TURLOCK — A city consultant came up with a plan to install landscaping along Golden State Boulevard that is attractive, sustainable and environmentally friendly. But it's also going to cost a lot more than what's there now, and that money just isn't there.
City Council members Tuesday night delayed action on a contract with Gates and Associates, a Bay Area firm hired to generate a landscape design plan, as well as way-finding signs for downtown and areas by Highway 99.
Council members put the contract on hold in July, pending cost estimates for maintenance of the landscaping portion. Debbie Whitmore, deputy director of development services, said the maintenance cost would be about $72,000 a year, up from $3,700 this year.
"It would seem foolish to go any farther with this," Councilman Kurt Spycher said. "We can't afford it. We're struggling to figure out how to keep streetlights on in this economic climate."
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But Whitmore also pointed out that the money for the contract was allocated last year from Turlock's redevelopment funds. The roughly $3,700 the city was considering spending Tuesday night came from work that wasn't completed — and therefore not billed — by the end of the contract.
The delay happened in part because Gates had negotiated with the state Department of Transportation over plans for the interchange at Golden State and Monte Vista Avenue.
"Because the work wasn't completed, money can't be spent until it's reappropriated," City Manager Roy Wasden said. "But the money is part of the original contract to complete this landscape plan. We're not asking for new RDA dollars."
Whitmore said the council could approve the contract, and the plan, and direct Gates to come back with options that wouldn't cost as much to maintain. And she said staff members could talk to business and property owners about potentially paying for maintenance through a landscaping assessment district.
"I really don't see it being very feasible that people are going to voluntarily tax themselves," Spycher said.
In the end, the council delayed action on the contract to give City Attorney Phaedra Norton time to look at it and see if the city would be in breach by not paying the remaining portion. The vote was 4-1, with Councilwoman Mary Jackson the lone "no" vote.
"I can look at the contract and its specific provisions," Norton said. But, she cautioned: "We may have conflict in how I interpret it and how the contractor interprets it."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2343.