Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Suisun City OKs plan for dual-use library

From Daily Republic // Dec. 21, 2005
Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City Council gave the thumbs up Tuesday to funding a new library that will be built on Pintail Drive next to Suisun Elementary School.

"This is a wonderful example of a partnership," said Ann Cousineau of the Solano County Library.

The proposed library next to Suisun Elementary School, which will be twice as large as the present one, could open as early as June 2008 if everything goes well.

The City Council approved a funding plan that will turn over 1.5 acres to the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District and spend $4.6 million to build the library.

Suisun City, the school district and the Solano Library District have been planning for more than a year to build a permanent library to replace the one leasing space at 333 Sunset Center.

The plan was born after the City Council proposed not paying the lease for the present library's quarters at 333 Sunset as part of its efforts to deal with a worsening deficit.

Initially, a library was slated to go next to the Joe Nelson Community Center in Heritage Park but that idea was dropped in favor of sharing it with Suisun Elementary School.

The funding plan has the redevelopment agency advance the project $710,000, which would be repaid by Solano County Public Facilities fees generated within Suisun City.

Another $2.2 million will come from redevelopment money that otherwise goes to the school district. The library's backers will try to get $1 million in state Proposition 47 grant funding.

Construction could start by February 2007.

In other business, the council held off approving a tougher false alarm ordinance that increases the penalties for homes and businesses that report more than one false alarm during a 12-month period.

Councilmembers asked the police to re-examine the proposed ordinance, how much the fines for false alarms will be and consider a form of 'insurance policy' for alarm owners who don't want to be hit with the fines.

Under the new ordinance, residents and businesses faced fined $100 for the second false alarm within 12 months and $250 for the third. The ordinance also establishes a $30 alarm registration fee.

Police pushed for the new ordinance saying that 96.4 of the alarms the department got between January 2003 and November 2004 were false. Responding to these alarms was an unneeded drain on the department's limited manpower.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Monday, December 19, 2005

Council to vote on library funding plan

From Daily Republic // Dec. 18, 2005
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City could get a new library next to Suisun Elementary School as early as June 2008 if everything goes well, according to plans to go before the Suisun City Redevelopment Agency on Tuesday.

The City Council, which sits as the Redevelopment Agency, is expected to vote on a funding plan that will turn over 1.5 acres to the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District and spend $4.6 million to build the library.

Suisun City, the school district and the Solano Library District have been working together for more than a year to put a permanent library in Suisun City to replace the one leasing space at 333 Sunset Center.

The effort was spurred two years ago when the City Council proposed not paying the lease at 333 Sunset as part of its efforts to deal with a worsening deficit.

Councilmembers had once considered building a permanent library next to the Joe Nelson Community Center in Heritage Park but abandoned that idea in favor of sharing it with Suisun Elementary School.

The site behind Suisun Elementary School facing Pintail Drive got largely positive comments from residents at informational meetings.

Tuesday's proposal recommends having the redevelopment agency advance the project $710,000, which would be repaid by Solano County Public Facilities fees generated within Suisun City.

The library's backers will go after $1 million in state Proposition 47 grant funding. Another $2.2 million would come from redevelopment money that would otherwise go to the school district.

Barring any difficulties such as not getting the state grant, construction would start in February 2007 and the library would open in June 2008.

In other business, the agency will vote to spend $80,000 on a consultant who would work on moving forward the proposed Gentry shopping center project, which would be located just west across the railroad tracks from Suisun City's Old Town.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Welcoming the attention

Daily Republic // Dec. 16, 2005
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY – Agree with them or not, local leaders admit council watchers are a necessary part of government.

“We don’t always agree with them but they are always another point to consider,” Fairfield Mayor Harry Price said. “They serve a very useful purpose in local government making certain that taxpayer interests are well-presented.”

Taxpayers group representatives such as Vern Van Buskirk or Roy Stripe of Fairfield, George Guynn of Suisun City or Jim Williams of Vacaville are “not at all shy bout sharing their observations, points of view and the determination that local government serve the people,” he added.

“They play a very important role,” said Suisun City’s Mayor Jim Spering of those residents who make it a point of following city business. “If I had my preference, it would be nice to have the council chamber full.”

Their input at the mike ensures the council “takes the time o make sure what you are doing is correct and that you are doing it in the best interests of the people,” Spering said.

Mayor Len Augustine of Vacaville agreed that taxpayer watchdogs are necessary, but even they can overstep their bound as what he felt was the case with this city’s recent utility tax measure.

While the Vacaville-based Solano County Taxpayers Association supported the measure to keep a utility tax in place, the Fairfield-based Central Solano Citizens/Taxpayers Group opposed it.

“They (the Vacaville-based group) had the good common sense in understanding how we spend our money,” said Augustine, referring to the $3.5 million generated by the tax to support city services.

The council watchers have the right to ask questions and ensure Vacaville is spending its month wisely, Augustine said.

“We don’t want to waste money, whether we are watched or not,” Augustine said.

There is an upper limit to how often elected officials get questioned. Those who speak on every item tend not to get the same attention as those less frequent speakers who save their time before the council for specific issues.

“When a new person shows up, the council perks up and they listen more,” Spering said.

Suisun City man eager to have others join him

Daily Republic // Dec. 16, 2005
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY – To Suisun City Council watcher George Guynn, less government is better government.

“Government should be as small as possible and not take care of every whim, but cover the essentials,” said the Suisun City resident who has been a fixture at City Council meetings for years.

Guynn has even gone as far as suggesting the Suisun City Police Department become a volunteer force.

He is leery of tax measures that governments turn to when they find expenses growing past their ability to pay for them.

“To think of the taxpayers as the source of every need is absurd,” Guynn said. “You have all this money that is being collected and it is not being used wisely.”

He is one of the small cadre of residents who take the time to study what their city councils do and speak up when they feel their local governments aren’t spending money well.

Guynn, 62, moved to Suisun City in 1986 – attracted by the town’s more affordable housing – Mountain View in the San Francisco Bay area where he worked for the city.

“It was where I got to see things from the inside,” said Guynn, referring to one fo the inspirations for his becoming a city council watcher.

It was Mabel Harder, a Suisun City watchdog who since moved away, who got Guynn interested in following the actions of the Suisun City Council in 1997.

That was about when the city was trying to entice a gambling riverboat to Suisun City’s downtown waterfront, something that Guynn opposed.

“It was the financing that got me interested in following what local government does,” said Guynn, who believes government should spend no more than it makes.

He is now a member of both the Central Solano County Citizen Taxpayers Association and the Citizens Against the Dump Expansion, which opposes expanding the Potrero Hills landfill.

Guynn also ran for the Fairfield-Suisun School Board unsuccessfully, but now devotes his efforts to keeping an eye on Suisun City’s leaders.

He opposes the idea of government helping to build affordable housing, saying “government should not be in the housing business’ it should be a matter of private enterprise.”

In his addresses to the council, Mayor Jim Spering is often Guynn’s sparring partner when the council watcher steps to the mike to speak on an issue.

Spering has a lot of respect for those who keep an eye on city government and even Guynn – when he makes a good point, he said.

