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Taking A Look Back At 2016s Top Stories
First Half Highlights
The nominees for Youth of the Year awaited the announcement of the winner at a January 2016 awards dinner and ceremony at the Community Center. From left are Tim Brown, Valleri Gobel, Eli Vernon, Nathaniel Martinez and Mikala Stewart. Vernon took home the honor. Ric McGinnis/The News

Looking back at 2016 in the City of Action there were a lot of different things going on including some crime, contract negotiations between the Riverbank Unified School District and the teachers, meetings to change the watering schedule, opening of the IMAX, and so much more. The News takes a look back at some of the headlines that hit the front page for the first six months of 2016. Next week, look for a recap of the year’s second half.



Crime is year round and it began on Sunday, Jan. 3, when deputies responded to a neighborhood disturbance call in the 2500 block of Promenade Way where an 18-year-old had brandished a large kitchen knife towards neighbors. The knife was located and the teen was arrested and booked into jail for brandishing a weapon.

The Riverbank Unified School District sent a letter to parents and guardians to inform them about the new law that began on Jan. 1 known as SB 277. That law states exemptions based on personal beliefs, including religious beliefs, will no longer be an option for the vaccines that are currently required for entry into child care or school in California.

All the nominees deserved credit, officials said, but only one in each category received the honor for 2015. Eli Vernon, Diane Talbert and Galaxy Theatres took top honors during the evening banquet and ceremony. The Business of the Year honor was presented by newly-elected Chamber of Commerce president Anthony McKinney, who was also nominated as Citizen of the Year.

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s detectives in Riverbank are pursuing information regarding a man found dead in a canal on Sunday, Jan. 10 around 4 p.m. On Jan. 15, the Stanislaus County Coroner’s Office identified the man as Moises Sanchez, 33, of Riverbank. At the time, sheriff’s officials said there were no signs of foul play. The cause of death is not being disclosed pending toxicology results.

At a City Council meeting the watering schedule was added to the agenda. The idea was to get the item on the agenda to start the conversation about possibly changing the hours that watering is allowed and receive feedback from the council members.

The Riverbank Teachers Association (RTA) members made their presence known on the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 19 when they gathered at Pizza Plus in Riverbank to discuss their plan of action for negotiations with the Riverbank Unified School District.

With a unanimous roll call vote of five to zero, the City Council of Riverbank elected to ban the outdoor cultivation of marijuana and marijuana dispensaries in the city.



Winter Homecoming 2016’s theme was “Bruins of Oz … there is no place like homecoming.” Chosen as the Homecoming Queen was Darlene Albor while Eli Vernon – taking a break from his work on the court for basketball – was presented with the King’s crown.

Tucked away between Homecoming Week activities on the Riverbank High School campus, a diverse group of RHS students were recognized for their scholastic abilities and inducted into the National Honor Society.

The Riverbank Teachers Association (RTA) was in negotiations with Riverbank Unified School District and at a school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2 a major topic was the 2015-16 Budget.

A Riverbank mother’s suspicion of items discovered in her son’s bedroom led not only to the 17-year-old’s arrest for possession of stolen property but also led officers to his involvement in a Modesto carjacking from the previous day.

Access to the Stanislaus River through the city’s River Cove neighborhood has been a cause for concern of the River Cove residents for the past few years and city officials are reviewing options for dealing with these concerns.

Bringing awareness of the dangers of tobacco to the students at Adelante High School took precedence at an assembly on Friday at the campus where the leadership class led by Advisor Kristi Santos had an informative afternoon planned.

Freedom Smog had only been opened for a couple of months on Patterson Road in Riverbank when owner Cristina Portillo made a plea to the community for any information helping to facilitate the return of Challenge Coins that were stolen from a glass case in her shop in the beginning of the month.



The lobby of the Galaxy theatre was filled with more than movie goers on Wednesday, Feb. 24 as members of the community gathered to hear Mayor Richard O’Brien’s 2016 State of the City address.

Cardozo Middle School’s Color Guard group claimed a couple of first place honors. Captains Evalina Carrillo and Yvette Tlatepa were really excited along with their teammates. Band Director, Color Guard Coach Dave Howard led his group of 17 seventh and eighth graders to first place wins at two competitions in the month of February.

The Riverbank Teachers Association (RTA) and the Riverbank Unified School District have not been able to come to an agreement on the teacher contracts for a salary increase for the 2015-16 school year.

March is a National Month of Reading and for the last four years Riverbank After School programs and school day efforts have collaborated to create a month filled with events to engage students in reading challenges and activities that encourage literacy.

While in the area on Wednesday, March 10, US Representative Jeff Denham stopped by The News office to discuss recent subjects that have been part of his focus this legislative year. Two issues, both introduced by the congressman, the Federal Asset Sale and Transfer (FAST) Act of 2016 and the Save Our Salmon (SOS) Act of 2016 were topics of the conversation.

Riverbank High School junior Andres Mora won second place in the Congressional Art competition that was open to all students in the 10th District with his original artwork, “Still life of Shell.”

The IMAX grand opening is finally upon us. For the movie goers that have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the IMAX the wait is over. Thursday, March 24 there is a special screening of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Team after team of baseball and softball players, coaches and families marched from the Riverbank Community Center downtown, along Eighth Street and on to Castleberg Park on Saturday morning. The occasion: Opening Day ceremonies for the 2016 season in Riverbank.

Riverbank High School students committed to help raise funds for the LLS with the Pennies for Patients campaign.



To enhance public safety on the streets of Riverbank, Police Chief Erin Kiely presented three options for surveillance video camera systems throughout the city to council members at a recent session which led to the Safe-Cam Program.

