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Year In Review: A Look Back At 2009
0722 Cowboy

Budget issues, training for — and the ultimate arrival of — the swine flu, success for Oakdale academic decathletes, all made headlines in the local area for the year 2009. This week, we start our review of the year gone by, with stories taken from the front pages of The Leader, showcasing January through June in part one of the year in review.



Oakdale City Council members approved tentative plans for 29 single-family homes in the Oakdale Shopping Center at the Jan. 5 city council meeting.

Rich Murdoch, a local developer, asked the city several months ago to rezone 3.78 acres of the 12-acre shopping center — which contains Cost Less supermarket and a Sears store, among others — from commercial to multi-family residential in order to build the homes.

Murdoch, representing the shopping center owner, originally approached the Oakdale Planning Commission at its June 18, 2008 meeting. Murdoch told the commission at that meeting he hoped to establish a “walking community,” where homeowners could walk to shopping and entertainment. He said this would be the first of three phases the shopping center would soon begin in the way of improvements; the second being the refacing of the shopping center and the third phase finding tenants for other existing pads.

Dale Clipper, a man who helped shape the solid backbone of what is now a strong athletic program at Oakdale High, was named the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce lifetime achievement winner.

Police are advising parents to talk with their children regarding the danger of strangers due to the recent abduction attempt on a 17-year-old Oakdale High School student, Friday morning, Jan. 16.

No new leads have been discovered since the incident occurred but police have ramped up their presence with high-visibility patrol around the school sites in the hopes of either catching the suspect or discouraging him from trying again.

There was standing room only during a special budget workshop meeting on Jan. 26 for the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees when teachers and staff showed up to be involved in the process of what the board will have to cut from the budget.

OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Business Tim Hern gave a presentation on the budget picture and noted the dire financial situation of the state.

“This is certainly one of the most severe… It’s the perfect storm,” Hern said. “From drought to people losing their homes… The state’s in serious trouble.”

Hern showed that in January, the state deficit is $41.7 billion, a figure that nearly doubled from November 2008. For the 2008-2009 year, the original budget was at $102 billion and was cut to $91.1 billion. For the 2009-2010 year, a $102 billion budget was passed, but is now sitting at $97.7 billion. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state legislature are negotiating.



Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson offered his 2009 State of the City luncheon and address on Jan. 28, where he cautioned that the city will be facing a depressed economy this year and possibly into 2010.

The event was hosted by the city and the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce.

Oakdale High School now holds a record nine wins for the Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon. The OHS Aca Deca team put their minds to the test at the recent 29th Annual competition, held this year at Johansen High School in Modesto, and brought home the championship trophy for the ninth consecutive year. OHS competed against 14 other high schools over the course of two days on Feb. 6-7.

Along with winning the overall championship, Oakdale also won the Super Quiz and swept the individual high point/champion categories.

Oakdale and friendly rival for the title of “Cowboy Capital of the World” Stephenville, Texas both made the cut and were listed among the top 20 Best Places To Live In The West in the April-May issue of American Cowboy magazine.

When your average patient is 1,000 pounds — as is the case with Pioneer Equine Hospital in Oakdale — bigger is definitely better.

Which is why the new 3-week-old facility went from approximately 3,000 square feet situated on two acres to a 22,000 square foot building, complete with two 20-stall hospital barns, two surgical suites, four exam rooms, a full radiology department, pharmacy, a standing surgery room, and — within the next month — a state-of-the-art Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) specifically engineered for the equine trade, which will be the only equine MRI technology available in northern California.

It took two years to build but it opened on schedule and has exceeded expectations.

In short, what started with humble beginnings has blossomed into a facility that not only offers cutting edge medical technology but is, simply put, the Beverly Hills of equine hospitals, the likes of which this area has not seen.



A fence around Kerr Park. Eliminating up to six police officer positions. Closing the city pool, Community Center, and Senior Center.

All of these possibilities might be examined in the coming month as the City of Oakdale looks to cut 15 percent from the city’s general fund.

At a city council workshop on March 2, City Manager Steve Hallam provided the council with an overview of city finances, and the news was disheartening to many in attendance.

Thursday, March 5 turned out to be not so ordinary when a 56-year-old Oakdale man pulled out his 40-caliber semi-automatic Smith & Wesson and started shooting from his Golden Empire apartment window at the passing cars on West F Street and a home across Highway 108 in the 1900 block of Silvio Court.

One bullet managed to hit the roof of a passing motorist while a spray of bullets peppered the home of a woman and her 4-year-old daughter as they napped.

The senior management group for the City of Oakdale took a voluntary five percent pay cut during recent contract negotiations with the city, according to city documents.

The Stanislaus County Office of Emergency Services (OES), the City of Riverbank, City of Oakdale, Tri-Dam Project, N.O.A.A./N.W.S., Oak Valley Hospital District and the California Emergency Management Agency participated in a joint disaster exercise on Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 24 that simulated a spillover at the New Melones Reservoir causing flooding that would impact areas along the Stanislaus River.

The cities of Riverbank and Oakdale activated their Emergency Operations Centers as did Stanislaus County as part of the exercise.



