In a two-part series, we take a look back at events taking place in Selma and Kingsburg throughout 2019. For this issue, we’ll focus on events from January through July and then next week, we’ll continue with events from August through the end of the year.
Reflecting back, there were new faces welcomed to Selma and Kingsburg and new traditions started. However, favorite traditional events continued that celebrated the cultures of both communities.
Long-time employees were honored for decades of service and local citizens recognized for their sacrifices and willingness to help others. Students graduated as one school year closed and started a new chapter in the fall as a new school year began.
Holiday traditions continued and, as the cities prepare for the next election cycle, changes were made to the voting systems. Heroes were honored and tragedies were endured as citizens rallied together to support families in need.
Harsh reality of drugs on tour
SELMA – Selma High hosted the Reality Tour over winter break to re-enact what happens when teens get involved with drugs and gangs. Selma Police officers portrayed an arrest and followed a teen through the juvenile justice system and their eventual overdose to give local youth a glimpse of the consequences of drug use.
“In some cultures, it’s hard for [parents] since there’s some stuff they don’t want to talk about,” organizer Juan Chavez said. “The Reality Tour is a good way to start the conversation and this gives them a way to talk with their kids. Seeing it, it’s something different.”
Co-organizer Police Chief Greg Garner said the more parents are involved in the children's daily life, the “less likely they’re going to get involved in something they shouldn’t. A big portion of this program is to encourage communication between parents and their children.”
Brilla Montijo said she was nervous to portray the lead character, but wanted to send a message to her schoolmates. “They all have a family and people who care about them so they need to take care of themselves. Drugs take the possibilities away and make you all messed up.”
Urgent care coming to Kingsburg
KINGSBURG – Valley Health Team reached an agreement with Kingsburg Tri-County Health Care District Board at a Jan. 9 meeting to bring a new urgent-care facility to town. VHT leases space at the former Kingsburg hospital at 1250 Smith St. VHT’s CEO Soyla Reyna-Griffin said their long-term plan is to open an even larger health care facility in Kingsburg’s Business Park. That new facility would be 16,000 square feet and offer vision, dentistry, behavioral health, primary health care and urgent care. The new site will be at 1905 Morgan Dr., Kingsburg on a 1.67 acre plot. “We’ve purchased property by Sonic. It’ll be our biggest health center to date,” she said.
Health board starts district voting process
SELMA – The local Selma health board that oversees an estimated $150,000 in property taxes started the process to switch to district elections at its Jan. 15 meeting. The move is to comply with the California Voting Rights Act. The Selma Healthcare District Board includes the City of Selma, parts of the northern edge of Kingsburg and the western edge of Parlier. Currently, board members are elected through an at-large election system. The board’s legal counsel Kenneth Price said that one of the main goals of the California Voting Rights Act is ensure all portions of a city or district are represented on a board.
Kingsburg Chamber honors Smiths
KINGSBURG – Mike and Patty Smith were named as the Citizens of the Year at the 97th Annual Kingsburg District Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner and Awards Ceremony Jan. 17. The couple was shocked as the description of their volunteerism slowly revealed they’d been chosen for the honor.
“We love Kingsburg. We want to thank you guys very much for doing this,” Mike Smith said.
Also honored were Sydney Luttrell as the Junior Citizen of the Year, Safe Food Alliance as the Recycler of the Year, Gold Standard Mortgage as the Business of the Year, Kingsburg Insurance as the Agriculture Business of the Year, Elizabeth Peterson as the Elementary Educator of the Year and Retired Fire Chief Tim Ray as the Public Safety Officer of the Year. Outgoing Chamber Board member Stan Ruiz was honored by Chamber Director Kaitlyn Castaneda and President Jason Poynor for his years of service with the Chamber.
Kingsburg Council honors retiring fire chief
KINGSBURG – It’s been 33 years since Tim Ray first joined Kingsburg’s firefighting forces. After working his way up to serve as fire chief, he retired and was officially honored at the Jan. 16 City Council meeting. Mayor Michelle Roman recounted the Chief’s career where he worked with his own father, Larry Ray, for 26 years and said they were “the best 26 years of his career.” Timothy E. Sendelbach was named as the interim fire chief and later Daniel Perkins was named as the permanent head of the department. Ray thanked the City staff and Fire Department colleagues for their decades of support. He was especially grateful for his wife’s patience throughout his career. “I definitely want to thank Penny for all her support. She’s been there since day one. We got married Jan. 7 and I started paramedic school three days after. She’s been there the entire time.”
Bronze statue to be returned
SELMA – A bronze statue entitled “Coatlicue and the Farm Workers’ Truck” that had been on loan to the City of Selma for three years by Fresno artist Ernesto Palomino was voted to be returned at the Jan. 22 City Council meeting. The statue featured Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess of life and death, on one side and a depiction of farmworkers on the other as a way to honor the heritage of many residents in the San Joaquin Valley. The two forms are merged into the form of a farmworker’s truck.
