Image of City Manager Joe Lopez

City Manager's Blog

Nov 13

Final Investigation into April 2018 Accident

Posted on November 13, 2019 at 10:13 AM by Thomas Reeves

April 9, 2018 is a date that will forever serve as a reminder of a City employee lost on the job. A member of our Public Works Department family, Tyrone Hairston died while performing streetlight maintenance.

After the incident, the City performed three investigations aimed at learning what went wrong, and how accidents like this could be avoided in the future.  The results of the final investigation have now been shared with the City.

We’re sharing the results of this latest investigation out of an abundance of transparency.  There was messaging about transparency when we began the Serious Accident Review Team (SART) investigation, and we’re repeating that messaging now.  Full disclosure is of the utmost importance as we seek to change the culture at the City.

This latest investigation is a continuation of the City’s safety program overhaul.  In particular, this seeks to close the loop on the SART report which brought into question whether others in management should be held responsible for the death of Hairston.

We have reviewed the full report and have found it to be thorough and fair, and based on the findings in this report, the City has found that no additional disciplinary action is warranted against supervisors or managers still employed by the City.  

We all recognize that training is an essential component of any job function at the City, and the investigation found that the employees had been provided the necessary safety-related trainings for their specific job functions for which they were hired.  

The study also found serious failings by the supervisors in providing certain safety-related policies, procedures, and Personal Protective Equipment to Hairston and his coworkers.

The investigation makes clear that although certain policies and procedures existed, they were not being consistently followed, and that is a key driving force in changes being made across the entire organization.  It is also fully acknowledged that new policies and procedures were necessary as a result of the incident, and those have been implemented organization-wide.  

We’ve learned a lot since April 9th, and we will continue to strive toward a safe and secure work environment.

Since April 2018, the City has:
  • Hired a Safety Officer who will implement the steps recommended by the SART investigation to make sure this type of tragedy does not happen again.  The Safety Officer is providing necessary trainings and implementing safety programs.
  • Instituted many of the recommendations within the SART report including having monthly safety meeting and more frequent job site visits with division managers.
  • Stepped up its record keeping to ensure trainings and certifications are current.
  • Implemented safety tailgate meetings at the start of each job.
The City is investing heavily in training, personal protective wear, standard operating procedures, and equipment.

Nothing is more important than our employees' safety. Getting them home safely each and every day is our priority, and if we are cultivating a culture of safety in the workplace, our employees' family and our residents will be better served.  

Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and as I've told our employees, if you see something that is contributing to an unsafe work environment, say something to our team.

November 2019 Report

Nov 08

HUD Releases Favorable City Audit

Posted on November 8, 2019 at 11:08 AM by Thomas Reeves

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awards Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to entitlement communities to carry out a wide range of community development activities directed toward revitalizing neighborhoods, economic development and providing improved community facilities and services. The City of Modesto receives HUD entitlement grants on a formula basis, this funding gets renewed each year if the city meets certain requirements, and therefore a monitoring audit is conducted each year.

This year, HUD conducted an on-site monitoring audit from August 12, 2019 to August 16, 2019 of the City’s CDBG Program and Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Because the grant process is so extensive, the monitoring principal was created to expose any findings of fraud, waste, and mismanagement. Among many reasons, the monitoring audit is formulated to verify grant funds are being used appropriately and to ensure program effectiveness and compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Monitoring also allows grantees to make improvements, maintain communication with HUD, and evaluate their overall performance. The review can include the tracking of individual activities and documenting of accomplishments.

After an extensive evaluation process, the results of the audit determined that the city has been in compliance with program regulation and requirements and no findings of violations or concerns were found. Additionally, HUD applauded our improvements on our CDBG program management in conjunction with our early submission of the 2019-2020 Annual Action Plan. It is great to hear that we are on track in meeting our affordable housing goals. Receiving and maintaining HUD Entitlement Grant funding is imperative to our community’s need for services and activities. In order to upkeep the program’s livelihood we must ensure that every project we set forth meets certain qualifications. 

This year’s audit came to us as a breath of fresh air compared to previous Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit results received in the past. Our program staff went through a lot of transitions in previous years but has now been able to reinvent its management system to benefit all parties involved. Thus, new checks and balances were established to ensure mistakes are not repeated. The City is currently in the process of preparing its 2020-2024 Five-Year Consolidated Plan regarding housing and community development programs as well as Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair housing choice. We are also in the midst of preparing the 2020-2021 Annual Action Plan. These plans are required by HUD in order for the City to receive federal funds. 

We would like to give a big thank you to our HUD staff who has worked tirelessly on maintaining program standards and deadlines. This audit attests to the dedication that is put into cultivating services that greater serve our community. It is through grants like these that we are able to provide Annual Action Plans that better voice the needs of our residents and overall addresses issues surrounding affordable housing, homelessness, and community development needs within Modesto.

Oct 18

Groundbreaking Work on State Route 132

Posted on October 18, 2019 at 3:20 PM by Thomas Reeves

The City of Modesto - with Caltrans, Stanislaus County, and StanCOG - joined in an effort to increase traffic capacity and improve safety on a route that experiences significant impediments to both with the State Route 132 project.  Today marks the ground breaking ceremony for the project, which is over 60-years in the making.
132 Ground Breaking Group Shot 2

This project, the largest transportation project managed by the City, was designed under a very difficult schedule due to the number of large federal grants awarded—over $30 million.  The city is responsible for the design and construction of four (4) miles of new road northwest of downtown Modesto, which is expected to alleviate traffic congestion on the State Route 99 and the existing State Route 132/Maze Blvd.  This will ultimately offer safer routes for our goods to and from market, as well as those that commute to the bay area.

The existing State Route 132/Maze Blvd is infamously called “blood alley” due to its dangerous two-lane expressway with no median barrier to divide the lanes. The route passes through residential, commercial and agricultural areas with posted speeds ranging between 25 mph and 50 mph. Here, vehicles are more likely to be involved in a head on collision. With the creation of the new State Route 132 access-controlled roadway, vehicles going the same direction will be completely separated from those going the opposite direction. Furthermore, the addition of an extra lane going both directions provides more capacity of the roadway system allowing for traffic to move faster and safer.

The project will be constructed in three phases. The first phase will provide two lanes, divided by a center median, from SR-99 to Dakota Road. The second phase will provide a four-lane freeway/expressway to Dakota Road.  The third phase will expand the highway to Gates Road. 

In 1956, the California Highway Commission approved the realignment of State Route 132 West and purchased almost all the land required to build it between Highway 99 and Gates Road.

Identified by the StanCOG Policy Board as the region’s top priority project, the City of Modesto assumed responsibility for the design and construction of first phase of the SR-132 project.  Once the highway is constructed it is then handed over to the state. 

In the process of constructing this new highway we aim to be as transparent as possible. I would like to invite residents who have questions on the project planning to contact our office or visit our website to find the latest updates. The City of Modesto strives to maintain our focus on safety, and in doing so we believe this project will aid the lives of many by preventing vehicle accidents, pedestrian fatalities, and implementing overall traffic safety and efficiency. 

132 Ground Breaking Group Shot
There are so many people and groups who have been critical to this project, but allow me to at least call out our own staff, Vickey Dion and John Rawles of Community & Economic Development, who have led and worked faithfully on behalf of the City.  Thank you all for your hard work on this incredibly important project!