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2009 Year In Review - July To December
1014 Harvest 1
Pumpkins are just one of the commodities guaranteed to put smiles on the faces of youngsters at the 23rd Annual Harvest Festival at Bloomingcamp Ranch. - photo by Leader File Photo
State budget woes affected the schools and the city, resulting in job losses and cuts across the board. The schools and the city heard concerns about student safety in the town’s crosswalks. New people captured seats on the irrigation district and school district boards. The irrigation district gave farmers a full rebate on water taxes. Spreading Con Agra’s pond sediment became a concern for citizens. Swine Flu (H1N1) took the life of a local. It snowed in Oakdale.

The Transmission Agency of Northern California (TANC) was dealt a blow recently when the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) informed the transmission agency that it was withdrawing from the project.
Student athletes and their families are going to have to reach in their own pockets to pay for transportation to and from sporting events. The Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Directors voted unanimously at the July 13 regular meeting to require student athletes to pay fees for transportation to athletic events. The district made reductions to its expenditures, which includes athletic transportation, in order to balance its budget. The athletic transportation budget line item was brought to an expenditure of $55,000, down from an actual $130,000.
The Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors voted unanimously at their July 21 meeting to award the bid for the South Main Canal and Tunnel improvement project to the lowest bidder, which is Magorian Mines Services of Auburn. OID General Manager Steve Knell said that because of the “tight” bids he expected that bid protests would be filed by the competing bidders.
Budget constraints have eliminated the five formerly paid positions of crossing guards from the Oakdale Police Department budget, leaving the three most heavily used crosswalks during the school year unmanned and needing volunteers to ensure the safety of students before and after school.
And with less busing being provided by the Oakdale Joint Unified District this school year, officials expect the amount of students walking to school to increase.
A public meeting on July 21 filled the Oakdale Library with more than 70 concerned citizens regarding the potential spreading of by-product rinse mud dredged from the ConAgra facility’s aerated ponds to be used as soil amendments on 13 farmland and orchard properties throughout the local area owned by Oakdale farmer John Brichetto.

Area residents who live within unincorporated areas of Oakdale asked the Oakdale City Council for a review of water rates at the Aug. 3 city council meeting. Dave Peterson, an Iris Avenue resident, wrote the city council in June asking for an explanation of water bills that will increase by as much as 86 percent under new city water rates.
A 12-year-old Oakdale boy died from complications stemming from injuries sustained in a solo bicycle accident Thursday, Aug. 6. He leaves behind a large family, a network of friends, and a giant hole in the heart of a community.
The Oakdale school board is concerned about student safety with the lack of enough volunteers to serve as crossing guards at “hot spots” on the highway (F Street). The Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees heard a report on the status of the crossing guard situation at the Aug. 10 regular meeting.
School personnel and Oakdale police officers were out in force on Tuesday, Aug. 11 to help keep safety a priority and the chaos to a minimum as parents ushered their children onto school campuses all around town. This year most of the school bussing in the city limits had to be eliminated from the school district budget, leaving more parents to drive their children to school or have them walk.
The City of Oakdale was recently notified it has received $275,000 as part of the federal COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) grant. The grant will fund one police officer position in Oakdale for three years.
It didn’t take long for the Oakdale City Council meeting on Monday, Aug. 17 to go to the dogs when the council approved proposals from a local shelter advocate group along with the construction of a dog park in the Bridle Ridge subdivision, local pooches obtained two places to safely run and play.
In a 4-1 vote at the Tuesday, Aug. 18 regular meeting, the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors approved a 100 percent rebate equal to the 2010 water year taxes for farmers in the district. Director Jack Alpers was the dissenting vote, stating that he supported a 50 percent rebate but felt that anything above that was “outrageous.”
After much deliberation and multiple applications for the job — including a pitch by the Oakdale City Fire Department for administrative services — the Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District, ORFD, has hired retired Cal Fire employee, Lee Winton for the job of rural fire chief.
An Oakdale man and his 4-year-old son died from injuries stemming from a collision that occurred Thursday afternoon, Aug. 20 on Barnhart Road near Santa Fe Avenue, said officials.
