|<b>By J.N. Sbranti, The Modesto Bee|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The city already owns nearly half the land on that block, but it's the six private landowners there who will reap virtually all the profits from the courthouse deal.
The state has agreed to pay
The best-case scenario has the city of
The city also is taking on a financial risk: If it costs more than
Details still lacking
The private landowners on the block, by contrast, will be paid
Exactly how city officials calculated which landowners will receive which amounts has not been revealed. The city received at least two appraisals for each of those properties, but it refuses to make those appraisals public.
There appears to be massive discrepancies between the values placed on some of the privately owned parcels compared to any of the publicly owned parcels.
Repeated requests by
Prominent community members also have been rebuffed in their pleas for more details.
"I've never seen any government act like this in my whole career," said
"There ought to be a lot of suspicion on the part of the public about this," Simon said. "It smells."
Questions being raised about the deal include:
--How privately owned land values were established.
--Specifically how the city staff calculated it would cost
--How much money the city already has spent on this deal and how future costs will be covered.
--Why the city is not complying with
"What they're doing is putting a stain on the courthouse, which is supposed to stand for truth, honesty and fair dealing," Simon said about
Simon is particularly concerned about the city's apparent lack of compliance with a newly enacted public disclosure law. Government Code 53083 requires extensive details be revealed before cities provide financial subsidies for any economic development project.
"That new law is critical. How can they sidestep a law that was passed and signed by the governor of
Call for 'transparency'
Normoyle said the city's "data dump" of 866 pages of documents, released for the first time late Thursday afternoon, makes it extremely difficult for the public to analyze and understand what's going on.
What's "glaringly absent" in all those documents, Normoyle said, is anything about the value of the city's land on that courthouse site.
The state got land appraisals to determine the value of every parcel of that block, and the city knows how much the city's properties were determined to be worth. But those appraisals -- paid for by a public agency for publicly owned land -- are being kept secret from the public by city officials and state court officials.
Repeated requests by The Bee to see those appraisals have been denied.
Tamimi has a copy of the state appraisal for his I street block, and he said it is "to the penny the same price" the state now is offering to pay for the
Tamimi thinks it's more than coincidence the state now is offering an identical amount for the
The state plans to completely level whichever block it ends up buying.
According to the proposed purchase agreement with the city, the state will pay
In another coincidence, the city's staff estimates it will cost
But nowhere in the 866 pages of documents regarding the courthouse land deal does it explain how the city's staff determined what that work will cost.
That's important because
Simon fears removing those utilities will cost much more than the city is telling the public. He recalled it costing about
The city also will be financially liable to spend up to
Normoyle said another financial risk for
"This is going to turn the city into a landlord," Normoyle warned.
Normoyle said he and others plan to ask questions at Tuesday's special council meeting.
Bee staff writer
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