“The council does listen, especially when they bring forth a good idea,” Spering said. “But if it’s the same message on every single item, you tend to stop hearing them.”

Guynn’s sometimes less-that-warm reception from the council hasn’t stopped him froim pointing out problems.

“It doesn’t intimidate me a bit” Guynn said.

Guynn has lost on a lot of issues, but he still believes his work makes a difference.

He shares some issues with the city’s powers-that-be such as bringing more business to Suisun City and requiring residential developments pay their own way.

Guynn also advocates change on the council because “if you keep the same people in office, you won’t get any major changes.” He supports term limits as one good way to do that.

Guynn is disappointed more people don’t keep an eye on what their government does.

“It is not good,” Guynn said of the times he has been one of the few residents in the audience at Suisun City Council meetings. “We need more people. Most people are concerned, but they don’t have the time.”

There are times “where I feel I am the only one there at the city council meetings,” Guynn said.

Most of those in the taxpayers association are Fairfield residents and he would like to see more Suisun City residents step up to protect taxpayers.

“I would like to see someone else more involved so I can be more in the background and have time to plan,” Guynn said of his council watching. “With one person, it’s hard to be everywhere and you get spread out too much. It can be easy to be burned out.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t see any new faces on the horizon,” Guynn said.

Guynn doesn’t see himself stepping back soon though.

“As long as I live here, I will keeping doing this,” Guynn said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976

Friday, December 9, 2005

Capitols on Roll With Record Rider Ship

From Daily Republic // Dec. 9, 2005
By Barry Eberling

SUISUN CITY - Mark Ogden is happy to take the Capitol Corridor trains and avoid congested freeways and high gas prices.

Ogden started taking the train about three months ago from Suisun City to Sacramento. There, he rides his bike two miles to his job at an architectural firm. The firm pays for mass transit rides.

He gets some exercise, avoids the stress of driving and contributes less car emissions to the air, Ogden said. But the main reason he started riding the trains was the high gas prices, he said.

"It makes a lot of sense," Ogden said.

The Capitol Corridors are on a roll. The service sells tickets for about 100,000 trips a month - the busiest it's been in its 14-year history. Ridership is up 8.1 percent from the previous year.

High gas prices are one reason for the ridership increase, said Richard Silver of the Rail Passenger Association of California. Gas prices - even more than traffic congestion - will get travelers out of their cars and into trains, he said.

There's also the increase in train service, said Eugene Skoropowski, the managing director for the Capitol Corridors Joint Powers Authority. In 2003, service increased from nine to 12 round trips each weekday on most of the line.

"It's frequent enough to be real transportation and not just to ride a train," Skoropowski said.

Keeping the trains on time
Eastbound and westbound trains arrive at the Suisun City station hourly during the morning and evening rush hours. Compare that to December 1991, when the service started. Eastbound and westbound trains each arrived at Suisun City once in the morning, afternoon and evening.

The Capitols wants to keep riders, once they give the service a try. One of the key factors is making sure the trains run on time.

Trains in recent months have been punctual about 85 percent of the time, with a dip to 73 percent in October because of track improvements being made in the San Jose area. The goal is 92 percent.

For six consecutive months starting in October 2004, the trains on-time rate topped 90 percent, Skoropowski said. Then a major levee broke in the Delta, flooding land and diverting freight trains to the Capitols tracks. Union Pacific made changes to the dispatching system.

"You have a series of things that made it go downhill," Skoropowski said.

But that six-month run shows what can be done, he said.The 7:33 a.m. Sacramento-bound train arrived at 7:44 a.m. on a recent morning when Ogden waited for it. He's philosophical about the occasional delay, noting that could happen on the freeway with traffic.

"The way I'm looking at it, I'm getting 40 minutes on the train to work on my laptop or catch up on reading," Ogden said. "I feel like I'm gaining time in my day."

There are plans to improve train service. In Skoropowski's words, "We've only scratched the surface."

A true commuter service?
One proposal is to have trains arrive every half-hour during rush hours, creating a true commuter service. Commuter trains would take riders westbound riders as far as Oakland. They would take eastbound riders as far as Sacramento.

Although the extra trains wouldn't officially be Capitol Corridor trains, riders wouldn't notice the difference, Skoropowski said. It would all appear to be one service.

New train stations are planned for Fairfield/Vacaville, Dixon and Benicia. The Fairfield/Vacaville stop could open at Peabody and Vanden roads in 2010.

Each new station is supposed to be matched by track improvements to speed the trains up. The goal is to have no net loss in the trip time, despite the extra stops.

The Capitols is also on a roll when it comes to paying its own way. The train and related bus service recover about 43 percent of their $37 million annual operating cost from fares, an all-time high.

He has no reservations about the service's ability to get to a 50 percent farebox recovery rate, Skoropowski said.

"The key is to get more service to San Jose, to get the additional riders in that marketplace," Skoropowski said.

Fares for the Capitol Corridors have risen over the years, but not dramatically. A round trip to from Suisun City to Oakland cost $15 in 1991, or about $21.30 when adjusted for inflation.

Today, it costs $22.

The goal is to raise fares slowly over time, rather than holding off to the last minute and raising them steeply, Skoropowski said. This gradual approach hurts customers less, he said.

Riders can pay less for tickets by using the frequent rider rates.

Still a rare option
Despite its record-setting ridership, the Capitols have yet to make a dramatic difference in the Solano County commute. Only about .1 percent of county commuters take the train, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"You're just creaming the top right now," Silver said.

But doing such things as adding a true commuter train service could make a dent in the I-80 congestion, he said. Now is the time to add such services, while gas prices are high, he said.

Dennis Gruber and his wife on a recent morning rode the train from Sacramento to Suisun City. Gruber praised the service.

"It's clean, it's efficient and it's cheap," said Gruber, who was visiting from Spain.

That's the kind of review the Capitols need if they are going to keep on growing.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Capitol Corridor Train Facts

  • Trains run along a 170-mile long corridor, from Auburn to San Jose. They stop at 16 stations.
  • The Capitols have 1.2 million passengers annually. This makes it the third-busiest Amtrak route in the nation.
  • Suisun City has the only stop in Solano County. About 350 passengers use the station on an average weekday and about 116,000 annually.
  • It takes about 46 minutes to ride from the Suisun City station to the Richmond BART station.
  • It takes about 53 minutes to ride from the Suisun City station to Sacramento.

Suisun City Courts Developers

From Daily Republic // Dec. 9, 2005
By Nathan Halverson

SUISUN CITY - A proposed Wal-Mart is a contentious issue in Suisun City - meaning its possible development is taking some time.

But city officials aren't waiting idly for Wal-Mart's approval and the huge tax revenue it will generate.

In recent months, City Manager Suzanne Bragdon and Project Manager Jason Garben attended a Deal Making conference hosted by the International Center for Shopping Centers in Palm Springs.

"The purpose of the trip was to promote the remaining sites in Suisun for development," Garben said.

While Garben said no sites exist in Suisun City to build a traditional mall, plenty of spots could be developed for commercial retail.

