Top Turlock News Stories of 2012 – TurlockCityNews.com

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Now that the New Year has begun, TurlockCityNews.com would like to highlight the top news stories that occurred in Turlock in the year 2012. We would also like to thank all of our readers for your support, and wish you all a happy 2013.

The list, as follows, is in no particular order.

1. SAVE BOLT
You may have heard the community talking about a dog named Bolt toward the end of the year. Bolt, an Alaskan Malamute, is the beloved pet of a Turlock man named Dan Mendonca. Conflict arose, however, when allegations came forward that Bolt had bit two women on separate occasions at the dog-owners’ home. Although the City of Turlock originally mandated that the dog be put down, after much dispute from both Mendonca and the community an appeal is underway. The City of Turlock has not decided the dog’s fate as of yet, and Bolt remains in custody of Turlock Animal Services. Mendonca has spent thousands in legal fees, and has raised money from community members who wish to save Bolt. This story is still waiting for a conclusion, and the next court date is scheduled for later this month.

2. COLD STONE EMPLOYEE GOES VIRAL
As 2012 was a Presidential Election year, many residents hit the polls to cast their vote for either President Barack Obama (D), or then-candidate Governor Mitt Romney (R). When voters decided that Obama would remain in office for a second term, then-Cold Stone employee and Turlock resident Denise Helms was not happy. After posting “Another 4 years of this (N-word). Maybe he will get assassinated this term!” on her Facebook page, Helms became the target of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, and gained national attention in the mean time. Although the U.S. Secret Service never charged Helms as a ‘credible threat’, she still stirred up the community regarding the issues of free speech and racism.

3. CITY COUNCIL ELECTIONS
Also in regards to elections, the Turlock City Council had two seats up for grabs this election year that belonged to Councilwomen Amy Bublak and Mary Jackson. Jackson and Bublak both ran in the election to keep their seats, and were also joined by Steven Nascimento and Sergio Alvarado for the race. After a long campaign season consisting of multiple open forums around the community, voters decided that Bublak would retain her seat on the Council, and Nascimento, a District Director for State Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) and a former Parks, Recreation, and Community Commissioner, would replace Jackson.

4. BLUE DIAMOND COMES TO TURLOCK
It was a little under a year ago that Blue Diamond Growers announced they would open a new plant in Turlock. Now, the billion-dollar co-op is nearly complete with building Phase 1 of the plant. The plant is said to be the ‘largest expenditure in the history of the company’, using state-of-the-art equipment and packaging techniques. The company also looked to hire locally, providing many jobs to the Turlock community.

5. OFFICER SHOT DURING POLICE CHASE, SUSPECT KILLED BY TURLOCK POLICE
In July, Corporal Dave Shaw, a nine-year veteran of the Turlock Police Department, was shot in the leg during a police chase that following an attempted carjacking. The suspect, 29-year-old Joseph Davis of Winton, CA, was shot and killed by Turlock Police during the incident. According to Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, Davis had a long record of criminal history since 2001, and was on parole at the time of the shooting. The incident, which occurred at the Bradbury overpass, involved three other officers who were placed on paid administrative leave during investigations regarding the incident. Corporal Shaw made a full recovery following his injury.

6. TURLOCK SOLDIER KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN
National Guard soldier Spc. Benjamin C. Pleitez, age 25, of Turlock, was killed earlier this year in Afghanistan while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Pleitez was deployed to Afghanistan, in the region of Mazar E Sharif, and had served the National Guard for a little over five years. Pleitez worked as a Combat Medic. Turlock community members and others from surrounding regions gathered together with the friends and family of the fallen soldier for a memorial service that was held at Seventh Day Adventist Church in Turlock. A large American flag also hung on two extended fire ladders by both Ceres Fire Department and Modesto Fire Department on North Olive Avenue during the service to demonstrate their support and honor for the fallen soldier and his family.

