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Year In Review: Looking Back At 2012

Year In Review: Looking Back At 2012

Year In Review: Looking Back At 2012

The weeklong rains provided all the m...


POSTED December 26, 2012 2:29 p.m.

From the lows of financial woes for the City of Oakdale and the economy in general, to the highs of a run to the state bowl game by the varsity football Mustangs late in the year, 2012 was filled with news, both good and bad. This week, we start our annual ‘Year in Review’ by taking a look at the months gone by, with headlines from the first half of the year. These were taken from the pages of The Oakdale leader, January through June.

 January

Oakdale city officials are scrambling to meet a four-month deadline to ensure repayment of around $1.5 million owed by the redevelopment agencies to city held funds after the California Supreme Court recently upheld the state’s right to dismantle RDAs across the state.

In a recent action at a special board meeting, Valley Home Joint School District Board of Trustees hired Rolanda Desrosiers-Lewis as the new Superintendent/Principal. Her first official day was Tuesday, Jan. 3, the day the students returned to school from winter break. Desrosiers-Lewis is the first woman to serve as Valley Home’s superintendent/principal.

The Oakdale Chamber of Commerce has awarded Bill Dyer, a former Oakdale High School teacher, the former familiar face behind Community Sharing, and an overall volunteer extraordinaire the honor of Lifetime Achiever for his years of humble service with various causes, clubs, and organizations.

Members of the Oakdale City Council were scheduled to name Oakdale Police Department Lt. Lester Jenkins as the interim police chief at the Tuesday, Jan. 17 meeting. Current police chief Marty West is set to retire the first week of February.

 February

Oakdale airport-bound pilots are rethinking their flight paths in the interest of public safety and comfort. Air traffic has been re-directed away from the air space above Sierra View Elementary School after community complaints that the planes were flying too low.

Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District voted to award Coit Restoration the bid for removing the toxic mold that has shut down the Valley Home fire station since November. The cost came in at $10,078.44.

The winner of the Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon is Oakdale High School. Again. Two days of rigorous testing, interviews, and speeches resulted in the 12th consecutive championship for the OHS team, garnering 43,993.7 points, at the county’s 32nd Annual Academic Decathlon on Feb. 3 and 4 at Gregori High School, Modesto.

Members of the Oakdale City Council formally approved a contract at their Monday night meeting that will merge the headquarters of Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District, City of Oakdale Fire Department and Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District. The merged headquarters provides one fire chief from the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District to oversee all three agencies.

Riverbank City Councilman Jesse James White, 23, was arrested early Monday morning, Feb. 20 on charges of driving under the influence and child endangerment after his 2002 Corvette slammed into a parked vehicle in Oakdale around 1 a.m.

Several people were hurt and one man arrested on suspicion of attempted murder by Oakdale Police following a stabbing early morning Saturday, Feb. 25 at a local bar.

In an attempt to fight against the rising tide of vandalism and graffiti that is washing over the City of Oakdale and leaving behind an undesirable eyesore, a newly formed task force is seeking volunteers to put their heads together to find workable solutions.

 March

Oakdale High School junior Janki Mistry was named the new Distinguished Young Woman for Oakdale at a Saturday night pageant, March 3 in the Magnolia Elementary School auditorium. She was one of 14 participants vying for the honor.

As part of his vision to keep the Oakdale Joint Unified School District moving forward and continuously improving, Superintendent Marc Malone wanted teachers to identify instructional norms and create a cohesive strategy to improve student learning. The Superintendent’s Education Council identified those norms and developed a program called IS4 – a set of strategies for teachers to incorporate into their classroom instruction. IS4 stands for Instructional Strategies Supporting Student Success.

While the unseasonably dry winter didn’t impact the start of the 2012 irrigation season for the Oakdale Irrigation District, it has prompted officials at the neighboring South San Joaquin Irrigation District to make allowances for what they anticipate will be a tough year. The storm door opening this week, however, may provide some relief.

There were no big surprises with the recent crime statistics report released by the Oakdale Police Department but the numbers certainly seem to reflect the ongoing economic struggle faced by the state of California as crimes such as theft and vandalism have seen increases from the prior year.