A presentation at Riverbank City Hall indicated that residents are interested in bringing a dog park facility to the City of Action. A community forum organized by Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick gathered last week to explore what it would take to create a pet playground somewhere in the city.

The Military Challenge Coins that were stolen from Freedom Smog in February were returned this past week. On Feb. 24 a story featured in The News was about local business Freedom Smog, which had been the victim of theft only a few months after opening on Patterson Road.

Sunny skies and temperatures peaking at about 80 degrees will greet the teams participating in the Relay For Life of Riverbank, set for this Saturday, April 16 at Riverbank High School, 6200 Claus Road.

The parking lot of the Del Rio was filled with a variety of chairs, tables, and other items that were for sale prepping the iconic Del Rio for the future.

The sunshine and the billowing white clouds along with temperatures in the upper 70’s was the perfect weather on Saturday for a day filled with giving back. The annual Love Riverbank event was in full effect with several volunteers hitting the streets to beautify their city.



The Third Annual Royal Neighbors Tea Party was held at the Community Center in Riverbank to raise funds for the annual Veterans’ lunch. The theme for the Tea Party this year was from Alice in Wonderland called the Mad Hatter Tea Party. With over 86 guests at the tea party with their festive hats, those gathered at the April 30 event enjoyed socializing, dining, and of course, drinking tea.

On Friday, April 29 two Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) Administrators were honored at a special awards ceremony by the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) for the Region VII Spring Conference.

The Slammies were hosted at Brenden Theatres in Modesto this past week where Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) recognized the PHAST (Protecting Health And Slamming Tobacco) chapter of the year, member of the year and advisor of the year. Riverbank Unified School District Teacher and Leadership Advisor for Adelante High School Kristi Santos walked the red carpet that night to receive the award for Advisor of the Year.

The Reel Life Film Festival was hosted on Wednesday, May 4 at the historic State Theatre in Modesto where students from Mesa Verde Elementary, California Avenue Elementary, and Riverbank Language Academy were award winners in all three categories of the film festival, making Riverbank the only school district to take honors at all levels.

The California Junior Scholarship Federation (CJSF) club organized a collection at Cardozo Middle School for the past three weeks for Operation Refugee Child (ORC).

In a letter being delivered to residents in the Riverbank Unified School District, teachers unhappy with the status of the current contract negotiations are taking their case to the public.

The RHS Class of 2016 has four Valedictorians this year: Elijah Hunter Vernon, Ashley Ailyn Murillo Delgado, Sara Tapia and Kathryn Linnea Searway, and one Salutatorian, Emmanuel Chavez Maravilla.

Sunny skies and summer-like temperatures predicted for today, May 18 will greet attendees at the first of the season Riverbank Certified Farmers’ Market.

The City of Riverbank will honor those men and women who died while serving their country with a special ceremony at the Memorial Wall in front of the Community Center on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30.

Nearly 190 awards were presented to 64 seniors in the Class of 2016. Some received a few, some received many awards, presented by teachers, administrators, representatives from the military and from civic organizations. Some were awarded for their grades, others for their community spirit and others in memory of family members or educators who have passed on.

The California School Employees Association (CSEA), Chapter 31 has accepted a tentative agreement with the Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD). The two groups have been in negotiations since the fall of 2015.



An early morning crash on Claus Road outside Riverbank claimed the life of a 40-year-old Oakdale woman.

Members of the Class of 2016 at Riverbank High School took their first step into the future this past week as they walked the processional then the recessional at graduation exercises on campus. The former high school students turned graduates then left the Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium on Thursday, May 26 greeted by family and friends helping them celebrate the completion of four years of study and hard work.

Another school year recently came to a close and this year, so did the teaching career of Building Construction teacher Al Scoles. He has been teaching at Riverbank High School (RHS) for the past 11 years and has made several strong relationships along the way with students, faculty, administrators, janitors and food service personnel.

Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien, himself a retired veteran of the U.S. Navy, led a Memorial Day “Salute to Our Fallen Heroes” on Monday, May 30 at the Veterans Memorial Wall in front of the Community Center in downtown Riverbank.

With temperatures reaching the high 90s and in some cases peaking in the low 100s over the last week and summer just beginning, the City of Riverbank is offering residents a few different places to get out of the heat.

The Riverbank Community Pool was closed due to a final day of training for the lifeguards that will be keeping swimmers safe in Riverbank. Sue Fitzpatrick, Director of Parks and Recreation, expressed that the lifeguards go through a lot of training prior to employment with the department.

Residents of Riverbank were inconvenienced in several areas around town when several streets in both commercial and residential areas were blocked off for road work over the past week.

A few classic cars spilled over from the week-long local cruise celebration in nearby Modesto to make a stop at the Farmers Market in downtown Riverbank on Wednesday.

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s detectives were busy over the weekend investigating a Saturday night, June 18 homicide in the city of Riverbank.

Riverbank City Council members have approved a resolution 5 to 0 to allow a food truck to operate at Jacob Myers Park. Director of Parks and Recreation, Sue Fitzpatrick explained that the Friends of Jacob Myers Park have been putting the idea for a food truck at the park in the agenda of almost every meeting they have had. So she wanted to make sure that the council is in agreement with this proposal so they can move forward.

For the third year in a row the City of Riverbank’s Park and Recreation Department offered a Hip Hop Camp to youngsters between the ages of 6 and 12 in a week long camp to learn some hip hop dance moves for beginners.

The students in grades nine through 12 at Riverbank High School (RHS) will be privy to a rollout of one-to-one technology for the new 2016-17 school year.