Darren Kawamoto, 44, a registered sex offender, was recently sentenced to 36 years to life in prison. Kawamoto told the probation department that it was the media’s fault for antagonizing him, and the Oakdale Police Department’s fault for misrepresenting the nature of his prior convictions, complaining that this was “redneck justice” that was done in Oakdale. Judge Ricardo Cordova was not swayed by these pleas and imposed one of the two life sentences that the District Attorney’s Office requested. After being released from prison for his prior convictions, Kawamoto relocated to the Oakdale/Riverbank area in November of 2008.
Quick thinking and a crucial decision helped save a landmark Oakdale business from likely going up in flames and limited the damage caused by a Thursday evening fire in the heart of the city. Flames and smoke were sent high in the air from the 300 block of South Third Avenue about 6:45 p.m. on Aug. 20, when a fire started in a single car garage directly behind a home.

The last of the ‘80s excess mentality is officially gone: Bargain shoppers rule and they’re on the prowl for a good deal whether they’re looking for furniture, clothing, or even electronics. And local stores, Tags Consignment and the nonprofit store The Hope Chest, are enjoying a surge in customers and donations, along with resalers across the country, according to research compiled by the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops.
A neighbor dispute that tested a city ordinance about front yard bushes was brought before the Oakdale Planning Commission on Sept. 2, with commissioners voting to allow a waiver for what was described as an irrelevant city law.
Ready to help out in these tough economic times, The Oakdale Leader will serve as a host location for the popular ‘Good Day Sacramento’ program on CW31, Cable Channel 12, for a segment of the program on Wednesday, Sept. 9. A crew from the television station will be on site at The Leader office the morning of Sept. 9, with local residents able to come in and meet with station personnel to be taped for the popular video résumé program.
A 53-year-old Oakdale woman was carjacked early Wednesday morning, Sept. 9 around 7 a.m. when two Hispanic men pulled her from her vehicle and threw her to the ground before making off with her truck.
The Oakdale Cowboy Museum has announced the honorees for its 2009 Dinner Auction Fundraiser, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 19. Special recognition will go to the Otis Rosasco family and ranch of Jamestown. Posthumously, the Museum will recognize Colin Harvey, a well-known cattleman from Oakdale.
In an era where school districts in the area are seeing declining enrollment, it appears as though the Oakdale Joint Unified School District is leveling out and staying more consistent. OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Marc Malone said that at this time last year, district enrollment numbers were at 5,305. Currently, the numbers are at 5,346, up 41 students.
With the potential impact of the H1N1 — or Swine Flu — virus unknown, city and school district officials are preparing for everything from a minor effect on operations to a full blown epidemic in the city.
Vehicle burglaries, drunk driving offenses and bouts of violence marred an otherwise beautiful Labor Day weekend as the temperatures were near perfect for holiday outings at the lake or picnics at the park.
They were given 21 days to vacate the premises. On Thursday, Sept. 10 the eviction crews arrived in the form of multiple county and city agencies to tear down the transient camps squatting along the riverbanks of the Stanislaus River behind CostLess Market, kicking off a project aimed at reclaiming prime river frontage for the community.
Jesse Frost, 39, of Riverbank, pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and one count of attempted murder for the February deaths of his mother, Donna Norton; sister, Judy Niemi; and brother-in-law Anthony Niemi. He also injured his nephew, Matthew James. Norton was the sister of Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson and Niemi was his niece.
For the first time out of the gate, the Taste of Oakdale event held at the FES Hall on Thursday, Sept. 17 drew 200 people to sample and discover the local culinary talents available at their disposal when it comes time to choose a company or caterer for their events.
Oakdale’s community center was nearly bursting at the seams, as about 500 people were on hand for a town hall meeting on Friday, Sept. 18 to discuss healthcare. The meeting was called by 19th District Rep. George Radanovich (R–Mariposa) and was hosted at the Gene Bianchi Community Center.
