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Council rejects all Carnegie bids

Art center put on hold for fears of litigation

POSTED August 11, 2009 11:04 p.m.
The project to rebuild the burned Carnegie Arts Center has been put on hold following a closed session Turlock City Council decision on Tuesday evening.
“Council has given direction to the City Attorney to reject all bids,” said City Attorney Phaedra Norton. “This matter will be brought to the next council meeting for further action and the council has agreed there will be no further comment due to possible litigation.”
A total of 15 bids for the Carnegie project were submitted to Turlock City Hall on June 15, the highest of which came in at $6.2 million. Applegate Johnston, Inc., of Modesto submitted the low bid of $5.3 million.
City staff and Turlock City Arts Commission Chairman Dustin Soiseth were initially bolstered by the bids, which came in far below the $7.7 million originally budgeted in October of 2007.
According to City Manager Roy Wasden, three bid protests were later filed for reasons he was not legally allowed to reveal. The council had the option of ignoring the protests and going forward with the low bidder, rejecting the low bid and accepting the second bid, or rejecting all bids and re-opening the bidding process.
Re-bidding the Carnegie Arts Center is likely to delay groundbreaking for a minimum of four to six months, and could increase the cost of the project should the construction market recover.
More than 20 supporters of the Carnegie Arts Center waited in City Hall for an hour after the open council meeting ended in order to hear the 30-second report out of closed session that all bids were to be rejected.
“Obviously, it’s extremely disappointing,” said Carnegie supporter and local artist Tinna Savini. “There’ve been years and years of work that have gone into this.”

In other Turlock City Council news:
* A planned public hearing for “The Grove,” a gated 504-bedroom privately owned and operated dormitory for California State University, Stanislaus, students was postponed until next meeting. The applicant requested the hearing be delayed for an undisclosed reason.
* The front counter hours for Development Services will be reduced beginning Monday, so as to offer the diminished post-budget cut staff additional time without customer interruption to process permits.
The combined front desk of Engineering and Planning and Building will only be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and will be closed all day Friday. Scheduled appointments will still be available for those nearing completion of the planning project, and any phone messages will be returned the day they are left.
The changes will be monitored to ensure that they result in improved turnaround times for permit applications.
* Plans moved forward to increase bicycle license fees from $3 to $4 to help cover the operational costs of administering the program.  The Turlock Municipal Code amendment will return at the next City Council meeting for a final reading.
* Two Turlock businesses were granted a reprieve on wastewater capacity overage charges, as the code under which they were charged was deemed out dated.
Costs of wastewater capacity — which overage charges are tied to under current code — have increased tenfold since the code was written in 1981. Overage fines had not been levied in many years, and when reviewing the two overages this year Regulatory Affairs Manager Michael Cooke believed the fines as assessed, in the tens of thousands of dollars, may be excessive.
The council agreed, cutting the fines to 10 percent of the level required by the code. Cooke stated he would review the code over the next year and return to council with changes to modernize the wastewater code.

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

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