The third annual SOS (Support Oakdale Schools) Fun Run/Walk event brought out runners and walkers of all ages to raise money for schools in Oakdale on Saturday, March 24. SOS committee member Stacey Aprile reported that there were 360 race registrants this year for the 1-mile and 5K event that wound its way through the neighborhood streets of Oakdale, starting and finishing at Cloverland Elementary School. The event raised about $10,000 for Oakdale students through OEF teacher grants.

Addressing the needs of underperforming subgroups of students will be the subject of a town hall meeting on Tuesday, April 3 in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District.

 April

A hot topic discussion item drove citizens to the Monday, April 2 Oakdale City Council meeting to voice their opinions, both for and against, the proposed action to ban all alcohol from city parks. Both sides of the argument felt strongly about their positions but there seemed to be an agreement that a problem does indeed exist, however the solution continues to elude the city on how address the problems repeatedly created by a core group of people. The people in question — a group of approximately 20 citizens most people identify as transients — are generally responsible for a lot of the destruction to the city’s parks due to drinking and brawling with one another.

Water levels on the Stanislaus River began increasing on April 1 for required spring fish flows. Information provided by the Oakdale Irrigation District shows that releases from Goodwin Dam have increased daily, starting at 300 CFS (cubic feet per second) on April 1 and rising to 1,250 CFS today, Wednesday, April 4. The river will continue to rise and peak at 2,000 CFS by Saturday, April 7. With river levels rising so quickly, Oakdale emergency personnel are advising caution to people who recreate on the river.

The City of Oakdale announced the awarding of a $4 million grant issued through Prop 84 with the California Parks and Recreation Department that will fund the building of a brand new skate park plaza located on South Yosemite Avenue. The 2.9 acre project will extend from “H” to “J” streets on the east side of South Yosemite Avenue.

The Oakdale Animal Shelter has found an unlikely source of manpower within the Alternative Work Program (AWP) to help bridge the gap between budget cuts and community need without costing the city a dime. The AWP is available to inmates with sentences of less than 365 days who work in the community in lieu of going to jail.

A CAL FIRE Urban Forestry Grant called “Leafing Out” has been awarded to the City of Oakdale in close cooperation with the Burchell Hill property owners. This unusual grant from CAL FIRE provides $7,500 for the planting of 80 trees in the Burchell Hill area. Matching funds of $2,500 from the City of Oakdale will create a total project budget of $10,000.

More than $75,000 in donations was given out to local interests in actions taken by the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors at the April 17 regular meeting. The board narrowly approved giving $71,500 to the City of Oakdale in a 3-2 vote to support the city’s Parks and Recreation water safety and public swim programs.

For anyone whose weekend agenda (April 13-15) included rodeo fun — whether in the arena or in the stands — all eyes were on the weather reports as a particularly wet and windy storm blew in and overstayed its welcome by Friday, pelting Oakdale and the surrounding areas with enough rain to make plenty of mud. But by Saturday, the clouds made a reluctant scoot across the skies to reveal intermittent sunshine in time for the parade. By Saturday afternoon, the skies were clear and the sun was hot, creating a thirsty environment at the Rodeo Grounds.

Riverbank Oakdale Transit Authority directors on April 10 again discussed the public bus system’s failure to meet state funding requirements by recovering at least 10 percent of their costs in fares and talked about possible options such as handing over its operation to Stanislaus County Regional Transit. They declined, however, a recommendation from their transit coordinator Donna Bridges to raise the local system’s fares by 25 cents. Fares are currently $1.50 for seniors and the disabled and $2 for the general public.

Authorities have released the name of a bicyclist killed along Rodden Road early Sunday afternoon, April 22 as Michael Scherper, 68, of Oakdale. Scherper was struck by a truck as he was turning his bicycle into a driveway shortly after noon.