Police station rebid likely to cost another $2.6M
SELMA – At their Jan. 22 meeting, Selma’s City Council realized they were obligated to stick with the contract they’d entered into with local construction unions to build the new police station.
“There is no exit clause to that agreement for the city. There is no termination clause in it and the unions have not been willing to amend the agreement or agree to an exit clause for the city,” City Manager Teresa Gallavan said.
The City had already spent $749,482 on various costs related to the project. They rejected the only bid they did receive and had to restart the bidding process all over again. It was projected that the cost of the police station would be three to 10 percent more - from $2 million to $2.6 million - than the first estimate of $7.95 million received in 2016.
Staley Stadium groundbreaking kicks off rebuild
SELMA – A ceremonial groundbreaking on Jan. 24 marked the beginning of construction on the stadium for Selma Unified School District. Officials touted the state-of-the-art stadium as a facility that would serve the community for generations to come.
Selma’s Walter E. Staley, Jr. spearheaded the effort to build the original stadium back in in 1957. His grown children - Marsha and David - were on hand for the ceremony. When asked what his father would think of this overhaul, David Staley said he was sure his father would be proud.
“I’m really glad they’re keeping the name because I wasn’t sure they were going to, so that’s really nice. It’s been a long time coming. He’s watching. I’m sure he’s here.”
The project was estimated to cost $10 million of the $30.8 Measure O dollars that Selma voters approved in the November 2016 elections. Teter Engineering projected the stadium would be completed in eight months however the stadium has not yet been completed.
KESD honors employees for dedication
KINGSBURG – At their Feb. 12 meeting, Kingsburg Charter Elementary School District officials recognized three individuals described as passionate, dedicated and patient as its employees of the year. Elizabeth Peterson was named the Educator of the Year, Toni Alvarez was named as the Employee of the Year and Jason Wood was named as the Administrator of the Year.
“We congratulate Elizabeth, Toni, and Jason for their service to our district and for making a difference in the lives of students, staff and the community,” Superintendent Wes Sever said.
Cox sworn in at Selma Art Center
SELMA – The new representative for California’s 21st District, Congressman TJ Cox, was sworn in during a ceremony at the Selma Arts Center Feb. 2. Cox was sworn in by Fresno City Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria. Cox, a Democrat, came from behind during the November midterm election to beat out the six-year incumbent, Republican Congressman David Valadao from Hanford. “This victory belongs to all the people of the 21st Congressional District,” Cox said. “Your priorities will always be my priorities.”
Petersen named Selma’s new Fire Chief
SELMA – After being sworn in at the Feb. 4 Selma City Council meeting as Selma’s fire chief, Rob Petersen introduced new hires and promotions within the department. He thanked his crew, his wife, City staff and their families for their support during the transition.
“Everybody’s been extremely supportive and helpful as I’ve gotten acclimated in taking on this new challenge,” he said. “I want to thank all the families here tonight showing their support. We all know this job has its stressful moments. Our schedules can be difficult. We’re away several days at a time, and during the summer we’re away for several weeks at a time. We could not truly be successful in what we do without your support and understanding,” Petersen said.
New mural highlights endangered animals
SELMA – Selma’s latest mural, “The Tree of Life” painted by Ezequiel Lee Orona, was dedicated at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 6. Retired dance teacher Vicki Filgas Trevino has coordinated the effort to fund Selma’s murals as a means to beautify the city. “I believe in the magic of murals,” she said. The mural is located on the northern wall of Selma’s Pet Clinic, operated by veterinarian Sukhwinder Singh Chugh.
“It’s called ‘The Tree of Life’ because it comes from the earth and gives life. I was thinking of how we were given the Garden of Eden,” Orona said. “I think of the planet as that garden and we’ve been destroying it. Now, we’re starting in on the animals. If they go, we’re going to go right behind them. It’s up to us since we were put in charge of that.”
Country Waffles proposed for Swedish Mill
KINGSBURG – John Ghazale had proposed turning the former Swedish Mill into a Country Waffles restaurant at the Feb. 6 Kingsburg City Council meeting. The owner was given a series of extensions to make repairs to the property and structure to avoid having it demolished. Trinity Construction’s Josh O’Bannon was on board to make the extensive repairs estimated to cost $100,000 and Country Waffles’ Kelly Allred was eager to see the project come to fruition. Although repairs have been made and a franchise agreement exists, at latest report, the business loan has not yet been secured and the property still awaits development.
SUSD swears in new board member
SELMA – With the passing of Selma Unified School District Area 1 trustee Mark Falcon, a new board member was needed. Karl Salazar stepped up to fill the position and was sworn in at the Feb. 12 SUSD meeting.
