State

Finances weigh on Turlock

TURLOCK — Money matters continued to weigh heavily on the Turlock City Council on Tuesday night, with a Public Safety Center that doesn't have any funding, an employee trying to keep her job and a short-lived controversy over "found" money.

The council heard an update on its Public Safety Center, a $35 million project on which the city had intended to spend $8 million in redevelopment money. But the state took redevelopment money from the cities in an attempt to balance its budget.

Director of Development Services Mike Pitcock said crews are demolishing buildings at the site, which is near the Carnegie Arts Center.

Councilwoman Amy Bublak questioned the work, pointing out that with the state's raid of redevelopment funds the city can't pay for the Public Safety Center. "If we're saying we're not going to be able to fund this, why are we doing it?" she asked.

Pitcock said the city already owns the land, and the buildings being demolished would be costly to renovate and rent. The demolition work will cost about $30,000 and is the only work on the project now scheduled.

City Manager Roy Wasden said the city is looking at funding alternatives for the center.

Also Tuesday, a 911 dispatcher put a human face on the hefty budget cuts the city is considering.

Melanie Hoover is a part-time dispatcher who stands to lose her job in the next fiscal year. She told the council that will result in paying full-time dispatchers overtime to make up her shifts, and that will cost the city more in three months than her $25,000 yearly salary.

"That's all I can do to try and save my job," she said. "If I could save everybody's I would."

She said the excess money moved last week from some of the city's funds should go to keep jobs.

Confusion over funds

Wasden said in a report last week that staff found about $4 million more than needed in some of Turlock's funds, including worker compensation and liability. At a special meeting Wednesday, council members voted unanimously to put the money into the city's reserve, bringing that amount up from $12.2 million.

"I think it's a gift from God," Hoover said. "I'm so grateful that money was found."

That money was the topic of a special meeting, also conducted Tuesday night. Wasden said he wanted to clear up a misconception that money had moved between accounts in the past year without the council's knowledge. He said staff researching the matter found that each item had been before the council.

Councilman Ted Howze, who wrote a scathing opinion piece in the Turlock Journal accusing staff of misleading the council, apologized to the finance department.

"The facts have changed," he said. "It was very painful and very disturbing. ... You have my sincerest apology. I can't say anything more than that."

There was one bright monetary note Tuesday evening, though it didn't technically have anything to do with the City Council.

Bublak said she learned from California State University, Stanislaus, President Hamid Shirvani that the campus was one of three to get renovation funds from the state.

The amount wasn't clear, but she said it will put about 200 people to work on a two-year project to renovate the university's science building.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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