Ideally, the city would land a "big box" retailer like Home Depot or Kohl's department store, Bragdon said.

"We don't have the commercial retail for our residents to shop locally," she said.

The city rented a booth at the event to promote itself to developers looking for commercial sites. Garben and Bragdon provided information on vacant land, its ownership, and city economic and demographic numbers.

"Since Suzanne has come on board, her big push is to try and generate new commercial development," Garben said.

The city, which is running a budget deficit, is searching for ways to generate revenue. Increasing retail space will lead to greater sales tax revenue.

Currently, Suisun City loses 73 percent of its residents' taxable spending to other cities.
The city only receives 7 percent of its sales tax revenue from consumer goods. Garben would like to increase that figure, and bringing in a large retail development would help boost that category.

Fairfield receives 20 percent of its sales tax revenues from the Westfield Solano mall and Gateway Plaza area alone - but this geographical area also includes restaurants.

Garben said the Palm Springs trip was productive, with many prospective businesses and developers showing interest. Attending the event has generated 40 to 50 prospects, said Garben.

"At the very least Suisun was presented as an option to developers who never would have considered us before," he said.

An expert on how cities raise revenues said attending the mall event was a good step.
"That's one of the things that they should do," said Denise Ovrom, an associate with Diamond Bar-based The HdL Companies. "You might not get a quantifiable outcome from going to that, but the info you gain and the contacts you make are worth it."

Suisun City should focus on selling what makes it unique, Ovrom added.

"They have a growing population there, which is very helpful," she said. "And they have the waterfront. They need to leverage that."

Bragdon said the city is conducting a study to determine what kind of retail it can support. If all else fails, the vacant sites can be turned into residential sites, she said.

"The pressure to build residential is tremendous," Bragdon said. "But the taxes from that won't even pay for the cost of providing the needed housing services."

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

Thursday, December 8, 2005

No raise this year for Suisun City police

From the Daily Republic // December 8, 2005
Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY – Suisun City police officers will be going without a pay raise in the one-year contract the Suisun City Council approved Tuesday night.

The rest of the city’s employees have gone without pay raises since 2004 as part of the city leadership’s efforts to cut costs and balance a fiscally ailing budget.

“It is a reflection of our ability to pay,” Suisun City Assistant City Manager Ronald Anderson Jr. said of the contract that runs from July 2005 to June 30, 2006.

Suisun City has been struggling with a weak budget for several years and repeatedly cuts costs with measure that included closing City Hall on Fridays.

The contract comes at a time when the city is in its third year of contracting with the Solano County Sheriff’s Department to patrol Suisun City during the early morning hours.

The city also recently accepted a study on police staffing that said it doesn’t need to hire more officers to maintain its level of service once vacant positions are filled and some officers recover from injuries.

“We are glad we have the contract,” said Suisun City Police Officers Association representative John Noble of Rains, Lucia and Wilkinson of Pleasant Hill.

Noble called the contract “a holding pattern so the city can do a compensation survey that can be used in the next negotiations.”

“We understand the city’s fiscal constraints and want to work with the city to establish a stable police force,” Noble said.

Anderson hopes the city will be in better fiscal shape next year when negotiations start again.

“The council indicated that they have a strong interest in trying to do that next year,” Anderson said. “That is why we are working hard to improve our fiscal situation.”

It was January 2004 when members of the Suisun City Employees Association, which represents the rest of the city’s workers, got a 1 percent raise.

Their current contract states that if anyone in the city gets a pay raise, the SEIU contract will be reopened for negotiations.

Reach Ian Thompson at 707-427-6976 or at

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Suisun City development in ‘conceptual’ stage

Daily Republic // Dec. 7, 2005
Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY – Two-story buildings that combine office space and residences above are being suggested as the core project to revive Suisun City’s Main Street near the plaza.

A small neighborhood of 70 cluster homes on the west side of Civic Center Boulevard and two dozen small homes just north of Gertrude Lotz Drive could go up east of the Suisun Slough.

These are two of the ideas that Main Street West Partners put before the Suisun City Council Tuesday night to show what direction that developer wants to go.

“It is all very conceptual,” said Suisun City developer Mike Rice of Main Street West Partners, the firm who is negotiating with the city to become the downtown’s master developer.

Rice’s partner Frank Marinello said the anchor project around Main and Solano streets will have a mix of smaller tenants instead of a larger single tenant.

“The right mix of tenants is as good as a single project,” said Marinello of possible occupants that could range from antique stores and restaurants to a Suisun Valley winery outlet and art galleries.

Rice suggested both the commercial and residential projects go forward together because of the energy they could build for each other.

Mayor Jim Spering stressed that the area specifically on Main Street needed to be the top priority because economically reviving Main Street was why the city wanted a master developer in the first place.

Tuesday’s report comes two months after Rice asked for both a 60-day extension on his deadline for producing both a more concrete proposal for what he will do downtown and the name of a major tenant

At that meeting, the council gave Rice more time and waived the requirement that he produce a major tenant for Main Street West’s anchor project. Instead, they allowed him to design for a multi-tenant project.

Main Street West Partners is still in exclusive negotiations with the city over a contract to allow the developer to acquire 14 Redevelopment Agency properties and develop them.

Suisun City leaders said earlier this year they want to see new commercial development, mixed-use development and live-work housing built to revive the downtown’s economy.

The council met in executive session afterward to talk about the proposed property sale. Any action on this is not expected before January, according to Redevelopment Agency Director Al daSilva.

In other business, the council approved awarding a $685,000 contract with Blackshear Construction of Benicia to build a 56-foot-tall lighthouse at the head of the Suisun Slough.

City leaders contend the lighthouse will serve as a symbol of a rejuvenated Suisun City waterfront.

Reach Ian Thompson at 707-427-6976 or at

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Lighthouse in Suisun slated for July opening

From the Daily Republic // December 6, 2005

Council set to award building contract worth $623,000

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY -- Suisun City's 52-foot-tall lighthouse should be up and running as soon as next summer, according to the project's manager, Chief Building Inspector Dan Kasperson.

"We hope to have an operating lighthouse by the Fourth of July celebration," Kasperson said.

The Suisun City Council is expected to award Blackshear Construction of Benicia a $623,000 contract tonight to build the structure city leaders are pedicting will be the symbol of a rejuvenated Suisun City waterfront.

Blackshear was one of five builders who responded to a bid put out early in the fall to put up the structure that was designed by the ROMA Design Group of San Francisco.

"That is a good amount, considering it is a relatively small project," Kasperson said of the number of bidders. "There was interest because it was so unique."

The lighthouse was the product of a series of community forums in 2004. Residents and councilmembers figured it woud be a unique and distinctive symbol visible from Highway 12.

It was designed to be a steel structure with alternating bands of black and white granite panels, simulating the paint scheme of coastal lighthouses and topped with a rotating beacon.

The city lit up the beacon on the waterfront in a public ceremony on Oct. 1 after perching it atop a crane raised to approximately the height of what the lighthouse would be.

Suisun City's Redevelopment Agency is putting forward $530,000 to get the construction work started and city staff is recommending putting up another $200,000 to meet the contract price and any cost overruns.

