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2010 a year of sour economic news, budget woes
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Bad economic times and corresponding budget problems for the city, Stanislaus County, the state and Ceres households dominated the news of 2010.

The year served as a milestone for the Ceres Courier, which has been published for 100 years. We take this look back on the top stories of 2010, sorted out month by month.


The year was 11 days old when Ceres witnessed a brazen daytime murder outside the McDonalds at Whitmore Avenue at Morgan Road. Motorist Amadeo Avilos, 20, of Modesto, was fatally shot in what later proved to be a retribution killing for a home invasion robbery done by his sister. Prosecutors said Avalos' murder was hatched by a family victimized in a South Modesto home invasion robbery staged two days before the homicide. Patricia Avalos, sister of the homicide victim, was convicted in April of holding a gun on the Sanchez family during the Jan. 9 invasion. Authorities claim Primitivo Guizar, 18, was the gunman but he has not gone to trial.

On Jan. 12 the nation of Haiti was rocked by an earthquake which affected at least one Ceres native, Mary Chew, who was attempting to leave Haiti with her new adoptive daughters. The action was complicated when the courthouse went down in St. Mark, destroying all the adoption papers. The quake was also felt by Lonnie Davis of Ceres who was on a humanitarian trip in neighboring Dominican Republic.

The Turlock Irrigation District yielded to concerns of the city of Ceres and county residents and decided to move a planned 115 kV transmission line from Grayson Road to TID Lateral 2.5. City officials objected to the original route due to plans to one day widen Grayson Road. That widening would have necessitated a costly repositioning of the high voltage lines, likely at the city's expense.

On Jan. 22 Shirley Davis was named recipient of the 2009 Ceres Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award. Bert Bertolotti was honored with the Citizen of the Year Award.

Angie Prak was named Ceres High School's Winter Homecoming Queen and Kyle Cerny was Homecoming King.

Hughson City Manager Joseph Donabed was dismissed by the Hughson City Council.


Hughson residents began launching a recall effort against City Council members Thom Crowder, Ben Manley and Doug Humphreys. All three were advised by the Grand Jury to resign for violating the Brown Act.

The Ceres City Council voted 4-1 to allow electronic signs in response to an application filed years prior by Dirk Wyatt.

Chelsea Taylor was named Central Valley Homecoming Queen and Adam Parikh was named Homecoming King.

The Ceres City Council voted in February to purchase a $2.6 million state-of-the-art water meter system. The council preferred the Advanced Metering Infrastructure system because its instantaneous radio data collection will enable city officials to track water use cycles and water demand. Each resident will be able to monitor water use in real time through an online account. Residents will be able to learn what their bills will be and immediately able to identify if they have leaks before they get surprised with a larger-than-expected bill. The grand total for the switch over to meters will come to $4.3 million.

Also in February, the contractor on the $16.4 million Whitmore interchange project routed traffic onto the new bridge in preparation for the closure of the old Whitmore overpass.


Dan Fairchild was named "Police Officer of the Year" and Eric Holly named "Firefighter of the Year" at the annual Law & Order Night sponsored by the Ceres American Legion Post 491. Records clerk Patricia Johnson was named "Support Person of the Year." Police chaplain Joel Richards was presented the "Chaplain of the Year Award."

City officials said their residents would not be able to withstand the costs of water should Ceres and neighbors participate in a $197 million project regional surface water plant to be built by the Turlock Irrigation District.

Brian Weber who spent 32 years of working to keep Ceres a safer place, retired March 30 as deputy fire chief. Weber is credited with implementing the First Responder program in Ceres, and guiding the evolution and development of the Fire Department from a volunteer to full-time professional fire department.


CUSD officials and its teachers reach impasse over a proposal to cut employee salaries by 8.5 percent in 2010-11 to pare down a $5 million to $6 million budget deficit.

In mid April Ceres area residents joined in a countywide Tea Party protest of higher taxes and excessive government intrusion held at the Stanislaus County offices.

The Eastern Star chapter in Ceres celebrated a decade of community service at an April 17 party at the Ceres Community Center.


Picture perfect weather greeted thousands to the Ceres Street Faire despite a bad local economy. The event also drew 74 arts and crafts and commercial vendors and 21 non-profit organization food booths.

CUSD officials are thrilled to learn that all Ceres schools posted gains in the Academic Performance Index (API) scores released by the state of California. CUSD's average district school statewide ranking grew by 0.6 ranking, from 4.4 to 5.

A May 5 health faire kicked off the summer Farmers Market in Whitmore Park.

