A timeline for every agenda
February 11, 2008
Atascadero City Manager Wade McKinney will tell the city council Tuesday that federal reconstruction funds for the city’s youth center were acquired through appropriate means.
McKinney has developed a “timeline” which he will address publicly; the timeline has been posted on the city’s Website, www.atascadero.org. The center’s actual location at the time of the 2003 San Simeon Earthquake is at the center of a growing controversy.
According to McKinney’s timeline, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials were made aware that the center was located on Traffic Way.
Correspondence between state and FEMA officials, though, do not support that claim. Additionally, e-mails between Atascadero officials exacerbate the confusion.
An article by UncoveredSLO.com, “Atascadero Filches FEMA funds, youth center rises on tainted land,” detailed how city officials bilked taxpayers out of more than $4 million in disaster aid to construct a replacement youth center. Those officials asserted the historic Printery Building at 6351 Olmeda Avenue was the city’s youth center at the time of the quake. Then, the city’s actual youth center stood a few blocks away at 5493 Traffic Way.
UncoveredSLO.com has prepared its own timeline on this issue and presents it here, along with links to appropriate sites and documents.
December 14, 1999 – Council Member Clay suggests that $250,000 pledged by Dennis Moresco could go towards a new youth center. A motion to abandon the concept of using the Printery and develop plans for a gymnasium failed to get a second. However, after the gymnasium was changed to a youth center/community center in a motion, council voted unanimously to abandon use of the Printery as a youth center and move ahead with an alternate site.
McKinney’s timeline says council gave direction to “develop plans for a gymnasium to be built on a site to be determined.”
May 23, 2000 – City staff responds to Masons’ request to have the Printery, previously donated to the city under an agreement the structure would function as the city’s youth center, returned to them. “Staff recommendation: Council direct staff to prepare the necessary agreements and documents to return ownership of the Atascadero Masonic Temple/Printery Building to the Atascadero Masonic Temple Association and to initiate the process to allow retention of ownership of the George C. Beatie Skate Park.”
July 2001 – The city receives $547,000 in state grants and per capita funds to transform the hay and feed building into a youth center.
November 28, 2001 – The city purchases the hay and feed building with a goal of transforming the building into a youth center.
2002 – The city celebrates the grand opening of the Traffic Way youth center.
“I remember going to the grand opening,” said a former planning commissioner who asked to remain anonymous. “The city placed a plaque on the outside of the building. Kids were playing basketball and numerous other activities were going on there. I never remember anything coming in front of planning commission dealing with the Printery after the new youth center opened.”
2003 – According to McKinney’s timeline, the Printery housed numerous youth functions. In the past, the minutes of Park and Recreation meetings provided dates and locations for numerous city activities. However, Park and Recreation meetings and minutes for the second half of 2003 are missing from the city’s Web site.
February 2003 – County funds requested by the city would net an additional $35,000. “Funds are requested for the installation of an elevator at the Youth Center at 5493 Traffic Way. The construction of a second story will provide additional space for meetings, game rooms, and classrooms.”
August 2003 – A city staff report recommends council transfer the Printery back to the Masons, and suggests supplying developer Kelly Gearhart with development credits. Gearhart has offered to renovate the Printery building and make it available for public use in exchange for 50 development transfer credits.
A Printery update, touting the benefits of providing Gearhart development credits, claims the Printery was virtually never used for youth purposes.
August 12, 2003 – Council voted 3-2 to return the Printery back to the Masons.
December 2003 – The Atascadero News displays hours for the Printery’s outdoor skate park, though no other announcements regarding youth activities at the Printery were listed in the Atascadero News in either November 2003 or December 2003.
December 10, 2003 – “The city of Atascadero will receive $400,000 to help finish construction of a youth center from federal funding,” Congressman Bill Thomas announces. “The project involves conversion of a 9,600 square-foot warehouse into a multi-purpose facility,” according to an article in the Atascadero News.
December 22, 2003 – The San Simeon Earthquake.
Following the earthquake, the Traffic Way youth center was renovated into an indoor skate park.
December 26, 2003 – McKinney’s time line claims FEMA officials were aware of the ownership issues and the Traffic Way youth center.
Numerous document exchanges between the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and FEMA claim the youth center was located in the Printery at the time of the quake.
Developer Gearhart claims city officials asked him to hold off on his purchase of the Printery Building while they attempted to procure funds from FEMA by making the allegation that the structure was an active youth center at the time of the quake. The building was in the last stages of escrow at the time of the quake.
January 30, 2004 –Following the quake, the council agrees to keep the Printery with no mention of their previous vote to return the Printery to the Masons or the impending property transfer.
August 24, 2004 – The city requests bids for renovation of the Traffic Way skate park into a youth center. The staff report fails to mention the site’s previous youth center status.
A staff report claims that agreements to return the Printery to the Masons were not completed prior to the earthquake.
Even so, according to numerous documents provided by Gearhart, the agreements had been finalized. An unsigned deed from November 2003 with a handwritten note from the city manager’s office claims that Gearhart is okay with the agreement.
September 2004 – In McKinney’s weekly confidential management report, e-mailed to council members, McKinney stresses the importance of having an alternate project approved before the public has a chance to vote on a new council.
“Kelly and the Masons are anxious to get the Printery, which I have not yet turned over. We must be the owners of the Printery until the alternate project is approved or we don’t get the money. I am not sure if we can get it done before the election, which is a key date. If we don’t have approval for the alternate project, I will be forced to deed the Printery to the Masons and we will not be eligible for the FEMA money. The project requires the State Office of Historic Preservation to review the PW and there must be a NEPA (Federal environmental requirement) determination,” says McKinney’s e-mail.
In a follow-up e-mail, one council member laments over the possibility of new council members changing their minds regarding transferring the Printery to the Masons — and the lawsuit that would most assuredly follow.
The council member’s e-mail reads in part: “My quote to Angela at the Trib: ‘If we had kept the 99% ownership in the Printery as I advocated, we would have $7 million to restore the building and turn it into a youth center, thus achieving two major goals of the community. I lost that vote and now we will lose at least $2.1 million by doing an alternate project. That is sad.
“But here is the problem: We have a special meeting [coming up]. Wade’s fear that is not clearly expressed above is that if he does not turn over the Printery to the Masons (and then to Kelly) the election might come and since the vote was 3-2 to return the Printery to the Masons, the Council could change, the vote could flip the other way and the City would end up with the Printery, $7 million to turn it into a Youth Center and most assurdedly a lawsuit. So if we follow his recommendation to choose city hall as an alternate project (sink another 4.9 million in it), then it may take us past the election before we get approval and the Council majority may flip and then we don’t get the alternate project that he wants (he doesn’t want the ‘white elephant’ Printery). So if that is not complicated enough, he wants a commitment … to not vote to keep the Printery so that he can be sure the election won’t change the Printery vote. Failing that, there is the nuclear option of giving the building back to the Masons and taking just $1 million from FEMA for the Printery, that can be put anywhere (the suggestion is the Youth Center.”
January 2008 – In response to “Atascadero Filches FEMA funds, youth center rises on tainted land,” McKinney offers to put together a time line to attempt to exonerate the city of any wrongdoing.
Lon Allan, a Printery committee member and columnist for The Tribune, bemoans the UncoveredSLO.com article without citing it for “spreading rumors” about the city. He asserts problems in the city are “caused by the bad economic times and some by perhaps honest mistakes.”
Keep watching UncoveredSLO.com for more on this evolving story.