"All of the costs are going to be reimbursed by fees generated from a surcharge on property sold by the Redevelopment Agency," Kasperson said. "The intent is that there will be no impact on city money."

The Suisun City Council, sitting as the Redevelopment Agency governing board, meets at 7 p.m. tonight.

Monday, December 5, 2005

Suisun City's Growing Business

From Daily Republic // Thursday Dec. 1, 2005

By Nathan Halverson
SUISUN CITY - Residents are increasingly finding they can shop and eat in their own back yards, rather than drive to the more numerous retail centers in Fairfield.

In fact, a section of the city along Highway 12 is becoming the new drive-thru alley with a wide range of fast food stores opened or opening.

The city's business growth is a combination of concerted efforts by city officials and of natural growth as developers and business owners recognize the potential of under-served neighborhoods.

Currently 73 percent of Suisun City residents' taxable spending is made outside their city, according to city project manager Jason Garben. City officials want more of that taxable spending to stay local.

Primarily the money is going to Fairfield, which hosts the region's major retail spots like Westfield Solano mall.

Suisun City officials know they need more retail and commercial space to increase their tax revenues.

There are about 144 undeveloped acres available in the city, said Garben. Roughly 65 of those acres are good for commercial development, he added.

New developments

Several new retail areas are in various stages of development.

Wal-Mart has proposed building a new store on Highway 12 on a piece of land not yet incorporated into the city. The release of an environmental impact report for the proposed store and retail center there has been delayed from late November to February as issues of wetland protection and increased traffic need further review, said Alvaro da Silva, interim economic development director for Suisun City.

The city continues to redevelop and assist in adding commercial and retail space on Main Street, which has undergone a major overhaul since its more industrious days came to an end in the late 1980s.

Another new retail area is at the southeast corner of Highway 12 and Grizzly Island Road known as the Lawler Center. This site has grown with little city assistance.

"It's actually happening by itself," said da Silva.

A cluster of fast food restaurants opened there during the last few months, including a Quizno's Sub, Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits, Jack in the Box and Burger King. A Panda Express is under construction.

Construction drawings were recently submitted to the city for a seafood and grocery store with a bakery and deli. The store will be at 303 Lawler Center Drive.

The Lawler Center still has about 10 parcels on which to build.

More room to grow

Tim McCabe owns and operates a franchised It's a Grind Coffee House, which opened at Lawler Center in July. He said about 75 percent of his customers are Suisun City residents.

"It's mostly locals that know about us," he said.

He gets a lot of teachers from Crescent Elementary School, which was recently built, he said.
Just south of the center off Highway 12 is a mixed-use project named McCoy Creek.

The proposed development, for which construction drawings have yet to be submitted, will include 19 single family homes and five apartments above retail spaces, totaling about 6,000 square feet.

The site will also host an office building with four units. It is being developed by former city manager Camron Najoomi.

Kevin English of Fairfield-based Premier Commercial Real Estate Services is representing the site, which is zoned general commercial.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Postcards from Suisun Slough

From Daily Republic // Nov. 3, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Trish Abbatiello kayaks among the reeds of the Suisun Slough because the quiet gives her the peace she needs to heal from her job as a crisis counselor.

Bob Onate never had any time for fishing when he was working in the construction industry. Now, it's his daily enjoyment: Dropping a hook into the Suisun Slough and figuring catching a fish is just icing on the cake.

Monique Liquori spent two decades walking the pathways along the slough, explaining its lifecycle to young people, many of whom gave it little thought, only seeing it as a dirty brown ribbon of water.

The slough was the site in 1999 when Crystal Middle School teachers Jim Stevens and Greg Fisher needed a place for their school rowing club to practice.

Abbatiello, Onate, Liquori and Stevens are a few of those who made the slough a part of their lives, either on its waters or along its shores.

The slough has long been a center for Suisun City from its founding in the 1850s as an agricultural port to now with events using its waters. The bathtub derby that was once held every year is a thing of the past, going the same way the aging piers and wharfs did when the city redeveloped the waterfront.

There is still the Christmastime lighted boat parade that brings in Santa to light the city Christmas tree and the blessing of the fleet.

And for the past six autumns, the harbor has been visited by a tide of small jellyfish, an occurrence that Harbormaster Gus Barkas is at a loss to explain.

“Sometimes there is a seal out there that has come up here chasing salmon,” Barkas said.
‘From lawyers to the homeless guy'

Every waterway and coastal area seems to have a Deadman's island, point, rock, river or slough, Barkas jokes. Suisun's slough is no exception with Deadman Island, not far down the waterway from the city.

There are also pieces of the slough's past that are lost to history, such as why one point of land near the Rush Ranch was named Japanese Point, a question that stumps even the Solano County Land Trust, the ranch's owners.

As always, it is the fishermen who are the most frequent users, always found in their favorite spots from the walkways near One Harbor Center out into the marsh itself.

“Now that I am retired, I fish,” said Onate, who can usually be found with his pole in the water at any spot between the convenience dock near the plaza and the public restrooms. “I think that the one that got hooked was me.”

He is one of the changing cast of a couple dozen fishermen found along the shores of the slough on any decent day with a line in the water.

“They go from a lawyer to the homeless guy,” said Onate of his fellow fishermen leaning their poles over the railings. “There are a wide variety of people.”

Onate is one of the early birds, heading to the water at 5 a.m. for three to four hours of fishing, making a point of timing his fishing with the incoming morning tide.

He has a boat in the marina, one he bought in Suisun and sometimes takes to other lakes. He's glad the 24-foot-boat is small enough to do that.

“A lot of those guys are stuck in that marina because their boat is so big,” Onate said.

His only sadness is there are not as many fish as when he was younger; he remembers fishermen hauling home fish that would make today's catches look sparse.

“It's a shame,” Onate said.

Students touring the marsh

The fishermen on the shore near the public boat dock pretty much ignore the occasional groups of schoolchildren who troop by them to the trails leading out into the marsh.

These hikes, led by docents from the Suisun Wildlife Center at the end of Kellogg Street, have been going on for the past 20 years, ever since the center moved there.

This time it was a group of Dan O. Root Elementary School third-graders from Marlene Schafer's class led by center director Monique Liquori.

“We have these a couple of times a week, more in the spring and we are just starting to get more in the fall,” said Liquori, just before starting to explain the uses of pickleweed.

She asked each student to taste the plant and was only put off for a second when one child asked if it was poisonous.

“If it were poisonous, would I feed it to you?” Liquori asked, trying to keep the kids' attention to teach them about the marsh and its denizens.

Kayaking for peace

The slough not only attracts the large boats that tie up at the docks, but also the small boaters such as Trish Abbatiello.

Abbatiello runs the Sunset Bay Kayak rentals. She calls her work organizing tours of the slough and the marsh's waterways a needed balance to her work as a crisis counselor.

“It gives you a chance to feel the quiet,” Abbatiello said of paddling into the seclusion of the marsh.

She has been renting kayaks for the past seven years between April and October. She got the idea when vacationing in Hawaii.

