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Final Look: Oakdale's Year In Review 2012
0711 Lester 1
Recently-named Chief Lester Jenkins rides in to Dorada Park accompanied by the Oakdale Police Mounted Unit. Jenkins was sworn in as Oakdales new Chief of Police on July 5. - photo by RICHARD PALOMA/ The Leader

From the changes in city leadership, elected and appointed, to the extraordinary 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 continue the ‘Year in Review’ by taking a look at the months gone by, with headlines from the second half of the year. These were taken from the pages of The Oakdale leader, July through December.



In a staff report at the July 2 Oakdale City Council meeting, Interim City Manager Greg Wellman proposed that the city consider privatization of all its public works services with the exception of two city garage mechanics. Days later the city issued layoff notices to City Engineer Dave Myers and Public Works Administrative Analyst Anthony Smith informing them that their positions were going to be eliminated by the city.

The Oak Valley Hospital Governing Board moved forward on Wednesday, June 27, approving its 2012-2013 Fiscal Year budget and a three year strategic plan to carry the hospital into 2015 as it transitions into a new facility.

On July 5, Lester Jenkins was sworn in as the city’s new police chief. Jenkins has been in law enforcement for over 22 years and served his entire time with the Oakdale Police Department.

The Stanislaus County Grand Jury issued a report critical report of former Oakdale City Council Member Jason Howard’s actions when serving on the council during his shortened term. The 2012 report disapproved of Howard’s Dec. 7, 2010 actions where he removed a confidential personnel file from city hall, interfered with a city personnel issue, and failed to abstain from a July council resolution where there was a clear conflict of interest. The report was also extremely stern in criticizing Howard for choosing to remain on the council after moving out of the area in violation of residency requirements.

A 16-year-old Oakdale girl who claimed she’d been kidnapped and raped on June 3 — sparking a frenzy of fear and concern within the community — recanted her story. After several weeks of investigation, interviews and area canvassing, as well as hundreds of phoned tips from concerned community members who were on the look-out for the suspect’s black truck, the victim came forward and admitted she’d made up the entire story in an attempt to get attention from her mother.

In the name of efficiency and eliminating redundancy, Stanislaus County Consolidated Fire Protection District Chief, Stephen Mayotte, assumed the role of Fire Chief by contract for Oakdale Rural Fire Protection District, Oakdale City Fire Department as well as County Consolidated.

On Monday, July 30, over 300 citizens, relatives, friends, dignitaries and many members of the John Force racing team gathered at Eric Medlen Park for the park’s dedication. Medlen, who grew up in Oakdale, was killed in a funny car test session in 2007.



Grocery Outlet, a third-generation family run business, recognized as the nation’s largest grocery extreme-value retailer, opened Aug. 2 on Yosemite Ave. bringing over 40 jobs to the city.

Two separate shootings kept Oakdale Police busy early Aug. 2, shortly after midnight. The first incident occurred around 12:19 a.m. when police received several 911 calls reporting a shooting outside a house in the 1500 block of East D Street. While police were investigating the incident, a second shooting was reported at the rear of the Raley’s Shopping Center near North Maag Avenue. Three juveniles at that location reported that an unknown subject in a grey vehicle fired approximately three shots in their direction and drove from the area.

Oakdale FFA and 4-H exhibitors reaped a number of awards with their livestock at the recent Stanislaus County Fair. Oakdale exhibitors showed the Supreme Champion market hog, Supreme Champion meat goat, and Supreme Champion ram in the breeding sheep show. There were also many other champions and reserve champions, first places, and showmanship awards.

Two council incumbents, a former mayor, both the current and former treasurer, a community volunteer and two others met the final deadline for three November city council positions the Oakdale City Clerk’s Office announced Aug.10. Two of the seats were four-year posts and one was only a two-year period to replace Jason Howard who resigned his seat last April. Then Treasurer J.R. McCarty, Businessman Donald Petersen, and City Volunteer Ramona Howard were challenging incumbents Tom Dunlop and Kathy Morgan. The vacant two-year seat was pursued by former Mayor and Councilman Farrell Jackson, former Treasurer Mike Murray, and Insurance Professional Cher Bairos.

Culinary arts are on the menu of offerings at the new campus of Oakdale Community School which opened Aug. 15, at South Yosemite Avenue and Wakefield Drive. The school, which is run by the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE), offers the new culinary arts program to its own students and also Oakdale High School students.

Oakdale High School senior Madison Lane was sworn in and took her seat on the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees at the Aug. 13 regular meeting. Sworn in by board president Mike Tozzi, Lane was selected as the student representative to the board for the 2012-2013 school year.

This year will mark the first time the Sierra Music Festival has been offered over two evenings. Friday, Aug. 24 was dedicated to an evening of country, with Saturday, Aug. 25 the rock-focused night. The two dates in August brought in thousands of attendees both nights, benefitting a music scholarship program in honor of the late Heidi Brunk.

For the third straight year, the Taste of Oakdale sponsored by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, enticed the community with the promise of delicious goodies prepared by local restaurants and food vendors as a healthy crowd converged on the community center Tuesday evening, Aug. 30 with one thing on their mind — food.



