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Ripon works to make sports complex pay
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The City of Ripon has an investment in the Mistlin Sports Complex with dividends possibly paying off in the not-so-distant future.

Plenty of thanks go to namesake Tony Mistlin, who continued in 2013 to give generously towards the completion of the project. In May, the Ripon businessman and philanthropist poured in another $600,000 to help fund the concession stand and restrooms at the new softball complex.

The four playing fields were finally completed in August. The softball fields should be ready for play this spring.

All told, Mistlin forked 80 percent of building the softball fields. Several years earlier, he donated an extra 20 acres for the park and, the following year, purchased and donated another 20 acres.

As for managing the fields, Ripon is now looking to lease out the facility to an outside organization with time reserved for city programs. Parks and Recreation Director Kye Stevens was given the OK by the Ripon City Council to move forward with the plan that also calls for the Public Works Department to maintain the existing and new fields at the Mistlin Sports Complex.

This upcoming year marks the return of the Fourth of July celebration at Mistlin (Tony Mistlin also made a generous contribution to the cause, offering to match $10,000 in contributions). The venue will also host the Almond Blossom Festival in the spring, and the hot air balloon festival Color the Skies during the Labor Day weekend.

The past 12 months also produced the following:

City Administrator

After 27 years, Leon Compton retired as city administrator.

He’d been here long enough to open not one but two city halls. Ripon City Hall opened in 1990 and, 16 years later, that facility was expanded.

Kevin Werner eventually replaced Compton but the ordinance for that position needed some updating before his move became official.

Lynette Van Laar, who also spent 27 years at city hall, retired in June. She went from city clerk to chief financial officer under Compton.

CNG transit bus

The 35-foot Compressed Natural Gas transit bus better known as the Blossom Express became available in February.

The Ripon Short Range Transit plan was made possible by the Congestion Mitigation grant and Air Quality and Measure K Renewal funding, with the money here covering the first three years of operation.

As for ridership, the Blossom Express started with little fanfare but slowly began to grow. By the fall, transit officials tweaked the routes, adding 29 stops along with links to regional connections to the San Joaquin Regional Transit District and the Modesto Area Express.

Pet food plant odor

It was well over a year ago that Ripon residents caught a whiff of the foul odor coming from Diamond Pet Food plant.

Since then, City of Ripon officials and Diamond Pet Food spent the past year working to remedy the problem. Included was extending the roof-top stacks by another 10 feet in order to get the exhaust higher into the atmosphere while dispersing the odor before it reaches the ground.

The plant processes kibbles of pet food using factory-controlled computers, and is kept busy, rolling out 130 to 140 truckloads of product each week while operating on three processing lines.

Annual events

Taste of Ripon was recently held and, according to the Ripon Chamber of Commerce, was big hit.

Nearly 500 took part in this wine and finger food event consisting of downtown merchants and held on the first Thursday of December.

Prior to that, the Christmas Tree Lighting took place in its new downtown location in front of the Ripon Veterans Museum.

The 90-foot evergreen was decorated with 2,500 LED lights topped off by a large star consisting of 250 lights.

Folks also flocked out to Main Street Day in October, National Night Out in August, and Almond Blossom Festival in February.

The Fourth of July fireworks show was held at Stouffer Park at Ripon High for one last time. Due in part to safety reasons, the pyrotechnic display will return to the Mistlin Sports Park in2014.

Other noteworthy events included Love Ripon, farmers market, family movie night, the Emergency Vehicle Car Show, and the city-wide yard sales.