From issues regarding the city’s homeless to fires in the area, 2015 was filled with Oakdale Leader headlines both good and bad. This week, we conclude our annual ‘Year in Review’ by taking a look at the months gone by, with top stories from the second half of the year, July through December.
With the transient population growing in the city and the associated problems becoming more noticeable, the Oakdale City Council on July 6 proposed a city ordinance prohibiting the searching of waste containers, otherwise known as “dumpster diving.” City Manager Bryan Whitemyer told the council with the downturn in the economy, the city has experienced an increase in individuals who search trash cans and waste containers for objects of value resulting in a nuisance of trash being strewn across parking lots, parks and yards.
The city was denounced in its operation of the Oakdale Airport by the Federal Aviation Administration for its non-compliance with FAA assurances and not operating in a manner consistent with the federal obligations, according to a letter obtained by The Leader. Most glaring in the 10-page letter from FAA Compliance Specialist Robert Lee was the finding that “…Sierra West Airlines at the Oakdale Airport functions mainly as a non-aeronautical activity” and disapproving the way Sierra West was utilizing the hangars at the facility.
Somewhat mild temperatures following a temporary heat wave were a welcome surprise for organizers and attendees on July 10 at the first day of the Stanislaus County Fair. Holding true to its agriculture heritage, Oakdale displayed a strong showing in all areas of showmanship, dominating much of the barn area with representatives from both Oakdale Future Farmers of America and varying local 4-H clubs.
Nearly 100 residents came out to the Community United Methodist Church Thursday night, July 23 to hear representatives of the Oakdale Rescue Mission lead a discussion on the homeless in the city. In talking about the group’s vision moving forward, Pastor Reese VanderVeen told the group that Oakdale’s homeless shouldn’t be lumped into one kind of stereotype. He presented the group’s goal of a mobile trailer that would be able to provide portable shower and laundry facilities to those they assisted.
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, deputies were dispatched to the 9500 block of Victory Avenue just outside of Oakdale about 8:35 p.m. on July 27 and found Cynthia Palomino dead. Deputies arrested Palomino’s husband, Roque Palomino, of Riverbank. When deputies first contacted Roque Palomino, he had injuries to his face. When the deputy asked him how he had been injured Roque attempted to take the deputy’s handgun out of his holster. The deputy had to deploy his Taser to detain and arrest Palomino.
After 15 years as executive director of the Oakdale Cowboy Museum, Christie Camarillo announced she has left that position. Her resignation was effective July 31. She said the decision to leave the post didn’t come easy but felt she was ready for a change with new challenges. Earlier in the year, Camarillo had been awarded Citizen of the Year by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce.
Local attorney James Fonda was arrested Aug. 5, after an investigation by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office showed he stole up to $210,000 of a client’s money. Stanislaus DA Investigator Glenn Gulley said he was contacted by the California Bar in June and informed that they were taking action against Fonda for the theft. According to the bar report, Fonda was entrusted with $486,707.77 from a client and stole approximately $190,000 to $210,000 of the money by writing a total of 163 separate checks to himself. In October, Fonda was sentenced to one year in county jail, five years of formal felony probation and ordered to provide full restitution his victim.
Oakdale Police were investigating the case of a dead body, later identified as Jerry Al Peters, found in the water at the Stanislaus River under the Yosemite Avenue Bridge on Aug. 6. Police received the call of an individual motionless face down in the river near the Cost Less Shopping Center around 2:15 p.m. Peters was pronounced dead by emergency medical crews. Oakdale Police Chief Lester Jenkins said witnesses told investigators that Peters was a transient who lived at various locations along the river.
Stanislaus Consolidated Fire crews had to call in additional agencies to assist with a pair of fires on Aug. 19 for a fast moving fire behind Scarlet Oak Drive east of the Oakdale Country Club, threatening the upscale neighborhood. The fire call was reported originally off Rodden Road near Gibbs Drive and quickly spread, jumping the Stanislaus River, causing crews to deal with two separate fires. As the fire moved, it threatened the homes on Scarlet Oak Drive that backed to the hillside as flames raced up the hill. Firefighters tackled the blaze from backyards of the homes and at the bottom of the grade. Only one structure on Scarlet Oak Drive was damaged due to embers landing on the roof and getting into the attic.
