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2011 Predictions Hopeful For City Of Action
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Having listed some City of Riverbank achievements for 2010 in the Jan. 12 issue of The News, City Manager Rich Holmer gazed into his crystal ball and took the risk of making some predictions for 2011.

"We're going to see more regionalization, with agencies putting aside their egos and learning to work together," he said. "We will be looking at it in public safety services. Does it make sense, for instance, to return to having our own police department or Riverbank forming a joint powers agency with Oakdale, Escalon, perhaps Hughson and Waterford too for police protection? We will become leaner, more efficient organizations."

The move to a leaner payroll has already begun. City staff has dropped 13 percent in three years, Holmer noted, from 61 in 2007 to 53 today including the police.

Volunteers will become more important. The city used to have an employee go around town every Monday morning taking down the yard sign sales accumulated over the weekend. Now the city cannot afford that employee's time. But a citizen has volunteered to continue the work, noted Holmer, and that is much appreciated. Volunteerism will become vital to all agencies ranging from the city to the school district, chamber of commerce and local service groups.

In terms of roads and infrastructure, Holmer said he expects to see traffic signals go up at Oakdale and Morrill road at an intersection that becomes very congested when the sports complex is in use. The First and Atchison Street corner needs work as well.

"The one thing we must do, if nothing else, is test the trestle and sewer pipe crossing the river for seismic safety," he said.

He is optimistic about the future of the now vacant Del Rio Theater (at Atchison and Third streets) whether the city can sell it for a hotel or turn it to some other use. He also hopes to see the former MCI building, near Oakdale and Patterson that has stood empty for three years reoccupied by the end of the year.

The city will take over control of the former Army base, probably in June, A plastics recycler out of Denver is the latest company to show interest in moving there. This company would not only be a tenant but has offered the free use of its marketing division to promote the whole industrial park.

Among civic activities, the city manager proposes the Christmas parade, crafts fair and tree lighting occur together all on one day, Beyond Earth Day be continued and the city keep trying to draw restaurants to the downtown. Atchison Street and Patterson Road carry a lot of traffic and both the Del Rio Theater and MCI building have desirable sites along that state highway.

Community gardens have proven very popular and the city expects to see more developed, especially one on Prospectors Parkway next to Crossroads School, whose students could help maintain the garden.

The city hopes to bring back the program to pick up bulky items like discarded couches and household appliances that now frequently end up littering some alley. Officials are negotiating a price with Gilton Waste Disposal Company to reinstitute this program.

The Riverbank Oakdale Transit Authority continues to operate its buses and the city is expecting with more riders it can reach the 10 percent of the fare box figure it needs to justify continued state financial support. The new transportation company Storer has a marketing arm that can help at no cost to ROTA.

Galaxy Theatre is thriving following facility improvements and its patronage continues to climb. Its market share figure rose from 22 percent in October to almost 27 percent in December, meaning one out of every four theatergoers in the Modesto area chose to see a movie at the Galaxy Theatre.

The Teen Center is almost complete and due to open in late February. Officials and youth are shopping for furniture now.

"It is very modern and real neat in design. It should attract the teens," Holmer said of the new building adjacent to the Community Center.

New buildings at the city corporation yard will be finished this year. They include a compressed natural gas refueling center, a vehicle maintenance and repair shop and a break room for public works employees who will move back from temporary rented quarters on Talbot Avenue.

"I am positive, optimistic about this year although the budget will be very tight. Our main purpose is to ensure residents continue to receive as high a quality of service as we can provide," Holmer concluded.