The City Council touched on community safety concerns briefly during its Tuesday meeting, with plans for a broader discussion in coming weeks.
Police Capt. Carl Nielsen gave a short update on homeless issues, particularly those around Denair Park. The small neighborhood park just northeast of the busy downtown area has attracted homeless people because of its proximity to churches and a shelter that provide services.
Nielsen said he plans to come back at the next council meeting Sept. 24 with a more thorough update on homeless and panhandling issues around the city, not just in Denair Park. He said he plans to present some alternatives and programs that area nonprofit groups and city officials have been working on to discourage panhandling.
“It’s on our radar; we’re working on it with all city staff to come up with some solutions,” he said.
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City Manager Roy Wasden said he knows community members are “very unhappy” at the homeless situation, especially in Denair Park, and he plans to put together a community meeting on the issue soon.
Kit Casey, who manages Turlock Community Theatre, spoke during the meeting out of concern for his wife, who runs the restaurant Cotta’s Kitchen across from the park. “We have front-row seats to Denair Park. It’s more than just homeless – there’s a criminal element there,” Casey said. “It’s a serious problem. It’s about safety now, too. I’m worried every morning when my wife is getting in there that early.”
At the meeting, new Municipal Services Director Michael Cooke was sworn in. He replaces retiring Director Dan Madden.
Mayor John Lazar also appointed 19 members to his new Mayor’s Economic Development Task Force and approved an appointment each from the four board members. Turlock Chamber of Commerce CEO Sharon Silva will serve as chairwoman of the committee, and Turlock Planning Commission Chairman Mike Brem will serve as vice chairman.