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A last look at 2016
MedicAlert leaves Turlock; Changes come to farmers market, local elections
farmers market fairgrounds pic1
The opening day of the Turlock Certified Farmers Market in May brought in a bustling crowd of shoppers eager to peruse the goods at the market's new home at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds. - photo by Journal file photo Top Stories

The following five stories received the most page views in 2016:

1. "Turlock man arrested for sexual assault," published June 14.

A Turlock man was arrested for multiple sexual assault related charges after he allegedly raped a woman he had met on a dating website. The suspect was identified by the Turlock Police Department as 38-year-old William Austin.

2. "DUI suspected in Turlock crash," published Jan. 19.

A 23-year-old man is facing criminal charges after causing a collision that sent his vehicle careening through the front yard of a Turlock residence. The driver, identified as Alejandro Del La Torre, 23, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and driving without a license, said Turlock Police spokesperson Officer Mayra Lewis.

3. "'Creepy clown' scare comes to Turlock," published Oct. 7.

The "creepy clown" craze that has sparked concern across the country has come to Turlock. Two girls were knocked down in a Turlock corn maze on Friday and scared by individuals wearing clown masks and a student's 'creepy clown' threat resulted in suspension.

4. "Turlock High student killed crossing Golden State Boulevard," published Nov. 5.

An 18-year-old student from Turlock High School was killed Friday night after being hit by a vehicle while crossing Golden State Boulevard. The teenager was identified by the Turlock Police Department as Glenn Cooper.

5. "Teens arrested for armed robbery," published Jan. 19.

The 16-year-old male victim was waiting for a friend outside of Sacred Heart Church when he was approached by two teenagers. The teens pulled out knives and demanded the victim hand over his belongings, including his cell phone. The victim complied and the two robbers left the area on foot. The Turlock Police Department was able to locate the two suspects by using a locator app on the victim’s cell phone.





It's the last day of 2016 and it's hard to find the words to accurately summarize the events of the past 12 months in one end of the year article. However, no matter what your local or national political leanings are, or where you stand on the Turlock farmers market issue, the past year was definitely not boring.

Below is a list of the top five issues that made headlines in the Turlock Journal during 2016. The stories we picked to highlight were ones that will have a lasting impact on the community — like district elections for the Turlock City Council — or were recurring topics throughout the year. This was a busy year for Turlock and below our Top 5 list are other stories of note.

Before ringing in the new year, take a minute or two to look back at the stories and issues that dominated 2016 in the community of Turlock.

1. District Elections

Turlock voters made history on Nov. 8, electing the city's first two District representatives to the City Council.  Gil Esquer defeated challenger Jaime Franco to represent District 2, which encompasses the southwest area of town, including the part of downtown Turlock that is west of Golden State Boulevard. Incumbent Council member Amy Bublak will represent District 4 — which includes the northwest area of town — for the next four years after defeating fellow Council incumbent Steven Nascimento in a nail-biting race that came down to 33 votes in the end.

2. Farmers market changes

After considering the fate of the downtown farmers market for close to 120 days, the Turlock City Council in March awarded the contract to a new operator: Peter Cipponeri and the Golden State Farmers Market Association. The controversial series of actions by the City — from conflicting street closure requests to the adoption of a Request for Proposals process that resulted in a change in farmers market management —  caused a rift in the Turlock community that could have significant ramifications for years to come.

The Council voted 3-2 in favor of for-profit business GSFMA operating the downtown market, following the decision of the Turlock Certified Farmers Market to withdraw their proposal. The nonprofit TCFM had operated a downtown farmers market for the previous six years.

The Council's vote and TCFM's decision to move locations rather than compete to stay downtown, resulted in Turlock playing host to two separate Saturday morning farmers markets. On May 8, GSFMA opened for business on E. Main Street in downtown Turlock and TCFM welcomed visitors to its new location at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds.

The downtown farmers market only stayed on Main Street for three months, however, as complaints from downtown businesses about the loss in traffic caused by the weekly street closure prompted the City to have GSFMA move its operations to Central Park for the month of August. The market ended its season two months early.

It's unclear at this time whether there will be a downtown farmers market in 2017 and if there is, where it will be located and what months it will be open.

3. MedicAlert leaves Turlock; Turlock Christian opens new school

MedicAlert, a business founded in Turlock that over the past 60 years has revolutionized the medical information industry, sold its longtime international headquarters on the corner of Colorado Avenue and Tuolumne Road and moved its operations to Salida in 2016.

MedicAlert Foundation began in 1956 after Turlock resident Linda Collins had a near fatal reaction to a doctor-administered tetanus antitoxin. The Collins family had a desire to prevent a similar medical emergency in the future and that became the inspiration for the medical bracelets worn by individuals around the globe.

