The mood in the packed Council Chambers for much of Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was upbeat, as the body made its way through a proclamation and a couple of presentations.

The audience included a number of high school performing arts students, along with several high school teachers, PJUSD Superintendent Phil Alfano, Ed., and Assistant Superintendent Jeff Menge.

Bragdon named Hometown Hero

Longtime Patterson Irrigator Manager Marybeth Bragdon received a Hometown Hero award. Bragdon is noted for her efforts in the community, and currently serves as president of the Patterson-Westley Chamber of Commerce. Fellow board member Naomi Jacobsen credited her with being “a critical force behind the resurgence of the Chamber.”

Stanislaus Animal Services Agency Annual Report

The agency’s Executive Director, Annette Patton, gave a report detailing the various approaches the agency’s staff have used to reduce the number of animals euthanized. The agency has reached the point where 90 percent of the dogs taken in are released alive, technically qualifying it as a “no kill” shelter, although the board of directors has not elected to seek such status officially, Patton said. She emphasized that the statistic is not adjusted in any way. “Noses in, noses out,” Patton said, “90 percent of dogs are released alive.”

The situation is a little different with cats, she said, partly because of overpopulation, but also because state law does not allow the shelter to accept kittens that have not yet been weaned.

A program now allows un-weaned kittens to be adopted, which has led to an improvement in the live release rate for cats. The current release rate is 71 percent, she said.

Performing arts center

The high school students in the audience were there for the performing arts center presentation, given by Dr. Alfano and Menge. The current auditorium, which Alfano emphasized will not be torn down, is functional, but no longer adequate, and cannot be reasonably modified to meet today’s needs. “We need a 21st century facility,” he said. IMG_9605.JPG

When Alfano unveiled the design of the new, state-of-the-art theatre facility, which he called in an earlier interview “the most exciting (construction) project in a while,” there were audible gasps from the performing arts students in the audience. Alfano was pleased.

The photos were of the two-year-old facility in nearby Mountain House. The district will be using virtually the same plans, which have already been approved by the Office of the State Architect, Alfano said.

Menge said the Mountain House facility, which seats about 550, is now in its second year and open to the public. It has opened to the public in its second year, and Menge said it’s booked for almost the entire year.

“But ours will be bigger,” Menge said, with seating for 610 to 640 people.

Menge described the facility, which will have a “black box theatre” – a room that can accommodate “an entire stage set,” including props, which allows the main stage to remain available. The site will have three classroom spaces: a drama room, band room, and “to be decided.” There will be two dressing rooms (a luxury students do not currently enjoy), a lobby and a set construction area.

Menge said the facility will be “built from the ground up to be a theatre,” with input from acoustical and lighting engineers, and will include a state-of-the-art performance area. The district hopes to start construction by the end of the calendar year, and, once started, finish the project in 18 months. “We’re really excited to move forward with this,” Menge said.

A number of students, clearly excited by the project, addressed the council in support. Most credited participating in the performing arts for increases in their self-confidence levels; one or two also said it kept them out of trouble.

Councilmember Dominic Farinha, who toured several facilities with school board members and staff, said he was excited about the project, which “will work quite seamlessly with new centennial park.”

Mayor Deborah Novelli said she’s “so excited about this project,” pointing out that “a lot of people put work into it to get to this point. My five children really benefited from being in performing arts,” she said.

The project, for which $13.5 million has been earmarked, will be located in the newly-renamed Centennial Park, the triangular-shaped piece of land the city and the school district recently purchased, and funded with money from Measure V, passed by voters in 2018.

Development Agreement amendment

Also on the agenda was an amendment to the Development Agreement (DA) for the Keystone area. Most DAs don’t have a sunset, Community Development Director David James said, but the original DA for the Keystone Business Park did. That expiration date has been updated to February 8, 2035. The development has been successful, Keystone representative Keith Schneider said, and the extension will allow property owners to sell the remaining 10 percent.

Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER)

The city created a “master infrastructure plan” for what the report refers to as “our income target area,” for which Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds can be used.

The CAPER, which provides the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) with information on the general progress made by the city during the last year toward meeting its goals, as well as compliance with HUD guidelines.

The report indicates the city is currently accumulating funds for the C Street and D Street Infrastructure Project, which will consist of a water main replacement, along with installation of curb, gutter, storm drain, sidewalks and street repaving.

Water, sewer and storm drain impact fees

This item was brought back from the council meeting on June 4, during which councilmembers requested additional information as to why some of the numbers had been reduced – a few, significantly.

City Manager Ken Irwin explained that the fees the city charges “must be reasonably related” to the cost of providing the service; in this case, connection to city services for new development. The fees are effective in the area currently being considered for annexation, as well as future developments.

A change from surface water to groundwater, along with changes in the way the city manages stormwater, and applying water treatment at city wells instead of decentralized treatment necessitated the changes.

A citizen expressed concern over water in general, and where the water for new development will come from. Mayor Novelli responded that the city is “monitored and regulated, and we do testing, and publish reports – there are so many levels of accountability.”

The proposed private reservoir in Del Puerto Canyon, if approved, “will increase groundwater recharge,” Irwin said. “Water’s not rushing by and going out to the river and then going to the delta,” Irwin said, “at a slower rate, it is able to penetrate the surface,” and help recharge groundwater.

Stanislaus Homeless Alliance

Irwin reported “a lot of good progress; a lot of newer facilities opening at different levels: transitioning, mental health, and our own Naomi’s. Now that we’re getting infrastructure money,” he said, “how do we keep it running. So we’ve requested staff to bring back funding strategies for Naomi’s house. To function as a real transitional home, it’d (the cost would) be close to a half-million a year.” Irwin said that the City of Riverbank is also talking to Dr. Geni Boyer, who founded Cambridge Academies, which now runs the Project ReStart program at H.O.S.T. House.

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