KINGSBURG – Now that she’s sworn in, Police Officer Jennifer Villanueva has officially joined the ranks of Kingsburg’s Police Department. Villanueva was sworn in at the June 19 Kingsburg City Council meeting.

Police Chief Neil Dadian introduced Officer Villanueva sharing her background and training. She’s a Merced native where she attended local schools and community college. Villanueva had enrolled in the police academy there and finished her training through the Fresno Police Academy at Fresno City College.

She began her career in 2015 as a reserve officer with the Parlier Police Department and in February 2016 was hired as a full-time officer in Reedley.

During her time with the Reedley Police Department, Villanueva worked special details that involved contacting homeless people and providing services to help them get back on her feet, Dadian said.

“Jennifer said that she made sure she gave the community of Reedley all the help that she could because it was important to her that they receive the kind of help she expected her family to receive,” Dadian said. “Jennifer plans to provide the same service to the Kingsburg community and she’s very thankful to be part of the Kingsburg Police Department and community.”

Villanueva is now a Kingsburg resident and enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, Joey, her dog Chewy and traveling to different countries and experiencing different cultures.

She was joined by her boyfriend who is a Tulare Police Officer and her sister and brother-in-law, nieces and other family members for her swearing-in ceremony. Also, Reedley Police Chief Joe Garza attended as a show support for her new position.

“In law enforcement, it’s a family, but you won’t be successful in your law enforcement career unless you’re successful in your own family,” Dadian said. “The officers wear the badge, but your entire family has to live the job and carry the burden of that job and that badge. I like to have the families surround the officers when they take the oath.”

In other matters, the Council went on to approve a Fresno County initiative to deal more collaboratively with homelessness.

Sonia De La Rosa, a principal administrative analyst with Fresno County, shared information at the meeting about the homeless priorities list adopted by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.

Her goal is get more feedback from rural communities throughout the county to help them deal with homeless issues specific to each city. Then, outreach from the Departments of Behavioral Health, Public Health and Public Services can be provided “so that instead of family members having to go to Fresno for services, those could be brought to town and outreach services could be provided.”

De La Rosa said additional funds are expected by July 1 to help meet the homeless’ needs, but the majority of those services are offered in Fresno.

“We also want to target the rural communities adjacent to [Highway] 99. In order to be ready for that additional batch of funding, we’re communicating with the cities. I’m here to let you know if you have any questions, any input or anything in particular that’s occurring in your city, please let me know so we can address it. When it comes to planning where the funding will go, we want to make sure we include services that will benefit your community.”

Councilman Sherman Dix cast the lone ‘no’ vote and voiced concern that Kingsburg would be required to build what’s referred to as a wet center where the homeless could seek shelter regardless of whether they were sober or not.

“I understand the need for a uniform policy, but I think with that wet shelter, does that mean that the community could be forced to establish a wet shelter?” Dix asked.

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De La Rosa said that even though the homeless could be “high or drunk when they use the facility and will not be turned away,” the goal is to get them into a shelter to start seeking services to recovery.

“The intent is that is we get you in the door and if you approach us more than once, then eventually you’ll come into services. We certainly don’t want to have a place where you just come in and never have to change your way of life or the circumstances that lead you to that point. At this point, we’re just trying to get them in the door.”

However, approving the priorities list was not a requirement to build such a shelter in town but to give cities in Fresno County a uniform strategy to dealing with homelessness, she said.

“This list is to put us all on the same playing field so that when we move forward to address something county-wide, we’re all on the same page. Your commitment is really just to share information with us.”

Dix said he realizes mental health and alcoholism are factors in homelessness, but he’s concerned about having such a facility in town.

“I understand why that shelter is on there because drug use and alcoholism is a big cause of homelessness, but a facility like that can have an impact on a community.”

Afterwards, the Council went on to:

Approve the monthly water rate increase of $1.75 for residents’ base water rate. The increase is the final increase needed to comply with Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requirements to replenish the groundwater supplies. The new rate goes into effect with the water billing statement dated August 1.

Approve a water procurement agreement between the South Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency and Consolidated Irrigation District to comply with state-mandated ground water recharge requirements.

Approve the 2019/2020 fiscal year budget.

Approve a report on the city’s landscaping and lighting district and approve the levying and collection of fees in the district.

Approved the short-term rental laws that govern AirBnB properties in town.

Approved a social media policy for the Council.

Heard the monthly crime report from Police Chief Dadian.

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

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