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.

Industrial supplier plans massive distribution center at Keystone

Grainger Industrial Supply announced today its plans to build an 800,000-square-foot distribution center in the Keystone Pacific Business Park in western Patterson. The building, slated to open in mid-2011, would be roughly the size of the CVS (formerly Longs) distribution center and would provide 150 to 200 warehouse and logistics jobs, according to a company news release.

Grainger has more than 600 branches and 18 distribution centers around the world. Far as I can tell, the closest branch is in Ceres. I'm hoping to talk with a representative from the company today. May or may not get a story on this into Thursday's paper, but we'll have something at least by next week.

Below is the full text of the news release:


Grainger Announces Expansion in California’s Central Valley

Company to build new 800,000 square-foot distribution center in Patterson

Santa Ana, Calif. (July 28, 2009) – Grainger, a distributor of facilities maintenance supplies, today announced plans to build a new distribution center in Patterson, Calif. The company recently purchased a 45-acre property in Patterson’s KeyStone West Business Park and plans to break ground on the development in September.

“Grainger is excited to become part of the Patterson business community,” said Brian Williams, Regional Director of Distribution at Grainger. “We’ve been in California for 75 years and building a new distribution center in the Central Valley will allow us to deliver more products next-day to our customers on the West Coast.”

The 800,000 square-foot distribution center is scheduled to open mid-2011 and is projected to house more than 350,000 industrial supply products, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, hand and power tools, and electrical and safety supplies. The company anticipates the new facility will employ 150-200 warehouse and logistics employees when complete.

Grainger currently operates nearly 50 locations in California and employs 1,000 people throughout the state. Founded in 1927, Grainger has a long history of being an active member in the communities where its employees live and work.

For more information about the new facility, media should contact JP Clark, Regional Communications Manager at (949) 300-4943 or

About Grainger
Illinois-based W.W. Grainger, Inc. (NYSE: GWW), with 2008 sales of $6.9 billion, is the leading broad line supplier of facilities maintenance products serving businesses and institutions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, India, China and Panama. Through a highly integrated network including more than 600 branches, 18 distribution centers and multiple Web sites, Grainger's employees help customers get the job done.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let's try this again, shall we?

Ok, so that first little experiment with blogging was a little spotty. Now that we've pretty well established ourselves on Twitter and Facebook, I think it's time to give this another shot.

Unfortunately, I'll be going it alone this time, as reporter John Saiz has left us for a new life in the Bay Area. I have at least temporarily taken over John's city beat. We are going to be bringing in a new reporter, but that's likely a month or so away.

In the meantime, I'm hoping to again use this blog as a means by which to offer news updates and analysis to supplement our normal coverage. I'd like to start posting updates after City Council meetings, for example, whether that means the night of the meeting or the morning after. With stories not appearing in print until more than a week after the meetings, this seems like a good way to get information out.

As for last Tuesday's council meeting, I'll have a story up on the Web site on Monday. The biggest story to come out of the meeting was Tori Hughes being named Patterson's new police chief. A story on that will be up later in the week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Marathon meeting fails to yield decision

Forgive me if I don't quite have the energy for a long, thorough post on this, but there seemed to be enough public interest that an update was in order.

Tuesday night's Patterson City Council meeting — one of the longest in recent memory, by some accounts — included more than THREE HOURS of legal arguments, public comment and discussion about the Del Puerto Health Care Center's proposed move to the Keystone Pacific Business Park and the appeal of that move by the health care district's current landlord, John Ramos. The meeting in its entirety lasted more than five hours and stretched past midnight (I'm assuming ... I left at about 11:45 p.m. with other agenda items still to come).

There were a lot of very technical legal interpretations of zoning ordinances, CEQA law and the developer agreement between Keystone and the city. There were a lot of impassioned pleas from patients, providers and health care district board members about the need for a bigger, better facility. The arguments on both sides were convincing.

As midnight approached, council members were still discussing whether they had a solid, impartial enough interpretation of the zoning laws and whether Ramos' motivesa matter of some debate — should be part of the discussion.

In the end, the council decided to solicit the opinion of a fifth lawyer — after hearing from attorneys for Ramos, the district and Keystone, as well as City Attorney George Logan — voting to seek out a land-use attorney while promising to come forth with a decision at the next council meeting.

It appeared as though the decision became more complicated as each argument was heard, and it doesn't appear likely this is going to be truly settled anytime soon. If the council votes for one side, the other could sue. If the council votes to amend the developer agreement and require CEQA approval, it could add precious months to the project for a district whose current lease expires in less than a year.

