Monday, September 14, 2009

BREAKING: Initiative filed to move health center to Keystone

UPDATE: Here's our story on the initiative.

A group of Patterson citizens have submitted an initiative that would amend the city's zoning laws to allow the Del Puerto Health Center to move to the Keystone Pacific Business Park.

The group — which includes former Patterson mayoral candidates Kathy Wright and Luis Molina, as well as the heads of the business park and health care district — submitted the initiative to City Hall this morning. According to the group's press release, the city manager now has 15 days to provide a title and summary of the initiative at which time the proponents can begin collecting signatures.

According to the release, if and when the group obtains signatures from at least 10 percent of the registered voters in Patterson, the City Council will have the option of either approving the initiative outright or sending it to ballot.

The group cites a phone survey conducted in July in which 72 percent of 300 voters polled said the zoning law should be amended "to allow for additional commercial, industrial and health care uses."


Monday, August 31, 2009

Three vie for planning commission seat

Assuming the agenda for tomorrow night's City Council meeting is up-to-date, three men have thrown their name into the mix to fill the vacancy on the Patterson Planning Commission left by the departed Duvahn Ferreira.

The council will vote on Ferreira's replacement. Here are the three candidates whose applications are included in the meeting agenda (which can be found here):

• Matthew Heath, a retired business owner who has been active in the community for years. According to his application, Heath has been involved in the Northmead School Site Council, Lions Club and Knights of Columbus. Heath writes in his application that his main area of interest in Patterson's city government is "the continued financial success of our great city and participating and contributing in making Patterson a great place to live and raise our families."

• Bryan Bingham, director of the Patterson Cemetery District. Bingham claims no specific knowledge he'd bring on planning but states that he is a lifelong resident and has been a scoutmaster in Boy Scout Troop 81 in Patterson and is a past president of the local Lions Club.

• Birdie Rodriguez, who works with Sierra Pacific and has had the most experience in city government of the three applicants. Rodriguez recently served on the General Plan Advisory Committee and has served on the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. He was also the varsity boys basketball coach at Patterson High back when I was the Irrigator's sports editor. I can't speak to his planning credentials, but I can tell you he's always good for a quote.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pilot unharmed in crop duster crash

Update: Here is the early story on the crash, along with a four-photo slideshow and a map showing the location of the crash. And, by the way, here is Jonathan Partridge's story and Elias Funez's photos from a crop duster crash involving the same company last year (incidentally, a much longer, better story for a much more dramatic crash).

A Valley Crop Dusters plane crashed into a wastewater treatment pond around 10:30 a.m. today. The pilot, who declined to comment or to give his name, escaped unharmed.

The plane lost power for an unknown reason almost immediately after taking off, according to Sgt. Robert Banks of the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department. It crashed into the Westley Community Sewer Pond and overturned, forcing the pilot to swim a few feet to safety.

The Valley Crop Dusters office, at 8513 Kern St., is about half a mile northeast of the pond the plane crashed into. Sheriff's department spokeswoman Gina Leguria said when deputies arrived, the pilot had already returned to the company's office.

Banks said the pilot had to be "decontaminated" because he crashed into and waded out of sewer water. He said the Stanislaus County Department of Environmental Resources was being called to the scene because of the possibility of chemicals getting into the wastewater. An employee at Valley Crop Dusters, who declined to give his name, said the plane was carrying fertilizer.

That's the story for now. I'll post updates here if I'm able to track down more information.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

County reports second swine flu death

Below is a press release on the second swine flu-related death in Stanislaus County, a 37-year-old man. Here is our story on the first.

The county likely won't release any info on this man's identity aside from what's in the news release. If anyone has any information on the man, please contact me at or call 892-6187.


Second Death from H1N1 Flu in Stanislaus County

Stanislaus County – Stanislaus County health officials announce that a 37-year-old male has died on August 10 from complications of the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, while hospitalized. His death is the second in Stanislaus County involving a person with the H1N1 virus. “We would like to convey our deepest sympathy to the family of this patient," stated Dr. John Walker, County Health Officer. “We are grieved by this second death, and his death reminds us that the H1N1 virus is widespread and among us. Although this should not be cause for alarm, everyone should remain vigilant in helping to prevent the spread of H1N1.”

The vast majority of cases have mild or moderate illness, and most patients fully recover. “However,” Dr. Walker adds, “the tragic California H1N1 deaths this spring and summer reveal that we are still in the early stages of a global influenza pandemic, and we need to continue precautions to protect ourselves, our families, our co-workers, and our community.”

Effective July 16, the California Department of Public Health changed the reporting requirements for individual case reporting for H1N1 influenza by local health jurisdictions (Local Health Departments).