The Leo Volz Scholarship winner was formally announced and approved at the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees at the April 23 regular meeting. The scholarship is a 100-percent paid tuition award to any accredited four-year university and is awarded to a well-rounded student who must meet a number of selection criteria. The trustees unanimously approved awarding Oakdale High School senior Paul Perrone, who is also student representative to the board, as this year’s winner.

 May

While financial troubles for cities like Oakdale deepen, city administrators are discussing the possibility of contracting out some local city services. The proposition goes by many innovative labels; outsourcing, public-private partnerships, and creative financing solutions, but the basic premise – privatization – is to have the power of competition bid to provide the public with a once city-provided service at the lowest cost.

Interim City Manager Gregory Wellman has made no secret that the City of Oakdale has money problems and cites a lack of financial oversight and historically poor business habits as the cause. In a recently released prepared statement, Wellman informed the city council that “reviews have uncovered significant financial missteps, lack of managerial control and accountability, and in some cases a lack of sound business practices.”

Jim Greaves has been teaching students for 50 years and counting – and he has no plans to retire. Fifty years in a career is a commitment that few people achieve. Greaves jokes that there aren’t that many teachers around that long because they just aren’t around any longer at all. Greaves teaches at Valley Oak High School, which is the Oakdale Joint Unified School District’s independent study junior and senior high school in the Alternative Education program.

Everywhere you turned, there were stories of hope. Stories of triumph. And unfortunately, occasionally, the stories of loss. Regardless of the story, the 900-plus participants, representing close to five dozen teams, gathered for a common battle this weekend in Oakdale, the fight against cancer. They raised over $160,000 – and have until the end of August to work toward a $200,000 goal – and along the way, celebrated survivors, remembered those lost, and laughed and cried together.

Gridlocked by a series of two-two split motions, a packed council chambers on Monday possibly saw a glimpse into the future of a polarized Oakdale City Council stalemated on controversial agenda voting items if a fifth and deciding member is not appointed. The discussion centers on the best way to replace the vacant position left by Jason Howard, who resigned last month to take a job in the Grass Valley area.

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Fresno District Office announced that Les and Cheri Casey, owners of Mid Valley Foods Inc. in Oakdale have been selected as the 2012 Central California Small Business Person of the Year.

City Treasurer Mike Murray has indicated he plans on resigning his position surrounding concerns of city financial mismanagement and a dispute in the process in which he was asked to sign overdue statements.

After a series of city financial crises coming to light, Finance Director Albert Avila assured Oakdale Interim City Manager Greg Wellman that the city’s tardy 2010-2011 audit would be received by Friday, May 11 and delivered to the city council. Last week the council also just received notice of the 2009-2010 audit report that had been withheld for nearly a year. On Tuesday afternoon, May 9, Wellman made available a letter from the city’s auditing firm, Moss, Levy, and Hartzheim dated May 25, 2011 addressed to the mayor and city council regarding the 2009-2010 audit. The letter stated that the audit “identified certain deficiencies in internal control that we consider to be significant deficiencies.”

The Oakdale City Council announced that former Atwater Assistant City Manager Stan Feathers will take over as the part-time interim city manager on July 1when current Interim City Manager Greg Wellman is required to leave the post. The move is pending a likely California Public Employee Retirement System approval, which would restrict Feathers to working no more than 960 hours in a fiscal year and, like Wellman, can only work in an interim position no more than one year.

Approximately $3.5 million in developer fees and project savings is expected to mature at the end of June 2013 in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District and must be used for construction or facilities improvements within the next five years. The OJUSD Board of Trustees heard a report on district facilities at the regular meeting on May 14 and the steps that have been taken so far to prepare to use those funds once they are available so that they are not “lost.”

Tens of thousands of chocolate lovers came out for this year’s Oakdale Chocolate Festival over the weekend with Mother Nature especially cooperative, bringing sunny skies with temperatures in the mid to upper-80s and a slight breeze to keep everyone comfortable.

In an effort to stop trouble before it starts, 100 adult and high school student volunteers came together to help with an “ounce of prevention” at the Drugstore Project event on May 16 for approximately 800 fifth and sixth graders in the school district. Students were divided into groups that rotated to different stations where various dramatic vignettes and speakers informed them about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and gangs.

