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Council to consider Public Safety Facility, big box stores, downtown core on Tuesday

POSTED January 7, 2011 9:24 p.m.

The on-hold Public Safety Facility is back on the Turlock City Council’s agenda on Tuesday, as the council will be asked to approve a more than $15 million bond issuance needed to finance the approximately $27 million project.

Should it be built, the two-story, 57,570 square foot building adjacent to the Carnegie Arts Center would become home to Turlock’s police and fire departments. But an initial Nov. 9, 2010 attempt to proceed with a bond issuance was stymied by higher than projected project costs, with bids $3 million above engineer estimates, and concerns from neighboring taxing agencies that the Turlock RDA bond issuance could jeopardize their share of tax dollars.

Before the Turlock RDA can issue bonds, those entities – including the Turlock Rural Fire Department, the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District, and Yosemite Community College District – must agree to subordination agreements prior to bonding, providing passthrough tax revenues.

According to the staff report attached to Tuesday’s agenda item, city staff have met with three taxing entities which were concerned with the bond issuance. City staff believe the meetings were positive, and that all three entities will agree to subordination agreements before Tuesday. Staff will update council on the status of subordination agreements prior to any council decision.

Most concerns were centered on the Turlock RDA’s revenue projections, specifically the projected assessed value of property, according to the staff report. Based on the Turlock RDA’s estimates, projected revenue would fully cover commitments, in terms of debt payments, passthrough payments, and administrative costs.

The bond issuance could be held up again if taxing entities don’t agree to subordination agreements, or if the bond market is unfavorable.

Interest rates rose significantly in the final weeks of 2010, but based on historical trends should return to more favorable levels in January. Per the agreement, the City of Turlock will not pay an interest rate higher than 6.75 percent without further council approval. If market conditions are especially favorable, the city will also refinance revenue bonds issued in 1999.

The bond issuance would net $15 million in new project money, up from an initially proposed $13 million. Actual costs would be higher, due to fees and refinancing the 1999 bonds, but the total bond principal will not exceed $25 million.

 

Big box decision before council

On Tuesday the Turlock City Council will also direct staff whether or not to investigate regulatory changes to allow discount superstores — like Walmart Supercenters and Super Targets — in the City of Turlock.

On Dec. 2, the Turlock Planning Commission voted 5-2 to recommend the Turlock City Council uphold the existing ban on discount superstores, which has stood since Sept. 23, 2003. Such "big box" retailers, which include large grocery stores, were banned due to believed detrimental effects to existing grocery stores and increased vehicle traffic.

 

Downtown plan revision on tap

The City Council will be asked to approve a contract for the Turlock Planning Division to revise and update the city's Downtown Design Guidelines and Zoning Regulations, at a cost not to exceed $70,000. The approximately 10 square block area that comprises downtown Turlock is currently governed by regulations adopted in 2003 – before the economic downturn, and before a branding study suggested the area brand itself as the bridal shopping capitol of the region.

The $70,000 cost comes through the Turlock Redevelopment Agency Housing Set-Aside, with the goal of establishing more affordable housing in the downtown area through infill development. Such housing would bring more foot traffic into downtown, increasing business opportunities.

The update would be completed within three months of the adoption of Turlock's General Plan Update, as much of the downtown plan relies upon the General Plan. The General Plan calls for increasing the height allowance and building density allowed in the downtown core, and also suggests developing high speed rail and commuter rail services in downtown Turlock.

  

On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council is also expected to:

·         Authorize the hiring of a regular, full-time police officer for the Turlock Police Department to fill a position vacated through retirement. The hire is required to meet the council-authorized staffing level of 81 sworn personnel, required to obtain grant funding from the United States Department of Justice. A second, related agenda item would allow staff to fill future police officer positions to maintain staffing levels required to obtain grant funding without council authorization.

·         Conduct the final reading of zoning map amendments needed for the Ten Pin Fun Center, an entertainment center including a bowling alley slated for the corner of Crowell Road and Monte Vista Avenue.

·         Appoint a new Vice Mayor, as well as a representative to the Stanislaus County Local Task Force on Solid Waste and the Alliance.

·         Hear a request to accept the 2010 Turlock Convention and Visitors Bureau Annual Report, and to approve a $211,445 2011 budget, including about $98,000 in administrative fees, salaries, and benefits. The remaining budget directs $28,000 to communications and advertising, $32,000 to marketing, and $31,500 to community support. The CVB budget is paid from Transient Occupancy Taxes collected by the City of Turlock.

·         Consider a $22,162 increase in costs to construct the Carnegie Arts Center, due to changes in design required by heretofore unknown preexisting conditions, including masonry repairs and changes required for fire sprinkler lines. The change order will also move forward the deadline for construction to May 24, changing the contract from 365 working days to 365 calendar days.

·         Hear a request to amend the Turlock Municipal Code to better establish restrictions on the retail sale of dogs and cats. The Municipal Code change would clarify that breeders must follow the Animal Welfare Act, enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that “Breeders are required to maintain minimum health, safety and welfare standards for animals in their care.”

·         Direct staff to provide council with a quarterly update comparing revenues from the new, metered water billing system and the previous flat rate system. Council was informed in 2009 that the existing metered rate would likely not cover just 90 percent of city water costs, but directed staff to leave rates untouched and instead dip into reserve funds for the first year of operation. Based on the actual cost differential, staff would return to council with recommendations for metered billing rate changes prior to January 2012.

·         Authorize spending $55,000 to participate in a pilot test of a new "Packed Towers" technology intended to reduce levels of a certain chemical in Turlock's treated wastewater. The levels of trihalomethane required by a new Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board permit –as  lower than allowed in drinking water – are below what Turlock's treatment plant can consistently achieve.

·         Authorize spending $13,500 to perform a salinity study on effluent from Turlock's wastewater treatment plant. The aforementioned new permit requires an annual report demonstrating progress in the reduction of salt discharged to the San Joaquin River. The study is also expected to help Turlock learn how to reduce that salinity level.

·         Issue proclamations recognizing the retirements of Traffic/Transportation Engineering Supervisor Roger Fall, Senior Secretary Norma Rowell, and Utilities Maintenance Worker Tony Lozano.

·         Hear a presentation from Don Bak of the Fly the Flag Committee, who looks to fly American flags around Turlock on holidays.

·         Hear a presentation from Jody Allen, president elect of the California Water Environment Association Northern San Joaquin Section, to recognize the Turlock wastewater treatment plant as 2010 Plant of the Year.

·         Receive briefings on the holiday parade, the Public Safety Facility, and a Transit Center status update.

 

The Turlock City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Yosemite Room of Turlock City Hall, 156 S. Broadway.

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

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