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Citizens ask Council to halt demolition of old fire station

HANFORD — Several people stood inside Hanford City Council chambers on Tuesday holding paintings of the old fire station, while others held signs that read “This place matters” over pictures of the station building.

During the Dec. 19, 2017, meeting, council voted in a 3-2 split decision to demolish the site for future expansion of recreational facilities. The old fire station, located at 404 W. Lacey Blvd., sits adjacent to the city pool, the Plunge.

The fate of the fire station was not on the council's agenda, but that didn't stop over 13 people from making public comments about the building at the council meeting on Tuesday, taking nearly one hour in meeting time.

Most who spoke implored the council to halt the demolition of the old fire station to reconsider options for saving it.

Diana Leoni, one of the Plein Aire Painters who has been out at the old fire station for the last three weeks creating paintings of the building, spoke to council during the public comment section of the council meeting.

Leoni said she was born and raised in Hanford and has seen many changes happen to the city. She said a parking lot may be nice, but it serves only one purpose and is nothing compared to a “beautiful” and “gorgeous” building.

“Hanford’s dying on the vine,” Leoni told the crowd. “We have a jewel here, people. We have an absolute jewel.”

Leoni told the Council that she knows it will take a lot of money, but asked that they at least try to preserve the building and repurpose it.

The old fire station was built in 1939 and after two other fire stations were built in the city, the building was deemed to be uninhabitable for any public safety purpose in 1989. Since that time it has been used as storage space for some city departments.

Steve Banister, board president of Main Street Hanford, said civic leaders have “lacked a creative vision” in terms of repurposing historic buildings. He asked council to study the building like the painters did until they see the building as a downtown treasure and not an eyesore.

“The old fire house is stately and majestic, which is a far cry from ugly and offensive,” Banister said.

Michelle Brown, executive director of Main Street Hanford, told the council about a community meeting the organization held in January to discuss Direct Public Offerings as a way to raise funds to restore downtown buildings.

Brown said the organization and its board received a lot of interest at the meeting and are now “seriously considering” moving forward with establishing a subsidiary and creating a Direct Public Offering.

Even former Councilman Francisco Ramirez got up to speak during public comment time. Ramirez, who voted in favor of demolishing the building at the December council meeting, told the council that they should at least give the citizens a couple weeks to come up with a solution.

In a rare move, newly elected Councilwoman Diane Sharp stepped-off the dais and spoke as a member of the public.

On Tuesday, Sharp put up a post on her Facebook page where she proposed not demolishing the building and instead suggested making modifications to “expand its mission and maintain its current use.”

She reiterated her thoughts to the Council Tuesday night.

Some of the modifications Sharp proposed included reinstalling exterior lighting fixtures and interior electricity, sprucing up the current garden, installing automatic irrigation and reinstalling original lettering and address numbers to the buildings frontage.

In her opinion, because the building is “structurally sound with an adequate roof,” she also suggested using the building as a type of warehouse storage in the meantime.

A part of Sharp’s Facebook post reads: “I believe minor enhancements can turn the old Firehouse back into the gem it is and continue to delight residents and visitors until the City, with public input, determines it has a better use for the building or land on which it sits.”

Vice Mayor Sue Sorensen said she believes there is, or at least should be, a limit to how many buildings the city can own and maintain. She said the old fire station is not on any historic registry and has essentially been vacant for almost 30 years.

Sorensen said over the years the city has brought in several consultants to see if the building could be repurposed, but the cost has always been an issue. According to an engineer’s estimate, it would take about $2 million to be able to reoccupy the space due to lead-based paint, asbestos and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues.

She said the city needs to be responsible with taxpayer money and added she was sad that it took this long for the community to come to the building’s aid.

Because Sharp decided to speak as a member of the public, she left the room when the rest of Council discussed possibly halting the demolition process, per advice from City Attorney Ty Mizote.

Mayor David Ayers then asked Sorenson and Councilman Martin Devine — Councilman Justin Mendes left the meeting early — if they wanted to halt the demolition, to which they said no; so the general consensus was to go on with the demolition as planned.

Right now, the company contracted to demolish the old fire station is completing interior asbestos removal and will continue to the demolition stage after clearing the interior.

Sharp sworn in at Council meeting

HANFORD — Diane Sharp stood inside council chambers with her right hand raised and took the oath of office, becoming the newest Hanford City Council member.

“Thank you to everyone. I’m delighted,” Sharp said after she took her seat on the dais. “This is sort of a lifelong dream to be able to serve the city of Hanford this way.”

