BARSTOW After it approved an economic study in opposition to a proposed high speed train between Victorville and Las Vegas, Barstow officials are now proposing that the city hire a public relations firm to spread awareness about the train's negative impacts to Barstow.

The City Council will be asked Monday to approve a $20,000 professional services agreement with Public Management Advisors, a consulting firm for public agencies. If approved, the consultant will come up with a communication plan to spread awareness of the loss of revenue and the loss of jobs in Barstow should the DesertXpress train be built.

City officials estimate that Barstow could lose $1.3 million a year in sales tax revenue if the DesertXpress train is built. This is based on a traffic impact study, which states the train would result in 20 percent fewer cars on Interstate 15. The train would connect Victorville with Las Vegas, bypassing Barstow.

According to its contract with the city, if hired, Public Management Advisors will position Barstow as an environmental and economic advocate, put political pressure on California government officials and offer commentary to influence public opinion. It will send press releases and pitch story ideas to newspapers in Nevada and Arizona as well as the Los Angeles Times and the Desert Dispatch.

City Manager Richard Rowe could not be reached for comment. Ron Rector, the city's community and economic development director, and the person making the proposal, wrote in an e-mail Friday that he does not comment on agenda items that haven't been before the City Council for approval.

The City Council Sept. 15 approved a $22,000 contract with economist Ronald Barbieri to prepare an economic study that will be submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration at a public hearing Oct. 14.

DesertXpress officials hope to be through the permitting process by the end of this year. Project officials are currently applying for a federal loan to partially fund the project.

The DesertXpress is one of two high speed trains proposed for the High Desert. The Council has long opposed the project because it does not have a stop in Barstow. A magnetic levitating train between Anaheim and Las Vegas with a stop in Barstow is being developed, but would need to be funded by government dollars.

The Federal Railroad Administration's public hearing on the train's supplemental environmental impact statement released earlier this month from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Hampton Inn at 2710 Lenwood Road. The supplemental environmental impact report can be found at the FRA's Web site at http://www.fra.dot.gov/Pages/1703.shtml.

The Barstow City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers at 220 East Mountain View Street. Copies of the agenda and staff report are available at www.barstowca.org. Meetings are televised live at Time Warner Cable Channel 6.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com