Greater attendance and enthusiasm pushed the fifth annual Ceres Relay for Life beyond the committee goal of raising $83,000 for the American Cancer Society.

A bizarre May 27 crash sent a Ceres driver into a telephone pole and then into the city wastewater treatment plant on Morgan Road. Adam Hale, 34, of Ceres, was rescued by city sewer workers who jumped into action and held his head above the water line.

Shane Parson, a local almond growner and the owner of Diamond Bar Arena outside of Ceres, was named "Outstanding Agribusiness Man of the Year" at the May 27 annual Ceres Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Luncheon.


Valedictorian Robert Mata spoke about the past, present and future during his address at Ceres High School's June 4 commencement ceremony where approximately 262 seniors received diplomas.

On June 3, Central Valley High School graduated approximately 293 seniors. Class valedictorian Jessica Armas reflected on the close of high school.

With the city of Ceres facing austere budget cuts, Ceres firefighters, police and fire managers and other city supervisors agree to contracts that result in a savings of 10 percent to taxpayers to help the city through difficult financial straits. The new contracts, which cover the period from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2012, result in a savings of $607,434 to the city. When it's all over, the city expects to save $750,000 in labor costs when it was shooting for $1 million.

The Ceres City Council approved a $2.41 million renovation project for the Smyrna Park complex. The project involves replacing outdated and inadequate restroom facilities and concession stand that have served Costa Fields ball complex for decades. The work includes replacing ballfield lighting on old wooden light with new state-of-the-art lighting on metal poles. Landscaping, electronic scoreboards and all new concession stand equipment are also included. An addition will be made to the storage building on the site.

A June 21 fire of suspicious origin burned the concession stand, projection room and restroom facilities of the now defunct Ceres Drive-In. The two-screen Ceres Drive-In started in 1947 and was one of the few remaining drive-in theaters in the Valley in recent years.

Nehemiah Construction of Benecia, the contractor working on the Whitmore Avenue/Highway 99 interchange, announced it was staying on the job despite saying it would temporarily pull out to do another job. Contractually the company is only obligated to finish the project for the state by July 2011.

Walt Hanline left the Ceres Unified School District on June 30, proud of his accomplishments as superintendent over the last nine years. Hanline said he's proudest of CUSD rising in its academic achievement since coming to CUSD in 2001. Scott Siegel became the district superintendent.

In June, CUSD and its teachers union reached an agreement on a new contract to reduce teachers' salaries by 8.5 percent in fiscal year 2010-11 to help close a projected $5.5 million budget gap. The move prevented layoffs and cuts to student programs according to district officials.

City officials approved a $49.3 million city spending plan which uses $573,000 in cash reserves which prompted no complaints considering that officials expected a $3.3 million deficit when the 2010-11 budget was forecast in February. The deficit was whittled away after the city and its six labor groups negotiated to reduce the city's operating expenses in light of shrinking revenues. Salary concessions save the city approximately $750,000 in the new fiscal year which started on July 1.


July 6 marked the end of the comment period on the Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Mitchell Ranch Shopping Center and anchor tenant Walmart Supercenter.

A 56-year-old Ceres man was fatally shot in the head by 15-year-old Carlos Mateo after they argued in a home opened up to the down-and-out victim. Michael Chandler staggered up to the front door of the Ceres Police headquarters on Third Street for help on July 11.

July saw two tragic drownings in Ceres. Aureliano Valdez, 2, slipped away from his family in northwest Ceres Sunday and into a algae-murky pool where he drowned. The incident happened in the 900 block of Larsen Avenue on July 18. The next day, Paramjit Kaur, 50, of Ceres, was found in a Ceres canal after being reported missing.

A July 28 Courier story on a small dog born without legs prompted interest in Lt. Dan.


On Aug. 24 the residents of Hughson recalled three of its members. One of the recalled, Ben Manley, decided to quit before the recall election. Replacing them were Gerald Carr, Jeramy Young and Jill Silva.

After over four years of claims of being innocent, Columbus Allen Jr. admitted in court Aug. 2 that he murdered California Highway Patrol officer Earl Scott of Hughson during a 2006 traffic stop. The surprise move came one week after his trial was to begin - but was delayed - in Sacramento County following a change of venue. Allen, 34, admitted he was the man who fatally shot Scott, 36, in the head during a Feb. 17, 2006 traffic stop on northbound Highway 99 north of Salida. Allen admitted he was fearful of going to prison for being a felon in possession of a handgun. The admission of guilt, said the Stanislaus County District Attorney's office, was Allen's way of escaping the death penalty.

Attendance at the Stanislaus County Fair was down 8 percent from the 2009 numbers. A total of 209,108 paid at the gate, with the biggest draw being the Beach Boys.