Salazar said he will remember Falcon with admiration as they’d been friends since childhood. The men both graduated Selma High in 1982. Falcon was known for his athletic abilities in baseball and football and for being an “all-around outstanding guy. We were high school buds. He was the home-run king. He was a great baseball player and that goes as far back as Little League.”
Salazar said he’ll bring his enthusiasm for his hometown to the board. “I’ve always felt great about Selma Unified and I’ve been through all the schools myself. I’ve been the student and now it’s time to see how this end goes.”
KHSD honors employees, volunteers
KINGSBURG – Kingsburg High School District honored a number of its staff at a Feb. 13 recognition dinner. Kingsburg Alternative Education Center Director Ryan Walterman was named Administrator of the Year. Kingsburg High School’s college and career teacher Kerry Peterson was named Educator of the Year. Responsibility Center classroom aide Dalaina Masterson was named Employee of the Year. Eric Erling, a utility worker/bus driver at Kingsburg High School, was named as the Classified Employee of the Year. Certificated honorees included Leigh-Ann Olsen, Martha Gudino and John Lovejoy. Coach honorees were Amanda Hodges for track and field and Randy Sieger for girls softball. Community volunteers honored were Reggie Gierke, David and Jenny Silva and Ginny Fukagawa.
New Rec Coordinator introduced
SELMA – Selma’s Recreation and Community Services Department announced the hire of Recreation Coordinator Liz Martinez at the Feb. 19 Selma City Council meeting. She is a 2014 Selma High graduate who earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Administration with an emphasis in Community and Youth Services from California State University, Fresno. Martinez said she’s excited to work in her hometown and is eager to expand services as she takes over at the Nick Medina Senior Center and assists with the recreation department and youth services. “I hope to make some good changes, for the Senior Center especially,” she said. “Whatever I can do to help Mikal [Kirchner], that’s my goal. I’m excited to be here and get to work.”
Stone Plaza approved for former hotel site
KINGSBURG – It’s been almost two and a half years since Kingsburg’s historic Stone Hotel was lost to a fire. After an agreement was unanimously approved by the Kingsburg City Council Feb. 20, the seeds for a new project at the site have been sown. Efrain Yanez, owner of Reedley’s Yanez Construction, is the new owner and his proposal to build a two-story structure with apartments upstairs and retail space below has officially been approved by a unanimous Council vote. “Like [City Manager] Alex [Henderson] said, this is once for every 100 years. We’re more than happy to go for it,” Yanez said.
Sun-Maid to move corporate offices to Fresno
KINGSBURG – Sun-Maid Growers announced it would move its corporate offices from Kingsburg and satellite offices from northern California to a new consolidated headquarters in Fresno this summer. The company’s Kingsburg location would be transformed into a center for product development, a Sun-Maid spokesperson said. Their focus will be developing new products for the brand.
“This move marks a monumental step in our progression in terms of talent, culture and innovation,” Sun-Maid CEO Harry Overly said. The Kingsburg site would remain a vital hub and still employ more than 700 people, where functions like finance, grower relations, research and development and operations management would take place. The Sun-Maid Market would remain open as a visitor center for the brand’s local customers.
United Health Centers hosts grand opening
SELMA – United Health Centers opened a state-of-the-art 12,000 square foot building with 17 exam rooms, 11 dental operatories and three optometry exam rooms on March 13. All UHC services would be offered including: medical, dental, optometry, chiropractic, behavioral health and ancillary services. UHC officials said the need for access to health facilities is great in the San Joaquin Valley and they’re eager to meet that need – especially for those with limited access to medical care. “We wouldn’t be in Selma if there wasn’t a need and there is a need. This is number 16 for United Health Centers and it’s growing,” UHC Board Chair Dr. Jack Shantz said.
2nd Police Station bid $3m over budget
SELMA – Since the second bid the City of Selma received to build a proposed police station came in $3 million over budget, the Council voted 4-1 to look at the consequences of backing out of their current project labor agreement with local contractor unions. The decision came at the March 18 meeting. Council was hoping to avoid having to look for more state funds or at its ambulance and Measure S coffers.
“I think it’s time to get rid of this PLA,” Mayor Scott Robertson said. “I think it’s time to get back to basics and to start over. I make a motion tonight, not only to reject this bid, but to send a letter to the union that we rescind the PLA and we go out to bid in July knowing if we got these grants, and go from there.”
Selma Chamber names award recipients
SELMA – Selma City Councilman Louis Franco was named as the 2019 Citizen of the Year by the Selma District Chamber of Commerce at their March 28 dinner. Also honored were the two Junior Citizens of the Year Gurmandeep Kaur and Sonny Bianchi, Ethylene Control, Inc. for Excellence in Agriculture, RPS Real Estate as the Business of the Year, Johnny Smith for Distinguished Service and Larry Teixeira as the Educator of the Year. Franco said he was humbled by the announcement, but is even more humbled to be a part of the Selma community.
