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SELMA – Farewells, recognitions and a step toward safety for the Salazar Center were on the agenda for the Nov. 19 Selma City Council meeting.

With Councilwoman Yvette Montijo and Councilman Mike Derr’s terms drawing to a close, the group took time to recognize them with certificates and words of thanks. The Council also recognized Roosevelt Elementary teacher Colleen Wilson for her efforts to teach school children about respecting the U.S. Flag and service men and women.

In other action, the Council approved starting the bid process to have wrought iron gates installed on the Salazar Center for the safety of the community using the center and park and youth attending the Boys and Girls Club.

In recognizing Roosevelt’s fourth-grade teacher, Avalos said he was proud to have Wilson and her husband, retired Marine Corps Major Brooks Wilson, teaching children about proper etiquette regarding the U.S. Flag and about honoring veterans’ service.

Each year for the Marine Corps’ anniversary and Veterans Day, Wilson organizes a community-wide celebration where local veterans and active-duty service men and women are honored with patriotic songs by the school’s Choral Hawks choir, the presentation of colors by Selma High’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets and Retired Major Wilson’s classroom presentations on an attitude of service.

“This lady teaches her fourth-grade students what the [United States’ flag] is about,” Avalos said. “On Memorial Day, she’s taken her class to the cemetery and puts American flags on all the veterans’ graves for years,” he said. “The freedoms we have in this country are so precious and we should never take it for granted.”

Wilson was awarded certificates of appreciation from the City of Selma, Congressman Jim Costa, State Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula, Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes, United States Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein. David Ochoa with the local American Legion Post #12 also shared flowers with Wilson in appreciation for her efforts.

Wilson said she takes educating students about respect, responsibility and taking care of their community and country “very seriously. It’s totally my honor to support this community through that type of education. I’m completely honored and very grateful for your recognition.”

Wilson thanked the Council for recognizing what the Roosevelt students do each year as well.

James Martinez, a representative with Harris’ and Feinstein’s offices, thanked Wilson for honoring veterans.

“Particularly in instilling that sense of service, duty and honor in our students,” he said.

The meeting was also filled with thanks for outgoing Councilmembers Montijo and Derr.

“We’re going to miss you,” Selma Chamber President Char Tucker said to Montijo for her four years of service. Derr has served for 28 years and Tucker said the Chamber Hall wouldn’t be the same without him.

Montijo called her time on the council a privilege and an honor.

“I’ll leave with a wealth of knowledge on topics I never thought I’d learn anything about. I’m glad I did though, because I’m a life-long learner. I’m proud of the work we got to do together as a council. I look forward to embracing other endeavors in my life.”

Derr recounted his journey in getting on the Council decades ago and thanked family, several City staff members, fellow Council members and friends for their support over the years.

“I need to thank the citizens of Selma who’ve supported me. Not all have agreed with me, but almost of them have known that I was their councilman.”

Derr is also active with the Selma Arts Center and the Arts Council Board and will continue to be involved with those efforts.

In other matters, Selma’s Recreation and Community Services Director Mikal Kirchner said the City is concerned with the needs of the homeless, but also has safety concerns for youth enrolled in the Boys and Girls Club and citizens who take part in S.M.A.R.T. Center activities. Thus, a proposal to install iron fencing at the Salazar Center was presented that will cost an estimated $6,700. The project would be paid for with Housing Relating Parks Program grant funds.

Kirchner said homeless residents have been sleeping in the back patio area of the Center overnight and leaving belongings and trash behind. The goal would be to install the fencing from one bricked pillar to the next and allow access during the day, but to lock the gates at night.

“Residents have stated they just don’t feel safe either attending Salazar Park or sending their children to the Center. The park should be a safe place to go so while the homeless may still use the park during the day, they won’t have access to camp out there overnight,” he said.

The fence would enclose the sidewalks and a panic button would be located inside in case of emergencies.

Council discussed which Club and S.M.A.R.T. staff members would have access to keys for the gates and doors and Kirchner said their alarm system would help monitor who opens the door and when.

“We’re going to reissue new codes and cancel old codes. I’d like to rekey the gates to be the same as the front door so there’s not an extra key,” he said.

The Salazar Center had previously been broken into through the roof and front door and security measures have since been taken since to secure the building, he said.

During public comments, Selma resident Robert Cortez said he volunteers feeding the homeless at the Salazar Center and at one point during the summer he noticed some had taken food to the back patio area to smoke drugs.

“I told them they couldn’t be doing that there. I think this [fence installation] is a good idea because the Center is used for everyone, but it’s not there for smoking marijuana in the back,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea to close this off, but it’s unfortunate,” he said of the homeless who are seeking shelter during the rainy season. “The time has come for this, unfortunately.”

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

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