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Latest News in Los Banos, CA
Los Banos taps longtime Valley local government leader for interim city manager role
Shawn Jansen July 13https://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/politics-government/article263449948.html
A leader with more than four decades of experience working in local government has been chosen for the top staff position at Los Banos City Hall — at least temporarily.City Council on Monday chose Gregory Wellman to serve as interim city manager, replacing Josh Pinheiro, who was terminated in June after serving less than a year in the job.Wellman will serve as city manager until a candidate is c...
A leader with more than four decades of experience working in local government has been chosen for the top staff position at Los Banos City Hall — at least temporarily.
City Council on Monday chose Gregory Wellman to serve as interim city manager, replacing Josh Pinheiro, who was terminated in June after serving less than a year in the job.
Wellman will serve as city manager until a candidate is chosen to permanently fill the role.
His previous experience includes Atwater city manager, Oakdale interim city manger, Merced County administrative officer and human services agency director, UC Merced project director and general manager of the Keyes Water and Sanitation District.
The agreement with Wellman limits him to 960 hours of work during the fiscal year and pays him an hourly rate of $104.94, according to city documents.
The vote to appoint Wellman during Monday’s meeting was unanimous.
Wellman’s work over the years has received high marks from those who’ve known him. Back in 2013, then-Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul said she was sorry to see Wellman retire. She said he was instrumental in helping Oakdale through tough financial times.
“We were almost on the verge of bankruptcy, and he pulled us out from the depths,” Paul said in 2013. “He’s just remarkable. He surrounds himself with smart people, he’s a good communicator and just a decent person. We were really lucky to find him, and I wish him well.”
Pinheiro’s dismissal last month drew criticism from residents and some members of the City Council.
The council voted 3-2 on June 15 to terminate him, although the reasons for the dismissal remain unclear.
Mayor Pro Tempore Kenneth Lambert and District 3 Councilmember Brett Jones voted against the move and both took to social media to voice their concerns.
Jones posted on Facebook the termination happened “for no logical or rational explanation.”
Jones also said Pinheiro had made progress during his time as city manager, saying he allocated $1 million to rebuild the dilapidated animal shelter, allocated $1 million to local small businesses through the RAD Card program and allocated money to build pickleball courts in Los Banos, among other improvements made to the community.
Lambert said the votes by Mayor Tom Faria, District 2 Councilmember Refugio Llamas and District 4 Councilmember Deborah Lewis to fire Pinheiro were “purely out of emotion with no justified reason, no thought or logic given to the repercussions this would have on our City and Residents moving forward.”
Interior Announces $137 Million for California Dam Projects
While many environmentalists oppose the construction and expansion of dams, the Biden Administration believes in the value of above-ground water storage.“Through the investments we are announcing today, we will advance water storage and conveyance supporting local water management agencies, farmers, families, and wildlife.” — Interior Secretary Dab HaalandThe Department of Interior on Monday announced $210 million in funding for water storage and conveyance projects in the western Uni...
While many environmentalists oppose the construction and expansion of dams, the Biden Administration believes in the value of above-ground water storage.
“Through the investments we are announcing today, we will advance water storage and conveyance supporting local water management agencies, farmers, families, and wildlife.” — Interior Secretary Dab Haaland
The Department of Interior on Monday announced $210 million in funding for water storage and conveyance projects in the western United States.
Included is $137 million for three California projects:
“In the wake of severe drought across the West, the Department is putting funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to work to expand access to clean, reliable water and mitigate the impacts of this crisis,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a news release.
“Water is essential to every community – for feeding families, growing crops, powering agricultural businesses, and sustaining wildlife and our environment. Through the investments we are announcing today, we will advance water storage and conveyance supporting local water management agencies, farmers, families, and wildlife.”
“This investment, along with the ongoing Friant Kern-Canal construction already underway, shows that we can and will improve our water system to better sustain future droughts due to climate change,” said Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno).
“I thank the Biden Administration for incorporating my input to fund San Joaquin Valley water projects in its Bipartisan Infrastructure Law spending plan.”
Federico Barajas, executive director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, said that the investment in the Sisk dam project “is an important tool for increasing our resilience to changing rainfall and snowpack patterns.
““During the last 10 years, the communities and ecosystems that rely on the water supplied by our member agencies have experienced water whiplash — two of the driest three-year periods in California’s history and two of its wettest years. It is clear that we must store water when it’s available for use in the drier periods we know will come.”
Work started in June on raising the B.F. Sisk Dam by 10 feet to reduce the risk of the massive earthen structure collapsing in a major earthquake. The reservoir’s current capacity is about 2 million acre-feet.
The federal project is expected to cost $1.1 billion and take nine years — even with crews working 24 hours a day.
The rationale for this reservoir is to capture water from major storms and save it for drought years. Sites is expected to supply farms, businesses, and cities with water when other sources are low.