“The reason I ran for City Council and I’ve been involved all these years, was quite simple. I love this town, I love this community and I want to make it better for my family and for your family.”
Reagan’s ‘Peach’ gives lesson on family
KINGSBURG – Reagan Elementary’s musical production of “James and Giant Peach, Jr.” shared the story of James Henry Trotter, played by Ava Irigoyen. After the lead character’s parents die, he’s sent off to be raised by two cruel aunts, Spiker and Sponge. The musical follows James’ adventures with a crew of bugs he discovers in the center of a charmed peach. The critters are played by Bryce Cornett, Karissa Asajian, Chloe Garcia and Katie Bishop. The musical is based on Roald Dahl’s 1961 children’s novel that sends the message that sometimes ‘family support’ comes from the most unlikely of sources. The young actors said being in the production is a magical experience in itself, and like the bugs and James, they grow to develop their own sense of family during months of rehearsals.
“The audience will realize Spiker and Sponge are not the people they’re supposed to be. My character finds a new family and home with the insects,” Irigoyen said.
Police station decision postponed again
SELMA – It’s been nearly four years to the day that Selma City leaders have been attempting to build a new police station on the grassy lot next to City Hall. Although a City Council agenda item to decide whether to move forward and build the station with the current labor agreement, or risk legal action without it, was anticipated at the April 1 meeting, it had been pulled from the agenda.
“It was removed for further review and for discussion with legal counsel on the legal issues raised at the previous meeting,” Mayor Scott Robertson said.
New T-Mobile Center to bring 1,000 jobs to Kingsburg
KINGSBURG – More than 1,000 new jobs will be created now that T-Mobile and Sprint Corporation have announced they’re moving Central Valley Customer Experience Center to the Kingsburg area. The exact location of the new center has not been announced. The Center’s opening is subject to the close of T-Mobile and Sprint’s merger to become the New T-Mobile. On July 26, Senior Communications Manager Joel Rushing said T-Mobile and Sprint had received clearance from the Department of Justice for their proposed merger to create the New T-Mobile.
First App Expo showcases tech projects
KINGSBURG – Kingsburg High’s new computer science teacher Joshua Woods and his students made school history by hosting the first Mobile App Expo April 11 at the school’s library. Students first learned about programming, then used the MIT App Inventor, a cloud-based tool, to work in teams and design their apps. “They got to identify a problem or an issue, tackle it and interview people who’d be potential users of the app, do research and then come up with their design to help people with that problem. They each have a poster they made for their projects as well,” Woods said. "We had some fitness apps, travel apps and we even had an app on cryptocurrency."
Sikhs celebrate with 25th annual parade
SELMA – The 25th Annual Sikh Parade was celebrated on April 14 with prayers, a parade and free meals at the Sikh Center of the Pacific Coast. The event marks the anniversary of the beginnings of the Khalsa, or baptized Sikhs.
‘Sikh’ means disciple or student. Their faith was founded in India in 1469 by Guru Nanak and built upon by the nine prophet teachers who succeeded him. The Vaisakhi celebration includes a colorful parade where men, women and children of all ages dress in traditional garb and parade through Selma with their sacred scriptures at the forefront of the procession.
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Winners named at Kingsburg Car Show
KINGSBURG – Fresno’s Don Smith won the Best of Show award at this year’s Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce annual car show with his 1955 Chevy 210. The car show included the annual Swedish pancake breakfast at the Senior Center the day before, race cars with the Legends of Kearney Bowl on display, as well as historic vehicles with the Early Day Gas Engine and Tractors Association at the Historic Train Depot. Another hit was the beer garden with the new Magosh Brewing opening just for the event with 10 beers on tap. “You can really tell the guys, and some ladies, have put a lot of time and pride into them,” Chamber Director Kaitlyn Castaneda said. Classic car owners came from Bakersfield, Fresno, Reedley, Visalia, Lindsay, Sanger and out of state to show off their vehicles of all makes and models on April 20.
Selma High play gives ‘Freaky’ lesson of empathy
SELMA – Anysah Galvan was among the leads in Selma’s musical “Freaky Friday” that ran April 26-28. The musical highlights the life of overworked parent Katherine Blake and her teenaged daughter, Ellie (played by Alex Reis). As the mother’s marriage approaches, the two magically transform bodies during a heated argument and have just one day to put things right again. In the meantime, they’re stuck in each other’s body and learn just what life is really like for the other.
Galvan said the role helped her realize just how much parents have to manage every day.
“I think the main thing is understanding, especially between parents and children. You have to understand and put yourself in their shoes because you never know what [the other] is going through.”
Selma Council votes 3-2 to build police station
SELMA – In a highly charged April 15 Selma City Council meeting, a 3-2 decision was made to hire Fresno’s Katch Environmental as the firm to build Selma’s long-awaited new police station.
