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New center, Chavez name flap, bad economy top 2009 stories
The year 2009 will be known as the year of the controversial pick of Cesar Chavez for a new junior high school, City Hall staff reductions, plans for water meters, the opening of the Ceres Community Center and continued progress on the Whitmore interchange.

The Courier reviewed its news stories of the year and highlighted these as the most significant of 2009:


• Jim DeMartini became chairman of the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors while Vito Chiesa of Hughson joined the board.

• Thom Crowder became a member of the Hughson City Council.

• CUSD changed its trustee areas to give Latinos better representation.

• Adilene Valencia became the Ceres High School winter homecoming queen and Michael Flores the king.

• The country got a new president in Barack Obama on Jan. 20 and one of those who expressed his hope in a change of leadership was Ceres resident Michael Johnson who decorated up his yard presidential style.

• Suspicious fires that caused over $100,000 damage inside the Home Depot store were the work of an employee.

• The City Council voted to hike water and sewer rates Jan. 26 to make up for an operational deficit, buy water meters, and pay for system upgrades.

• Greg Magni, on Jan. 17, was named the California League of High Schools 2009 Educator of the Year.

• Glenn Gebhardt of Ripon became the new city engineer in January, replacing longtime Engineer Joe Hollstein.

• Walt Hanline, superintendent of the Ceres Unified School District, was bestowed with the Chamber's Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement honor on Jan. 31. Kim Chapman was honored by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce with its annual Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement award on Jan. 31.


• February was a gloomy month at Ceres City Hall when revenues drop like a rock and the only way to trim the deficit is by laying off employees. Thirteen positions were eliminated to cut $1.13 million. City layoffs were unavoidable since approximately 87 percent of the $20 million general fund is spent on labor and benefits.

• Central Valley High School picked Jessica Wood as its winter homecoming queen and Peter Espinoza as king.

• CUSD proceeds to buy three new school sites, including a 19.7-acre parcel for the junior high school near La Rosa Elementary School (it breaks ground in August); a 14.4-acre site for Lucas Elementary School on Roeding Road west of Mitchell Road; and a four-acre parcel on S. Central Avenue immediately south of Central Valley High School for Walt Hanline Elementary.


• CUSD lays off 14 employees as it expects to lose $4.2 million. The School Board approved layoffs for 10 certificated and four classified employees. Among the certificated employees given pink slips were nine teachers and one school nurse. Classified staff cutbacks include two paraprofessionals and two speech and language pathologist assistants.

• More then 60 officers executed search warrants at residences of five suspects in a Dec. 27, 2008 home invasion robbery at a home on Waynesboro Drive in Ceres.

Police arrested Julian Michael Perez, 20, of Turlock, and Anthony F. Garcia, 19, of Modesto, on attempted murder warrants with bail set at $1 million each. Arrested and charged with first-degree burglary were Jose Saucedo, 18, of Ceres, and Rick Andrew Marquez, 20, of Modesto.

Joseph Alapai Garcia, 20, of Modesto, was later arrested when he showed up in court on an unrelated matter. He was charged with attempted murder with bail set at $1 million. Ceres police detectives engaged in a major hunt for the men who staged the Dec. 27, 2008 crime in which three persons were stabbed at an evening party in the 3700 block of Waynesboro Drive.

• Justice prevails in March when Jerry Benge was sentenced to 11 years for instigating the death of a rural Ceres man in 2005. Sean Benge, 30, was sentenced for the actual murder of Steven Brownm 45, at his Crows Landing Road residence.

• Paraprofessional instructional assistant Stacey Goodloe, 36, of Ceres, was arrested in March on charges that she illegally had sexual relations with one of her male students. The boy, who was not identified, was under the age of 15 at the time.

• Greg Yotsuya was named Police Officer of the Year, while Juan Montes was named "Firefighter of the Year" at the annual Law and Order Night. The event also paid tribute to "Support Person of the Year" Lilia Franco, and "EMT of the Year" Adam Martin.

• Cereans are shocked at horrible news that human remains unearthed March 25 from a residential backyard on Alexis Avenue in west Ceres were that of Alycia Mesiti, a 14-year-old girl who was reported missing in 2006. Police arrested and charged her father, Mark Edward Mesiti, 41, in Los Angeles. The Stanislaus County Coroner's Office positively identified the human remains, found buried four feet deep at the residence, on Friday and next of kin were notified over the weekend. The girl was reported missing in August 2006. The Mesiti family moved to Ceres in 2005 from the Bay Area.


• Farmers' Market returns to Ceres on Wednesdays in Whitmore Park.

