Friday, July 28, 2017

[Shasta County] Redding disputes much of critical Stillwater grand jury report

Even though city officials were pleased the Shasta County Grand Jury decided to “shine a light” on Stillwater Business Park, those same officials disagree with much of the panel’s critical report on the so far vacant, 700-acre park.
Mayor Brent Weaver, in a letter to Superior Court Judge Gary Gibson, disputes many of the grand jury’s findings on the city’s behalf and makes few pledges to implement the panel’s recommendations on the business park.
The City Council on Tuesday will consider approving the letter, which also disagrees with the grand jury's estimate that the city has spent $40 million so far on developing the park and that the city will be on the hook for future infrastructure upgrades there.
“It is agreed that the full cost to construct and operate Stillwater Business Park, including debt service, is greater than $23 million. However, the $40,835.789 amount as itemized includes bond revenue used for construction in addition to bond principal repayment, essentially ‘double counting’ those costs,” Weaver said in the letter. “Further, additional infrastructure could be required as the park develops (depending upon traffic demands), but it has not been determined if those improvements will be the City’s financial responsibility or the builder/developer.”
The grand jury issued its critical report in May, recommending, among other things, the city:
  • Appoint a manager for the park
  • Audit all funding and expenses on the park
  • Conduct an evaluation of the park’s viability
  • Identify alternative uses for the park
  • Use money from future lot sales exclusively for debt repayment
But Redding isn’t following those recommendations, or at least hasn’t committed to them. Collier International, the real estate broker for the park, is conducting a market demand study and will complete it by the end of November, Weaver said.
Redding also doesn’t want its hands tied on how to use money from the sale of any Stillwater lots.
“The City Council has the prerogative to direct parcel-sale revenue to be used for general fund needs, including Stillwater Business Park debt repayment or infrastructure,” Weaver wrote. “Binding council decisions by policy would limit flexibility and could prevent such funds being used for higher-priority needs at any given time.”
The city also has no plans to name a manager for the park project, noting Development Services Director Larry Vaupel already works with the Shasta Economic Development Corp. and Collier to market the park. The city’s environmental compliance manager oversees those issues there. Both work with the city manager to provide regular updates to the council.
The council on Tuesday is also set to approve a new contract with the EDC, paying the agency $81,000 for its services during the current fiscal year, set to end June 30. Those services include marketing Stillwater.
Redding could also make its dealings with Emerald Kingdom Greenhouse, LLC, public after Tuesday. The city last year rejected an offer from the company to buy a lot at the park and Vaupel wants to make the details available to those questioning why it was declined.
Emerald Kingdom has since purchased 20 acres in Red Bluff and will relocate its operations.
“Details of real estate negotiations are not required to be made public per the Brown Act,” Vaupel said in a report to the council. “However, since the company has stated publicly that it is no longer interested in purchasing property in Stillwater Business Park and negotiations have ceased, staff believes there is no longer a need for confidentiality.”
D&S Family, LLC, had made an offer on the same lot and another, Vaupel has said. The city is still in negotiations with the firm.
It was hoped the business park, which saw construction completed in 2009, would create at least 2,500 higher-wage industrial jobs.
But only one company — Lassen Canyon Nursery — has so far bought a lot there. Its plans to build a facility there are on hold.
In March, the company, anticipated to add about 20 jobs, backed off its plans to build due to the uncertain economic climate of the berry-growing industry, but company Vice President Liz Elwood-Ponce also said the nursery has no plans to sell its lot in the business park.
July 17, 2017
Redding Record Searchlight
By Sean Longoria

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