HANFORD — Argos, Hanford Police Department’s K-9 officer, has only been on patrol for about four months, but he’s going to have another furry coworker a lot sooner than expected.
Thanks to donations and fundraising, the department had enough money to purchase a new K-9; a Belgian Malinois from Poland by the name of Nico. He will be the department’s second dual purpose dog, trained in both apprehension and narcotics detection.
Officer Chad Medeiros has been selected to be the K-9’s handler, an opportunity he’s been working toward for years.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I started my career almost five years ago,” Medeiros said about working with a K-9.
Nico was selected on Thursday and has already undergone some rigorous medical testing to make sure he’s up to par for police work. Medeiros said he and Nico are in the bonding stages right now and they will both leave for an eight-week training course at the end of April.
“I’m excited to see him work, perform and help the city in any way,” Medeiros said, adding it took a lot of work and donations from various people to achieve this goal.
The Hanford Police K-9 Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that was formed in 2015 to address the need for funding to purchase K-9s for the department, was able to come up with enough money to purchase current K-9 officer Argos, though it was no easy feat.
Lt. James Lutz said police K-9s are quite expensive, averaging about $25,000 for both the dog and training of the dog and handler; not to mention the K-9 vehicle, which he said costs about $55,000 after being outfitted with the proper equipment. There are also the ongoing costs of food and insurance, and about $4,000 a year in additional training.
Fundraisers and T-shirt sales helped purchase Argos, but Lutz said the foundation’s inaugural Octoberfest craft beer festival raised over $14,000 last year and gave the foundation enough money to present to the city to buy a second dog.
“We still have some more fundraising to do,” Lutz said. “Our goal is to get four dogs total — one for each shift.”
Before Argos, the police department had to rely on the Sheriff’s Office K-9s or K-9s from neighboring agencies if they needed an apprehension dog. Steven Olivera, the K-9 Foundations board treasurer, said this method was not ideal.
“We’re thrilled and happy to be able to get two dogs for our officers and the community,” Olivera said, adding he’s proud and thankful to the community for “stepping-up” with their donations.
In January, Hanford Elementary School District’s READY Expanded Learning Program and Jr. Explorers raised almost $3,000 to get Argos a ballistic vest. Lutz said the vest covers all the vital areas of Argos and he can wear it every day.
Lutz also said the community gave “tremendous support” and he wanted to thank everyone who donated money, time or effort into getting these K-9s.
“It’s quicker than I expected,” Lutz said. “If it wasn’t for the support of the city, [Police Chief Parker Sever] and the members of this community, we’d probably be nowhere near what we would even need for one dog.”
As another way of ongoing fundraising, Lutz said the department will start selling a stuffed-animal version of Argos sometime within the next few months.
Lutz said the next Octoberfest, set for Oct. 20, will hopefully be bigger and better and will bring in enough money to purchase a third dog.
It’s going so great with Argos, Lutz can’t help but look forward to the possibilities of more K-9 officers, including apprehending criminals, searching for narcotics, searching for people and also giving presentations.
“Until you have one, you don’t realize how great they are for an organization and the citizens of a city,” Lutz said.
HANFORD — The tiaras shimmered in the bright lights as a new Miss Kings County was crowned Saturday night.
Sophia Medina, 22, was awarded not only the title of Miss Kings County at the ceremony at Hanford High School, but a chunk of scholarship money as well.
At the sold-out event, Sierra Pacific High School student Abby Salyer was named Miss Kings County's Outstanding Teen, as well.
“Their lights had shown a little brighter that day,” Miss Kings County Executive Director Teresa Vernon said about what the judges may have seen in the winners. “It could have been any of the contestants on a different day. But these two brought their best. They brought the poise, charm and intelligence of a Miss America and the judges saw it.”
Medina and Salyer were crowned by their predecessors, Laura Sparks and Jillian Rogers, respectively.
The duo will move on to compete in the Miss California pageant in June. To prepare, they will work with Miss Kings County officials on their presentations and talent performances. Both winners performed dance numbers.
“Sometimes these girls have never been on stage before, so we want them to be able to speak intelligently and be able to think on their feet,” Vernon said.
Before vying for the Miss California crown, which would put her on course to compete for Miss America, Medina has Miss Kings County duties right here in town.
Medina and Salyer will participate in Miss America Service Day in April by helping to give out “blessing bags” at the Episcopal Church of the Saviour Soup Kitchen. The bags include things that may be needed by the underprivileged, including soap, toothbrushes, snacks, socks and other items.
The duo, of course, will also represent the county at the Kings County Homecoming Celebration in May.
Medina, a graduate of University of California Santa Cruz, has chosen cultural appreciation as her personal platform during her tenure as Miss Kings County. She is working to become a pediatrician. Salyer has chosen awareness and treatment of teen anxiety.
LEMOORE — Are the judges ready? Is my opponent ready? Is my teammate ready?
This is the common phrasing for the beginning of a debate for competitions such as the one Lemoore High School competed in Bakersfield last weekend.
The speech and debate team members are constantly preparing for the next tournament between studying for class work and other activities. For the competition last Friday and Saturday, Maggie Franckhauser, senior, and Joshua Leavitt, senior, represented their school in the last state qualifying debate competition for the year.
