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Fires, City Building, Schools Figure In To Final Six Months
Work started on a major surface improvement project along South Yosemite on Monday, Oct. 16, with crews taking down tree limbs as the first order of business. Marg Jackson/The Leader

As The Leader continues its review of the top stories from 2017, the second half of the year showed no signs of the news slowing down. Here is a recap of top stories from July through December.



A development a long time in the making, is finally seeing positive progress in the way of completion. West side Oakdale residents will soon be saying goodbye to empty lots and excessive weeds as the final 250 homes in the Bridle Ridge subdivision are completed. City of Oakdale Senior Building and Fire Inspector, Brian Odom forecasts the subdivision which began in the early 2000s should finally be complete by fall of next year.

A Saturday evening solo vehicle accident along Highway 108 just east of Riverbank resulted in the death of an Oakdale man. Authorities said the 50-year-old driver left the roadway for an unknown reason near Mesa Drive, striking a tree. A young passenger in the back seat of the car, a 9-year-old boy, according to authorities, was taken to the hospital as a precaution but did not appear to have any serious injuries.

Approximately 7,000 firefighters are battling 13 large wildfires in California. That, according to CalFire spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff, who released information on the various fires in an update on Tuesday morning, July 11. Locally, conditions are also ripe for fire, with the wetter than normal winter contributing to heavy vegetation growth. Combined with the triple digit heat that has been prevalent so far in July, significant drying of the vegetation has left the area with plenty of fuel. Officials are urging people to take extra precautions and said the region escaped the long Fourth of July holiday period relatively unscathed, with no major fires despite an abundance of illegal fireworks being set off.

For just over a month, The Corral at Oakdale High School has resembled something much closer to a construction site than a football field. Ground was broken on the new artificial turf project on June 1 when the Valley Precision Grading Inc. came out to Oakdale and started pulling up the field.

An investigation into an early morning burglary on Sunday resulted in the arrest of a Riverbank man. On Monday, July 17 at about 12 p.m., deputies responded to a commercial burglary in the 5200 block of Oakdale-Waterford Highway in Oakdale. The business reported that on Sunday, July 16 at about 1:25 a.m., someone had cut through their fence line and stolen pressure washers and a pump. The business had video surveillance showing two suspects in a truck at the business when the property was stolen.

The Oakdale Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring its traditional Concerts in the Park summer series every Friday night at 6:30 p.m. The series kicked off this past Friday night, July 14 with Never 2 Late and runs through Aug. 25. Headliners include Valley Fire, Fade to Blue, and Live Again.

Landon’s Men’s and Women’s Wear, which opened in 1947 in the historic Del Rio Theater has been selling fashionable apparel options and accessories, from the rugged Levi brand to classy golf polos and women’s fashions for so long, many are going to miss the convenience of popping into a local store for quality apparel. The business has had two generations run through it and it has seen the changing of the times with big box stores and now the changing of the retail world from Internet giants such as Amazon and eBay.

Several personnel from the Oakdale Police Department were formally recognized and awarded the Department’s Lifesaving Medal by Police Chief Scott Heller at Monday evening’s July 17 City Council Meeting for incidents in which they took prompt and unselfish action leading to saving the life of another.



It is a return to school pastime which has been commonly known as “Parent Homework.” A task dreaded by many each year as their children return from the first week of school with a stack of papers requesting updated information in the way of medical records and emergency contacts. Families with more than one child, treated to all the more in the way of “homework” as each child comes with their own set. The 2017-2018 school year however, offers parents and families the opportunity to sidestep or better yet, completely avoid that mound of paper students lovingly bestow upon their parents.

In light of ongoing concerns in the downtown business area, Oakdale Police have announced a program to increase responsiveness to those challenges. Officer Mike Freudenthal, a reserve police officer with the Oakdale Police Department, has been assigned as the new Downtown Community Resource Officer, taking on the role as of Monday, July 31.

If you live within the city limits and you think there’s something stinky coming out of the tap — your nose isn’t lying. Oakdale City water officials have confirmed that the city water supply is under a mandatory chlorination schedule. Residents started noticing the odd smell and taste coming from their taps last year, commenting on a Facebook group page geared toward Oakdale residents, that their water tasted strongly of chlorine and, some said, sulphur.

