Stanislaus County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a veterans center in north Modesto, drawing applause from about 30 military veterans in the audience.
County staff members will hammer out a 10-year lease agreement for 37,547 square feet at the Sylvan Square shopping center, at Sylvan Avenue and Coffee Road. The Stanislaus Veterans Center will include a 315-seat banquet hall, a kitchen, lounge, seven-room conference center and county offices for veterans and aging services.
Officials hope to dedicate and open the center on Veterans Day in November, providing meeting rooms for more than 30 veterans groups in the county. The organizations, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, will use the center free of charge.
“This is something for veterans that is very needed,” said Bill Shanahan of the American Legion.
A member of the Marine Corps League said the new center will be a vast improvement for the group, which has held meetings in a Modesto airport hangar.
The county teamed with Modesto and the Veterans Foundation of Stanislaus County to establish the long-awaited veterans facility. The proposed lease at Sylvan Square is expected to cost around $795,000 a year for rent and utilities, with $510,000 coming from the county, $80,000 from the city, $125,000 from the nonprofit Veterans Foundation, and $50,000 from hall rentals.
County Supervisor Bill O’Brien pointed out the annual cost for the 17,800-square-foot veterans hall is $380,000. County offices such as aging and veteran services are paying rent at another location and those rental costs will move to the one-stop veterans center. The county’s adult protective services also will move to the veterans facility.
An evaluation panel considered seven other proposed sites in Modesto, but none of the initial lease proposals were within the project’s budget. The property owner, Sylvan Square LLC, stayed within the budget in making a final offer, officials said.
The Sylvan Square shopping center also met criteria for being centrally located for the veterans population, and for suitability, access to public transportation and parking. All of the meeting space is on a single level, so older veterans won’t have to climb stairs.
Other proposed sites were the 1325 H St. building where The Modesto Bee leases offices; the Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club on Sunset Avenue; The Seasons event center on McHenry Avenue; a site at 705 E. Whitmore Ave.; buildings at 948 11th St. and 140 Calaveras Ave.; and the former Save Mart supermarket at 1801 H St.
Along with providing a facility for social events, the new center will help younger veterans apply for benefits or prepare for civilian employment.
In 2012, the county considered asking voters to create a veterans memorial district, capable of raising a property surtax for meeting halls, but the idea was scrapped over concerns about board member election costs and tax issues. Instead, county leaders formed an advisory committee to work on plans and a funding method for a veterans center.
Under the plan approved Tuesday, Sylvan Square LLC is responsible for making changes to a commercial building, which formerly housed a hardware store and grocery store, so it can accommodate veterans activities.
The nonprofit Veterans Foundation of Stanislaus County expects it will need to raise more than $300,000 in donations to equip and furnish the banquet hall, meeting rooms and a memorial lobby displaying military artifacts.
In another item Tuesday, county supervisors approved a $32.4 million design-build contract for Roebbelen Contracting Inc. of El Dorado Hills to build a re-entry facility with 288 transitional jail beds at the Public Safety Center on Hackett Road.
The locked facility will be designed for alternative programs, treatment, counseling and other services to reduce the number of inmates who return to crime after their release from jail. Construction is expected to begin in September and the facility could start housing inmates in 2018.
The county has state funding to cover 90 percent of the project’s cost. Coupled with a larger expansion at the Public Safety Center, the re-entry facility will give the Sheriff’s Department enough jail beds to close the old downtown Modesto jail after the new courthouse is built.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321
The Board of Supervisors took the following actions Tuesday:
Approved a $295,3400 engineering services contract with AECOM of Sacramento for the Crows Landing corridor multi-modal transportation plan. Transportation improvements are needed along Crows Landing Road, between Interstate 5 and Highway 99, for traffic circulation to and from the planned business park at the former Crows Landing Navy base.
Passed a resolution urging the state to provide new funding for state and local transportation infrastructure.