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Group gets three more years to run Whitmore Mansion
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The Clinton Whitmore Mansion is operated by the Whitmore Mansion Foundation. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

A The Whitmore Mansion Foundation will get another three years to manage the operation of the city-owned Clinton Whitmore Mansion.

Last week the Ceres City Council gave direction for a longer contract period with the foundation.

The city bought the 1903 mansion in early 2013 and allowed the foundation to operate the mansion and oversee its maintenance as well as book private parties, weddings, corporate parties.

"The overall expenses are being managed very well," reported City Manager Toby Wells. "The revenues are increasing but they are currently not covering those complete expenses."

The cost of running the mansion is about $780 per month while revenue has averaged $525 per month. The historic property has run up an $18,000 deficit since the city purchased it.

Wells thanked the group for an "outstanding job" and singled out chair Lisa Mantarro Moore for for her leadership in the mansion's marketing and upkeep. He noted the mansion has an online presence at now to market the mansion's grounds for special events.

The city has not committed to a long-term arrangement with the group.

Moore told the council that "for an operation with no budget we seem to be able to manage."

She said a steady increase in revenue is occurring as her group continues to promote use of the property. Moore said the mansion will this year be hosting "some portion" of the Ceres Street Faire activities.

"We're really trying to come up with different creative ways to utilize the facility, protect it and give it back to the community as long as we can," said Moore.

She asked for more than a year-by-year extension of the group's contract, saying it made it difficult booking some events after each calendar year expires. Also, with not knowing if they'll be around past the end of each year, Moore said it makes it a challenge to get sponsors to commit to capital projects.

Councilman Mike Kline thanked the group for keeping the city's expenses at a minimum and had no problem with a longer contract.

"I think we should look at some kind of long-term lease or selling the thing because to me eventually the mansion, the inside of it, the structure and everything like that is going to catch up with us as far as putting money into it," said Kline.

Councilman Ken Lane said there are groups in Ceres who want to invest in the property, such as building a standalone restroom building, but are unsure about the city's long-term plans for the property.

Several members of the council are considering using some of the new revenue from the hotel tax increase on the mansion.

The city expects an additional $70,000 annually from the passage of Measure E last November.

The 8,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1903 by Ceres land baron Clinton Whitmore, son of town founder Daniel Whitmore. It had been in private hands and rented out for weddings and private parties until it was forced to be sold in a bank short sale. In October 2012 the city and Bank of America agreed to transact the mansion and 2.47 acres of land for a short sale price of $475,300. The city funded the $475,300 purchase of the mansion through $194,500 taken from the Neighborhood Park Fees Fund and $285,500 from the Planned Community Facilities Fund.

In recent years the city has identified $605,000 in improvements for the mansion, 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.