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Tachi Palace hosts Commission on Aging fundraiser event

ARMONA — The Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino and the Kings County Commission on Aging are inviting the public to breakfast for eggs, bacon — and charitable giving.

During the Tachi Palace Community Breakfast, scheduled for 8:30-10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 25, the hotel and casino will match any donations made to the KCCOA.

The KCCOA, which was formally established in 1970, is a nonprofit organization that serves the needs of the county’s seniors with a variety of programs.

“We’re dealing with a lot more seniors with different issues than they used to have,” she said. “We’re doing things we’ve never had to do before,” said KCCOA executive director Bobbie Wartson.

The organization, which has a 15-person staff, provides health and behavioral services, legal services, nutrition programs, legal services and adult daycare services among other things.

“It’s a melting pot of many different programs and it’s a great resource for seniors — like me,” former Kings County director of Human Services and KCCOA donor Bill Gundacker said.

Wartson said the organization is currently seeking donations in order secure funds for a large federal grant offered through the Older Americans Act.

The nonprofit needs to raise just over $68,000 in order to receive around $600,000, which helps keep it operational. For the past nine years, these funds have come from the County General Funds.

In 2018, the county provided over $45,000 from the County General Fund to subsidize KCCOA’s adult day care service, but so far – several months past the normal due date – KCCOA has not received the remaining funds, nearly $55,000 that the county normally provides, to secure the OAA grant.

According to a Board of Supervisors agenda item dated June 26, 2018, the Kings County Human Services Agency has recommended that KCCOA “review … options on utilizing other funding sources to meet the operational needs and reduce the reliance on the County General Fund.”

While county funding of the KCCOA is optional, without these funds, the Commission on Aging finds themselves in need of donations to provide the matching funds to secure around $600,000 in federal funds.

“If we can’t match it, then we don’t get it,” Wartson said.

Wartson is hoping that donations that come in during the community breakfast fundraiser can help alleviate the shortfall.

“[The KCCOA] are providing services to seniors that no one else is providing. If anything, they could expand their services 10-fold, if they had the money, and the need would still be incompletely met,” local physician and KCCOA donor Dr. Jaime Aguet said.

Those interested in donating can attend the community breakfast, send a check care of Wartson to 10953 14th Ave. P.O. Box 598, Armona, CA 93202 or stop by the offices at that address.

The majority of KCCOA clients work with KCCOA on a regular basis, requiring help for a variety of reasons. The organization’s mission is to help those over age 60, particularly the isolated, lonely and frail. As many as 350 seniors will visit the office in any given week, Wartson said.

Via funds from United Way, the organization pays the rent and/or utilities of individual seniors once every two years.

 “This is a one-stop shop for seniors,” Wartson said.

For a small fee, the organization also provides an adult daycare for seniors who cannot care for themselves.

The Tachi Palace invited the KCCOA to participate in a community breakfast in 2018 which raised around $10,000 for the nonprofit, Wartson said.

In December, the Tachi Palace raised nearly $6,000 for the Valley Animal Haven and Adoption Center.

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Fire breaks out at downtown business

HANFORD — A fire broke out Wednesday in the second floor of a downtown Hanford business, causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage, according to the Hanford Fire Department.

Just after 7 p.m., fire department officials said dispatch received an emergency call saying there was smoke coming from a building on Seventh Street in downtown Hanford.

Hanford Engine 1 arrived at the scene and firefighters reported smoke and fire from the second floor of 109 W. Seventh St., the Shiny Sugar candy store.

Fire officials said Engine 1 assumed command of the incident and ordered crews to the roof and to the interior to locate the seat of the fire.

Fire crews were able to quickly stop the forward spread of fire and began overhaul and search for extension in the walls of the second floor, officials said.

The Kings County Fire Department assisted as a part of an automatic aid agreement and the department said a total of 16 fire personnel responded to this incident, including nine full-time personnel from the Hanford, five full-time personnel from Kings County, one Hanford volunteer firefighter and Fire Chief Ekk.

Fire officials said the damage is estimated to be roughly $7,500 to the building and $2,500 to its contents.

They said no civilians or fire department personnel were injured. The cause of this fire is still under investigation.

California governor offers $144 billion budget, ups savings

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a $144 billion general fund budget in his first spending plan Thursday, up 4 percent from the current year.

The new governor's budget includes $13.6 billion to build the state's reserves and to pay down state debt and its growing pension liability. It's in keeping with his promise to follow in the fiscally frugal path of his predecessor, termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown.

Like Brown, Newsom said he is girding the state against an inevitable recession.

"This budget lays a strong financial foundation for our state by eliminating debts, expanding the rainy-day fund and paying down our unfunded liabilities," Newsom said in remarks prepared for his budget address.

Newsom's proposal kicks off negotiations with the Legislature. Lawmakers have until June 15 to approve a balanced spending plan or lose pay.

