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Year in Review: Madera news for 2016

The Madera Tribune Read on for highlights of the local happenings of 2016 as reported in the pages of The Madera Tribune.

January 2016 Wet December boosts water supply (Jan. 2 issue) — By the year’s end, the area’s wet season had surpassed both 2014 precipitation and the “normal” average. But 2015 still fell short of the local norm.

Deputy sheriffs sworn in (Jan. 6 issue) — Sheriff Jay Varney on Monday promoted three sheriff’s office employees and swore in two new deputy sheriffs. Rainbow Ausburn was promoted to senior program assistant. Robert Blehm and Joseph Wilder were promoted to sergeant. Samnang “Sam” Thach and Bradford Funk were sworn in as deputy sheriff.

Madera hosts wheelchair basketball tournament (Jan. 13 issue) — John W. Wells Youth Center hosted an inaugural Central Valley Wheelchair Basketball Tournament this weekend thanks to a partnership between Valley Children’s Hospital and Madera’s Parks and Community Services Department.

Cops launch MPAKT (Jan. 13 issue) — A pair of Madera police officers played cards and tricks while chatting with young people at John W. Wells Youth Center this weekend, but the duo weren’t messing around on a break. As part of the Madera Police And Kids Together project, a pair of officers will interact with youths at the center from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the first Saturday of every month.

Distemper strikes county (Jan. 16 issue) — Distemper, a contagious and often-fatal upper respiratory disease in dogs is again sweeping through the large population of unvaccinated puppies and adult dogs in the Madera area, according to veterinarians and staff members at the Madera County Animal Shelter.

Casino celebrated with formal opening (Jan. 20 issue) — Tribal and other civic leaders marked the formal grand re-opening of Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino with words and a symbolic cutting of ribbon. The casino’s “soft” re-opening on New Year’s Eve may have drawn in an eager crowd of casino patrons, but most seemed unaware of its official half-hour celebration Friday.

USDA, nonprofit aid local family (Jan. 23 issue) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s undersecretary for rural development, along with other people, visited a low-income Madera County family this week to put a face on efforts to aid those devastated by California’s continuing severe drought. Faustina and Estanislao Cabrera live southeast of Madera and southwest of the Bonadelle-Madera ranchos area.

Local CHP gets new area commander (Jan. 23 issue) — The Madera District office of the California Highway Patrol recently welcomed Lt. Mark A. Kairis as the area commander.

Attorney offers insight on human trafficking (Jan. 27 issue) — Selling people for sex is nearly as profitable as drug trafficking, according to a 2014 state attorney general report, with profits as much as $100,000 or more annually per victim. There are girls “as young as 13 years old being traded, almost having shares on her head (for) how many people owned her, even people back in her home country that owned a part of everything she earned no matter what establishment she was out” at, said attorney Carissa Phelps, herself a Valley sex trafficking survivor, author of “Runaway Girl,” and subject of the 2008 documentary “Carissa.”

February 2016 Board dismisses Chukchansi appeals (Feb. 3 issue) — The Interior Board of Indian appeals in Virginia has dismissed four appeals challenging a 2014 Bureau of Indian Affairs decision to reinstate the 2010 tribal council of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians.

Dry wells recharging groundwater (Feb. 6 issue) — Igal Treibatch, a farmer with 1,800 acres in southeast Madera County, has been at work over the past month installing dry wells on his property to help capture storm water. The dry wells are 24-inch holes bored 50 feet deep into low-lying areas, penetrating through hard-pan layers. These holes are then fitted with a perforated pipe and filled with coarse rock, allowing easier drainage of water into the underground aquifer.

Chowchilla policeman arrested (Feb. 10 issue) — Madera County sheriff’s detectives have arrested a 34-year-old Chowchilla police officer on charges of having sexual intercourse with a minor, and of rape. Authorities booked Tyler Jensen Hormel into county jail around 4 p.m. Monday.

Local hospital honored (Feb. 13 issue) — For a second year in a row, medical rating website has awarded orthopedic surgeon Dr. Cyril Rebel of Madera Community Hospital a 5-star honor for excellence in total knee replacement.

Yakligian chosen as Senior Farmer (Feb. 17 issue) — The Madera Chamber of Commerce has announced the selection of Maderan John Yakligian as its Senior Farmer of the Year. A Madera resident since 1955, Yakligian and his family have farmed cotton, grain, vegetable feed crops and beans. This still-active grower now farms almonds and raisin grapes, and raises chickens in the Dixieland area.

Gonzalez unveils 12-year facility plan (Feb. 20 issue) — Madera Unified School Superintendent Ed Gonzalez has lifted the curtain on a 12-year school facilities master plan that will open seven new schools, put two bond measures before local voters, and build a 160-acre educational complex that will include even more schools and a new athletic stadium.

Dummy explosive device found (Feb. 24 issue) — Avenue 12 was shut down and residents evacuated for several hours until authorities determined a realistic dummy bomb in the Madera Ranchos had no explosive components.

‘Unicorn’ startles motorists (Feb. 27 issue) — A white pony, outfitted as a unicorn for a children’s birthday party, led CHP officers on a not-so-merry chase Wednesday night as it darted in and out of traffic for several hours on busy Avenue 12. It was finally located in an orchard by the CHP H40 helicopter, using the heat-seeking FLIR radar.

CDC lauds Children’s Hospital for control of infections (Feb. 27 issue) — Valley Children’s Hospital is ranked in the top 10 percent of all hospitals in the country in preventing one of the most common types of healthcare-related infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Needle disposal kiosks installed (Feb. 27 issue) — Mid Valley Disposal has purchased and installed two new disposal kiosks for home-generated “sharps,” which are needles used to pierce the skin to deliver a drug. State law forbids throwing away sharps in home trash, recycling bins or compost containers.

