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The July 16 City Council meeting, which turned out to be just over three hours long, started off on a confrontational note, when Patterson resident Monica Della Maggiore confronted the group and demanded during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting that councilmember Cynthia Homen resign. Della Maggiore referred to the situation as “a black mark on the City Council.”

A second citizen, Mia Mendes, also addressed the group on the topic.

In an emailed response Tuesday morning, City Manager Ken Irwin said, “At this time, this is being treating as a private matter. Pursuant to Section 1770 of the Government Code, the seat will become vacant if the Councilmember is convicted of a felony.”

Mendes also addressed a common concern in the community: illegal fireworks. During a recent discussion on the topic, Patterson Police Chief Marc Nuno acknowledged the challenge his department faces: they can’t be everywhere at once, and generally by the time they arrive, the perpetrators, along with the evidence, have disappeared. He suggested doing what so many of us do when confronted with anything of interest, and videotaping the perpetrators – as long as it can be done safely. His department will be able to work with such photographic evidence, he said.

Two proclamations were read: Take Your Sisters 2 Lunch, and National Health Center Week, August 4 through 10, 2019. The former, which started with a group of grandmothers in 1972, focuses on strengthening women and girls, and plans to be active locally.

Measure L Update

Retired physician and former Councilmember Dr. Pete LaTorre, who represents Patterson on the Measure L Oversight Committee, presented the results of the one-year audit of local government’s handling of the new sales tax revenue. LaTorre provided copies of his handwritten, extremely-detailed report for the audience, as well as councilmembers.

The goals of the oversight committee, LaTorre said, are to be sure the Measure L funds are being spent properly, while local governments also continue to invest their own funds in road repairs. StanCOG has made changes as the oversight committee has requested, LaTorre said.

Measure L, which authorized a 0.5 percent local sales tax for 25 years, to improve roads and pedestrian areas, was passed by Stanislaus County voters in 2016. The tax went into effect in April, 2017. The funds are collected by the State Board of Equalization, which keeps a five percent management fee. The remainder is forwarded to the Stanislaus County Council of Governments (StanCOG), which distributes the funds among the nine cities, along with Stanislaus County, who make up its membership. StanCOG also keeps a one percent management fee. Such fees are typically used to cover costs for services such as accounting and related reports. The percentage each of the government entities receives was calculated based on population, and is not subject to change.

LaTorre aptly described StanCOG as a council of governments that includes all nine cities in the county, as well as representatives from Stanislaus County, who “sit and talk over city-county problems.”

The audit found all cities and the county in compliance, LaTorre said. The government agencies are required to continue to fund road repairs from their own coffers, and may not spend Measure L funds without spending their own as they have in the past. The city has already put the additional revenue to work, undertaking slurry seal and other road maintenance projects since the revenue began coming in in June.

The measure has been bringing in more revenue than projected, LaTorre said.

LaTorre also pointed out that “Measure L will help fund larger projects such as the interchange on Sperry Avenue, and we can apply for matching federal and state grants, because we have matching money.”

“The process is running well, and the money is being carefully and properly spent,” LaTorre concluded.

Mayor Novelli acknowledged the presentation and LaTorre’s service on the committee, which she described as “a huge undertaking.” Citing the complexity of the data, she said, “I just want to thank you… you didn’t miss a beat.”

Novelli also took advantage of the opportunity to tacitly recognize LaTorre’s many years of behind-the-scenes efforts on behalf of the community. No one who knows him would have been surprised that LaTorre, who was the inspiration for city’s Hometown Hero award and the first recipient in 2009, immediately passed the praise to the staff at StanCOG, even stopping to look through his notes for individual names.

Novelli persevered: “You continue to be humble, but you show up, you go to the meetings, and you represent your community well, so, I’m gonna get the last word on that,” she said, laughing.

Councilmember Dennis McCord also used his comment opportunity to recognize the community volunteer’s efforts over many years. “Thank you, Dr. LaTorre, for everything you do. One of the secrets of the community is how strong you are,” he said, “and how everything works because you’re there, and,” he added, with emphasis, “nobody knows it.”

Councilmember Dominic Farinha said he “tag teams” with the mayor at StanCOG meetings, and added that “a lot of people don’t realize the breadth of technical knowledge” required to “come back with a cogent report.”

City Manager Ken Irwin, given a chance to weigh in, praised city staff for their efforts in “following our pavement management program, and making sure that they’re accountable. It’s worked out very well even though you don’t see a lot of things happening,” he said, “because the work has been one street at a time.” He said that the Measure L revenue is being spent wisely, adding that by applying for grants, the city has “leveraged that money for a lot more money” for upcoming road maintenance projects.

“Centennial Park” update

The “triangle” property purchased jointly by the City of Patterson and the school district was the subject of two agenda items: renaming the area Centennial Park, and a grant application for the development of a park on part of the property. Both items passed. “The park is perfect for this grant,” Recreation and Community Services Director Juliene Flanders said.

Wayfinding and branding by signage initiative

In an effort to attract traffic further into town from I-5 and Highway 33, the city has been working toward creating a signage program. The proposed signs would include both digital and “monument” styles. The council approved a contract and scope of work for Graphic Solutions.

Urban Forest Master Plan

As part of the Urban Forest Master Plan, the replacement of diseased Canary Island palm trees on Sperry Avenue was discussed. Urban Forestry Supervisor                      Jimmy Perez presented the council with several options for replacing the trees, many of which are diseased or have died. Perez recommended a plan to substitute a wilt-resistant date palm variety. Another option, though clearly unpopular, is to substitute deciduous trees for the current palms. After a lengthy discussion on the topic, during which City Manager Ken Irwin pointed out that city staff have made “every effort to save these trees.”

The group ultimately adopted the Urban Forest Master Plan, and asked that the choice of replacement tree on Sperry Avenue be brought back to the next council meeting.

Economic Strategic Commission:

Four were appointed to the Economic Strategic Commission: new commissioners Jose Ibarra, Larry Buehner and Steve Faries join Rich Schiltz, who has been reappointed.

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