In March of this year, Rep. John Garamendi announced that the EPA had committed to providing $2.2 billion in additional federal financing for the off-stream project. The price tag for Sites, which would store 1.5 million acre-feet of water is estimated at nearly $4 billion.
When completed, this off-stream reservoir would add 110,000 acre-feet of storage, taking its capacity to 275,000 acre-feet.
Here is a look at the three other projects in the west receiving federal funding, as announced on Monday:
Los Banos mayor resigns with three months left on his term: ‘It has been an honor’
Los Banos Mayor Tom Faria announced he’s resigning with three months left on his team.Faria, 61, sent a letter of resignation to Los Banos interim city manager Greg Wellman on Friday, stating he’s moving and will no longer be a Los Banos resident as of Saturday.Faria spent 16 years on the Los Banos City Council and almost two as mayor.“It’s an emotional thing because you build your life there,” Faria told the Sun-Star. “I moved to Los Banos with my wife one month after we got married. ...
Los Banos Mayor Tom Faria announced he’s resigning with three months left on his team.
Faria, 61, sent a letter of resignation to Los Banos interim city manager Greg Wellman on Friday, stating he’s moving and will no longer be a Los Banos resident as of Saturday.
Faria spent 16 years on the Los Banos City Council and almost two as mayor.
“It’s an emotional thing because you build your life there,” Faria told the Sun-Star. “I moved to Los Banos with my wife one month after we got married. It’s the place I raised my family. My daughter still lives there with her family.”
Faria retired in June after teaching music in Los Banos for 37 years. He taught music to every grade level in Los Banos, including at Merced College.
Faria said his house sold quicker than he expected, so he’ll be unable to finish his term as mayor.
It’s unclear if the City Council will appoint a new mayor before November’s election. Paul Llanez is running unopposed.
“It has been an honor to serve my city for 16 years, first as a council member, and, as for the last two years as mayor,” Faria wrote in his resignation letter.
Faria stated he was proud of many accomplishments during his time in city government, including the construction of a new county courthouse, police station, fire training tower and schools, and the passing of Measure H that improved public safety.
During his time as mayor, Faria said the city worked hard to tackle the homeless issue. He said they’ve made great strides but there is still work to be done.
“Mayor Faria, by his dedication and commitment to his duties and the community of Los Banos, has greatly contributed to the governmental process of the City of Los Banos and we offer him our sincere gratitude and appreciation for his many years of service,” Wellman stated in a city-issued news release.
Faria did not want to disclose where he’s moving.
“Thirty-seven years is a long time to be in the pubic eye,” Faria said. “Now it’s time to rest.”
This story was originally published September 17, 2022 11:00 AM.
Bay Area to Los Banos? Many taking on longer commute for cheaper housing
ByDale Yurong viahttps://abc7news.com/bay-area-housing-market-los-banos-affordable-homes-silicon-valley-california-exodus-myth/11640323/
LOS BANOS, Calif. -- Commuters seeking cheaper housing have long been drawn to Los Banos because of its direct access to Highway 152."It was an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half from here to Sunnyvale," says Larry Vieyra.Vieyra moved here five years ago. He wanted a nice home with room to relax - away from the pricey Bay Area."You couldn't touch a home like this for no less than $2 million," he said....
LOS BANOS, Calif. -- Commuters seeking cheaper housing have long been drawn to Los Banos because of its direct access to Highway 152.
"It was an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half from here to Sunnyvale," says Larry Vieyra.
Vieyra moved here five years ago. He wanted a nice home with room to relax - away from the pricey Bay Area.
"You couldn't touch a home like this for no less than $2 million," he said.
The boundaries of the Bay Area are expanding as people move to outlying areas, the result is, a "megaregion" that encompasses Fresno and Sacramento.
Another new neighborhood was going up across the street. Over 400 permits were approved last year to try to keep pace with the city's explosive growth.
Aerial views show not only new construction but additional space where more homes can be built in the future.
Los Banos Mayor Tom Faria says the median sales price of a home is up to $425,000 -- too high for many who grew up here but a deal for people moving in from out of town.
"San Jose, Santa Clara, the entire Silicon Valley, so it's 85-90 miles," he said.
Faria says over 60% of the Los Banos workforce commutes to Fresno and Stanislaus counties but even more to the Bay Area.
"People can't afford a house there, so they move here and then of course, that puts pressure on this housing market," he said. "But these wages won't support those prices and then these people are forced to move."
Residents priced out of the market have been moving to cities like Chowchilla.
"You really need a two-income family to be able to survive," says Senior Planner Stacy Souza Elms.
Elms says the city's rapid growth won't end anytime soon.
"In the next decade, we'll probably have about 75,000 in population," she said.
In 2020, a year dominated by the pandemic, California's population fell by 182,083. It's the first time in California's recorded history, that the state's year-over-year population dropped.
Soaring home prices have the city looking to build more affordable, multi-family complexes so more locals won't have to move.
It is a delicate balance.
"We want to keep this identity," Faria said. "This identity of it's a small town."