The annual Sierra View Music Fest concert, which started several years ago in honor of the late Heidi Brunk, kicked off at 3 p.m. on Aug. 23 with some local bands taking the stage to get the party started. Heidi had been a member of popular local band Remedy prior to her accidental death.
Oakdale Police arrested two local subjects on Aug. 25 for a weekend burglary that occurred at Medlen’s House of Beef where the restaurant’s safe and between $4,000 to $5,000 was taken in an overnight break-in. While investigating the incident, attention was turned to a female suspect on video who was identified as Shelby Spears who worked at the restaurant as a server. Detectives later recognized Jose Ortiz as the male suspect from the surveillance footage when he came to the police station to inquire about Spears and arrested him at that time.
After a $700 bill for the damage to replace the city-supplied port-a-potty at William Meyer Park, the Oakdale City Council on Sept. 8 voted to remove the toilet that was provided as a courtesy to the homeless that frequent the area. Councilman J.R. McCarty said that putting these toilets in the park encourages homeless people to stay in parks longer, leading to destructive activities. He continued, stating the individuals were draining city resources including public works and police and that the increased problems were not good for the businesses and citizens of Oakdale.
As of Sept. 13, the Butte Fire had grown to over 71,000 acres in Amador and Calaveras counties and was at 30 percent containment. With many evacuations still in effect and dozens of buildings burned, several thousand structures were still threatened. Local collection efforts to help the fire victims and those on the front lines were done throughout the region, with everything from baby food and clothes to fresh socks for firefighters to cases of water, animal feed and more being collected and delivered.
An investigation by The Leader found that the Heidi Brunk Foundation has been able to dedicate little of the actual money raised through donations and ticket sales of the Sierra Music Festival to the scholarship effort. According to organizer Jim Brunk, overhead costs had eaten much of the profits.
The Animal Shelter To Riverbank and Oakdale, more commonly known as the ASTRO Foundation, is set to go mobile. A ‘new to them’ 2008 34-foot mobile unit with just 20,000 miles was found online in the St. Louis area for $25,000. Funds used to purchase the vehicle were secured through donations as well as sponsorships. The Mobile Adoption Bus will enable the not-for-profit animal organization to transport adoptable animals to the community at large in a safe, temperature controlled environment.
Valley First Credit Union was robbed Sept. 21 and police investigated leads on the suspect vehicle and the individual responsible. Investigators were able to obtain surveillance photos from the area which captured a white hatchback leaving the scene The following night, a shooting by a Stockton Police officer on Highway 99 in Ripon tied their suspect, Jessie Bryant, 29, of Turlock, to the robbery of the Oakdale credit union. A white Saturn station wagon matching the description from a Stockton bank robbery earlier that day had passed the Stockton officer causing him to pursue the vehicle into Stanislaus County. The vehicle crashed on Highway 99, causing the vehicle to roll. Bryant got out of the car and pointed a gun at the officer. The officer fired his handgun hitting Bryant at least one time.
Oakdale’s Bacigalupi Family patriarch, Glenn ‘Bachi’ Bacigalupi, passed away at age 87 on Sept. 26 in the late afternoon. Bacigalupi, along with his family who run Oakdale’s H-B Saloon and Restaurant, was honored earlier in the year by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
OHS Senior Cayley Elswick, with blue hair, challenged school administrators and the Oakdale Joint Unified dress code. Cayley, with the support of her parents, challenged what she deemed to be an outdated item of the District Conduct Code when she made the decision to no longer conform to traditional hair color. In the end, Elswick prevailed with the school board agreeing to review the policy and not discipline her.
As the city sought ways to conserve water to make its way through an intense drought, one Kimball Street home used an astonishing 816,873 gallons of water the past year, or an average of 2,023 gallons per day – five times the average use in the city. Three other households – including residences on North Fifth Avenue, Burchell Hill Drive, and Barton Parkway – headed the top four with usage over 1,600 gallons of water per day, or more than 600,000 gallons per year.
Volunteers and city employees were out in full force the week of Oct. 19 for the Oakdale Children’s Play Park Revitalization Project at Dorada Park. Workers, under the echoes of saws, drills, and impact drivers, broke down damaged structures and assembled composite materials to build the new play park which would be named the Alex and Emma Play Park due to a large contribution by the Gilbert Family in town.
