Jeff Jardine

JARDINE: Townsend Opera players selling Modesto building

(JOAN BARNETT LEE / jlee@modbee.com) - The Townsend Opera Players building is pictured on Monday afternoon (07-25-11) on H street in downtown Modesto.
(JOAN BARNETT LEE / jlee@modbee.com) - The Townsend Opera Players building is pictured on Monday afternoon (07-25-11) on H street in downtown Modesto.

From the e-mails and voice mails:

EXIT, STAGE LEFT — Since 1998, the Townsend Opera Players have called a building in downtown Modesto home.

It has housed the company's business offices, its rehearsal stage, costume room and whatnot. Modesto Performing Arts rehearses on the stage and the 100-seat theatre is used for kids' performances.

Times change. Needs change. Last week, the company's board voted to put the building at 605 H St. up for sale.

"We just decided this really isn't the best place to be anymore," Executive Director Matthew Buckman said.

Two things precipitated the decision. Built in 1927, the building's maintenance costs no longer pencil out.

"There was a time when it was worth it," Buckman said. But as for any other nonprofit, times are tight. The organization has become more streamlined in the face of the recession, and the board would rather put money into things that benefit the showgoers and the actors.

And there are some bad actors in the neighborhood — thugs who have vandalized the building increasingly over the years.

"We're looking to move because the area has gone downhill," Buckman said.

They plan to look for new office space downtown and rehearsal space in a different building.

The present 8,830-square-foot building includes two studio apartments and a space being rented to a church group. The asking price is $295,000.

NOT SO FAST — Last week, I wrote about an intriguing case in Stanislaus County Superior Court in which 88-year-old defendant Piara Johal has been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial in the murder of his wife, Jagir, in 2008.

His attorneys want the charge dismissed. The county doesn't want to grant him a conservatorship that would keep him a ward of the state, so to speak, claiming that Johal poses little or no risk to the public if he's freed.

Deputy District Attorney Beth Owen argued the conservatorship investigator provided an incomplete report and asked Judge Nancy Ashley to order another one.

So what happened?

Ashley agreed, saying she doesn't "know how somebody can say he is not a risk of some sort."

She told the county to redo its report and return to court at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 12.

FAIR ENOUGH — In our special section on July 26, I wrote how the Turlock Melon Carnival in 1911 morphed into the Stanislaus County Fair.

Reader Alyce L. Crider said that needs a bit of modification.

Her father, dentist Harry D. Channing, had strongly supported Frank Merriam in his successful bid to become California's governor in 1934.

"Once elected, Mr. Merriam suggested that my dad might do well on some board pertaining to dentistry," Crider wrote. "My dad stated that he really would like to see the county fair be situated in Turlock. Thus, the Stanislaus County Fair was a political gift to Turlock, instead of just evolving from one thing to another. Modesto also wanted the county fair but lost out."

FREEDOM EXCURSION — A fund-raiser poker run Saturday will benefit nonprofit Freedom Excursions, which provides therapeutic recreation to military veterans. These include days of fishing on the delta and sailing. The poker run is open to all forms of transportation and begins with signups at Modesto Harley-Davidson at 8 a.m. Stops will be at Jamestown Harley-Davidson, Black Oak Casino and the Coulterville VFW before ending at the Modesto VFW Post 3199, where there will be a barbecue and concert.

The cost is $25 per person. Call (209) 479-3935 for more information.

SOS GET-TOGETHER — At 54 years old, the SOS Club has enjoyed its share of good times and weathered the bad. Friday, the club will have a reunion barbecue open to all current, former and potential members of the organization that began in 1947 as the Sportsmen of Stanislaus.

The no-host cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m., followed by a tri-tip dinner at 7. Tickets are $15. Proceeds will benefit the club, which is a nonprofit that provides college scholarships to student athletes.

Call the SOS at (209) 578-5801 for more information.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com or (209) 578-2383.

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