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Review Of 2019 Events In The City Of Action
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Greetings from the Riverbank High School culinary students and a special celebrity guest, Rahanna Bisseret Martinez from Top Chef Junior. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

There were many stories to cover that occurred in the City of Riverbank in 2019 and this week, we begin our look back at the top news items from the year. January through June is the focus for the first half of the ‘Year In Review’ with the second half of the year to be featured in the Jan. 1 issue of The Riverbank News.



Residents, local organizations and other community groups rejoiced that construction and renovations finally began at the Riverbank Community Center, 3600 Santa Fe Street.

Another community volunteer passed away. Art Benitez, husband of former Riverbank mayor and council member Sandra Benitez, died Christmas week of 2018. A rosary vigil was held on Monday, Jan. 7, at the Riverbank Memorial Chapel.

The Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District named a new chief. The appointment of Mike Whorton was confirmed by the District’s Public Information Officer, Captain Buck Condit, on Monday afternoon, Jan. 14.

Although it has been a long time coming, the City of Riverbank created a new six-month Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program. Planning and Building Manager Donna M. Kenney presented a report to the city council and public on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at the council’s regular meeting.

The official coronation of the 2019 Winter Homecoming Queen and King highlighted halftime at the Friday night, Jan. 25 varsity boys basketball game at Riverbank High School. Candidates also took part in a rally earlier in the day on Friday, with plenty of fun and games for the student body at RHS.



The City of Riverbank partnered with Stanislaus County in the annual Point In Time Homeless Count at the end of January. For over 10 years the City of Riverbank has participated in the homeless count and this year City Manager Sean Scully and Human Services Specialist Norma Torres-Manriquez along with seven community volunteers hit the streets to collect the data.

On Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Bruin basketball team bid farewell to its graduating class as senior players and their families were recognized prior to the start of their home game against Ripon Christian High School.

Chronic absenteeism is a serious concern for all school districts and with a 2.7 percent increase in chronically absent students in the 2017-18 school year from the 2016-17 school year, there were added concerns in the Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD). ‘Chronic Absenteeism’ for RUSD would be when a student misses 18 days out of the school year including excused and unexcused absences.

Newly-appointed Fire Chief Mike Whorton, a 30-year veteran of fire service in Riverbank, was sworn in at the Thursday, Feb. 14 Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District board meeting at the fire hall on Topeka Street in Riverbank.

The Riverbank Planning Commission gathered for a special meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, to hear of plans to annex nearly 400 acres immediately west of Oakdale Road, currently listed in the city’s sphere of influence.

The Riverbank City Council has reappointed the contract promotion company Chris Ricci Presents that produced the Cheese and Wine festival over the past five years to helm this year’s production, once again. The move came during the Tuesday, Feb. 12 regular council meeting at city hall.



The Riverbank City Council prepared for an expansion in workload and services to its citizens by authorizing acquisition of a downtown building for new offices. At its Feb. 26 meeting, the council gave City Manager Sean Scully the go-ahead to purchase a building at 3234 Santa Fe St.

With a collaborative effort between Cardozo Middle School seventh grade science teacher Dawn Thurmond and eighth grade science teacher Florencio Estrada, five students competed in the Regional Science Olympiad on March 2 at the Modesto Junior College West Campus.

The 2019 State of the City Address presented by Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien was held at the Antigua Event Center on March 13. There were many guests in attendance including Senator Cathleen Galgiani, newly elected Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, Hughson Mayor Jeramy Young, Oakdale Mayor JR McCarty, Riverbank Unified Superintendent Dr. Daryl Camp and city staff.

Riverbank residents and passersby at the high school campus on Sunday, March 17 may have been startled to see police and fire officials moving about the grounds. They participated in ‘Active Shooter’ drills for most of the day.

The Third Annual Parent Summit was held earlier this month at Riverbank High School to promote higher education for students with knowledge for the parents through a variety of workshops. Interested parties registered for the event where they were provided with breakfast, lunch and childcare for kids ages 2 to 8 while they attended the event.

The Riverbank City Council gathered for a special meeting on Tuesday, March 19, to begin the process of annexing and developing what is being called Crossroads West. The meeting resulted in the passage of several resolutions governing the details of the projects.

