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The Buckhorn

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Winters Express
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Police, fire
leadership
turns over

By JULIA MILLON
Staff writer
Newly confirmed Police Chief John Miller was introduced to the Winters City Council at the July 19 meeting, prior to being officially sworn-in on Monday, July 25. From a pool of 34 hopeful officers, Miller came out on top through multiple interviews with staff and community panels, and final selection by city manager John Donlevy.
“He is the type of chief our officers absolutely deserve. We have a younger, less experienced police force. (Miller) is somebody that is going to stand with them and lead them,” said Donlevy.
Miller was one of three Vacaville police officers to receive the city’s first Medals of Valor for his involvement in a murder-suicide committed by Air Force Major Lloyd Moody in 1996, where Moody reportedly opened semi-automatic fire on the officers.
He also comes with experience from the Vallejo Police Department and is a graduate of a policing program held at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
In addressing the council, Miller spoke to the hostility toward police in recent events.
“Adversity reveals genius,” said Miller, “Police officers have a sense of service and self sacrifice. That’s why I’m confident they will overcome this difficult time.
“My goal is not just to maintain,” he added, and said he hopes to improve community relations and elevate the function of the department.
Donlevy thanked Interim Police Chief Joseph Kreins for his service, stating that Kreins had made in impact in a short time.
“He has almost facilitated a complete reorganization of the police department,” said Donlevy.
Fire Chief Aaron McAllister was also recognized for his service before he leaves his posts in Winters and Dixon to work as assistant fire chief of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District, overseeing 300 firefighters at 25 stations.
Donlevy credited McAllister with providing the city with the infrastructure necessary to make the PG&E development a reality, with a faster ambulance response time and 24/7 fire service, expanded from a volunteer after-hours system.
K9 unit
Officer Jose Hermosillo introduced a civic service that may be returning to Winters: a K9 unit (police dog) for the police department.
Hermosillo argued that the K9 unit would offer a greater level of security, and would show that the city cares for its citizens. He claims that out of 8,993 calls in 2015, the police department would have benefitted from a K9 unit in 5,280 incidents.
As a “force multiplier for the officers” a police dog would be able to assist in searches, and reduce the likelihood of injuries for everyone involved in conflicts.
Hermosillo recommended funding the addition through a 501 c3 non-profit to insure donations to fund the service would be dedicated for the sole purpose of the K9 unit. He said he has spoken with community members who are interested in funding the service.
The council received the presentation favorably, and Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry asked Hermosillo to come back with plans for a non-profit set-up, as well as an overall price tag.
Highway development
After approval by the Winters Planning Commission, a highway development including a new Chevron building, a Starbucks, and a Fairfield Inn & Suites came before the council, represented by hotel developer Rohit Ranchhod.
In a break from tradition, two young residents — Jack Vickrey and Ryan Davis — responded to the development in the public hearing.
“I truly believe Winters is at a fork in the road. What kind of town does Winters want to be, and what is it becoming?” asked Vickrey. “One is a bucolic farm town and the other is Dixon, a bedroom town off the freeway.”
A Winters native, Vickrey returned to put down roots with his fiancé.
“It seems like we’re making an economic decision, but we’re also making a cultural decision,” said Davis.
Davis spoke highly of the Winters community saying that current business leaders are invested in the community in ways the new development may not be, recalling that Marty Mariani of Mariani Nut Company took the time to coach Davis’ son’s Little League team.
“Take a strong look at what we’re giving up,” said Davis.
“I want to thank Jack and Ryan, you’re in the age group that is generally not showing up at our meetings,” said Councilmember Pierre Neu.
Neu urged them to stay involved, and inspire others to do the same, even in earlier stages of planning.
“If it comes to city council, it’s almost too late,” said Neu.
“We have to realize that we have a plan to grow,” said Councilmember Bill Biasi.
“We’ve been working on this since 2002. It wasn’t that long since Walmart came in, and we said no,” said Aguiar-Curry, ensuring that the council considered Vickrey and Davis’ same concerns when approving projects.
Biasi brought up concerns about the height of the hotel, and its possible interference with the sightline to the Berryessa Gap. According to Biasi, who was one of the planning commissioners who approved the development, the buildings will not clutter the open view to the Coastal Range.
“The height is very necessary in a project like this,” said Ranchhod.
The Fairfield Inn & Suites will stand 46 feet, 6 inches above ground.
Other items
~ By unanimous agreement, Aguiar-Curry will remain mayor, and the new mayor pro tempore will be Bill Biasi.
~ The council unanimously approved returning rights to land on Valley Oak Drive and Grant Avenue to PG&E, which formerly held a skate park constructed in 2002. In order to safety maintain gas lines, PG&E needs to keep the land clear.
The city will be compensated $100,000 for the removal, a payment with no strings attached according to Donlevy.
~ In Mid-September, the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities program will decide whether to award a grant of $560,000 for a flexible bus service in Winters. At the previous meeting, members of the Winters Senior Foundation asked for a survey to be conducted to establish a need for better transportation.
City staff determined a need not just for the senior community, but for all residents, and applied for the grant as a first step.
“(The bus) will provide greater economic opportunity,” said Aguiar-Curry.
The council meets next on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

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