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A Schmidt Park/Meredith Avenue walkway project is proceeding in Gustine. The project is one of several either under way or in the planning process in Gustine.

GUSTINE - The coronavirus pandemic has tested city staff, businesses and residents through much of 2020, but despite those challenges a number of municipal projects moved forward in Gustine.

More projects are expected to break ground in the year ahead.

Even as it continued its work on a variety of improvement projects, City Manager Doug Dunford said, the city also focused on safely maintaining services and providing whatever support it could to those impacted by the pandemic.

Residents, business owners and city staff alike have stepped up and “done a fantastic job of trying to do the best they can in the conditions that have been handed to them,” Dunford told Mattos Newspapers.

The city has tried to do its part to ease the hardships faced by businesses, he added.

“We wanted to maintain the services that are expected of us, but also do what we could to help businesses during the pandemic,” Dunford remarked. “We took some extraordinary measures, such as having people deliver (restaurant) food. We were able to pay some sewer, water and garbage fees for businesses. I am encouraged that we may have another CARES Act and can continuing doing so. Unfortunately we did lose a few businesses. We are trying to keep the ones we still have moving forward.”

Dunford said he anticipates new enterprises joining the city’s business community in 2021.

No fewer than five businesses - including three food-related businesses, a retailer and a fabrication company - setting up shop in Gustine during the coming year.

“We have some bright lights on the economic side, and are trying to bring more businesses into town,” Dunford commented. “Hopefully in the spring of 2021 we will have five (new) businesses come into Gustine.”

Dunford said residents will also see a number of projects, some of which have been in the works for years, either continue or break ground in 2021.

Despite the pandemic, he said, the city was able to initiate a number of projects in the past year.

Two most visible to the public are installation of solar panels at several city locations, which are part of a broader energy-saving program, and work on a Schmidt Park/Meredith Avenue walking path, which remains under construction.

Even as those projects broke ground, Dunford said, behind-the-scenes planning work continued on several projects which will come to fruition in the year ahead.

He said those projects include:

• A residential water meter replacement project, which will save significant amounts of public works and City Hall staff time by automatically recording and entering water use. The new meters will also be more accurate, Dunford said. As many of the current meters have aged, he explained, the units have under-recorded true water consumption.

• Construction of a roundabout on Highway 33/140 in front of Richard’s Market. Dunford estimated that the project will break ground by early summer.

• Relocation of the city’s corporation yard from its current location in order to make room for the planned roundabout.

• Improvements to Schmidt Park, including the installation of new playground equipment and upgrades to the tennis courts.

Dunford said the city also hopes to see development in the Southeast Gustine annexation area move forward and plans to complete a North Avenue sidewalk project.

The city could break ground on a smaller roundabout planned for downtown Gustine and on the grant-funded renovation of Pioneer Park before year’s end, Dunford said.

Another parks project is in the works, he added, as the city is applying for a grant to fully renovate and expand the pool in Henry Miller Park.

And, Dunford said, he is hoping that by mid-year the pandemic has waned and some semblance of normalcy has returned.

“I would hope that by summer we are in a much different position,” he commented. “Hopefully by summer we can get out and have our parades and celebrations. The citizens deserve that. We are hoping that 2021 will be a better year.”