The continuing rains in the Riverbank area did not prevent citizens from turning out for the Mayor’s annual State of the City presentation last week.
The turnout appeared to be larger than recent editions of the event, with most seats filled in the Community Center on Thursday, March 9.
Mayor Richard D. O’Brien started by welcoming elected officials from nearby jurisdictions, including the mayors of Modesto and Ceres, and county supervisor, Buck Condit. He also introduced current Riverbank council members in attendance.
“It’s always a great honor and a pleasure to present the Riverbank State of the City," O’Brien began.
He proceeded to list the city’s achievements and goals, pointing out the many examples throughout the city. He said he hoped to represent the total body of work as “synergistic pieces to a puzzle that all fits together” for the community.
“Our council and staff have chosen to focus on the value of the work we get to do to serve this community, which, in the end, is the true essence of public service,” said O’Brien.
The mayor pointed out that, last year, the city celebrated 100 years since incorporation.
He noted that the Founder’s Day Carnival was a big hit with families and children and will be turned into an annual event. He also listed the hot air balloon event, the new mural on the stage at Plaza del Rio Park and the laser light show there as being popular segments of the “Roaring 20s” themed celebration.
Parks and Recreation
O’Brien noted that the department continuously provides exciting activities for residents, with a list of new instructors for some of the added programs. An example he gave was the more than 700 children who were enrolled in swim classes last summer.
He pointed out that the Army Corps of Engineers will be leasing an additional 92 acres to expand Jacob Myers Park to the west. An extension to walking and cycling paths is expected, he said. He said the updated Park Master Plan will provide direction to planned growth.
“As we look out to the next 100 years,” O’Brien commented, “Riverbank will grow, and, in that growth, will be necessary to build housing to support those without homes.”
He remarked that, “there are some who believe Riverbank should not grow.” He pointed out that the city will grow, and “provide sustainable services, help those in need, follow ag land protection policy, and protect our environment.” And he said the city is well on its way to provide a homeless shelter and a day use facility.
“We fully support the entrepreneurial spirit that many of our residents risk daily in building their business,” he said. “Whether it is a downtown boutique, restaurants, or providing services, these are the true backbone to the fabric of business community.”
It has always been a long-term goal of the city council, O’Brien said, with the pandemic proving that the supply chain issues causing significant delays in important projects for the city. He noted that the council approved projects back in February 2022 that would see the installation of ‘microgrid’ facilities on city buildings to generate solar power.
They include the Riverbank Police Services building, the Community Center, Wharton Park, and the Wastewater Treatment Plant. He also mentioned the efforts the city is putting forth to build a regional recycled water project at that plant.
Riverbank Industrial Complex
The mayor noted that the Local Development Authority that has jurisdiction over the former Army Ammo Plant is currently attracting industries that will “provide up to 3500 direct jobs with an additional 3000 indirect jobs when fully built out.” He’s expecting a total value of nearly $113-million in annual economic impact to this region, as identified by Opportunity Stanislaus.
North County Corridor
Mayor O’Brien said the project has received federal funds, as well as state funds, for construction of Phase 1 of the expansion, to begin this year. “It will provide an overpass for Claribel and the North County Corridor at the BNSF rail tracks that will lessen the impact on Terminal Avenue.”
Police and Safety
The mayor noted that we “should be concentrating on improving housing, education opportunities and community involvement in intervention programs,” instead of defunding the police. He also pointed out that the Riverbank Unified School District “has requested a School Resource Officer,” and a cost sharing agreement between the city and the RUSD has been finalized. An officer is identified, he said, and training will be provided, with the position commencing in the new fiscal year for the school, in July.
O’Brien reported great strides in retail, housing and community events.
“The state of our city is strong because of our collective desire to make it better and the commitment to work towards that end,” he explained. “To keep the city strong, this council will continue to look to the future and evaluate what we must do today. Riverbank will continue to be strong because of you and those protecting our city’s interests.”
He also pledged to the crowd that the city would work together with the residents “so Riverbank will succeed.”