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State Of City: Future Is Bright For Riverbank
Mayor O'Brien
Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien addresses citizens at last Thursday’s State of the City presentation. It was held at the Community Center and included a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his talk. O’Brien reviewed the city's accomplishments over the past year, as well as providing a peek at developments planned for the near future. Ric McGinnis/The News
Trudy Jewell
Riverbank Pastor Trudy Jewell of New Life Community Church leads the assembly in an opening prayer at last week’s State of the City presentation by Mayor Richard D. O’Brien. Ric McGinnis/The News

Mayor Richard D. O’Brien presented his eighth State of the City Address on Thursday, March 5 at the Riverbank Community Center. There were several people in attendance including city council members, city staff, government officials, and residents. Some of the key topics that were addressed were the Riverbank Industrial Complex, water meters, Crossroads West, homelessness, and some of the projects that have been completed.

“The turnout was very good but I would like to see more residents here,” stated O’Brien after the speech. “Most importantly I want the community to know that we are working very hard to get the industrial complex turned over. That is needed and that is why I highlighted it first.”

Boy Scouts Troop 11 and Pack 10 presented the colors and led the Pledge of Allegiance. New Life Community Church Pastor Trudy Jewell led the guests in prayer and then City Manager Sean Scully welcomed everyone and introduced Mayor O’Brien.

O’Brien began his speech giving thanks to people that make a difference in the city including residents, Authority Members, Planning Commissioners, Fire Board Directors, Advisory Committee, and the representatives of various groups.

“I would like to start my acknowledgements with something that I have never said in the State of the City, or publicly and it is long overdue,” expressed O’Brien. “I wish to give a special thanks to my wife Christy, for her perseverance and support. She is my compass and my mainstay. Thank you.”

Through the collective efforts of the city council he mentioned that they are having a great 2020 that will continue into the future. He encouraged area high schools to develop a youth council to advise the city and develop the future.

He said, “This is not an idle statement, Generation Z has already taken us to task on gun violence, climate, and socioeconomics – I challenge them to help build their future.”

The Riverbank Industrial Complex has been close to the completion of the transfer to the city over the last six years but is still property of the US Army.

“I can tell you, that it seems we are no closer today, than we were six years ago,” said O’Brien. “It looks like the transfer may come in 2021 for a variety of reasons. We will continue to support building local business and fostering economic development at the IC. However, we must do it with a different business model.”

There has been a lot of red tape and combined efforts to make the transfer happen including help from Senator Galgiani’s office that have asked the Governor’s office for help. The Department of Toxic Substance Control and CA EPA are supportive of the project. They had 24 acres transferred in 2017 and had high hopes the RIC transfer would occur in 2018. With that thought in mind they pursued Aemetis Master Developer and planned to transfer the complex to them in 2019. With a trip planned to Washington, DC later this month or possibly in April O’Brien plans to speak with Secretary Cramer to try to push the transfer forward for this year.

“Our Master Developer, Aemetis, will be investing an initial $200M for a biofuels/ethanol plant with additional $400M investment in the future once certainty is attained in property ownership,” he added. “We have Melissa Holdaway and Michael Riddell who have successfully leased out 80 percent of covered space over 100 good paying jobs and are looking to expand additional lease options. Cary Pope has provided his commercial development expertise, mentorship, and most importantly his contacts that makes all this possible.”

The Crossroads West specific plan has been completed and approved. O’Brien stated that the retail in Crossroads West will complement the existing shopping center and continue to attract businesses and thrive.

The plans for affordable housing, financial stability, possibility of property tax sharing with the county, and Cannabis Dispensaries bringing in revenue; there was a lot for the Mayor to share with the community.

Regarding some of the projects that have been completed the Mayor shared that under the direction of Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick the Community Center has been renovated. The City also now has a new Dog Park at Jacob Myers Park and new events.

“As we move forward, we will continue to be vigilant and defend our rights as a community from the State placing undue burden that does not provide a clear benefit to this community,” he said. “We will continue to provide the best in our parks and activities for our youth to enjoy so they can grow in a safe environment. We will seek funding to improve existing facilities.”

“I was really happy with it (the turnout),” added Scully. “Anytime we pretty much have a full house on a Thursday night it is pretty cool. It is nice that people take the time to just come out, listen hear about what we are doing.”

Although the topics regarding the city business are serious the Mayor was able to add a little lightness after going off script a couple times and engaging the audience in some laughter. He writes his own speeches with a little editing from staff.

“I think it was well received,” said O’Brien regarding his speech. “I was comfortable giving it. In the end this could be my swan song but I don’t know. We will see what happens.”

At the mayor’s State of the City presentation at the Community Center, participants were able to view displays showing maps of the latest version of the North County Corridor project, as well as proposed development coming to Crossroads West, west of Oakdale Road at Claribel. Ric McGinnis/The News