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Council considers return of bingo at Assyrian American club

POSTED March 29, 2011 9:41 p.m.
After an eight year gap, bingo could return to Turlock – should the City of Turlock and the Assyrian American Civic Club reach common ground on rules and regulations for the game.The Turlock City Council discussed changes the current bingo ordinance on March 23, but didn’t come to any solutions which would be mutually agreeable.The Assyrian American Civic Club hosted bingo games as a fundraiser from the 1980s through 2003, when a new bingo ordinance was drafted. Since then, the club has received constant calls for a return of the game, but it is not profitable under Turlock’s current ordinance, Raymond George, Assyrian American Civic Club president, said.Turlock’s ordinance caps bingo prizes at $250 per game, half of the state-wide cap of $500. Additionally, the ordinance caps the amount an organization may charge per ticket, and – most importantly – bans “supplementary games” with instant winners, also known as pull-tabs or scratcher-style lottery tickets.“Scratcher games are part of bingo games,” George said. “People are not going to come to a place where there are no scratchers.”Police Chief Gary Hampton said permitting supplementary games would generate problems for the City of Turlock – the same sort of problems that drove the City Council to draft the 2003 ordinance. “This is not intended to ‘make money,’ it’s intended to generate funds for charitable events and functions,” Hampton said.Previously, Hampton said, bingo was pulling in $1.3 to $1.5 million each year. Approximately $200,000 was spent on operating costs, and the remainder was difficult to track down, Hampton said.The organization, by state law, is only allowed to use $24,000 on operating costs each year, Hampton said, and must donate the rest.Hampton suggested increasing the prize cap to $500 and eliminating the maximum ticket charge, should the council wish to pursue altering the ordinance, but retaining the ban on supplementary games. Even so, Hampton suggested a six-month trial period to ensure the ordinance change doesn’t detrimentally affect the City of Turlock.“This is a game of chance. It's always fraught with challenges,” Hampton said.Council did not direct Hampton to pursue the change, but instead opted to conduct more research before making any moves. A report on bingo ordinances in comparable cities will be sent to council, and the council will take up the issue of bingo again at a later date. On March 22, the Turlock City Council also:

·         Amended the Turlock Partnership Incentives program, intended to bring new businesses into empty storefronts. The program will now offer a $1,000 cash incentive to new businesses which meet certain criteria, including drafting a business plan.
Previously, the program was to grant a fee break up to $5,000 to new businesses, but due to concerns over Prop 26 the program was never implemented.

·         Approved a $37,716 increase in construction costs for the Carnegie Arts Center. The cost increases were due to previously unforeseeable conditions and a need to install guardrails for safety reasons.
Bublak voted against the increase, stating that the costs should have been foreseeable, and should be covered by the contractor. City Engineer Mike Pitcock said some of the overruns were attributable to errors in the architect’s plans, and that the city would pursue repayment.

·         Held a special, joint meeting with the Development Collaborative Advisory Committee, immediately before the regularly scheduled council meeting. The DCAC presented their annual report, in a meeting rescheduled from Feb. 22 due to improper noticing.

·         Adopted new fees for facility rentals and recreation programs, aimed to account for increasing costs to provide programs.
The change removes some classes from the recreation schedule of fees, including a Young Rembrandts art class, a hula dance class, a preschool class and swim parties. Few rentals see a mild cost increase, such as a lighting cost increase from $11 per hour to $12 per hour for softball field lighting, a $20 increase to rent picnic area C at Donnelly Park, and a $2 increase to rent picnic area D at Crane Park.
The shift also looks to recover more costs for the city by designating a specific portion of participant fees and rental fees to facility maintenance and repair.

·         Received an update on Turlock’s verified alarm ordinance from Turlock Police Chief Gary Hampton.
With property thefts accounting for much of Turlock’s crime, the TPD has for the past three months responded to all commercial alarms without verifying the alarm. An ordinance change to make that an official practice may return in September.
Residential alarms will still need to be verified before police will respond.

·         Heard public comment from Don Jeffries, who requested the council formally consider Councilwoman Mary Jackson’s alleged refusal to participate in two closed session meetings, abstaining from voting on City Attorney Phaedra Norton’s June 22, 2010 Performance Evaluation and not attending City Manager Roy Wasden’s Nov. 9, 2010 Performance Evaluation.

·         Amended the Recreation part-time employee wage scale, eliminating step increases. Some positions will receive mild raises from the previous base starting wage – no more than $1 per hour – but no positions will be eligible for annual raises, which currently range from $.25 per hour to $1 per hour.

·         Accepted a donation of five American flags with wood staffs from Turlock’s Fly the Flag Committee, given in remembrance of the five Turlock Police Department officers who gave their lives in the line of duty: Officers Lavon New d. 1935, Glenn Winans d. 1949, Joe Kerley d. 1949, George Brendenberg Jr., d. 1949, Raymond Willert d. 1973.

·         Reappointed Victor Pedroza and Aben Williams as alternate members of the Turlock City Planning Commission.

·         Appointed community members Abe Rojas and Ann Strahm, and Councilwoman Amy Bublak as representatives to Turlock’s Community Development Block Grant Selection Committee. The committee will determine how approximately $90,000 in grants will be handed out this year.

·         Appointed Council member Forrest White to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, with Council member Bill DeHart to serve as alternate.

·         Accepted $521.46 in donations to Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Division programs, scholarships, and activities, $9,600 in donations to Turlock’s Animal Services Division, and a further $1,300 donation from the Modesto Area Chapter Model A Club in support of Turlock Volunteers in Police Services Programs.

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