“You only turn 100 once,” said Oakdale Irrigation District General Manager Steve Knell when he spoke about the theme of the day as the OID celebrated its 100th anniversary with a special event held at the Bianchi Community Center on Saturday, Sept. 26 that hosted approximately 800 people.
Nobody can say they didn’t see the writing on the wall — brown outs at Valley Home and Knights Ferry fire stations are coming as of tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 1. There’s simply not enough money in the budget to keep all three rural districts open 24/7, said new Oakdale Rural Fire Chief Lee Winton.

Members of the Oakdale City Council voted to seek federal funds and a county loan for a major $4 million road improvement project in the city’s industrial area at the Oct. 5 council meeting. The city estimates the project will create approximately 200 jobs within two years of the project’s completion.
Forty-plus years of a Homecoming tradition has been felled by an insurance requirement. Each year in celebration of Homecoming the leadership class has put together floats using donated flatbeds and materials and paraded them downtown with the students aboard while the Homecoming Queen nominees rode in style perched on convertibles. That all came grinding to a halt when new insurance requirements managed to not only suck the fun out of the event but put an end to it entirely.
Another county resident has fallen victim to the swine flu. Officials with the Stanislaus County Health Agency have reported the death of a 53-year-old Stanislaus County man due to the Swine Flu, or H1N1 virus. County Health officer John Walker said his agency received a report on Oct. 5 that the man had died of H1N1. This was the seventh death overall in the county attributed to the swine flu outbreak. Unconfirmed reports have identified the man as Valley Home resident and longtime City of Oakdale employee Ed Tribby.
Since the clean up along the Stanislaus River corridor near CostLess Market and Kerr Park, complaints have increased regarding the transient population invading local parks, most notably Dorada Park, as they search for new places to inhabit.
After a period of turmoil in which the Oakdale Museum was closed for two years and the city’s Museum Commission was in disarray, the facility is once again establishing itself as one of the best small town museums in the area. Friends of Oakdale Heritage (FOH), a local group of history buffs who was tasked by the city earlier this year to manage the museum, has been hard at work making improvements.
Former Stanislaus County Supervisor Pat Paul opened her Oakdale home to a worthy cause Thursday, Oct. 8 as citizens joined together for the Shelter Pet Alliance fundraiser aimed at gathering donations toward the creation of an exercise yard for the local animal shelter.
The Oakdale High School Aquatic Center project is officially moving forward and will have its ceremonial groundbreaking today, Wednesday, Oct. 14. The Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees awarded the bid for the aquatic center to Diede Construction, Inc. in the amount of $2.96 million at the Oct. 12 regular meeting.
It’s no secret that Ron Panelli, owner of the Oakdale Pet Station and sponsor of Pet of the Week in the newspaper for the past 20 years, loves animals but what people may not be aware is that, once again, he’s going that extra mile for his furry friends. Panelli, in cooperation with the City of Oakdale, has kicked off the official campaign to purchase a cat condo for the shelter cats that will be housed in the store, starting off with $1,000 of his own money.
The loss of productive farmland, pollution, and the costs involved for a new expressway topped concerns of Oakdale area residents at a public hearing for the North County Corridor Project in Oakdale on Oct. 13. About 150 area property owners and residents attended the hearing.
After two unsuccessful votes, a split council and much discussion, a vote to award a $750,000 street construction process came down to a decision by Oakdale City Council member Tom Dunlop. Last June the council voted to adopt a policy favoring local companies that bid for work contracted by the city. In July, the city put a project to reconstruct Sierra Avenue, East A Street, and Cloverland Way out to bid.
A major facelift is scheduled for the plaza on the north end of town that houses the CostLess Market, Sears, Oakdale Cinema and Ultimate Furniture, to name a few of the business currently taking up residence, and according to project facilitator and developer Richard Murdoch, the changes are going to bring a much-needed overhaul to the aging plaza.

Ace Berry, recent inductee into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Champions, and Christie Camarillo, Executive Director of the Oakdale Cowboy Museum, were both featured in separate nationally circulated western magazines. Berry graced the cover of the November issue of Western Horseman Magazine, for the feature Glory without Gold. Camarillo was sought out by American Cowboy magazine for a feature story in the December/January issue.