In the competition at Bakersfield, Frankhauser and Leavitt were able to move up a rank from No. 8 to No. 7 in the state, but did not make it into the top five, which is required to compete for a state title. They will be the second alternate team for state. This pair usually competes in speech competitions but this time around they opted for debate.
“Debate gets you to learn more about things going on in the world around you that you wouldn’t necessarily think about otherwise,” Franckhauser said.
This is the first year since 1998 a team from Lemoore High School has competed.
The speech team has five students who qualified for the state competition: Keziah Willis, Hunter Nash, Andrew Drozdowski, Darrian Martin and Leavitt.
Franckhauser, the president of the speech and debate club, has done speech and debate for three years. During her sophomore year, she took the time to focus on school. In that time, she took a class with Matthew Martins, a world and U.S. history teacher at Lemoore High School.
Martins said Franckhauser volunteered him to be the coach two years ago. She enjoyed having him as a teacher and thought he would be a good fit as the coach for the team.
“He would always play spoken word videos and random things to uplift us and inspire us to go through our school day,” Franckhauser said. “It had reminded me of pieces I had seen before in tournaments, so I thought he might be interested in doing it.”
In his first year, Martins was named “Coach of the Year” by the Redwood Region Forensics for his outstanding leadership and vision in developing young speakers and debaters.
Participation in this activity has more than doubled since last year.
Before this year, Lemoore High only had a handful of participants on the speech team. Now Martins said they have a class of 30 students at sixth period and then around an additional 35 who compete as well. The speech team has won about 10 team trophies and several individual trophies.
Isac Davenhauer, junior, managed to win two trophies in one competition for his thematic interpretation and his oratorical interpretation.
This year’s new debate team has won three team trophies.
After school in a room lit by natural light and Christmas lights, Franckhauser, Leavitt, and their alternates, Alex Walker and Francisco Merino prepare for their debate on the resolution: “On balance, the current authorization for use of military force gives too much power to the president.”
A resolution for the debate team is another way of saying that is their topic of debate.
Martins is usually available to students from 7 a.m. to the start of school and after school until around 6 p.m. every day. He said he has to stay flexible because the students often have other activities and responsibilities.
Leavitt said that he finds debate a good way to express himself in a productive manner and that speech and debate helped get him on a more positive track in his education.
For the students who did not qualify for state and are not seniors, there is a non-senior competition in May, allowing students like Cynthia Glaspie, sophomore, and Leandra Vernon, junior, the opportunity to compete on a more relaxed level.
Franckhauser said her best advice to new speakers is to stay loose and to have fun with it.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Welcome drifts of fresh snow awaited California's water managers fpr their late-winter survey of the vital Sierra Nevada snowpack Monday after a massive winter storm slowed the state's plunge back into drought.
The storm piled up to 8 feet of new snow in the mountains from late last week through the weekend, forcing Department of Water Resources officials to postpone the measurement for a few days.
"We didn't feel like it would be safe" for water officials and news crews who turn out for the monthly winter assessments of Sierra snowpack to make the trek during last week's storm, said Chris Orrock, a spokesman for state water officials.
The storm also brought parts of California more rain in hours than they received during all of February, typically one of the wettest months of the year. In Southern California, the storm brought what was only the second significant rainfall of the past year to some areas, temporarily prompting new evacuations as a precaution after rains earlier this year triggered deadly mudslides.
Most importantly, it brought heavy snow to the Sierra. Runoff from melted snow through the spring historically supplies Californians with one-third of their water, although scientists say climate change is altering that.
Before the storm, California had accumulated less than a quarter of its normal snowpack for the year. It would take six more storms to bring the state up to its normal winter precipitation by April. The odds of that happening are about one-in-50, the National Weather Service cautioned.
California emerged only last year from a historic five-year drought that forced mandatory water conservation for cities and towns, dried wells, and killed millions of trees in a devastating period for wildlife.
Near-record rain last year snapped the drought, only to have this winter's rainy season land as a dud. By February, nearly half the state — all of it in Southern California, home to more than half of residents — was back in drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District, the country's largest urban supplier of water, still plans to vote in April on increased funding for conservation programs, spokeswoman Rebecca Kimitch said.
"One storm isn't going to ... make up for what has been a very dry few months," Kimitch said.
California's rainy season is often this kind of a cliffhanger, Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said last month.
The state is dependent on a handful of significant storms for its water, so things can turn around quickly, he said.
California's reservoirs are at 106 percent of their historical average for this point in the year thanks to last year's rains, Orrock said.
While the heavy snows in the Sierra Nevada are the main gift from the latest storm, it helps that arid Southern California got doused as well, Orrock said. Southern California rain means reservoirs there get filled, and vital below-ground natural reservoirs depleted during the drought are replenished.
He repeated the rainy-season battle cry of California water officials, whose efforts this year to mandate that lawn-loving residents turn off their automatic sprinklers when it rains have been stalled by protests from water agencies.
The rain "is going to turn their lawns green," Orrock said. "We don't need to have our sprinklers on."