Rethink decision on Modesto courthouse site

May 14, 2013 

DN courthouse site

The state Court Facilities Advisory Committee on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, voted unanimously to move ahead with putting the new Stanislaus County Courthouse building at 10th and H streets, seen here.

DEBBIE NODA — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

I was disappointed to read of the decision concerning the proposed location of the new Stanislaus County Courthouse in Modesto (May 10, Page A-1). Initially, I assumed that this decision must have been made by state-level panel members who must never have been to Modesto and have no personal knowledge of or connection to our community.

Then when the article went on to disclose that members of city government had actually pushed this decision, I was stunned. Of most concern was the description that there is no provision at the state level for local input into the decision and that a local advisory group would be meeting behind closed doors to discuss the state's decision.

Since when are decisions of this magnitude involving such sums of taxpayer monies made without public comment periods and-or hearings?

Have our city leaders no awareness of the history of our city? I street was designed as the main thoroughfare through town when the city was originally laid out by the railroad in the 1800s. It was purposely designed as the widest of streets in the downtown grid and has always served as the main parade route past grandstands on the courthouse lawn. I street is home to our famed Modesto Arch, the gateway to our city. It has been home to our courthouse since the late 1800s. Also along our main thoroughfare are the Gallo Center for the Arts, the McHenry Museum, McClatchy Square, the McHenry Mansion and the Stanislaus County Library.

The identified "preferred" site along Ninth Street involves the city now having to negotiate with multiple property owners, close an alley, relocate utilities, and deal with potential toxic cleanup before hopefully then selling the property back to the state. We all know how efficient government is in performing such tasks.

The Modesto Bee site, with frontage on I street, would require negotiations with only one ownership entity, has no alley that needs closing, and utilities have already been relocated. The same ownership entity also owns a ready made parking lot less than a block away.

This state-level decision needs to be revisited locally and heavily scrutinized with the addition of public comment periods and hearings. For our city leaders to proceed without public input is unconscionable. Even the director of community and economic development admits that the "best case scenario is that we break even." This seems to have all of the earmarks of another city of Modesto government boondoggle.

DON STRANGIO

former director of Family Court Services

Modesto

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