The Mesquite City Council will look at the old medical clinic on Hafen Lane as a possible independent surgical center that would provide labor and delivery services after Mesa View Regional Hospital closed its unit. Photo by Barbara Ellestad

The old may become the new after the Mesquite City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, approved spending RDA funds to evaluate existing city properties for use as medical facilities at their meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

While there were two properties initially on the list for examination, the RDA board approved looking at only one on Hafen Lane. The property, near the corner of Hafen Lane and Riverside Road, served for years as a medical clinic before the Mesa View Regional Hospital was built in 2005. A small part of the building is now used by the Southern Nevada Health District while the rest of it remains unused.

The RDA Board rejected consideration of a second site at 51 E. First North St., which had been used as a medical office in the past.

Without designating a specified amount to spend, the city will hire an engineer or architect to determine how much it will cost to bring the Hafen Lane clinic up to current code and equip it to serve as a birthing center and provide other minor surgical services.

According to the agenda background documents, “This action is a first step in a potentially longer process. Once this step is complete, the Board will be able to determine if they desire further action and how to fund it.”

The action comes shortly after Mesa View Regional Hospital closed its labor and delivery unit including nursery services on Oct. 1. That action caused an uproar with younger residents who will now have to travel to St. George, Utah, or Las Vegas to deliver babies.

Should it ever come to fruition, the city would hire a medical professional to lease the property and provide services.

At the follow-up city council meeting, the RDA became the focus of a discussion among the city councilors without any final action.

Councilman Geno Withelder requested the council to review the possibility of creating an advisory committee to the RDA comprised of community members appointed by the council. Final decisions on any action would remain with the RDA board itself.

Councilman George Rapson asked the simple question of “What’s the purpose?”

Withelder said the advisory committee would help in creating more affordable housing. “With new businesses coming to town, we’re going to sorely need job creation. To do that, we’re going to have to provide some form of affordable housing. Until we provide that affordable housing we’re going to be in dire straits to fill those employment spots. I’m attempting to do that.”

Rapson said he preferred to bring a proposal to the council that “has a body, has a structure, has a financial program, a business plan if you will. I’d be willing to look at that. Not just some theoretical thing that a committee comes up with and then puts to the council to try to implement and actually do the work. That’s not what this is about. This is redevelopment funds. This isn’t workforce housing funds. I just can’t get my head around this. I don’t get it.”

Withelder responded with, “So far, no one has gotten off their dead lazy butts to do a damn thing in this town in the last 10 years that I’ve been here in regards to housing. I think it’s time somebody does something to get involved. It seems nebulous at the start but we’ve got to start someplace.”

Councilman Dave Ballweg said, “We’re just layering on more bureaucracy and more talk. The biggest fallacy of this is that not all workforce housing is redevelopment. This [advisory committee] would be quite confused about what their task would be. It would be more appropriate to come up with a task force or committee that would look at workforce housing.”

Ballweg said that if the task force would find some project that falls under the purview of redevelopment it could be introduced to the RDA board. He added the additional committee would not streamline or add clarity to the process.

“I’m not specifically asking for a workforce housing consortium,” Withelder said. “What I’m trying to do is see if we can get somebody moving in this town to create affordable housing for our workforce.”

Mayor Al Litman said, “By passing this you would be dissolving the RDA board as it stands today and then go out hunting for five eligible interested people.” He added in the past year, he’s had trouble finding just one person to serve on a committee when they don’t get paid for it. “It’s exceptionally difficult,” Litman said.

City attorney Bob Sweetin said it would create another advisory agency that would have to come to council anyway for approval of any action.

After a lengthy discussion no one made a motion to advance the agenda item therefore allowing it to die for lack of action.