Mayor Scott Robertson and Councilwoman Sarah Guerra voted against the recommendation while Mayor Pro Tem Louis Franco and Councilmen Jim Avalos and John Trujillo voted in favor of it.
At issue with wasn’t the question of whether the City of Selma needs a new police station or not. Rather, it was the resolution to use funds from both the city’s ambulance and Measure S funds to make up for a shortfall as the building turned out to cost millions more than what the city budgeted.
Between the additional building options, security system, IT and other costs, the final project will cost is $10.3 million. The City had budgeted $8 million from the Measure P bond and state funding, but costs have been incurred related to the project and is thus short by $3 million. To make up for that shortfall, Council approved using $2.8 million from the ambulance service fund and $215,582 from the Measure S fund.
Farmers markets return to Selma
SELMA – As one of the organizers behind the Selma Farmers Market series, local businessman Jesse Crouch has three goals: Get residents Downtown, grow local businesses and inspire others. This is the second year the markets are taking place on High Street in Downtown Selma. They ran from May 16 through July 11 this year. Crouch and Jorge Cruz formed the nonprofit Biz Fit to help spur economic activity in town and are the organizers of the Selma Farmers Markets.
“Some of the reasons we’re doing this is to get people Downtown to see the businesses like the Arts Center, to network and be a community,” Crouch said amid the booths where locals sold everything from T-shirts to support Selma High’s football team to teriyaki bowls, boba drinks, jams, unicorn headbands and U.S. flags. “Hopefully, this takes off in different avenues and sparks other’s ideas that if we can do this, they can do other things.”
Raisin Festival a hub of activity for 40th Anniversary
SELMA – The 40th Annual Raisin Festival transformed Lincoln Park from the shady, tranquil park in the center of town into a boisterous hub of activity for four days in May. The Festival is sponsored by the Selma District Chamber of Commerce and included carnival rides, a variety of food booths, exhibits of art, baking, floriculture, photography and poetry in the Nick Medina Senior Center and live entertainment including mariachi singer Berta Olivia, the Carlos Montano Band, Art in the Garden Band, mariachi Juan Morales, Juan Sanchez and the Fabulous Enchantment Band. Live demonstrations were put on by Reyna’s Black Belt Academy, Centro De Folklor, Second Street Dancers and Bell’s Kenpo Karate.
Sahota reigns as Raisin Festival Royalty
SELMA – Simran Sahota was announced as the 2019 Raisin Festival Queen during a Coronation Ceremony May 3 that featured special appearances from previous Raisin Royalty. The Queens from previous years were invited especially for the Festival’s 40th Anniversary. “Being here tonight as the real Raisin Queen is really remarkable. I look forward to a great year of making many memories so thank you,” Sahota said.
Race renamed after ‘marathon man’
SELMA – A long-time Kiwanis race that’s taken place during the Selma Raisin Festival has been renamed after well-known runner, John Paredes. The race took place May 4 and as runners gathered at the northeast corner of Lincoln Park to start, the family recalled how Paredes started running in the first place and what it meant to him over the years. Paredes first joined one of his daughters, Linda Melo, as she trained for a Fourth of July race at Pioneer Village. He ran in his jeans so his daughter surprised him for Father’s Day with tennis shoes, shorts and socks just for the sport.
“I wasn’t sure if he was going to wear them, but he went into the bathroom and came out and he had his shorts on. In 25 years, I had never seen his legs!” Melo said.
In that first race, Paredes came in first for his age group. “He was 56, I think. That was the start of his running career and he was hooked.”
The last time Paredes took part in a Selma Raisin Festival Fun Run was 2018 and he was 94 years old. “I think he believed it would allow him to live longer and keep him healthy. He had two fights with cancer though – colon and prostrate. That last one was the one that took him at 94 years of age,” she said. For the 2019 event, Paredes’ relatives came from around the state to watch or take part in the run. His wife, Carmen Paredes, stood proudly cheering on the runners as they returned from the two-mile course. “He got the courage and that was it. From that day on, he kept on running," Paredes said. "They wrote about him in the newspaper and they called him ‘the marathon man’ in the headline. He always felt good after a run.”
Festival celebrates all things Swedish
KINGSBURG – What began as a mid-summer festival put on by women of the Concordia Lutheran Church in 1924 has evolved in to a three-day festival that includes a slice of many aspects of historic life in Sweden including Swedish music, Swedish dancing, Swedish games, Swedish meals, Swedish crafts and Swedish descendants. This year’s Swedish Festival was May 16-18 and was dubbed the “Year of the Dala Horse.”
This is the Festival’s 89th year and Jasmin Gallardo, 17, a junior at Kingsburg High, was crowned as the 2019 Swedish Festival Queen. This year’s Grand Marshals were Maury and Pauline Nyberg. Events included pea soup and Swedish pancake meals, a Public Safety Officer Dress Review and Awards Ceremony, new fire truck wet down ceremony, smorgasbord, Swedish entertainment by the Svenska Kids Musik, Fresno Danish Dancers and music by Fresno’s Great Danes, the Dala Horse Trot race, a grand parade, raising of the May pole, sanctuary tours at Kingsburg Concordia and tours at the Historic Train Depot and Historic Museum.