The cool cloudy morning on Friday, March 22 did not dampen spirits as people made their way to the Riverbank Child Development Center for the celebration of the re-opening of the new classroom portables. Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) hosted the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony where the newly built center will be operated by SCOE’s Child and Family Services division located next to Riverbank High School on Claus Road in Riverbank.



Although the Love Riverbank campaign took a hiatus in 2018 it has come back with One Church Riverbank taking the lead. This year’s community work day is coming up on Saturday, April 13.

A small Robotics Team from Beyer High School led by Founder and Head Coach Heidi Pagani – and including some students who live in Riverbank – has made its presence known this season in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in Fresno and Sacramento. The robotics team called the Iron Patriots consists of 45 students that competed against 49 teams in Fresno and 62 teams at U.C. Davis. The Iron Patriots received Second Place Alliance in Fresno and Seventh Place Alliance at the FIRST Sacramento Regional.

The second reading of the Crossroads West Specific Plan was recently approved by a 5-0 vote of the Riverbank City Council. During the council meeting the unfinished item began with City Manager Sean Scully having the City Attorney Tom Hallinan address the council due to a letter that was received from the law firm Best Best & Krieger LLP representing Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District that requested that the city put the second reading on hold due to some concerns and the possibility of litigation.

A Security and Traffic Camera Pilot Program was approved by the City Council at a recent council meeting. The council agreed to contract with QPCS for their services and to lease the cameras that will be placed in public places throughout the city of Riverbank. The cost for the pilot program will be funded by the Public Benefit Fund that was established through Flavors and Riverbank Cannabis Collective.

Early Sunday morning, April 14, the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District was called to a commercial building that had flames erupting from it at the Riverbank Industrial Complex on Claus Road, inside Building No. 9.

Following a special meeting on Thursday, April 18, the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District was able to reach an agreement with the City of Riverbank to continue negotiations and prevent, or at least delay, a suit by the district.

The end of June will conclude eight years of service to the Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) for Superintendent Dr. Daryl Camp. He has turned in his resignation to begin a new chapter with the San Lorenzo Unified School District as the superintendent there.



The City of Riverbank will be meeting with the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District Board of Directors on Thursday, May 2 at 5 p.m. at the Station 26 meeting room, 3318 Topeka St., in Riverbank to discuss the Crossroads West Project. Currently the city and the fire district have entered into a tolling agreement which gives both entities some time to come to a compromise.

At the beginning of April, Riverbank Police Services added Axon body cameras to their everyday gear. Now their code of conduct and professionalism will be caught on camera along with potential suspects, crimes, and providing a live view of what deputies have to deal with out on the streets of Riverbank.

There are many reasons to get involved in the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event, Relay For Life. For 17-year-old Daniela Lopez of Riverbank, her main reason to relay is the loss of a relative.

There was a celebrity at Riverbank High School recently that took some time to hang out with the advanced culinary class to give them a few tips. Season One Top Chef Junior runner-up Rahanna Bisseret Martinez from Oakland has loved cooking since she was a little girl. She brought her passion and sweetness to RHS and showed the students how to make frosting and then helped decorate some cupcakes since the culinary class was making cupcakes for prom.

Workshop meetings continued last week between the City of Riverbank and the board of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District, with an extension on the deadline on negotiations on developer fees for fire services in the upcoming Crossroads West annexation.

Last week was bustling for the non-profit organization American Veterans First (AVF) not only in Riverbank but Oakdale as well with a Star Party and a visit from Big Valley Christian school to their headquarters. The Star Party was held at the Oakdale Library in the evening on May 7 and the field trip was on May 8.

Riverbank Police Services Sergeant Lloyd MacKinnon and Stanislaus County Sheriff Detective Berndt participated in the Police Unity Tour with about 2,500 other law enforcement officers throughout the country from May 8 through May 12. The bicycle ride covers nearly 300 miles that begins in Somerset, New Jersey and ends in Washington D.C. at the National Law Enforcement Memorial Candlelight Vigil.

Once again, the City has planned an event recognizing and honoring heroes from Riverbank. Officials have planned a ‘Salute to Our Veterans’ for Memorial Day, Monday, May 27. It will be held at the Memorial Wall, just in front of the Riverbank Community Center, starting at 11 a.m.

