Grand Jury Report Critical of City's Involvement with Granite Park

FILE: Granite Park 10/28/2008

March 9, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
The Fresno County Grand Jury on Tuesday released a scathing report on the city's involvement with the troubled Granite Park development.The city of Fresno was forced to come up with five-million dollars after the Granite Park Kids Foundation defaulted on its loan. A grand jury looked at the rationale used to guarantee that loan.

Granite Park's fields of broken dreams represent unfulfilled promise. Weeds have overrun the property, which is now filled with several vacancies.

Former Fresno City Councilman Brian Calhoun regretted supporting the project. He said, "Council gets a black eye but it was trying to do the right thing."

The grand jury determined the city did not perform due diligence, which requires background checks and a business plan with a financial forecast from the developer. Calhoun said, "I would fault staff for not looking into Milt Barbis' background more. Let's call a spade a spade. This guy, after the fact, we found out had a very checkered past. We should have never been guaranteeing a loan like that."

The grand jury report also says city staff and city council did not fully evaluate several "red flags." The report says Milt Barbis had no experience in land development and he used a construction loan to improve sports fields but had no permanent funding.

Interim City Manager Bruce Rudd said, "I think there will be some information that will be forthcoming that again will help clarify some of those perceptions and opinions by the grand jury."

Rudd says the city will have a formal response in 90 days.

The grand jury report also says the city manager should have appointed a project manager for Granite Park.

Calhoun responded, "In retrospect, yes, absolutely. I would also fault, to be honest with you, the mayor. The mayor was supportive of this. That was Alan Autry."

Calhoun says council supported Granite Park because it felt the area desperately needed an economic boost.

The 18 acres of sports fields go up for auction on Friday. If a suitable buyer doesn't step forward, the city takes over the property. But interim City Manager Bruce Rudd says it'd take a million dollars just to get the fields back into playing condition.


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