The brown, brackish waters are a far cry from the ocean blue of Oahu, “but you kind of tend to forget the water underneath you when you find the pockets of seclusion and quiet,” she said.

Her naturalist tours point out the elusive otters and beavers, and likens the slough to a kidney whose job is to constantly clean the ecosystem of the largest remaining marsh in the country.

Abbatiello is a little sad the kayak season is over, saying fall is an interesting time of year in the marsh.

“This time of year, the Canadian geese are flying by, close enough that you can see the muscles in their wing structure as they fly above you,” Abbatiello said.

Crew team finds home water

It is where Stevens puts his two dozen student rowers through their paces to get ready for regattas. It's also where the middle and high school students go oar-to-oar against college and private teams.

Crystal student Isaac Braker is one of the students who gather every Saturday morning on the slough, which he says has “good distance” for the long narrow craft.

“It is a great spot,” Stevens said, noting the wind seldom bothers them. “Being there at sunrise on glass water in these boats is just tremendous.”

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Costumed youth line Suisun City's streets

From Daily Republic // Nov. 1, 2005

By Ian Thompson
SUISUN CITY - Three-year-old Shane Braselton wasn't just dressed up as a fireman for Halloween.

“I am a fireman,” Suisun City's littlest fireman forcefully explained.

The Suisun City Firefighters Association apparently agreed early Monday night during the judging of their 54th annual Halloween Parade along Main Street.

Braselton was given a ribbon after the crowd judged him as the best firefighter costume in the parade.

“He loves telling firefighter stories and his favorite movie is Ladder 49,” father Keith Braselton said.

Shane was one of more than 120 youngsters who marched down Main Street dressed as their favorite characters and animals before going out trick-or-treating.

Little cattle shared the parade with fairies, while wizards walked alongside knights and goblins and more than a few Darth Vaders and Jedi knights appeared.

Seven-month-old Isabella Nelson made the parade dressed as Princess Leia Organa and was accompanied by her brothers Yoda (Austin Nelson) and Darth Vader (Ashton Nelson).

“They are accompanying her on her maiden voyage,” father Jim Nelson said, after supplying the high point of the evening for Isabella - holding her milk bottle while she drank.

Eight-year-old Bailey Lucero sported the one of the most original costumes of the evening, one he had wanted to wear for a couple of years - that of a ham sandwich complete with lettuce.

“I saw it in a catalog and he liked it, so I made it for him,” mother Belinda Lucero said.

After the march, awards were handed out at the waterfront plaza to the best costumes as well as candy to all those who participated.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Glashoffs' gardens

From Daily Republic // Oct. 27, 2005

By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - What used to be the Glashoff family's pear orchard is now raising a new crop - one of iron and steel.

It includes an 18-foot-high upright banjo and a six-foot windmill with blades turning in the west winds. A rotund Santa and host of abstract women of varying heights also dot the field.

“You have got to admit, they do catch your eye,” Roland Mather of Vacaville said of the sculptures next to Rockville Road. “I came down here to get some produce, but the art is a nice, unexpected addition.”

Suisun Valley sculptor Phil Glashoff hopes his newborn sculpture garden will add more luster to the valley, bringing in more people and possibly spurring an increased interest in sculpture art.

“The valley is struggling and this is all about getting a different quality of people in here,” Glashoff said.

Glashoff's idea to create a sculpture garden emerged a few years ago, not long after the family's produce stand and bakery on Rockville Road closed.

“We were trying to figure out what to do with the property,” Glashoff said.

Glashoff and his son, Chad Glashoff, who was just starting to create his own sculptures, brainstormed on ideas for the land while at the breakfast table at the family ranch.

“I already had a substantial collection of sculptures and Chad was just getting started,” the senior Glashoff said. “We figured we could put the sculptures down on Rockville Road so they could get better exposure.”

It has taken two years to get the sculpture garden started. The past month was spent moving sculptures from Glashoff's secluded home and studio further up the valley where he creates his art.

Growing a sculpture garden

The sculptures share the land with a couple dozen head of cattle, which Glashoff's brother moved on to the land from the family's pear orchard. Someone planned to establish an organic meat company in the farm buildings, but the prospective tenant dropped out, he said. The former bakery and produce stand are now for rent to any agriculture-related business.

“None of (the sculptures) are for sale because this is agriculturally zoned land, but we are doing this to help create Suisun Valley as a destination spot to bring in people to discover the wineries, produce stands and restaurants here,” Glashoff said.

It will also serve as an opportunity for local schools' art departments to experience local art “and a great place for new artists to see and get motivated,” Chad Glashoff said.

A little more than two dozen sculptures stand around the former bakery, the closed-off parking lot and the gravel road between the two pastures.

“We are planning to do additions as time goes on,” Glashoff said. “This is just the beginning.”

Glashoff's goal is to have at least 50 sculptures on display. While the lion's share will be his or his son's work, Glashoff hopes to display sculptures from artists from around the world.

The sculptor talks about putting in even larger sculptures in the pastures, possibly up to 40 feet high, much higher than the mostly human-sized pieces there now.

“I want to see what reaction (to the sculpture garden idea) we get before putting large elements into the pasture,” he said.

A unique art gallery

This would be the first such sculpture park within Solano County with the nearest other such sculpture parks found in Oakland, Palo Alto and San Francisco.

“There are no other places around here for artists to display their (larger) works,” Glashoff said. “This will be that place.”
Doreen Lum, who runs The Vegetable Patch across Rockville Road, has been watching the sculpture garden's birth for some time.

“I think its great,” Lum said. “This will bring a different kind of clientele to the area and hopefully they will venture across the street (to Lum's produce stand).”

Maria Gomez pointed out the large medal banjo near the entrance to the sculpture garden to her daughter during a stop at Lum's store.

“They are very nice and it's nice to have them out here for everyone to see them,” Gomez said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

The sculpture garden will be open to the general public noon to 5 p.m. Oct. 29 & 30. After that, it will be open for free docent-led tours on weekends only. To arrange an appointment, call 429-1133.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Lawler House may move again

From Daily Republic // Oct. 20, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City's historic Lawler House could get a new owner and possibly a new home.

A local business owner recently approached the Redevelopment Agency, which owns Lawler House, asking to buy it, Councilman Sam Derting said during the council meeting Tuesday night.

The city has also pondered moving the house to another downtown location if such a move could help sell a vacant site adjacent to the old home's current location at 718 Main St.

The businessman approached the city earlier this week, Redevelopment Director Al da Silva said. He wouldn't say who it was.

“This is a lead that we are definitely pursuing at this time,” da Silva said.

Main Street West Partners, the developer the city is negotiating with to run the downtown's future redevelopment, has run into difficulty marketing the site next to the Lawler House to potential anchor businesses.

Moving the Lawler House could help Main Street West's efforts to bring in businesses.
“It had been looked at because we wanted flexibility for Main Street West,” da Silva said.

If the city does decide to move the house, it better take a close look at the costs “because it's not cheap,” Councilwoman Jane Day said.

If the house moves, it would be the second time the 149-year-old ranch-style house has been moved.