The Tuesday, Sept. 4 Oakdale City Council meeting was highlighted with city officials discussing the likelihood of moving forward with a solar panel site at the wastewater treatment plant that is expected to dramatically reduce energy costs. The city agreed to allot $25,000 in consulting costs to Siemens Inc., a worldwide energy corporation, for the feasibility study of the project.

At the same meeting, Mayor Pat Paul called for a consent agenda item regarding the city’s response to the Stanislaus County Grand Jury regarding its 2012 report to be pulled and opened for discussion. Paul called the prepared response by City Attorney Tom Hallinan “soft” about the response to the report criticizing former council member Jason Howard. Hallinan said after the meeting that there would be minor changes to the response; however there would not be a change to the initial response that the city agreed with the Grand Jury’s findings and recommendations.

Oakdale schools’ pass rates of the California High School Exit Exam were higher than any other unified school district in Stanislaus County and surpassed the county and state average pass rates, according to a report given to the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees at the Sept. 10 regular meeting.

By a vote of 3-1, the Oakdale City Council moved forward on Sept. 17 to explore the privatization of the public works department by accepting requests for proposals for city park maintenance.

The falling out between the Oak Valley Foundation and Oak Valley Hospital continued as former foundation Executive Director Amy Thompson filed a lawsuit against the hospital and its former CEO John Friel claiming wrongful termination, breach of contract, and interference with protected civil rights. In July 2011, Friel stated the foundation was not functioning as a proper fundraising organization of the district and dismissed Thompson. The lawsuit cited that Thompson’s actions were protected political activities and stated Friel developed a “personal animosity” toward her.

On Sept 18, The Leader identified a garden of thriving and meticulously tended to plants just off one of Oakdale’s main thoroughfares. The crop of choice for this urban garden: medicinal marijuana and its own blend of “purple lush” and “cherry pie” varietals for high-potency cannabis. On Sept 26, Stanislaus County narcotic task force agents arrested two individuals for marijuana cultivation and gun charges in response to an Oakdale Police Department investigation into a shots fired call from the same plot of land.

Connie and Mel Sanguinetti, the friendly faces greeting customers in the Oakdale Bicycle Shop for 36 years, decided the time was right to retire and sold the shop to another bicycle enthusiast. Since opening they fitted countless people for their bicycles, helped parents pick the perfect gift for their children and answered innumerable questions with patience and honesty, no matter if a sale happened or not.

What is now a 25-acre neighborhood city park with meandering sidewalks and benches with views of the Stanislaus River and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range was at one time a municipal dump and trash burn site. An investigative report about Valley View Park in the Sept. 26 edition showed a half-century before the city park at the top of Burchell Hill opened, on the same side of the Stanislaus River, below the seven-year-old sod and raised ravine, the City of Oakdale operated an open city dump, burning what it could and disposing incinerator ash and solids on 17 acres at the same location before the Stanislaus County Department of Public Health and State of California ordered the site to be closed down.

Six of the seven slated city council candidates, some more polished and prepared than their competition, appeared before voters for a candidate forum sponsored by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce on Sept 26. The event was a specific effort to understand each candidate’s opinion on business and economic development issues that impact the city. About 40 potential voters attended.



Oakdale High School’s Homecoming Week unofficially kicked off on Saturday, Oct. 13, when students got the city into the Homecoming spirit by painting the windows of downtown businesses. Seniors painted the windows of Chase Bank, juniors painted Wells Fargo’s windows, sophomores painted at Downtown Fitness, and freshmen painted the windows of Edwards Financial.

Oakdale gas prices shot up with the rest of the state. At the end of September, prices in Oakdale were as low as $3.85 a gallon. On Oct. 8 those stations were charging $4.89. Problems at California refineries slashed gasoline supplies across the state, cutting fuel production and raising wholesale prices.

Oakdale Joint Unified School District was the first unified school district in Stanislaus County to break the 800 barrier in the Academic Performance Index. A score of 800 is the “gold standard” for API scores, which are computed through students’ state standardized test scores, and OJUSD recently returned an overall district API score of 801. The district had an overall score of 796 the previous year.

Due to its inability to meet its portion of operating costs, the Riverbank-Oakdale Transit Authority had the county take over its dial-a-ride service. ROTA had not met the 10-percent requirement in the last several years, with a June 2011 report showing only six percent of revenues collected from ridership fares. When it became evident that ROTA would not be able to meet the requirement for another successive year, the three-member board consisting of Riverbank and Oakdale council members, began discussions earlier this year with Stanislaus Regional Transit. The Stanislaus Board of Supervisors approved the takeover in July 2012.

As fall brought in the changing of the weather, it also brought in Ag Day 2012 to Cloverland and Fair Oaks Elementary. The schools were both alive with a combination of teachers, presenters, animals, and students on Oct. 26.

The city of Oakdale hosted a climber’s festival at the Oakdale Community Center on Oct. 26 through Oct. 28. The three day event featured many speakers from the climbing world.

