Turlock Mayor John Lazar gave the State of the City Address during the annual Turlock Chamber of Commerce Membership Breakfast this morning, held at the Carnegie Arts Center.
This is the transcript of the speech Mayor Lazar gave on Thursday, February 16, 2012:
State of the City Address
Thank you again to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce for hosting this important event. The City of Turlock cannot have a better relationship with its business community and this is represented by the personal relationship I have with your CEO Sharon Silva. (As mentioned) She is to be congratulated upon her many talents, but most recently her award by the Western Association of Chamber Executives as Executive of the Year. We are extremely proud of you Sharon.
Although our country, state and central valley continue to be economically sluggish, Turlock’s recovery is on track. We are proud to announce the addition of Blue Diamond Growers to our corporate family! Purchasing 88 acres in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park, Blue Diamond will begin construction on a state of the art almond processing facility. This is a major triumph not only for Turlock, but Stanislaus County! It will bring needed jobs to a thirsty region.
For the past ten years, Turlock’s main economic development strategy has been to encourage food processing and related industries to expand in Turlock. The result of these efforts is finally bearing fruit, and I want to personally thank City Manager Roy Wasden and his team for their efforts!
In addition to welcoming Blue Diamond, a food related testing laboratory has submitted plans to relocate to the Turlock Regional Industrial Park. This will bring 30-40 technical jobs to Turlock.
The Turlock City Council and the Turlock Chamber of Commerce created a business partnership incentive this past year which provides up to $1,000 in cash to any business that opens in an unoccupied building. So far eight small businesses have used the program, and these businesses have created 26 new jobs. The Downtown Entrepreneur Center has been successful with the launch of three businesses from that site!
I am also happy to report that the Monte Vista Crossing Shopping Center is 100% leased, which is unusual and a testament to the strength of the Turlock’s economy.
With that said, we are excited that more businesses are opening at Monte Vista Crossings, including:
1. The Olive Garden
2. ULTA Cosmetics and Salon
3. Old Navy
4. And a major anchor tenant that is currently drafting a final lease to locate on the vacant 20-acre parcel south of Kohl’s.
We are also excited about opportunities in other quadrants of the City. The Geer Road corridor will see a potential new grocery store in the old Mervyn’s Building. Mi Pueblo continues to proceed with plans to locate on West Main Street, near Hwy 99. And in historic downtown, Dust Bowl Brewing Tap Room, Frost Bakery, and La Mo Restaurant are new and great places to eat!
Our downtown continues to experience a renaissance as evident in this new Carnegie Arts Center. Adjacent and under construction is our new Public Safety Center, which should be completed in 2013. And the Farmers Market is a weekly destination down the street at Broadway and Main Street.
Using federal dollars the new Regional Transit Center is under construction at N. Golden State and Dels Lane. Making public transportation more efficient and offering convenient benefits to all Turlockers.
Hats off also to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce and our partnership with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. We note that hotel stays were significantly up this past year bringing in valuable hotel occupancy dollars. The City hosted a number of sporting events, including the NCAA Track and Field Championship at California State University Stanislaus.
On the horizon of new opportunity may include a return of auto dealers to the auto mall area. I agree with Clint Eastwood that half time is over in America and we are getting on with the game in Turlock!
Using redevelopment funds, the City completed a multimillion dollar infrastructure project in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park, installing sewer and water lines, improving roads ahead of future development. We have learned from the Blue Diamond experience that having shovel ready industrial land is a game changer for a community. It means jobs and an improved economy, and Turlock has done it right!
I also want to mention, in-addition to Blue Diamond, there has been recent expansion by our existing industries such as Sensient and US Cold Storage.
As we help the less fortunate despite assistance by federal or state sources, Turlock continues to provide for their own. We are still working with 5-mobile home parks providing space rental assistance for about 30 senior citizens on a fixed income.
