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Year in review
2011 sees celebrations, heralds changes
Carnegie pic1
The Carnegie Arts Center holds its long-awaited reopening in September. - photo by Journal file photo

New beginnings

Six years of planning, fundraising, lobbying and hoping came to fruition in September when the Carnegie Arts Center reopened with a grand affair.

The newly rebuilt Carnegie features gallery and retail spaces, a multi-use facility, classrooms, an open-air plaza, patio and stage.

The design also incorporates some of the salvaged material from the original structure.

The original Carnegie building was opened in 1916 and served for decades as the town’s library. It was one of a thousand structures built with funds donated by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. In 1982 it was established as the city’s art center and, while undergoing some minor renovations in 2005, it was set ablaze by two burglars trying to cover up their theft of computers and other items from the site.

From the onset there was a vocal rallying cry to rebuild the Carnegie, but the progress toward a new development suffered setbacks when funding became scarce and past city leaders questioned whether an arts center could financial sustain itself during lean economic times.

“It has certainly been a very challenging task,” Executive Director and Curator Rebecca Phillips Abbott said of the process behind reopening the Carnegie, “but also a very rewarding one.”

Sitting adjacent to the Carnegie is the site of the city’s new Public Safety Facility, currently under construction. A groundbreaking ceremony for the 57,570 square foot new home for Turlock’s police and fire departments was held in March.

“This is an event that occurs once every 50 to 60 years in a community,” said Police Chief Gary Hampton at the March 20 groundbreaking.

The new facility is expected to serve Turlock for 50 to 100 years.

Also celebrating a grand opening in 2011 was the Turlock Unified School District with its eCademy Charter at Crane. The district’s new charter school is located at the former site of Crane School and has a focus on technology. Every student at the eCademy is given a laptop and most of the courses offered by the school take place online.

In November the City Council made the decision to turn Turlock’s Youth Center into the city’s first homeless day center.

The center, to be operated by local non-profit Turlock Gospel Mission, will be open seven days a week year-round, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. In addition to providing a “full spectrum” of support services – from substance abuse treatment to job hunt help – the center will provide homeless people a much needed place to go during the day. Turlock currently has only evening shelters, operating only in winter months.

As the site will provide the homeless with a place to be during the day, it will also allow Turlock Police to enforce loitering laws if the agency so chooses. Previously, the homeless could not be prohibited from loitering during the day as it was a crime of necessity.

For local football fans, 2011 was a banner year. This was the year that a hometown athlete was drafted to the San Francisco 49ers. In April, Pitman High grad Colin Kaepernick had his dream become reality when the 49ers selected him in the second round of the NFL Draft.

In an amazing coincidence, Kaepernick had actually predicted the moment when he was a fourth grader at Dutcher Elementary School. In Bret Sutterley’s class, he was asked to write down expectations he had for his future self. One predication stood out: To “play on the niners or the packers even if they aren’t good.”

“It’s kind of crazy that things worked out this way,” Kaepernick said, taking a breather inside his parents’ home in Turlock from the aftermath of being drafted. “I actually forgot about (the letter). For things to work out the way it did, it’s amazing.”


Centennial, community celebrations

Both Hilmar High School and the Stanislaus County Fair celebrated 100 years of history in 2011.

What began as the Melon Carnival in 1911 has grown to be the 38th District Agricultural Association, which culminates its year in July with a 10-day event that brings the best of local ag and homemade arts together with a large dose of fried food and fun. The fair brought history to life in 2011 with its Centennial Time Tunnel and a focus on local agriculture through the decades.

Hilmar celebrated its high school’s centennial in October with a homecoming parade, a lifetime commemorative postmark to honor the HHS 100th graduating class, a Green and Gold formal dinner and a mobile museum known as the Tumbleweed, staffed by the Hilmar-Irwin-Stevinson Historical Society.

While communities across the Valley have been struggling, the City of Hughson saw somewhat of a revival in 2011.

The city gained control over its budget; there were efforts to reinstate the Hughson Chamber of Commerce, an organization that disbanded in 2008; and the city partnered with Stanislaus Alliance to bring a business incubator to town.

