Woodlake approves revitalization contracts


Woodlake’s City Council, at the Monday, Feb. 24, regular meeting, approved two contracts to begin construction of the first three of a five-phase downtown revitalization project. The funding in excess of $7 million to complete the five phases is being provided through a federal TEA (Transportation Enhancement Activities) grant, Measure R tax dollars (county), and gas tax revenues from the State of California.

Construction is set to begin March 30. No dollars from the City of Woodlake general fund are being used, according to Ramon Lara, Woodlake’s city administrator. 

“The project will standardize curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and lighting in the downtown area,” Lara said. “For a preview of the new standards, check out the transit center or the new Dollar General store.”

Lara, who worked with TCAG (Tulare County Association of Governments) as a financial officer before being appointed as Woodlake’s city manager two years ago, said his familiarity with the funding agencies helped in moving the revitalization along.        

In addition to new curbs, gutters, sidewalks, and lighting, crosswalks will be paved with a cobbled brick. The construction work was awarded to Avison Construction Inc. of Madera. 

Project management was awarded to VSCE of Fresno. This firm specializes in project delivery when multiple agencies and funding sources are involved. Phase 4 of the revitalization includes another section for more street work; Phase 5 is the installation of a roundabout for the intersection of Valencia and Naranjo, which is currently a four-way stop. 

Another highlight of Monday’s agenda was the installation of two new police officers — Arik Grijalva and Jonathan Zequieda. Zequieda was raised locally and is a Woodlake High alum (Class of 2004).

Officer Zequieda is also Marine Corps veteran and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He was wounded in Afghanistan and awarded a Purple Heart.

Mike Marquez, chief of police, expressed his gratitude for the grant funding that restored the two positions. Marquez said that before the two new hires, the Woodlake Police Department was at half the manpower of the 2008 department.        

Drew Sorensen, superintendent of Woodlake Unified School District, presented information related to “Local Control” funding for the district. WUSD is seeking input as to how they should use funding for school programs.

Each school district, Sorensen said, must review and update its three-year Local Control Plan annually if needed. Eighty percent of Woodlake’s students qualify for additional funding because they are low income, ESL (English as a Second Language), or foster youth.

The district is looking for input on how to best spend the state and federal monies. A survey form to furnish comments is available online or at the district office.

Superintendent Sorensen will present a similar PowerPoint program at the Three Rivers Union School board meeting on Wednesday, March 5. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. in the TRUS library, and the public is encouraged to attend.

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