Ceres was abuzz in August over the release of Arcadia Publishing Company's book, Images of America series on Ceres. The book was authored by Courier editor Jeff Benziger.

Ceres police arrested three persons in connection with the brazen Aug. 20 daytime robbery of a business customer at Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Ceres.

Connie Spence, 46, and her son, Donnie Spence, 19, were apprehended in Modesto on a spending spree using the stolen cash, police said. Marco Eskel, 18, identified as the one who committed the actual robbery, was also arrested. Connie Spence is a former employee of Ceres Drug Store, which was the victim in the crime. Sgt. Pat Sullivan of the Ceres Police Department's Street Crimes Unit said Spence masterminded the robbery as she was familiar with the routine of the company's deposits.


A Ceres police sergeant escaped serious injury Sept. 11 when his patrol car careened into a house at the corner of Moffet and Caswell. Sgt. Perry, was en route to a call and passing vehicles when he was cut off by Rhona F. Dunson, 47, of Ceres, and went into the yard and house.

A large and exuberant crowd of about 700 persons turned out at Diamond Bar Arena on Sept. 14, to cheer on their favorite horse-mounted members of the Imperial Knights. The dinner and entertainment show raised between $10,000 and $20,000 for the Ceres High and Central Valley High athletic programs.


A Blue Star Memorial marker was installed at the Ceres Community Center, thanks to a four-year planning effort. The marker, the first of its kind in Ceres, was unveiled at a special Oct. 2 ceremony attended by members of the Ceres Garden Club, local veterans and local elected officials. The Garden Club raised $1,500 for the marker to honor all U.S. serviceman and women now serving and ever served to defend freedom.

Central Valley High School celebrated Homecoming Week culminated by the announcement of royalty winners on Friday.

Tania Zepeda reigned as CVHS Homecoming Queen and Jeffrey Phetsomphou as Homecoming King.

Weeks later Robin White was named Ceres High Homecoming Queen. Nick Serratos was named Homecoming King.

Gary Thompson stepped down as Westport Fire Chief on Oct. 28 after 42 years of service. Thompson, 64, joined the department in 1968 as a volunteer firefighter and leaves as fire chief, the third of the small rural district formed in 1962 to help fight fires and tend to other emergencies in the area southwest of Ceres.

Residents along Central Avenue protested a proposed CVS Pharmacy for the northwest corner of Hatch Road and Central Avenue. One of their chief complaints is how the project will impact traffic, which already bottlenecks because of the narrow width of Central Avenue north of Hatch Road.

A man was shot to death at the Howard Johnson Inn on Oct. 29. In November police arrested Antonio Jermaine Smith, 31, for the shooting death of Jesus Maya, 26, of Modesto. Smith was charged with murder, armed robbery and receiving stolen property.

Three others were arrested on Nov. 23 in connection with the murder: Jessica Ann Wilson, 27, charged with murder; Neco Jilleanne Smith, 28, charged with murder and possession of methamphetamine; and Kimberly Ann Prue, 27, charged with being an accessory after the fact.


Whooping cough continued to grow in severity in the Valley and California. The number of whooping cough cases reported in California hit a milestone in November by surpassing the total from a 1950 outbreak, when there were 6, 613 cases. The California Department of Public Health has recorded 6,631 confirmed, probable, and suspected cases of pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough, since the beginning of the year through Nov 9.

After a rough year politically, Hughson installed a new city manager Nov. 15 with Bryan Whitemyer.

Ceres City Manager Brad Kilger announced his resignation to become city manager of Benecia.

The Nov. 3 election elevated Ceres Mayor Anthony Cannella to state senator representing the 12th Senate District in Sacramento.

Hughson voters re-elected Council member Matt Beekman and recently elected council member George Carr, who won former council member Thom Crowder's seat in the August recall election.


A gang related shooting outside of Carl's Jr. on Hatch Road Dec. 2 sent one teenager to the hospital with serious injuries. Detectives said it's believed that the victim was engaged in an argument inside the restaurant with the suspects and that it spilled outside where the shooting took place. Bullets struck the outside of the business which was immediately closed by police to process the crime scene.

Ceres got into the Christmas spirit with the annual Ceres Christmas Festival on a rainy Saturday, Dec. 4. The event opened Christmas Tree Lane.

The Ceres City Council decides it will appoint a councilman - probably Chris Vierra - to succeed Anthony Cannella as mayor. Because state law will not allow a City Council of three appointees and because the city does not want to pay for a special election, the plan in 2011 is to go with four members until the election of November 2011.