Beyond COVID-19: Lodi's 2021 in review

·6 min read

Jan. 1—While the COVID-19 pandemic placed hindrances on events, planned openings and every day social gatherings and activities, there were no shortage of headlines in the Galt and Lodi areas.

Here is a look at some of the biggest headlines the News-Sentinel covered in 2021

Parachute center ordered to pay $40M in death

On March 17, a San Joaquin County Judge ordered Lodi Parachute Center owner Bill Dause was ordered to pay $40 million to a Merced County family whose son was killed in a 2016 skydiving accident.

Los Banos resident Tyler Turner was celebrating his 18th birthday at the parachute center in Acampo, and was killed in a fall when the ripcord pulled by his tandem partner failed to deploy a chute.

There had been 20 deaths at the center since it opened in 1981, and a month after the ruling, an Idaho woman was killed during a jump.

The taste of space

In May, News-Sentinel columnist Steve Mann reported that Michael David Winery sent a small amount of its grape juice to the International Space Station earlier in the year.

The juice was sent up in February aboard the Northrop-Grumman NG-15 resupply mission, part of an experiment to determine how it decomposes (or ferments) in outer space.

The Lodi winery became the first in the world to send a sample to space for science.

A spacious new sanctuary

Speaking of space, People Assisting Lodi Shelter opened its spacious new home in late June after seven years of planning.

The PALS haven, located at 5113 Sargent Road next to Sycamore Kennels, provides 13,000 square feet of space, nearly 20 times the size of its former Kettleman Lane home.

The new facility features three dog runs, three cat viewing rooms, 14 dog yards, isolation rooms for both cats and dogs, four kitchens and four laundry rooms.

A 1,350-square-foot veterinary clinic is slated for completion in 2022.

Kennel Club brings dog show to Lodi

And speaking of dogs, some 1,200 canines converged on the Lodi Grape Festival in August for an annual four-day show on the road to the Westminster Kennel Club.

The Golden Valley and San Joaquin kennel clubs moved their annual show from the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds to Lodi this year, after their long-time home was sold to make way for a housing development.

Dogs and handlers from all over the country made their way to Lodi for the event, and the two kennel clubs are hoping to call the Grape Festival home for years to come.

Pride comes to Lodi

While popular festivals and gatherings returned to Lodi this summer after a year's absence, the city saw its first Pride event attract 1,200 people on June 5.

The Pride event was held at Highwater Brewing Company, featuring 25 vendors and about a dozen entertainment acts.

The event was organized by local teacher and A New Lodi member Kat Ellis, who wanted to celebrate community and unity, and said the idea stemmed from her own experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Khan arraigned on fraud charges

On Sept. 28, Lodi City Councilman Shak Khan was formally arraigned in San Joaquin County Superior Court on a litany of charges, including gambling, money laundering and tax evasion.

Khan was arrested Oct. 28, 2020, just days before the November general election, in which he won a seat on the Lodi City Council.

The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office said Khan was one of three men allegedly conducting illegal gaming out of two businesses they own in Stockton, and they were laundering the profits.

Khan faces 63 felony counts, including 41 counts of money laundering totaling millions of dollars, four counts of filing false tax returns and five counts of possessing illegal gambling machines.

He has denied all the charges against him.

Galt opens first teen center

After two years of searching, the Galt Teen Center finally opened the doors to its permanent home at 550 C St. on Oct. 21.

The building had once been the home of the Galt Historical Society, as well as the Galt Water District and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Some 30 volunteers have signed up to supervise teens at the center, which will be open two days a week until more volunteers can be found to keep it open an entire week.

Access center location chosen

After months of deliberation and protest from surrounding neighbors and businesses, the Lodi City Council in October approved locating an access center for homeless individuals at 712 N. Sacramento St.

The center will provide unsheltered individuals resources to employment, housing and other necessities they may need to re-enter society.

Neighbors and businesses argued the homeless were already served on Sacramento Street by the Salvation Army and Grace and Mercy Foundation, and the access center would only attract more blight.

The council voted 3-1 to approve the location, with then-mayor Alan Nakanishi dissenting. Mark Chandler, who was vice mayor at the time, recused himself due to a perceived conflict of interest.

A super soaking

Lodi survived one of the largest downpours in years on Oct. 24 when 3.44 inches of rain fell for a solid 24 hours.

The heavy and constant rain caused the city's storm drain system to back-up, and streets all over town were completely submerged under water.

Water also crept up the driveways of homes along Crescent Avenue, and all of Lodi's basin parks were turned into lakes because of the rainfall.

Tiny homes installed

The small, 450-square-foot units that make up the Harmony Homes project were installed at the corner of Lodi Avenue and Washington Street in November.

The units will each house one or two unsheltered individuals as they work to get back on their feet and re-enter society.

Anniversaries

Several local non-profit organizations and business celebrated milestones in 2020.

The Lodi Community Concert Association marked 75 years in business in September, while Sanborn Chevrolet hit the half-century milestone in July.

Lodi Winegrape Association celebrated 30 years in September as well.

Changing faces

Several departments in both Lodi and Galt welcomed new leaders in 2021.

The Lodi Fire Department named long-time resident and former Stockton fire marshall Ken Johnson as its new chief. and Galt Police Department promoted Lt. Brian Kalinowski — who has been in the city 13 years — to chief there.

Johnson and Kalinowski took over for Gene Stoddart and Tod Sockman, respectively, both of whom retired earlier this year.

The City of Lodi brought Christina Jaromay on as the new Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director over the summer. Jaromay spent the previous 11 years with the State of California's Parks and Recreation Department.

The city also named Akiliah Manuel Mills as the new director of the Lodi Public Library this past fall.

And after a little more than a year in Lodi, city clerk Jennifer Cusmir announced she will be leaving for West Sacramento in January.

Cusmir was hired to replace Jennifer Ferraiolo, who retired in December of 2019.

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