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Kenwood Park to see the light

POSTED July 26, 2011 10:17 p.m.

A county island near downtown Turlock will soon see streetlights overhead, but only by the narrowest of margins.

Kenwood Park residents will now tax themselves for the costs of installing and operating streetlights, after 24 ballots split 12-12 between residents in favor of the lighting district and those opposed.

As the votes were counted Tuesday afternoon and a tie emerged, the fate of the initiative initially remained uncertain. But after consulting with the county's legal counsel and elections code, it was determined that the measure had succeeded.

“If it had been 12.1 protests, then it would have failed,” said Mike Wilson of the Stanislaus County Public Works Department.

Voters from the 51 parcels in Kenwood Park were asked to either support or protest the formation of the lighting district. Per the law, the initiative didn't require a majority of “supportive” votes to pass, but instead required a majority of “protests” to reject.

Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, who represents Turlock and devised the Kenwood Park streetlighting plan in response to resident concerns, was enthused by the results.

“I was hoping for a foot-stomping victory, but I'll take them any way I can get them,” Chiesa said.

Kenwood Park – a bit of Stanislaus County centered on the intersection of Starr Avenue and Kenwood Avenue which is wholly surrounded by Turlock but was never subsumed into the city – has long struggled without streetlights. According to Chiesa, the area has become a hotbed of gang activity and crime as criminals seek the solace of the dark alleys and hedgelines.

With the passage of the measure, each landowner will be taxed $58.94 per year to pay for 14 100-watt streetlights.

The lighting district still awaits final approval from the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, which will be asked to accept the results of the election on Tuesday. Construction on the streetlights may begin as soon as September.

But the mostly-formal vote which remains is still just one step on the long road to bringing the island up to City of Turlock standards, so the city might one day incorporate the long-neglected island.

“It's a small step, but it's an incremental step in the right direction to get some of our islands integrated,” Chiesa said.

To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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