MODESTO — Centerra Capital has backed out of an agreement with the city of Modesto to work as a consultant on the downtown courthouse project.
Centerra President Paul Draper notified the city of his decision in a one-page letter Tuesday to Brent Sinclair, director of community and economic development. Draper wrote that recent negative publicity regarding the contract would make it difficult for the Modesto firm to be effective in providing the services required by the agreement.
City Manager Greg Nyhoff told the City Council on Tuesday evening that Centerra had withdrawn from the agreement. The Bee reported recently that Draper would be extensively involved in negotiating the real estate transactions even though he personally lacks a California real estate license. Last week, the council voted 5-1 to use Centerra to represent the city and the landowners in their negotiations for the purchase of downtown parcels for the $277.2 million courthouse.
Recent Bee stories also raised questions about the citys purchase of land from Draper in 2007 for the Archway Commons low-income housing complex.
Drapers letter to Sinclair says the city is almost ready to submit offers to downtown property owners and that Centerras continued involvement would inhibit this progress.
Most of the council discussion Tuesday regarded a resolution listing spending priorities for the Measure X sales tax on the November ballot. City leaders cant make legally binding promises for spending the estimated $26 million in annual revenue if voters approve the 1 percent general tax. But they approved the resolution on a 6-0 vote (with Councilman Joe Muratore absent) to show the public how they intend to spend the funds.
According to the breakdown, half of the revenue would pay for public safety. The plan would restore 42 police officer positions, including 28 for community policing at an annual cost of $3.7million, and 14 officers to reduce gang violence, a cost of $1.8million a year. The city would commit $500,000 for private security patrols in parks and $500,000 to support neighborhood groups.
About $1.93million to improve emergency response would pay for nine firefighters, restoring an engine company and hiring two battalion chiefs.
Measure X calls for a citizens committee to oversee how the funds are spent. Any changes to the resolution would require approval from five of the seven council members.
Proponents of the 1percent tax say the city will need to make severe cuts without the revenue, but the extra money would restore services that were lost as a result of the recession.
We have cut to the bone, Councilman Dave Lopez said. There is nothing left to cut.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2321.