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SELMA – Along with Selma’s new City Manager Teresa Gallavan being sworn in at the Nov. 5 City Council meeting, volunteers with Selma’s Police Department and the Selma High FFA Agriculture Mechanics team were honored for their achievements.

Also, a new community center proposal was hatched as the Council gave the go ahead to explore looking at the vacated Mosquito Abatement District’s property, and other sites around town.

After her official swearing in, Gallavan said she’s been busy meeting city staff, department heads and community members as this is her third week on the job.

“It’s been a very busy couple of weeks. Thank you all for the warm welcome. I’m getting an understanding of the projects and things in the forefront like development projects we want to move forward on,” she said.

Gallavan got to business kicking off a discussion about the possibility of developing a community center. After some discussion, Council approved Gallavan look into whether the office and fleet yard site of the former Mosquito Abatement District would be a good location for such a facility.

“We took a quick look at it, but before doing any more research we wanted to discuss it with Council. The property is in a good central location however, it is a small office and a fleet yard,” she said.

Since chemicals for mosquito abatement were on site previously, Councilwoman Yvette Montijo said she’d have concerns about having to deal with any spills and the cost involved with that. Also, since citizens have asked for more parks at previous goal-setting meetings, she reminded the council to keep that in mind.

“The city’s and citizens’ main priority, aside from public safety, was green space. It is centrally located and property like that is difficult to find, I think we have to listen to our citizens and keep green space at the forefront.”

Mayor Pro Tem Scott Robertson said although plans for the police station include a potential community room and there is such a room at the local library, he’s heard requests for a facility that could accommodate larger groups. Specifically, residents have asked for a facility where local wrestlers could practice.

“We have a great [wrestling] program here and right now they have to rent out a room downtown that’s a pretty small space.”

Robertson said whether it’s the former mosquito abatement site or another location, he thinks both needs for a facility and more green space could be met. He’d also like to see if a community pool could be built.

“I think it’s valuable to keep our options open,” he said adding that they’d still need to build such facilities in a financially prudent manner. “At this stage, it’s just an idea that could maybe lead council in another direction. Now, citizens are hearing this and I’d like to hear from the citizens have to say.

Mayor Jim Avalos suggested they also look at a vacant gym across the street from Lincoln Park as another potential community center location.

“There are other areas to look at, but there’s also the cost in making sure it’s fair and reasonable and that the public’s okay with it,” Avalos said.

Councilman Louis Franco added he’d like to get more information before making any firm decisions.

“There are a lot of unknown variables to say whether we should look at it or not look at it. With the facts, then we could make a decision. Then at that point, we’ll see if it’s something we can do.”

The meeting included recognition for volunteers with the Selma Police Department of both the youth Explorers and the Volunteers in Policing.

Selma Police Chief Greg Garner described the Explorers as the future of the department and said many have gone to have careers in law enforcement.

“That’s what we hope these men and women endeavor to do as they grow older and spend time with our department.”

Sgt. Terry Reid introduced the Explorers and said he, too, is proud of their work ethic.

“This is in line with the chief’s ‘grow your own’ philosophy. The program is for men and women from ages 14-20 who’ve expressed an interest in law enforcement. They’re putting in the community hours already.”

The Volunteers in Policing were credited with saving the department thousands of dollars as they provide extra staffing during community events and emergency situations.

“Our VIPs are invaluable to our department, especially in the lean years when our staffing levels were lower,” Garner said. “In this calendar year alone, they’ve already provided 4,200 hours of volunteerism. That’s an average of 14 hours a day. If you equate that to dollars and cents, they save the City of Selma nearly $170,000 with their efforts.”

Sgt. Frank Santillan said the VIP program started in 1996 with just a handful of volunteers who wanted to provide a police presence in the Downtown Selma area. It was mostly seniors back then and now includes volunteers of all ages.

“Currently, we have a roster of 22 volunteers who assist police officers by doing patrols, as well as assisting with many events like the Raisin Festival, the Sikh festival, the July 3 celebration and you name it,” he said. “If there’s a big event in the city, our VIPs are going to be out there dealing with traffic and pedestrian control. They also subject to call out in the middle of the night for major incidences involving traffic collisions.”

While they volunteer at least 16 hours per month, many do well over that, he said.

“An example is VIP Dori Moya. Everybody knows Dori and we love her to death. Dori is the VIP rock. She’s the one that keeps us going. She volunteers an average of 50 hours a week, I kid you not. So thank her, she does a lot for the program.”

Santillan said their VIPs have gone on to become detectives for the Fresno County Sheriff’s homicide unit and one became a California Highway Patrol officer.

“We take great pride in our program and developing these folks that want to get into law enforcement. This is the perfect avenue for them to reach that goal.”

Certificates of appreciation were also awarded from Congressman David Valadao and State Assemblymen Andy Vidak and Joaquin Arambula. U.S. Senator Kamala Harris representative Matt Rogers also spoke in behalf of Sen. Diane Feinstein thanking the volunteers.

“We just want you to know how much both of our senators appreciate your work.” In behalf of Sen. Feinstein he read a statement, “This is an honor well deserved. We thank each and every one of you for all you’ve done for our communities.”

Selma High’s FFA team was also recognized at the Council meeting for earning a second high team award at the 2018 National Agriculture Mechanics competition. The team consists of Boyd Fransen, a 2018 SHS graduate, senior Francisco Macias, junior Dale Fransen and junior Jesus Hernandez.

Ag teacher Robert Calvert presented a slide show detailing their competition and said that in order for the team to even compete at this level, they had to win the state competition first.

“This was probably one of the youngest ag mechanics teams to win a state championship in our fellow coaches’ memories. So it was something very special for us,” Calvert said. “We were able to win all but one contest and then we earned a second. The big thing was that in California, the ag mechanics contest is so popular and competitive, you actually have to qualify. We went in ranked number one.”

Boyd Fransen won the first high individual award and it’s the second year in a row that he earned that placement. His brother, Dale Fransen, was third and Hernandez was 10th.

The national contest included three different contests: a written test, a team event where all four worked together to construct a masonry block wall and five electricity contests.

“They earned a second high team place competing against 45 teams,” Calvert said.

Boyd Fransen earned a first high individual award, a first place in electricity and earned a $1,000 scholarship from Firestone. Dale Fransen earned a second high individual award, a first high individual in arc welding and a $900 scholarship from Firestone. Hernandez earned the Gold Award and Macias earned the Silver Award.

Their trip to Indianapolis was spent mostly preparing for the competition, but they did manage to squeeze in a Garth Brooks concert and get pictures in front of John Deere tractors, he said.

The students were also recognized with certificates from Congressman David Valadao.

Robertson said the community was proud of their accomplishments.

“These are the future leaders of our community since it’s so based on ag that’s integral to our community. You’re moving us forward in this most important of industries and keep going.”

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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