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Modesto weighs giving nonprofit $900,000

Modesto officials will consider Monday a new approach for investing in the city’s neighborhoods that calls for the city to give $900,000 over four years to a nonprofit that would use the money to teach residents how to organize and solve their problems while working with the city.

The City Council’s Great Safe Neighborhoods Committee will hear the proposal at its 5 p.m. meeting. The public can attend. The committee is being asked to give its approval to the funding agreement and give staff direction on what the nonprofit should accomplish, such as helping neighborhoods form associations and watch groups and hold cleanups.

The committee won’t make the final decision. It will be up to City Council to decide whether to enter into this agreement. It would be with Modesto Neighborhoods Inc. Former Councilman Brad Hawn serves as the nonprofit’s board president.

The agreement calls for the nonprofit to receive $150,000 in the city’s current budget year, which ends June 30, and then $300,000 in each of the next two years and $150,000 in the fourth year. A city report says the nonprofit would use the money to hire outreach workers and support staff and pay its other expenses as it works with neighborhoods. The nonprofit also would work on securing grants and other funding so it can continue once the city money ends.

Mayor Ted Brandvold, who took office last month, said he needs to learn more before deciding whether he would support this. But he is concerned about the cost.

“It’s a very good idea,” he said. “Anything we can do to bring our neighborhoods and community together is a good thing. It’s a great concept for a city that is flush with money, and we are not at this point. My priority is getting through the budget (review) and finding funds so we can get more police on the streets.”

The city report states $767,721 of the $900,000 would come from Modesto’s general fund, which primarily pays for public safety, and the remaining $132,279 would come from a refund Modesto received from the Local Agency Formation Commission, which governs such matters as annexation requests.

Hawn said he understands Brandvold’s concerns. But he said this is the right approach for Modesto.

“It’s the answer for a city with budget issues,” Hawn said. “If we didn’t have the budget issues, we would not be talking about this. The city would be providing these services. But it’s money, and I understand you need to look at it and make sure the money is well spent.”

The city report states Modesto cut more than $20 million in services during the Great Recession. Modesto has tried to bridge this service gap by working with others, such as partnering with residents on park projects.

This proposal is based on the success of residents in the La Loma Neighborhood to organize and tackle problems. Hawn said his nonprofit would work with all of Modesto’s neighborhoods, including those in unincorporated areas. He said it could take time to gain the trust of residents in the city’s poorer neighborhoods that are plagued with crime.

Hawn added that Modesto Neighborhoods Inc. would not set the priorities for the neighborhoods. Instead, he said, the neighborhoods would come up with their priorities and his nonprofit would help them achieve their goals.

In other action, the committee will:

▪ Hear a proposal from staff to replace the vandalized flagpole at the city-owned and -maintained King-Kennedy Memorial Center and forward it to the City Council for approval. A city report says it will cost $8,000 to $10,000 to replace the flagpole. Center board member George Russell questioned the council recently about its spending priorities. He asked the council how it could spend $75,000 for hotel rooms and meals for the Amgen Tour of California in May, even though the racers would not be competing here, and he could not get the city to fix the flagpole after several years of asking.

▪ Hear reports on crime and traffic statistics. The reports compare 2015 with 2014. The crime statistics report shows that serious crimes increased 12 percent from 2014 to 2015, with big spikes in auto theft (up 45 percent) and robbery (up 27 percent).

The committee meets at 5 p.m. in Room 2005 on the second floor of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St. Reports for what will be discussed are available at www.modestogov.com/council/committees/agendas. Click on the link for Monday’s meeting and then on the links for the reports.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316

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