February 26, 2014

Turlock mayor lauds business, safety gains

Mayor John Lazar, in his annual State of the City speech Wednesday, praised Turlock’s welcoming attitude toward business and the revival of downtown. Other leaders also spoke of the city’s challenges, particularly amid the drought, but noted the long-term potential for farming and food processing.

Blue Diamond Growers got building permits in spring of 2012 and, just a year and three days later, was processing nuts in a sophisticated new plant.

Mayor John Lazar, in his annual State of the City speech Wednesday, cited that project as an example of Turlock’s welcoming attitude toward business.

“Turlock is a city on the move, and we are prepared for the road ahead,” he said at an event held at the Carnegie Arts Center by the Turlock Chamber of Commerce.

Lazar also noted the completion last year of the Turlock Public Safety Facility, which, like the arts center, is part of downtown’s revival.

“We are delighted to have the epicenter of public safety in our community located right here in downtown Turlock,” he said.

The mayor also cited efforts to keep city parks and other properties looking sharp and the possibility of a countywide sales tax increase for transportation projects.

He noted that total water use in Turlock is the same as in 2000, despite population growth, and that the city is looking at boosting its groundwater-supplied system with a Tuolumne River treatment plant. It also is in a partnership with a few other local governments that would sell highly treated wastewater for irrigation.

Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, whose district includes Turlock, said property and sales tax income are ticking up. He noted challenges as well, including health care for the poorest county residents and supervising offenders under the realignment of state prisons and parole.

Chiesa, an almond and walnut grower, also noted the 20-inch water cap in the Turlock Irrigation District and the 18-inch limit in the Modesto Irrigation District this year. They are well short of the 36 inches needed to produce a crop, he said, so growers will pump more groundwater and not plant some annual crops.

Despite the current water woes, speakers noted the long-term potential for farming and food processing in the area. The key industries are those that bring in money from outside, said David White, chief executive officer at the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance.

He said Turlock is an example of a local government working with business to promote growth.

“Here is a community where the public sector and the private sector have come into alignment,” he said.

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