Image of City Manager Joe Lopez

City Manager's Blog

Aug 07

Update on HUD Audit

Posted on August 7, 2019 at 10:43 AM by Thomas Reeves

An audit performed by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) last year found that the city had not been following certain requirements laid out by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. As part of this audit, we have updated our policies, implemented new procedures, made sure we have proper documentation, and have required more training for our staff.  After these immediate changes, the OIG commended the city for its commitment to address the issues identified in the audit and its efforts to continue working with HUD. 

At the city council meeting tonight, the council will decide whether they will authorize the Community and Economic Development department to repay the HUD and CDBG program. This repayment of $154,160 to HUD is based on staff incorrectly charging their timecards to the grant-funded account instead of a non-grant funded account. To ensure this won’t happen again, all staff timecards have been moved to a non-grant funded cost center. 

The repayment would be unique because the money that would be coming from the Community and Economic Development’s general fund would be going right back into the continuing development of our city through the CDBG program. This repayment will restore integrity with the HUD, and we look forward to our continued funding relationship with them. 
Jul 25

Introducing the New and Improved Visitors Bureau

Posted on July 25, 2019 at 1:38 PM by Thomas Reeves

After a four year restoration, the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is back and better than ever! Now under the direction of Todd Aaronson and a new board, the CVB will be taking a more contemporary approach to tourism while staying true to Modesto’s culture and history. At the beginning of July, the CVB officially re-launched – independent of the city – and looks forward to moving into their new Visitors Center. Go check out their new place at 1008 12th Street soon!

The CVB is at the forefront of our efforts to attract visitors to this great city. The CVB is the “one stop shop” for all things Modesto. From attractions, conventions, events, cuisine, to tours; you name it and the CVB will assist with your need. With the CVB creating greater awareness of what Modesto has to offer, our city will be considered when hosting an event or traveling through - one way they help boost Modesto’s economy. 

Where is the CVB getting the funds to do all this, you might ask? When guests pay for a hotel room, there is the room rate plus taxes and other fees. One of those fees in Modesto is called the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) which taxes guests when staying in one of our hotels. 

A new fee that will be employed starting in August is the Modesto Tourism Marketing District Fee.  This is a 1% fee to the guest on the overall room rate, and will go directly back to funding the CVB. 

With a portion of the TOT and the Tourism Fee in place, the CVB will double their budget with no cost to the government, the community or local businesses. Basically, the people who stay in Modesto help fund Modesto’s tourism and get to enjoy what the city has to offer at the same time. It’s a common cycle in the world of tourism: nominal fees help pay for bringing additional tourists to town, which aid in bringing much more revenue for the local economy. More people, businesses and organizations are choosing Modesto to host their events in recent years, so let’s continue showing them what our great city is all about. 

As the CVB gets up and running new employment opportunities will be available. They will soon be looking to hire team members and tourism ambassadors to help with their outreach efforts. Also be on the lookout for their social media! They have some great things coming to showcase the heart and soul of Modesto, especially as we begin to celebrate the 150 year history of our city!

We are very excited to partner with the CVB and help usher in Modesto‘s flourishing tourism. 
Jul 19

Downtown Master Planning is Heating Up!

Posted on July 19, 2019 at 9:14 AM by Thomas Reeves

The Downtown Master Plan is beginning to gain momentum. This past June, the City Council approved hiring an outside consultant Opticos Design for $210,000 to aid in the creation of this plan. Two big projects that are already underway are the building of the new 8-story court house and the expansion of the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) rail line to Modesto. ACE is a commuter train connecting the central valley to the Bay Area. Both of these projects – among many other economic prospects – have influenced the creation and push for the Downtown Master Plan to ensure that Modesto is positioned to experience their benefits.  

Along with those two new major developments, the plan will focus on how to improve transportation downtown. The idea to revamp J Street is part of why transportation will be a big focus in this plan. The Opticos team has already begun their research on how to efficiently and effectively improve downtown transportation. The funding for this portion of the plan is coming from Measure L which is the half cent sales tax increase in our area. 

Keep in mind that this plan is in its beginning stages. Right now the focus is on gathering stakeholders and listening to the Modesto community. On July 22 there will be an opportunity for the people of Modesto to come share their ideas and opinions about the downtown area and what is to come of it. The day will start at the McHenry Museum with a walking tour at 9am and then at 6pm there will be a Visioning Workshop.

It is both my and Director of Community & Economic Development Jaylen French’s belief that this plan can become a living document that will evolve and change with the growth and development of Modesto. So come out July 22 to the McHenry Museum and tell us what is important to you about downtown Modesto.