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Year in Review: 2013 brings economic progress, increasing concerns over water
walmart pic
Shoppers line up to check out at Turlock's newest grocery store, the Walmart Neighborhood Market, at the store's grand opening in August. - photo by Journal file photo


1. Brother kidnaps, rapes sister
The Merced County Sheriff's Department arrested 48-year-old Apolinar Cortez of Planada in January on allegations he kidnapped and raped his sister. Cortez was apprehended after his sister escaped from a shack where she had been held for more than a day.

2. Car drives into train; one dead
Alta Scott was driving eastbound on Olive Avenue in August when, for an unknown reason, she crossed over the railroad tracks, right into the path of an oncoming Union Pacific freight train.

3. Blue Diamond still searching for local workers
Four months after the grand opening of the Blue Diamond almond plant in Turlock, the multi- billion dollar company was still looking for local workers to fill a number of open positions in October.

4. Homeowner kills man on Turlock property
A man trespassing at a Turlock residence was fatally shot by the homeowner in July. The man sustained a gunshot wound to the head and was pronounced dead at the scene in the 1100 block of Dianne Drive.

5. Homicide on Main Street
Pardeep Singh, 21, of Turlock, and Kultar Singh Dhatt, 22, of Turlock, were arrested for murder in the death of a 21-year-old Amritpal Sandhu, of Modesto, whose bullet-riddled body was found slumped over the wheel of his car on Main Street on Nov. 6.

6. 100-year-old poker player refuses to fold
As with life, the game of poker incorporates skill, luck, and manipulating the cards you are dealt. No one understands this more than Henry Wadelski, who celebrated his 100th birthday amongst friends, family, and poker chips at the Turlock Poker Room in April.

7. Police nab six for burglary after call from concerned neighbor
A resident in the 2000 block of Roth Court in Turlock called the police to report a suspicious vehicle parked in a neighbor's driveway in August. That call led officers to a vehicle where they found stolen property including two rifles, a shotgun, a handgun, a wallet and cell phone, from two separate, unreported burglaries.

8. Turlock man killed in power line accident
David Edward Oliveira, 26, of Turlock and Christopher Geoffrey Breed, 27, of Moscow, Idaho, were killed in an accident in Martin County, Texas in August. Both men were attached to a cable that was suspended from a helicopter that was flying over a rural section of Texas to do line inspections. The men fell more than 100 feet to their death when the cable struck a power line, according to the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

9. Local teen finds success in Hollywood
For 18-year-old Leah Bateman, a Turlock native, the road to Hollywood has not been a short or easy one, but rather a journey that she has never given up on. Bateman started acting in Modesto's YES Company, and continued her career from there. She recently starred in the episode "Black Cadillac" on Showtime's popular series "Ray Donovan."

10. Police arrest Turlock grocer for child molestation
Turlock grocer Sadik Algharazi, 37, was arrested in April on allegations he molested a child over the span of several months.



It's always hard to look back at an entire year and sum it up in a few hundred words. While Turlock remains a "small town" in the eyes of most of its long-time residents, the truth is the city is the second largest in the county and an important agricultural engine for the region and country. There is no way to succinctly summarize all of 2013 (without inducing a post-holiday lethargy), so instead I have poured over the year's headlines and found two reoccurring issues —economic development and water.


Economic development

The City of Turlock got serious about economic development in 2013, creating a Mayor's Economic Task Force. The task force is made up of local business owners, marketing advisors, educators, and realtors who are focusing on making Turlock a prosperous community.

“This is a really exciting time,” said Assistant City Manager for Economic Development Maryn Pitt in July. “As we start to see our economy boom, we are poised and ready to take the next step."

The community has already seen the beginnings of economic recovery with the openings of both small and large businesses.

In March, Certified Laboratories held an open house for its new Turlock facility, giving the public an in-depth look at the microbiological and chemical laboratories used for food industry testing.

The long-awaited opening of Turlock's Blue Diamond almond processing plant was celebrated in June. Turlock was chosen for Blue Diamond’s expansion following an extensive 18 month search. The site rose to the top for myriad reasons, said Blue Diamond Chairman Clinton Shick: easy access to Highway 99, proximity to growers, and, most importantly, the pre-built infrastructure and shovel-ready ground in the Turlock Regional Industrial Park.

Blue Diamond’s 88-acre site near the intersection of N. Washington and Fulkerth Roads will eventually be home to about 500,000 square feet of buildings, following a 15-year growth plan.

Walmart Neighborhood Market opened in August, filling the 62,000 square foot site of the former Mervyn's that had sat vacant since 2009. According to store management, the market has created 95 new jobs in Turlock.

“We’re doing more and more ribbon cuttings throughout the Valley,” said Congressman Jeff Denham at the store's opening. “It’s exciting to see not only older buildings being revitalized, but new jobs being created at the same time.”

One of China’s top construction equipment producers opened its first North American branch in Turlock in October.

The company, Shangdong Lingong Construction Machinery Co., Ltd. – more commonly known as SDLG – has long been the largest exporter of construction equipment within China since its founding in 1972. In a continued effort to expand their product globally, the company has partnered with Volvo Construction Equipment and Services to open seven dual outlets in North America.

In late October, representatives from the company visited Turlock from China, joining together with Volvo Group representatives and Turlock city officials for the official ribbon cutting ceremony of the new outlet.

“This is the first dual store in North America – a real milestone for us,” said Alan Quinn, director of SDLG North America. “This is a reliable, sound machine that will be a great product for the agricultural industry here. It is great for local farmers who want an affordable price.”

The positive economic trend Turlock saw in 2013 is expected to continue, according to the most recent San Joaquin Valley Business Forecast Report published by Dr. Gke Soydemir, the Foster Farms endowed professor of business economics at California State University, Stanislaus.

Rising employment rates, and increasing consumer confidence and wealth are slowly bringing the Valley economy out of recession, according to Soydemir.



The year began with an epic battle: Farmers versus salmon. The State Water Board's proposal to divert water from the Tuolumne and Merced watershed to help the Chinook salmon received angry outbursts from local growers and Turlock Irrigation District directors.

Hundreds of concerned residents from the Central Valley made their presence known during the high-stakes State Water Resources Control Board hearing in April. Their message to the water board: farms are more important than fish.

“Our parents and grandparents mortgaged the farms we now inhabit to pay for the irrigation system that greened the San Joaquin Valley. Today we feed the world, and the economy of the entire state benefits. Before you propose to turn parts of it back to a brown fallowed barren land, the people deserve answers to the questions we have raised today. They deserve better,” said Turlock Irrigation District’s board chairman Michael Franz.

While farmers await final decisions about water flow, another issue took center stage: diminishing groundwater.

The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors opted to approve new groundwater mining and exportation regulations to help end the over drafting of the precious resource. With some exemptions, the County’s new ordinance prohibits the mining of groundwater within the unincorporated areas of the county and the export of water.

“We talk about how there’s not enough surface water in Stanislaus County, there’s not enough in Merced County, not enough in San Joaquin County, so everyone needs to ban together if we want to keep something good going,” said County Supervisor Vito Chiesa in November. “We need to make sure to protect our surface water rights and that is going to be critical. There is not enough surface water available for the farm expansions, for the municipality expansions all together. So we need to ban together and not fight for water.”

In the last City Council meeting of the year on Dec. 13, Turlock Municipal Services Director Michael Cooke shared with the council members that the City will be looking to water rate increases over the next five years – a turn that the City has been expecting for some time as groundwater continues to become scarcer.

According to Cooke, the City is looking to approve six rate increases over the span of five fiscal years for Turlock residents.