Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Watch

By unanimous vote, Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday:

Awarded a $400,000 loan from the supervisors' Economic Development Bank to Newman's downtown plaza, over competing protests from Riverbank. An advisory committee ranked the Newman project highest among five requests. But Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance board members, on a 9-8 vote, preferred helping develop the Riverbank Industrial Park. Tim Ogden, Riverbank's economic development manager, said that city must move an irrigation pipeline to allow development at the north end of the former Army ammunition plant. Others noted that Newman has received only one loan from the development bank, which it repaid long ago, while Riverbank has repaid nothing of the $1.6 million it has received in five loans since 2003. Newman hopes its $2.6 million plaza upgrade will make its downtown more pedestrian friendly and generate jobs.

Approved a one-year exclusive negotiating period with JKB Energy, which hopes to build one of the largest solar energy farms in the United States next to the county's Fink Road landfill near Crows Landing. The firm scored higher than bids submitted by four other companies. If approved, JKB would spend the 12 months doing environmental studies, making a power-selling deal and negotiating a lease with the county.

Raised the county's budget for defending lawsuits from $400,000 to $1 million for the fiscal year ending July 1. Expensive battles include a recently settled discrimination lawsuit brought by female employees of the Sheriff's Department and an ongoing civil rights case filed on behalf of Latino neighborhoods surrounded by the Modesto city limit.

Using eminent domain, seized 10 additional private properties needed to widen Kiernan Avenue. Supervisors two weeks ago voted to take strips from seven others along Kiernan from Dale Road to McHenry Avenue in Modesto. Meanwhile, crews continue first-phase construction from Highway 99 to Dale.

Agreed to spend $10,000 to evaluate whether the coroner's facility should move from its small, 31-year-old home on Oakdale Road to the former Medical Arts Building, now vacant, in downtown Modesto. The 17,500-square-foot medical building has 13,000 more square feet, a basement and parking. Constructing a new coroner's facility would cost $5.6 million, according to a 2007 report.

Levied $78 yearly assessments on homes in central Empire to maintain new storm drains and increase street sweeping

Authorized county environmental resource officials to collect $6 annually from about 400 public swimming pools throughout the county, to comply with a new federal law requiring safety upgrades. The county will retain $1 for administrative costs and would make about $400, passing about $2,000 to the state treasury.

— Garth Stapley