Stanislaus County Board Of Supervisors Watch

By unanimous vote, Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday:

Postponed forming a new taxing district in Empire. Supervisors were expected to decide whether owners of parcels in central Empire should pay $78 per year to maintain future storm drains and increase street sweeping from four times annually to every other week. County leaders will use $3 million in redevelopment money and a block grant for the first phase; future phases would improve the rest of Empire over the next three years. The board's clerk on Tuesday requested time to count ballots from affected property owners and said results will return to the board in December.

Accepted results of the Nov. 3 election. Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan said the 26 percent turnout was dismal, including 8,700 people voting at polls, though she received a robust 35,690 mail-in ballots. Her office issued 689 checks to paid poll workers for a total of $73,623, but she is prevented by state law from consolidating to fewer stations. Lundrigan also said she will charge Modesto about $40,000 extra for insisting on printing ballot language for Measures A, B, C, D and E in their entirety. All of the growth advisory measures failed, with none receiving more than 40 percent support.

Approved beefing up fraud investigations on in-home support services. The county's 24 welfare investigators catch wrongdoing in 1.1 percent of cases, but statewide estimates suggest actual in-home services fraud running as high as 25 percent. About 4,000 caregivers tending to 6,300 elderly people in Stanislaus County are paid $56 million a year, which doesn't include about $6 million in administrative costs. A pilot program with more collaboration between local and state investigators will rely on a $333,300 federal and state grant, with a $64,500 local contribution. The money will pay for surveillance equipment and temporary staff, who might be hired permanently if state funding stabilizes. Abuses include altering time cards, exaggerating disabilities and receiving payment after a client has died. The county's Community Services Agency will issue a fraud report in August.

Agreed to close Tenth Street Place the week after Christmas. Modesto officials, who share the seven-level building with the county, agree to close Dec. 28 until Jan. 4, and county offices will close at noon on Christmas Eve. Going dark will reduce vacation liability for 350 county employees, who would be allowed to use furlough days. The county's Cooperative Extension and Area Agency on Aging and Veteran's Services, which operate elsewhere, also will close that week, which is traditionally slow at government offices.

Using eminent domain, seized seven private properties needed to widen Kiernan Avenue. The land lies in the area of future work between Dale Road and McHenry Avenue. Owners dispute prices offered by the county based on appraisals. Ownership groups are represented by David Snyder, Ernest Howard, Savina Nessier, Deborah Darby, Larry Kuzni, Brian Fosnaugh and James Bettencourt. The county dropped from Tuesday's agenda an eighth property controlled by Glen Dorrity. Crews continue first-phase construction from Highway 99 to Dale Road.

Accepted a $750,000 state grant to help homeowners rehabilitate houses. Money comes from an initiative passed by California voters in 2006. County officials say they will help up to 25 home owners with loans of up to $60,000 each.

Hired Nolte Associates for $28,000 to design sewer improvements to the minimum-security Stanislaus County Honor Farm near Grayson. Nolte, of Manteca, was the only firm that bid for the job. Total cost is estimated at $363,000.

— Garth Stapley