American Legion hosts Avenue of Flags
SELMA – The annual Avenue of Flags ceremony took place Memorial Day, May 27, at the Floral Memorial Cemetery. American Legion Post 12’s Commander Eliseo Zuniga encouraged residents to attend by reminding everyone of the sacrifices military members have made throughout the years. “Celebrating our fallen heroes one day out of the year is not enough, but it is a start. It shows support for those veterans who are living and missing their fallen brothers and sisters. When their time comes, they know they will not be forgotten.”
Selma High’s Marine Corps JROTC cadets installed 520 United States flags along the Cemetery’s paths for the ceremony. Roosevelt Elementary fourth-graders in Colleen Wilson, Char Jones and Erin Lewis classes also helped by placing smaller flags on veterans’ headstones.
Legion member Isaias Talamantes appreciated the teachers’ efforts to instill respect in the students. “If it wasn’t for all these veterans … we wouldn’t be the freest country in the world. Like they say, ‘freedom is not free.’ There’s a cost. Many soldiers lose their life and there are still the hidden scars inside.”
The lesson wasn’t lost on the students. Eowyn Berndt said the task of placing flags made her feel both honored, but saddened. When she saw all the flags waving in the breeze, only then did she realize just how many soldiers were laid to rest in Selma. “It makes me feel happy and sort of sad too because they sacrificed time with their families when they went to war. When we mark their graves, it shows their family they’re loved and not forgotten.”
Farmers’ Markets returns to Kingsburg
KINGSBURG – The returning Kingsburg Farmers’ Market may be small for now, but when it comes to enthusiasm, it was mighty during its first run May 30. Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce has taken the markets back on and as Director Kaitlyn Castaneda predicts, what will make the difference now will be more community participation by having locals spread awareness, share ideas and reach out to their contacts so the market can grow and thrive.
Selma High graduates celebrate
FRESNO – Listening to the graduating Selma High seniors during their Commencement Ceremony June 6, the Bears sounded ready to take on the world. The Class of 2019’s graduation celebration took place at Sunnyside High as Staley Stadium is under reconstruction, but Selmans filled the stands with home-town pride as they cheered for their graduates at the end of the event.
The ceremony included the presentation of colors by Selma High’s United States Marine Corps’ JROTC Color Guard, singing of the National Anthem and a performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Selma High’s Chamber Singers. California Scholarship Federation Life members and their parents were introduced, as were scholarship recipients and 26 valedictorians and one salutatorian.
ALMS grads step towards futures
FRESNO – After marching in their June 5 promotion ceremony, the graduating class of Abraham Lincoln Middle School eighth graders were on their way to becoming high school students. Before officially leaving elementary school, though, they were given just few more words of sage advice from ALMS administrators and Selma Unified leaders to guide them.
Associated Student Body President Lynnen Ramirez congratulated them for the special talents each student had and encouraged them to use that “something special within us” to change the world for the better. “We will grow and I believe each one of us has the potential to achieve great things,” she said. “These last two years have been tough, but I’m sure I’m speaking on behalf of all who are being promoted today when I say, ‘we made it!’”
KHS graduates reflect on past, prepare for future
KINGSBURG – Tassels were turned and fireworks illuminated the sky as Kingsburg High graduates officially completed their four-year journeys at the 112th annual commencement ceremony at Vikings Stadium June 6. Approximately 240 graduates were in the school’s 2019 graduating class. The 2019 class had a total of 42 valedictorians and one salutatorian, which was the most since 1995, according to Activities Director Doug Davis.
“It’s really filled with a bunch of leaders. It’s a special class.”
Valedictorians Veronica Gordillo, Dilvir Sekhon, Zoya Sihota opened the ceremony by welcoming those in attendance with three separate speeches in English, Spanish and Punjabi. Class President Sydney Luttrell lead a prayer during the invocation. Valedictorians Shareen Purewal, Karen Gong, Zoya Sihota, Emily Kozlowski and Rylie Cornett gave speeches during the ceremony.
Rafer Johnson eighth-graders ready for the next step
KINGSBURG – As the clock was ticking during their final moments as middle school students, graduating eighth-graders from Rafer Johnson felt a mix of emotions before stepping onto the field at the Kingsburg High School stadium June 5. Speaker Cy Hammerstrom said he was eager to start high school. “You get so much more opportunities to further progress your future careers,” an enthusiastic Hammerstrom said. “I feel like high school is really where it starts when you’re developing into adulthood. That really excites me.”