• On April Fool's Day postal patrons living north of Hatch Road decided they want to continue having a Modesto mailing address even though they live in the city of Ceres or its sphere of influence. Of the 1,182 returned ballots that could be counted, the vote went 429 "yes" to switch from Modesto 95351 to Ceres 95307 and 753 who voted no. The city was extremely disappointed that patrons preferred the confusing mislabeling of the area. The matter of changing the zip code cannot be revisited for another 10 years.

• Because of the bad economy and falling revenues, Howard Training Center abandoned its skills training program for severely disabled adults. Cutting the program eliminates approximately nine full-time employees and terminates daily care and activities for 37 adults with disabilities.

• Ceres residents like Gaylene Ramos and Karen Jorgensen participate in an April 15 anti-tax tea party outside the Stanislaus County offices in downtown Modesto. The revolt featured radio talk show host Rusty Humphrey.

• Rashelle Garrett of Ceres won KAMB radio station's Christian Artist Search contest at a May event in Turlock.

• Ken Craig, the city's Planning Director, was layed off in May to save the city $184,081 annually in tough budget times.

• The 21st Ceres Street Faire packed in thousands May 2-3.

• Hundreds of persons braved triple-digit heat to raise funds for cancer research at the fourth annual Ceres Relay for Life at Ceres High School May 16-17. The 24-hour event at Ceres High School's football stadium raised an estimated $80,000 for the American Cancer Society's fight against cancer. A total of 31 teams and approximately 1,500 participants and spectators participated.

• A Westport 4-H mom and a county supervisor were honored with agricultural award honors by the Ceres Chamber of Commerce on May 14. Jackie Germann, an active mother of three, was bestowed with the Chamber's "Agribusiness Woman of the Year." Jim DeMartini, a Westport area farmer who serves as a county supervisor, was honored as the "Agribusiness Man of the Year."

• May's School Board pick of names for three new schools sparks months of ire and protest. Two elementary schools are named after Walt Hanline and for Grant and Mildred Lucas but the pick of Cesar Chavez for the new junior high causes many in town to blow a cork. They cried that the board violated its strict policy that calls for schools to be named after geographical areas or local people who made significant contributions to Ceres.


• Lawyers for a man injured in 2008 when a brick chimney fell on him file a $10 million civil lawsuit against the city of Ceres. Sam Whitely, 59, was nearly crushed to death when a chimney toppled onto him on July 12, 2008. The chimney was left standing at 2942 Service Road after Ceres firefighters conducted a practice burn on a house that was to be razed for a proposed Hampton Inn. Whitely went onto the property but just for what reasons remains in dispute.

• A June 8 fire at Mid Valley Iron, Metal and Plastic in southwest Ceres burned a pile of recyclables that drew six fire departments.

• On June 4 Central Valley High graduated its first-ever four-year classmen .

• The new $6.8 million Ceres Community Center was officially open on June 16. The Fourth Street center is expected to draw more people and interest to downtown Ceres.


Stanislaus County had its first H1N1 flu related death on July 1.

Federal stimulus money gave summer jobs to 300 Ceres teens through Project YES.

Mayor Anthony Cannella gave his State of the City Address in which he noted Ceres is struggling financially. He noted that the council had to cut spending by $3.6 million to reduce general fund spending down from $20 million to $16.4 million. The budget trim included $1.3 million in personnel costs and resulted in 19 city employees being terminated. He also stated that the city will be dipping into $5 million in reserves to help "weather the storm." But the council, he said, is disciplined to "not allowing our general fund reserve to dip below 25 percent."


• Ceres residents enjoy attending and participating in the Stanislaus County Fair July 31 to Aug. 9 in Turlock.

• A judge in Modesto rules that murder suspect Columbus Allen cannot get a fair trial in Stanislaus County and offers a change of venue. Allen, a former Ceres High School student, is accused of fatally shooting CHP Officer Earl Scott during a Feb. 17, 2006 traffic stop on Highway 99 near Hammett Road near Ripon.

• Former Turlock Irrigation District Director Mike Berryhill of Ceres announced his candidacy Aug. 24 to run for Dennis Cardoza's congressional seat in the 2010 election.

• A collective groan shot up in Ceres when city officials announced they are going full bore on plans to install water meters for all houses by the summer of 2010. State law requires the action in an effort to encourage water conservation statewide.

• U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited the Stanislaus County Agricultural Center in Ceres on Aug. 26. He heard lots of complaints from dairy farmers that federal policy has caused farmers to suffer.