7. TURLOCK WELCOMES NEW POLICE CHIEF ROBERT JACKSON
In February, the City of Turlock welcomed the newly appointed Chief of Police, Robert A. Jackson. In 2007, after nearly 20 years with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department, Jackson joined the ranks of the Turlock Police Department as one of two Captains, and assumed his role as Police Chief with 28 years of extensive law enforcement experience. Previously, TPD had been under the direction of Interim Police Chief Dave Young since former Turlock Police Chief Gary Hampton resigned in 2011 to work for the City of Tracy. The Police Chief recruitment drew over 40 applicants, and was narrowed down to six candidates by a recruitment firm hired by the City of Turlock. This group was narrowed to three candidates and interviewed by the Turlock City Council in closed session in January 2012. City Manager Roy Wasden then made his final decision to appoint Robert Jackson as Turlock Police Chief. He was then sworn into office the following month.

8. TURLOCK SKATE PARK RENAMED AFTER BRANDON KOCH
Brandon Koch, who passed away at the age of 26 from adrenocortical cancer, will always be remembered at the Turlock Skate Park. Koch was an avid skateboarder, who spent many days at the skate park selflessly teaching younger kids how to ride their skateboards and how to learn new tricks. When Brandon passed away, his family started an online petition to have the skate park renamed after him. After gaining thousands of signatures, and having multiple citizens address the City Council and Planning Commission in support of the name change, the City of Turlock agreed to rename the park to the ‘Brandon Koch Memorial Park’.

9. TID CELEBRATES 125 YEARS
In 2012, Turlock Irrigation District celebrated its 125 year anniversary. In February, TID projected their film, “The Irrigationist,” a history of TID, at the Turlock Community Theater, drawing in approximately 1,100 people for the event. The film took about 2 years to complete, and cost $219,000. The Creation Lab, a local Turlock business, made the film.

10. HIGHWAY 99 CONSTRUCTION
Highway 99, the main state highway to pass through the City of Turlock, underwent a huge renovation in 2012 that lasted several months, causing many traffic delays for local residents. The project, done by Caltrans, cost approximately $90.2 million to resurface and restore the highway and replaced approximately 25 miles of the existing pavement in Stanislaus County from the San Joaquin County line to the Merced County line.

11. JESSICA’S HOUSE OPENS, CENTER FOR CHILDREN
In April, Emanuel Medical Center opened Jessica’s House, a grief support program for school-aged children which allows them to come together and express their grief with other children their age through talking and play. Executive director Erin Nelson, who led the project, stated that the center was based on the model of peer support. Jessica’s House is the first of its kind in the Central Valley and has received praise from not only the City of Turlock, but from surrounding communities as well.

12. CITY OF TURLOCK APPROVES 20 YEAR GROWTH PLAN
This summer, the Turlock City Council approved a comprehensive update to the city’s General Plan and a Citywide Rezone that will affect multiple properties within the City over the course of 20 years. This was the first major General Plan Update since 1992 for the City of Turlock. Most notably, the General Plan Update reflects council's decision to not pursue any residential development west of Highway 99.

13. CRIME RATES DOWN IN CITY OF TURLOCK
According the Turlock Police Department, 2012 saw a decrease in crime within the city limits. Overall, as of June 2012, the Turlock Police Department made a total of 932 arrests, an 11 percent decrease from the Second Quarter Report in 2011. Part 1 crimes, including homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, vehicle theft, and larceny, decreased by 6 percent as compared to 2011. Turlock has continued to see the crime rate drop over the past 5 years.

14. HOMELESS DAY CENTER OPENS
Turlock Gospel Mission, a non-profit organization, opened a daytime resource and assistance center for Turlock’s homeless at 1030 East Ave., the City of Turlock Youth Center Building. Turlock Gospel Mission leased the building from the City of Turlock in 2011, for $1,080 per month. Improvements were made to the building, costing approximately $45,000. The new program, called Homeless Assistance Ministry (HAM), is separate from the Winter Relief Program that the Turlock Gospel Mission also provides.

15. PROPOSED BOCCE BALL COURT OPPOSED BY CRANE PARK NEIGHBORS
The City of Turlock was offered the donation of a permanent Bocce Ball court by the Rotary Club of Turlock, as a means of providing a location for young and older citizens to play a low-impact sport together. The proposed location at Crane Park, however, was faced with much opposition by the neighbors of Crane Park who stated that the park was already too congested. The City of Turlock held public forums on the matter, hearing many complaints from the neighbors of the park, stalling the project altogether.

