The first order of business for the last Turlock City Council meeting held was to recognize and proclaim the outstanding members of city government. The employee of the month award of September 2018 went to Purchasing Coordinator Lisa Quiroga. The code enforcement officer appreciation week award was accepted by Fire Marshal Mark Gomez.
However, the topic that took up most of the City Council’s assembling time were discussions of the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority’s (SRWA) Regional Surface Water Supply Project, presented by SRWA General Manager Bob Granberg.
Granberg explained the purpose of the project was to create water treatment facilities that clean water from the Tuolumne River to help meet fresh water demands of the cities of Turlock and Ceres.
"We are at phase one of the design process… and by October 2022 the plant can produce water,” Granberg said. He added that the plant could produce 15,000,000 gallons of water; “10 million gallons for Turlock and 5 million gallons for Ceres,” Granberg said.
There were concerns by the City Council if the Regional Surface Water Project was necessary, especially with a $172 million price tag. Granberg added that the construction companies he has consulted with said the cost of construction seemed over estimated.
Municipal Services Director Michael Cooke assured the SRWA were doing everything in their power to lower the cost on tax payers. Cooke claimed they are currently in talks for a $20 million grant and that the City will be sharing two-thirds of the cost with Ceres.
When asked if Turlock’s current ground water system could alone meet the City's fresh water need, Cooke said, “We can survive, but we cannot thrive.”
“There are 18 wells up and running, previously we had 26 wells,” Cooke added. He elaborated that three wells were being treated for trichloropropane (TCP), which would cost $1 million each, and that the regional water facility would save the City money in the future.
The City Council took a turn when the Council opened the floor to the public, when former mayor, and current mayoral candidate, Brad Bates responded to allegations of libel made by Vice Mayor Matthew Jacob in a letter published by the Turlock Journal last Friday. The article, titled "Soiseth Best Fit to Lead Turlock Forward," promoted current Turlock City Mayor Gary Soiseth.
In the last paragraph of the letter, Jacob wrote “Finally, what compels me to write this letter is the libelous tactics his opponents have deployed as of late. Everything from frivolous calls for criminal investigations to false claims that he stands to make 'up to a million dollars' from city funds...”
Bates also cited a now deleted Facebook post made by former Council Member Ted Howze where he called Bates an “avert racist.” This, Bates claimed, stemmed from a comment he made taken out of context.
“I am asking now for a retraction and an apology if you are a person of character and integrity,” Bates said.
Mayor Soiseth said that this would be a “one-sided conversation.” Vice Mayor Jacob had no response for Bates.
After the Council meeting had closed, Bates said, “I used to work in the insurance business, and I know what words like libel mean.”
“Words like libel and slander are legal words that carry weight,” Bates added.
Bates claimed Soiseth “created a negative atmosphere” for the upcoming elections. The two men exchanged words outside City Hall with Soiseth telling Bates “Goodnight,” while Bates responded with, “I wouldn’t call it a goodnight; I would just call it a night.”