Jeff Jardine

Some digging turns up water deal

From the e-mails and paper trails:

WATER WOES, PART DEUX -- Last week, I wrote about a dispute over water rights involving Modesto City Schools and three homeowners who live near Enochs High School in northeast Modesto.

To build Enochs High's athletic fields, the district needed to eliminate or reroute the Litt Ditch, a canal on the north side of the school that supplied water to some adjacent half-acre lots along Roselle Avenue.

In June 2004, Scott Ousdahl, the district's director of facilities and construction, worked out an agreement under which the district would pay each homeowner $11,000 to relinquish rights to the Modesto Irrigation District water from the canal. And the school district, using its new well at the high school, would provide irrigation water in perpetuity as long as those properties remained single-family homes.

The district paid the property owners and ultimately saved $51,176 by eliminating the canal instead of rerouting it. But now the district wants to renege on the terms of the deal Ousdahl negotiated, putting time limits on it. Ousdahl died in 2005.

Debbe Bailey, the district's deputy superintendent and chief business official, said Ousdahl lacked the authority to cut such a deal. She also said the board never saw nor approved the agreement, which reads, in part: "It is also understood that this is a good faith document. Should more formal documentation be needed, all parties agree to sign off on the necessary paperwork."

Does that wording constitute a reopener in the negotiations or merely state that if a more formal contract is needed, everyone involved would agree to sign it under the prescribed terms?

Maybe the better question is, should the district even be wasting its time fighting such an issue because the board approved the deal more than three years ago?

The agenda for the Aug. 9, 2004, meeting indicates trustees approved the agreement as a consent item. The agenda item was written by Becky Meredith, then the district's planning and research director, and signed by Bailey.

Bailey said Monday that the agreements mentioned in the agenda item involved only the homeowners relinquishing their rights to the water provided by the MID. But that's not how the agreement Ousdahl negotiated reads.

Gary Cook, who now owns one of the affected homes on Roselle, said he simply wants the district to live up to the original agreement and has asked for the board to hear him out at a meeting in the near future.

THREE DOG NIGHT -- Tonight, the Modesto City Council will consider a request by the police to buy three police dogs and authorize $20,010 to do so. Two dogs have been retired, and another soon will join them.

"Two of the three dogs were narcotic canines," Lt. Ron Cloward wrote in the agenda item. "The potential impact to the war on drugs is unknown, but I'm sure there will be an impact."

Some keep working well into retirement. In 1999, the police set up a phony storefront -- a cabinetry shop they called "Bart's" -- in an old building across from the Scenic Drive-In. Inside, undercover officers waited for druggies and thugs who came there to sell stolen property. They busted 25 suspects, got information on 28 more and retrieved $143,000 in stolen property.

One retired drug-sniffing police dog hung out at the store with his cop buddies. He seldom moved from his mat. But that changed one afternoon, officer Kathleen Blom said at the time.

"This guy came in and the dog went after him," Blom said. "The guy was all doped up. That dog was all over him. He didn't know what was going on."

The cost of the new canines is $5,500 apiece, plus travel costs for the officers to go to test them, and shipping costs for the dogs.

The best deal for a police dog appears to be from Ventosa Kennels of Scotland Neck, N.C. Their dogs come with a one-year warranty. And warranties are important when it comes to a police dog. A few years back, Modesto police bought a dog from a Florida kennel, paying $6,500 for the pooch and $4,200 for training. After 18 months of training, the dog still didn't get it. But the warranty had expired and the department couldn't send him back. The cops ended up selling the dog for $1.

So Ventosa's deal looks pretty good, according to Cloward.

"You will not find a better guarantee offered by another," he said.

DEAR JEFF -- Every so often, The Bee receives Letters to the Editor submissions that don't quite fit the profile. One such letter, from a woman named Christina, arrived last week:

"I'm going to make this short. I need some advice, actually some help. I want to propose to my boyfriend, but I don't know what to do? My family says I should do the old-fashioned way and let him propose. But why should I wait for him to do it? So if you can give me some ideas .... Thanks."

The Op-Ed folks suggested I take a crack at it. So here goes:

Dear Christina,

You have a few possibilities here. There's the old "marry me or we're through" threat. That, of course, carries an inherent risk. Before you try it, make darned sure he won't take the latter option.

You could leave bridal magazines around your place -- like, on every table in the house. Or you could take him on a well-planned tour of the mall, with side trips through the jewelry shops and the bridal section at Macy's. Drop some serious hints, such as, "Oh, gee, isn't that a beautiful ring?" Or, "My grandma had that same china pattern. It's what I want someday."

You could take him over to Memorial Medical Center for a brain scan. That might explain why he's not getting all of your hints.

If all else fails, and you still want the guy after all that, propose to him yourself. And answer for him, too.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at or 578-2383.