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New era begins for city council
Soiseth, Jacob sworn in alongside DeHart
council swearing pic1
New Mayor of Turlock Gary Soiseth takes the dais for the first time on Tuesday. Soiseth has committed to going through the City's budget "line by line" in his first 100 days in office. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Tuesday was a night of firsts for Gary Soiseth and Matthew Jacob, who were both sworn in as mayor and council member, respectively, before taking their seats behind the council dais alongside Bill DeHart, who was sworn in for his second term.

 “It’s very humbling and I’m very honored to serve and to represent the city that I grew up in,” said Soiseth. “To work so hard to get here and to get here? I’m a little on cloud nine right now.”

Both Soiseth and Jacob have met with elected officials and City of Turlock staff in recent weeks for briefings on project histories and happenings, lending them firsthand insight into the collaborative nature of their newly elected positions.

 “I think it’s going to take a lot of collaboration to tackle all of the challenges that Turlock is facing, but I am up for the task. Like I said during the campaign, I really believe that Turlock’s best days are ahead and I’m excited about that,” said Jacob.

While DeHart is well versed in performing the duties compulsory with the position of council member, he was quick to note that he is no less grateful to serve the residents of Turlock for his second go-around.

 “I think one of the things that I am always mindful of is the fact that I have been entrusted with a pretty incredible responsibility and I take that very seriously,” said DeHart. “I’m really humbled and I am really looking forward to the next four years and what can be accomplished here in Turlock.”

Prior to the ceremony, outgoing mayor John Lazar was recognized by the offices of Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) and Assembly member Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) as well as his former council for being a “dedicated leader, gracious peacemaker, and champion for Turlock,” as stated on a statue bestowed to him by Council member Steven Nascimento on behalf of the council. Outgoing Council member Forrest White was also recognized for his contributions over the past four years, though he was not present at the meeting.

A litany of items were on the first agenda for the new mayor and council, one of which included authorizing the city manager to sign a standard non-disclosure agreement “not to create a veil of secrecy,” but rather to benefit potential businesses looking to expand or locate in Turlock. The council unanimously approved the item despite DeHart’s apprehension that the agreement may create a lack of transparency, citing concerns with companies that may cause detriment to water or air resources.

“I think there may be a concern on the part of some folks on whether or not we are being forthcoming with the overall public,” said DeHart.

According to City Manager Roy Wasden, the rules in place to monitor environmental impact are stringent and companies would not be exempt from regulations due to the agreement. Instead, the non-disclosure contract serves to shield businesses from “unwarranted attacks if their names are out.”

 “It allows us to have this conversation with the parent companies that want to have confidentially in their processes and program planning so that we can enter into those agreements,” explained Wasden.

The new agreement allows the city manager to expedite the process without having to seek formal action. Due to the requirements of the public process, projects will still stand for public review but company names will be omitted for those with which the City has signed a non-disclosure agreement.

On Tuesday, the council also approved two road rehabilitation projects including repairing a portion of Hawkeye Avenue between Dels Lane and Olive Avenue, as well as Geer Road between Monte Vista Avenue and Taylor Road.

The Hawkeye project will be a total repaving of the road with the addition of sidewalks and American Disabilities Act compliant handicap ramps. It will be funded by gas tax funds and Regional Surface Transportation Program federal funds totaling a cost of roughly $1.5 million. No general funds will be used for this project or the Geer Road Rehabilitation project.

Geer Road will be split into two portions with microsurfacing occurring between Monte Vista Avenue and Calaveras Way and a full overlay between Calaveras Way and Taylor Road. This project is also funded by RSP funds and gas tax funds at a total amount of $1.2 million. Due to temperature requirements, construction for these projects is not slated to begin until April with paving to start in May or June.