While the loss of a Turlock business icon was a hit to the city, it also brought a new opportunity for Turlock Christian Schools.

The Colorado Avenue building is now Turlock Christian Schools' first standalone campus. Turlock Christian opened the doors to its new elementary campus during a Community Open House in December, giving hundreds of visitors their first look at the unique learning environment equipped with state-of-the-art technology and cutting edge classrooms.

The renovated facility spans 42,000 square feet and includes two classrooms for each grade — kindergarten through sixth grade — with each classroom coming equipped with a Promethean board. The campus also has special classrooms dedicated to band, robotics, and video technology and film.

4. Pedestrian fatalities

A Turlock family started out 2016 mourning the loss of their patriarch after he died from injuries he sustained from being hit by a vehicle while out for a walk. David Amesquita, 65, of Turlock died after being hospitalized on Jan. 17 for injuries he sustained after being hit by a car while crossing the street near his home in the 3600 block of N. Olive Avenue.

Unfortunately Amesquita wasn't the last to lose his life while walking in Turlock this past year.

In one week Turlock saw two others die after being hit by cars. Benjamin Hudspeth, 20, was crossing Monte Vista Avenue at the intersection with Del's Lane, in front of Stanislaus State, around 9 p.m. Nov. 3 when he was struck by a car.

Turlock High student Glenn Cooper killed Nov. 4 after being hit by a vehicle while crossing Golden State Boulevard.

In March, Turlock City Council adopted a multi-pronged Collision Reduction Strategy with a focus on reducing collisions that involved motorist and non-motorized users such as pedestrians and bicyclists. The strategy involves a partnership between the Turlock Police Department and the City of Turlock’s Engineering Department. The two agencies put a focus on education and awareness in the first stages, which included traffic safety workshops with community members to discuss general safety practices, problem areas and possible solutions.

In the wake of the two fatal accidents involving pedestrians in November the Turlock Police Department  also ramped up their efforts to reduce collisions around the city.

5. Worth Your Fight

It was hard to go anywhere in Turlock — or  Stanislaus County —  in 2016 without seeing one of Worth Your Fight’s yard signs posted in front of a business, staked in the yard of a residence or tethered to a fence. The campaign, a joint effort by the Turlock Irrigation District and Modesto Irrigation District —has the goal of informing the public about the potential negative impacts associated with a controversial State Water Board document that proposes to allocate 40 percent of unimpaired flows along the Tuolumne River for fish and wildlife.

In addition to the thousands of Worth Your Fight yard signs seen throughout the region, TID and MID submitted several opinion pieces and letters to the editors of local print media outlets, as well as conducted both recorded and live radio interviews to talk about the campaign. Campaign members also distributed fact sheets and thousands of window decals, presented the proposal and its possible negative impacts to various community organizations throughout the TID and MID service areas, informed local, state and federal officials of their concerns, purchased a billboard advertisement in Ceres, and created Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media accounts. Worth Your Fight has also partnered with Save The Stan, which is a similar joint consumer awareness campaign between the South San Joaquin, Oakdale Irrigation District and Tri-Dam Project.

This effort will continue into 2017. The last State Water Board public hearing regarding the draft revised SED  is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Jan. 3 in the Byron Sher Auditorium, located on the second floor of the Joe Serna Jr. — CalEPA Headquarters Building, 1001 I Street in Sacramento. Written comments on draft revised SED for Phase 1 of the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan are due by 12 p.m. on March 17.

The State Water Board announced during the public hearing in Modesto that they anticipate releasing a final SED and plan in May 2017 and considering it for adoption in July 2017.

Other stories of note in 2016 include:

— Violence at the Turlock Sikh Temple: On Jan. 10 the Turlock Police Department responded to a large brawl at the Sikh Temple that resulted in the arrests of several individuals. The large fight inside the Temple was captured on cell phone videos and showed individuals punching, pushing, and kicking and one man, later identified as Sandeep Singh, 38, of Ceres, allegedly swinging a ceremonial sword at several people. Another cell phone video of the fight showed Gurdev Singh, 47, of Madera allegedly striking two people with a Chimta. A Chimta is a religious musical instrument that is shaped like a long set of tongs with pointed ends. Two people were struck in the attack, both sustaining non life-threatening injuries.

The altercations involving the Sikh Temple members stems from a dispute that started with the dismissal of Temple priest Attar Singh in 2013.

Then-Turlock Police Chief Robert Jackson addressed more than 100 members of the Sikh Temple gathered at Pitman High on Jan. 15 offering words of caution and advice to avoid further violence at the place of worship.

In August, another man was arrested for allegedly assaulting two men outside the Sikh Temple.

