At the beginning of 2015, the Turlock Journal editorial team put together the people-focused feature "15 Movers & Shakers for 2015." As the year comes to a close, we will take a look at how a few of those "movers and shakers" fared over the year, and see what their plans are for 2016.
As Gary Soiseth entered his first year as Mayor of Turlock, he had very specific goals in mind: improve the City's infrastructure and analyze the City's budget line by line. Over the past 12 months, Soiseth has made great strides into making those goals realities for the residents of Turlock.
After three decades of negotiations, the City of Turlock entered into a water sales agreements with the Turlock Irrigation District that will provide Tuolumne River water for domestic use to the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority.
"We are moving rapidly on the surface water project, from conducting environmental studies to touring neighboring facilities to hiring firms that could build the plant. This drinking water plant will have a financial cost, but the cost of doing nothing is far worse. This project will secure drinking water for future generations in Stanislaus County and I’m proud to play a small role," said Soiseth.
The City also made progress on the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project that will provide recycled water to help Turlock’s farmers while also supplying recycled water to farms west of the Stanislaus River. When completed, the NVRRWP will be the nation’s largest recycled water project and will be the model throughout the nation for interagency cooperation, according to Soiseth.
"In a time of drought, it’s a testament to the resolve of local public officials and staff that these two projects are progressing rapidly," he said.
Other infrastructure improvements include investing a portion of the Transient Occupancy Tax (a tax on Turlock’s hotel guests) in the City's parks and tournament venues, most notably by re-wiring the Pedretti Field lights.
"The investments of 2015 have been large, but I’m proud that they have not been made at the expense of the taxpayer. Instead, we were able to pay down toxic debt, saving the city more than $615,000 annually over the next decade. We were also able to divest of costly city-owned buildings and pay off large sums of unfunded liabilities in the Public Employee Retirement System funds. These aggressive fiscal moves have put Turlock on a solid path toward a balanced budget within the year," said Soiseth.
Looking ahead, Soiseth once again has specific priorities in mind: invest in reliable drinking water, invest in our local roads, and invest in our sense of community.
"While progress has been made regarding water consumption during this historic drought, we will continue to find ways to reduce Turlock’s consumption and will continue on a path toward realizing our major water projects," he said.
"In 2016, I will proactively tackle our failing roads. While we have doubled the modest funds for pothole repair, added new methods of maintaining our roads, increased the Americans with Disabilities Act compliant ramps and sidewalks, secured grant funding for major thoroughfares, and established a new sidewalk and tree maintenance assistance program for fixed-income and senior residents, there is still much more work to be done to our neglected roads.
"As I have stated since I ran for office, I’m supportive of a regional approach to our transportation needs. It’s my hope that citizens will choose to invest in their local and regional roadways by supporting a county-wide half-cent sales tax initiative in November 2016."
The Mayor also plans to roll out a “Million Acts of Kindness” initiative through the City of Turlock’s Afterschool Program. This city-wide campaign will work with the city's youth to create ideas that make the city a kinder place to live, while also creating a stronger connection among Turlock’s very diverse religious, ethnic and cultural groups.
More details for Soiseth's plans for 2016 will be discussed at the 2016 State of the City Address at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 29 at the City of Turlock Corps Yard, 701 S. Walnut Rd. The public is invited.
Dust Bowl founders move forward with brewery expansion
The Turlock Journal met up with Brett Tate, Brett Brett Honoré and Michelle Peterson of Dust Bowl Brewing Company on Tuesday at the site of their new brewery under construction on the corner of Fulkerth Road and Dianne Drive. The trio couldn't be more excited about the progress being made on the new facility.
Dust Bowl broke ground on April 7 at the site of the company's new 30,000 square foot brewing, bottling, storage, shipping, and business operations which will be open 24 hours a day when completed. The new facility is also slated to be a tasting room, retail visitor center, restaurant and catering hall, with a large patio area. Tours of the brewing process will also be offered.
Back in April, the company had hoped the facility would be open by the end of the year but it looks like this goal will not be accomplished until sometime in 2016.
"We’ve had a few delays, but are on track to be brewing at the new site by May. Our brewers made a trip to Italy in October to inspect our brewing equipment, which is now making its way to the Port of Oakland. We expect delivery to the site in mid-January. We’ve been growing our brewery team in recent months, so when we transition to the new site, we’ll have many personnel ready for execution on the broader scale. Our brewery staff will continue to grow in the new year," said Tate.
