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State of the City address offered by Mayor O’Brien
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Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien presented his annual State of the City address at the Community Center on Thursday, April 11. Ric McGinnis/The News

The ‘State of the City’ was presented by Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien at the Community Center on Thursday, April 11. A modest crowd was on hand as well as a number of cameras, for broadcasting the event on the city’s Public Access Channel, and its YouTube channel.

The mayor covered a number of issues the city has dealt with, or is dealing with, as well as items coming up in the future.

He noted “the creation of new volunteer boards and advisory groups will assist the parks and recreation department and best serve the residents of Riverbank. Developing Master Plans for all 16 parks in Riverbank and hosting an open house style event that allows the public to visit each park for input and feedback.”

He mentioned a few staff changes that had recently taken place, with one retired department head being replaced, while another’s spot was being temporarily filled while a search for a replacement is conducted.

“And we welcomed new staff members in the Water, Sewer, Wastewater Divisions, Parks & Recreation, Planning, Building, and Finance,” he said.

O’Brien covered several elements on housing in Riverbank, from work to help unhoused residents to plans to address planned growth in the northwest corner adjacent to the city limits.

He pointed out the “City Council’s commitment to assisting our unhoused residents reached a milestone on November 6 as the city proudly held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Sierra House Day Use Facility.”

He said that is a key achievement.

“With the assistance of Cambridge Academies, Riverbank now offers services, showers, and clean clothes to those in need.”

In 2024, the Day Use Facility should be complemented with the completion of the remodel of the Sierra House that will provide interim housing to individuals as part of a RESTART Program, which will be provided by Cambridge Academies.

In January 2023, he said, the City Council adopted an ordinance which established the construction of Tiny Home Villages.

He said, “This allows developments such as the Bridge Covenant Church Project on Morrill Avenue, which includes the construction of eight tiny homes in their first phase of development, and received entitlements to construct in a streamlined manner.”

Also, he said, the City of Riverbank issued a request for proposals from qualified developers for the construction of a tiny home village on city-owned property located near the intersection of Jackson and Stanislaus streets.

O’Brien noted the controversy over the proposed Riverwalk development, planned for an area outside the city limits, to the north and west of town. He said the issue of whether or not it is ‘Prime Agricultural Land’ is disputed.

The mayor reported that the Local Redevelopment Authority, or the old army ammo plant, is currently bringing in industries that will provide more than 2000 direct jobs with an additional 3000 indirect jobs when fully built out. The carbon recapture program at the LRA is underway, he said.

“Aemetis, who is our master developer, will soon be constructing the first phase of their $750 million plant, converting waste into aviation fuel. They have secured 10 billion dollars in contracts with airlines. The goal is to have aviation fuel sustainable in the United States by the year 2050,” O’Brien said. “In the Crossroads West commercial section, Costco is well underway and should be open in the summer. This will be the anchor tenant that will attract other high quality retail development there.”

He pointed out that the North County Corridor received federal funds as well as some state funds and construction of phase one will go out for bid this fall. It will provide an overpass at Claribel and the North County Corridor overpass at the BNSF tracks which will lessen the impact on Terminal Avenue.

“Once the North County corridor is completed it will provide bike lanes adjacent to the traffic lanes that will connect to Modesto’s extensive bike system and continue just east of Oakdale. This corridor is important for the Industrial Complex. Many of the companies there will be using surface transportation and/or the rail system to ship and receive goods and services,” O’Brien explained.

In presenting the wide range address, the mayor said he wanted to present a clear picture for the City of Action.

“My hope is that I presented our total body of work as synergistic pieces to a puzzle that all fits together for this community,” O’Brien said. “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. Everything we do takes valuable staff hours, whether it’s a park function, Memorial Day dedication, or even tonight’s event. Imagine the amount of staff time for community development agreements or road work construction and sidewalk improvements.”

In closing, he addressed City Manager Marisela Garcia.

“Your staff efforts have not gone unnoticed. They keep impressing me with their hard work and we, the council, truly appreciate how reliable they all are. Your staff is moving many more projects than any other community, providing greater services, and continues to look for innovative ways to move Riverbank forward,” he said. “Their contributions over the years are amazing and greatly enhance the City direction.”

As well as addressing Garcia directly, he also pointed out her abilities to the crowd.

“Our City Manager is a great leader,” he said, “and she honors Riverbank employees at City Council meetings and during various staff functions, balancing needs of the City and Staff with available resources.”

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Residents and some city staffers turned out to hear the annual State of the City address on April 11; among the topics covered were issues the city has dealt with, as well as things coming up in the future. Ric McGinnis/The News