Sharp was elected to serve the remainder of former District D Councilman Francisco Ramirez’s term after Ramirez was recalled in a special election on Jan. 23.

Sharp said she looked forward to working with everybody on the council and being a “good listener to the community.”

Before Sharp was sworn in, Mayor David Ayers presented Ramirez with a token of appreciation — a plaque with the city emblem and a gavel— for the last several years that he served on the council.

“I believe, Mr. Ramirez, you’ve served our community well with honor and distinction, and I think our community as a whole is appreciative of everything that you’ve done,” Ayers said.

Ramirez said it had been a pleasure to serve on the council and said the council had worked hard to invest in the community. He also thanked city staff for working to fulfill the wishes of the council.

“Our council is the canvas, the citizens are the paint and the staff are the brushes of our community,” Ramirez said before stepping down from the dais. “I hope you guys together — all the staff here — keep on painting a beautiful painting called Hanford.”

Champions benefits from cooperative effort

HANFORD — When Darcy Pickens and her team from Champions in Hanford arrived at the Adventist Health warehouse on Friday to pick up donated items for their recovery home and clients, she was unprepared for what she saw.

The first delivery of goods from World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization, was waiting for the team. A new collaboration with Adventist Health connects surplus goods with those in need. Champions was the first partner Adventist Health chose to receive their pick of the donated goods.

Inside the warehouse was furniture, including air beds, sofas and chairs, dining sets and bookcases; toys, bicycles, barbecue grills, cleaning products and non-perishable foods, among other items.

In all, there were 24 pallets of goods valued at more than $50,000.

“I’m a little overwhelmed at the sheer volume,” Pickens said in a release. “I’m just thinking about how happy our clients and program managers are going to be when they see what we’ve been given.”

Champions operates six group homes in Lemoore and Hanford and provides substance abuse and mental health treatment in separate men’s and women’s facilities. The items will be used in the homes by the clients while undergoing recovery.

“We try to teach them that they have a responsibility to give back to their community, so for them to see the generosity of the community that gives to them, this encourages them,” Pickens said.

Central Valley Health Foundation President Ed Ammon said Adventist Health expects to receive a new shipment of goods from World Vision every month. World Vision staff will provide training and ongoing support to Adventist Health on proper storage, distribution and accounting of items.

“This project has been in the works for about two years,” Ammon said in a release. “I’m really excited that we’re going to be able to bless the people in the communities Adventist Health serves.

Ammon said that the items received each month will vary. 

Lemoore council considers, still collecting maps

LEMOORE — The end of the public hearing on voting district maps at the Lemoore City Council meeting was filled with the City Council giving head nods to the fact that they prefer maps 102 and 104. 

The council is in the process of creating voting districts and holding public hearings to gain resident input on the changes.

In public hearing three out of five, Shalice Tilton, senior consultant with the National Demographics Corporation, presented the four current potential maps for voting districts in Lemoore and reminded the public that maps can be submitted for consideration until Feb. 11. 

More discussion of maps will be held at the Feb. 20 meeting.

Some of the key factors Tilton said should be in the map are evenness in population and open boundaries for future growth.

Each district should have as close to 4,906 residents as possible. Tilton said that when making district maps race cannot be used as a determining factor, but she suggested that the Council not “dilute the Latino voice” when selecting a map.

In case the city boundary expands, there should be the opportunity for each district to expand outward. The current maps have at least one boundary of the districts lined up with the city limits.

The population information used to make the maps is from the 2010 census. The next census will be done in 2020, and the council will need to redistrict in 2021. After that, they would only need to redistrict every 10 years but could opt for more frequent redistricting.

“Yeah, but there are dollars tied to every time we do this,” Councilman Dave Brown said.

Tom Reed, a resident of Lemoore, said there should also be consideration of homes built near the golf course that are not reflected in the 2010 census, and Mayor Ray Madrigal agreed that should be a factor considered.

Brown and Councilwoman Holly Blair said there should be some consideration of the potential growth in population near West Hills College and south of 198.

The council also is considering when the voting cycle for each district would occur. Currently maps 102, 103 and 104 have a single council member in each district. In map 101, the District D has councilmen Eddie Neal and Jeff Chedester sharing a district.

Tilton said that there are some maps that the public has drawn, but have not submitted. When on the online drawing site, there is an option to share the map and submit the map. If a map is shared, the people that go on the site can see the map, but the council will not consider it as a potential district map unless it is submitted.

Maps 101 and 102 were submitted from the public.

Maps can be accessed and drawn at With the approved maps, there is a PDF image and a sheet that includes the population breakdown per district and other demographics of the population.