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Council tables median beautification project, again
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For the second time, the Turlock City Council elected to postpone voting to appropriate $3,794 to complete 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 set aside the $3,794 to finish detailed design documents. But the contractor, Gates and Associates, did not complete design work within an initially allotted 12 month time span, ending in April. Council first discussed appropriating the remainder of the funds to complete the design at their July 13 meeting, but postponed a decision pending a maintenance cost estimate, should the City eventually conduct the beautification project and install landscaping.According to city staff, who returned with an estimate on Tuesday, the maintenance cost would be approximately $72,150 per year — far more than the current, unlandscaped cost of $3,700 per year“We’re well aware of the fact that this city is not able to put additional funds in landscape maintenance,” said Turlock Planning Manager Debbie Whitmore. If plans are approved, Whitmore said, the City will look to work with local businesses to identify ongoing funding for the maintenance costs, perhaps through an assessment district.But the potentially massive maintenance costs have worried council members Ted Howze and Amy Bublak and Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher, who estimates the cost of maintenance could be as high as $200,000 per year.“It would seem foolish to go any farther with this,” Spycher said. “We can’t afford it.“To expect people to tax themselves… I don’t see it as feasible.”Despite his opposition, Howze was concerned that the City might violate a contract by not paying Gates and Associates the remainder of the agreed-to amount. City Attorney Phaedra Norton said she would need time to review the contract to insure the City would not be liable for cancelling a contract.Howze moved to continue the discussion until such time as Norton can conduct a review of the finer points of the City’s contract with Gates and Associates. Council member Mary Jackson, who believes the City should complete the plans in case funding does become available in the future, was the only person to oppose continuing the item.Even if the beautification plans are completed, their likelihood of becoming reality remains slim.“I hope we shelve this somewhere and it never gets built and it never shows up because we don’t have the money to maintain this,” Howze said. Canal Drive rehab on schedulePhase 1 of the Canal Drive repaving finished on schedule Wednesday evening – just in time for students in need of a clear route to Turlock High School for the start of school on Monday.“It’s been a team effort and it’s looking really good at this point of time,” said City Engineer Mike Pitcock. “We’ve given them a pretty lofty goal and it looks like we’re going to hit it.”The reopened Canal Drive will only have temporary striping in place. Also, microsurfacing planned for the segment of Canal Drive in front of Turlock High School has been postponed to a later date, likely on a weekend so as to not disrupt school.On Saturday, the City will remove the current detours, closing Canal Drive from Olive Avenue to Geer Road to begin the next phase of construction. The Turlock City Council also:·         Received an update on the Public Safety Facility from City Engineer Mike Pitcock. Pitcock said the City has prepared a potential funding scenario, which is currently under review by Turlock’s Finance Department. If the plan is approved, it will be reviewed by Interim Public Safety Chief Gary Hampton and City Manager Roy Wasden. Should all go well, the plan will return to the City Council at their Sept. 21 meeting.·         Reduced the penalty charged to industrial wastewater dischargers who exceed their purchased capacity. 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.·         Approved a contract with Hilmar Cheese to receive no more than 20,000 gallons of milk processing by-products at the Turlock wastewater treatment plant each day. Turlock will be paid .03 cents per gallon for receiving the waste, which will be used to create additional methane gas to generate electricity at the Turlock Irrigation District Fuel Cell, sited at the wastewater plant in a partnership with the City of Turlock. The additional methane gas will help properly load the fuel cell, allowing TID to become eligible for a $4 million state grant. The agreement will also prevent vehicle emissions, as Hilmar Cheese currently trucks their waste to an Oakland wastewater plant.·         Postponed ruling on an appeal by Irene and Kamal Bahadur, of Modesto, arguing they should not be forced to pay $5,653.10 in fees related to abatement costs for their property at 433 S. Laurel St. The penalty was assessed due to improper plumbing, electrical work, and the unpermitted addition of two residential units, possibly performed by prior owners. The Bahadurs believed they were still in the process of working with the City to correct the issues, and that the fees should be waived. Instead, the council gave the Bahadurs 60 days to complete work needed to bring the parcel into code; if the work is not completed, the Bahadurs will then be charged the aforementioned fees plus whatever additional fees they may incur.·         Finalized an ordinance requiring council members to vote either for or against each agenda item, barring the practice of abstaining from votes. Jackson and Mayor John Lazar voted against the ordinance.·         Approved the replacement of three air conditioning units at the Turlock Police Department. The air conditioning units’ failure was declared an emergency by Wasden, as high temperatures could affect phone and radio equipment and be detrimental to 911 emergency response.·         Acknowledged the City of Turlock’s support for several major pending California State University, Stanislaus athletic events. The City will advertise for the events in the recreation guide, on the City website, and in utility bill inserts.·         Agreed to participate in the Smart Valley Places COMPACT, and to apply for grant funds to help the City meet new state development requirements, especially pursuant to greenhouse gas emissions. ·         Formally amended the Elected Officials Schedule of Benefits Package to do away with health insurance for City Council members, as initially agreed to at the June 22 City Council Meeting.·         Accepted the 2008-2009 audited financial reports for the Redevelopment Agency and Public Financing Authority·         Issued proclamations recognizing the retirements of Turlock Fire Captains Jim Artrip and Tim Huber.·         Issued a proclamation recognizing Turlock native Alexandria Backus for being named Miss Stanislaus 2010.  To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.