The citizens advisory committee to the Stanislaus County Council of Governments policy board voted 7-0 to support state funding for a short-haul rail link between the Port of Oakland and a proposed business park near Crows Landing.
The vote Wednesday night came despite an attack on the project by county Supervisor Jim DeMartini, and a comment by advisory committee member Doug Sweetland that DeMartini's actions were "inappropriate" and "an abuse of (DeMartini's) position."
PCCP West Park LLC, headed by Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos, is proposing to build a 4,800-acre business and industrial development on land surrounding the county-owned Crows Landing air facility.
West Park hopes to apply for $26 million in state trade corridor bond funding to build a short-haul rail system to the Port of Oakland, creating an inland port at Crows Landing. The state money would need matching local funding.
Part of that match would come from the county dedi- cating 170 acres of the air facility for use by the inland port, according to county staff. The rest would come from West Park, and-or other state bond money.
That's where the controversy erupted. DeMartini contended that a plan to apply for funds from the California Air Re- sources Board is an attempt by Kamilos to change the air board's rules. The money is to be used for replacing diesel truck and boat engines with cleaner technology, DeMartini said.
"There's nothing in here even intended for this. Money from CARB is not to be used for this."
"I don't think any of you realized he would be asking for money from CARB (meant) for diesel truck replacement," he told the committee.
DeMartini also accused StanCOG of trying to hide the CARB money application in the committee agenda, and said Kamilos has been less than honest in describing the application process for state bond money.
StanCOG director Vince Harris said DeMartini was mistaken about the CARB bond money. The trade corridor bond money, passed by voters last November, has two components, Harris said. One is controlled by the California Transportation Commission, and includes $2.1 billion. The second is controlled by CARB and includes $1 billion.
The West Park project would qualify for the CARB money if it can show that it would benefit air quality, Harris said.
Kamilos commented that the criteria for the CARB money have not been decided. The uses DeMartini cited were suggestions from workshops on the process, Kamilos said.
"We want the opportunity if it is available to us."
Kamilos said the $26 million would be spent on track improvements, locomotives and cranes to launch the intermodal facility and rail service. Clean air technology would be used for the locomotives and cranes, he said, and the rail system will take thousands of trucks off the road.
"I'm disturbed that you are here trying to undermine this project," advisory committee member Sweetland said to DeMartini. Sweetland is the economic development director for the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance.
Sweetland said because DeMartini is part of a two-member county board committee negotiating a master development agreement with Kamilos, it is inappropriate for him to attend other meetings to attack the plan.
"How can you negotiate in good faith and then come here and raise these issues?" Sweetland said. "It's an abuse of your position."
West Side activist Claude Delphia defended DeMartini, and questioned the county's plan to contribute 170 acres to the matching funds. He noted that the Board of Supervisors had voted to retain ownership of the air facility land.
Assistant County Counsel John Doering said that was a question for supervisors rather than the citizens committee. Harris added that the information on the 170 acres as part of the matching funds came from county staff.
County Chief Executive Officer Rick Robinson, who was not at the meeting, said Thursday that the county would retain ownership of the 170 acres and lease it to West Park. The county would not risk losing the prop-erty by using it as part of the matching funds for the state grant, he said.
Delphia said he opposed most of the project concepts, as do the cities of Patterson and Newman.
Advisory committee member Reginald Bronner said the committee's only role was to decide if the bond application was a good idea to go forward.
"Your fistfights are really none of our business," he said. "We want to see this project get a fair hearing."
Bee staff writer Tim Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2349.