State

State agency wants $19K, county balks

Stanislaus County's lukewarm support for valleywide cooperation among elected leaders might be getting colder.

Several leaders from the county and its nine cities Wednesday took a dim view of a request for money to continue the governor's Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley.

Financial support from the cash-strapped state will run out next month, leaving the eight-county, 62-city partnership short by $142,000.

Its administrators in Fresno split up the bill and assigned $18,900 as Stanislaus County's share.

On Wednesday, Stanislaus Council of Governments Executive Director Vince Harris noted that the partnership has raised the valley's political profile and secured $1 billion to improve Highway 99. The partnership is serving as a conduit to request federal stimulus money, which could bring $50 million to the valley.

But officials throughout Stanislaus County, who were slow to join a valleywide growth strategy in months past, Wednesday voiced little desire to help the partnership.

Modesto Mayor Jim Ridenour predicted the partnership would run out of money again and ask for more.

Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella said "it's not clear what they do."

County Supervisor Bill O'Brien said, "Every agency here has a funding gap. I would just love to be able to invoice somebody for it. I suggest they fine-tune their budget and find ways to cut."

Supervisor Jeff Grover said the partnership has become "heavily Fresno-centric" since its administration recently moved there from Merced.

The partnership expends energy addressing water and air quality problems that aren't as bad in the north valley, Grover said, and "carefully drafted" the $1 billion highway language "so that it didn't touch the six lanes we have here."

Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson was kinder toward the partnership and suggested that each agency decide for itself whether to send money. Few voices could be heard when the vote was called, but the motion passed when no one voted against it.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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