Tribune writer, photographer honored (Feb. 27 issue) — Tribune staff Wendy Alexander and John Rieping were lauded for news and photography in the 27th annual George F. Gruner Awards announced Thursday night at a Fresno Art Museum reception.

March 2016 Sierra View students break in new playground (March 2 issue) — Sixth graders at Sierra View Elementary School finally know how to play on a playground. Since those students were in kindergarten, Sierra View’s playground was deemed unsafe to play on. The parent club raised $35,000 for a new playground and Golden Valley Unified School District approved $58,070 to purchase equipment.

Maderan promoted to general at Air National Guard ceremony (March 5 issue) — With family, friends, dignitaries, guests, officers and airmen present, Madera’s Clay Garrison was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in a ceremony held at the California Air National Guard Base at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

County celebrates energy projects (March 5 issue) — Madera County is set to save nearly $15 million in energy costs over future decades due to solar and energy efficiency upgrades, according to county supervisors and the county’s partner, OpTerra Energy Services. The projects improved the efficiency of the county library, government and jail complex by replacing the 40-year-old heating, ventilation and air conditioning at the library and installing solar panels at the other facilities.

Torlakson gives Madera high marks (March 9 issue) — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson held nothing back when asked what he thought of Madera’s two high schools after touring both campuses last week. “Fantastic! This is terrific! I see totally engaged students – articulate – excited about being in competition.”

Madtown Robotics headed to national championship (March 16 issue) — Two thousand cheering spectators filled Madera South High School’s gymnasium on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to watch robots from 49 high schools joust on the basketball court, which had been transformed into a land of castles, towers, drawbridges and moats. By the end, the local team won a berth in the national championship to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, April 27-30.

54,000 hours later, hospital volunteer considers retirement (March 19 issue) — If you’ve been in the lobby or gift shop of Madera Community Hospital within the past 23 years, you may have been greeted by a helpful woman wearing a blue jacket, the uniform of the hospital’s volunteers. Nadine Burpo, 83, is considering retirement after 54,000 hours of volunteer service. “Nothing is forever,” said the 16-year, full-time, gift shop manager. “We learn to adapt.”

Kids gather 10,000 eggs in just minutes (March 23 issue) — More than 100 children of ages 3 and 4 were lined up inside the fence of a softball field at Lions Town and Country Park. Thousands of candy-filled eggs had been scattered across the outfield. Within five minutes, the first of three “egg hunts” was over at this year’s Spring Fling Eggstravaganza sponsored by the city.

Chukchansi sues state to stop Madera casino (March 26 issue) — The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians has field a legal challenge against Gov. Jerry Brown’s support of placing a 305-acre site into trust for an off-reservation Native American casino and resort complex just north of Madera. The tribe filed its lawsuit in Madera County Superior Court on March 18, but didn’t announce its latest effort to stop the casino until Thursday.

Garibay calls it quits (March 26 issue) — After serving 25 years on the Madera Unified School District school board, Robert Garibay said he is bringing his tenure as a school trustee to a close, effective at the end of his present term in December.

Mark and Liz Delano want to keep their bees busy and healthy too (March 30 issue) — Nearly 1.8 million bee colonies are brought to the state to pollinate the almond crop. These hives are rented to growers to pollinate Madera County’s No. 1 crop. Raisin growers Liz and Mark Delano, and other grape growers, are joining in a practice of planting a cover crop of mustard and radishes in alternating rows throughout their vineyards, thus providing variety to the bees’ diets of pollen, hopefully reducing stress and leading to less collapses of honey bee colonies.

April 2016 Farmers to only get 30 percent of water supplies (April 2 issue) — For now, local water contractors such as Madera Irrigation District will receive only 30 percent of “Class 1” supplies from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency announced Friday. The first 800,000 acre-feet of water from the Millerton Reservoir on the upper San Joaquin River is considered Class 1. The next 1.4 million acre-feet is considered Class 2.

Special needs 5K run sees over 200 participants (April 6 issue) — The Madera Special Needs Sports and Recreation (MSNSR) presented its first Strides for Inclusion 5K run and family walk that attracted more than 200 participants. According to the organization’s founders, Fernando and Xochilt Santoyo, the nonprofit was created in 2014 by a group of parents who have children with developmental and/or physical disabilities.

Kaschts to be honored at Raymond parade (April 6 issue) — When the community of Raymond turns out for its annual parade on April 16, longtime residents Patti and Dale Kascht will be honored as grand marshals. Patti is a lifelong resident of Raymond. Dale transferred from Cold Spring, Minnesota, in 1983 to work at the Raymond granite quarry after working for its parent company.

Crowd of 200 honors Yakligian (April 9 issue) — A virtual who’s who of Madera County gathered Thursday evening to honor John Yakligian as the Madera Chamber of Commerce 2016 Senior Farmer of the Year. “My whole life I have always known there is nothing my dad can’t do,” said his daughter, Jane Wiebe. “He is a builder, an inventor and engineer … He looks at a situation and never sees how hard or impossible the project is, but immediately goes to work figuring out how to get the job done.”

Collapse closes Schnoor Ave. (April 13 issue) — What began as a “very small divot in the road” cracked and opened before the eyes of Madera Police Officer Matt Sauceda into a large sinkhole early this week in Schnoor Avenue, between Howard Road and 5th Street. Later Monday, the surface hole had grown to about 12 by 25 feet, according to Madera Police Sgt. Daniel Foss. It was about 15 to 20 feet deep. The city began pumping sewage from the sewer line break into a manhole closer to 5th Street.

It’s Rose Elementary (April 16 issue) — On a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, Madera Unified trustees chose to name the district’s next school Virginia Lee Rose Elementary. The school board’s choice beat out John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Sunrise for the honor. Two hundred seven names had been submitted to the board by the public in January. The late Rose is considered by many to have been one of Madera’s most dedicated community boosters.

