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Media Coverage
Molate Dispute Hearing
May 22, 1996



Wednesday, May 22, 1996
Section: news
Page: A03

RICHMOND Responding to a federal request to resolve the Point Molate dispute at the local level, the Richmond City Council held a hearing Tuesday night to air concerns over the selection of the project's consultant.

The council, sitting as the Local Reuse Authority for the former naval fuels depot, did not take formal action.

 The dispute arose after five council members voted March 4 to hire Dan Peterson & Associates, a Richmond architectural firm, to design a reuse plan for the decommissioned base. The plan is being paid for largely with federal funds.

After the selection, Councilman Tom Butt accused his colleagues of bowing to pressure from Richmond's pre-eminent lobbyist, Darrell Reese. The decision to hire Peterson was not based on his firm's qualifications but politically motivated, Butt said. He forwarded his complaints to federal authorities.

The five members who voted for Peterson vigorously denied the accusations.

Councilman Nat Bates said before the meeting Tuesday that there is no subject on which lobbyists, be they union members, neighborhood groups or business people, do not try to influence council members.

"Every major political decision, somebody's lobbying you," he said. "When you're on the losing end, it doesn't mean (your opponents) are corrupt."

He called the protest hearing an "overreaction to Tom Butt's accusations" on the part of city staff.

Butt was also not happy about the hearing. He said beforehand that it was a waste of time, but that it would allow city staff to tell the federal authorities that "we truly have exhausted any opportunity for people to protest this."

Point Molate is a 400-acre site just west of the Chevron refinery and north of the Richmond-San Rafael bridge.

The federal Office of Economic Adjustment gave Richmond $150,000 to pay for its redesign.

Washington has rules about disputes over federal grants.

"Grantees and subgrantees will have protest procedures to handle and resolve disputes relating to their procurements and shall in all instances disclose information regarding the protest to the awarding agency," according to the Code of Federal Regulations, in a section covering grants by federal agencies.

"A protester must exhaust all administrative remedies with the grantee and subgrantee before pursuing a protest with the federal agency."

The dilemma for Richmond is that the dispute is an internal one between members of the governing body. The federal code does not seem to address those kinds of disputes.

Though they voted to hire the firm in March, the council members have yet to approve a contract with Peterson.

That vote was originally scheduled for last week but was delayed. It is expected to be on next Tuesday's agenda.