New reporting requirements will track only hospitalized and fatal cases. Non-hospitalized case reporting is no longer needed at this stage of the pandemic. As of August 5 this year, there have been a total of 892 hospitalized cases and 92 deaths in California. In Stanislaus County, there have been 35 hospitalized cases.

There is currently no vaccine available to protect against the novel H1N1 virus. Vaccine is in production and should be available by late fall-early winter. It is important that county residents take the following precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus.

• Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbows, sleeves, or with a tissue. Dispose of the tissue after each use. Coughing into hands can spread germs to others.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, even after washing your hands.
• Avoid close contact with sick people.
• Stay home and away from others if you are sick.

The symptoms of H1N1 Influenza in humans are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have also reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1 influenza.

If a person has these symptoms, here are some simple steps to follow:

• It is not necessary to be tested for the virus in most cases.
• Contact your healthcare provider by phone, especially if you are pregnant or have a health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or emphysema.
• Ask your healthcare provider about medications that may help relieve the symptoms of the flu.
• Stay home and away from others until at least 24 hours after you are free of fever (100° F or 37.8°C), or signs of a fever without use of fever–reducing medications.
• Get plenty of rest and drink clear liquids.
• Avoid close contact with others.

For more information about the H1N1 virus, please visit the following websites:

• Stanislaus County website at
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at
• The California Department of Public Health at

Monday, August 10, 2009

School board candidate deadline extended

The deadline to apply for candidacy in the race for three seats on the Patterson Joint Unified School District has been extended to Wednesday — and if no more candidates step forward, there will be no race at all.

Incumbents Michelle Bays and Ruben Pina have taken out papers to run again this year. Fellow incumbent Susan Scheuber has not, and I hear she likely will not run this year. Local business owner Grace McCord will run, but as of Friday, there were no other candidates. If that holds, McCord would get Scheuber's spot uncontested — and we'll have a lot less to talk about come October and November.

The original deadline of 5 p.m. Friday was extended to Wednesday, so we'll see if anyone else steps up. Don't expect to see anything on this in Thursday's paper, because the deadline for candidates to apply comes after our deadline for the paper. We'll likely have a story next Thursday detailing the situation.

People interested in becoming candidates can visit the Stanislaus County Elections Office at 1021 I St., Room 101, in Modesto, or call 525-5200 (525-5230 for Spanish).

In other news, former mayoral candidate Luis Molina will be uncontested in his bid to remain the District 5 representative on the Stanislaus County Board of Education. Also, the three open seats on the Patterson Irrigation District board will each be filled by incumbents. The filing deadline for those races have closed and were not extended.

Monday, August 3, 2009

School board meets tonight

The Patterson Joint Unified School District board will meet tonight (7 p.m., District Office, 510 Keystone Blvd.) in what promises to be a calmer, quieter, less controversial gathering than last month's meeting.

Among the notable items on the agenda is a report from Mark Wheeler, the district's manager of facilities and construction, on the progress that has been made on projects being paid for by Measure V, which was passed by voters in November. According to Wheeler's report, progress is being made on the district's top three priorities — as decided by the board before the election.

Modernization of the agricultural science/auto mechanics building at Patterson High School is underway and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Completion of Walnut Grove School is moving along — permanent classrooms and the kitchen to be finished for the start of school this week and construction on a permanent student support services building and one additional classroom to begin in September — though no work is scheduled for the library building as of yet. And the district's $12 million debt is being paid off as scheduled.

Also on the agenda is a report on the 2009-10 budget from Assistant Superintendent Steve Menge. The report states that while the district is still waiting to hear final numbers on how the new state budget will affect its allocations, Menge believes many of the proposed cuts have already been factored in by the district and therefore the impact to the district might not be too severe. The district has made several significant cuts already, having laid off teachers and classified staff and closed Rising Sun School, among other cuts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Health center decision could come tonight

The Del Puerto Health Care District's board of directors meets tonight (7 p.m., 875 E St.) and will possibly decide on the course of action it will take in the ongoing saga of its health center. For those who haven't been paying attention, here's a recap:

The district announced plans late last year to move the Del Puerto Health Center from its current location at 1108 Ward Ave. to a much larger building in the Keystone Pacific Business Park. Its current landlord, John Ramos, appealed the Patterson Planning Commission's approval of the move, stating that zoning laws in the business park did not allow for that type of medical use. In February, the commission again sided with the district. In May, the City Council heard Ramos' appeal and sided against the district, denying the move.

Now, the district's board must decide what it will do next. At its last meeting, June 2, the board came out of its closed session discussion only to announce no decision had been made. District CEO Margo Arnold said this afternoon the board needs to make a decision. The directors could decide to apply for an amendment to the city's zoning law in an attempt to move forward with the Keystone site. Or they could decide to move on and look for another site. The district's lease at the current site runs out next year, so time would appear to be a factor in the board's decision.

I'll post again tonight if anything noteworthy comes out of the meeting.