Desmond kids lend a hand for neighbors (April 16 issue) — A group of Desmond Middle School students are giving new meaning to their upcoming open house. Some of the young scholars will look for a way to help some of their neighbors, both young and not so young. Under the guidance of counselor Jaimee Ashburn and leadership teacher Jody Salazar, the kids have organized a clothing drive and even brought in some of their own to contribute to some in the Desmond School community who are in need.

CHP honors man who saved a family (April 16 issue) — A Madera man was lauded as a hero by the California Highway Patrol for his lifesaving efforts after pulling a woman and her two young children to safety when their SUV overturned and caught fire Oct. 7, 2015, in a crash on State Route 99. Kirk Cardoso, 33, received the CHP’s Community Service Certificate at an honorary luncheon Wednesday.

Athlete-scholar picks West Point (April 20 issue) — Another rough Madera High School water polo practice has ended; one teammate is celebrating a birthday and another, captain Eric “Ricky” Niino J., is on his way to West Point. Niino was also accepted at two more of the nation’s military academies: the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

High winds make a mess of city (April 23 issue) — High winds, a storm and a twister struck Madera on Friday, uprooting multiple trees, destroying a family’s gazebo, knocking out electricity, toppling a utility pole at Madera High School, and tearing away part of a large mosaic on the facade of St. Joachim Church.

Gang leaders busted in Madera (April 23 issue) — Conspiracy to commit murder, sex trafficking, pimping and prostitution, and fraud. These are the charges filed against the Dog Pound Gang of Fresno, Clovis and Madera, with operations stretching to the East Coast — a gang that, according to law enforcement — has terrorized Fresno for more than a decade.

County Supervisors fund K-9 sheriff’s unit (April 23 issue) — The Madera County Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to fund the K-9 Deputy program. At Tuesday’s meeting, Sheriff Jay Varney and Chief Civil Deputy Michael Motz of the Madera County Sheriff’s Department made their case before county officials, citing need for a K-9 unit, pointing out past contracts to use police dogs from outside departments. The sheriff had a K-9 unit 10 years ago, but attrition caused it to dissolve.

Deputies seize 2-house pot grow in Oakhurst (April 27 issue) — Sheriff’s deputies raided two houses in Oakhurst and found marijuana growing indoors as well as messes typically associated with indoor marijuana cultivation. One man was arrested. Deputies found the two residence fully converted for indoor pot raising.

Cows come to educate Madera school (April 27 issue) — As the children of Sierra View Elementary School took their seats on the ground on Tuesday morning, instructor Mishael McDougal opened the trailer doors, revealing the dairy cow Daisy inside. In back, a calf waited as well. It was part of the Mobile Dairy Council, a program run by the Dairy Council of California. Instructors go from school to school, teaching children about the dairy products they eat and where they come from.

Letourneau named Cowbell of the Year (April 27 issue) — A cowgirl beauty queen from Madera has been selected as the 2015 Cowbelle of the Year. Frank Letourneau, nee Mathis, grew up working cattle with her family. The youngest of four daughters born to Frank and Marjorie Mathis in Richmond, she is named for her father who was hoping for a son.

HSR board says yes to a transfer station in Madera (April 30 issue) — A proposal to build a connecting station in Madera for the high-speed rail has been adopted by the California High-Speed Rail Board. The proposed station, which would connect with the Madera Amtrak stop, east of the city and adjacent to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe track, was proposed by authority staff, and adopted Thursday by the directors as part of the 2016 business plan for the multibillion-dollar project.

May 2016 Relay for Life raises $90,000 and counting (May 4 issue) — The annual American Cancer Society’s Madera Relay for Life at Lions Town and Country Park this past weekend raised $90,000, this year’s Relay Committee announced. Madera civic leader Jim Taubert, a recent cancer survivor, gave the keynote address. “For all of us survivors, we know what a caregiver can do for your spirit and helping in your fight, and my number one caregiver is my wife, Mardi,” he said.

County, city officials embrace new station, despite rail-line doubts (May 4 issue) — Members of the Madera County Board of Supervisors and Madera City Council have come forward to support the addition of a connecting station for the High-Speed Rail in Madera, despite the opposition to the rail project itself.

Parents to check on kids via Internet (May 4 issue) — Madera Unified School District has forged a pathway into the Internet so that parents can take a one-stop shopping trip online to monitor virtually every indicator of their children’s performance at school. Using a district-supplied parent portal accounts, grades, attendance, progress reports, homework, and a host of other data can be checked at any time.

Madera turns out to pray (May 7 issue) — A full Hatfield Hall at Madera Fairgrounds hosted the 16th Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in conjunction with the 65th annual National Day of Prayer. Each of the 10 seats at all 42 tables were occupied for the Thursday event, according to Toni Jordon of the Madera Chamber of Commerce. Madera Mayor Rob Poythress and Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer were featured speakers. The theme was Isaiah 58:1.

Latinas Unidas honors Mother of the Year (May 11 issue) — Latinas Unidas, the 45-member organization of Latina women in Madera, honored its Mother of the Year, Petra Gonzales, at its annual Mother’s Day brunch. The group also heard an address from its founder, Martha L. Lopez, who now lives in Bellingham, Washington, after retirement.

Madera artist to go to Washington (May 11 issue) — Despite barriers in language, finances and education, a Madera student will go to Washington, D.C., after winning first place at the Congressional Art Competition. During the trip, Rigoberto “Rigxx” Santiago, a senior at Mountain Vista High School, will see where his winning entry will be displayed in the nation’s Capitol. His submission was a portrait in pencil, “The Marine.”

