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Whitmore Avenue rip-up tops 13 Courier stories
Courier revisits top stories
The worst accident of 2013 occurred on March 11 when three men died on Highway 99 atop the overpass near Whitmore Park when their car was rear-ended by a big-rig. - photo by Courier file photo

What one local issue affected Ceres more than any other during 2013? Hands down it was the way PG&E disrupted life to the motoring public on Whitmore Avenue who were forced to deal with months of aggravating lanes closures, a slalom course of orange cones, loud machinery and on one occasion a day-long power outage caused by a careless crane operator.

The PG&E pipeline replacement heads the Ceres Courier's top news story of the year.

While the Rim Fire in the foothills was far from Ceres, it affected the lives of many who call Ceres home. A number of Ceres firefighters were dispatched to fight the fire, which started on Aug. 17 and burned 257,314 acres of forestry and wild lands enjoyed by Ceres residents. Ceres police officers also spent time patrolling areas such as Ponderosa Hills to keep an eye on looters. The fire was finally knocked down on Oct. 24, making it the third largest wildfire in California history as far as man has been taking records.

The Courier also takes a look back at other news story that made the year memorable.

On Jan. 14 the city of Ceres took possession of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion, a feat which a group of history preservationists were unable to accomplish in the 1990s. The 8,000-square-foot mansion was built in 1903 by Clinton Whitmore, son of town founder Daniel Whitmore. In late 2012 the city and Bank of America agreed to transact the mansion and 2.47 acres of land for a short sale price of $475,300. The acquisition was covered by $194,500 taken from the Neighborhood Park Fees Fund and $285,500 from the Planned Community Facilities Fund.

A number of Ceres and Hughson area residents attended the Jan. 21 inauguration of Barack Obama as president in Washington, D.C. Madeline Henry and Stephanie Muci, both 2010 graduates and salutatorians of Central Valley High School, were at the Capitol for the historic event. So were Hughson residents Roger and Carol Frazier.

George Pallios, one of three brothers who built a small grocery empire serving Ceres for 61 years, was honored Jan.25 with the Ceres Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Chamber also gave special recognition to the entire Pallios family for its significant contributions to the community on a personal level and when their Richland Market was operational. The store, which closed in 2012 after 61 years of serving Ceres, was opened in 1951 by brothers Gus Pallios and John Pallios 1951.

The Chamber also gave Lance Goblirsh the Chamber's Distinguished Service Award as did Nancy Pope. Bryan and Becki Nicholes shared in the "Volunteer of the Year Award." The husband-wife team has been instrumental in the Love Ceres program. Del Ambris and Cost Less Foods received accolades with the "Business of the Year Award."

On Jan. 28 the Ceres City Council approved a series of adjustments to water and sewer rates intended to generate revenue for capital improvements to the aging system. At the beginning of the year, Ceres households were paying $43.99 per month for sewer service. The rate jumped to $44.99 on July 1, and will go to $49.33 during the 2014-15 fiscal year, $52.96 for 2015-16, $56.30 for 2016-17 and $59.03 per month for 2017-18 year. Water rates also increased in July. The city raised the volumetric charge from 72 cents per 1,000 gallons to $1 - and it will rise to $2 per thousand gallons by 2017-18.

Ceres police shot a 34-year-old mentally unstable man inside of his parents' home at 2409 Pine Ridge Drive on Feb. 4 after he charged them with a machete. Samuel Tome Matos survived the bullet wound to the arm and was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon against peace officer.

Ceres Fire Battalion Chief Bryan Hunt retired in February after 24 years of service to Ceres as a volunteer firefighter, public safety officer, firefighter, fire captain and battalion chief.

Three men were killed March 11 when their Cadillac on southbound Highway 99 slowed and they were struck from behind by a big-rig atop the raised portion over the Whitmore off ramp. All three were migrant farm laborers.

In March an official with the Latino Community Roundtable called the city to host district elections, not on a citywide basis.

In April the city came under fire for installing two new stop signs on Fowler Road at Lunar Drive. Sherri Jacobson and her Citizens for Ceres group then launched legal action to get the city to reconsider the move.

Also in April, the IHOP restaurant in Ceres was shut down for nearly a month after a Hummer slammed into the dining room at the corner of Hatch and Richland Avenue. The April 14 crash was caused by driver Courtnie Michener, 20, of Ceres.

The Ceres Relay for Life fell short of its fundraising goal in the April 20-21 event when it collected $21,754 in its $60,000 goal.

"Love Ceres" was a big success in Ceres in late April when over 530 people turned out to help with community improvement projects.

Also in April, Ceres Police Detective Arthur Hively and patrol officer Brittney England were both given "Ceres Police Officer of the Year" honors at the annual Law & Order Night sponsored by the American Legion Ceres Post 491 on April 23.

Bret Presson was named "Ceres Firefighter of the Year" and Records Clerk Lilia Franco was named "Support Person of the Year."

David McCann was honored as the "Ceres Volunteer in Public Safety of the Year."

Dollar General opened its first store in Ceres in May in the Richland Shopping Center.

Picture perfect weather allowed thousands to turn out for the Ceres Street Faire May 4-5 in downtown Ceres.