Newsom has already outlined more than $2.5 billion in spending proposals focused on early childhood education and health care. He also plans to ask lawmakers to vastly expand the state's paid leave program for new parents. He's framed his budget as a "California for All" agenda that looks to close the gaps between rich and poor.

The Democratic governor is announcing his plans during a time of sustained prosperity in California, which clawed back from a $27 billion deficit following the Great Recession that required deep and painful cuts to education, health care and just about every other service offered.

This year, state revenue has soared since lawmakers and Brown approved a $139 billion budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The nonpartisan legislative analyst projected in November that lawmakers would have a $15 billion surplus to allocate next year on top of $15 billion in the rainy day fund, which is at the maximum allowed under the state Constitution.

Newsom will release his own revenue estimates along with his budget, which could include an even larger surplus if his economic forecasts are rosier. He did not immediately announce his budget surplus.

He promised in his inaugural address Monday that his budget would be bold.

"We will aim high and we will work like hell to get there," he said.

Among the budget items that Newsom has already outlined are a nearly $2 billion plan to support low-income children, with much of the money earmarked for construction of childcare facilities and kindergarten classrooms.

Taking a page from Brown's budget playbook, which targets as much new spending as possible on one-time expenditures that don't carry a long-term cost, Newsom has focused much of his new early childhood spending on construction projects. That will limit the long-term cost of his initiative and help Newsom maintain his pledge to preserve rainy day savings.

He also wants a big boost in funding to provide full-day preschool and kindergarten to all children.

Helping low-income children in the crucial early years of life, when brains are developing rapidly, was a central campaign promise for Newsom, who has four young children and was elected with an overwhelming majority in November.

Newsom has also proposed expanding state-funded health care to low-income people living in the country illegally until their 26th birthday, up from a current cutoff at age 19. He wants to increase subsidies for people who buy their own insurance, rather than getting it from an employer or government program. His health proposals would cost $760 million a year.

And he plans to propose a significant expansion of California's paid leave program, which allows new parents to receive a portion of their paycheck while away from work following the birth or adoption of a child. Newsom wants to eventually offer six months of leave to be split between the parents, though his initial budget will include a smaller step in that direction.

California currently replaces a portion of wages for six weeks for new parents, and birth mothers can take an additional six weeks of disability leave. The program is funded through a payroll tax. It's unclear how he'd pay for a full six-month program.

Parker Bowman, the Sentinel 

Seniors line up for groceries at the Kings County Commission on Aging Food Bank at the Longfield Center in Hanford earlier this month. 

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Community Cleanup Day scheduled

HANFORD — What started as an idea to take care of problematic areas in the city has become an event to bring people together within the community, while doing a lot of good for each other.

On Sunday, Jan. 20, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. the first ever Community Cleanup Day is scheduled to take place.

The idea started with Hanford City Council members Art Brieno and Francisco Ramirez.

Brieno said while he and Ramirez were running their campaigns for City Council last year, they began talking about taking a closer look at areas in the city that are left with a lot of trash, particularly between 11th and 12th avenues near the railroad tracks where homeless encampments have been located.

Brieno said when areas like that are left with trash and other debris, it does not reflect well on the community. He said he began contacting different churches and groups to see if they were willing to help with cleaning and picking up trash.

“It always starts with where you live,” Brieno said. “It’s everyone’s community.”

The area was cleaned last month by the Hanford Police Department and railroad employees, who collected and disposed of 62 tons of trash.

While that area and others like it do get cleaned up by different groups periodically, Brieno said left behind trash is still a chronic problem for the city because those who are homeless don’t have the means to dispose of their trash or unwanted belongings.

Recently, Ramirez said he’s seen stories on social media about local people and children helping clean up parks. These stories finally spurred him and Brieno to set a date for the event and invite the whole community. He said he invited Councilman Martin Devine, who was on board.

“That’s what leaders do — they go out, put their gloves on and get to work,” Brieno said.

While the exact locations for the cleanups are yet to be determined, Ramirez said the group will start small with places like parks and other safe areas. He hopes that little by little, areas will get cleaned and it will benefit the entire town.

Ultimately, Ramirez said the goal of the event is to have an impact on Hanford by showing people what can be accomplished if they invest in their local community.

“You just need to give people the tools,” Ramirez said.

He also believes that in doing these types of events, citizens will get to know each other while doing something good for the whole community. Not to mention, they will get a certificate of appreciation and can add the volunteer hours to their resumes.

Ramirez said the first few events will be trial and error to figure out what works, but he and Brieno both hope this will catch on and perhaps become a monthly event. Brieno said if just 10 volunteers work those three hours, he believes a lot will be accomplished.

Ramirez promises that the current Council will be more proactive and Brieno said members are looking forward to discussing the growing homeless problem and developing a commission that will try to solve some of the overall issues.

“We want to have a community that’s healthy,” Brieno said.