Latino educators celebrate education (May 14 issue) — Madera’s chapter of the Association of Mexican American Educators (AMAE) celebrated education this week by presenting nine $1,000 college scholarships and its Educator of the Year award. The 2016 award went to 
retired principal Mario Torres, who spent 37 years in education including 20 years with Madera Unified School District. He served as a resource teacher at Washington School, counseled migrant students at Madera High School and taught English to adult students.

State report says more graduates, more rigor in Madera schools (May 18 issue) — A report released Tuesday in Sacramento brought good news to Madera Unified School District. Madera’s high schools continued the annual increase in their graduation rates, with Madera High School reaching 96.7 percent, up 1.4 percent from last year. Madera South High School hit 90.9 percent, up 1.7 percent from last year. Liberty High School fell to 94.9 percent, down from 96.2 percent the previous year.

Madera veterans fly to Washington, D.C., with honor (May 21 issue) — Even battered, bruised and blue, Korean War veteran Dick Haupt was going to go on his final mission to Washington with honor. Just four days before the 82-year-old Madera resident was scheduled to go on Central Valley Honor Flight #9, he was in a car accident that left him with stitches. Nevertheless, Haupt was one of 67 veterans from 26 hometowns in Central California selected for the three-day trip to the nation’s capital last week.

Sexual predator alleged to be teaching at Madera South High (May 28 issue) — An alleged sexual predator, who has impregnated one teenage student and coerced her into having an abortion to cover it up, is currently teaching at Madera South High School, according to charges made during Tuesday night’s school board meeting by Leslie Swan, a former teacher at Madera South. She accused former school district administrators of a coverup, but specifically excluded the administration of Madera South.

June 2016 Alleged predator on paid leave (June 1 issue) — Madera Unified Superintendent Ed Gonzalez said the district had placed a teacher accused of inappropriate relationships with high school students on administrative leave with pay Thursday following an unfinished internal investigation.

Poythress, Gallegos, both props win locally; Trump outpolls Clinton (June 8 issue) — Madera County election results were too incomplete to call Tuesday evening as precinct results continued to be counted, but early vote-by-mail results suggest political strength in familiarity.

Sinkhole on SR 41 in Oakhurst (June 11 issue) — A deceptively small sinkhole on State Route 41 in Oakhurst blocked about three feet of the southbound lane Thursday and Friday, the California Highway Patrol reported. Though seemingly little, Caltrans said the hole was larger beneath the roadway — about 8 feed wide by 6 feet deep — and was expected to require extensive repairs.

Distinguished alumni address Madera seniors (June 15 issue) — Two distinguished Madera Unified School District alumni returned to Madera High School and Madera South High School last week to address graduating seniors. Brig. Gen. Clayton Garrison spoke to Madera High’s graduating class Thursday and historian Tenisha Armstrong delivered the commencement address for Madera South High School.

Madera High senior graduates in hospital (June 15 issue) — On Thursday, Chonna Defranco, mother of Chayla Wiggers, accepted a Madera High School diploma earned by her daughter, who had been hospitalized in a serious car accident. The family and the school district worked together to bring the ceremony to Chayla in the hospital via live video.

First Family visiting Yosemite (June 18 issue) — The National Park Service will be working doubly hard this weekend, both to host President Obama and his family, and to ease the impact of that visit on other guests. Air Force One brought the First Family to Merced County Castle Airport in Atwater on Friday evening. They stayed overnight in the glacial Yosemite Valley, and will continue their visit today at Yosemite National Park, which lies in Madera, Mariposa and Tuolumne counties.

1,200 flock to business, home expo (June 18 issue) — More than 1,200 people flowed through Hatfield Hall during a showcase of local services, commerce and classic cars Thursday evening at the Madera District Fairgrounds. A few attendees won $5,000 to $10,000 grants to buy a home in Madera before mid-October. A pre-approval letter must be submitted by the end of this month.

County amends pet rules (June 22 issue) — Without discussion, four of five Madera County supervisors approved amendments Tuesday to rules on licensing and vaccinating animals, including a new option to license cats in a similar fashion as dogs. Rural owners of dogs will now have until a puppy reaches four months of age before they have to license it.

Final election results released (June 25 issue) —In a strong show of interest, half of Madera County’s 54,017 registered voters submitted their ballots, mostly absentee, in the consolidated presidential primary election June 7. The Grand Old Party, which since 1972 has dominated local elections, had a relatively weak showing this time. Meanwhile Democrats hit the upper end of their normal range of voter participation.

Scientists find deep aquifers in Valley (June 29 issue) — Under the Central Valley lies nearly three times as much fresh groundwater and four times as much drinking water than previously estimated, according to Stanford University researchers. Unfortunately, some of that deep water will have higher amounts of salt than shallow water and would require treatment before being usable. Pumping the water will also be more expensive due to the greater depth, and would cause more land subsidence.

July 2016 New sinkhole opens at Schnoor and Howard; intersection closed (July 2 issue) — Repairs on a 3-foot-by-4-foot sinkhole in the pavement are expected to keep the intersection of Howard Road and Schnoor Avenue closed until late next week. The sinkhole opened up beneath a 19-ton asphalt grinder as work was being done on sewage lines on Schnoor Avenue on Wednesday night.

Madera veterans take to the skies in Honor Flight (July 6 issue) — Sixty-five veterans of World War II and the Korean War joined in the 10th Central Valley Honor Flight on June 27-29. The program provides free three-day trips to Washington, D.C. Over the last three years, Central Valley Honor Flight has transported 667 veterans.

Valley Bowl re-opens after repairs (July 6 issue) — For the past month, Valley Bowl owners Patti and Terry Hoban have waited for the day when they could re-open its doors. That day arrived Saturday when the unmistakeable sounds of pins getting knocked down could be heard after repairs to support beams in the center.

