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Council ends year with appointments, Columbia Park project
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The Turlock City Council finished the year strong on Tuesday evening, as the city leaders met for the final council meeting of 2013.

The Council voted unanimously to pass several items relating to the new restroom project slated for Columbia Park – a long awaited development that will see a new multi-restroom facility constructed at the corner of the 3.5-acre park near High and Farr streets.

After receiving seven bids for the Columbia Park restroom project, the Council opted to approve an agreement with BC Construction of Ceres in the amount of $203,820. The City is also appropriating an extra $29,707 from the Community Park Improvement Reserve fund for the project, which is projected to have a total cost of $231,575.

According to city staff, the park is in need of additional restroom facilities, as the only available restrooms are currently for visitors of the Marty Yerby Center and the Columbia Park Pool. While the Parks and Recreation Division currently provides portable restrooms to accommodate park visitors, a more permanent solution has been desired for several years.

Also related to the Parks and Recreation Division, the City Council voted unanimously to appoint Turlock resident Bianca Davoodian to the Parks, Recreation and Community Commission. Having grown up in Turlock, Davoodian attended Turlock Christian High School and University of California, Berkeley. Since graduating from UC Berkeley, Davoodian has also been employed as a researcher at UC San Francisco, Stanford University, and most recently conducting research exploring and refining mindfulness theory at the Langer Lab at Harvard University.

During the meeting, council members unanimously approved the renewal of an agreement between the City and the Turlock Unified School District to continue working together to implement a youth basketball program beginning January 2014. The eight week program is designed to teach kindergarten to 8th grade students the fundamentals of basketball, taking place at various TUSD facilities.

As the City continues to implement various programs for local youth, the Council also accepted a total of $2,491 in donations to be used specifically for the support of several recreation, sports and art activities.

Not everything was passed unanimously, however, as City Councilwoman Amy Bublak voted in opposition to the City entering an agreement with Dave Young, an outside labor negotiator. Having utilized an outside negotiator for Fiscal Year 2013/14, the City has found it prudent to seek outside help to negotiate labor agreements due to the demands on the time of the City Attorney and City Manager.

“We have no choice but to use a trusted agent,” said Councilman Bill DeHart. “We support Mr. Young and his efforts.”

Bublak, who has a consistent voting record in opposition to outsourcing, was the sole council member to vote against the agreement, which is not to exceed $26,000. Dave Young and Associates served as the Chief Negotiator for the City of Turlock during the contract negotiations with the City’s six employee bargaining groups – the Turlock Fire Fighters Association, the Turlock Management Association Public Safety, the Turlock City Employees Association, the Turlock Confidential Employees, the Turlock Management Employees, and the Turlock Associated Police Officers.

During the meeting Bublak also voted in opposition of formalizing the City/County Liaison Committee that would be comprised of two members of the City Council, two members of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, the Turlock City Manager and the Stanislaus County CEO.

Although Bublak noted the importance of creating a strong relationship with the County by means of such a committee, she believed that having two permanent members of the Council – Forrest White and Mayor John Lazar – was unfair to other council members who may want to be part of the process. She also recommended having all five members attend said meetings, however, others believed that would be in violation of the Brown Act.

While Mayor Lazar said that he could look into the possibility of having the council members alternate on the City/County Liaison Committee, City Attorney Phaedra Norton said that it would be best to have two permanent members in order to pass the motion.

“The point is to develop relationships to avoid future problems,” said Councilman DeHart. “We want to make sure that we have healthy, mature relationships with our county counterparts.”

The committee will include Mayor Lazar, Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Chair Vito Chiesa, Councilmember White, Board member Terry Withrow, City Manager Roy Wasden, and Stanislaus County CEO Stan Risen. Meeting quarterly at minimum, the committee will focus on infrastructure needs, streets and roadways, water and sewer issues, growth-related issues, economic development, storm water management, solid waste and recycling, transportation, and many other issues affecting both Turlock and the County.