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Hymns to play for another 50 years

HANFORD — Repairing its historic 108-year-old organ is no longer a pipe dream for the Episcopal Church of the Saviour.

Built in 1911, one year after the church was constructed, the church’s pipe organ is getting some much-needed care.  

“The options were that we either fix [the organ] or we play it until it fails and replace it with a modern digital instrument. We chose to stay with the pipe organ. It’s historical,” former Junior Warden Marty Martin said.

While still playable, it was estimated that without the repairs, the pipe organ would only have a year or two left before failing completely.

Martin said that the mechanisms needing replacement, the primary valves and leather bellows, are original parts. For context, the organ was built a few years before the start of World War I. William Howard Taft was the President of the United States at the time and it’s possible that veterans of the Civil War have heard the organ’s beautifully rich sounds.

The maintenance has been necessary since the 1960s, as these parts have a life of about 50 years.

With the repairs coming to a finish in the coming days, repairman Joe Lambarena of Porterville-based Villemin Pipe Organ Co. said that the sounds of the organ will fill the church for another half century, at least.

“It depends on the quality of the material you use. Some people don’t want to use the proper material so they’ll cut corners and try to use something else and then 15 or 20 years down the line, the leather is failing. But there’s no reason that this won’t run for another 50 or 60 years,” Lambarena said.

Lambarena works on the historic organs all across the country, recently working to repair an organ in Missouri that was originally built in the first few years of the 1900s.  He has also worked on the organ at the historic Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  It was Lambarena’s boss who first spotted the need for the repairs to the the leathers and primaries — back in the ‘60s.

Ahead of schedule, the organ work will be completed next week. The instrument’s new, healthier sound will make its official debut during morning services on Sunday, Feb. 17, though Martin said it’s possible that church-goers will be treated to a “practice run” as soon as tomorrow.

The repairs come with a hefty $13,000 bill. The church is accepting donations to help cover the costs of preserving the historic organ.

“We had the money in the bank for a while and we’ve finally approved it to be done, but we’d love to replace that money in case anything else in the future needs to be repaired or replaced,” he said.

There are currently only a handful of these organs still in operation in Hanford.

A full organ recital led by the church’s dedicated organist, Tyrell McKenzie is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 14.

The Episcopal Church of the Saviour is located at 519 N. Douty St., Hanford. For more information, visit

A lasting impression

HANFORD — A handful of local high school students in Hanford have been working on a large project for the last couple weeks, and they’re hoping their work will stand the test of time.

The students have fabricated a large metal sign that will be on prominent display in Hanford.

Alvin Dias, parks superintendent, went to the Hanford City Council meeting on Jan. 15 to talk about the design for the Lacey Boulevard and Garner Avenue median.

Lacey Boulevard was resurfaced in January 2016 and as part of the project, Americans with Disabilities improvements required the sidewalk to be rerouted through the median. To put the sidewalk in, Dias said trees and landscape irrigation in the median had to be removed.

Instead of putting the same type of landscape back in the median, he said a Council member at the time wanted to see something different that would require less maintenance.

Dias said staff began to brainstorm ideas to transform the bare median that incorporated local history and industries that helped build the community.

Staff chose an agriculture theme that included a large fabricated metal sign that says “Hanford” on both sides, two tractors and some cows. Floodlights will light the sign at night.

The design was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission in December and staff started contacting local businesses and high school programs, which is when Hanford High School got involved.

When asked if his students could fabricate the Hanford sign, HHS ag teacher Michael Taylor said some of his students definitely had the skillset to do the project.

Seven of Taylor’s students in different grades — including some from Hanford West and Sierra Pacific high schools — worked on the sign during their respective class periods: Jordon Gibson, Trevor West, Britney Cardoza, Travis Olivera, Greyson Woolwine, George Dunker, Chase Avila.

Taylor said he thought the project would take until at least Easter, but surprisingly it only took a little over two weeks to complete. Each individual letter is 4 feet tall and the sign is about 30 feet long when put together.

Taylor gave the credit to his students and said he was proud of the work they did and excited for them.

“We’re really honored to be partnering with the city to do stuff in the community,” Taylor said. “This thing is going to be around a while so I had them do their best work.”

Gibson, 17, and Cardoza, 17 are both seniors in Taylor’s agricultural design and fabrication class.

Gibson said at first the project seemed daunting, but once they started and got the first pair of letters done, they realized it was pretty easy.

After living in Hanford her whole life, Cardoza said it made her feel good to be a part of making something that will be a part of the community. Gibson agreed, saying it was a nice feeling knowing he had helped make this Hanford monument.

“When I’m 80 years old I can come back and tell my grandkids, ‘See that right there? I built that’,” Gibson said.

Taylor said the Parks department is going to paint the sign and install it at the median. He said he was told the installation will most likely take place sometime in the spring.

Both Gibson and Cardoza encouraged the community to visit the sign once it’s installed.

Abortion case shows Roberts firmly at Supreme Court's center

Chief Justice John Roberts broke with the Supreme Court's other conservative justices and his own voting record on abortion to block a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Roberts didn't explain his decision late Thursday to join the court's four liberal justices. But it was the clearest sign yet of the role Roberts intends to play as he guides a more conservative court with two new members appointed by President Donald Trump.

