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October 31, 2014

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Legal costs mount for Boulder City bypass project

Image

Nevada Department of Transportation

This artist’s rendering shows what the redesigned interchange of Boulder City Bypass and U.S. 93 would look like at Railroad Pass. Railroad Pass Casino is at left. If U.S. 93 is designated an interstate between Las Vegas and Phoenix, the bypass route would become part of the interstate, officials say.

Click to enlarge photo

This Nevada Department of Transportation graphic shows the route of the proposed Boulder City Bypass.

A $300,000 original contract for a retired attorney to help the state in the condemnation suits for the Boulder City bypass highway has ballooned to $1.9 million.

The state Board of Transportation Monday approved an amendment to the contract with attorney Laura Fitzsimmons to act as legal consultant on the three condemnation suits filed in the plans to acquire property for the bypass project.

In December 2012, a $300,000 contract for Fitzsimmons was approved, then it was increased in August to $1.1 million and it now stands at $1.9 million.

The Transportation Department said the contract was increased because of the complex issues involved.

Fitzsimmons was also approved Monday by the board for a $900,000 contract to help handle legal matters on condemnation issues on Project Neon, which will make improvements to Interstate 15 in Las Vegas.

Dennis Gallagher, chief deputy attorney general in the Transportation Department, said previously that Fitzsimmons was the one of the best lawyers in the state on condemnation matters. Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto said she didn't have the staff to handle these cases.

Fitzsimmons, talking about the cases on the Boulder City project, said Monday, "I'm not getting all that money." She must hire other attorneys, engineering and financial experts and prepare extensive documents, said Fitzsimmons. And those expenses will come out of the $1.9 million.

She estimates she puts in 45-50 hours a week on the Boulder City case. She expects to make $40,000 to $60,000 a month.

Of the three suits, Fitzsimmons, who spends her time between Las Vegas and Carson City, said two are headed for mediation.

On the third case, the state wants to condemn three acres for the highway and has offered owner Jericho Heights $33,700. The residential developer wants $33 million, insisting the bypass will prevent it from developing up to 30 adjacent acres.

"I'm trying to minimize the risk for the state," said Fitzsimmons.

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