State should handle courthouse planning, not Modesto

09/13/2013 4:30 PM

09/13/2013 4:31 PM

Kudos to Niniv Tamimi for reminding our community and its taxpayers that there is still another state-approved site for our much needed new downtown courthouse (“Courthouse decision not best for taxpayers,” Sept. 11, Opinions).

In the shadow of the debacle of the Archway Commons low-income housing project, it is unthinkable that we should stand by and watch possibly the most expensive public works project in Stanislaus County history become yet another city of Modesto boondoggle.

This is a state courts project; the city has no business becoming involved in buying and selling parcels involving expensive commissions, possible toxic waste removal and utility relocation, all in the hope of possibly “breaking even.” We know how that worked out with the Archway Commons project thanks to The Bee’s thorough investigative reporting. Might we end up with a courthouse with half of the promised courtrooms built on property purchased at double the market value?

The 14th and I Street location involves only one ownership entity working with the state with an already agreed upon appraised value. The parcel does not need an alley to be condemned, nor utilities relocated, and is already determined to be free of toxic waste. This same ownership entity also owns a large parking lot less than one block away. Judge Ricardo Cordova has warned that further delays could jeopardize state funding for the Modesto project. The city needs to get out of the way so as not to sour the possibility of the state making a clean, smooth deal that does not risk undetermined taxpayer subsidy.

Perhaps all of this could have been avoided if during the earlier planning stages the process had been conducted in an open fashion including public hearings and comment periods instead of being largely conducted behind closed doors.

DON STRANGIO

Modesto

Editor’s note: The writer was director of Stanislaus County’s Family Court Services from 1984 to 2002.

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