16. TURLOCK REGIONAL TRANSIT CENTER OPENS ON GOLDEN STATE
Turlock officials and community members gathered together in mid-August for the grand opening of the Turlock Regional Transit Center. The long awaited transit hub began full operation on Aug. 29, 2012. The hub, which was intended to encourage citizens to make use of public transportation, cost approximately $1.65 million, funded by federal stimulus dollars, and did not use any monies from the city General Fund. The Turlock Regional Transit Center not only serves Turlock’s bus system, but also the Stanislaus County and Merced County bus systems, thus making it easier to get from one county to the other.

17. EMANUEL MEDICAL CENTER ENTERS OWNERSHIP CHANGE NEGOTIATIONS
Emanuel Medical Center announced in 2012 that the hospital was in exclusive discussions with Tenet Healthcare Corporation for a possible collaboration in the delivery of hospital services in Turlock. The change of ownership could mean that a corporation would purchase the hospital, which is currently owned by the Evangelical Covenant Church. Tenet Healthcare operates 49 hospitals nationally, 11 of which are in California. Although Emanuel has not currently released any information as to whether any decisions have been made as of yet, their main priority remains the same – to ensure long term sustainability of hospital services in Turlock.
18. OLIVE GARDEN, OLD NAVY, AND ULTA OPEN IN TURLOCK
Monte Vista Crossings, located at Monte Vista Avenue and Countryside Drive, saw three new big-name businesses join the shopping center in 2012: Olive Garden, Old Navy, and Ulta Beauty. Many Turlock residents waited anxiously for all three stores, which brought many full-time and part-time jobs to the City of Turlock.

19. TID LINEMEN UNAVAILABLE DURING POWER OUTAGE
In September, approximately 49 Turlock Irrigation District customers went without power or water for multiple days due to the unavailability of electrical linemen. Out of the 40 qualified linemen, none of them answered TID’s phone calls for help to repair the outage. While the linemen, part of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Line Workers Chapter 1245, were not on a formal strike, the union and TID have been in contract negotiations since April 2011. As of January 2013, there is still no contract agreement between both entities. TID sent out formal apologies to their customers who were affected by the outage, and even made hotel arrangements and cooling centers available for those without power and water. This incident, which was surrounded by much controversy, was the first of its kind in the history of TID.

20. CSU STANISLAUS PRESIDENT SHIRVANI LEAVES, REPACED BY SHELEY
California State University, Stanislaus saw a change in leadership in 2012 when President Hamid Shirvani left his position at the university to pursue a position as Chancellor of the North Dakota State University System. Joseph Sheley, former Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at CSU Sacramento, was named Interim President at CSU Stanislaus. He continues to serve in this position at the university, and has been well received by both the community and campus alike.

21. 50,000 HENS ABANDONED BY A&L POULTRY IN TURLOCK
In February, the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency received a call regarding a property at 9501 S. Carpenter Rd. where an estimated 50,000 abandoned hens were left without being fed for approximately 2 weeks. An estimated 17,000 hens were found dead upon arrival. The property, rented to A&L Poultry, was seized by the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency and various rescue groups and citizens came together to help the abandoned animals. The negligence and cruelty towards the animals resulted in a lawsuit against A&L Poultry.

22. CITY COUNCIL DELAYS TURLOCK ROAD TAX INITIATIVE
A half-cent sales tax initiative was considered for the November ballot in 2012. This tax initiative would have been a start to repairing many of Turlock’s dilapidated roadways. After the city held multiple public road workshops in the spring, however, council felt that the initiative should not be placed on the ballot in 2012. Most council members view the half-cent sales tax option, favorably, as it would provide money to be solely dedicated for road repairs and maintenance, an area that currently receives zero General Fund money. The half-cent sales tax would also allow the City of Turlock to qualify as a ‘self-help’ city to receive additional state and federal funding to dedicate towards the roadway system. The council, however, believed that the public would not view the tax favorably if there had not been enough public education on the matter. While the council hoped to offer more public education on the issue and various options the city has considered for roadway repair, with the November ballot only months away, and in the midst of a Presidential election year, council believed it was not the right time. Roadways, however, have seen some beautification projects however, such as Golden State Boulevard and Christoffersen Parkway, where new medians were placed. These projects, however, were not funded by the General Fund, but rather from federal funds and grants that were restricted for specific purposes and projects such as these.

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