State

Patterson-Stanislaus County meeting called a success

PATTERSON -- Stanislaus County supervisors' first stab in many years at meeting with a city council went down Tuesday as smoothly as an apricot milkshake.

In-depth discussions of city- county partnerships in building an animal shelter and a south county expressway went longer than expected, forcing Patterson's regular meeting to start nearly an hour late. Patterson leaders and residents didn't seem to mind.

"We enjoyed a really good meeting with the Board of Supervisors," Mayor Becky Campo said when county leaders left, sent on their way with applause, smiles and handshakes.

The joint session, held in the year of Patterson's centennial, should be followed by more with the county's eight other cities at a rate of a couple per year, board Chairman Jim DeMartini said.

"I think it's good to get out of our own chambers and get out to the communities," he said. "We all have similar issues."

Patterson -- the self-proclaimed apricot capital of the world -- and the county are joining with Modesto, Ceres, Hughson and Waterford to build an $11 million animal shelter west of Ceres. All will be equal partners, said Rick Robinson, the county's chief executive officer.

Leaders hope a low-cost spay-neuter clinic within the shelter will help reduce the area's euthanasia rate, among the highest in the country and costing taxpayers $1.7 million per year. In May, officers put down nearly all of the 1,100 kittens left at the county's 35-year-old pound, said Annette Patton, the county's director of animal services.

"When you look at the sheer number of animals destroyed, it is horrifying," said Patterson Councilwoman Annette Smith.

Campo said, "Having been a skeptic, more and more I see the positiveness of this project."

Veterinarians have opposed the plan, partly because the clinic would be the only one run by a government agency in California, presenting competition to veterinary hospitals. Paul and Kathy Wallace, who own such a service down the road in Newman, said many reasons other than cost frequently keep owners from sterilizing their pets.

Leaders from both agencies ignored friction surrounding the West Park plan in nearby Crows Landing, where county officials want to build a massive business and industrial park. A lawsuit between the city and county helped keep the peace Tuesday, preventing them from meaningful discussion.

Some leaders mentioned a potential future problem with a city not represented Tuesday. Turlock wants to improve West Main Street as the eastern leg of the South County Corridor, which could take decades to build, because that route would provide a direct link from Turlock's new industrial area to Interstate 5 north of Patterson.

DeMartini said West Main has too many conflicts with driveways and dairies and suggested improving the less congested Fulkerth Road or Monte Vista Avenue.

The county and Patterson hope to learn soon whether they'll receive a state transportation grant to study possible routes from I-5 to the San Joaquin River, north of Patterson. It's likely to run near Zacharias Road.

"Be prepared for a long, protracted discussion," said county Supervisor Jeff Grover.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or 578-2390.

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