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Local
Council begins to explore Community Choice Aggregation

HANFORD — The Hanford City Council met Nov. 20 and held a public hearing on a proposed ordinance to establish a Hanford Community Choice Aggregation implementation plan and statement of intent.

In a 4-1 decision, with Councilwoman Diane Sharp being the only “no” vote, Council decided to start the process of establishing a program plan and statement of intent.

During the public hearing, City Manager Darrel Pyle said the concept of Community Choice Aggregation was signed into law in 2002 and grants California Cities the right to combine the electricity load of its residents and businesses into a community-wide electricity aggregation program.

Right now, Pyle said most of Hanford is served by Southern California Edison, but the Industrial Park is served by Pacific Gas & Electric.

He said under a Community Choice Aggregation program, the incumbent utility — Southern California Edison or PG&E — continues to be responsible for electricity delivery and transmission, owning and maintaining the power and transmission infrastructure, reading the meter, and billing and collecting from customers.

The staff report on the issue said the only change under the program is that power consumed by customers is purchased by the Community Choice Aggregation, with the revenues collected staying in the city to benefit the citizens and businesses.

Pyle said a technical study that was conducted said Hanford customers would receive and increased opportunity to choose the type of electricity they prefer to come into their home, like renewable energy or a lower-cost option.

In addition to the financial benefits, he said the Community Choice Aggregation structure results in the Hanford City Council having full control of rate setting, budget approval, policy setting and program direction.

Officials said any Hanford customers who wish to stay with the incumbent utility provider have the ability to opt out of the Community Choice Aggregation.

“What we’re offering here is competition,” Vice Mayor Sue Sorensen said.

An additional fund would be established in the city’s budget and operate like the water or sewer fund, with reserves that would not affect the general fund, Pyle said.

Sharp said she felt like the city has enough on its plate and she didn’t feel comfortable with the level of risk going into this new business, but Council members like Sorensen and Mayor David Ayers said they were interested in the possibilities available in providing different options to residents and would at least like to begin moving forward at this point.

A motion made by Sorensen to begin the process of establishing an implementation plan and statement of intent was passed with support from Ayers and Council members Martin Devine and Justin Mendes.

Due to the many steps involved, if the council continues to pursue the option — which they are not obligated to do — anticipated implementation is not expected until May 2020 or later.

Town hall meeting

A town hall meeting that was previously scheduled to take place tonight, Nov. 27, to discuss a proposed homeless service center in downtown Hanford has been canceled.

Ayers said out of respect for the three new council members that were recently elected, he requested the meeting be postponed until the three new members are situated on the dais. He said after that point, the new council can decide when the meeting is to be held.

“They’re going to be the future decision makers,” Ayers said.

There was a general consensus from the rest of council to go ahead and postpone the town hall meeting.

“As we carry forward, I think it’s going to be important that we carry forward with that team that will be making those decisions for the next two years,” Sorensen said.

In the meantime, escrow has not been opened on the proposed building and Pyle assured Council that nothing will be happen until after a town hall meeting is conducted.


Local
Kings County Sheriff receives recognition

HANFORD — A Kings County sergeant has become the first law enforcement officer in the state of California, and in the nation, to become a certified Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) operator.

On Nov. 5, the California Association of Tactical Officers (C.A.T.O.) awarded Sgt. Chris Barsteceanu of the Kings County Sheriff's Office a certificate of achievement for certification as a S.W.A.T. operator.

Officials said the certificate is an accreditation which was recently established by C.A.T.O. and is soon to be adapted across the United States.

This certification comes after four years of research, in which C.A.T.O. developed a detailed program focused on ensuring competency for law enforcement personnel acting in the capacity of an S.W.A.T. operator.

The program requires demonstration of competence in knowledge, personal initiative and experience, as well as successfully passing a written examination.

Barsteceanu demonstrated his proficiency, skill level and determination by not only successfully completing this rigorous process but being the first to ever do so, officials said.

Barsteceanu was recognized for his achievement at this year's C.A.T.O. Training Conference that was held in Reno, Nevada.

In recognition of his achievement, C.A.T.O. presented him with a certificate, operator pin and patches in front of fellow association members, as well as his present team members. 

Sheriff David Robinson and the Kings County Sheriff's Office said they would like to publicly recognize and thank Barsteceanu for his continued commitment to their S.W.A.T. team, in addition to his unwavering commitment to keeping his community and those he works alongside safe.