With the expansion the company projects that 17,000 barrels of beer a year will fulfill the initial capacity with sales projected to reach 10,000 barrels in the first year. Currently Dust Bowl is selling the maximum amount of beer it can — 5,400 barrels annually — at its present facility on Spengler Way.
Recipe development has also been a huge focus Dust Bowl in 2015.
"We are set to launch a new 4-pack seasonal line-up featuring a Citrus IPA, Double Red IPA, Scotch Ale and Baltic Porter. We invested heavily in the branding of this series, which plays on our Dust Bowl heritage but in a catchy way. The shelves are full, so it’s imperative to catch the consumer’s attention. We’ve also focused on developing our year-round offering to include an easy-drinking, lower alcohol and lower hop profile option. The expanded portfolio will give our retailers more niches in a very competitive craft beer business," said Tate.
Dust Bowl's goals for 2016 include opening the new brewery, and expanding production and distribution of their craft beers into new regions. The company also looks forward to having two tap room locations in Turlock, their original Main Street site and the new facility off of Fulkerth.
"We are really excited about the vibe we’re developing. Guests will be treated to an expansive interior, covered patio, beer garden and lounge spaces," said Tate about the new tap room. "We’ll be offering tours and you can see into the brewing process from inside the tap room. We’ll have two towers of 20 draft beers and a full restaurant featuring pizzas, sandwiches and salads, plus we’ll have room for private parties. Our downtown location will remain open and we’ll continue to utilize our existing brewery."
Turlocker has life-changing encounters with the Pope
Amidst the thousands of people who gathered to see Pope Francis during his whirlwind visit to the United States in September was Turlock resident and international leader of a worldwide Catholic organization Brean Bettencourt.
As the International Responsible of the Youth Teams of Our Lady, which is an international Catholic Young Adult Movement present in 14 countries, Bettencourt saw Pope Francis during his U.S. visit at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
This meeting is a triennial event sponsored by the Holy See’s Pontifical Council for the Family and the world’s largest Catholic gathering of families. With an underlying goal of adding depth of meaning to each participant’s understanding of families, this year’s event marked the first year that the event has taken place in the United States since its inception by Saint John Paul II in 1994.
Although Bettencourt struggled to describe what it was like for her to see Pope Francis, she said that she believes he brought joy, peace and love to America.
“He’s not a celebrity. He doesn’t seek his own interests,” said Bettencourt in September. “Everything he says and does is to point in the direction of Jesus, and to be an example of what it means to follow him. His presence moves people beyond description.”
Bettencourt, like the many others who got a chance to see Pope Francis during his visit, said that he greatly impacted her with his devotion to being a faithful follower of Jesus and the servant leader of the Church.
“He’s not a Republican or Democrat, nor a conservative or liberal. Rather, he is a Catholic,” said Bettencourt. “He did not come to the USA to ‘change’ what the Gospel and the Church have always taught, but he’s here to affirm those teachings in a unique way.
“Furthermore, he was not just here to speak to Catholics. The Pope is for everyone, because Jesus and the Church are for everyone,” added Bettencourt.
During her visit to Rome, Bettencourt gave a conference to over 300 people from over 80 different countries on how young single adults today view marriage, as well as the challenges these young adults face in regards to the sacrament.
“Traveling to Rome and the Vatican for this event was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Bettencourt. “Never would I have imagined that I would have the opportunity to be invited to speak at such a large event and furthermore, to attend a private audience with Pope Francis.”
During the private meeting with the Pope, Bettencourt said that he spoke at great lengths about the beauty and importance of the family. He encouraged Bettencourt and others in attendance to remain close to wounded families, which he said are numerous due to lack of work, poverty, health problems, mourning, worry caused by a child, estrangement or absence or a climate of violence.
“It was a humbling experience to say the least,” said Bettencourt. “I still can’t believe it happened.”
Others included in the "15 Movers & Shakers for 2015" were:
· - Turlock Gospel Mission Executive Director Tim Guerino
· - First Emanuel Medical Center CEO under the new Tenet Healthcare ownership, Sue Micheletti
· - Assyrian American Civic Club President Sam David
· - Stanislaus State President Joseph Sheley
· - Lydio Banana of Westside Ministries
· - Turlock City Council member Matthew Jacob
· - Westside advocate Itzel Villalobos
· - Turlock Associated Police Officers President Russell Holeman
· - Stanislaus State Athletics Director Mike Matoso
· - Michael Everett, Turlock Film Commission founder and owner of the Creation Lab
· - Ali Cox of Ali Cox & Company Marketing
· - Noel Dickey, a Turlock woman who started a water ministry for the homeless