RDA Project List Prioritization Unaccomplished After 3.5 Hour Workshop

The Turlock City Council serves as the Redevelopment Agency and has just over $10 million in available funds to spend on Redevelopment Area projects.
 
A current list of Redevelopment Agency projects, including the already approved Carnegie Arts Center plan and downtown parking lot, may be changed by adding new projects to the list and reprioritizing the list.
 
This reprioritization workshop came about when Vice Mayor Ted Howze suggested at a previous meeting that because the new Public Safety Facility will take up all the city’s bonding capacity for years to come, that the community should get a chance to update and reprioritize the list of public projects as funding from an RDA bond source won’t really be available in the future.
 
Two new projects that are not on the current list came up at the May 5th Redevelopment Agency Meeting.
 
The Miracle League handicapped baseball field to be located where the city may purchase land at Tuolumne Road and Countryside Drive is one of the newer projects.
 
The modernization of Turlock High School’s Joe Debely Stadium was another hyped project coming up a lot that made its way before the agency.
 
Two different versions of two different projects that are currently on the list were also brought up.
 
Councilman Kurt Spycher suggested another project that was not specifically on the list but could be included in the Columbia Parks and Facilities line, a water feature.
 
A youth center that could possibly be incorporated into the Carnegie renovation was also suggested by Councilwoman Amy Bublak.
 
Three current projects that have been on the 2006 RDA Bond project list continued their proposals.
 
The Turlock Downtown parking lot has been on the list of projects and garnered a lot of initial support from the Redevelopment Agency.
 
The Carnegie Arts Center has also been an ongoing project for years and continued to gather Council support.

Improvements to the gateways of Turlock were also brought up.

 
People attending the meeting were asked to fill out cards that requested their name, project to speak on, their comment, and to check a box of support or opposition. People were then asked to not reiterate already spoken views and come up as specific projects were addressed.
 
The audience was first asked to speak on the Carnegie Arts Center project. About 53 people supported the Carnegie project, about a dozen spoke in support of the project, and 2 people opposed the project.
 
Key points in supporting the continuance of the Carnegie project were that in October 2007 the City Council identified $7.7 million in funds for the Carnegie, including $4.5 million of RDA monies, the community has raised $600,000 already, it definitely is a blight area that has been standing long enough as such, $838,000 has already been spent on the project and that this project is going to bid on Thursday.
 
Key points in opposition included an estimate of probable construction costs that came in at $9.2 to $10.2 million dollars and an MOU that states the “City agrees to maintain and operate the Carnegie Arts Center as a public venue.”
 
Vice Mayor/Redevelopment Agency Member Ted Howze had concerns with any project that had ongoing costs and kept making the argument that it was either one project, the Carnegie, or multiple other projects because there wasn’t enough money.
 
One person spoke in favor of funding Turlock High School’s Joe Debely Stadium renovation. It was reported that 5 people were there in support of the project and one against.
 
The supporting statements included that the project was one with economic development impacts and many people would use it.
 
A Turlock High School neighborhood resident spoke in opposition of the project and stated that she had a petition of neighboring residents that don’t like how they already have noise, traffic, and parking issues without any proposed increased use.
 
Support for the Turlock downtown First Street parking lot was presented by TDPOA Executive Director Trina Walley and TDPOA President Stephen Backus. Statements of economic development and the benefit of purchasing businesses that bring blight issues were made. The City of Turlock already purchased one property for this project at the cost of $600,000. The TDPOA also presented figures that private to public investment in the Downtown District are about $2 (maybe $3) to $1.
 
Turlock Chamber of Commerce CEO Sharon Silva spoke in support of continuing plans to improve the gateways of Turlock.
 
Other comments were made that weren’t necessarily for or against a project.
 
Kristen Santos spoke on the fact that the Council had already made a decision in October of 2007 to approve moving forward with the Carnegie plan, identified $7.7 million in funds, and has spent money towards the Carnegie plan already. She believed not following through with the project would be like breaking a promise and that wouldn’t be precedent she would like her government to be setting.
 
Former Mayor Brad Bates spoke to a major point of interest by asking the Board the question of how did the City of Turlock only get $900,000 in insurance money on a $5 million building. The answer that the project was never added to the policy was mind blowing. Who is responsible and what consequences come with that mistake are not clear.
 
David (DJ) Fransen also addressed the principle of decision making and setting policy when he stated that there were a few projects mentioned that have already had funds spent on and to add any new projects that would cancel them out would not be appropriate.
 
Fransen also referenced former Councilman Ronald Hillberg (who was the person who pushed to form the agency in 1993) when he said that he believed the agency was on a slippery slope by spending RDA funds on projects that didn’t really address the main focuses of creating jobs or housing rehabilitation.
 
After about three hours of what could be reported as an unruly debate, Councilman/Redevelopment Agency Member Kurt Spycher requested the Board Members each pick two projects to direct staff to work on more concrete proposals and with all the financial facts pick the projects to be funded off this condensed list.
 
A budget committee meeting is to take place on Wednesday that will reportedly shed light on more possible financial burdens on the city while considering prioritizing RDA funds.
 
Despite the overwhelming support for the Carnegie project, it didn’t even make it on three of the Council/Agency Member’s top list.
 
Mayor John Lazar
1)      Carnegie Arts Center (est. cost of $9.2 to $10.2 million, requests $4.5 million of RDA funds)
2)      Downtown Parking Lot (est. cost of at least $2 million, maybe upwards of $5 million)
3)      Columbia Park water feature: (est. cost of $250,000)
 
Vice Mayor Ted Howze
1)      Miracle League Field land acquisition (est. cost of $960,000)
2)      Downtown Parking Lot
3)      Turlock High School’s Joe Debely Stadium renovation (no est. cost at this time)
 
Councilman Kurt Spycher
1)      Columbia Park water feature
2)      Downtown Parking Lot
 
Councilwoman Mary Jackson
1)      Carnegie Arts Center
2)      Downtown Parking Lot
 
Councilwoman Amy Bublak
1)      Youth Center, possibly included in Carnegie Project (no est. cost at this time)
2)      Downtown Parking Lot
 

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