• Turlock Irrigation District continues to encounter public and city protest in its plans to construct a 10-mile 115 KV electricity transmission line from Hughson to Ceres. TID already has modified the route for the line, but a number of landowners along the new route don't want to look up and see 70-foot tall towers and lines. Some farmers are not happy about the prospects of a line cutting through their property either. The biggest issue came when the city of Ceres issued a letter stating its opposition to the project route as it slices through an area designated by the Ceres General Plan to become low-density residential housing.

• Virginia Parks Elementary School celebrated its 20th anniversary with a party that included speeches and a barbecue dinner.

• Madison Megee's long and publicly profiled fight against brain cancer died Sept. 29. The 7-year-old girl's medical plight captured the hearts of Ceres residents.


• Controversy developed over the quality of street sweeping service when Rick Richardson of ABC Sweeping located just outside of Ceres questioned how Contract Sweeping Services (CSS) of Stockton could sweep city streets with just one truck when he was using two trucks to get the job done between 1991 and 2007. No changes were made at the council level other than a pledge to watch CSS' work quality.

• Vanessa Cuevas was named Ceres High homecoming queen and Aaron Cunningham was named king.

• The Hughson City Council caught fire in October for voting 3-to-2 during a closed session to file a termination notice for Donabed, then later rescind it.

• Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella formally announced Oct. 21 that he is seeking the 12th Senate District seat being vacated by Jeff Denham.

• Maria Palomares was crowned Central Valley High School homecoming queen and Dillon Le was named king.

• TID opens its new $1 million office in downtown Ceres at 2944 Third Street.

• Michael Frantz of Hickman was tapped to replace the vacancy on the Turlock Irrigation District board of director left by the Sept. 27 death of Phil Short of Hughson.

• At a huge gathering of all CUSD staff, soon-to-be superintendent Scott Siegel gave a speech in which he warned that the district could be headed for a prolonged period of stressed revenues.


• On Nov. 3 Election Day Teresa Guerrero and Edgar Romo, incumbent trustees of the Ceres Unified School District board, were resoundly defeated. Guerrero was defeated by Valli Wigt in Trustee Area 3. Wigt received 494 votes to Guerrero's 250 votes.

Lourdes Perez defeated Romo in Trustee Area 5. Perez collected 384 votes to Romo's 195 votes.

Betty Davis remained safe in the at-large trustee area although the Chavez backlash may account for political newcomer Brian Kline coming close. Davis received 1,900 votes, or 57.3. Kline picked up 1,363 votes, or 41.1 percent.

Ceres City Council members Ken Lane and Chris Vierra smoked their opponent by a wide margin. Mike Kline failed to excite the electorate in his fourth unsuccessful Ceres political campaign. Vierra came out on top with 1,852 votes, or 40.57 percent, followed by Lane who had 1,482 votes, o 32.46 percent. Kline received 1,192 votes, or 26.11 percent, to lose out.

• Ceres experiences its first homicide of the year on Nov. 23 when parolee Ryan S. Flores, 33, was fatally shot in the 2000 block of Boothe Road. All police know is that the victim was in an argument prior to the shooting.

• The TID board decides to table plans to build a $16.7 million, double-circuit 115-kilovolt transmission line from Hughson to southwest Ceres after an outpouring of opposition on Nov. 17. Concerns aired by angry farmers and the city of Ceres over the proposed route led the directors to table discussion until an unnamed later date.

• The Ceres City Council agrees to an historic joint powers authority agreement to build a new 33,360-square-foot Animal Shelter at Crows Landing and Service.


• The city is finding that interest is picking up in reviving downtown Ceres and having some restoration for the Ceres water tower, which would make for a marketing icon.Redevelopment funds will be tapped for the water tower paint-over since the enhancement of downtown is one of the missions of the Ceres Redevelopment Agency.

• Amy Peterman was selected to replace Robert Serrato as principal of Central Valley High School.

• Ceres experienced its second homicide of 2009 when Diego Tovar, 32, was fatally stabbed in the Pine Riddge Apartment complex on Dec. 18. Three others were injured in the attack which resulted after a dispute over loud music. Arrested was Ruben Ceja Artega, 40, of Ceres.


Some of the well known Ceres figures who left us in 2009 included:

• Two-term Ceres mayor Ted Humphries on March 4. He served as mayor from 1976 to 1980.

• Former Police Sgt. Gene Fowler, who worked for Ceres Police from 1970 to 1992, died March 30.

• Mary Kimoto, the Japanese-American Ceres woman who was trapped in Japan because of a journey occurring on the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, died March 9 at the age of 90. Her experiences and letters sent to home at the time were published in a Stanford University Press book in 1995: "Dear Miye: Letters Home from Japan 1939-1946."

• TID Director Phil Short of Hughson, on Sept. 27.