If there ever was a general sense of confusion and frustration over what to do and how to do it, the situation facing Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District regarding the area known as Division 1 North would qualify. The situation — and its ensuing confusion — is not new. The rural district has been pursuing compensation for service for many years but has been unable to collect.

They’ve climbed the ladder of academic success and while proud of their achievements, three Oakdale High School students remain humble about their honor in being named “head of the class.” Seniors Emily Clayton and Robert Winders are the valedictorians and Laurie Baxter is salutatorian for the OHS Class of 2012.

Moody’s Investors Service has slightly downgraded Oakdale’s Sewer Enterprise Revenue bond rating affecting $1.6 million in debt, citing concerns about the city’s lagging economy and uncertainty of future financial performance. The bond rating of an A3 rating was dropped to Baa1 on Wednesday, May 23.

Although cooler weather and a bout of rain showers on Friday, May 25 kept many people from the waterways, resulting in zero rescues on the Stanislaus River and Woodward Reservoir, a drive-by shooting on Saturday marred an otherwise quiet Memorial Day holiday weekend.

 June

Although the actual summer season has gotten off to a bi-polar start — one minute it’s hot, the next it’s raining — the Oakdale City pool, The Plunge, opened officially Saturday, June 2 to eager swimmers.

A freak storm took place Monday, June 4. The storm, which lowered summer temperatures to an unseasonable 60 degrees as a high temperature on Monday and dropped snow as low as 5,000 feet elevation, was a shocking change from Saturday where the temperatures hovered in the 90s. A little less than a quarter inch of rain fell in the region.

An Oak Valley Hospital consultant’s recommendation to dissolve the Oak Valley Foundation’s current executive board in favor of allowing a newly-appointed director hired by the hospital’s CEO to choose the agency’s executive committee has raised the ire of the charity organization’s members. The Foundation has been in existence for 32 years.

The Oakdale City Council is seeking interested persons to apply for appointment to the vacant City Treasurer position.

Known as “Old Glory” or “The Stars and Stripes” or even “The Star Spangled Banner,” American flags will line Oakdale streets courtesy of the Oakdale Lions Club on Thursday, June 14, to commemorate Flag Day. For over three decades, members of the club have displayed what has now grown to more than 300 American flags along the main streets of Oakdale on holidays and other special occasions such as last year’s Amgen race and when the National Christmas Tree passed through the city.

With concerns that the Leo Volz Scholarship Fund could be in danger, the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees held a discussion on options on how to deal with financial changes in the scholarship fund’s balance and the fund’s investment firm.

After not being able to pass the first presented financial plan for the upcoming year over concerns about reserves, Oakdale city officials on Monday reluctantly accepted the city’s budget but only with the acknowledgement that it would be revisited in October for another approval.

The state’s Water Use Efficiency Senate Bill 7, known as SBx7-7, is a regulation on agricultural water measurement and the Oakdale Irrigation District is among the water suppliers that will be affected. The OID Board of Directors discussed what’s going to be expected of the district to comply with the law and the impacts it will have on OID water rates at the June 19 regular meeting.

Questionnaires sent by Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District to the residents in the Division 1 North response area were returned with 86 percent voting “No” that they did not want to be annexed into the rural district for fire protection service. There are 246 parcels in the Division 1 North area and 128 questionnaires were mailed out; of that amount 84 were returned. The majority said they do not want to pay a fire tax and others said they already pay for fire service, which, according to research done by the rural district, is incorrect.

A month’s worth of classroom time to be cut from the school calendar was recently suggested by California Governor Jerry Brown if California voters reject his tax initiatives on the November ballot. About one-third of public school districts around the state, including the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, have already cut one to five days from the 180-day school year, bringing Oakdale’s classroom time down to 175 days.

After a series of split votes on Thursday night, June 21, the Oakdale City Council selected Retail Grocer J.R. McCarty to be appointed City Treasurer until the November election.

 Next week, look for the July to December top stories in review.

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