Dear Gustine friends and neighbors;
I want to share an update of what the City of Gustine is working on. The current City Council, as well as councils of the past, have been busy trying to improve our city. City staff, including city hall, public works, police and fire, are diligently working every day to keep the city functioning.
I can’t say enough about all the dedicated people we have working for the City of Gustine. Our Police Department is top notch and goes above and beyond every day. Our Fire Department has some very dedicated, knowledgeable, and hard working volunteers and CalFire Engineers. Our Public Works staff members are constantly on the go just keeping up with our infrastructure, and they assist recreation also. They are called out 24 hours a day, seven days a week. City hall staff, from the human resources/city clerk, finance director, economic development coordinator, recreation and front office staff are all stellar employees committed to going the extra mile for our city.
If anyone is interested in getting involved, we have openings on our Airport Commission. In addition, we need to appoint someone to the Measure V Citizens Oversight Committee. This committee ensures Measure V monies are spent within the guidelines on the measure.
I get a lot of questions about what is going on in Gustine. Here is my report of the things that the city is, and has been doing during the last year or so.
Regarding all the grants that the city is being awarded, I want to clarify that those monies can ONLY be used for what they are intended for. We do not have a choice to spend it where we want. If we don’t go out for grant opportunities we would get nothing, and would be able to do nothing.
Gustine Police Department accomplishments
One officer, five reserve officers and six volunteer personnel hired.
Volunteer program instituted.
Explorer program for our youth re-established. The program has expanded to 14 Explorers.
Instituted a K-9 program and “hired” Officer Fiona. She is the only K-9 officer in the area trained in three disciplines: Apprehension, narcotics and tracking.
Purchased one police car, equipped for K-9.
Purchased a new pickup truck for code enforcement/animal services officer.
Purchased a pet microchip scanner for Animal Control.
Purchased radar and lidar equipment and trained personnel on the usage.
Sent two officers to training to be field training officers.
Updated the department weapons armory.
Placed a new roof and four new HVAC units on the Police Department.
Received a $900,000 grant from B.J.A. for bulletproof vests.
Received a $17,300 grant from B.J.A. for body-worn cameras.
Received a $294,000 anti-tobacco grant from D.O.J. which will fund a school resource officer for three years.
Received a $597,000 Cal VIP Grant in cooperation with the GUSD to fund mental health programs, among other things, for our youth. With this grant we were able to hire Sydnea Scott as our youth services coordinator. She will be working with “at risk” youth in conjunction with the school district.
Our Officer of the Year was Corey Beyer.
Public Works Department accomplishments
Purchased two new/used pickup trucks.
Purchased a new Vac-Con truck at a cost of $517,971. This will save a tremendous amount of money over outsourcing, which cost the city $121,145 last year alone.
Replaced worn out stop signs and street signs all over town.
Put new logos on public works Vehicles.
Installed new variable frequency devices on all wells to help regulate water pressure in town.
Repaired Well No. 5 at a cost of $58,000.
Connected the 12-inch sewer line on North Ave at a cost of $11,670
Connected the 12-inch sewer line from North Ave to the main line behind McDonald's at a cost of $53,455.
Replaced the main sewer line under Hwy 140/33, under Pusateri Nut, under Feihe property at a cost of $269,601.
Public works has been in the process of automating the sprinklers at Henry Miller Park.
Received a $93,000 grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District that funded the purchase of five electric vehicles for the public works and recreation departments. (They look like a cross between a jeep and a Humvee).
Public works is in the process of moving to its new location. There will be a lot of activity as new fencing goes in, containers are moved, equipment is moved and the portable office is moved to the new location. A new recycle yard is also going in at that site.
The City spent $898,332on water/sewer system and wastewater treatment plant upgrades and repairs last year.
Gustine Fire Department accomplishments
We should be receiving our new fire truck in late March or April. The truck was funded mostly by a grant. That grant was a little over $600,000 with an approximately $34,000 match from the city.
Purchased new turnouts and helmets.
Our Firefighter of the Year last year was Assistant Chief Bart Garcia.
Completed the east side drainage project at a cost of $293,000, with our matching funds coming from the Measure V regional fund.
Completed the new fencing project at a cost of $93,000, which was paid for by Measure V regional funds.
Had a new entrance sign made for the airport.
Installed new fuel equipment and payment system at the airport.
Recreation Department accomplishments
Our Recreation Department has a very dedicated staff member who is constantly inventing or improving the recreational opportunities in Gustine. This last year, with the pandemic, was very challenging for her, but she “improvised, adapted, and overcame” a host of things to organize and put on events like our drive-through trunk-or-treat and drive-through Christmas in the Park, among other things.
We completed our housing element, which allows us to be eligible for funding.
We have been approved for a $65,000 grant from Housing and Community Development to enable us to update our general plan.
We worked with Merced County Supervisor Lloyd Pareira and Merced County Public Works to get Hunt Road repaved. Bambauer Road is in the planning stages for next year also.
The principles of the annexed properties in the southeast portion of Gustine have submitted their initial maps. We will be working on final agreements.
Renita and Jerry Culp opened a long awaited restaurant this month. RJ’s Homestyle Restaurant is fantastic, serving donuts, breakfast, lunch and dinner and all are completely amazing. It is wonderful to be able to get Steak or Seafood locally.
