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Stadium eligible for RDA funds, say trustees

POSTED August 18, 2009 11:39 p.m.
The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to allow the Turlock Redevelopment Agency to offer the District funds to install an all-weather field at Joe Debely Stadium at Turlock High School.
Tuesday’s resolution determined that the Board of Trustees is eligible to receive RDA funds, if those funds were offered. The board has not yet accepted any funding or decided to start construction.
The Turlock RDA has earmarked $2.8 million for the renovation of the track and field at Joe Debely Stadium. The stadium is outside of the RDA’s boundaries. At the June 23 RDA meeting, it was thought that TUSD may have to relinquish control of the stadium to the city in order for redevelopment money to be used.
At last night’s TUSD Board of Trustees meeting Heidi McNally-Dial, Turlock’s economic development manager, said that TUSD would not have to give up control of Joe Debely Stadium in order to accept RDA funds. McNally-Dial said that California State redevelopment laws allow for funding of certain projects outside of RDA boundaries.
In order for a project outside of RDA boundaries to receive RDA funds, it has to meet certain requirements. First, the improvements have to be of benefit to the immediate neighborhood where the project is located and the nearby RDA area.
Secondly, there has to be no other reasonable way to fund the project other than RDA funds. The Board of Trustees conducted a survey in 2009 regarding public support for a bond measure to fund stadium projects at both Turlock High School and Pitman High School. They found that there was not enough public support for a bond measure.
Third, the payment of RDA funds has to serve to eliminate one or more blighting conditions. Roger Smith, TUSD facilities planner, said that Joe Debely stadium meets the legal definition of a blighting condition in this case. The Board of Trustees found that the track was a publicly used facility that had extensive and costly wear and tear due to age.
In order for the TUSD Board of Trustees to move forward with the project, they had to accept those three findings, as well as estimate the cost of the project and establish what the money would be used for. The District also had to give a chance for public comment on the issue, which they gave at an open public hearing on Tuesday night.
Holly Evans, co-president of the Turlock Turf Crew, spoke out in favor of the board accepting funds for Joe Debely Stadium at the meeting.
“I’d like to encourage the board to accept this most gracious gift,” Evans said.
The Turlock Turf Crew is a group that raises money for improvements at Joe Debely Stadium and Pitman High School. Evans said that the group has tried to raise money for the improvements at Joe Debely, but due to the current economic downturn they don’t foresee raising enough money in the foreseeable future.  
“I think that’s going to be a long, hard road to raise $2.8 million,” Evans said.
Board members had the opportunity to ask questions about the proposed project after the public comments section. Trustee Loren Holt asked McNally-Dial if TUSD would have control over the contract for construction. McNally-Dial said that TUSD would be the contract administrators, and the RDA would receive the invoices.
Holt said that he did not want to take action on the resolution until he was sure that the school district’s findings were bullet proof. He said that he was not sure if Joe Debely Stadium constituted a “blight” by any definition.
“I do still have a question as to whether our findings are complete,” Holt said.
Board of Trustees President Timm LaVelle said that he doesn’t want the District to be perceived as taking RDA money that other areas of Turlock might need.
Although RDA funds are earmarked for the project, McNally-Dial said that there is a chance that the state will take as much as $3.3 million from the Turlock RDA by Nov. 15.
“We might be putting the cart before the horse a little bit if those funds are cut,” said board member Felicia Renshaw.
The next step in the project is for the Turlock Redevelopment Agency to offer funds to the TUSD Board of Trustees for the Joe Debely Stadium project. The District will have to vote to officially accept that money before any construction plans can go forward.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail agoodwin@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2003
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