John Saiz will have a story on this in Saturday's Irrigator and probably on the Web site sometime this week. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Man dies in I-5 crash

A fatal accident snarled southbound traffic on Interstate 5 around 4:30 p.m. today. I'll have a more complete story on the Web site Tuesday, along with photos, but here's what I know for now:

A car with three people was traveling northbound on I-5 just north of Sperry Avenue when it veered onto the right shoulder. The driver apparently over-corrected and lost control, peeling across the grassy divide at about 70 mph. The car struck a southbound car head-on.

The man in the second car, who was traveling alone, was pronounced dead on the scene. The three people in the first care all suffered moderate to major injuries, and at least one was taken by helicopter to a hospital (not sure which one at the moment).

By the time I left the scene, around 5:15 p.m., southbound traffic was backed up to about a mile from the Westley exit, but it appeared to at least be moving.

I don't have any info yet on the man who died. I'm hoping to get that from the coroner in the morning (they won't release any info until the family has been notified).

Expect photos and at least a brief story on the Web site tomorrow.

This is the second fatal accident on I-5 near Sperry in less than two weeks. A Stockton woman died while traveling the same direction, just on the other side of the exit.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Property tax scam targeting locals?

Our intrepid news reporter, John Saiz, is already working on this story for Wednesday's paper, but I thought it might be good to mention it now.

There appears to be a scam going around, targeting homeowners desperate to save money in any way possible. Homeowners in Patterson and apparently all over California are receiving a letter from a Los Angeles company stating that it can save them hundreds of dollars in property taxes by reassessing the person's home (presumably for a lower value than its previous assessment) for a reasonable price of $179, or something like that.

Problem is, assessing home values is the job of the county assessor, who does this sort of thing on a regular basis — for free.

So needless to say, nobody should be paying anyone anything, no matter how official their mailings appear — and I've seen this one; it looks legit — to reassess their home and lower their property taxes.

Here's a press release we received Thursday from the county assessor:

County Assessor Warns Area Taxpayers

Assistant Assessor, Steve Yauch, today issued a warning to Stanislaus County residents about a misleading offer targeting local homeowners.  The County was recently notified of the offer by a concerned taxpayer, who received the notification from the Los Angeles-based company offering to file a “Request for Review” form with the County Assessor for a $179.00 fee.  Property assessment and assessment reviews are free services offered by the County Assessor and property owners should never pay for a service to file a request for review.

“I want to remind property owners that our office regularly reviews property tax assessments, free of charge, to carry out our obligations under California Law.  Last year, our office reviewed approximately 60,000 properties and lowered over 40,000 assessments,” commented Mr. Yauch.  “The Assessor is required by law to review the properties that were reassessed at a lower value, as of January 1, 2009.  This year, our office will review most single family residences and condos as of January 1, 2009.”

Property owners who receive assessment related mail should check the validity of the sender and contact the County Assessor’s Office if you have questions or concerns related to your assessment. 

Owners of properties with resulting reduced assessments will receive a letter by the end of June notifying them of the results.  Owners who disagree with the results or did not receive a reduction for their 2009 assessment may call our office at (209) 525-6461 and/or file an application for reduced assessment with Clerk of the Board (209) 525-6414 between July 2nd and November 30th, 2009.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Willett: City doing OK despite drought

As farmers plan for one of their most challenging seasons in recent memory — the product of an ongoing drought and pumping restrictions at the San Joaquin Delta — residents in the city of Patterson seem to have less to worry about.

Patterson's public works director, Mike Willett, said last week that the city — which pulls all of its water from the ground using a series of wells — is in pretty good shape because it's not yet pulling more water than is typically replenished each year.

"We haven’t seen an impact on our supply at this point," Willett said. "The groundwater levels are trending little bit downward, but to this point, it hasn't been significant. There's a lot of water down there."

That doesn't mean residents should start flooding their lawns or keeping the water running while they brush their teeth, however. The great unknown for the city is not how much groundwater is available now, but how much will be used this year by farmers short on surface water.

With allocations from the Delta potentially being cut off this year, farmers might have no choice but to pump groundwater using their own wells to protect permanent crops. How much that might affect the groundwater supply is a complete unknown at this point, and it's one of the only possibilities that could force the city to crack down on its residents' water use.

Still, Willett thinks the city will be OK because the wells used by farmers are typically shallower than the city's wells.

"Most of the city's wells are deeper," he said. "We did that intentionally, so we're not in competition with other folks."

Willett said that with the city’s ninth well set to be completed by June 1 and with the City Council taking steps to ensure the city’s future water supply, Patterson should be in good shape for some time to come.

