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Year-In-Review Concludes: July To December Look
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Members of the Class of 2020 at Riverbank High School pose, somewhat, in the stands at the football stadium early Friday morning, Aug. 23, celebrating Senior Sunrise, representing the dawning of their last year of high school. In addition to enjoying breakfast goodies, they wrote a letter to be read by their graduating selves at the Senior Sunset celebration next spring. Ric McGinnis/The News

From the oppressive heat of summer to the many community events centered around the holiday season, the second half of the year featured a number of notable events. This week, we present the second half of the 2019 Year-In-Review for The Riverbank News, covering the months from July to December.



As the Fourth of July holiday quickly approaches, non-profit organizations across Riverbank seek to ensure that residents have adequate – and safe – fireworks with which to celebrate. In almost every parking lot in town, fireworks booths sprang up this past week, with sales beginning for most on Friday, June 28. By city ordinance, sales must end by midnight, July 4.

Notices in both English and Spanish have been sent out to Riverbank residents about Sewer Smoke Testing that will happen throughout the city from July 8 through Sept.30 during the day from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. This week there are door hangers also in English and Spanish that are giving people advance warning about the Public Works project. The purpose of smoke testing is to locate defects in sewer mains and service laterals that allow rainfall runoff or ground water to enter the sanitary sewer collection system. They will produce smoke and with a fan set on the manhole it will be blown down the main sewer lines and travel up the laterals to the homes.

There is always something for youth in Riverbank to do during the summer like the Mad Scientist Summer Camp that was hosted this past week at the Teen Center. There were 23 kids that attended the day camp from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., ranging in age from five to nine. Not only did these mad scientists do experiments during the week, they also got to do some swimming at the community pool in the afternoon.

The Fourth of July holiday this past weekend kept Riverbank Police Services (RPS) very busy with illegal firework violations occurring throughout the city. The City of Riverbank implemented for the first time this year a new ordinance with an aggressive approach to stop the use of illegal fireworks. The new ordinance had stiff fines starting at $1,000 for the first offense along with more officers patrolling the streets and city staff that manned a hotline for people to report illegal fireworks.

On a sunny summer evening, Central Valley Community Resources (CVCR) in partnership with Riverbank Police Services and the City of Riverbank brought the community a family fun and informative event at the Community Center Park. Although the temperatures were on the warmer side, people in the Riverbank community walked through the outdoor event staged on July 10. They received candy and other goodies as well as information including pool safety and bike safety. Many of the youngsters attending were fitted with free bike helmets and life jackets.

A Friday afternoon train vs. pedestrian accident in Riverbank claimed the life of a Modesto man. Riverbank Police Services deputies were dispatched around 3:52 p.m. on Friday, July 19 to the train trestle over the Stanislaus River on the south side of River Cove Drive and Dunbar Lane after a man identified as Akshay Singh, 22, of Modesto was hit by a train.

Temperatures rose on Sunday, July 21 … and so did tempers … as the last night of the 2019 edition of the Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock was marred by a huge melee that resulted in several arrests and injuries to some Stanislaus County deputies. While authorities had reported a relatively peaceful fair up until that point overall, the shutting down of a beer booth earlier than normal seemed to spark the trouble.



During the afternoon on Tuesday, July 30 Riverbank Police Services Deputies Bavaro and Crowley, along with Sergeant MacKinnon responded to a water rescue at Jacob Myers Park. They received information that a deaf teenage female was stuck on a log on the south side of the Stanislaus River. Deputies responded with throw ropes when they arrived on scene. According to the report, Deputy Crowley was able to hurl his rope across the river to the victim and safely pull her to shore.

Among activities at local schools that have given students just a peek at the upcoming school year, last week’s Bruin Day at Riverbank High School gave them the opportunity to prepare for what’s ahead. New and returning students were invited, hour by hour, class by class, to gather in the Ray Fauria Memorial Gymnasium to take care of such housekeeping duties as paying fees, collecting class schedules and taking photos for their student ID cards.

