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Beautification plan tabled

POSTED August 28, 2010 12:22 a.m.

In a 3-2 vote, the Turlock City Council abandoned completing landscaping design plans for the Monte Vista Interchange and the Golden State Boulevard median.

The city has already spent $78,825 on the beautification plans – and previously set aside the $3,794 required to finish detailed design documents. The City Council has been deciding whether or not to spend that last $3,794 since their July 13 meeting.

The majority of council, composed of Council members Kurt Spycher, Ted Howze and Amy Bublak, balked at maintenance costs for the landscaping, estimated at $72,150 per year by city staff, which they deemed untenable in the current economic climate. Mayor John Lazar and Councilwoman Mary Jackson argued that completing the plans didn’t require the landscaping to be built, and that neighboring property owners may have been willing to help pay for the maintenance.

“I think we should move forward and spend the $3,700 and finish it out,” Jackson said.

Howze was the deciding vote on the issue, as on Aug. 10 he voiced a reluctance to back out of the contract with Gates and Associates – especially if doing so could provoke legal action. The contract extension only came before the council as Gates and Associates did not complete plans within a prescribed 12-month work period.

“I said if we were going to breach a contract I would follow through the contract, if not I would vote to put an end to it,” Howze said.

City Attorney Phaedra Norton clarified Tuesday that, while abandoning the contract could possibly leave the city liable, the point was moot as Gates and Associates had said they would not consider the city to be in breach of the agreement. With that information, Bublak introduced a motion to take no action on extending the contract, earning a 3-2 vote to not complete the beautification plan.

 

Turlock hires three police personnel

Despite on ongoing hiring freeze, the Turlock City Council on Tuesday approved hiring a full-time police officer and two public safety dispatchers.

All positions were vacated due to retirements.

In order to retain a federal grant, which funds four police officers’ salaries, the City of Turlock had to rehire to fill the retired police officer’s position. The two dispatchers were required to maintain adequate staffing levels to respond to 911 calls; currently, Turlock is using overtime to properly staff the facility.

All positions were funded in the recently approved 2010-2011 budget.

The City Council did hold off on hiring two part-time police cadets, at the direction of Police Chief Gary Hampton. The Turlock Police Department is investigating combining the duties of those cadets with a community service officer, so as to reduce its payroll.

 

The Turlock City Council also:

Sent a proposed revision to Turlock’s anti-big box store ordinance to the Turlock Planning Commission for input. Council has voiced a desire to overturn an old zoning ordinance to allow regional commercial stores, like Super Targets or Wal-Mart Supercenters, to be built in Turlock. The Planning Commission will be tasked with determining the best way to accomplish this goal, should it be included in the ongoing General Plan Update, accomplished via an ordinance change, or established through a zoning change.

Heard a report on the state of the Carnegie Arts Center and Canal Drive construction projects. The foundations have been poured for the Carnegie Arts Center, with preparation underway for interior work in the existing building. Paving will begin on the closed section of Canal Drive next week, with reopening expected in the next few weeks.

Authorized Mayor John Lazar to sign a letter opposing Assembly Bill 602. The bill would change state law to effectively eliminate the statute of limitations to file complaints on housing documents.

Finalized reducing the penalty charged to industrial wastewater dischargers who exceed their purchased capacity. The reduction was introduced at the Aug. 10 City Council meeting. Previously, violators paid a penalty equal to 100 percent of the wastewater capacity charges for their single largest exceedance in a year. Now, violators will pay 10 percent of the charges, which have grown 34 times larger than when the penalty was drafted in 1981.

Reaffirmed the need to replace three air conditioning units at the Turlock Police Department. The air conditioning units’ failure was declared an emergency by City Manager Roy Wasden prior to the Aug. 10 meeting, as high temperatures could affect phone and radio equipment and be detrimental to 911 emergency response.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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