From an environmental standpoint, StanCOG is concerned where residents will work, live, and what transportation will be available. They aim to “use resources efficiently, protect existing communities, conserve farmland and open space, and support our local economy” via the Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy. To do this, they are looking to work collaboratively with the county of Stanislaus and its towns and cities, including Ceres, Hughson, Modesto, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, Riverbank, Turlock and Waterford.

Russell Pabalan is prepared to have a busy senior year with his extensive involvement in athletics, academics, leadership, music, and most recently, his newfound position as the Student Board Member on the Oakdale Joint Unified School District’s board of trustees for the 2017-2018 school year.

Competition will be featured for two Oakdale Irrigation District seats this fall, including one post that is shared with the Escalon area in San Joaquin County. The seats are for four-year terms. In OID Division 2, incumbent Herman Doornenbal Jr. of Escalon, who currently serves as vice president of the OID Board, is running for reelection. He is being challenged by Don Taro, a rancher who lives near Valley Home.

A 53-year-old female and a 64-year-old male are the first confirmed human West Nile Virus (WNV) infections in Stanislaus County this year.

Smoke from the South Fork Fire and Empire Fire, both burning in Mariposa County, and emissions from the recent Flat Fire and Hill Fire in Fresno County are affecting air quality in locations throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Triple-digit temperatures coupled with stagnant air are conducive for the formation of ozone. Elevated particulate matter and ozone levels throughout the Valley are prompting Air District officials to issue a health cautionary statement Valley-wide.

Phase 3 in the City of Oakdale’s East “C” Street Waterline Project has begun, and that once again means closure of some roads and detours around the area.



Restaurants, breweries, wineries and food vendors flocked to the ninth annual Taste of Oakdale, hosted by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, Tuesday evening, Aug. 29 at the Gene Bianchi Community Center. The annual event drew an even bigger crowd than last year as hungry attendees came to sample what Oakdale and the surrounding areas have to offer in the way of fine food, tasty treats and even healthy options and beverages.

The East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District will host the ninth annual Stanislaus River Cleanup from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 16 as part of the statewide Great Sierra River Clean Up. Volunteers will converge on the river to haul away cigarette butts, broken bottles, tires, and more.

Officials were on hand with a wide variety of project boards, documents, and information, hoping to answer as many questions as possible. The North County Corridor is proposed, according to the informational pamphlet provided at the hearing, as “a freeway/expressway with interchanges, at-grade intersections, grade-separated railroad crossings, irrigation district crossings, frontage access roads, and street realignment.”

A ‘Meet Your Chiefs’ session at the Valley Home Fire Station – Station 30 in the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District system – was also expected to include an announcement that the station might be ‘browned out’. At least during the remainder of the current summer fire season, in favor of moving personnel to cover Knights Ferry, Station 29, on a full time basis.

It was a much anticipated day for many in the City of Oakdale. On Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 community members, city officials, honorary guests and hundreds more gathered for the Grand Opening of the Oakdale Community Park. Located to the west of the Sierra Dinner Train, on South Yosemite Avenue, the state of the art park was funded through a $4.5 million grant awarded by the state to the City of Oakdale for this specific reason. The Community Park includes a spacious amphitheater area, agility park, playground area, basketball court and a much anticipated expansive skate park.

Oakdale’s City Council on Monday night voted 4-0 in favor of their preferred alternative for the North County Corridor Project.

At its annual Cowboy Museum Dinner, officials will be honoring the history of A.L Gilbert and also saluting Glenn Bacigalupi with this year’s Memorial Recognition.

With increased attention on bullying and loneliness in the schools, the Oakdale Junior High School Leadership Club sponsored an event Friday, Sept. 22 during both seventh and eighth grade lunches aimed at bringing students together. The “No One Eats Alone” campaign brought students together with ice-breaker questions and tasks that encouraged students to meet up with people outside of their usual circles to find common ground.



While Oakdale has long identified itself as staunchly conservative in both politics and economic growth – as evidenced by the strong turn-out for Monday night’s city council meeting regarding the future of commercial cannabis within city limits – times are changing. Once staff has had the chance to amend the proposed ordinance language, Whitemyer will return to the council for a first reading at a future council meeting.

The second annual Western Day and Chili Cook Off, hosted by the Oakdale Tourism and Visitors Bureau, OTVB, is scheduled for this Saturday, Oct. 7, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo Grounds on East F Street.

Oakdale Joint Unified School District continues to hold its own in Stanislaus County by way of SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test results. During Monday night’s monthly school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Kristi Rapinchuk addressed the board with comparative testing results from Spring 2016 vs. Spring 2017.