Faria adds Los Banos used to have a sign that said, "Where East comes West to stay."
Now, it appears West is coming East to stay.
May Day Fair springs into action again this month in Los Banos. Here are the details
This year’s Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos, more than ever, has a “spring” in its step. Everyone, from exhibitors to fairgoers, seems to be excited about the upcoming event, which Los Banosans call the “May Day Fair.”No wonder. After two years of canceled fairs, there is a special excitement about the 2022 event. Fairgoers have missed the livestock, photo, art, cooking and crafts exhibits, as well as the entertainment, rides and food and beverage booths.The fair starts on April 27, and more...
This year’s Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos, more than ever, has a “spring” in its step. Everyone, from exhibitors to fairgoers, seems to be excited about the upcoming event, which Los Banosans call the “May Day Fair.”
No wonder. After two years of canceled fairs, there is a special excitement about the 2022 event. Fairgoers have missed the livestock, photo, art, cooking and crafts exhibits, as well as the entertainment, rides and food and beverage booths.
The fair starts on April 27, and more people than usual are expected that Wednesday at 10 a.m. when Los Banos Veterans officially open the fair by raising the American flag.
This year’s fair marshals are especially popular. Anyone who has worked with Larry and Rhonda Borelli knows what genuinely nice people they are and how hard they have worked to make past May Day Fairs successful.
For persons interested in saving money on fair entry and ride tickets, pre-sale discount tickets are available Monday through Friday now through April 26 at the Merced County Spring Fair office at 403 F Street (209.826.5166).
By now, all livestock and exhibits have been entered, and the entertainment acts as well as the food and beverage booths have been secured. Each evening will feature free entertainment and on Saturday the popular truck and tractor pull will take place.
The Los Banos Fairgrounds staff is ready for large crowds. They have spent months getting the buildings and grounds ready, led by this year’s fair manager,
Bob Walker. Walker has been a fair manager for most of his life, including his many years of supervision of Stanislaus County Fair in Turlock.
The excitement over this year’s fair extends outside of Los Banos. Young exhibitors from Gustine to Snelling and beyond are looking forward to displaying their animals and projects.
On April 30 the popular May Day Parade will take place with floats and bands from many cities in northern California participating. Already, Los Banos residents are trying to figure out the best places to put their lawn chairs to watch the Saturday morning parade go by.
The May Day Fair has fascinated me since the first one I attended in 1972, the year after I moved to Los Banos. A guy born and raised in the Chicago area, I was intrigued by the enthusiasm everyone in town had for the fair. I invited friends from other cities to join me to watch the parade and see the exhibits.
By 1976, when my two oldest kids were barely old enough for the rides, I looked forward to Kid’s Day Friday with free admission. The tradition of a free day on Friday for kids 12-and-under continues this year.
Although my wife Susan and I believed in good nutrition, we made exceptions for the corn dogs, cinnamon rolls and other fair treats.
All three of my kids entered exhibits. My first two, Ginny and Mike, entered craft, woodworking and cooking projects. However, my third child, Megan, decided in fifth grade she wanted to raise a pig for the fair, as part of Los Banos’s Our Lady of Fatima School 4-H. Susan and I gave our approval, and Megan was off and running (or rather working).
Megan and her parents had wonderful support from OLF 4-H adult leaders, beginning with her first year of showing. Ken and Dan helped select a pig, Megan named him Nosebud and took care of him at the OLF School farm on Ramos Road.
That was the beginning of four consecutive years pig involvement and my increased understanding of what it takes to raise an animal for the fair. That included my making many trips to the pig farm for three months prior to the fair, watching Megan train her pig to walk next to her and shoveling pig manure (as parents do).
I also learned about market, showmanship and auction days and appreciated the many people in Los Banos who bid on young people’s animals, thereby replenishing the kids’ 4-H and FFA bank accounts.
Since then, I have an increased appreciation for every young person—in 4-H and FFA — as well as their adult club leaders and their parents. It takes a big commitment to show an animal.
This year my wife Sandy and I will be rooting for three of our granddaughters—Jaelyn, Taylor and Payton—who will be showing heifers, as well as entering projects in photography and crafts.
I tip my hat to everyone involved in the fair—participants, fairgoers and fairgrounds staff. And, like many other Los Banosans and other Merced County residents, I look forward to the five days of excitement at the end of this month.
On another note: Shiena Polehn, a longtime resident of Los Banos, passed away on April 1in Medford, OR. Shiena gave so much of her life to the people of Los Banos.
Many students of hers will remember the ESL and citizenship courses she taught at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College. Shiena was also an active member of AAUW and supported its many events.
I will remember Shiena’s kind and gentle demeanor, her warm smile and the wonderful holiday potlucks with her classes featuring every kind of wonderful ethnic dish that could be imagined.
Everyone who knew, worked with or was taught by Shiena mourns her loss.
This story was originally published April 15, 2022 10:53 AM.