Construction will begin later this month on Phase I of Avena Bella Project, 80 units of two or three bedroom units for income qualifying families. The project, located near Cunningham school, includes a $5 Million contribution from the City’s redevelopment agency, $1 Million from the Federal Home Loan Bank and $12 Million in construction financing. Local firms and construction trades will be employed in the development of this project. Estimated completion is June 2013.
In addition to a successful record with the home-buyer down payment program, eight homes were rehabilitated for low-income owners or tenants. Turlock has also implemented a very successful Neighborhood Stabilization Program using federal funds. We continue to use federal dollars to provide support for various public services, including senior meals, emergency food assistance, child respite care, and the emergency cold weather shelter. I am also pleased we are cooperating with the Turlock Gospel Mission to provide a day center for Turlock’s homeless, relocating them from Turlock’s parks. Volunteers continue to be one of Turlock’s blessings and I want to personally thank you who help those in need.
While many other cities struggle to maintain public safety services, Turlock is again above the curve. We’ve been able to maintain staffing levels which allow us to sustain our momentum in reducing crime. In 2011, Turlock experienced an 11% decrease in the most serious crimes known as Part One Crimes (such as murder, rape, assault, burglary and theft).
Our Criminal Apprehension and Gang Enforcement Unit continue to have a positive impact on street crimes by targeting problem locations in Turlock. This program targets repeat offenders and gang issues.
Also, our Narcotics Enforcement Team continues to work in reducing street level narcotic sales in Turlock. Undercover investigations resulted in 60 felony arrests, more than 10 guns seized and the removal of significant quantities of methamphetamine, heroin, pills, and marijuana.
In an effort to reduce personal and budget costs, the City consolidated police and fire administrations, saving approximately $300,000. This consolidation strategy is complimented by the new Public Safety Facility which I mentioned earlier.
Using grant funds we were able to retain and hire three firefighters in 2011. The grant funding pays for salaries and benefits with a total savings to the City of $500,000 over 2 years.
Demand remains strong for our many recreation programs. This year’s Christmas parade was an unqualified success. Our after school program at the Turlock Junior High has enrollment at 121 students per day. We are happy to be able to support this program to keep kids in this critical age group safe after school.
2011 will be remembered as the year Turlock started looking to regional solutions for long term water and waste water needs. The City entered into a Joint Powers Authority with the Cities of Modesto and Ceres to continue to investigate the feasibility of using water from the Tuolumne River as a long-term and reliable source of water for our future needs.
Turlock has participated in a regional effort to establish the East Stanislaus Integrated Regional Water Management partnership, which allows for structured and cooperative management of local water resources.
We have received $44 Million in low interest loans from the State of California to complete two significant waste water infrastructure projects. These loans will save our ratepayers more than $30 Million in interest payment over 20 years compared to conventional municipal bond financing.
Further in the near future, we will go out to bid on a $30 Million upgrade and expansion to our Regional Water Quality Control Facility – maintaining adequate capacity at the Water Quality Control Facility is central to our economic development efforts.
Customer service has been a priority for this Council and this City! We continue to improve the experience our citizens and users have with the City of Turlock. Again, my hat’s off to our very experienced and competent staff.
Looking ahead Turlock will have to find new ways to be innovative and grow our economy. Unfortunately, the State of California has done away with Redevelopment as we have known it for almost sixty years. Our prime central valley location along the Hwy 99 corridor between California State University Stanislaus and UC Merced and very close to Hwy 5, makes us an attractive opportunity for growing and new businesses and industry. It also promises to bring our area needed and well deserved jobs. We must be mindful not to lose sight of what has gotten us hear: a living general plan which respects our agricultural heritage and Turlock’s traditional boundaries. Sprawling onto our neighbors’ borders is not an option, and making sure we provide for open space between communities is the recipe of our City’s health and well being. Personally, I want to hand down to my children the Turlock I have known and loved my entire life. We can only do this if we work together as neighbors to preserve the life we have known and loved for generations.
Ladies and Gentleman, the State of the City is Great!! I am very proud to be your Mayor and will work to make it greater with your help! God Bless You!