City takes input on Rockwell Pond Park plans
SELMA – The City of Selma hosted a series of meetings to get the public’s input on the features they’d like to see at a future park in town. Selma is applying for California Proposition 68 funds to build a park just north of Rockwell Pond. Recreation and Community Services Director Mikal Kirchner said getting public input is a crucial part of the process. “Our goal, since the city owns Rockwell Pond, is to put in bike and walking trails and maybe a water feature and a new bridge to tie into the new developments around Wal-Mart,” he said at the June 13 meeting. The City is hoping to receive anywhere between $3-6 million to develop the park.
Elder abuse allegations surface in animal abuse case
KINGSBURG – Kingsburg Police first reported that Yvette Martinez, 50, had surrendered herself and was arrested on 16 felony counts of cruelty to animals on June 17. Later, accusations of elder abuse also surfaced in the case. Neighbors and relatives of an elderly man she was previously involved with said she had been physically, financially and emotionally abusing the victim. The relatives and potential victim are known, but were not named to protect their privacy.
Neighbors on the Orange Street block demanded action at the June 19 City Council meeting as they’ve heard dogs fighting on the property and complained of flea infestations, discarded furniture, disabled cars, mice and stray cats causing health hazards. Kingsburg Police investigated and found trash, animal feces, junk, other discarded items and several dead cats in the backyard of the residence. They also found 15 dogs inside the house without food or water and a dead cat in a bedroom.
“The city ordered outside cleanup and pest control last week. The property owner is working with the city to abate all the issues and has started the cleanup of the inside. They have indicated a full cleanup and restoration of inside and out,” City Manager Alex Henderson said.
Kingsburg names new Fire Chief
KINGSBURG – Daniel Perkins has been named as Kingsburg’s new fire chief and officially started work on June 19. He was described as a motivated, conscientious, community-oriented fire-service professional with numerous years of experience in operations, administration and leadership within rural, dual-role, ALS fire service organizations, as well as large metropolitan fire service organizations. He has served nearly 30 years in fire and emergency services, including with American Ambulance, the Sanger Fire Department and 17 years with the Fresno Fire Department, where he retired in 2018 as a Battalion Chief.
Kingsburg City Band’s summer concerts pack Memorial Park
KINGSBURG – Summer in Kingsburg started on June 20 when the first in a series of summer concerts was given by the Kingsburg City Band. The band has been in existence since 1887 and judging by the size of the audience that packed Memorial Park that evening, interest in the concerts shows no sign of waning any time soon. Director Dale Engstrom is entering his 42nd year of conducting the concerts. The concerts are paired with the Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce’s Farmers Market this year and included sound and lighting improvements made possible by Kingsburg Media Foundation. “I say this all the time, but I really mean it, this is just a great, family-oriented tradition that goes way back longer than most any other community band,” Engstrom said.
Selma breaks ground on new police station
SELMA – Construction on the long-awaited Selma Police Department started on June 21 with a ceremonial earth-digging kick off. The new 10,175 square-foot station is being built on 3rd Street, adjacent to Selma City Hall. The facility will include an expanded investigations center, training/community room, evidence storage, dispatch, booking, upgraded prisoner holding cells, communications center and other facilities required by Peace Officer Standards and Training. City and Police officials agree the station is overdue, but the final price tag has been the object much debate amongst the Council and citizens. The most recent calculation has the station projected to cost $10.3 million. Council voted 3-2 in April to pull $2.8 million from the city’s ambulance service fund and $215,582 from the Measure S fund to make up for the shortfall. City officials say they will apply with the state in the meantime to see if funds can be secured that way instead.
Car dealership owner proposes gaming
SELMA – Long-time car dealership owner Dwight Nelson brought an idea to the June 17 Selma City Council meet to convert the banquet facilities of his Spike N’ Rail Restaurant into gaming rooms, as usage of them has declined over the years, he said. He’s hoping to bring 100 new jobs and thousands of dollars in taxes for the city’s general fund with this new venture. The Legends Card Room proposal will need to first gain local voters’ approval, then state approval before coming to fruition. Nelson said he would even pay for the costs to put the proposal on the ballot. “I’ve looked at this for a long time and it’s a good thing for Selma,” he said.
Community, nation, freedom celebrated at fireworks show
SELMA – The Selma High stadium may be under reconstruction, but as far as the Selma District Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director Bob Allen was concerned, the fireworks show must go on. This year’s Independence Day celebration on July 3 was the 30th annual event and took place just south of the current stadium. At the event, Leslie Nelson was honored with the 2019 Community Spirit Award as she has headed up a beautification effort to clean up Selma that’s gaining momentum. “Logistically, we had to make some adjustments to how we usually do it, but it was a great program. I thought it went wonderful. The crowd was great,” Allen said.
