Stanislaus County supervisors met behind closed doors Tuesday to discuss their options with regard to the massive West Park project.
County Counsel John Doering had nothing to report on what happened in closed session, and no supervisors had comments during an uneventful regular board meeting Tuesday evening.
Developer Gerry Kamilos did not meet a deadline last week to make a $1.75 million deposit with the county, which was part of the deal last month that gave him a seven-month extension to produce key environmental documents. In June, West Park investors deposited an initial $1 million in a trust account.
West Park would turn a former naval air base near Crows Landing into an industrial complex with a rail link to the Port of Oakland. County officials have been patient with the developer in the hope of creating 13,000 jobs.
But their patience could be running out. County Chief Executive Officer Monica Nino sent a letter last week threatening to terminate the agreement with Kamilos and his partners unless the deposit is put in an escrow account. Kamilos now has 23 days to comply.
About the time the board went into closed session Tuesday, Kamilos told The Bee that he'll come through with the money well before the clock runs out next month. He said the former financial services firm Lehman Bros. needed to be removed from the investment group before the funds are committed.
"It was only last Tuesday that we reached that agreement (to separate Lehman Bros.)," Kamilos said. "We are diligently and seriously working to get that payment to the county."
One speaker at Tuesday's regular meeting chided county leaders for waiting so long for West Park to get on track.
"We wasted five years waiting for this man (Kamilos) to come up with a single job," said Emerson Drake of Modesto. "You bet on the wrong nag."
Supervisor Jim DeMartini made it clear after the meeting that he wants to terminate the contract if there is no deposit. "Mr. Kamilos is no stranger to breaching contracts," he said. "I have said for years we ought to start over again."
Supervisor Terry Withrow said he's inquiring about whether he can legally vote on West Park. The supervisor was opposed to the project but recently withdrew to avoid a conflict of interest related to his wife's part interest in land near the base.
He said county legal staff is drafting a letter to get advice on the question from the Fair Political Practices Commission. The state agency enforces rules in California designed to keep public officials from influencing government decisions in which they have a financial interest.
Withrow said he'll resume asking hard questions about West Park if the agency gives the OK.
The agreement sealed last month requires Kamilos and his partners to produce a draft environmental impact report and financial study by Jan. 31. The $2.75 million, if it's all placed in the escrow account, could be forfeited if the studies are not completed on time.
"We can't make the transfer of funds until all the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed," Kamilos said. "We are going to get that in well before the 30-day period ends."
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS WATCH
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors awarded a contract Tuesday for replacing the Honor Farm barracks to Lodi-based Diede Construction. The county will pay the firm up to $8.58 million to build the 192-bed jail facility at the Public Safety Center on Hackett Road in south Modesto. Two years ago, a fire destroyed barracks that housed inmates at the Honor Farm on West Grayson Road. County officials decided to spend the insurance proceeds adding jail space at the Public Safety Center. The 12-month project is expected to start in August. In other items, supervisors agreed to:
Approve a labor agreement with Service Employees International Union Local 521, representing social service and health services employees. The board reinstated vacation cash-out provisions for labor groups and county employees not represented by unions.
Held a public hearing on the proposed annexation of 33.5 acres to the Denair Highway Lighting District. In January, public works staff found that homeowners in three residential areas in Denair had streetlights but were not paying for the service. Unless a vote count today goes against the proposal, 126 parcels will be annexed to the lighting district and assessed $34 a year.