A missing 8-year-old Tracy girl brought officers from Tracy Police Department to search a home on School Avenue in Oakdale, according to police.

The Oakdale residence was one of six locations that were searched in connection to the young girl’s disappearance.

If the turnout from the City of Oakdale’s initial budget workshop meetings is any indication, people who live in the city may have a lot on their mind.

And with the prior workshops restricted to comments from city officials only, local citizens are eagerly waiting for their opportunity to address the council and make their voices heard.

Oakdale City Manager Steve Hallam said the city is considering moving the next budget workshop, scheduled for May, to the Gene Bianchi Community Center on South Second Avenue in order to accommodate all the people the city anticipates will attend.

The Oakdale City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing at the May 18 council meeting regarding proposed water and sewer rate changes.

Although the changes will likely result in rate hikes for most residential users, Oakdale residents will still pay much less for water than those living in neighboring communities.

A 23-year-old Oakdale woman drowned in an Oakdale Irrigation District canal after falling in near the South Shore of Lake Tulloch on Friday, April 17.

The woman was identified as Alicia Marie Corral, a 2004 graduate of Oakdale High School.

On Thursday, April 16, Oak Valley Hospital personnel and hospitals throughout Stanislaus County held a drill practicing their response if a flu pandemic hits the U.S.

Now, in case the Swine Flu does spread through the U.S. and reaches Oakdale and Stanislaus County, health officials are busy preparing for the real thing.



Oakdale High School Principal Rick Jones is retiring at the end of this school year after being the school’s head administrator for eight years.

In wrapping up his career, he said he hopes that his legacy will be that of creating an academic focus on campus.

Oakdale High School senior Evan Boggs was recently tapped as the winner of this year’s coveted Leo Volz scholarship. The Volz scholarship pays full tuition and books for a student for four years to the college of their choice.

Approximately 75 Oakdale residents attended a forum sponsored by the City of Oakdale on May 7 where they discussed the city’s fiscal crisis.

The meeting, hosted at the Gene Bianchi Community Center, was offered to solicit ideas and opinions on city services and programs prior to a city council budget hearing scheduled for Wednesday, May 20, when council members will begin to decide where they will impose $1.7 million in cuts.

Oakdale City Manager Steve Hallam provided a Power Point presentation to the group, where he spoke of how reduced city revenue in the form of lower property taxes and sales tax have impacted the city’s general fund.

In spite of objections from residents during a public hearing, as well as a plea from former Mayor Pat Kuhn to proceed slowly in the matter, the Oakdale City Council voted to raise water and sewer rates at the May 18 council meeting.

The increase in rates will fund the construction of an updated wastewater facility plant.

In council chambers packed with senior citizens, the Oakdale City Council began to deliberate about next year’s budget during a special city council meeting on Wednesday, May 20.

The city has been struggling with a budget deficit as the local, state and nationwide economy has declined, and has slashed almost $1.8 million from the current fiscal year budget.



In front of a capacity crowd on Monday night, June 1, the Oakdale City Council decided to postpone a vote on a proposed budget that will require approximately $700,000 in reserve funds and eliminate up to six police officer positions.

And with council member Michael Brennan voicing opposition to any budget that requires reserve funds to balance — along with the absence of council member Toni Hanson — it is probable a budget would not have been approved in any case.

The California Healthy Kids Survey has shown overall decreases in substance use and violence in Oakdale schools, but funding for the programs that have fueled these results has been severely cut and the district is playing a waiting game to see if grant funding will come through.

Two men suffered serious injuries that sent them both to the hospital following a shooting that may have been gang-related, said police.

A group of concerned Oakdale area and Stanislaus County residents have scheduled a meeting for Thursday, June 11 regarding the Transmission Agency of Northern California (TANC) and plans to construct and upgrade roughly 600 miles of high-voltage electric transmission lines and associated facilities in Northern California.

Stanislaus County Public Health officials have received confirmation from the State laboratory of a positive novel H1N1 (swine flu) case in the county. The affected county resident is a 22-year-old woman who did not require hospitalization. The test results were provided to the Stanislaus County Public Health laboratory Friday afternoon.

The Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) has announced that Pete Simoncini, a teacher at Oakdale High School in the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, will represent Stanislaus County in the 2009 California Teacher of the Year competition along with Karyn Garcia, a teacher at Orchard Elementary School in the Sylvan Union School. This past spring, Simoncini and Garcia, along with Danesa Jepson, a teacher at Oakdale Junior High School in the OJUSD and Melanie Sluggett of Oakdale who is a teacher at Mary Ann Sanders Elementary School in the Sylvan Union School District, were selected from 75 nominees as Stanislaus County Teachers of the Year. SCOE and the Modesto Rotary jointly sponsor the Teacher of the Year Program.

It took four months of meetings, multiple public hearings, and the restructuring of the police department, but at the end, the City of Oakdale had a budget.

The Oakdale City Council voted 4-1 to approve the 2009-2010 fiscal year budget at a special June 24 council meeting. The city was also able to maintain a 20 percent reserve, but did have to use $414,000 of that fund to balance the budget.


Next week, a look back at the top stories of the year from July through December.