Originally built on land not far from where the Suisun City Fire Department on Pintail Avenue now stands, the house was moved two miles by barge and truck in June 1979 to its present home on Main Street.

After two years of restoration, it became home to a dozen small businesses.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Humphrey's return turns out to be ‘a whale tale'

From Daily Republic // Oct. 18, 2005
Barry Eberling

SUISUN CITY - At first glance, the creature looked like it just might be a baby whale marking the 20th anniversary of Humphrey's famous adventures by swimming up Montezuma Slough in Suisun Marsh.

It swam under the murky, brown waters near the Beldon's Landing fishing area on Monday morning, darting amid the dozens of piles that hold up the arcing Montezuma Slough bridge.

Every now and then, it arched its back out of the water and showed a fin.

“The tail definitely looked like a whale,” said Sue Willey of Fairfield, who came to Beldon's Landing at 10 a.m. with her husband to enjoy the area's natural beauty.

Anthony Williams and Aaron Martin got a look at the creature as they drove over the bridge.

They drove up to Beldon's Landing to watch from shore.

“We thought it was a whale, too,” Martin said.

But the handful of onlookers were unable to get a close look. They didn't have the advantage of a camera that could freeze the image. The creature usually stayed in the middle of the wide slough and lifted a part of its body out of the water for only about a second at a time.

As things turned out, this wasn't Humphrey the Humpback Whale. Instead, the creature was Suzie the Sea Lion or Seal.

Twenty years ago to the day, Humphrey was causing a stir nationwide. People by the hundreds flocked to Solano County to see the unlikely sight of a whale swimming in rivers and sloughs 50 miles inland.

History failed to repeat itself on Monday. That became apparent to Martin and Williams when they walked onto the bridge for a closer look.

“He kind of looks like a sea lion,” Williams said.

Appearances by seals or sea lions in Montezuma Slough are not a rarity, said Ted Ceder and John Legakis as they prepared to launch a boat and go fishing.

“You don't see them every time,” Ceder said. “But you see them here and there.”

Sheriff's Deputy Ed Hipol said the creatures can especially be seen during the salmon runs. He patrols the area's waters by boat.

So Humphrey the Whale will keep his unique place in the region's history. Still, the onlookers at Beldon's Landing got to enjoy themselves.

“We had something to see,” Willey said. “Normally, we just watch the little fish jump.”

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Developer asks Suisun City for more time

From Daily Republic // Oct. 18, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The developers chosen by the Suisun City Council to reinvigorate Main Street's economy with new development are asking for more time to come up with their plan.

Main Street West Partners is also asking the council to waive a requirement that it get a commitment from a major tenant before moving forward.

Getting the major tenant was one selling point that prompted Suisun City to start exclusive negotiations with Main Street West Partners, which is made up of local developer Mike Rice and Frank Marinello of Marinello Real Estate.

“It is just more time to come up with a better site plan,” Suisun City Redevelopment Director Al da Silva said of the extension.

The developers were trying to land a tenant for what they called the Main Street West project's “centerpiece anchor,” but a final agreement was never reached despite several tours and phone conversations.

Instead, the developers are looking to put multiple yet-to-be-named businesses into that centerpiece location, according to a letter from Main Street West Partners.

“We believe a viable alternative to the single-anchor concept is to locate multiple synergistic uses in the centerpiece/anchor portion of the project,” Main Street West partner Frank Marinello wrote in his letter to the council.

Da Silva said this change gives the developers “more flexibility to come up with an attraction for the core project.”

Rice doesn't see this change as an obstacle in the Main Street West project, saying plans are moving ahead well.

“It is just a change in what we see as the core development area,” Rice said.

“It is not a major change. It goes from a single user to multiple tenants,” da Silva said. “As far as I am concerned, this is an improvement.”

Suisun City created the West of Main plan in January in an effort to use city-owned property downtown as an incentive to bring in a master developer to revive the downtown's redevelopment efforts.

Rice and Marinello beat out 20 other developers who put in proposals to enter exclusive negotiations early in the summer to bring in new retail and live-work developments.

The city council, which also sits as the Suisun City Redevelopment Agency, meets tonight at 7 p.m. in the Suisun City Council chamber at 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Suisun City sees rash of window breakings

From Daily Republic // Oct. 18, 2005
By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - Robert Watts woke up Oct. 9 to find the driver's-side window of his gray pickup truck knocked out. Then he glanced at his neighbors' homes on the 600 block of Canvasback Drive.

He saw glass shards near other cars on the block. There was no rhyme or reason to it, it appeared many cars were targeted as far down as Worley Road, just a couple blocks away.

The destruction didn't end there. Sometime on Wednesday or Thursday, someone apparently shot the side window of Robert Steeves' van. The tempered-glass window bears a small hole surrounded by numerous cracks and the glass would shatter if touched. Robert's son Richard Steeves estimates 30 vehicles had windows tampered with.

Residents of Canvasback Drive, Cackling Drive and surrounding streets experienced a string of window bashings. On Oct. 2, Suisun City police received six reports of smashed windows - four on Canvasback Drive and two on Cackling Drive.

But Suisun City police have not received reports on the latest series of vandalism and don't have anyone investigating the case, said Juan Camacho, police spokesman. In cases such as vandalism, the police department can send victims a report form they can fill out and send to police.

Periodically, vandals will focus on one area. One day last November, someone broke 12 windows in the Lawler Ranch neighborhood, Camacho said.

Watts and Richard Steeves are angry that police didn't visit their homes to take a report.
With only 22 officers to cover Suisun City, the department had to cut back on some services, Camacho said. When the force went from 30 to 22 officers, the department stopped sending officers out on medical calls. It also stopped responding to cold cases where no one was hurt, the crime already occurred and there are no suspects.

Vandalism is considered a cold case, which has no suspects and no reported injuries.
“Our priority is crimes against people,” Camacho said.

If police hear enough reports to establish a pattern of vandalism, then investigators will be notified and patrol officers will be advised to look for the suspect, Camacho said.

The Oct. 9 window-breakings extended to residents on Worley Road, Watts said. That same day, someone shot out the huge picture window on Richard Steeves' mobile home - a few days before vandals struck his father's van. The combined cost to replace the windows will be nearly $1,000 and because the glass for both windows is tempered, Steeves must wait for the replacement part.

“I'm really upset because the police can't do anything about it,” Steeves said. “They won't take a report, they won't patrol they won't investigate, nothing. I'm not the only one who made a call about it. I'm sure there are others.”

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Monday, October 17, 2005

Study: Suisun has enough police officers

From Daily Republic // Saturday, Sept. 15, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City doesn't need more police officers to protect residents and business owners, it just needs to fill two vacancies and get those officers now on light duty back on patrol, according to a consultant's report.

And once the department's patrol force is up to strength, the City Council can consider ending a contract with the Solano County Sheriff's Department to patrol the city in the early morning.

The Suisun City Council will examine the consultant's report during a study session Tuesday when it considers how best to staff the Suisun City Police Department.

The consultant started the study in September. The council wanted a quick examination of staffing now to provide a baseline to use when looking at how to improve public safety.

