it," said visitor Barbara Wortham.