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City now owns historic Clinton Whitmore Mansion
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After decades of dreaming about community ownership, the Clinton Whitmore Mansion now belongs to the city of Ceres.

Escrow closed on the historic property yesterday, confirmed City Attorney Mike Lyions.

The 8,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1903 by Clinton Whitmore, son of town founder Daniel Whitmore.

The city approached Bank of America last year about a short sale since the mansion was headed to foreclosure proceedings. Owners of the mansion, Cary and Nancy Pope, were unable to keep up with the debt service on the sprawling mansion.

Escrow was first intended to close on Dec. 14 but more time was needed to forge agreements between the bank and two junior lienholders, including Robert and Edna Whitmore who have a $350,000 interest in the property. According to Lyions, the Ceres City Council met in closed session last week and approved the appropriation of an additional $5,000 to satisfy the Whitmores. The Whitmores also will be receiving a "sizeable portion" of the real estate commissions being forfeited by the real estate agent.

The third junior lienholder will be receiving $4,000, said Lyions.

The Whitmores had to agree to the short sale in order for the city to take possession in a short sale. Without their consent, the mansion would have found its way to an auction the steps of the county courthouse in Modesto.

In October the city and BofA agreed to transact the mansion and 2.47 acres of land for a short sale price of $475,300. The acquisition would be covered by $194,500 taken from the Neighborhood Park Fees Fund and $285,500 from the Planned Community Facilities Fund.

Robert and Edna Whitmore, who lived in the sprawling mansion from the 1980s up until they sold it in 2006 to the Popes, were listed as junior lienholders on the title. In a short sale, the Whitmores and a third junior lienholder lose their interest in the property since Bank of America holds a first note of $800,000 against the property. The Whitmores, said Lyions, had a second loan of $350,000 while a third junior lienholder, Angelo's Market Properties, had a $75,000 interest.

A variety of liens are were placed on the property.

The city plans to turn over the operation of the mansion -- which is now rented out for parties, weddings and community events -- to the oversight of the Whitmore Mansion Foundation. The 503C non-profit organization would possibly contract operation to a vendor. Lisa Mantarro Moore, chair of the Whitmore Mansion Foundation, said the Popes are interested in operating the facility as vendors of the center.

The mansion is not without a laundry list of desired remodeling needs. The city has identified the mansion needs $605,000 in complete improvements, including:

• $40,000 in kitchen upgrades;

• $50,000 for an exterior restroom,

• $50,000 worth of ADA access improvements;

• $10,000 in plumbing needs;

• $30,000 in electrical work;

• $35,000 in painting;

• Sprinkler improvements worth $20,000;

• $35,000 to heating and air conditioning upgrades;

• $60,000 for a fire sprinkler system and connect to city water;

• $250,000 for a new parking lot.