Since the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy last summer, Roberts has become the court's new swing vote. He is, by most measures, a very conservative justice, but he seems determined to keep the court from moving too far right too fast and being perceived as just another forum for partisan politics in Washington.

"People need to know that we're not doing politics. They need to know that we're doing something different, that we're applying the law," Roberts said during an appearance this week at Tennessee's Belmont University.

Roberts' vote in the Louisiana case was the fourth time in recent weeks that he has held the decisive vote on 5-4 outcomes that otherwise split the court's conservative and liberal justices.

In late December, Roberts joined the liberals to keep Trump's new asylum policy from taking effect. It would have prevented immigrants from making asylum claims if they didn't enter the United States at a border crossing. Then, in January, Roberts voted with the conservatives to allow restrictions on military service by transgender individuals to be put in place.

On Thursday, a half hour before the court acted on the Louisiana law, Roberts voted with the conservatives to deny a Muslim death row inmate's plea to have his imam with him for his execution in Alabama. The federal appeals court in Atlanta had ordered the execution halted, but the Supreme Court lifted the hold and allowed it to proceed.

The final vote was the order to keep Louisiana's admitting privileges law on hold while the court decides whether to add the case to its calendar for the term that begins in October. Louisiana's law is strikingly similar to a Texas measure the justices struck down in 2016.

A district court judge had struck down the Louisiana law because he found it would have resulted in the closure of at least one, and perhaps two, of the state's three abortion clinics, and left the state with no more than two doctors who could meet the law's requirements. But the federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld the law, concluding it was not certain that any clinic would have to close.

So much of what the court has done in recent weeks has been through emergency appeals, cases that call for temporary, yet often revealing, votes. Unlike in cases that are argued and decided, the votes come with little explanation. When there is an opinion, it usually is a dissent.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the only dissent in the Louisiana case, arguing that the court should have allowed the law to take effect because it is not clear that doctors would have been unable to obtain hospital privileges during a 45-day transition period.

After the ruling, some Democrats seized on Kavanaugh's vote as proof that he was not following through on his assurances at his confirmation hearing to respect past Supreme Court decisions on abortion. But in his dissent he said otherwise. Kavanaugh acknowledged that the court's decision in the Texas case is the guiding precedent and seemed to suggest he might be willing to vote the other way if it turned out that hospitals were unwilling to afford the doctors admitting privileges.

The Louisiana clinics had argued that they would have been forced to stop performing abortions immediately and that clinics, once closed, are difficult to reopen.

Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump's two high-court appointees, are among six Trump-nominated judges who voted to let the law take effect, a sign that the president is carrying through on a campaign pledge to put abortion-rights opponents on the bench. The other four judges are members of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had refused to put the law on hold.

In 2007, Roberts voted to uphold a federal ban on an abortion method its opponents call partial-birth abortion. Three years ago, Roberts was in dissent when the court struck down a Texas law that is strikingly similar to the blocked Louisiana measure.

Justices often feel bound by a prior decision of the court, even one they disagree with, at least until the court formally takes on a case to consider overruling the earlier decision.

Snowbound California guests freed after 5 days at lodge

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 120 visitors and staff who were snowbound in a Sierra Nevada resort for five days have been freed, authorities said Friday.

Up to 7 feet (2 meters) of snow trapped the guests and staff at Montecito Sequoia Lodge in Kings Canyon National Park starting Sunday following a storm, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Alicia Embrey said.

Crews had to travel by snowmobile to get to the lodge in the mountains east of Fresno on Wednesday morning, when they ensured everyone was safe. They returned Thursday with additional supplies, she said.

Heavy equipment and crews then cleared more than 20 fallen trees and 8 miles (13 kilometers) of deep snow on the road leading to the lodge to allow guests and staff to finally leave the property on Thursday night.

Though some got bored during the snow-in, Embrey said the lodge had enough food, fuel and general supplies to keep everyone comfortable.

"Physically they were fine," Embrey said. "They were obviously happy to go home."

Joel Keeler posted several videos of his experience at the lodge on Twitter starting Tuesday, when the snow was still coming down and guests learned they still weren't going to be able to leave.

The next day, he posted: "It's cold, clear and beautiful, but we're still snowed in!"

"They are working hard to clear the road ... Still a lot of driveway left tho!" he wrote.

On Thursday, he posted that guests were finally going to go home, sharing video of the cleared roadway and a caravan of dozens of snow-capped vehicles snaking their way out next to towering snowbanks.

The snow that trapped the guests began falling Friday, blanketing the area with between 4 to 7 feet (1 to 2 meters) by Saturday night, Embrey said, adding that roads to the lodge were closed by Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, another winter storm is on the way to the region.

Meteorologists issued a winter storm warning for the southern Sierra Nevada starting Friday afternoon, predicting more snow, high winds and potentially hazardous conditions including falling trees and slick roads.

The Forest Service urged visitors to travel with extreme caution.

"The most recent storm has left very little room to maneuver and nowhere to put new snow," Ned Kelleher, chief ranger for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, said in a statement.

He added: "The trees are snow and ice laden and the accumulating new snow will cause failures."