There was calmness in the room as community members gathered to meet and listen to what freshman Congressman Josh Harder had to say as well as get answers to some questions asked by local citizens during a town hall meeting at the Saint Frances of Rome Church in Riverbank on Sunday, Aug. 4. Father Misael Avila expressed that it was important to hold this forum so that people can be informed and know who their Representatives are as well as to share their concerns. With the hot issues of immigration, ICE’s intentions, and mass shootings, there are some people in the community living in fear.

Local dignitaries, city leaders and Riverbank residents gathered at the community center in Riverbank for a Time Capsule Ceremony on Saturday. The original Time Capsule idea began on Aug. 17, 1968 where a plaque states the following, “This cornerstone was laid on Aug. 17, 1968 sealed, herein are documents which reflect the occasion and the date to be opened Aug. 17, 2018.” Unfortunately when opened last year on the specified date, there were no contents to be found. Through research there has not been any documentation about the contents that were supposed to be there and no proof whether it was stolen or if it was never stored.

A three-vehicle accident just north of Riverbank, across the Stanislaus River Bridge into San Joaquin County, claimed the life of a Modesto teenager on Aug. 14. According to the Stockton CHP, 19-year-old Robert Gonzales Burket of Modesto was the driver of a 1992 Toyota Camry that was westbound on a private road and exited onto Santa Fe – across from the entrance to Jacob Myers Park – without stopping, driving directly into the path of a northbound semi-truck.

There have been ongoing discussions between the City of Riverbank and the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District (SCFPD) regarding the fees for fire service in the future new development of Crossroads West. The Tolling Agreements have expired without resolution and the SCFPD subsequently filed a lawsuit against the City of Riverbank. The filing occurred in late July.

Senior class members at Riverbank High School took an early morning moment to celebrate the start of their final year of study at RHS on Friday, Aug. 23, assembling at the football stadium on campus for Senior Sunrise.



There was a very somber feeling in the city of Riverbank last week as word spread about a tragic incident involving a Gilton Solid Waste worker that occurred on Monday, Aug. 26 in the late afternoon. Deputies responded to a report of an industrial accident that occurred on the 5300 block of Homewood Way where a man identified as Ismael Martinez-Huertas was killed in an equipment-related accident on the garbage truck he was operating.

A Bicycle Traffic Safety Sign in memory of Doug Higgs was approved by a vote of 5-0 at the Riverbank City Council meeting on Aug. 27. The sign will be placed near California Avenue and Claus Road. There was no cost to the city for the sign.

In April of this year, Higgs was tragically struck by a vehicle and killed while riding his bicycle near the corner of California Avenue and Claus Road.

The City of Action is looking into a Planning Grant Program for the possibility of Tiny Houses as an alternate option for affordable housing. Donna M. Kenney, Planning and Building Manager for the City of Riverbank, presented some information and answered questions from the city council at a recent meeting. The council directed Kenney to pursue the SB 2 grant that will help fund a consultant and review the city’s plans and projects to direct them in the best possible way.

The new school year is underway and along with the new year comes new administration at Riverbank High School (RHS). This past summer Greg Diaz stepped in as the interim Principal at RHS and then was officially promoted to the position on Aug. 6, dropping the ‘interim’ label. Diaz has two new Vice Principals, Kellie Felix and Ed Vaca to assist him in settling in and getting a system in place for a successful school year. With the first rally with the new administration hosted recently in the Ray Fauria Gym, the campus was roaring with school spirit which has kicked off the school year in a very positive way.

As the sun set on Riverbank on Saturday, downtown businesses joined together on Santa Fe Street for a gathering that included local craftsmen and non-profit organizations. It was designed as an evening dedicated to enhancing the public’s awareness of the historic business district in the City of Action. The Saturday, Sept. 14 Sip ‘n Stroll event was an evening of snacks, wine tasting and entertainment, which also featured conversation with local business owners who were able to chat with visitors.

