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NOE GARCIA, The Sentinel 

Sierra Pacific center Alana Roberts (left) forces a tie-up during the fourth quarter of a CIF State Division IV second-round game against Linfield Christian at Sierra Pacific High School on Thursday.

Some High-Speed Rail questions answered

HANFORD — Around 100 people gathered at Kit Carson Elementary School on Thursday night to ask some burning questions they had about the California High-Speed Rail.

The Rail Authority hosted an open house at the Hanford school to give an update about the project that affects Kings, Fresno, and Tulare counties, along with receiving feedback and answering questions related to construction activities, project schedule and traffic management.

Recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he's ending the state's effort to build a high-speed rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles and is instead focusing on construction of the link from Merced to Bakersfield in the Central Valley.

Diana Gomez, Central Valley regional director, gave an update on the project, saying there is:

  • Approximately 119 miles under construction from Madera to Bakersfield.
  • Over 2,600 local workers, including close to 100 from Kings County.
  • Approximately 36 grade separations in the Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties, including viaducts, underpasses and overpasses.
  • Over 1,300 parcels acquired by the Authority, including 228 in Kings County, and still 160 parcels needed.

Michael Costa, project director for contractor Dragados Flatiron, also gave an update on construction activities. He said workers are doing demolition, utility relocation, embankment construction and bridgework on acquired property within the construction package.

In Kings County in particular, Costa said there are three bridge locations at Excelsior, Kent and Kansas avenues. The county is also home to one of the largest precast plants in nation, where the precast girders used for the bridges are built.

After the presentation, members of the audience were able to ask questions. Following is only some of the questions asked and the answers that were given.

Is there money to pay for this project?

Gomez said there is a sufficient amount of money to build the currently-slated Central Valley section of the High-Speed Rail.

When will a High-Speed Rail train be operational?

“Our goal is to have a train up and running by late 2026 or early 2027,” Gomez said, which was met with chuckles from the audience.

Where will the stops be in the Central Valley?

Stations will be located in Merced, Fresno, Kings County and Bakersfield. The station in Kings County is planned to be at state Route 43 and Grangeville Boulevard.

Who is going to fix the roads that have been destroyed by trucks traveling back and forth for the project?

Gomez said it is part of the contract for contractors to repair the roads before the project is over.

What is the Authority’s plan for maintaining property it has acquired?

Gomez said when a property is acquired, it must be abated first before any demolition is done. In terms of properties that will not have demolition done, she said people should start to see more activity and management at those locations.

She also said properties will be assessed to figure out if they are excess or if homes can be rented or leased out.

What will happen with Amtrak and will there even be enough High-Speed Rail riders?

Doug Verboon, vice chair of the Kings County board of supervisors, attended the meeting and provided some insight on this topic.

Verboon is on the Amtrak board and clarified that there are no plans for Amtrak to shut down and riders will have a choice between it and the High-Speed Rail.

Gomez said analysis in the business plan shows that projected ridership numbers will be sufficient.

Two Adventist Health providers receive Patriot Award

HANFORD — Dozens gathered outside Adventist Health in the rain Friday afternoon to celebrate the achievements of two local clinicians.

Retired U.S. Army General Jim Combs and Physician Assistant Serenity Holden arrived via a Eurocopter UH-72 Lakota helicopter shortly before 3 p.m. to present a rare military award to Dr. Michael Boulton and Dawn Huong-Schleif.

Working out of Adventist Health Hanford, Boulton is an emergency room physician and Huong-Schleif is a nurse practitioner. Both received The Patriot Award, an honor created by the United States Department of Defense to recognize employers who support military members in their employ.

“You have a reputation of passion and commitment for the well-being of those that you serve,” Gen. Combs said, addressing hospital staff Friday. “I can tell you the military has a lot in common with those values that you demonstrate here in this hospital.”

Holden, a former Adventist Health Hanford employee and current First Lieutenant in the California Army National Guard, wrote the nomination letter to recognize her supervisors. The nomination noted that Boulton and Huong-Schleif made her deployments “painless” and that the supervisors were “very supportive.”

Boulton and Huong-Schleif were presented with certificates from the Department of Defense recognizing their commitments to “liberty and freedom” by supporting “the well-being of our national defense.”

Concerned parents meet to discuss social media ills

HANFORD — A group of parents met in Hanford Thursday evening to discuss what one mother called a “huge epidemic that’s getting out of control” — social media.

Mother Leeandra Dupree-Coleman founded the group, Not My Kid, to raise awareness about what she calls the dangers of social media after finding a sexually explicit hand-written note in her 15-year-old-son’s possession recently.

“We just want to save a few kids from making bad decisions,” Dupree-Coleman said during the meeting, held at the Comfort Inn in Hanford.

Dupree-Coleman led about a dozen parents in a round-table discussion about the perceived ills of the Internet age, including topics like sexting, pornography, cyber bullying, the Momo challenge and video games.

During the group’s first of a planned series of ongoing meetings, a screenshot of the “Most Dangerous Teen Apps of 2019” was discussed, which included social media apps Facebook Messenger and Nextdoor, dating apps like Tinder, Grindr and Badoo, as well as music video streaming app TikTok.

“Snapchat is the devil,” Kings County District Attorney Investigator Perla Trejo said.

Trejo cited the fact that Snapchat, a photo-sharing and messaging app, prides itself on its privacy features and also is not known for cooperating with law enforcement during investigations. She said that the District Attorney’s office deals with issues concerning “revenge porn” stemming from the app. “Revenge porn” is the act of distributing sexual explicit photos of a person without their consent.

Dupree-Coleman said that the Not My Kid group will tentatively meet next at 6 p.m. Monday, March 11 at the Comfort Inn to further discuss the group’s message and how to work closely with law enforcement and local educators to create awareness and come up with ways to avoid falling into the dangers of cell phone addiction, peer pressure and other internet-based dangers children and teens may face.  

Those interested in joining the group can contact or call or text 559-333-1145.

Sheriff: Woman and man burglarized home several times

HANFORD — On Thursday, the Kings County Sheriff's Office arrested two people they believe burglarized a Kings County home multiple times, officials said.

Deputies said the first incident occurred on or around Feb. 14 when a house in the 12200 block of Douglas Avenue was burglarized and a washer dryer set was stolen, along with a gate remote control.

They said the house is listed for sale and the property caretaker was not home at the time.

Sheriff’s officials said they believe the same suspects then came back on Wednesday and were in the process of burglarizing the home again when the caretaker arrived at the house.

Although the caretaker arrived during the burglary, deputies said they did not see the suspects, who fled the scene on foot and left their vehicle behind.

Inside of the vehicle, deputies said they located a purse with an ID inside of it that belonged to 31-year-old Jennifer Crow. Deputies said they located Crow on Thursday afternoon and questioned her about the burglaries.

Sheriff’s officials said Crow admitted to being present during the burglaries and even told deputies that she and her accomplice, 36-year-old Jeremy Koelewyn, made a total of three trips to the house.

Later that afternoon, authorities said Koelewyn was arrested for his part in the crimes as well, along with four outstanding warrants.

Deputies were also able to recover the stolen washer and dryer and return them to the property owner.