Newest council member sworn in (July 9 issue) — Cece Foley Gallegos was sworn in Wednesday as Madera’s newest City Council member. She was elected in June to fill in the remainder of the term of former council member Sally Bomprezzi, who resigned at the end of 2015. Bomprezzi said she quit the council to care for her aging mother. Gallegos is a Madera Unified School District teacher, and vice president of the Madera Unified Teachers Association.

Supes OK funding for arts center (July 13 issue) — The Madera County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to contribute $95,862 to help fund the Downtown Madera Master Plan and Performing Arts Center. The board also okayed a contribution of $85,655 for a study and recommendations on renovating the old county library. The renovations could provide for an art gallery, while renovation of the former courthouse would allow for a performing arts center.

Thrive’s permits revoked by panel (July 16 issue) — The Madera planning Commission has voted to revoke the three conditional use permits that have allowed the gymnasium at Sunset and Orchard avenues to operate since the 1970s under several ownerships.

Rochelle Noblett is named Madera County Arts Council executive director (July 16 issue) — Somewhat dwarfed by stacks of labeled boxes, file cabinets and bookcases surrounding her desk, Rochelle Noblett sits as the newly selected Madera County Arts Council executive director. She was president of Pete’s Sports Shop in downtown Madera for 36 years.

Mobile game fad shows locals Madera (July 20 issue) — A surprisingly viral smartphone app has led Maderans from ages 4 to 40s out of their home this month to meet Madera and their neighbors for a high-tech virtual monster hunt. “It’s really positive for me,” said Pokemon Go user Chloe Prichard, 16. “I don’t really get out of the house a lot. I have a heart condition. I really felt like I was home bound and my boyfriend thought it would be good for me. It’s been really great to get out.”

Drug lab explosion displaces neighbor (July 23 issue) — A butane explosion in the Parkwood area near Madera has left more than a dozen people displaced. According to Madera County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Ward, the house in the 27000 block of Stanford Avenue caught fire when a butane honey oil lab exploded Thursday morning. Butane honey oil, or hash oil, is a highly concentrated substance made by burning marijuana with butane gas.

Maderans on way to Krakow (July 23 issue) — Ten young Maderans will visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in Poland today. They and an estimated 2 million other Catholics of 187 nations are making their way to the triennial World Youth Day. The spiritual yet festive encounter of Catholic youths with each other and the Pope will be in the southern Polish city of Krakow from Monday through July 31.

50 years of haircuts (July 27 issue) — In the 1960s while many of his contemporaries were turning on and dropping out Robert Haley began a job he still performs 50 years later. “I always thought I would cut hair for 10 years or so and then go do something else” said Haley, owner of Morgan’s Barber Shop. They way men wear their hair has changed dramatically in the last half century, Haley said.

Search and Rescue finds a new crew ready to go (July 27 issue) — On Friday, the graduates of the 2016 Search and Rescue academy were sworn in by Sheriff Jay Varney. This year 50 people applied to the academy and 29 of those made it through the rigorous training – 18 men and 11 women.

Irrigation district extends water deliveries (July 27 issue) — Local irrigation canals won’t be drying up just yet. Though originally projected to end this week, surface water deliveries will continue through August, whether in full or in part, according to the Madera Irrigation District. The district began delivering water to growers on March 20.

Locals selling T-shirts to support police (July 27 issue) — A new black T-shirt being sold displays a U.S. flag in white with one of its stripes in blue. The design is not a symbol of protest or mockery, but rather of support for local police. A discussion between Nic Landeros and Emmanuel Gomez, of Andy’s Sports & Design, about recent killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge prompted the creation of the T-shirts.

North Fork casino gets another OK (July 30) — The North Fork tribal casino planned for land north of Madera off Avenue 17 west of State Route 99 once more has received federal approval, this time from the Department of the Interior, according to tribal spokesman Charles Banks-Altekruse.

Food Expo a success for Madera producers (July 30 issue) — Farmers, brewers, winemakers and food producers from Madera were given the chance to show off their products to buyers and tasters at the 6th annual Fresno Food Expo. Twelve different Madera County vendors set up during the expo.

August 2016 Car smashes historic landmark (Aug. 3 issue) — Fate has struck a cruel blow to a unique part of Madera’s history. The Borden Chinese Cemetery’s ancient altar is lying in pieces, the victim of a single-vehicle accident. Along with seven tombstones and two memorial plaques, the altar was the only remaining evidence of the 19th century town of Borden ever had a Chinatown. The altar’s demise came about 7:30 a.m. July 26 when a driver lost control of his car.

Dr. Kenneth Bernstein retires after 43 years (Aug. 10 issue) — After 43 years of practicing the art and science of healing, Dr. Kenneth Bernstein is retiring. Over 200 people made it official Friday evening at a retirement celebration for the chief medical officer of Camarena Health Center.

Alleged prowler jumps wrong fence (Aug. 13 issue) — At the kickoff for last week’s National Night Out, Madera Police Chief Steve Frazier would speak on the importance of knowing and interacting with neighbors to deter crime. A week later, he and his neighbors would do that and more in response to a possible would-be burglar, who jumped over the wrong fence. Now in county jail, suspect Douglas Owens, 45, allegedly jumped into the backyard of Frazier, who was off-duty and barbecuing steaks. Frazier and neighbors chased and caught the suspect.

Taiwan comes to Madera in goodwill visit (Aug. 17 issue) — The striking of a large brass gong in the lobby of Madera’s City Hall kicked off a visit of music and cultural exchange. A company of dignitaries and musicians who arrived in Madera on Sunday are all residents of Yilan in northern Taiwan. Yilan became Madera’s sister city in 1994. Since then, Yilan has grown to surpass Madera by more than 34,000 people.

Mail theft a problem for Madera County (Aug. 17 issue) — Deputies of the Madera County Sheriff’s Office are warning residents about a growing problem of mail being stolen, particularly in rural areas where residents rely on roadside mailboxes. “Stealing from an unsecured mailbox only takes seconds, but problems arising from the theft can take months or longer to resolve,” said Cmdr. Bill Ward.