Additionally, Pasta 209 is coming to town soon to serve up a delicious offering of Italian style food.
Also, Tip-Top Farms will be opening soon on Fourth Street next to the museum.
Projects in the works
The ENGIE Solar Project is winding down. We are waiting on PG&E to start transitioning the accounts to the solar arrays and then we will go live. We have four sites for this project around the city:
- 1.Schmidt Park – will power the Goman Center, tennis court lights, Peterson shelter, baseball lighting and both city wells.
- 2.Henry Miller Park – will power the swimming pool, gazebo, fire and police departments, and lighting inside the park.
- 3.City Hall – will provide 50 percent of the power needed.
- 4.New public works yard – will power the public works building, Pioneer Park and the city well and booster pump.
We continue to repair and replace sidewalks and ADA corners around town. These are paid from our local Measure V funds. We have replaced approximately 4,402 square feet of sidewalk, and several corners.
We continue our aggressive tree pruning program and the removal of dead trees. We will begin our reforestation (replanting of new trees) within two months.
Last year we received a $500,000 grant for the engineering of our wastewater treatment plant expansion that is still in process.
We are in the process of updating our SCADA system that regulates our water system. Our current system is outdated and parts are not available.
Our Schmidt Park multi-use path, phases one and two, and Meredith Avenue multi-use path phases one and two are all moving along. They are already seeing a lot of usage. These are being funded by CMAQ grants and Measure V funds.
The improvement project at the entrance to Green Acres Mobile Home Park is out for bid. Construction will begin in the spring if all goes well.
We received a per capita grant for $177,000 for new Schmidt Park playground equipment in a new area just west of the tennis courts. The equipment is in, and plans are being made for the installation. Work should start by the end of February.
We received a Prop. 68 grant for $1.3 million for a complete renovation of Pioneer Park. Complete with all new equipment, splash pads, full-size basketball court, two picnic areas, etc. This will be a complete makeover of the park and a great addition to Gustine. There were 478 grant applicants, and we were one of only 62 awarded throughout the state.
We received a grant from CMAQ for infilling the sidewalk on the south side of North Avenue. This should be completed later this year.
We have also applied for another CMAQ grant for sidewalk construction on East Avenue next.
This spring should also see the renovation of the tennis courts in Schmidt Park. This is another project that is long overdue. We are rehabbing the courts and installing new lighting.
We are also looking at installing new flooring in the Al Goman Center.
Resurfacing and re-striping the two parking lots in Schmidt Park is also upcoming.
The city is in the process of procuring trees to replace those we have had to remove, as well as filling in the empty spots on Fifth Street and Third Avenue.
The “Big Roundabout” is finally ready to go out to bid, with construction to start this spring. We are waiting on Caltrans to issue the city an encroachment permit. This is all being done with grant monies.
The downtown roundabout is still a year or two away.
Signalization of the Hwy 33/140 intersection is also in the works. This will be a $2.2 million project and will be funded by a CMAQ Grant and by Measure V regional funding.
I am trying to get the city and MCAG to recognize Carnation Road and Kneibes Road as an alternate route to Gustine from the east. That would make it eligible for regional funding also. Carnation Road was given to the city by the county many years ago.
Council agreed to allow an insurance company sponsored by the National League of Cities to contact our ratepayers and offer them an insurance policy on their water and sewer lines from their house to the street. This is not a city project, but we believe that some of our citizens would like to have the option.
We said farewell to longtime council member and Mayor Pro-Tempore Joe Oliveira. His 21 years on the council brought great change to our city. He always served with distinction and honor. All of us on the council have learned so much from Joe over the years. He will be missed by all of us. We all wish him the best in life.
We also bid farewell to council member Craig Turner who was instrumental in moving a number of projects. He was a man of few words but a lot of action in the meetings.
Our new council is a very rare combination, consisting of a total of four mayors, myself as the current mayor and council members Brazil, Bonta and Ford as past mayors. We named veteran council member Alexander to the mayor pro-tem position. I feel very lucky to have such a wealth of knowledge and information on the council. Each has their own unique view and opinion, but all with respect for one another. We have institutional knowledge like no other city.
YARTS, the Yosemite Area Rapid Transit, that runs out of Merced is offering free rides to and from Yosemite. Check out the MCAG website for details. There are a limited amount of vouchers available so don’t delay.
As we all know, 2020 was a very tumultuous year. The state shut down our economy, closed our local businesses and idled millions of workers.
The city received little relief from the “CARES Act.” What we got from the county did cover our expenses for extra PPE and supplies for dealing every day with the pandemic. We did have some left over that we offered to our businesses to cover their water and sewer bills for several months. While being helpful, it is still not enough. We continue to explore avenues for relief to our business community. Working with county, state and federal entities, we are actively advocating for assistance to small businesses that are the backbone of America.
We were able to balance our budget again this year. However, our revenue is suffering due to unpaid property taxes and delinquent utility payments. Hopefully this situation works out and we go back to a new normal. That being said, we are in much better shape financially than most other cities. Some cities are hundreds of millions of dollars behind due to the pandemic and its effect on revenues.
Our business community, for the most part, has adapted and overcome obstacle after obstacle. They are to be commended. When they open back up, each and every one of us needs to support them as much as possible. We cannot survive without them. Support Gustine!
Thank you all for making Gustine a great city to live in.