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Turlock will lose without Carnegie

Turlock City Councilman Ted Howze has brought to center stage his thoughts regarding the proposed Carnegie Arts Center. His comments that the Carnegie will be a financial drain, prompting him to prioritize other Redevelopment Agency projects ahead of the Carnegie, are misguided and could influence other council members.

The "prioritizing" referred to by Howze is the request by interim City Manager Gary Hampton to the City Council to review the long list of RDA projects, move the most viable projects to the top of the list and match current RDA dollars to those projects.

The RDA meeting is a public meeting scheduled Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Turlock City Hall.

While Howze refers to the proposed Carnegie as a financial drain on the city, he provides no figures or facts to support his position. To date, neither staff nor the Carnegie Foundation has been formally charged by the City Council to develop an operating proposal. Any number of operating scenarios can be developed when directed by the council.

Scenarios could vary greatly and include parameters set by the council. When an appropriate operating proposal and agreement is approved by the council, Howze's concerns regarding the Carnegie should be nullified. Staff and the council are not prepared to discuss operating budgets at this public meeting.

As the council looks ahead to establish an operating budget for the Carnegie, it should review the history of the Carnegie project. In October 2007, in response to tremendous community support, the council directed staff to go forward with planning for the proposed restoration and two-story expansion of the Carnegie Arts Center and identified $3 million from the 2006 RDA bond and $1.5 million from accrued interest for the project.

Additionally, this RDA project brings significant funding from other sources (identified by the council as available for this project): Capital facility fees, $1.7 million; insurance settlement monies, $.9 million; and Carnegie Arts Center Foundation donations, $0.6 million -- that includes $60,000 from Stanislaus County.

It is my understanding that none of the other proposed RDA projects can use these funds -- with the exception of the insurance settlement monies -- if the council chooses to abandon the historic Carnegie.

The $7.7 million combined funds, plus the fact that the Carnegie is ready to go to bid next week, makes it the most shovel-ready of the proposed RDA projects. To date, the city has spent more than $550,000 on architectural fees. These monies and reimbursement for city engineering and permitting services would be lost if the project were abandoned.

Additionally, the proposed $40 million public safety facility has been designed to complement the new Carnegie architecture. Together they create an identifiable Turlock Civic Center.

Abandoning 10 years of planning, the expressed need for a community center and the opportunity to bring a public venue to the core of our redeveloped downtown would be an enormous loss to the community and future generations.

Ferrari is co-chairwoman of the Carnegie Arts Center Foundation Advisory Committee.