At that time, Suisun City Police Chief Ron Forsythe told the council the department needed two more police officers to help his overworked force better protect the city.

At the Sept. 8 study session, Forsythe said his 22-officer department was in crisis mode because it was stretched to the limit with tight funding, losses due to retirements, injuries and officers leaving for other jobs.

The chief hoped for a council commitment to bring back a 24-hour police department, only to be told the council had to first figure out what it could afford.

Suisun City is in its second year of contracting with the Solano County Sheriff's Department to patrol the city in the early morning hours.

Mayor Jim Spering forcefully told the study's consultant he wanted an objective analysis of what was needed to protect Suisun City.

According to the study, Suisun City has a high level of service with 17 patrol officers and sergeants.

Five of these 17 are either in training or on limited duty, and two positions are vacant, the study said. Four of these officers should be back on duty by early next year. It recommended filling two vacancies.

The study said it will take 16 to 17 patrol officers and sergeants to adequately patrol Suisun City around the clock without help from the Solano County Sheriff's Office.

This is based on having three officers available to patrol the streets each shift.

”With 15 actual positions, the Suisun Police Department can provide 24-hour field services which allows for a minimum of three personnel per hour,“ the survey said.

While it is the city's goal to provide its own law enforcement, it is important to continue mutual aid from surrounding police agencies to provide back-up, the study concluded.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

State concludes grant misuse investigation

From Daily Republic // Saturday, Sept. 15, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The California Department of Boating and Waterways closed its investigation into allegations state grant money was used to pay two officers for painting two rooms at the Suisun City Police Department.

The department will keep a closer eye on how Suisun City police spend future grants, but doesn't plan to take further action, an agency spokeswoman said.

”We feel the matter is resolved,“ said June Iljana of the state Boating and Waterways Department.

In late August an anonymous letter to the state department alleged Suisun City Police Chief Ron Forsythe misused state grant money by using it to pay officers to paint rooms in the police station rather than patrol the city's waterways, as the grant intended.

"While we did find that about $2,500 was charged to the program while officers were painting, it was offset by about $2,600 in charges they could have charged to the financial aid," Iljana said.

"That includes a math error and the fact that the city did not claim (money for fringe benefits and administration costs) when they could have."

Forsythe was pleased with the outcome, saying the state audit "had some recommendations to improve our accounting on the boat grant which we will, of course, follow."

"They also found that there were no violations of their policy and of the harbor and navigations code,“ Forsythe said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Suisun budget still tight; reserves won't be looted

From Daily Republic // Oct. 5, 2005
Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City Council made few changes during a Tuesday budget study session to a draft budget that itself makes few alterations in how the city does business.

Instead, changes may happen in the middle of the budget year in January, when new City Manager Suzanne Bragdon proposes a series of short- and long-term strategies to improve the city's financial fortune.

It will also be when the City Council takes a serious look at what it can do to create more revenue and raise levels of service for residents.

Once such future revenue boost took hold Tuesday when the council approved going forward with a community facilities district to cover any future residential housing. This was done independent of the budget study session.

Initially aimed at the proposed Blossom Manor development, it would impose greater fees on new residential housing so that the city's residential growth will pay more of its way.

The assessments will go to funding police, fire landscaping and storm drain costs. The idea to charge a fee to future housing to support recreation and the library was dropped before Tuesday's meeting.

The council was handed a hold-the-line general fund budget that proposes to spend almost $8 million, but doesn't dip into the reserves as deeply as it did last year.

Last year, the city had to take $650,000 from reserves to make ends meet. This year, it plans to take out $200,000.

But even the $200,000 may be a high figure, according to Bragdon, who said she has budgeted conservatively and hopes to see the deficit disappear by the end of this fiscal year.

City Hall has trimmed a dozen positions in the last few years, but is now filling three vacant ones - a community development director, an assistant city manager for administrative services and a construction inspector position.

A final version of the city budget is expected to land back before the city council for approval at its Oct. 18 meeting.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Suisun council to debate budget proposal

From Daily Republic // Oct. 4, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City council members get yet another hold-the-line proposed budget tonight but one that doesn't dip as deep into the city's beleaguered reserves.

City Manager Suzanne Bragdon is proposing to spend nearly $8 million for the general fund budget, which pays for most of the city services - from police to public works.

Bragdon described the budget as another status quo budget that doesn't offer gains or losses in city services.

"We are continuing with the service levels we have in place, instead of continuing to cut employees," Bragdon said.

Suisun City's budget picture has brightened somewhat, but the city still has to dip into its reserves to make ends meet, according to the budget message to the city council from Bragdon.

"Our revenues are improving significantly," Bragdon said. "Because we budget conservatively, I expect to see the deficit to disappear by end of this fiscal year."

Last year, the city had to pull $650,000 from reserves. This year, it expects to take out $200,000.

A dozen positions were trimmed from the city payroll in the last few years and this budget goes forward while the police department staff and service levels are being examined in a yet-to-be-completed analysis.

The budget reflects the city council's decision made earlier this year to fill the vacant Community Development Director and Assistant City Manager for Administrative Services positions. It also recommends putting in a construction inspector position.

The capitol improvement budget proposes spending $3.4 million on streets and roads, which includes widening Driftwood Avenue near Crescent Middle School, rehabilitating Whispering Bay Street and building Lawler Ranch Park. The Redevelopment Agency's proposed projects this coming year include removing blight from the downtown, putting more public improvements along Main Street and spending $530,000 on a lighthouse.

Tonight's study session will be followed by more huddles among city staff to track down more revenue, figure out how best to deliver city services and work out both a short-term and long-term strategy to improve finances.

The council is expected to vote on the budget at its Oct. 18 meeting.

The Suisun City Council meets at 7 p.m. tonight in the Suisun City Council chamber at 701 Civic Center Blvd.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Timetable set for park in Lawler Ranch

From Daily Republic // Oct. 4, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Lawler Ranch residents can expect to see the first part of their community park built about a year from now, according to Suisun City's Recreation and Community Services Department.

"We are looking at completion of the park in the fall (next year), with work to start this spring," department head Mick Jessop said.

Residents of the eastern Suisun City neighborhood pushed for the park for some time.

The proposed 10-acre park site is located along the west side of Lawler Ranch Parkway south of Mayfield Way. As part of the first phase, one-third of this site should be under construction by spring.

Work will include putting in two play areas, a picnic area, a small turf area for free play as well as pathways for bicyclists and joggers, according to Jessop.

Due to the city's tight finances, the second phase won't be built until Suisun City determines it has enough money to pay for its upkeep.

Jessop previously hoped to see the park open in spring 2006, but changes to drainage plans, longer-than-planned outside agency reviews and changes in city staff, made that impossible.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or

Suisun police chief gets some support

From Vacaville Reporter // Oct. 4, 2005

In a show of support for Suisun City police Chief Ron Forsythe's leadership abilities, the department's police officers association recently voted to voice confidence in him.

"We wanted the new city manager and the community to know that, as we work together to address the public safety challenges facing our community, we have confidence in Chief Forsythe's presented solutions," said Detective Matt Eleopoulos, president of the Suisun City Police Officers Association, in a prepared statement.