— Turlock Police resurrects K9 Unit: Turlock welcomed two new police officers in February, Varick, a male sable German Shepherd and Malanois mix, and Keyser, a male black German Shepherd. The two newest members of the police department came via a successful effort to reinstate the K9 Unit in Turlock, which was suspended in 2008 due to budget cutbacks.

— Carnegie celebrates centennial anniversary: The Carnegie Arts Center kicked off the 100-year anniversary celebration of the original structure with an open house birthday party in February and followed with a series of events that included a Kaleidoscope Flashback Cocktail Party and the burying of time capsule.

— Focus on public transit: The City's focus on improving public transit started with the appointment of Stanislaus State student Josie Hazelton as the inaugural Mayor's Public Policy Award recipient in January. Hazelton has been working on a project to increase affordability and convenience of public transportation for the town's college students.

Then in May, the City made a significant technological upgrade to its bus service installing the Fast Fare electronic fare boxes. Instead of purchasing ticket books weekly or monthly, riders are able to pre-purchase encoded, magnetic strip passes from City Hall, which are passes similar to those used on Bay Area Regional Transit trains.

Following a number of public outreach meetings, the City Council adopted a new fixed-route design for the City's bus system in June that increased the number of routes from four to six and hours were extended to offer later service on weekdays and Saturdays.

— New life for old Hauck's building: Downtown Turlock welcomed a new eatery in May that pays homage to its location's historic past with its name — Hauck's Grill.

The brick building on the southeast corner of E. Main Street and Broadway that used to be home to Hauck's Pharmacy was transformed into a sports bar and grill. Hauck's Grill, owned by Tom and Karen Gallo, offers casual dining in a family-friendly environment.

— Campaign finance: The City of Turlock has its first campaign finance ordinance following a split vote by the City Council in June —  however, it's a voluntary regulation with no enforcement mandated.

The adopted ordinance, proposed by Mayor Gary Soiseth and Council member Bill DeHart, includes a voluntary campaign contribution limit of $1,000 per donor per election cycle, disclosure of contributions of $1 or more, disclosure of the top 10 maximum donors to be placed on every Council agenda and a Pledge to Comply with the City's Code of Fair Campaign Practices.

— Dust Bowl expansion: The owners of popular Turlock brewery and downtown restaurant Dust Bowl opened a new facility on Fulkerth and Dianne roads in July, expanding their brewery operations to allow Dust Bowl to go from producing 4,800 barrels a year to 15,000 to 20,000 barrels a year and creating a larger taproom. The new brewery welcomed over 900 people on its opening day, and hasn't slowed down since.

— Stanislaus State welcomes new president: The California State University Board of Trustees appointed Ellen N. Junn to serve as Stanislaus State's 11th president, following the retirement of President Joseph F. Sheley.

— Skate park moves to Donnelly Park: The City of Turlock celebrated the grand opening of the new Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park in September with a ribbon cutting ceremony that remembered Koch’s legacy as a tremendous skateboarder and friend to the community. The park’s grand opening was an event nearly three years in the making. It was decided by the Turlock City Council in August  2013 that the skate park would relocate from Starr Avenue to Donnelly Park due to the sale of the land the park originally sat on, and since construction on the skate park began in summer 2015, the opening date was pushed back multiple times before eventually being completed in August.

— Voters approve countywide road tax: For the first time ever, voters approved a new tax that will help fund road improvements for Turlock and other areas around Stanislaus County. Measure L — Local Roads First Transportation Funding — was introduced by the Stanislaus Council of Government as an Expenditure Plan on how funds based on a 25-year, half-cent sales tax measure will be used to pay for countywide local street and road improvements, arterial street widening, signalization, pedestrian, bicyclist and driver safety.

The plan was heavily influenced by a comprehensive public outreach program that asked residents to identify their priorities for future transportation programs and projects, and the road tax will bring in $960 million over the course of 25 years, or approximately $38 million annually, to be divided between the county and nine cities. For Turlock, a lifetime total of $138 million will be provided by the road tax, which goes into effect on April 1, 2017.

— Stanislaus Sheriff deputy slain: Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Dennis Wallace, 53, was gunned down the morning of Nov. 13 at the Fox Grove fishing access after going to check on a suspicious vehicle. Following a 4-hour long manhunt, David Machado, 37, of Keyes was arrested and charged with murder with a special circumstance of killing a peace officer.

The Deputy Dennis Wallace Kids Soccer Fund was created in memory of the deputy that devoted so much of his time to helping the area’s youth. Wallace’s care for children began with his 30 nieces and nephews that he and his wife Mercedes helped care for over the years, mentored, coached and took on Disneyland trips. He also spent many years as the D.A.R.E. officer for the sheriff’s department and showed a passion for the children he met that lasted through the years.

Outside of work, Wallace became a youth soccer coach and was instrumental in forming a youth league for Hughson.