"We’re doing pretty well," Willett said. "I'd hate to say things are in bad shape, but I'd hate to say everything's fine. It's a fine balance between letting people know that we're OK for this year and still encouraging them to conserve."


Meanwhile, city officials and farmers alike will be praying for rain, and they might get some soon. According to AccuWeather, rain is in the local forecast throughout the rest of this week, and there could be more next week.

But it'll take a number of significant storms to bring local rainfall anywhere near normal.

After the city's most recent storm, which brought more than an inch of rain, the total for the season — which runs from July 1 to June 30 — was still at only 2.77 inches, or about half of the normal total for this point in the season.

The numbers are even scarier if you compare them to last season. In January 2008, a major storm brought the season total to 8.68 inches. But an incredibly dry spring brought less than 2 inches the rest of the season, and the total of 10.62 inches still fell short of the 10.68 average.

If this spring is anything like last spring, this season's rainfall won't sniff 5 inches, let alone 10.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

More bad news for farmers

It just keeps getting worse for farmers all over the state.

The state Department of Water Resources today released the results of its second snow survey of the season, which show snow water content at just 61 percent of normal. It's a sharp decline from the last survey, taken in late December, which indicated snow water content at 76 percent of normal.

"We may be at the start of the worst California drought in modern history," DWR Director Lester Snow said in a statement. "It's imperative for Californians to conserve water immediately at home and in their businesses."

The continuing dry conditions (last weekend's local rain notwithstanding) are combining with regulatory restrictions on pumping from the Delta to create a perfect storm for local farmers.

We'll probably have a story on this in the Irrigator next week. In the meantime, here's the full text of the DWR press release on the snow survey:

DWR Announces Snow Survey Results

SACRAMENTO – The Department of Water Resources’ (DWR) second snow survey of the winter season indicates snow water content is 61 percent of normal for the date, statewide.

“The low precipitation in January and snowpack results from today’s survey indicate California is heading for a third dry year,” said DWR Director Lester Snow.  “We may be at the start of the worst California drought in modern history.  It’s imperative for Californians to conserve water immediately at home and in their businesses.”

Manual survey results were taken at four locations near Lake Tahoe, and combined with electronic readings, indicate a statewide snowpack water content of 61 percent (49 percent in the Northern Sierra, 63 percent in the Central Sierra, and 68 percent in the Southern Sierra.)  Last year at this time, snowpack was 111 percent of normal, but the driest spring on record followed resulting in a second consecutive dry water year.  Daily electronic readings may be accessed at

Local water agencies are updating Urban Water Management Plans, and DWR is facilitating what water transfers may be available through its Drought Water Bank program.  Many providers have already enacted mandatory or voluntary water rationing and it is likely more agencies will require some form of rationing if dry conditions persist. 

Storage in California’s major reservoirs is low.  Lake Oroville, the principal storage reservoir for the State Water Project (SWP), is at 28 percent of capacity, and 43 percent of average storage for this time of year.  With only two months left in what is normally the wettest part of the season, it is growing increasingly unlikely that enough precipitation will fall to end the drought.

Continuing dry conditions and regulatory agency restrictions on Delta water exports are limiting water deliveries to farms and urban areas.  A Biological Opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service to protect salmon and steelhead is expected in March and is the latest action that may further reduce pumping capability.  DWR’s early estimate is that it will only be able to deliver 15 percent of requested State Water Project water this year to the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, Central Coast and Southern California.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has outlined steps to safeguard the state’s water supply through a comprehensive plan that includes water conservation, more surface and groundwater storage, new investments in the state’s aging water infrastructure, and improved water conveyance to protect the environment and provide a reliable water supply.  Today’s drought and regulatory restrictions underscore the need to take action to safeguard tomorrow’s water supply.

Here are results from today’s manual survey at Phillips Station and other sites near Lake Tahoe:



Snow Depth

Water Content

% of Long Term Average


7,600 feet

40 inches

13 inches


Phillips Station

6,800 feet

34.6 inches

13.1 inches


Lyons Creek

6,700 feet

45.4 inches

15.5 inches


Tamarack Flat

6,500 feet

37.4 inches

13.2 inches



Importance of Snow Surveying

Snow water content is important in determining the coming year's water supply. The measurements help hydrologists prepare water supply forecasts as well as provide others, such as hydroelectric power companies and the recreation industry, with needed data.

Monitoring is coordinated by the Department of Water Resources as part of the multi-agency California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. Surveyors from more than 50 agencies and utilities visit hundreds of snow measurement courses in California’s mountains to gauge the amount of water in the snowpack. The following websites offer an overview of important snow survey information.