Kingsburg Library hosts citizenship ceremony
KINGSBURG – The Kingsburg Branch of the Fresno County Library hosted a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for area youth who were officially becoming citizens on July 5. Eighteen youth were sworn in that day and hailed from countries around the globe including India, Mexico, Cuba, Philippines, China and Egypt. The event included story time by children’s librarian Jamie Kurumaji, the Pledge of Allegiance, a welcome by Mayor Pro Tem Laura North and a reception afterwards with cake, goodie bags, photos and balloons. “We need all of these different cultures because that’s what makes up our country - all these different opinions, all these different viewpoints and for them to really step up and make a difference. I’m excited to see what these kids have in store for them,” North said.
Flag retired at Independence Day event
KINGSBURG – Hundreds of people gathered on the field and home side of Vikings Stadium for the town’s annual Independence Day Celebration July 3. Before the fireworks, Kingsburg VFW #6152 and Boy Scouts Troop #392 retired a United States 9/11 Memorial Flag from Fresno’s Pelco. Once the flag was placed in the fire, VFW members honored the Memorial Flag with a 21-gun salute, followed by the playing of “Taps.” “It gives the boys an opportunity to show their patriotism and reverence toward the country,” parent volunteer Jay Phillips said. “It gives the community an opportunity to see how the flag should be displayed and properly retired.”
Council moves to district elections
SELMA – The future City Council election system was going to have five districts, as was approved by a 3-2 vote at the July 15 Council meeting. The decision did not come easily as the meeting devolved into arguing, interruptions and accusations of financial mismanagement. The change to district voting was meant to comply with the California Voting Rights Act of 2001. The vote has since changed however to having a mayor at large and four districts. Mayor Scott Robertson, Mayor Pro Tem Louis Franco and Council Member Jim Avalos’ terms all expire in November 2020. Councilmembers John Trujillo and Sarah Guerra’s seats are up for election in 2022. Demographer Douglas Johnson with National Demographics Corporation was hired to lead the City through the process. Public input was taken to determine how the lines on the district maps would be drawn.
City Attorney Bianca Sparks Rojas cautioned Council members that having a combination of four districts and a mayor-at-large position would leave the City open to being sued. Three cities chose this route, were sued and had to pay attorney’s fees, she said. “In the end, they were able to keep their districts the way they’d drawn them with a mayor-at-large, but they did need to expend money to afford those legal actions.” Later, Sparks Rojas ended her contract with the City and previous attorney Neal Costanzo was rehired.
Athwal Park project breaks ground
KINGSBURG – Years of petitions, requests, meetings, fundraisers, planning and grant applications finally paid off as the City of Kingsburg officially started construction on its Athwal Park improvement project July 11. This first phase of the park’s development will cost $727,732. Steve Dovali Construction will complete the work. Tri-County Healthcare District donated $600,000 with another $40,000 coming from the city’s general fund, $75,000 from a state parks grant and $25,000 from a Kingsburg Lions Club donation. Kingsburg Mayor Michelle Roman was jubilant recounting the groundswell of support over the years. “It’s been almost nine years. I was emotional today because I’m finally able to look out to everybody and say, ‘we’re really here today.’”
Health Board website raises questions
SELMA – During their July 16 meeting, Selma Healthcare District member Colleen Nelson raised a question about how soon the District’s website would be updated. Since the Board was about to renew the $2,437.48 contract with Leon’s Computers to maintain the website, she asked when financial statements and agendas would be posted. “I’m not finding that it’s kept up to where I thought it should be,” Nelson said. Board member Anthony Herrera said he too hadn’t seen any updates on the site either. The site, selmahealthcaredistrict.org, had not had any meeting agendas or financial documents posted for all of 2019. Several links were non-functioning as well.
Board President Rose Robertson suggested they form an ad hoc committee to address the issue and asserted they were “keeping this transparent to the core as much as we can through bank statements, through the financial reports online.” No financial documents or agendas had been posted on the District’s website for 2019 at the time. California Assembly Bill 2257 requires that all meetings of local public agency legislative bodies held on or after Jan. 1, 2019 have its agendas posted online prior to meetings. “You know by law what has to be on there and we’ve missed the boat on this,” Nelson said. Since then, the needed documents have been added to the website.
KCAPS helps with back to school
KINGSBURG – Kingsburg Community Assistance Programs and Services made back-to-school shopping easier on local families’ budgets by hosting three days of special sales so parents and children in the rural communities could feel as prepared as possible for the beginning of school. Director Aida Rushing said since she grew up in Traver herself, she realizes how difficult it is for rural families to travel to large cities to shop for clothes.
“But we still want the kids to feel empowered, ready and prepared. That’s why it’s important to us to have the supplies the kids actually need in the backpacks.”
Local police and fire departments partnered with KCAPS for the second year to provide backpacks filled with supplies at the Kingsburg location.
“People have tight budgets, so it’s fun to see their faces, interact with the kids and just give back to the communities,” KPD’s Derek Gagnon said. “It’s also been a good team effort working with the fire department.”