The state wants to mandate “unimpaired flows” on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers. The plan is to increase unimpaired flows on the Stanislaus River to between 40 and 50 percent. To do that, the state would have to infringe on the historic superior water rights of both the South San Joaquin Irrigation District and Oakdale Irrigation District. The two districts currently are legally entitled to the first 600,000 acre feet of unimpaired flow into the New Melones Reservoir that they split 50-50. The “Save the Stan” organization was formed by OID and SSJID to inform the public of efforts the two districts are undertaking to protect farming, fish, urban water users, and water recreation against initiatives that they contend threaten the Stanislaus River watershed.
An overflow crowd of more than 200 citizens attended the city’s meeting regarding the homeless titled, Focus on Prevention: Homelessness, at the Bianchi Community Center on Oct. 26, but after the meeting many voiced disappointment stating the conference wasn’t what they expected. During discussion, one side of the issue pointed out that homeless people in the city are decreasing residents’ quality of life, damaging private property, overtaking the parks, and are demanding something needs to be done from the city to control the problem. The other side claimed assistance is necessary and more privately or publically funded programs are in order. They claimed that anti-camping or public sleeping laws make it illegal to be homeless and are unfair and mean-spirited. After the meeting, as attendees left, many voiced disappointment in the meeting feeling nothing was decided or no direction was taken by the city.
A public release of sub-standard results for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) scores, commonly known as Common Core Testing, statewide quickly went viral. Parents, teachers and administrators critical of the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) quickly voiced ‘told you so’ responses. Educators, supportive of Common Core, note that CCSS is a completely new way of teaching and challenging students. It is an approach which appears to be challenging parents as much (or more) than the student and is still in its early implementation stages. The tests were delivered in a primarily computerized setting. Technical delivery of the test went smoothly for Oakdale.
Just a few short years ago budget reviews meant doom and gloom for a city that had to cut emergency services, street lighting and sweeping, and threatened closure of its senior center. The 2015-2016 budget review this year by Oakdale City Manager Bryan Whitemyer to the city council at its meeting on Nov. 2 indicated stability and optimism as the city attempts to recover from the economic downturn at the beginning of the decade. Whitemyer told the council that the previous year’s budget had $616,894 higher revenues than foreseen and, despite the higher income, city spending was $302,799 less than anticipated – nearly a $1 million variance for coffers in the city’s favor.
With each taking 60 percent of the votes cast, the challengers to the Oakdale Irrigation District Board positions for Divisions 1 and 4 defeated two longtime incumbents in the Nov. 3 election. Linda Santos received 60 percent in Division 4 and Gail Altieri took 62 percent of the vote in Division 1 over the current officeholders Al Bairos and Frank Clark, respectively. Bairos had served for nine years and Clark had served for 14 years on the board. Both challengers mounted a vocal campaign against OID’s practices, opposing water sales, criticizing General Manager Steve Knell, and citing the need for transparency by the 105-year-old district.
The Oakdale High School marching band, drumline, colorguard and drum major entered the winners circle at the Santa Cruz Band Review. Specifically a huge milestone was recently achieved by the OHS Marching Band and drumline at the competition. Both groups placed second in an event that is full of Northern California regional class competition. For the two short months leading up to the Santa Cruz Band Review the band members spent endless hours not just perfecting their instrumental parts but their formation as well.
A small group called Taxpayers and Business Owners of Oakdale called a meeting at Café Bravo on Nov. 12 to discuss Oakdale’s homeless problem and to express their opposition to any plans for a shelter to come into the city. Without a doubt, the entire group of less than a dozen, which included Oakdale City Councilwoman Cherilyn Bairos, said the Oct. 26 meeting, “Focus on Prevention: Homelessness” hosted by the city and county was not what they expected on how to deal with a vagrancy problem that residents and business owners have been complaining about for several years. Bairos encouraged the group to go to city council meetings and continually remind the council and city officials of the problems they are experiencing and demand action.
Veterans Appreciation Day ceremonies were held at the Veterans Monument in William A. Fish Veterans Park on Nov 11 by the local VFW Post 2922. The day of remembrance and appreciation of veterans included speakers, quilt presentations, an official Flag Retirement ceremony by the Boy Scouts and an ‘open mic’ session. More than 150 people turned out for the ceremony.