National
AP
GM to lay off up to 14K workers, close as many as 5 plants

DETROIT — General Motors will cut up to 14,000 workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it abandons many of its car models and restructures to focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles, the automaker announced Monday.

The reductions could amount to as much as 8 percent of GM's global workforce of 180,000 employees.

The restructuring reflects changing North American auto markets as manufacturers continue to shift away from cars toward SUVs and trucks. In October, almost 65 percent of new vehicles sold in the U.S. were trucks or SUVs. That figure was about 50 percent cars just five years ago.

GM is shedding cars largely because it doesn't make money on them, Citi analyst Itay Michaeli wrote in a note to investors.

"We estimate sedans operate at a significant loss, hence the need for classic restructuring," he wrote.

Hours after the announcement, President Donald Trump said his administration and lawmakers were exerting "a lot of pressure" on GM. He said he told the company that the U.S. has done a lot for GM and that if its cars aren't selling, the company needs to produce ones that will.

Trump, who has made bringing back auto jobs a big part of his appeal to Ohio and other Great Lakes states that are crucial to his re-election, also said he was being tough on General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

At a rally near GM's Lordstown, Ohio, plant last summer, Trump told people not to sell their homes because the jobs are "all coming back."

The layoffs come amid the backdrop of a trade war between the U.S., China and Europe that likely will lead to higher prices for imported vehicles and those exported from the U.S. Barra said the company faces challenges from tariffs but she did not directly link the layoffs to them.

The reduction includes about 8,000 white-collar employees, or 15 percent of GM's North American white-collar workforce. Some will take buyouts while others will be laid off.

At the factories, around 3,300 blue-collar workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and another 2,600 in Canada, but some U.S. workers could transfer to truck or SUV factories that are increasing production. The cuts mark GM's first major downsizing since shedding thousands of jobs in the Great Recession.

The company also said it will stop operating two additional factories outside North America by the end of next year, in addition to a previously announced plant closure in Gunsan, South Korea.

General Motors Co.'s pre-emptive strike to get leaner before the next downturn likely will be followed by Ford Motor Co., which has said it is restructuring and will lay off an unspecified number of white-collar workers. Toyota Motor Corp. also discussed cutting costs, even though it's building a new assembly plant in Alabama.

GM isn't the first to abandon much of the car market. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles got out of small and midsize cars two years ago, while Ford announced plans to shed all cars but the Mustang sports car in the U.S. in the coming years.

GM doesn't foresee an economic downturn and is making the cuts "to get in front of it while the company is strong and while the economy is strong," Barra told reporters.

Factories that could be closed include assembly plants in Detroit and Oshawa, Ontario, and Lordstown, Ohio, as well as transmission plants in Warren, Michigan, and near Baltimore.

The announcement worried GM workers who could lose their jobs.

"I don't know how I'm going to feed my family," Matt Smith, a worker at the Ontario factory, said Monday outside the plant's south gate, where workers blocked trucks from entering or leaving. "It's hard. It's horrible." Smith's wife also works at the plant. The couple has an 11-month-old at home.

Workers at the Ontario plant walked off the job Monday but were expected to return today.

After the morning announcement, Barra headed to Washington to speak with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow in what was described as a previously scheduled meeting, according to a White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Most of the factories to be affected by GM's restructuring build cars that will not be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. Their futures will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

The Detroit-based union condemned GM's actions and threatened to fight them "through every legal, contractual and collective bargaining avenue open to our membership."

Bobbi Marsh, who has worked assembling the Chevrolet Cruze compact car at the Ohio plant since 2008, said she can't understand why the factory might close given the strong economy.

"I can't believe our president would allow this to happen," she said Monday.

Many of those who will lose jobs are now working on conventional cars with internal combustion engines. Barra said the industry is changing rapidly and moving toward electric propulsion, autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing, and GM must adjust.

She said GM is still hiring people with expertise in software and electric and autonomous vehicles.

The automaker said it was ending Chevrolet Volt production because the vehicle was meant to be a bridge to fully electric cars when it was introduced about a decade ago. The Volt has a small battery that can take it about 50 miles, then it switches to a small gasoline engine.


Crime
Man arrested for multiple child molestation crimes

HANFORD — A man was arrested Sunday after Hanford Police Department officials said he sexually assaulted a child for several years.

On Nov. 24, Hanford Police officers said they responded to a report of possible child molestation involving an 11-year-old victim.

Police said the victim reported to their mother that their stepfather, 39-year-old Shawn Hedder, had been sexually abusing them over the last couple of years.

Detectives were called out and assumed control of the investigation.