The City of Oakdale took its next step toward privatization of public works services on Oct. 31, when it publicly opened bids on a potential contract for city park maintenance. Grover Landscaping of Modesto listed they could complete the required duties for $357,384 per year. Sierra Landscaping Corp. of Walnut Creek proposed a much lower bid of $206,471 per year.



Oakdale voters spoke on the structure they wanted for its city council and the direction they will take the city for the next few years. Local businessman Don Petersen joined Incumbent Tom Dunlop for full terms on the council with former Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson serving out the remainder of former councilman Jason Howard’s vacated seat from last April.

At 8-1 overall, Oakdale was the outright selection as the Number one seed in D-III after undefeated Placer was designated for a tough D-IV bracket. The Mustangs hosted an upstart Pacheco (5-5) team on Nov. 9 for the first playoff game. Oakdale flooded the end zone for 49 first-half points, landing a 14-point downpour in the first minute and three seconds of the game en route to a 63-7 storm of visiting Pacheco.

Officer Paul Katuszonek, a five-year veteran of the Oakdale Police Department died Nov. 8, when a tractor-trailer plowed into the back of his Honda Accord on Highway 132 east of Faust Road in Modesto. Officer Katuszonek was off duty at the time and was scheduled to work that evening. Officer Katuszonek, 30, was married and leaves behind his wife and a one-year-old daughter. Counselors and chaplains were available at police headquarters on Thursday afternoon to support police personnel.

A Nov. 11 shooting left two people dead in front of the Oakdale Market. Police and sheriff’s department personnel investigated the crime that resulted in one arrest – Ryan Mazzariello, 25, of Oakdale. Mazzariello claimed he was upset with the “gang element” hanging around in the area and that Mazzariello had been threatened at various times by Norteno gang members. Killed were Abel Calderon, 20, and Ruben Mora, 15, both of Oakdale.

Grey and cloudy skies matched the somber mood of those attending the funeral service for Oakdale Police Officer Paul Katuszonek on Nov. 16, at the Lakewood Memorial Park in Hughson. Officers from departments from the Central Valley and Bay Area arrived to join with the Oakdale Police Department for a solemn funeral procession leaving from the department’s North Second Avenue headquarters, through the city, and toward Lakewood Memorial Park where it entered under a giant US flag draped from the extended ladders of two Stanislaus Consolidated Fire District fire engines.

Oakdale defensive back Nik Garza intercepted passes on Benicia’s first and last drives of the second half, effectively securing a 35-12 Oakdale win in the quarterfinal round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

The Oakdale High School marching band, comprised of 48 students, and the OHS Colorguard took first place in rainy and windy conditions at the Lincoln Review of Champions on Nov. 17 in Stockton. This was the band’s first number one finish in a competition in several years.

On Friday, Nov. 30, City Clerk Nancy Lilly stepped away from Oakdale City Hall ending a successful career that spanned more than 32 years. Migrating from her hometown of Bakersfield where she had worked in an office at a local hospital, Lilly started with the City of Oakdale on Aug. 4, 1980.



Rainy weather didn’t stop the Festival of Trees Dec. 1 at Wood Park as community members brought their umbrellas and smiles to the community event that lit up the park with miniature trees decorated by various businesses.

An afternoon house fire on Dec.7 required more than 25 firefighters to combat the blaze resulting in a near total destruction of the two-story home. When crews arrived the house was filled with smoke and flames were shooting from the north side of the residence. The occupants, who were home at the time, were able to escape the blaze without injury.

On Dec. 7, The OHS Mustangs stopped both of Clayton Valley’s final drives safely away from the Oakdale end zone and erupted into ecstasy with a loud and boisterous fan base after snaring a 27-24 win, the NorCal plaque, and historic entry into Saturday’s CIF State Football Championship Division II Bowl Game in Carson.

A 17-year-old Norteno gang member was arrested by Oakdale Police following a shooting at a large party on Post Road where two men were shot early Sunday morning, Dec. 16. Police responded to a large fight that broke out at a “rave party” held at a warehouse where they found two men struck by bullets. Both shooting victims were transported to local hospitals where one of the subjects had to be air-lifted to Doctors Hospital in Modesto. A 17-year-old male was arrested and a .22 caliber pistol believed to be the gun used in the crime was recovered inside a vehicle stopped near the scene.

A historic and inspirational campaign by Oakdale High’s varsity football team came to an end at the 2012 California Interscholastic Federation Division II State Football Championship Bowl Game at the Home Depot Center in Carson on Dec. 15, where the size, speed and talents of Serra of Gardena proved too great an obstacle amidst a 42-15 defeat of the Mustangs. The loss ends a 14-2 season for an Oakdale team that captured a section title, the first ever NorCal Regional championship and entry in the school’s first ever State Bowl game.

The Oakdale City Council ended the year announcing Dec. 20 that it will name Bryan Whitemyer as the city’s new city manager. The decision comes after months of a search and a series of special city council meetings to close the deal. Whitemyer will start the position on Feb. 4, 2013.