Oakdale Police detectives arrested a 65-year-old man for solicitation of sex acts with a child on Nov. 25 after anonymous sexually explicit letters were brought to the department’s attention in September. Detective Sergeant Joe Johnson said approximately 40 letters had been posted in the alleyway between the 100 block of Stanislaus and Warrington avenues in mid-September. Detectives posed as a 15-year-old boy and responded to the letters, leaving their own letters at the same location. After an exchange of a few letters over a two-month period, in which a home address and name were left by the suspect, a date to meet up was arranged. Investigators staked out the arranged rendezvous spot with a police decoy and arrested Stephen L. Busch of Oakdale when he showed up at the location.
Logan Douglas recently traveled to Louisville, Kentucky where he was one of four National FFA Proficiency finalists. His journey came by way of winning at both the regional and state level of the Wildlife Production and Management – Entrepreneurship/Placement Proficiency. Douglas was named National Winner at the event. According to the National FFA Organization proficiency awards recognize FFA members who excelled as agricultural entrepreneurs, employees or volunteers while they gained hands-on career experience.
There was a definite chill in the air on Dec. 4, as vendors set up on the street, stores stayed open late, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves could be heard … and Santa made an appearance. It was all part of the annual Old Fashioned Downtown Christmas hosted in Oakdale, with residents enjoying holiday music, food, options for gift giving and more. There was face painting, a petting zoo, the horse-drawn wagon rides and some costumed characters ambling about. This annual tradition is a way of signaling the official start of the holiday season in the ‘Cowboy Capital of the World.’
With code enforcement in the city basically dormant over the past few years, and the State of California requiring cities to enforce water conservation rules, the Oakdale City Council approved a combined code enforcement/water conservation officer position at its meeting on Dec. 7. In 2007 code enforcement was operated out of the now defunct community development department on a part-time basis. Over the past year, the position had sat vacant and with the duties performed, as needed, by a city intern.
The driver that caused the death of a 64-year-old Oakdale pedestrian in February and then fled the scene was sentenced to seven years in state prison on Dec. 4 by Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Ricardo Cordova. Gabriel Bocanegra of Riverbank pleaded to vehicular homicide with gross negligence and felony hit and run causing death. The police investigation had revealed Bocanegra was on his way home from a local marijuana dispensary when he came across other vehicles stopped at an intersection. Bocanegra sped around the other cars using the left-only turn lane and struck Larson in the crosswalk.
With a March 1, 2016 deadline of a newly signed law approaching, the Oakdale City Council moved Dec. 21 to add the cultivation and delivery of medical marijuana to their already established ordinance banning marijuana dispensaries. Last October, Governor Brown signed three bills allowing California cities local control to regulate the cultivation and delivery of medical marijuana within their jurisdiction. The bills, which take effect Jan. 1, 2016, require cities to take action by March 1, 2016 in order to maintain local control. According to City Attorney Tom Hallinan, the City of Oakdale does not have land use rules regulating or prohibiting the cultivation of marijuana under its principles of permissive zoning.
On Dec. 12 when Oakdale’s Lora Hadley crossed the goal line of the football field at Turlock High School, ahead of 103 other competitors close behind, she scored far more than just six points. Hadley was the winner of the Valley First Credit Union and 104.1 FM-The Hawk’s Big Game Giveaway which included two Super Bowl tickets and a three-night stay in San Francisco. Despite her desire to go the Golden Anniversary of the Big Game, Hadley, has other plans for the pair of Levi’s Stadium tickets, NFL Experience VIP entrance, Fisherman’s Wharf lodging, and personal driver the day of the game. She plans to give the tickets to her sons, J.D., of Riverbank, and Josh, of Modesto who were by her side assisting as she took care of sick parents at separate times.
Originally constructed at the turn of the 20th century with its first location at Yosemite Avenue and D Street, then moving to F Street in 1927, the historic Victorian Rodden Home, on North Third Avenue since 1955, is now up for sale. The home’s present owner, financial advisor Kenneth Boone, is moving to a larger and “newer” location – a 1920s ‘Craftsman’ model on F Street – to serve as his business headquarters as he looks to expand in the next few years. The history of the home traces back to Ed Rodden of the Rodden Brothers that had a general merchandise business established in the 1880s and later branching out to banking with the Stanislaus County Savings Bank.