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Hopefuls field questions from pavers to big boxes
Dean Uecker answers a question during Thursday’s Ripon Chamber of Commerce candidates’ night for Ripon council hopefuls. - photo by HIME ROMERO

RIPON  - Questions about everything from bringing big box stores into Ripon, the value of street pavers and having a green belt between Manteca and Ripon were answered by four candidates seeking two seats on the Ripon City Council on Nov. 2.

The responses were part of the Ripon Chamber of Commerce’s candidates’ forum that took place Thursday at city hall.

Incumbents seeking to hold onto their seats are Mayor Chuck Winn and Councilman Dean Uecker.  Competing for those two seats are Carolyn Jensen and Dan Prince, both having formerly served as members of the council.

The concern about the limitations the city has put on the big box stores, such as Wal Mart, K-Mart and Target,  was that in a down economy Ripon is missing revenue in sales tax that is going to other communities like Modesto and Manteca.

Chuck Winn said that he was the creator of the big box ordinance, having reviewed 104 other cities and their restrictions concerning the larger stores going into their communities.

“I think we need to revisit it (the ordinance) and make it more applicable to Ripon,” Winn said.

On the same issue, candidate Carolyn Jensen said she would investigate the policing needs that come with the larger stores by contacting law enforcement agencies throughout the state to learn what associated crimes have impacted their cities.

Dan Prince, too, admitted that the city had created too many requirements in the ordinance and made it hard for business to come into town.

“I support a revisit of the big box ordinance,” Prince said, “and I strongly recommend a review that needs to be more business friendly.”

Candidate Dean Uecker said he would like to see smaller versions of the so-called big box stores by bringing something like a Target store into Ripon.

Another question put to the candidates asked how they felt about redevelopment agency funds possibly being used in the future to refurbish Stouffer Field – the football field at Ripon High School.

Dan Prince said he wasn’t aware that RDA funds could be used to rebuild a football field since it is not a blighted area.  “First, you would have to prove to me that it is a blighted area,” he said.

Dean Uecker countered that he could see such a project as one that could bring people together and help all the community – would like to see it done, he said.

Chuck Winn pointed out that RDA fund use is not limited to blighted areas or to redevelopment zones and could be put to use in such a community effort to restore the football field.

Carolyn Jensen added that she would like to see Stouffer Field rebuilt for the community.  I hope the community can get together, she said.

The candidates were asked if the city administrator’s pay is excessive or his compensation is too little for the demands on his time.

Winn said he doesn’t think it is excessive for the job he is asked to do and in comparison with other like sized city managers and city administrators in the region.

“Compton has earned every penny,” Carolyn Jensen remarked.  “The city does extensive reviews of similar throughout the state (to establish pay levels),” she added.

Prince recommended that the city establish a performance merit process similar to that of the police department in setting of salaries throughout the city.

Uecker’s response to the question of the city administrator’s pay, “He makes a lot more money than I do.”

The candidates were also asked their view on the migrant farm labor housing being established on Jack Tone Road at Harvest Avenue and whether the city should take a position on the impact it might have on existing subdivisions.

Carolyn Jensen said she understands it is the only kind of housing that can be built on the county’s agriculturally zoned land.  

“I would like to see the plans and see if the building standards are substandard,” she said.

Dan Prince pointed out that the city should have had some input on the construction of the farm labor housing that is exempted from standard review processes because it is protected by being on agriculturally zoned land.

Uecker said he had just heard about the project at the council meeting last Tuesday night.  The city councilman suggested that maybe the city should have made the costs of annexing the property more feasible allowing the project area to come into the city.  City services of water and sewer had been earlier requested, according to city staffers.

Winn said coming into the city was probably way out of the developer’s budget.

As for street pavers, it was noted that they have a life of 100 years of use while asphalt lasts 20 years at the most.

“We have some $50 million needed in road repairs,” Winn said.  The implementation of the pavers instead of asphalt was an effort to save future councils from having to invest in more asphalt when they didn’t have the funds in their budgets, he added.

Jensen added, “I wouldn’t want them on every street, but with the current economic condition, we need to look at ways to better spend community dollars.”

Uecker said that if pavers are done right they are not that bad.  In Mistlin Park, they are nice, he added.  “That was done right.”

Dan Prince added, “It was the smartest thing for us to do” to save money for the city in the future.  It was Prince who initiated the idea of pavers when he was on the council in past years after visiting a community in Nebraska and learning of the 100-year life of the product.