The City of Riverbank approved a pilot citywide camera project in March and they contracted a technology and video surveillance company called QPCS out Ceres to complete the job. At a recent City Council meeting, representatives from QPCS gave the council and the public an update on the progress that has been made.

With the controversy that has shaded Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District (SCFPD) over the past few years with finances, staff turnover, the loss of the contract with the City of Oakdale and, most recently, the lawsuit that was filed against the city of Riverbank, there may be some light peering through those clouds. That light could come in the form of two new board members, sworn in during the summer and settling in to their seats on the panel. Jonathan Goulding and Steven Stanfield are now serving on the board, and were sworn in recently along with seeing the reappointment of Greg Bernardi.

As an extension of what some would consider ‘Cruising’ Season, a Modesto car club routinely gathers at the Sno-White Drive-in in Riverbank on Thursday evenings into the fall, and will be doing so as long as weather permits. They also can be found in other towns around the county on different nights of the week.



Riverbank High School is celebrating Fall Homecoming this week with a variety of activities during lunch and themed dress days. They will have a Homecoming rally on Friday and scheduled to step off around 2 p.m. downtown, there will be a parade which has been a tradition for the high school for many years. After the parade the Bruin football team will host the Hughson Huskies for their Friday night lights Homecoming game.

The Parent Networking Center in Riverbank, led by Parent Liaison Karen De La Torre, has a goal of partnering with parents and educating them in English and Spanish, which in turn often assists them in helping their children be more successful at school. There were eight parents that participated in a recent Parent Partners Workshop, with successful completion of the course culminating with a graduation gathering on Tuesday, Oct. 1.

For the past 43 years the City of Action has been hosting the Cheese and Wine Exposition in downtown Riverbank. Another year is in the books and discussions about next year’s event will already be on the table for many of the staff members at the city. Along with heightened security precautions, which were new this year, the revamped carnival area had only a few attractions but the row of food vendors and live entertainment was a constant during the festival as it has been in years past.

The ‘End of Watch’ anniversary for Harold B. Harless is on Oct. 17 and it has been 54 years since he was killed in the line of duty. In order to honor Harless and keep his memory alive, Sergeant Lloyd MacKinnon with Riverbank Police Services (RPS) will be riding for him in the Police Unity Tour in May, 2020.

A pair of Boys Scouts from Troop 1100 received their Eagle Scout awards on Saturday evening, Oct. 19, at a packed Scout Hall in Riverbank. The Eagle Court of Honor is the highest recognition attainable by a scout and must be achieved before the age of 18. Troop officials said the two young men honored on Saturday – Andres Negrete and Robert Dean Rae – are the first Eagle Scouts from Troop 1100. They have been with the troop since March 2014 and completed all requirements for the rank of Eagle Scout; both were found worthy of receiving the honor after the Eagle Scout Board of Review concluded its examination.

Lights On Afterschool is a nationwide event that celebrates the afterschool programs at school districts across the country including the Riverbank Unified School District. The celebration was held outdoors Friday, Oct. 26 on the California Avenue Elementary school campus. For the past 13 years RUSD and Project A.C.T.I.O.N. (Afterschool Care Together In Our Neighborhoods) have collaborated on keeping the lights on for kids within the district with the afterschool programs.

The headless horseman greeted the brave souls on the trailers this past weekend at the annual Haunted Hayride. The City of Riverbank’s Parks and Recreation Department pulled off the annual event although they didn’t have very many volunteers for scare sites. According to Parks and Recreation staff the weekend was a success, selling out on both Friday and Saturday nights.



Red Ribbon Week was celebrated throughout the Riverbank Unified School District at the end of October. From dress days to door decorating contests the red ribbon campaign was in full effect at Riverbank High School, Mesa Verde Elementary, and California Avenue Elementary with a theme this year of “Send A Message. Stay Drug Free.”

