What's Granite Park's Future? Letters Offer Clues.
Terance Frazier, the real estate developer and president of the nonprofit that runs a city sports park, says his public partner isn’t doing all it can to help him.
Right now, Frazier is preparing the Granite Park sports facility operated by his nonprofit — the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation — for a huge bounce park event over the weekend, the largest in the world if you believe Big Bounce America’s hype.
In the same week a city councilman criticized the way Frazier is running Granite Park and also City Hall for letting it happen, Frazier struck back. He says the city isn’t holding up its end at a park providing baseball, softball, soccer and other sports programs for Fresno’s youth.
Now, he is hesitant to invest more of his own money in the project.
“However, when I learned that the city prematurely published the audit in order to discredit the operation and get the facility back, I made the decision not to put any more of my own money into the facility until we could get the ground lease and service agreement revised to more accurately reflect what is possible for Granite Park and to provide us with some protections — all to ensure that the millions invested will not go to waste,” Frazier said.
GV Wire obtained letters between the city and Frazier’s nonprofit on the present and future of Granite Park.
Frazier: City’s Inaction Could Cost Granite Park $200K
Through a contract approved by the city council in 2015, CVCSF leases city-owned Granite Park and receives a $150,000 subsidy from taxpayers. It has been a rocky road, with accounting problems, state paperwork filed late, and the scrutiny of a city audit — which Frazier contends was error-filled — and that of Councilman Garry Bredefeld.
The city, through assistant city manager Jim Schaad, sent Frazier a letter Aug. 29 discussing many issues with Granite Park. Among them: the foundation’s overdue water bill, and subsidizing the cost to replace lamps at the baseball field.
The city, Schaad said, is willing to front the lighting fix for $6,534 but wants to be repaid out of revenue from a yet-to-be-built digital billboard or the foundation’s annual subsidy.
Schaad also noted that the foundation is two months late on a water bill totaling $24,680.
Frazier said that the city’s failure to fulfill its obligations in the lease regarding water and the billboard could cost him more than $200,000 a year.
Related Story: City Audit Uncovers Problems With Granite Park Bookkeeping
“The lease also says the city will provide recycled water through a purple pipe system WHEN AVAILABLE. It is not currently available in that area and the cost to bring it from the Wastewater Treatment Facility would cost millions of dollars.” — city spokesman Mark Standriff
“Purple” water is untreated water from the city suitable for irrigating landscaping but not for drinking.
“CVCSF long ago paid for the installation of its ‘purple pipe’ connection point to accommodate the city’s planned recycled irrigation water as described in the ground lease. However, that city project has never come to pass, which has resulted in extremely high costs for irrigation water for Granite Park,” CVCSF attorney David Weiland said in a Sept. 4 letter.
City spokesman Mark Standriff said the city is upholding its obligations.
“The lease also says the city will provide recycled water through a purple pipe system WHEN AVAILABLE. It is not currently available in that area and the cost to bring it from the Wastewater Treatment Facility would cost millions of dollars,” Standriff told GV Wire via email.
A digital billboard on the site of Granite Park could bring in more revenue, Frazier said. The lease says the park’s share of any billboard would be at least $60,000 a year. The billboards would be visible from Highway 168 if they are built.
Frazier says the city is stalled in its deal with Caltrans and billboard provider Outfront.
“The city has not held up their part of the bargain. It is very difficult for CVCSF to hold their side of the deal when there are no funds coming from those two sources,” Frazier said.
Strandriff said any deal falls on Frazier.
“The digital billboard is the operator’s responsibility. He gets the financial benefit so he’s the one who needs to contact the electronic billboard company and work out a deal,” Standriff said.
Audit a Sore Spot
Schaad’s letter also wanted to follow up on issues raised at a June 6 meeting between the city and Frazier.
The city expected the foundation to send accounting information by the end of June.
“The request for financial records raises a proverbial red flag based primarily on the now infamous, and audit performed by the city and error-filled draft audit report prematurely released to the public in early 2019. So, I am compelled to ask for clarification as to exactly what you want in terms of financial records, ledgers, and backup documentation,” Weiland responded.
Fresno City Manager Wilma Quan called for the audit in 2018, when CVCSF requested a doubling of the city’s subsidy. That request was later withdrawn.
The audit found problems with CVCSF’s bookkeeping and loan practices, but nothing illegal. Frazier has been critical of the audit’s findings to the point that he filed claims for damages with the city. That is the first step of potential litigation.
It is still a sore spot, as evidenced by a passage from Weiland’s letter discussing possible changes to the lease agreement.
“While the funding request has been withdrawn, the fallout from the premature release of the error-filled draft audit report continues to plague CVCSF, Mr. Frazier personally, and the overall operations of the Granite Park facility,” Weiland wrote. “Hence, it should not be hard for you to understand that CVCSF has not been eager to renegotiate anything with regard to the ground lease or service agreement in light of the significant economic harm caused by the premature release of the city’s draft audit report.”
The attorney suggested involving a mediator at future meetings, because of their acrimonious nature.
“Those tensions can often be a barrier to resolving disputes. A trained mediator can help bridge the differences between the parties,” Weiland said.
Related Story: Frazier Files Claim Against City, Says He's Victim of Political Hit
The city also wanted to know CVCSF’s plan to transfer the Granite Park assets to another entity. Weiland said the plan is to transfer the park to another Frazier-linked nonprofit, the Central California Baseball Academy.
The city’s letter also questioned Granite Park’s insurance status. Frazier said the park is in compliance.
Bredefeld Called Out Frazier
At a Tuesday (Sept. 3) news conference, councilman Garry Bredefeld wondered why Granite Park continues to receive its city subsidy, and why Frazier receives city money for other projects, based on the city’s 2018 audit.
Bredefeld said the city has failed to properly to oversee the Granite Park agreement. He also questioned why some councilmembers were not informed of Frazier’s claim against the city prior to the Aug. 15 vote to give a separate Frazier development, the South Stadium project, more public money.
Bredefeld’s criticisms of Granite Park also included its lack of volleyball and basketball courts.
Frazier took issue with that.
“The specifics of the facility improvements were intended to be examples, not something cast in stone. The city was in a hurry to get something in writing, so the City Attorney’s office put into the agreements typical things that a facility like Granite Park might have. We have spent $2 million dollars improving the facility so that thousands of Fresno’s residents can utilize the fields. The attendance records speak for themselves. We are currently working with city staff to adjust the agreements to better reflect what is realistic for a facility like Granite Park,” Frazier said.
Related Story: What's That Smell? 'Stench' of Incompetence, Says Bredefeld
Letter from City to CVCSF
Response Letter to City