Also in May, Greg Nunes and Kathy Weststeyn were honored as great proponents of agriculture as they were received the Ceres Chamber of Commerce's Agribusiness Man and Agribusiness Woman of the Year, respectively.

A total of 261 seniors graduated from Ceres High School on June 6 with valedictorian Sonia Parnoutsoukian leading the way. Four years of hard work ended for 344 seniors when they received diplomas at Central Valley High School on June 7. Angela Pimentel was the class valedictorian.

On June 21 Adolfo Sandoval, 43, was fatally shot by his girlfriend's estranged husband who had been recently released from state prison. The fatal shooting occurred in the front yard at 1409 Hackett Road. Sandoval had moved in with the woman who was separated from her husband, Noel Mansilla, 34, while he was incarcerated. Mansilla, described as jealous over Sandoval, gained entry into the house at 1405 Hackett Road where he confronted the victim who tried to escape. Sandoval was shot in the yard at the house and staggered mortally wounded to a neighbor's front yard.

In June, Ceres Unified School District officials were beaming after the state Department of Education released its Similar Schools ranking based on last fall's Academic Performance Index (API) scores. Of the 140 schools in Stanislaus County, 22 schools attained a ranking of a "9" or a "10," with Ceres taking 10 of those. Breaking that down, eight Stanislaus County schools were ranked a "10" school with five being in Ceres, specifically Carroll Fowler, Westport and Walter White elementary schools, plus Ceres and Central Valley high schools.

The summer heat wave resulted in the death of a 77-year-old Ceres man who was living in a mobile home coach on Tamarack Avenue. A failed air conditioning unit was to blame in the July 9 death.

Ceres Police started their popular Coffee with A Cop program at the McDonalds on Whitmore Avenue on July 24. The event allows the public to engage with police officers in an informal setting.

Landmark eatery Jenny's Family Dining closed on July 28 after a 13-year run.

In early August Ceres Police Officer Chris Melton, a nine-year veteran of Ceres Police Department, was placed on administrative leave as he faces criminal misdemeanor charges of assault by an officer under color of authority.

This charge arises out of an incident that occurred on April 13, 2013 when Ceres Police Officers took a suspect into custody at the 1600 block of Evans Road. A subsequent investigation questioning the amount of force used by Officer Melton during the incident commenced after another Ceres officer reported suspected misconduct to agency supervisors.

National Night Out returned to Ceres on Aug. 6 with a large community gathering at the Ceres Community Center.

With candidate filing periods over, Betty Davis, Mike Welsh, Lourdes Perez and Valli Wigt were guaranteed another four-year term on the Ceres Unified School District board since all incumbents were uncontested for re-election in the Nov. 5 election.

CUSD opened up its first-ever dual immersion campus when Lucas Elementary School opened on Aug. 14. Students receive instruction half the day in English and the other half in Spanish. School namesakes Grant and Mildred Lucas attended the September dedication of Lucas Elementary School.

Officer Joe Wren was shot at by ex-felon Robert Anthony de Los Rios, 34, of Modesto, who faces charges of attempting to kill a police officer after a harrowing Aug. 24 incident in which the officer fired back at the suspect. The incident occurred in the 2500 block of Whitmore Avenue.

For the first time in years, residential construction returned to Ceres as Florsheim Homes starts to finish 39 lots in Eastgate's Bing Cherry Estates that were approved in 2006.

During an Oct. 8 town hall meeting sponsored by state Senator Anthony Cannella, Ceres residents were given a glimpse of the Obamacare mandate that came to be in October. Those who fail to get health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014 will not only be without coverage but will be paying fines via the income tax return. The fines for noncompliance in 2014 will be one percent of annual income or a minimum $95 per adult or up to $285 for a family; to $325 per adult in 2015 ($975 per family); and $695 per adult and $2,085 per family in 2016.

A new soccer field is on the way in 2014 at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park since the Ceres City Council in October approved a revision to the park master plan. While the entire master plan could take more than a decade to develop, new soccer fields will be ready for play by next fall. That will give the facility six soccer fields for competitive state cup tournaments that will draw people from throughout the area and give Ceres an economic boost.

Linda Ryno and Ken Lane won seats on the Ceres City Council. Ryno, a former city hall worker, commanded the election with 1,519 votes, 37.5 percent.

Lane was the second highest vote gatherer with 1,297 votes, or 30.04 percent, edging out Hugo Molina who rounded up 1,217 votes (30.04 percent). It was the second defeat for Molina, a member of the Ceres Planning Commission. The election results surprised some who believed that Lane would dominate the election as the incumbent who amassed a $12,724 campaign war chest.

The year said goodbye to former Martin Poultry Ranch operator Wilma Jean Martin who died in April; Dennis Barbour, former owner of Barbour's Save Center, March 19; longtime Ceres bus driver Loren Hosmer, June 13; Karen Benziger, wife of Courier editor Jeff Benziger, July 5; Central Valley High School student Kyle Gaudio, July 15; former CHS coach Alfred Jackson, Aug. 12; CHS graduate Maurice Richard Moniz Jr., 19, killed in a Nov. 8 car crash; World War II veteran Hershell Trent Young, Dec. 1; Alfonso's Mexican Restaurant owner Alfonso Lara, Dec. 10; and Ceres school teacher Theresa Lee Gill, Dec. 14.