Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Watch (12/23/09)

By unanimous vote, Stanislaus County supervisors Tuesday:

Expanded an agreement with Kelly Services, a Modesto temporary staffing company, for subsidized jobs for welfare recipients. Federal stimulus money will help the county's welfare-to-work program, which has had a 32 percent enrollment increase in two years.

Agreed to advertise for another bomb squad robot for the Sheriff's Department. Its first robot is hard to lift and too large to move down airplane or bus aisles. The department plans to use $100,000 from a 2008 Homeland Security grant.

Accepted 13 new Williamson Act contracts, despite the state's unwillingness to reimburse counties for providing tax breaks to farmers. The state's action is costing the county $1.4 million this year, and new contracts protecting 570 acres from development would dig the hole deeper by $17,800.

Accepted a report on public facilities fees charged to developers. The county collected $4.4 million for building permits in the fiscal year that ended July 1.

Agreed to charge $66 monthly per parking space for about 100 open spots in the county's 12th Street garage. Several entities are interested in parking leases, including the Stanislaus County Office of Education. Modesto charges the same fee for spots in its garages on Ninth, 10th and 11th streets.

Awarded a one-year exclusive negotiating period to Sol Orchard, which wants to build a solar energy farm at the former Geer Road landfill. Sol's response beat those submitted by two other companies, including JKB Energy, which recently won a one-year negotiating period for a much larger solar farm next to the county's Fink Road landfill near Crows Landing. Sol has a pending partnership with Solar Power Partners, the nation's third-largest solar energy developer. Preliminary plans include a mounting system that doesn't penetrate soil. Sol will have a year to do environmental studies, make a power-selling deal and negotiate a lease with the county.

-- Garth Stapley