railroad alley downtown gilroy martin street
Railroad Alley, shown here from Martin Street looking south, is slated for upgrades due to a grant the City of Gilroy received from the state. Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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Does it cost $12,000 to put on a ribbon-cutting event?

Theoretically it could, but it’s not going to happen, according to City Administrator Jimmy Forbis.

Days after the City of Gilroy announced it had received a $3.9 million grant from the state to upgrade Gourmet and Railroad alleys downtown, officials released an estimated cost breakdown of how the funds could be used.

The breakdown shows funds going toward adding lighting, benches, garbage enclosures, bicycle and pedestrian markings, signage and more. The grant will also help launch the “Keep Gilroy Clean” campaign, raising awareness through social media on how to properly dispose of trash and host cleanup days and free dumping days for the public.

But $222,300 of the funds are shown going toward “non-infrastructure costs,” including $12,000 for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of the project.

“I promise you we’re not spending $12,000 on a ribbon cutting,” Forbis said during his report at the end of the city council’s March 21 meeting, after a pair of Gilroyans expressed their concern during the earlier public comment period. “We might spend $200. We’re Gilroy. We’re not going to have a brass band out there. We’re pretty basic.”

According to the grant application, the city estimates 80 hours of staff time to prepare for the ribbon cutting event. A little more than $200,000 is also estimated for six cleanup days over the next two years, with a $150 an hour rate for workers.

City spokesperson Rachelle Bedell said the $150 per hour cost is an estimate that considers a fully burdened hourly rate, adjusted for inflation with some room for a contingency.

“This rate helps to make sure our grant award is of sufficient size to cover actual costs so that the City can complete the full project scope without incurring costs to the City’s ongoing general revenues and is in-line with and typical of state reimbursement rates,” she said.

Forbis said that number for the ribbon cutting, as well as other items in the breakdown, represents the maximum allowable allocation the state has allowed for the grant.

Any leftover funds can likely be used in another area of the grant, he said, adding that funding for the construction projects will have to be approved by the council at a later date.

Cheryl Parks of Gilroy said she was excited to hear the city received the grant, and noted that downtown has received some notable upgrades recently. But she couldn’t grasp the $12,000 outlined for the ribbon cutting, as well as the $150 rate for cleanup workers, noting that she found both alleys to be “pristine” during a recent stroll.

“I don’t see the thousands of dollars we are spending to clean up nothing,” she said. “If we put that money there, we’re really missing an opportunity to make a difference. The money can be better spent.”

Ron Kirkish also questioned the numbers, especially the $180,000 estimated for two common trash collection areas.

“Maybe that’s what it costs,” he said. “I don’t know. You can educate the public. I’m not saying there’s something wrong here, but I just want to know how we can justify these numbers.”The grant application and cost breakdown can be viewed at cityofgilroy.org/389/9039/Downtown-Gilroy.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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