17 complete day reporting program (Aug. 17 issue) — Seventeen former drug offenders celebrated their completion of a transition program recently along with family and government officials during a dinner at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall. During the ceremony, a young girl ran up to give graduate Ricardo Robles a high five. “She’s my little sidekick,” he said later, “so everwhere I go she wants to be there. I could see the look on her face that she’s really proud of me.”

Ground broken for Rose Elementary (Aug. 20 issue) — Family and friends of the late Virginia Lee Rose gathered with local dignitaries to break ground in northeast Madera for a new elementary school that will be named in her honor. Virginia Rose, who volunteered heavily in community organizations, would posthumously receive a Lifetime Achievement Award later Thursday.

‘Angel’ saves woman from fire (Aug. 20 issue) — A family in Madera County is in gratitude after their grandmother and their home were saved from a grassfire in their front yard by an “angel” living close by. Tracy Patterson had found his neighbor’s front yard on fire with Reoung Hum, 79, sitting down in the flames. It is believed she had fallen and was unable to rise. Patterson pulled her out of the flames, called 911, and fought the fire until CalFire arrived.

Transport program saves 1,440 animals (Aug. 20 issue) — A program begun 10 months ago to move dogs out of a crowded Madera County shelter to out-of-area humane societies and animal rescues has saved 1,440 animals, according to Friends of Madera Animal Shelter.

Madera public transit to grow (Aug. 20 issue) — Monday will bring changes to the city’s public transit service, Madera Area Express, with four new bus stops on its fixed routes and more frequent arrivals. Other enhancements are being worked on as well.

Schools’ report cards arrive (Aug. 27 issue) — Although 55 percent of its students failed to meet the state’s academic achievement standard in English/language arts and 65 percent missed the mark in math, Sherman Thomas Charter School nevertheless out-performed the rest of Madera Unified’s schools on state testing for the second year in a row. On Wednesday, the state released the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, its new annual assessment.

Almonds remain at top of Madera County’s ag products (Aug. 31 issue) — Madera County farmers and ranchers took it on the chin for almost a quarter-billion dollars last year, according to the Madera County Crop and Livestock Report for 2015. According to Madera County Agricultural Commissioner Stevie McNeill, “the gross value of all production in 2015 was $2,017,446,000, a decrease of $248,435,000 from 2014.”

Garden Club raises money for scholarships (Aug. 31 issue) — The Southeast Garden Club of Madera held its 8th annual scholarship banquet, raising thousands of dollars for students preparing for college. The dinner Saturday brought in $4,000 for five students, according to Garden Club member Wilhelmenia Fryer.

September 2016 Shocked by big tax bills (Sept. 10 issue) — Homeowners in the KB Home development between Road 28, and Knox Road, adjacent to State Route 99 in the city’s south end, are up in arms about steep bills they’ve suddenly received for taxes they were unaware they’d have to pay. The taxes are the result of a community funding district election held while the homes were still under construction prior to 2008.

Judge thwarts casino foes (Sept. 10 issue) — A lawsuit to stop the building of a casino-resort near Avenue 17 and State Route 99 met defeat this week when Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of U.S. District Court ruled in favor of North Fork Rancheria. In denying a motion by six plaintiffs, the chief judge upheld a 2012 decision by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Supes uphold quarry vote (Sept. 14 issue) — The Madera County Board of Supervisors has upheld a decision to allow Austin Quarry to be established near the intersection of state routes 145 and 41. Supervisors faced a sea of red and blue T-shirts at an 11-hour special meeting Monday and affirmed a July planning commission approval of the project. Both the commission and the supervisors backed the projects 3-2.

Women facing cruelty charges (Sept. 14 issue) — More than 25 dogs have been seized by Madera County Animal Control, after nearby residents reported the animals starving in cages in the backyard of a home in the 16000 block of Camden Drive. Melanie L. Sanchez Chamberlain, 36, may face felony charges of animal cruelty.

Supervisors vote to reject pay raise (Sept. 17 issue) — With a unanimous vote, Madera County supervisors abandoned an ordinance at their regular board meeting this week that would have effectively raised their pay by 25 percent. Board chairman Rick Farinelli said Tuesday he had hoped that raising the pay would push voters to “pay attention” to work he and his fellow supervisors do rather than whether they kiss babies and go to meetings.

Plane crash victims honored in ceremony (Sept. 21 issue) — A granite memorial has been unveiled in Memorial Courthouse Park, dedicated to the victims of an aviation accident that occurred 60 years ago. The memorial, which was erected by Grub Gulch Chapter No. 41-49 of E Clampus Vitus, was unveiled Saturday next to the Courthouse Museum.

Thrive Fitness loses permits (Sept. 24 issue) — The Madera City Council has voted to uphold a city planning commission to revoke the operating permits for Thrive Fitness, a gym and swimming pool operation at the corner of Orchard and Sunset avenues. The vote came Wednesday night after a nearly two-hour hearing during which people on both sides of the issue spoke firmly and sometimes emotionally about why they either wanted the gym closed or allowed to remain open.

24 trees felled at park (Sept. 24 issue) — Today’s Old Timers Celebration in Courthouse Memorial Park will lack two dozen longtime participants. I.V. Tree Services has cut down 24 Modesto ash trees there over the past four weeks for Madera County. Recent years of drought had weakened the ash trees, but their decline began long before now, thanks to unwise tree trimming that brought beetles and decay.

Arts council kicks off ag exhibition (Sept. 24 issue) — Diane Breuer’s pastel drawing “Jill’s Baby Goat” captured the Best of Show title at the 23rd annual Celebrate Agriculture with the Arts reception that kicked off the exhibition this week. Madera’s show features the work of 51 artists who submitted 79 entries judged worthy of display by art instructor and painter John F. Shaw of Morrow Bay.

