As he looked ahead to 2013, Mayor Luis Molina said public safety — and specifically police services — is the top priority.
A contract between the city and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement for Patterson expires June 30, and talk of an upcoming request for proposal from contractors for a public safety needs assessment is on the minds of council members, including Councilwoman Deborah Novelli.
“We have begun to climb out of our recession, but we still have many questions to be answered,” Novelli said. “When I look at problems of our community, I look at public safety.”
Councilman Dominic Farinha, who was re-elected Nov. 6, said the city expects to see increased sales tax revenue from a fulfillment center for Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc. and big-box retailer Walmart. He suggested that one of the city’s top priorities must be allocating some of that money for the police department.
“I would like to see us figure out our public safety needs, short term as well as long term,” the councilman said. “I’m curious to see what the city needs and then act accordingly.”
First-term Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten, who took the oath of office Dec. 4, said she, too, was waiting for an assessment report, and she wants to see how other communities are handling law enforcement.
“I’d like to check out Newman and see how it is going with them running their own police department,” she said.
She added that Newman, though half the size of Patterson, and may not have the same needs as Patterson.
In the meanwhile, she suggested that city leaders should hear what residents have to say.
“We need input,” Lustgarten said. “A few town hall meetings wouldn’t hurt.”
Other goals for 2013 included programs for children and teens.
Looking toward the opening of Walmart and the planned Amazon center, Novelli said each was expected to require hundreds of employees, some of whom might move to Patterson with their families.
She said she was working on a proposal to share with fellow council members regarding an after-school program that would serve children nearing age 5 through 16-year-olds. Though a timeline has not yet been revealed for such a program, it would be in addition to those already offered by the city and Patterson Joint Unified School District, she said.
“The intent is not to take away from child care facilities, but to add to options for parents with what to do with their children,” Novelli said.
Molina also said he would like to see more activities tailored for teenagers and said council members needed to evaluate whether the suite that houses the teen center at Las Palmas and Ward avenues was serving its purpose.
He also spoke of the Senior Meals Program, hosted at the Hammon Center Center and run in conjunction with Stanislaus County, and said the city must find a more permanent solution to provide meals either through the county or by pursuing its own plan.
The county has a contract with the Howard Training Center in Modesto to provide three meals a week.
Lustgarten said that Patterson, a city rich in civic activities, needs a downtown face-lift.
“I love what they’ve done with Newman’s downtown,” she said. “It’s clean, fresh and quaint and has an old-town feel.”
She said she would also like to see loan money made available for military veterans to start businesses.
“I’d like to see some economic development,” she said. “Newman’s been innovative with their new city hall with renting out some offices.”
She likened Newman’s City Hall to Patterson’s plan to annex buildings near City Hall and rent out office space to businesses, while using other space for government.
Novelli, too, boosted downtown revitalization as a priority for the city.
“The goal with the downtown core is to get people to shop downtown,” she said. “We need to offer a low-interest loan program to help improve our downtown, get more people to come downtown and establish businesses here.”
Councilman Larry Buehner said he was waiting to set goals with other council members during the next few City Council meetings.
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