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Council approves downtown tow-away zone amid debate
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The Turlock Farmers Market will no longer be disrupted by cars parked overnight on Broadway, as a new tow-away zone will be established in downtown Turlock.
But the costs of establishing and enforcing the new tow-away zone will come at the City of Turlock's expense, an expenditure Councilwoman Amy Bublak disagreed with.
The true costs of the measure remain uncertain, with the number and quantity of permanent tow-away signs unknown as council voted 3-1 to preliminarily approve the tow-away zone Tuesday. Bublak, who cast the dissenting vote, took issue with the costs of putting in new signage to benefit the farmers market, and also the use of staff time to put up temporary no-parking signs until permanent signs can be installed.
"We're supposed to be really watching our money and we're spending our staff's time, we're spending money on signage and we're $4.4 million in deficit this year alone," Bublak said. "That's not how you're supposed to run a budget."
According to City Manager Roy Wasden, the temporary signs take about 30 minutes to set up and take down each Friday. Turlock Parks employees are responsible for setting up and taking down the signs, which are verified in place by Turlock Police officers. Wasden estimated the weekly cost at approximately $25.
Any costs related to the installation of permanent signs would be borne by an existing Turlock signage fund, which installs and replaces about $5,000 worth of signs each year.
The tow-away zone would be Turlock's second, following the 2010 establishment of a tow-away zone near the Turlock Sales Yard, the site of Tuesday morning flea markets. Councilman Forrest White noted that the city was in even more dire financial straits when that zone was approved, and that the costs of establishing a tow-away zone were essentially minimal.
"When we were laying people off, why could we afford it then?" White asked. "It just doesn't make any sense. We're arguing over pennies."
Bublak countered by arguing that a safety issue existed at the sales yard, while the Broadway tow-away zone would benefit a farmers market which does not directly contribute tax revenue to Turlock. Bublak suggested that the farmers market rely on temporary signs for the foreseeable future, set up and taken down by farmers market volunteers.
"Why would we spend money when Turlock always helps each other out?" Bublak asked.
The Turlock Farmers Market has been plagued by overnight parkers on Thursday nights, leaving vendors unable to set up stands on Friday mornings.
According to Turlock Police Captain Jeff Lopes, police had previously been calling car owners and asking them to move their vehicles. As the tow-away zone was not posted, they could not be legally towed.
The new tow-away zone will take effect on both sides of Broadway between W. Olive Avenue and Market Street from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, from May through October.
The ordinance amendment will return for a final vote June 26. Temporary no parking signs will be shown until the ordinance takes effect, 30 days following the adoption of the ordinance.
For the first time, Turlock staff posted temporary tow-away zone notifications in advance of the June 8 farmers market. Lopes said police did not have to tow any cars as a result of that posting.
Lopes said the police department's goal is to deter parking, not tow cars. Lopes also said police hoped not to punish those who chose not to drive after drinking at nearby bars and restaurants.

On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council also:
• Approved a $23 million expansion of Turlock's wastewater treatment facility.
The expansion will construct new control facility headworks and add secondary treatment capacity. The project will be funded through a state revolving funds loan program.
The low bidder was C. Overaa & Co. of Richmond, coming in more than $1 million below the closest competitor. Construction is expected to be completed in 18 to 24 months.
• Finalized the addition of a "per cart" rate of $7.65 for blue, recycling-specific trash cans rented from Turlock Scavenger. Previously, there was no rate for individual recycling carts.
In 2011, new state legislation made contract recycling services mandatory for all multi-family, commercial, and industrial developments, effective July 1. As most such developments lack space for a second large, outdoor bin, they will be forced to rent smaller recycling carts to supplement their trash bins.
Previously, recycling was only mandatory for single-family homes.
• Provided direction on various state legislative items, most related to the state-mandated closure of redevelopment agencies.
• Issued proclamations in honor of Disability Awareness Month, and United States Army Week, June 11-16.
• Reappointed the existing members of Turlock's Development Collaborative Advisory Committee.
• Heard a presentation on Pacific Gas & Electric's upcoming hydrotesting. The testing will ensure that natural gas pipelines are in good condition.
No service disruptions will occur, though some traffic disruption is expected. Check back with the Journal for more details as they become available.
• Received updates on ongoing capital projects. Golden State Boulevard will be repaved near West Main this week, the Transit Hub is near completion, the Christoffersen median has been completed, and work to upgrade the storm drainage on South Soderquist Road should wrap up soon. The new Blue Diamond development has poured most of the curb, gutter, and sidewalk.
• Held a moment of silence in honor of Justin Ferrari, son of long-time Turlock residents John and Jeani Ferrari, who was killed by a stray bullet in a May 24 Seattle shooting.