Two Riverbank service organizations were the beneficiaries of the first weekend of the newly improved Community Center, each with its own fundraising event hosted at the facility. Both the Royal Neighbors group and the Riverbank Historical Society were the ‘opening acts’, so to speak, as they were first to use the facility after its months-long renovation. Those who attended these events noticed many upgrades in the decor and the resulting ambiance.

Veterans, members of the public and city staff helped commemorate Memorial Day this week with a “Salute to Our Heroes” on Monday, May 27. The event hosted a crowd of more than 60 at the Veterans Memorial Wall, 3600 Santa Fe, in front of the Riverbank Community Center, beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Monday.

The rain stayed away long enough last week to leave cloudy but sun streaked skies for the Riverbank High Class of 2019 to celebrate its Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 24. More than 135 seniors received their diplomas that evening.

The Riverbank Post Office hosted a celebration on Friday, May 24 to honor three letter carriers that are now part of the million mile club. The United States Postal Service (USPS) along with the National Safety Council recognizes drivers that have traveled one million miles or have gone 30 years without an accident.



Signs indicating the street names are up, but upcoming stop light instruments remain covered while work continues on the intersection of Roselle Avenue and Claribel Road south of the Riverbank city limits. Regular travelers through that junction will have noticed that the project’s electronic caution signs indicate, at this time, that the work that was expected to be finished by May 15, obviously hasn’t yet been completed.

June will be concert month in Jacob Myers Park this year, with free concerts being celebrated each Friday in the park. A varying schedule includes two performances of country music, and one week each of classic rock and a Hispanic music night closing out the venue.

The Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District board voted on Thursday, June 6 to eliminate 21 positions from its department, equivalent to the staff levels it maintained while covering the Oakdale area.

The spectacle that is a celebration of a classic American film, American Graffiti, rolled into town this past week, stretching across the parking lot and grounds that surround the Galaxy Theatres complex and the adjacent Cool Hand Luke’s restaurant.

Riverbank High School’s outgoing principal Dr. Sean Richey was recognized at the Unified School District’s board meeting this past week, his last with the district. He is moving on to become Assistant Superintendent in the Los Banos Unified School District.

A three day Musical Notes Mini Camp wrapped last week with Recreation Leader Shellie Forkapa and 10 little campers. Mini camps are only three days from 9 a.m. to noon and are hosted at the Scout Hall.

The water – whether it is a swimming pool, lake or river – can be very dangerous and even more so for those that do not know how to swim. With thoughts of safety and some fun in the pool, Riverbank Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick along with Alyssa Bauman created a sensory program at the community pool for youth with special needs.

The site of the former Reeds Garage in downtown Riverbank has slowly begun to transform into a more modern structure.

A not so normal Sunday for Riverbank Police Services Sergeant MacKinnon and Deputy Bavaro saw them involved in a rescue of a little furry feline. The kitten was stuck in a sewer drain off of Turpin Avenue on Sunday afternoon, June 16 when Bavaro and MacKinnon heard the cries. Since animal control did not have any reports for this missing kitten, Sgt. MacKinnon decided to take him home. After his wife approved of the new family member, the rescued kitten was named Elton and became an unofficial Father’s Day gift for the local law enforcement officer.

While the ‘lazy, hazy days’ of summer have arrived in Riverbank, sometimes with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, the calendar has also seen an increase in construction opportunities across the city. From Caltrans work on Highway 108 through downtown, to utility work on, and under, city streets, or over city alleyways, there’s a lot going on in the City of Action.

There is a new ordinance that has been passed in the City of Riverbank by the City Council, taking an aggressive approach to stop the use of illegal fireworks. The public is being asked to report illegal fireworks to a non-emergency number: 209- 552-2474 for police and 209-863-7129 which is a special illegal fireworks reporting hotline available from July 4 through 6 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. that will be manned by city staff.

Newly-appointed Fire Chief Mike Whorton, a 30-year veteran of fire service in Riverbank, was sworn in at the Thursday, Feb. 14 Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District board meeting at the fire hall on Topeka Street in Riverbank. District Board President Susan Zanker conducted the ceremony. Ric McGinnis/The News
Stanislaus sheriff’s deputies stand watch for other assailants as one officer takes a ‘perpetrator’ into custody during the March 17 Active Shooter drill. It was held on the Riverbank High campus with both morning and afternoon scenarios, with students portraying both victims and assailants. Photo Courtesy Of Ryan Castro