MODESTO -- Drama over Stanislaus County's high-value vision for thousands of jobs with respectable wages resumes today as leaders consider whether to fire their master developer, scrap his 5-year-old West Park plan and start over.
The mood of one decision maker who had given West Park the benefit of the doubt may have shifted. And another county supervisor with a dim view of the project, who abstained from the last vote, may change course and participate this time.
Both bits of news could bode ill for West Park, whose investors are in political hot water with the five supervisors for breaking a promise -- and a signed contract -- to deliver a $2.75 million deposit more than five weeks ago.
At risk is developer Gerry Kamilos' hope for an inland port at a former naval air base near Crows Landing, with a rail link to the Port of Oakland and to Asian shipping. He thinks an industrial complex on and around the base could produce 13,000 decent-wage jobs.
His selection in 2007 ended an unprecedented political war, complete with organized citizens groups, stealth propaganda campaigns, video hit pieces and heated rhetoric from elected officials.
Friday, Kamilos said his investors are reluctant to wire the deposit without assurance they would get it back if supervisors cut West Park loose today.
County Counsel John Doering's office prepared a draft agreement, but it would require approval of those same supervisors, so that scenario seems moot.
"It's very tough," Kamilos said of the stalemate.
Supervisor Vito Chiesa, whose favorable swing vote on time extensions kept West Park alive in March 2011 and again in June, said he will reserve judgment until the end of today's high-stakes hearing. However, he said: "It's going to be tough to go forward for me. I never want to close myself in, but I'm disheartened. A contract's a contract, and (Kamilos) has had plenty of leeway."
Supervisor Terry Withrow recused himself before the key June vote, to avoid a possible conflict because his wife is a part-owner of land near the base. But he recently hired a legal expert to review all pertinent facts and hopes to resume voting today.
"I feel like I've been benched and I'm trying everything I can to get back in the game," said Withrow, who had frowned on West Park.
Three votes against the project would cancel the county's exclusive negotiating relationship with Kamilos. His most vehement critic, Supervisor Jim DeMartini, likely would provide one of those votes.
The Bee was unable Thursday and Friday to reach Supervisor Bill O'Brien, also considered a swing vote, or Supervisor Dick Monteith, who has been Kamilos' most solid supporter.
Supervisors in June swallowed Kamilos' $2.75 million carrot, figuring they could keep the money and show him the door if West Park fails to produce key documents, including environmental assessments, by Jan. 31. At that June vote, no one predicted that the money would not arrive as promised by July 10.
"The whole team understands," Kamilos said then. "We know if we don't meet that deadline, this entity and our team will no longer be able to proceed and you would seek other alternatives; we understand that."
He noted that investors had spent $6.5 million on studies and to defend a lawsuit.
When July 10 came and went, Kamilos blamed last-minute exit negotiations with bankrupt financier Lehman Brothers. As days and weeks went by, he said assembling approval from a new, unnamed source proved more complicated than expected.
County officials declared a breach of contract the day after the July 10 deadline and scheduled today's vote, not knowing whether the money would arrive.
Today's meeting of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors will start at 6:30 p.m. in the basement chamber at Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St., Modesto.
On the Net: www.crowsbizpark.biz
Modesto Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2390.