Old Timers tradition parades on (Sept. 28 issue) — It can be a good day in September when gunslingers launch a shooting spree while walking down Yosemite Avenue in front of 1,600 bystanders – a good Old Timers Day at least. A longtime Madera tradition continued this weekend with a 90-minute downtown parade followed by about an hour of festivities at Courthouse Memorial Park.

October 2016 Madera student escapes abuse, adopted by foster family (Oct. 1 issue) — College junior Alexa Rivera arrived in Madera from Colorado for the weekend. Coming in on Thursday, she’ll leave again for school on Sunday, but with one difference – the 21-year-old will officially be adopted by her foster parents, and a member of the Rivera family. Her adoption certificate merely confirms something Alexa had known for five years — that Mario and Maria Rivera were her parents.

Locals celebrate Hispanic Heritage (Oct. 1 issue) — Songs by “God’s angels” and words of encouragement from a network TV show writer kicked off a National Hispanic Heritage Month potluck early this week in Fairmead, a half dozen miles southeast of Chowchilla. The celebration by Fairmead Community and Friends featured many speakers, including Fairmead native Moises Zamora, who is part of the upcoming season of “American Crime” on ABC.

Casino gives $30K to 9 nonprofits (Oct. 1 issue) — Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino donated $30,000 this week to nine nonprofits as part of its month-long Chukchansi Cares program. Each nonprofit spun the Wheels of Winning for a chance at up to $10,000.

County plan to buy ranch for off-highway vehicle park halted; Feds bungled process, supes say (Oct. 5 issue) — In a setback for their own plans, Madera County supervisors unanimously agreed to cancel an existing contract to buy Black Hawk Ranch in Coarsegold for an off-highway vehicle recreation park. The purchase relied on a grant through the Federal Highway Administration’s Recreation Trails program and was thwarted by the Uniform Relocation Act.

New deputies, chaplains, COPs sworn in (Oct. 5 issue) — Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney led three deputies, two chaplains and a Citizens on Patrol member in an oath of office at a simple ceremony Thursday evening in the agency’s office. The newly sworn-in servants of the law are deputies Brendan Johnson, Ryan King and Michael Murphy, Citizen on Patrol Jon Thompson, and chaplains Harold “Herk” Rolff, Nathan Nielsen and Sam Tallmon.

Pastor named grand marshal (Oct. 5 issue) — Madera South High School has chosen Roger Leach, senior pastor of Valley West Christian Center, as grand marshall for its homecoming parade and other pre-game festivities Oct. 14.

Madera musicians going to Taiwan (Oct. 8 issue) — Six Madera music teachers and a Madera Unified School District accompanist will leave for Taiwan on Sunday to represent the U.S. in the International Arts Festival in Yilan, where they will play jazz and perform with musicians from 11 other countries from around the world.

Cattlemen’s group chooses annual honorees (Oct. 12 issue) — The Madera County Cattlemen’s Association has chosen Brad Ruble as Cattleman of the Year and Florindo Alarcon as Cowboy of the Year. The recipients will be honored at a Fall Dinner on Nov. 11.

Books donated to juvenile hall (Oct. 12 issue) — The library at the Madera County Juvenile Detention Facility received a shipment of books and a new name – the Al Patchell Memorial Library. The donation came on behalf of the Sunrise Rotary Club, which worked with Deputy Chief Probation Officer Paul Deorian, who was active in expanding the library’s collection.

1st female head of Madera Elks Lodge elected (Oct. 12 issue) — Madera Elks Lodge #1918 has elected its first female exalted ruler. Denise Ann Holdcroft became familiar with the Elks during her childhood due to her father’s activity in the group. Since 2013, Holdcroft has consecutively held four elective offices in the lodge.

Church to celebrate 60 years (Oct. 22 issue) — Members of Madera United Methodist Church will play host today at a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the consecration of their church building at 500 Sunset Avenue.

Economic Summit says prep for challenges, more water rules likely (Oct. 22 issue) — State and local governments should prepare for the next economic downturn and more water restrictions may lie ahead, according to speakers at the county’s Economic Summit this week. California legislative analyst Mac Taylor and General Manager Tom Greci of Madera Irrigation District spoke at the annual gathering of civic and business leaders.

Search continues for suspects in officer shooting (Oct. 26 issue) — Madera police are still searching for the suspects who shot at an officer and a civilian ride-along during what was expected to be a routine traffic shop Sunday morning. Officer Julian Garcia was uninjured while the civilian suffered scratches from the broken glass.

Two down and one to go (Oct. 29 issue) — Two suspects have been arrested and arraigned and one is still on the loose in connection with a shooting directed at a Madera police officer and a civilian ride-along accompanying him in his patrol car. Serena Arroyo, 26, and Thomas Matthew Garcia, 33, were arrested Monday and Tuesday.

November 2016 Nite Lite offers good and clean Halloween fun for Madera families (Nov. 2 issue) — The Madera District Fairgrounds were swarmed with zombies, superheroes, pirates and princesses Halloween night, looking for free candy and out to play games. It was all part of Love Madera’s Nite Lite 2016 put on by the Madera Ministerial Association.

County unveils motto sign (Nov. 5 issue) — The Madera County Board of Supervisors unveiled the national motto, “In God We Trust,” in stainless steel letters on the wall of its government center chambers at its regular meeting this week. Board Chairman Rick Farinelli, supervisor of District 3, and Love Madera sponsored the permanent signage below the pre-existing county seal behind board member seats.

Pom Fest sets records at new venue (Nov. 9 issue) — Even a change in venue didn’t stop an estimated 10,000 people from heading out to the Madera District Fairgrounds for the Madera Chamber of Commerce’s Pomegranate Festival. After spending the last few years at Madera Municipal Airport, the chamber moved the event to the fairgrounds in hope of attracting more people. Mission accomplished.

