MODESTO -- City officials are moving forward with overhauling the management of Modesto Centre Plaza, part of a plan to rein in costs while improving the convention center's operations.
The City Council's Finance Committee approved 3-0 on Monday staff's proposal to hire a general manager to run the center. The matter will go before the full council Feb. 12.
The city has implemented part of its plan by eliminating the center's events and facility supervisors and a part-time administrative analyst. Those positions have been vacant for two to four weeks.
Retired Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden was hired in late October on a part-time, interim basis to help manage the center and review its operations. He is being paid $50 an hour.
Centre Plaza was the centerpiece of Modesto's downtown revitalization when it was built in the late 1980s. Last year, it held 295 events, such as trade shows, business meetings, concerts and weddings.
But in recent years, operating the center has required a $500,000 to $700,000 annual subsidy from the city's general fund as booking revenues have fallen.
Last year, the council directed staff to reduce the subsidy by $250,000.
A city report states that eliminating the two supervisors and the administrative analyst and hiring a general manager will result in a net annual savings of as much as $179,000. The salary for the manager is proposed to be $75,544 to $92,039, plus benefits.
The city expects to realize about $30,000 in annual savings once an energy upgrade of the convention center is completed. Money from the federal stimulus paid for the upgrade.
The reorganization and energy upgrade should result in more than $200,000 in annual savings, and officials said they will continue to look for more savings.
Staff is moving toward finding a general manager. The city has received 11 applications since starting to advertise for the position a few weeks ago. But officials emphasized that the position is contingent upon the City Council approving it Feb. 12.
At Monday's meeting, council members asked whether staff was confident it could find the right candidate without the help of a recruiting firm. Human Resources Director Joe Lopez said a recruiter could be considered if the right person is not found.
Council and audience members stressed that it is important to seek community input in evaluating the candidates. They want a general manager who will partner with the Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau, the DoubleTree Hotel, which adjoins the convention center, and other stakeholders.
Harden continues to evaluate the center's policies and procedures. But his tenure will end soon. He is scheduled to become Hughson's interim city manager March 4.
The convention center workers whose positions were eliminated were offered other open positions with the city. Two of them took the positions, while one left the city, said Julie Hannon, director of parks, recreation and neighborhoods.
State of the golf courses
In other business Monday, the Finance Committee accepted an informational report on the financial condition of the city's three golf courses: Creekside, Dryden and Modesto Municipal.
The report states that green fee revenues are down for the courses during the first six months of this fiscal year. The city also has billed FM Golf, which manages Creekside and Dryden for $39,795.
FM Golf's contract states that if expenses exceed revenues by more than $250,000, FM shall pay the city all costs above $250,000, in this case $39,795. One audience member complained that FM is not promoting the two courses and is charging more than the golf courses in nearby communities.
First Tee manages the nine-hole Municipal course.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2316.