Buzz was in the air January 23 when Patterson opened its new Wal-Mart store, which created more than 300 jobs, and was expected to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city’s general fund from sales tax revenue.
Stanislaus County’s largest Wal-Mart store celebrated its grand opening with a ceremony that included local politicians, veterans and store officials at the new supercenter at Sperry and Ward avenues.
While speaking at the event, Mayor Luis Molina said there would be a lot less road miles clocked in for Patterson residents as a result of the store’s opening.
The opening marked the culmination of nearly four years of planning and more than a year of construction.
A foundation established by the retailer donated $8,000 in grants during the grand opening ceremony. Homeless advocacy group Helping Others Sleep Tonight (HOST) and scholarship foundation Patterson Recognizing Individuals Determined to Excel (PRIDE) each received $1,000 checks. The Patterson Apricot Fiesta, Patterson Volunteer Fire Department, Patterson Youth Soccer Association and Westside Food Pantry also received $1,500 each.
Just a day earlier, the City Council approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and its workers, outlining new benefits and pay based on revenue generated by new businesses coming into Patterson.
Employee negotiations finalized
The two-year MOU set to expire later this year was with the biggest bargaining unit for the city, which is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 10. It represents 53 employees in public works, community services, recreation, fire, community development and the finance department. The other unit is the 12-paid firefighter bargaining unit— the International Association of Firefighters local 4577.
The most previous MOU had expired June 30, 2012; the city spent the rest of 2012 negotiating the provisions of the new pact approved in late January.
The new agreement included a 4 percent base wage increase to all AFSCME 10 represented employees, effective April 1, 2014, if city sales tax revenues are more than $2.1 million. In addition, all normal evaluation-based salary raises will be put back into effect retroactively July 1, 2012, according to the report.
The city has had a council imposed citywide wage freeze for the last three fiscal years ending June 30, 2011. A cost of living adjustment was given to employees effective July 1, 2011.
The city will also pay 100 percent of health insurance for workers within the bargaining unit during the contract.
The firefighters bargaining unit would follow in February with a pact of their own for three years through the end of the fiscal year in 2015. The deal could cost the city as much as $80,000 to $95,000 a year if raises are triggered in the second and third years of the deal. The cost would be spread over several district pools of money and could cost the General Fund $30,000 to $36,000 annually.
Among some 37 changes made to the previous contract are a potential 4 percent raise on April 1, 2014 for the firefighters if the city reaches $2.1 million in sales tax revenue, and another 3 percent raise April 1, 2015 if those revenues hit $2.5 million. During the three year pact the city will also pay 100 percent of the monthly premium for Kaiser Permanente’s HMO plan at the employee and two plus dependents level.
West Patterson Biz Park hits winter snag, passes later
In late February, facing mounting opposition to a massive 1,119 acre West Patterson Business Park expansion, the City of Patterson and land developers withdrawn their application to the county’s governing land use agency. The matter, which passed the Patterson City Council in August 2012, was set to go before the Local Agency Formation Commission February 27, but the city retreated due to opposition from the commission’s staff and county officials. LAFCo is an agency chartered to deal with land-use issues for Stanislaus County and its cities. It consists of two county supervisors selected by the full board of supervisors, two city council representatives selected by a majority of the mayors in the county and a public member selected by the other four members. None of the five commissioners are from Patterson.
The city originally planned to have the expansion continued to a meeting on March 27 and declared so in a letter Monday, Feb. 25, but fully retreated Wednesday in another letter from Deputy City Attorney Doug White.
In December, the Stanislaus Local Agency Formation Commission voted 5-0 in favor of a massive West Patterson Business Park expansion in spite of staff recommendations to sink the project.
LAFCo staff recommended that the panel deny the project on grounds that it would impact water tables in the area and there were no agricultural mitigations to help offset the loss of farmland in the area. The panel sided however, with project studies that indicated the loss of farmland would actually help or keep the water table the same, stating industrial and commercial businesses use less water than agricultural land uses.
The expansion has two main park components, the Arambel Park and the KDN Business Center. The project will eventually increase the land size of the city by more than 30 percent.
The 948-acre Arambel Park will focus on light industrial businesses, similar to those already in the West Patterson Business Park, including CVS and Kohl’s distribution centers. The 104-acre KDN center is planned for retail developments.
The expansion in west Patterson would encompass the Arambel Business Park and KDN Retail Center, projects proposed for land west of Rogers Road, east of Interstate 5, south of Zacharias Road and north of Sperry Avenue. Most of the area is farmland and would continue to be farmed until developed, even after annexation.
Developer and farmer Jeff Arambel said the project will provide an estimated 10,000 jobs with $3.1 million in net revenue to the county and another $3.5 million annually to the city of Patterson.
Giant distribution center approved for mystery tenants
That, along with another planned giant distribution center retooled in December from seven buildings to one giant 1.27 million square foot facility are attracting more businesses and jobs to the region as the new year opens.
The massive Patterson Logistics Center was approved December 17. The building, which is more than 25 percent larger than the Amazon.com building, was approved 4-0 for development at the regular Patterson City Council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 17. The Patterson Logistics Center has two prospective mystery tenants, according to real estate developer Scott Cable of Buzz Oates and Cable and Kilpatrick properties. One known to the developer and another that was a mystery to Cable as well.
Council members seeking answers to questions of traffic impacts held up the project from October through three following meetings. However, traffic engineers and staff members insisted the project, which consolidates seven buildings with the same combined square footage into one giant structure, would create less traffic than was already approved.
Businesses knocking on door in New Year
With all of the available land coming into play in the New Year, Internet retailers looking to compete with Amazon.com are now knocking at the door of Patterson, especially after the West Patterson Business Park expansion near Interstate 5.
Government officials as well as real estate developers are confirming that at least two major Internet retailers or e-tailers, as they are sometimes called, are looking to locate in Patterson to bring more distribution center style businesses and jobs to the area.
While not revealing a name— one has remained anonymous to even the developers, much like Amazon.com did in early stages of development— Deputy City Attorney Doug White said as much as 5 million square feet of distribution center building space could be at stake and Patterson is in direct competition with its rival 26 miles to the north— Tracy.
He said one e-tailer that wants to directly compete with Amazon.com is looking to put in two distribution centers within a five mile radius of each other— one 1.2 million square foot facility and another 1.8 million square foot colossus— preferably next door to each other. Another anonymous e-tailer is looking to put in a 1.2 to 1.5 million square foot facility in Patterson— possibly into the Patterson Logistics Center
Public safety and City Government Reporter Nick Rappley can be reached at 209-568-9975 or firstname.lastname@example.org.