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February 27, 2021

2020 Year In Review | Projects pave the way to community progress

The year 2020 was unlike any other, as news of the Covid-19 pandemic nearly dominated headlines each week. However, there were other stories — some virus-related, some not — that also defined the South Monterey County community last year. Here is a look at one of those stories.


Projects pave the way to community progress

Construction projects and the creation of new community components continued throughout 2020, though many were affected by delays related to Covid-19. Some were or will be unable to be accompanied by a grand opening upon their completion due to pandemic-related health regulations.

An ongoing project throughout the year was the Women’s Health Center built next to Soledad Medical Clinic. Four large modular units were delivered Jan. 31 to the clinic’s parking lot, which were assembled through the coming months into buildings for women’s health physicians, classrooms and a teen health center.

“This is essentially an extension of the Soledad Medical Clinic, but we will put all of our women’s health services in this building,” said Interim CEO Gary Staab. “We have two physicians that specialize in women’s health services and they will be seeing patients here.”

An opening ceremony was held for the women’s center on Nov. 19. The project had been in the works for 15 years.

Soledad Community Health Care District’s Director of Clinic Operations Cassie Russo (left) and CEO Ida Chan cut the ribbon to open the new Women’s Health Center in Soledad on Nov. 19. (Sean Roney/Staff)

Also noticeable throughout the year was construction of a new Hartnell Community College campus in Soledad and the expansion of the existing campus in King City.

Tearing down walls to attach new construction began during the Spring Break portion of the school year, but the facility shutdown has lasted indefinitely due to health restrictions limiting how educational buildings can reopen, causing Hartnell to move all classes online through the end of the Spring 2021 semester.

California State Parks offered multiple rounds of Proposition 68 grants for cities to improve their communities, and Soledad was the recipient of one such grant, announced in February.

Soledad was one of 52 recipients and 62 grants chosen from 478 applicants, earning $7.6 million for the construction of the Metz/Orchard Park near the intersection of Metz Road and Orchard Lane. 

“This was a highly competitive grant and we scored extremely well on connecting with the community through this process,” said City Manager Michael McHatten. “This grant engaged the community to not just be a partner, but the voice as to what they want to see in their community.”

Originally intended as a park, McHatten said outreach shifted goals for Metz/Orchard Park to become a recreational hub of the community.

Monterey-Salinas Transit’s plans to finish building a South County Operations and Maintenance Facility in King City are being realized, following the Oct. 29 approval of a $8.45 million loan with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The 14,000-square-foot facility will serve as a base of operations in South Monterey County for MST bus services, with the aim of reducing deadhead mileage, fuel usage, maintenance and labor costs and risk of mechanical issues. There is currently no storage, parking or operation and maintenance facility in the area.

The facility’s groundbreaking ceremony was held July 10, and the construction was expected to be finished by fall 2021.

Some of the new developments in the valley were smaller projects.

A new playground was installed at the Meyer Park in Gonzales, which is part of a series of upgrades and updates expected for the site. The city’s public works department assembled the new installation, while the recreation department worked to decide on the specific equipment with the help of area youth.

Soledad Library, which closed due to Covid-19, was able to use the shutdown time to change the carpets and reorganize the interior.

“Last August this building was 20 years old, so as you walk around you’ll see spots and wear and tear,” said Denise Campos, principal librarian for the Soledad branch, which is part of Monterey County Free Libraries. “Thousands of people come every year and it’s just time.”

The shutdowns also allowed for the repainting of the interior of the Robert Stanton Theater at King City High School. Steve Wilson, a board member with Southern Monterey County Center for the Performing Arts, finished painting the back wall on July 9 after 10 days of work. 

“This whole thing, it looks remarkably different than what it did when I started,” Wilson said, as he evaluated the finished look without scuffs.

At the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds, a mural was completed on June 19 on its water tank along South San Lorenzo Avenue. Hannah Stuercke and Jennifer Hargrove worked on the art, which features a barrel racer on one side and on the other sides, FFA and 4-H members along with fair animals.

The project took seven days to paint, and leading up to the painting the artists reviewed historic photos from the fair to decide on the imagery.

Hannah Stuercke (left) and Jennifer Hargrove put the finishing touches on a new mural at Salinas Valley Fairgrounds in King City on June 19. (Sean Roney/Staff)

Also in King City, a new entrance sign was installed in October on First Street, welcoming visitors who come off the highway on that entry point. The location is on the corner of the King City Veterinary Hospital property, and city officials thanked Dr. Tim Cheney for use of the property to host the sign.

Gonzales constructed parklets along Fourth Street in late September and early October to increase outdoor business space for local restaurants. The small areas were constructed on spaces that were once parking spots along the roadside, but will now serve as areas for additional tables and chairs.

Sean Roney
Sean Roney
Sean Roney is the reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers education, government and general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.

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