This much is perfectly clear: A majority of the Fresno County supervisors don't much like First 5 Fresno County's plan to build a new $15 million downtown headquarters.
In fact, they hate the idea.
But that's not new news. Last month, Supervisors Debbie Poochigian, Phil Larson and Judy Case made that clear, and on Tuesday, they reiterated their opposition.
But did the trio succeed in putting that into an official board motion? And if so, just what did the motion say?
The chaotic situation was muddied enough that Supervisor Andreas Borgeas abstained on the vote, and his attempts to reopen discussion after lunch to get some clarification were rebuffed by his colleagues.
At issue: The First 5 project that will be built on agency-owned property along Tulare Street, between N and O streets, adjacent to the Fresno County Library. It is currently a parking lot.
The building will include a child care center, classroom space and a community conference room in addition to First 5's administrative offices.
First 5 Fresno County is an independent agency that seeks to bolster health and education programs for children from birth to age 5 and their families. It's funded by California's tobacco tax and has a budget this year of around $11 million.
Case, over the course of around 20 minutes, offered three motions that were similar but not exactly the same. Larson offered a second to the middle of Case's three motions.
That one was simple and straightforward: "That we stop and regroup and not build the building," Case said.
It came after a longer initial motion in which Case said that, in part, "we, as a board, provide direction that we don't support building this grand building downtown. We think they ought to look at alternatives for other space if that's ultimately going to be the big push for this agency."
But a long debate followed the first motion, and then another debate ensued after her second motion, which was the one Larson seconded.
Much of the debate followed similar lines Case and Poochigian stating their dislike not only for the building, but for how First 5 is currently being operated.
Finally, an exasperated board Chair Henry R. Perea said to Case: "How many times are we going to repeat the same things over and over and over again."
Case then offered up a third version of the motion, to "relook at what, strategically, (First 5 is) spending money on, and whether this is a good expenditure, and to look at alternatives to building a building, of existing other facilities, or possibility even a distributed model that puts access to these services in other sites throughout the county."
Whether Larson ever seconded that final motion is unclear, though it didn't seem he did. The board then voted. Perea was the lone opposing vote on the five-member board.
It didn't take an official motion, however, to get that Case, Larson and Poochigian want the downtown building stopped in its tracks, even as First 5 commissioners are poised to award a building contract before the end of the year.
The debate ahead of the vote stretched to around an hour and was dominated by Case's long commentaries opposing the project. At times, she would offer up questions to Central Unified Superintendent Mike Berg, who is a First 5 commissioner recently appointed by Borgeas.
Berg was the First 5's representative at the meeting, and not Executive Director Kendra Rogers. Berg said she was ill. When Rogers came before the supervisors last month, she served as a lightening rod for both Larson and Poochigian. Rogers has publicly mulled challenging Poochigian when she is up for re-election in 2016.
On Tuesday, Case and Poochigian were unclear just what they wanted instead of the headquarters.
At different times during the debate they suggested using the money allocated to the project for building day care centers in underserved parts of the county.
But later they said First 5 does need a space to meet. Case suggested the vacant former County Bank building on Divisadero near Fresno Street. Later, she and Poochigian suggested the child care center, community conference room and administrative offices could be split up and located in various vacant buildings downtown of which they said there are many.
Larson suggested West Fresno as a location.
First 5 commissioners last month were poised to award a construction contract for the building, even after Case, Larson and Poochigian had criticized the project as opulent and not in the best interest of children.
But of the six bids submitted, the lowest bid came in $2.6 million above the estimated range of $9.9 million and $10.3 million.
Commissioners instead rejected all bids for the building and formed an ad hoc committee to work on scaling down the proposed building to get it within the original cost estimate and then rebid it.
That is currently going on, with a Dec. 30 deadline.
Berg said commissioners agreed with the supervisors. Commissioners rejected all bids, he told the board, and are restructuring the project. A skeptical Poochigian said that probably wouldn't have happened if she and her colleagues hadn't raised the alarm.
Both last month and on Tuesday, Poochigian and Case pounded on things such as a proposed executive bathroom and a $160,000 fountain. Berg said those extravagances were always optional, put in by the architect, and likely to be cut out anyway now that First 5 is looking for ways to save money.
"You cited a number of attributes to the building which I don't agree with, either," Berg said.
Left untouched was whether supervisors will attempt to bring First 5 under the county's umbrella. It is independent, though a board majority could change that. As it is now, supervisors make the commission appointments.
That avenue led to suggestions that the proper way to handle First 5 concerns was through those appointments. Both Borgeas and Perea suggested supervisors talk with their respective appointees about any First 5 concerns, including the proposed new building.
But Case's appointee resigned in November 2011 and has never been replaced.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6320, email@example.com or @johnellis24 on Twitter.