Farming and football aren’t the only areas of interest for the decision makers of Oakdale Joint Unified School District. The start of the 2017-18 school year brought a welcome addition to the campus of Oakdale Junior High School by way of class elective. Beginning this school year, both seventh and eighth grade students were offered the option of Robotics.

Hosted by the League of Women Voters and staged in the Oakdale City Council Chambers, four candidates vying for two Oakdale Irrigation District Division posts had the chance to voice their positions on a number of issues at a recent candidate forum. The event was staged Wednesday, Oct. 11 and OID Division 5 hopefuls Brad DeBoer and Grover Francis were among the candidates taking a seat on the dais for the event. Also on hand were Division 2 candidates, incumbent Herman Doornenbal and challenger Don Taro.

City of Oakdale Public Services crews have been out in force the past couple of days getting started on a major improvement project along South Yosemite Avenue.

Ruben Imperial has been appointed to fill the position of Deputy Executive Officer with the Stanislaus County Chief Executive Office. His work will center on providing leadership and direction in the alignment of the County with Focus on Prevention, a regional initiative with the aim to improve the quality of life for all Stanislaus residents and families through coordinated prevention efforts working across multiple sectors.



Another special meeting of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District Board called for Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 25, ended with “no reportable action” out of a closed session … but the Fire Chief said he was ‘dismissed’ later that night. The board met in a 1:30 p.m. session at the board room in Riverbank and, despite an outpouring of support for the chief at the meeting, indications are that the chief has been placed on leave and given a termination date of Nov. 25.

In spite of concerns expressed by some that the revised city ordinance governing cannabis production within the city limits – both personal and commercial – smelled too strongly of oppressive bureaucracy, council members moved forward with a 4-0 vote to approve the proposed ordinance at the Monday, Nov. 6 meeting.

The River Christian Community Church, at 1351 E. G St., Oakdale is the drop off site locally for Operation Christmas Child, which is in the midst of its National Collection Week.

The Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District (SCFPD) Board of Directors held a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 9 that ultimately saw Michael Wapnowski selected as acting chief.

Brad DeBoer and Herman Doornenbal Jr. were elected to the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors in voting on Election Day, Nov. 7.

The Holiday Spirit is off to a strong start for community members residing in the 95361. Last week school campuses throughout the Oakdale Joint Unified School District collected cans as part of the annual school site can drive for Oakdale Community Sharing.

The turkeys were carved, potatoes mashed and pies sliced as Vickie Thompson, Mickey Peabody and their crew of close to 200 volunteers once again hosted the Annual Spirit of Oakdale Thanksgiving dinner. The 24th annual event was staged this past Thursday – Thanksgiving Day – and was open to all. Now, with 24 years of service to their apron strings, the duo has decided 2018, the 25th anniversary year, will be their last at the helm.



Oakdale Police Chief Scott Heller came before City Council at the Monday, Dec. 4 meeting to proceed with plans to implement an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program within the city limits in an attempt to give law enforcement a bird’s eye view on crime.

The Program Coordinator of Center for Human Services-Oakdale dedicates a large part of her efforts the last few months of each year to the Angel Tree. For the past seven years, Tamberly Stone has seen to it that wish tags for trees are disbursed throughout the Oakdale community.

One never knows when they might be inspired by another’s actions. That is definitely the experience of Oakdale Junior High School seventh grade teacher Elizabeth Cram. The fifth year English Language Arts teacher innocently found inspiration while listening to a radio show on her drive into work in mid-November. The topic of giving to others, prompted Cram to think of her own life.

It has been a productive five years in terms of facilities and improvements for the Oakdale Joint Unified School District. Monday night’s monthly school board meeting proved to be the perfect opportunity for Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone to share with the board, as well as community members the improvements which have been made during that time to the tune of over $10 million, by way of developer fees.

Oakdale Police made an early morning arrest following a late night business break-in. On Monday, Dec. 18 at around 11 p.m., a citizen contacted Oakdale Police to report a possible break-in at the Pit Stop Auto Lube, in the 1500 block of East F Street.


It’s hard for Oakdale Lions Club member Greg Rivera to place an exact year to when he began helping with the Lions Club Annual Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour, two decades … maybe. As the event coordinator there is one thing he is most certain, as well as proud of – community. To be more specific, Rivera is abundantly proud of the community of Oakdale and the way in which it shows up, not just for the annual Lions hosted event, but in general.