OAKDALE — Mayor Pat Paul noted progress on several fronts Wednesday, although she also acknowledged that things got tense the night before.
The annual State of the City luncheon celebrated achievements in 2012, including an improved budget, a restructured staff, a pair of park grants and the first step toward a new animal shelter.
Paul and Police Chief Lester Jenkins also talked about Tuesday night, when an officer was fired at during a manhunt just south of downtown, according to police. No one was injured, and two suspects were arrested.
Paul said city leaders will consider boosting the police force, using some of the extra sales taxes provided by voter-approved Measure O over three years.
"This is a priority, public safety," she said. "You need to feel safe in your home."
Jenkins said the city had gone four years without a homicide until November, when two people were killed near an I Street market.
About 110 people attended the luncheon, sponsored by the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce at the Gene Bianchi Community Center.
Paul said Oakdale has many assets schools, an airport, Oak Valley Hospital and a new senior housing complex. She also mentioned recent state grants to build a trail to the Stanislaus River from the Burchell Hill subdivision and to create a park for skateboarding, performing arts and other uses just south of downtown.
The city government also has something it is trying to unload the former Hershey's Visitor Center, bought from the departed candy maker for $650,000 to house some departments.
"If anyone would like a beautiful building, we'll sell it to you at a good price, or lease it to you," Paul said.
She talked about the tough times a couple of years ago when the city laid off police officers and cut back sharply on streetlights and sweeping.
"What a great image for a new business coming to town dark, dirty, no cops," she said.
Paul said another bright spot is the new city manager. Brian Whitemyer, who has held the same job in Hughson, will start in Oakdale on Monday.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.