Fire asks: Why can’t city sell New Hogan land?

During the firefighters union arbitration that wrapped up earlier this month, the union’s lawyer submitted into evidence a May 17 e-mail between Budget Officer Joe Maestretti and then-CFO Mark Moses in which the two discuss the viability of selling the more than 100 acres of cattle grazing land the city owns around New Hogan Reservoir in Calaveras County

Click here to see it yourself.

In the e-mail last year, Maestretti makes a “very loose” estimate that the property could net maybe $2.5 million on the market. One idea would be to sell the land to the city’s workers compensation fund, which could hold onto the properties as assets in the long-term. In the e-mail, Maestretti is not hot on the idea for a variety of reasons.

The fire union has argued that the city could have sold the property for immediate cash to the general fund, rather than close a fire truck company and suspend scheduled pay increases as the City Council voted to do last year without a new labor agreement. City officials, however, have argued against using one-time funds for ongoing labor expenses.

As for the New Hogan property: The city bought it decades ago when it replaced the dam out there. The city leases it to cattle ranchers.

In a brief interview, Maestretti said he and Moses at the time were simply brainstorming. No formal appraisal has ever been conducted on the New Hogan properties, and he said he doubts the city could get much for the property in today’s market.

During an arbitration hearing in January, former interim CFO Bill Thomas summed up the city’s opposition to selling the land, according to transcripts:

I guess, you know, my opinion is how are we going to sell surplus property the city has to cover these ongoing expenses? So these are one-time revenues to cover ongoing expenses. And then we bet the table that the revenues would turn around and we’ll have sufficient funds the next year to pay these increased costs.

I liken it to what if we sell this property, which is up in Calaveras County. It’s somewhat landlocked. It was purchased for water back I believe in the ’30s. I don’t believe there is an existing appraisal so there’s no numbers. That number was – came up in an e-mail by the former CFO. But I don’t believe he had any basis for that number.

You know, so we can do that. We can sell it. We can get 2 and a half million dollars this year. We can pay the firefighters. And then in next year, what do you do? Do you sell the park across the street from – in your neighborhood to get another 2 and a half million? It’s getting to the point where it’s somewhat preposterous that that would be brought up.

This entry was posted in Budget crisis. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form.