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Local
Post office lobby locked

HANFORD — After a long day at work, most people have a particular routine. For some, it involves getting their mail.

The Hanford Post Office has locked the doors to their lobby after hours, preventing customers with P.O. boxes from getting their mail.

The big question is why?

A sign outside of the post office used to say that it was because of daily harassment to employees and customers and vandalism to the lobby, but it is a little bit more than what that might sound like. The sign is no longer there, but the problem still persists.

Timothy Tomlinson, the postmaster, said the decision to lock the lobby after employees leave was based on what they saw on their newly installed cameras.

A little over a month ago when security cameras were installed, they saw that people had decided to camp out in the lobby of the post office.

Tomlinson said there are close to 1,300 P.O. boxes rented out. The lobby is now open from around 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. depending on when the first postal worker gets there and when the last worker leaves.

Tomlinson said those camping in the lobby would urinate and defecate in the lobby and sometimes smear the defecation against the P.O. boxes or on the counters that are in the lobby. He said he assumes they are homeless people.

Before the cameras were installed, Tomlinson said they guessed something of the sort was happening because they would have to clean up the mess almost every morning.

In October, the post office started to notice that people had urinated in the lobby overnight, and from that, it escalated to defecation.

Tomlinson said they also found out through the security footage that the campers would smoke cigarettes indoors and put them out in the plastic trashcan. Tomlinson said that was a fire hazard.

“I am afraid someone is going to get hurt,” Tomlinson said. “It’s not safe for customers or employees.”

Tomlinson said there is not much the postal inspectors can do with this matter so the Hanford Police Department is helping with this situation

Tomlinson said the post office has also had two instances where the same man exposed himself to people on the property, once in the lobby and the other just outside. Both times the man said he was going to the restroom, and the people he exposed himself to did not want to press charges.

Since they began locking the doors the post office has received a few calls from P.O. box renters wanting to get their mail at late hours. Tomlinson said that those who have complained have understood the locked doors after hearing the explanation of why the doors are locked.

There have been no problems with human excrement when the doors are locked at night. Tomlinson said they have attempted twice in the past month to leave the doors unlocked; however, both times resulted in similar actions of vandalism.

“I guess they are checking each night,” Tomlinson said.

Police were not available to comment on this matter.


Local
Liberty Middle School is a 'School to Watch'

LEMOORE — There was a sea of blue inside the Liberty Middle School gymnasium Friday as hundreds of students packed into the bleachers to celebrate a big accomplishment.

Students, teachers, staff, board members, parents and guests celebrated the school’s selection as one of California’s 2018 Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage model middle schools.

“We are thrilled to have received this recognition,” said Principal Ben Luis in a press release. “Our staff and students have worked very hard in an exciting and challenging middle school program to demonstrate strong student achievement. This ceremony is an affirmation of the fine work so many have done in the school, district and larger community.”

California’s Schools to Watch-Taking Center Stage program uses a competitive, rigorous review process to identify high performing, high impact middle schools so that all middle schools may have models of real-world success.

Liberty Middle School serves seventh- through eighth-grade students in Lemoore Elementary School District and is one of just of 112 model schools that have been identified statewide since 2003.

The program is provided by the California Middle Grades Alliance, which includes the California League of Middle Schools, California Department of Education and other statewide educational organizations who are partners in the California Middle Grades Alliance.

Superintendent Cheryl Hunt said Luis and the entire staff of Liberty Middle School embarked on a transformation that began with understanding “the why behind our work.”

“Our ‘why’ is grounded in making an impact and a difference in the lives of all the students that we serve,” Hunt said, adding teachers are the heart of the work and understand their role in shaping students to be successful.

“The team at Liberty has a focused vision of what success looks like and strives toward obtaining it each and every day for the over 600 students we are privileged to serve,” Hunt said.

Hunt commended all staff and students for maintaining high expectations and committing to excellence both in and out of the classroom.

Two students spoke during the ceremony about what they find special about Liberty Middle School.

Student Hanna Garcia said she struggled with what to talk about because there were just too many great things the school does to help students.

“At the end of the day, I know that the most important thing is that teachers and staff do everything to not only make sure that students are learning the academic content, but also to help us develop into young adults that will become productive citizens,” Garcia said.

Student Jonathan Martinez said he knows in the future that when he looks back on his time at Liberty, he will remember all the great people he met there, including the students, teachers and staff.

“The truth is that school can be stressful, but I know that when I come here every day, that there will be someone here to bring me up and make me better than the day before,” Martinez said. “That makes coming to Liberty every day such a great experience.”

Both students said they were proud to go to Liberty Middle School and love going to school every day.

The ceremony featured speeches from Kings County Office of Education Superintendent Tim Bowers; Lemoore Union Elementary School District Board President Tim Wahl; Lemoore Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Neal; and Carole Carlson and Scott Steele from the Schools to Watch program.

The event also included recognitions from representatives of the offices of Assemblymember Rudy Salas, Senator Andy Vidak and Congressman David Valadao.

There was plenty of school sprit to go around as the ceremony featured performances by the student choir, band, drumline, colorguard, sign language class and a video of students talking about what makes Liberty Middle School unique.

Carlson and Steele presented the school with a banner for its accomplishment and complimented everyone on their willingness to work together to achieve their goals.

In June, Liberty Middle School will also be recognized in Washington D.C. as a National School to Watch.


Crime
Man arrested for attempted murder in Lemoore

LEMOORE — A man was arrested Monday on suspicion of several charges, including attempted murder, after ramming a stolen car into several vehicles he believed contained his ex-girlfriend, Lemoore Police Department officials said.

Just after midnight on Monday, Lemoore police officers said they responded to a report of an altercation occurring at the Fastrip gas station in Lemoore, 775 N. Lemoore Ave.

Police said it was reported that a man, later identified as 26-year-old Damian Alston from South Carolina, intentionally collided a vehicle into his ex-girlfriend’s vehicle with her inside before fleeing the scene at a high rate of speed.

As officers responded to the Fastrip, they said they received another report of a traffic collision in the area of G and Follett streets. As officers arrived in the area, they discovered that one of the vehicles involved in the collision was the suspect vehicle from the incident at Fastrip.

The suspect vehicle was unoccupied at the time of their arrival, but police said there was another vehicle off the roadway which had collided into a tree. Officials said inside the second vehicle was an adult female victim and two young children.

During the course of the investigation, police said Alston was determined to be under the influence of alcohol. Officers said he used a stolen vehicle to assault his ex-girlfriend while she was inside her vehicle at Fastrip, as well as the occupants of the vehicle at the G and Follett streets collision.

Officers said they determined that Alston had run the victim’s vehicle off the road and into a tree believing his ex-girlfriend was in the vehicle. Upon discovering she was not in the vehicle, police said he fled the scene.

Officers said they were able to locate Alston a short distance away. Upon contacting Alston, police said he resisted arrest and was taken into custody after a short struggle.

The female victim in the collision at Fastrip did not receive any injuries, but officials said the woman and two children from the collision on G Street were transported to a local area hospital for major injuries.

Authorities said Alston was arrested on suspicion of multiple charges, including attempted murder, vehicle theft, criminal threats, driving while intoxicated causing injury and resisting arrest.

Officials said Alston was booked into the Kings County Jail with a bail set at $2.21 million.