With the assistance of Kings County District Attorney’s investigations unit as well as Kings County Child Protective Services, officials said an emergency multi-disciplinary interview was completed on Saturday night.

Information obtained from the interview as well as from the mother of the child involved, revealed the child had been sexually assaulted over the last couple of years with the last instance being less than a week ago, police said.

Authorities said Hedden turned himself into police and was later booked into the Kings County Jail on multiple child molestation crimes.


National
AP
'Flawless': NASA craft lands on Mars after perilous journey

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA spacecraft designed to drill down into Mars' interior landed on the planet Monday after a perilous, supersonic plunge through its red skies, setting off jubilation among scientists who waited in white-knuckle suspense for confirmation to arrive across 100 million miles of space.

Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their chairs, screaming, dancing and hugging, upon learning that InSight safely arrived on Mars, the graveyard for a multitude of previous missions.

"Touchdown confirmed!" a flight controller called out just before 3 p.m. EST, instantly dispelling the anxiety that gripped the control room as the spacecraft made its six-minute descent.

Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, it took eight minutes for confirmation to arrive, relayed by a pair of tiny satellites that trailed InSight throughout the six-month, 300-million-mile journey.

The two experimental satellites not only transmitted the good news in almost real time, they also sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just 4½ minutes after landing.

The picture was speckled with debris because the dust cover was still on the lander's camera, but the terrain at first glance looked smooth and sandy with just one sizable rock visible — pretty much what scientists had hoped for. Better photos are expected in the days ahead.

It was NASA's — indeed, humanity's — eighth successful landing at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes, and the first in six years. NASA's Curiosity rover, which arrived in 2012, is still on the move on Mars.

"Flawless," declared JPL's chief engineer, Rob Manning. "This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind's eye," he added. "Sometimes things work out in your favor."

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, presiding over his first Mars landing as the space agency's boss, said: "What an amazing day for our country."

Many Mars-bound spacecraft launched by the U.S., Russia and other spacefaring countries were lost or destroyed over the years, with a success rate of just 40 percent, not counting InSight.

NASA went with its old, straightforward approach this time, using a parachute and braking engines to get InSight's speed from 12,300 mph when it pierced the Martian atmosphere, about 77 miles up, to 5 mph at touchdown. The danger was that the spacecraft could burn up in the atmosphere or bounce off it.

The three-legged InSight settled on the western side of Elysium Planitia, the plain that NASA was aiming for. Project manager Tom Hoffman said the spacecraft landed close to the bull's-eye, but NASA did not have yet have the final calculations.

He said that it was hard to tell from the first photo whether there were any slopes nearby, but that it appeared he got the flat, smooth "parking lot" he was hoping for.

Museums, planetariums and libraries across the U.S. held viewing parties to watch the events unfold at JPL. NASA TV coverage also was shown on the giant screen in New York's Times Square, where crowds huddled under umbrellas in the rain.

The $1 billion international mission features a German-led mechanical mole that will burrow 16 feet to measure the planet's internal heat. Nothing has ever dug deeper into Mars than several inches. The lander also has a French-made seismometer for measuring quakes, if they exist on our smaller, geologically calmer neighbor.

Another experiment will calculate Mars' wobble to reveal the makeup of the planet's core.

The 800-pound InSight is stationary and will operate from the same spot for the next two years, the duration of a Martian year. Its first job was to get a fast picture out. Seven hours after touchdown, NASA reported that InSight's vital solar panels were open and recharging its batteries.

Lead scientist Bruce Banerdt warned it will be a slow-motion mission. The instruments will have to be set up and fine-tuned. He said he doesn't expect to start getting a stream of solid data until late next spring, and it could take the entire mission to really get the goods.

"It really depends on how benevolent Mars is feeling, how many marsquakes it throws at us," Banerdt said Sunday. "The more marsquakes, the better. We just love that shaking, and so the more shaking it does, the better we can see the inside."

Mars' well-preserved interior provides a snapshot of what Earth might have looked like after its formation 4.5 billion years ago, according to Banerdt. While Earth is active seismically, Mars "decided to rest on its laurels" after it formed, he said.

By examining and mapping the interior of Mars, scientists hope to learn why the rocky planets in our solar system turned out so different and why Earth became a haven for life.

Still, there are no life detectors aboard InSight. That will be part of NASA's next mission, the Mars 2020 rover, which will prowl for rocks that might contain evidence of ancient life. The question of whether life ever existed in Mars' wet, watery past is what keeps driving NASA back to the fourth rock from the sun.