Low staffing levels have long been a departmental problem, he said, but the chief's proposal of hiring two officers would indeed rectify the matter.

A consultant's report is expected within the next two weeks.

Suisun police investigated for alleged misuse of funds

From Daily Republic // Oct. 4, 2005
By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - Suisun City is investigating allegations that state grant money was used to pay officers for painting two rooms in the Suisun City Police Department - not for what the money was intended.

Neither Police Chief Ron Forsythe nor City Hall would discuss the specifics of the allegations, which were made to the California Department of Boating and Waterways a month ago.

"I have been directed not to discuss it," Forsythe said.

Suisun City Manager Suzanne Bragdon said only that "we are looking into it at this time."

The grant money in question was supposed to be used to pay officers for patrolling the waterways in and around Suisun City as well to purchase equipment.

The alleged misuse in late 2004 and early 2005 involves two officers - who were assigned to boating enforcement patrol - being told to paint two rooms at the police station and being paid for their time with grant funds.

Forsythe earlier denied misusing the state funds and said he only found out after the fact that the officers painted the room while on city time and while receiving overtime compensation from grant money from the Department of Boating and Waterways.

He said the two officers volunteered to paint the rooms to raise morale after it was determined the rooms looked bad because of paint peeling from the walls.

The police chief also earlier said when he found out about what happened, he directed the time spent painting be charged to their regular salaries.

Forsythe is sure he will survive the audit and the city investigation.

"I look forward to the city completing its investigation and I am confident that it won't show any misconduct," he said.

The Department of Boating and Waterways representatives visited the department last week and conducted an audit, the results of which have not been released.

A spokeswoman for the state department is still waiting to get the findings from a consultant who handled the audit and said the state can't comment on the allegations until they see the audit's findings.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Monday, October 3, 2005

Making Suisun City a destination city

From Daily Republic // Oct. 3, 2005

By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Suzanne Bragdon, Suisun City's new city manager, says her long-term goal is to use the city's redevelopment assets to make it the waterfront destination its been on the verge of for years.

Her short-term efforts will be a daunting campaign to put the city's general fund finances back into the black and rebuild city employee confidence.

"If people see the light at the end of the tunnel, they will hang in there," Bragdon said of turning the city away from being "the training ground for other agencies."

A month into her new job, Bragdon already made her opening moves to deal with Suisun City's problems by creating a management team from people she has known from her previous jobs in Southern California.

Bragdon plans to ask the council to adopt a status quo budget with few cuts or increases at its early October meeting.

"It is at the mid-year when we will have a hard assessment," Bragdon said.

Nothing will be overlooked, according to Bragdon. Options - ranging from making changes in the city's organizational structure to tracking down new revenue sources - will be considered.

That will include comparing the city's taxes, user fees and other sources of revenues with other cities and seeing if they can be raised.

The City Council has already considered a proposal to create a community facilities district to assess all new housing in town and raise money for all the city's departments, with favorable reviews.

Such a district charges new homeowners fees for services that could range from parks to police services.

City employees went without salary increases to help keep the city afloat and Bragdon said she and the council "don't want to balance the budget on the backs of the employees."

Bragdon, 46, started work at Suisun City Hall Sept. 1, arriving from her job as an economic development consultant for the city of Grover Beach on the Central California coast.

She received good initial reviews from the council. Mayor Jim Spering said at a council meeting her knowledge of city operations and attention to detail would create the revenue the city badly needs.

Vice Mayor Pete Sanchez, who was on the search committee with Spering, was impressed with her background, experience and desire "to make Suisun City the destination city we have been talking about all these years," he said.

Earlier in her career, Bragdon served as city manager for Pismo Beach and assistant city manager in Napa. She replaced interim city manager David Martinez who held the job since December 2004 when Steve Baker stepped down to become city manager for the Central Valley town of Oakdale.

A Seattle native, Bragdon moved to California with her artist husband Kirk Bragdon "because he could not stand gray" and initially worked for a consulting firm in Sacramento.

In 1996, she joined the city of Napa as an assistant city manager doing special projects that included the resort-style, executive home Stanley Ranch project.

Stanley Ranch met its demise after the community split over whether Napa needed it, but Bragdon still thinks it would have been a good addition.

She stepped into the city manager role at Pismo Beach, where the primary effort was to upgrade the downtown area to attract more tourist dollars.

"It was getting old and dirty," Bragdon said.

A $1.5 million project put in more sidewalks, lighting and a plaza which was opposed by a group of residents who liked the beachfront town the way it was and didn't want more tourists.

What Bragdon called "politics" involving the council prompted her to jump to adjacent Grover Beach, where she took a job as economic development consultant working to bring in outside development.

Grover Beach's redevelopment agency didn't have funds or land to attract potential investors, but Bragdon managed to get the gears turning to put a conference center in the town, a project that is now in the planning stages.

Even before unpacking in Suisun City, Bragdon moved on accomplishing the first goal the city council set for her - filling the city's top positions that were held by interim administrators.

She tagged Ron Anderson, most recently Grover Beach's city manager, as Suisun City's assistant city manager. Bragdon also brought in Jack Raper, also from Grover Beach, as Suisun City's community development director.

Raper, who planned to retire before Bragdon asked him to come to Suisun City, worked in the town of Riverbank, which had issues similar to Suisun City - such as dealing with residential verses commercial development.

This still leaves interim director Al da Silva heading up the Redevelopment Agency and Diane Briltz heading the finance department.

Bragdon readily admits Suisun City Hall has a lot of problems, "but I like the challenges."

The toughest problem has been the city's shrinking budget which led to draconian cutbacks in city jobs and in services that included partially contracting out for police services.

"The one I was most hesitant about was the budget," Bragdon said. "We really needed solutions and I concluded that we do have opportunities here."

She is getting to know the city's employees and administrators better, going over what she calls "the big picture" of getting City Hall back on track.

Bragdon is concerned about low morale saying "we want to turn the tide on that."

She is most excited about the annexation and development of the Gentry-Pierce property west of Old Town and the plans the Main Street West Partners are working on to further economically revive the Main Street area.

"That is just huge," Bragdon said of the projects.

Bragdon plans to aggressively market all the possible development sites not covered by the Main Street project, starting with hitting an International Conference of Shopping Centers convention to try to get the eye of potential retailers and developers.

She hopes this will soon translate to projects that will increase the town's sales and hotel tax revenues, which means reviving the effort to attract a destination hotel to the town.

"Water is what attracts. Everyone wants a waterfront," Bragdon said, adding the turn-of-the-century feel of the Old Town only adds to that attraction.

Is there a light at the end of Suisun City's tunnel?

"Absolutely," Bragdon said. "I would not be here if there wasn't."

Ian Thompson can be reached at

  • Name: Suzanne Bragdon
  • Job: Suisun City Manager
  • Age: 46
    Experience: Napa assistant city manager, Pismo Beach city manager, economic development consultant for Grover Beach
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Duties: Overseeing all of Suisun City's departments and services