21 contractors caught in sting (Nov. 9 issue) — A sting operation at a home near Madera High School allegedly snared 21 contractors late last week for various misdemeanors, such as lack of a state license. The Madera County District Attorney’s Office partnered with the California Highway Patrol and the Statewide Investigative Fraud Team for the sting.

Measure K passes by wide margin (Nov. 12 issue) — Measure K, an initiative that will implement a half-cent sales tax for the city’s first responders, has been passed by Madera voters with more than 80 percent of all ballots cast favoring the initiative. Backers estimate it will create $3.5 million in stable funding.

Semiofficial election results echo early tally (Nov. 12 issue) — Madera County’s semiofficial election tally looked much like an earlier absentee vote count showing incumbents fending off rivals, president-elect Donald Trump besting Hillary Clinton, and a sometimes warier response to propositions than the state at-large. Only 60.8 percent of the county’s 58,128 registered voters took part in this year’s presidential election. That amounts to 22.8 percent of the county’s total population as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau, though most residents are either not registered to vote or ineligible.

Tooley recovering after surgery (Nov. 19 issue) — David Tooley, 62, longtime city administrator of Madera, is recovering and working from home after unexpected open-heart surgery to clear a blocked artery. Long known for his diligent work habits during his 23 years with the city, his absence was first publicly noted at the Nov. 16 meeting of the Madera City Council.

Madera postmaster takes oath of office (Nov. 19 issue) — Madera’s newest postmaster, Henry De La Torre, was sworn in at the Madera Post Office on Friday. Despite the public ceremony, he assumed his office in late August. The office handles and delivers 57,000 pieces of mail daily to 30,764 addresses and 1,326 post office boxes via 45 combined city and rural routes.

Church to mark 95th anniversary (Nov. 19 issue) — The Second Missionary Baptist Church will celebrate its 95th anniversary Sunday.

MUSD board make historic move with vote launching 12-year building plan (Nov. 26 issue) — With the passage of the $9 billion California Public School Facility Bonds Initiative in the Nov. 8 election, Madera Unified School District trustees took a bold step last week. At its Nov. 15 board meeting, the board began the process of approving Superintendent Ed Gonzalez’ 12-year-plan for meeting the district’s long-range facilities needs, a plan that has been in the discussion stage for nearly a year. Under the plan, MUSD will build two new elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools.

Parkwood’s water well woes tackled by state, county, city (Nov. 30 issue) — An end is in sight for the longstanding water woes of Madera County’s Parkwood Maintenance District 19. But it may take state, county and city governments five or more years to reach it. A water-focused state senate bill created both a carrot and a stick to “encourage” the city of Madera to combine the Parkwood water system with its own.

December 2016 Christmas parade entertains all ages (Dec. 3 issue) — The streets of Downtown Madera were awash in the colors of Christmas as decorated tractors, trucks and cars made their way down Yosemite Avenue covered in lights. It was all part of the 23rd annual Candlelight Christmas Tractor Parade put on by the Madera Downtown Association and organized by the Madera Kiwanis Club. Participants from more than 30 businesses, schools, clubs and charities paraded.

More than 420,000 trees cut down as mortality crisis worsens (Dec. 3 issue) — As California’s tree mortality crisis continues to plague its forests with more than 100 million dead over the last six years. Cal Fire and its partnering agencies announced Thursday the removal of more than 423,000 trees throughout the state.

Madera students to learn English and Spanish at the same time (Dec. 7 issue) — When school starts next August, Madera Unified will begin a new program that is designed to make local students biliterate – proficient in two languages – English and Spanish over a five to seven year period. The educational innovation has been labeled “Dual Language Instruction.”

Tribe to donate $1.3 million (Dec. 7 issue) — The Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians announced $1,289,701.95 in grants Tuesday for 32 county projects, including 17 in Oakhurst, nine in Madera, four in Coarsegold and two in Chowchilla.

Christmas gala welcomes holiday season (Dec. 7 issue) — On Sunday evening, Madera County Historical Society members debuted more than a thousand hours of volunteer service that decorated the three-floor old courthouse structure that comprises the Madera County Museum.

City council sees new guard (Dec. 10 issue) — The Madera City Council underwent its changing of the guard Wednesday, with a new mayor being sworn in, along with a newly elected city council member. Former city councilman Andrew Medellin was sworn in as mayor by his mother, Marge Medellin, herself a former Madera mayor. Jose Rodriguez, who won the seat Medellin vacated in order to run for mayor, also was sworn in.

Big truck-stop development moves forward (Dec. 10 issue) — The Madera Travel Center project on Avenue 17 at State Route 99, also known by the name of its largest anchor operator, Love’s Travel Stop and Country Stores, is moving forward according to a development agreement and ordinance that was reviewed Wednesday evening by the Madera City Council.

Something old, something new for MUSD (Dec. 17 issue) — A new trustee joined Madera Unified’s school board in its annual swearing-in ceremony Tuesday night. Ruben Mendoza, along with veterans Ricardo Arredondo and Ray Seibert, took the oath of office administered by Superintendent Ed Gonzalez in front of a packed house in the school district’s boardroom.

Obama signs bill for state drought (Dec. 17 issue) — President Barack Obama signed a bill Friday authorizing water projects across the country, including $558 million to provide relief to drought-stricken California.

Bridge Store to close after 89 years (Dec. 21 issue) — With deep regrets, the Nishimoto family has announced it will soon close its flagship business, The Bridge Store. The store opened in May 1928 by Kameyo and Tamaichi Nishimoto. The present generation at the helm are Wally and Kathy Nishimoto and Ruth and Gaylen Thelander.

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