Consultancy fees related to the establishment of an expressway between Modesto and Oakdale have spiraled to $11 million. The fees, which originally were set at $3 million as recently as last summer, have more than tripled because of a miscalculation. Originally it was thought that thirty-two of five-hundred seventy one properties affected by the proposed expressway needed to be studied; but then it became apparent that one hundred sixty eight properties need to be studied, resulting in the hugh escalation of the fees. Drake Haglan and Associates has committed to do its portion of the study for $3 million, and at the same time, the City of Modesto has had to pay another company, Jacobs Engineering, $5.8 million for "key environmental studies." Jacobs Engineering was the company that was originally paid to perform the studies. Cost overruns and subsequent studies have spiraled the costs to over $11 million.
This seems particularly abhorrent to this commentator. Eleven million dollars for an expressway study for a town with over 17% unemployment and no solid industrial or economic base is deplorable! The Mayor and City Council earlier in the spring were advocating for annexation of Wood Colony on the grounds that the City needed the money from the tax revenue from Wood Colony because the City does not have enough of an economic base to pay for its own bills from within its current borders. If the City cannot raise enough tax revenue to pay its own bills from the property taxes generated within its own borders, then where does it get $11 million to pay for a study of an expressway?
It is one thing when a city with a solid economic base budgets in some expensive costs for things that are necessary or desired by the majority of the populace of that city. But when that city is broke, and cannot raise enough money to pay its bills from its own property taxes, that it something else altogether. Furthermore, the populace of the City of Modesto do not support the construction of such an expressway, the denigration of prime farmland and the desecration of existing businesses and old time residential properties that in some cases date back to the late nineteenth century.
As this commentator sees it, the members of the City Council who have authorized these studies should be called to task and challenged for their poor judgments and ridiculous, wasteful and unjustified decisions. We are the people of Modesto. Despite delusions of grandeur from some of our residents who envision themselves living in the Bay Area or some other urban area, we are an agriculturally based populace who have no business conducting $11 million studies that we simply cannot afford. The sooner we have a Council that cares about preserving the agricultural integrity of this area and keeping the costs down, the better off we will be.