The water bill Riverbank residents received earlier this month will be the last one they receive at a ‘flat rate’ for water service, according to a note accompanying the latest bill. The latest charges are billed on that flat rate, covering charges through September and October. The new billing process will show up in the bill that comes in the mail in early January 2020. It will cover the period of Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019.

Getting an early start on the Veterans Day recognition, the Riverbank Chapter of Royal Neighbors of America #9890, hosted its annual luncheon honoring local vets at the Stanislaus County Veterans Services Center, on Coffee Road in Modesto. It was the 12th Veterans Luncheon, and has been held in the Modesto facility for the past few years. It started out in the Riverbank Community Center, but the Modesto location was jam packed on Saturday, Nov. 9.

At its regular meeting last week, the Riverbank City Council heard a report on the October, 2019 Cheese and Wine Exposition’s performance and made a decision on the future of the event. Parks and Recreation Department head Sue Fitzpatrick presented the council with a brief history of the event, reported on its relative success earlier this year and options on moving forward with its continuation in the future. Ultimately, it appears the event will continue, albeit likely under new supervision.

Riverbank Unified School District participates in Red Ribbon Week (RRW) each year and California Avenue Elementary won first place in the Elementary School Division in the competition hosted by the Stanislaus County Office of Education. There will be an awards ceremony for the winning sites on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting in Modesto. Miss Avey and Mrs. Cruz helped organize the events for Red Ribbon Week at California Avenue Elementary and they could not be more thrilled with this acknowledgement.



Yes, Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus ... just not in Riverbank ... at least not this past weekend. Local celebrants of all ages were dismayed to find out at the end of last week that the city had decided to cancel the annual crafts faire, parade and Christmas tree lighting that was scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 30. The tough decision was made by Recreation Supervisor Julia Petit and Parks and Recreation Director Sue Fitzpatrick on Friday, in time, hopefully, to notify parade entrants and vendors expecting to set up on Third Street by Plaza del Rio Park Saturday morning. The crafts faire had been scheduled to run from noon until after the parade and tree lighting that evening.

The Riverbank Federated Women’s Club celebrated the holiday season with its Christmas Luncheon at the Community Center on Saturday, Dec. 7, resuming its annual fundraising efforts after being forced to take a season off last year. Last year, the center was knee deep in renovation when the luncheon would have been held, so they canceled the event, resuming this past weekend.

The Shop with a Cop annual tradition for the Riverbank Police Services (RPS) and Riverbank community has been ongoing for over 10 years. The annual event was celebrated once again at Kohl’s in the Crossroads Shopping Center, staged on Thursday, Dec. 12. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department vehicles lined the front of the store for the afternoon of shopping at Kohl’s. The 45 kids that were selected for the shopping spree were escorted by deputies from their homes to the store. Many of the children were excited and some were a bit nervous but those nerves seemed to wear off as they hit the store and shopping began. The kids have a specific amount that they can spend on shoes, clothes, and if they have enough left over, some toys.

Members of the Riverbank City Council have unanimously approved a resolution appointing Lieutenant Ed Ridenour to the position of Chief of Police for Riverbank Police Services (RPS) in lieu of current Chief Erin Kiely’s notice to retire in March 2020. The announcement and approval was made at the City Council meeting earlier this month with all councilmembers in attendance along with Ridenour, Kiely and Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff
A book of old photographs and a membership pamphlet from the Historical Society, letters from local government, church leaders, school students, and other items are on display celebrating the planned placement of a Time Capsule at the Riverbank Community Center. The Saturday, Aug.17, gathering was attended by around 30 members of the public, representatives of non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies. Ric McGinnis/The News
The level of water in the Stanislaus River seemed to be running slower and a little warmer, just in time for swimmers to be able to play in the water adjacent to Jacob Myers Park over the July 4 holiday weekend. The park was fairly busy with youngsters and oldsters splashing around, even though high temperatures were slightly below seasonal averages. Ric McGinnis/The News