Probably the biggest indicator that the residents of Hughson were trying their best to bring back community pride was the return of the Hughson Fruit and Nut Festival — which was renamed the Hughson Harvest Festival — in September.


Police chief, city clerk say farewell

Turlock Police Chief Gary Hampton and City Clerk Rhonda Greenlee both resigned in 2011.

Hampton took over the helm of the Turlock Police Department in 2006, and gave the city a five-year commitment. Under Hampton’s leadership the Turlock Police Department enacted new street crime and narcotics units, broke ground on a new public safety facility and reduced major crimes in the city by 20 percent over the last three years.

“I have accomplished all the objectives and goals I set out to do and can walk out the door with my head held high,” Hampton said.

Hampton’s resignation took effect July 31.

“Gary Hampton has been one of the finest police chiefs in Turlock’s history and we will miss him dearly,” said Turlock Mayor John Lazar in July. “Turlock is a safer place because of Gary Hampton.”

Greenlee worked for the City of Turlock since 1991, and her retirement was effective on Thursday. A reception was held at City Hall in Greenlee’s honor on Dec. 12.

Greenlee was also recognized by the City Clerks Association of California for her service on the central division board. She served as treasurer from 2002 to 2010. She attained the highest certification that a city clerk can receive in California.

Greenlee presided over the swearing-in of her replacement, former Deputy City Clerk Kellie Weaver, at the meeting. Weaver took the oath on Dec. 12, but had been serving in the capacity of city clerk for several months.


Year of endings

This year marked the end of an election system, Turlock’s only parent resource organization and the city’s redevelopment agency.

November marked the last at-large elections for the Turlock Unified School District. Beginning with the next election — in 2013 — candidates for the school board will be elected by district area. This change was made in response to the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and subsequent litigation. The CVRA mandates that districts which use at-large election processes can be sued if voting patterns show that minority groups are unfairly being left out of elected positions. Most recently, in May 2009, the Ceres Unified School District was threatened with CVRA litigation.

“We are going to comply with the law and we are going to do it right. We want to be proactive and make sure we don’t have to deal with unnecessary litigation fees,” said Trustee Frank Lima in June. “This is a good law, but we have to be careful we don’t create a situation in which trustees will only be concerned with their own district and neighborhood instead of the overall well-being on the entire school district.”

In October, lack of funding saw the close of the Turlock Family Network — a resource for young mothers and fathers, many of whom come from abusive backgrounds or are recovering from drug and alcohol addictions. The network provided parenting skills through a variety of programs including prenatal classes, weekly parenting classes and an in-home mentoring program.

As of Oct. 31 those young families had to find somewhere else to get the parenting skills needed to stop the cycle of abuse.

“We just can’t find any funding,” said TFN Director Beverly Spielman in October.

Private nonprofits weren’t the only organizations looking at closure in 2011.

A California Supreme Court decision this week allowing the state to kill cities’ redevelopment agencies will have severe impacts in Turlock — and cities across the state.

Without a redevelopment agency, Turlock will  likely have to abandon the second phase of the planned Avena Bella affordable housing project, effectively throwing away the $1.2 million already spent on the project for land acquisition and pre-development. Two proposed “job-creating projects,” offering almost 300 jobs in total, may be halted as well, as the companies may not relocate to Turlock without RDA assistance.

Eliminating the RDA will also curtail or halt graffiti abatement and code enforcement activities, which are currently funded by RDA dollars. As many as seven positions across Turlock could be eliminated, and as much as $500,000 in costs could be shifted to Turlock’s cash-strapped general fund budget.

 “Proposition 22 (a constitutional amendment which explicitly prohibits ‘seizing, diverting, shifting, borrowing, transferring, suspending, or otherwise taking or interfering with’ revenue dedicated to local government, including redevelopment dollars) couldn’t be more clear,” Turlock Mayor John Lazar said in July at a rally for redevelopment agencies. “But the politicians in Sacramento aren’t listening.”

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.