Snowpack Site

Reservoir Storage Site

Snow Survey Illustrated

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wal-Mart files papers with Patterson

Wal-Mart recently submitted an application to the Patterson Community Development Department indicating they intend to bring a store to the city.

Big box rumors have been running rampant for years now, but this is the first official action any massive retailer has taken to locate in Patterson.

Details — like where the proposed store would go — are a little scarce right now, but at 4 p.m. I'll get a chance to review the application and the plans that were submitted with them. Expect details galore on the Web site tomorrow.

Friday, January 16, 2009

City attorney: No decision on West Park appeal

George Logan, Patterson's city attorney, said the City Council made no decision during last night's closed session about whether to appeal a Fresno Superior Court judge's decision to throw out the city's lawsuit against West Park. And they might not decide anytime soon.

Logan said the city has 60 days to appeal after the judgment is entered — a formality that still has not been completed. He said it's likely the council will meet again in closed session, possibly in a month or so, before deciding anything.

As for the city's chances in an appeal, Logan was optimistic. He said the famed Save Tara case, used as precedent by both sides in the West Park case, was decided by the state Supreme Court because it failed in a trial court. That gives Logan some hope.

"Trial judges are just not as particular at enforcing environmental laws as appellate judges are," Logan said. "You get a better sense of justice in the appellate courts."

The council must also weigh the cost of moving forward with the case. In the revised budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year — which the council will review at its regular meeting Tuesday — the amount alotted for legal services nearly doubled from $140,000 to $275,000, the largest increase of any item in the budget.

"I think we'd have a very good chance on appeal, but the council will have to make that decision," Logan said.

UPDATE: Reporter John Saiz just spoke with Councilwoman Annette Smith, who wouldn't speak much on last night's discussion but did confirm that cost will be a factor in the council's decision on the case. She said the council has requested information on how much the suit has cost the city thus far, and that report could be available as early as next week.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Council to weigh options in West Park case

The City Council will hold a special meeting in closed session at 6 p.m . Thursday to discuss the recent dismissal of the city's lawsuit against West Park. They could decide to appeal the ruling, or they could decide to cut their losses. Stay tuned.

If the city does not appeal the case, the next bit of drama for West Park would likely come this summer, when the draft environmental impact report is released for public consumption. I'm sure the council — along with the guys and many others — is eager to see what sort of mitigating measures developer Gerry Kamilos has in mind to handle the numerous concerns local residents have.

Friday, January 9, 2009

City's suit against West Park dismissed

The city of Patterson's lawsuit against Stanislaus County and West Park has been dismissed before making it to trial, Patterson city attorney George Logan confirmed Friday morning.

I'm not sure how big of a victory this is for the county and developer Gerry Kamilos — because I don't get the feeling they ever thought they might lose, and they seemed confident all along that the suit was without merit — but it's a pretty big loss for the city in its attempts to stop this project completely. A court has now ruled that the county so far has done nothing wrong in its dealings with Kamilos. The next major hurdle for the project will be the environmental review that is currently ongoing.

Two questions are plaguing me at the moment, and I don't yet have an answer for either:

1) How much money did the city spend on this case, and was it at all worth it? Could any result have made it worth it? That might be an unfair question.

2) What, now, will become of's lawsuit against the county and developer — a lawsuit that, by my very cursory perusal, appeared quite similar to the city's?

Hopefully I'll have some answers to these questions soon. I'll post here when I do.

In the meantime, Saturday's paper needs to be put to bed. By the way, don't expect to see anything about this in Saturday's issue (we're past that deadline already). But definitely keep an eye out on the Web site and in Wednesday's paper.

12:05 p.m. Update: Becky Campo says the City Council will likely have a special closed session meeting early next week to determine their next action, if there is any. They could appeal the ruling, or they could set their focus on the upcoming environmental review, or they could do some combination of the two, I imagine. Campo doesn't consider this a huge loss, because even though the city didn't accomplish everything it hoped, it at least made its concerns heard loud and clear. Gerry Kamilos declined to comment for now, saying he wants to wait until he's read the full ruling before saying anything about it (possibly later today). Fair enough. President Ron Swift said his group's lawsuit is "sufficiently different" from the city's, but the group will meet with its attorney before deciding whether to go forward with its case. He did say they had been waiting to see what would happen with the city's case, and it appears as though the Stanislaus County court was waiting as well, as no hearings had been scheduled since the lawsuit was filed in September. More to come, but perhaps not today.