Roads, cars and cash took center stage at Tuesday's Modesto City Council meeting.
Three council members criticized the city's first draft of how it would spend the extra sales tax revenue, saying it put too much cash into minor maintenance projects instead of improvements that would benefit the most residents.
Modesto expects to collect about $6.9 million a year if the measure succeeds. A proposal from Public Works Director Nick Pinhey showed that money divided among a number of projects each year, many of them repaving streets. His proposal passed by a vote of 5-2 Tuesday.
Councilwoman Kristin Olsen said she would prefer to stash that money for something significant, such as taking over control of McHenry Avenue from the state and fixing the beat-up road.
She voted for Pinhey's plan but asked him to return with more options. Mayor Jim Ridenour said the proposal would give Modesto the final say on how to spend the money, meaning changes still can be made.
He strongly supports the road tax proposal, saying it would help Modesto get matching money from the state for certain projects. "If we continue as we are going, what you see today is what you will have tomorrow," he said.
Council members Janice Keating and Will O'Bryant voted against advancing the city's role in the tax proposal. They said it was being rushed before voters without enough planning and that the region's economic slump would make it difficult to pass.
"Our economy is in the dumps," Keating said. "It's going to be the complete inopportune time to ask for more."
The other road-related measures passed easily.
Two taxi companies asked for the fare hike because of rising fuel costs and increases in the state's minimum wage, which is $8 an hour. Taxi companies do not have to charge the maximum per-mile rate.
The council's vote on the towing charges brings to a close four years of negotiations with private businesses.
It comes with a new franchise agreement for the tow companies, requiring them to adhere to a code of conduct and respond to calls for service within 30 minutes. The city will keep $40 of the $70 increase to pay some of its costs in running the tow program.
The franchise agreement allows any tow company to apply for a contract with the city, but Modesto will be able to revoke a license if the company doesn't meet the terms of the deal.
An attorney representing some of the city's towing companies called the agreement "Draconian." He said it left room for the city to "kill" a business.
But representatives from four other tow companies said they supported the compact.
"The city's done everything they can to make it fair for everyone," said Eldo Harris, owner of E Towing.
Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2366.
The Modesto City Council on Tuesday:
Appointed Stephanie Lopez as the city clerk. Lopez is the assistant city clerk and has filled in as the interim city clerk since Jean Morris resigned in December. Lopez, a Ripon resident, has worked in the city clerk's office for three years and previously was a legal secretary in the city attorney's office. Mayor Jim Ridenour said Lopez stood out in interviews. "She's someone we can trust," he said. "Confidentiality is a very important part of that job." Ridenour said the council is working out the terms of Lopez's contract. Morris' salary when she stepped down was $8,605 a month. The city clerk is one of four positions the council hires.
Named nine people to a commission charged with drawing boundaries for council districts. They are retired Judge Hugh Rose III, Georgianna McDonald, Patricia Beyer, Henri Pollard, Noe Paramo, Chris Tyler, Larry Salinas, Maria Alvarez and Helen White.
Adjusted a city code that prohibits people from driving electric carts on sidewalks. It now exempts disabled people, people older than 50, mail carriers and utility workers.
Awarded a $619,004 contract to Davis-based West Yost Associates for work on designing water system improvements
Approved a $52,183 agreement with the Stanislaus County Housing Authority to assign a police officer for the Westview Gardens Housing Complex on Robertson Road
Adopted a three-year contract for newly hired City Manager Greg Nyhoff. Nyhoff will earn $195,000 a year and will be paid six months of his salary with benefits if the council fires him.
-- Adam Ashton