Members of the Oakdale City Council decided to support the northernmost route — Corridor B — of the proposed North County Corridor at their Nov. 2 council meeting.
In what they hope will be an annual event, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported about 1,500 people attended the 2009 Salmon Festival in Knights Ferry on Saturday, Nov. 7.
A 16-year-old girl sustained major injuries Monday evening, Nov. 9 when she was struck by a vehicle while crossing near the intersection of F Street and Bryan Avenue.
San Joaquin County voters swung the vote in favor of Herman Doornenbal of Escalon to take the Oakdale Irrigation District Division 2 seat. Three individuals won seats on the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees: newcomer Diane Gilbert and incumbents William Dyer and Mike House.
Responding to complaints from local business owners and a recommendation from its own Traffic and Business Commission, the Oakdale City Council took steps to crack down on businesses operating as garage sales at the Nov. 16 council meeting.
When the City of Oakdale created the position of Community Volunteer Coordinator last year, City Manager Steve Hallam was confident the program would save money and enhance city services. Turns out he was right, to the tune of $138,121 in savings and 9,208 hours volunteers provided to the city during the past year.

Three weeks to the day — and almost to the minute — that she suffered a near fatal head injury in a gymnastics accident, 11-year-old Hailee Cunha got out of the family car and walked in to a crowd of well wishers at her Oakdale home, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Mickey Peabody, a local activist, volunteer and overall busy woman traveled to the State Capitol as a member of the California Senior Legislature (CSL) representing Stanislaus County as a senior senator to attend the annual session of the CSL, held in Sacramento.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at the Dec. 8 regular meeting to approve the Con Agra permit to spread aerated pond sediment on Oakdale farmlands owned by John Brichetto. The public comment portion of the public hearing for the negative declaration to approve the permit took approximately two hours, according to one attendee.
Members of the Oakdale City Council approved the Oakdale City Fire Department Fire Plan on Monday evening, Dec. 7 but the message was clear: planning is good but there’s no money to implement anything.
In a year when school districts have been hit especially hard financially, it was a welcome relief when 74 grants totaling $97,000 were recently awarded to teachers in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District from the Oakdale Educational Foundation.
Some residents outside the Oakdale city limits will have their water rates reduced after the Oakdale City Council agreed to trim city water costs for those living within the unincorporated areas of Oakdale. Area residents who live within the Sunset Park and Belsera areas of Oakdale asked the Oakdale City Council for a review of water rates at the Aug. 3 city council meeting.
While snow flurries in the high country isn’t cause for much hoopla, when the white stuff started to fall in Oakdale and throughout the Central Valley it was enough to stop people from working and caused students to stare out the windows in awe. That’s exactly what happened Monday, Dec. 7 as a rare cold snap brought freezing temperatures and a light dusting of snowfall to the flatlands.
What is it the City of Oakdale hopes to find under the Christmas tree this year? First among their wants would be the passage of a ballot initiative in 2010 that would prevent the State of California from seizing millions of dollars in city funds. At the Dec. 7 city council meeting, council members voted to adopt a resolution supporting the Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act of 2010, an initiative that will be placed on statewide ballots in November.
She was a walking history of Oakdale. Lifelong Oakdale resident Mazo Ekstrom died Saturday, Dec. 12 at her Oakdale home. She was 96.
The City of Riverbank’s Director of Economic Development and Housing Tim Ogden delivered a presentation to the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors about Riverbank’s and the Redevelopment Agency’s plans to redevelop the Army Ammunition Plant area, a 150 acre site.
A number of students at Sierra View Elementary School have done their part to try to brighten the holidays for injured American soldiers. Many students wrote letters and drew pictures for soldiers who are being treated at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. More than 100 cards and letters were recently collected at the school to send to the soldiers.
Almost 200 children from the community participated in the 11th annual Lions Club shopping spree on Thursday night, Dec. 17 at Kmart.