Proposed Headquarters for MSWD Could be Jeopardized by Jerusalem Cricket

New Headquarters for MSWD Possibly in Jeopardy

Jerusalem Cricket (Courtesy of U.S. National Park Service.)

DESERT HOT SPRINGS — New headquarters for Mission Springs Water District at Two Bunch Palms have been in the works for years. They could now be brought to a halt by the existence of a Jerusalem Cricket.

Although some say plans for a new headquarters building are DOA, nothing has been decided, said Marion Champion, Programs and Public Affairs Manager for MSWD.

News of the headquarters’ alleged demise spread like wildfire following a board meeting earlier this month. It even caught the attention of directors of Desert Water Agency. 

“The site of the proposed new … headquarters on Two Bunch Palms Trail contains a potential habitat for the Coachella Valley Jerusalem cricket, which is a protected species,” Gerald McKenna, a member of the Desert Water Agency board of Directors told Uken Report. “To develop the site, it would be necessary to acquire (and preserve forever) an area of pristine desert nine times the acreage disturbed. Pristine desert is actually quite scarce and undoubtedly expensive. In my view, this news has almost certainly killed the project. As in dead.”

Former MSWD Director Steve Grasha, now on the Desert Water Agency board of directors, told Uken Report he never supported the Two Bunch Palm location for the new headquarters.

“I was ostracized by the board majority for voting alone against building a new administration building on this district-owned site,” Grasha said.  “Part of my reasoning was the building site in my view was literally undevelopable because the zoning and multi-species habitat overlay issues. ”

Fast forward to today. “Just as I warned years ago, the board was informed … that the site is in-fact undevelopable, and the millions spent on design have been wasted,” Grasha said.

There is a challenge with the Jerusalem Cricket at that location, a spokesperson for MSWD acknowledged. “But there are options and paths forward, which staff will prepare and present at the July workshop. The board will then have the information needed to make an informed decision.”

Following is a clip of the meeting that ignited the spark.

“There is no $150M building—that is false information,” Champion said. “No decisions have been made to lead us to a $150M administration building. We have not established a specific construction cost for the new building. Our current estimate from 2022 remains at $28M. It has not been repriced; however, we would expect a Consumer Price Index increase. We’ve seen similar inflationary situations; for example, when we first went out to bid with our new reclamation facility, we anticipated a construction bid of $27-$30M. Instead, the offers came back closer to $48M.”

The board has not yet authorized staff to move into the construction/bid phase, Champion said. Aa more accurate cost estimate will be available once the design and location are locked in. MSWD directors have an additional board tour planned later this month, and Champion said she anticipates at least one, if not more, public workshops where this issue will continue to be discussed.

“We have been working towards a new administration building for a number of years now. The land on Two Bunch was purchased more than 20 years ago; this location and other options are still being discussed,” Champion said. “We’ve outgrown our existing building, and it needs a major overhaul to remain functional. Building a new building will allow us to combine our field services and administrative staff under one roof, improving our efficiency, customer service, and in the long run, saving our customers money. Whatever site is chosen, I am confident that the board will consider the zoning requirements and the projected traffic impact of our operations. In the end, we want to make sure we have a site that is appropriate for the type of work we do.






Image Sources

  • MSWD Building: MSWD