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COMMUNITY NEWS

July 10 , 2018

The lobby of the Merced Civic Center was packed with family, friends, colleagues, and community leaders watching Chris Goodwin being sworn-in as Chief of Police by Mayor Mike Murphy. Chief Goodwin now serves as the leader of the City of Merced Police Department composed of 95 sworn officers and 33 non-sworn personnel.

“Serving the streets of Merced for over 22 years, Chief Goodwin brings his experience and education to the Merced Police Department,” says Mayor Mike Murphy. “He is also well anchored in the community, has an established network, and possesses institutional knowledge from the prior positions he held.”

Chief Goodwin has enthusiasm for recruiting well-qualified officers, setting a goal of integrating technology with community based policing and desire to push the department to evolve with law enforcement trends, truly sets him apart. According to City Manager Steve Carrigan, “Chief Chris Goodwin is passionate about his home and protecting those within his community.”

“I am honored to serve the City of Merced as its Police Chief. Our community expects a high Quality of Life. Council responds by assembling one of the finest Police Departments in the San Joaquin Valley,” says Chief Goodwin.

A Santa Clara native, Chief Goodwin came to the Merced Police department in 1996. He worked his way up through the ranks starting in patrol. He continued to serve as a detective and later a sergeant - both supervising patrol and the Gang Violence Suppression Unit. He was then promoted to Lieutenant and later Captain, specializing in SWAT, defense tactics and the department’s active shooter program for over 15 of his 22 years. This extensive experience coupled with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice have prepared him to take the next step in his career - as the Chief of the Merced Police Department.

Chief Chris Goodwin is married to Jackie Goodwin, and a father to his two sons – Joel and Jenson and his daughter Carolina. He enjoys working-out, is an avid duck hunter, and a college sports fan.


Chief Chris Goodwin

 

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July 10 , 2018

Students enjoy hands-on STEAM lessons at MCSD Summer Academy

More than a thousand students from throughout the Merced City School District are enjoying a variety of fun and interactive learning opportunities during Summer Academy.
They’re getting a chance to create their own math games, produce videos, make instruments, conduct science experiments, and much more! There are also special performances, assemblies, and educational excursions to places such as local zoos, museums, colleges, and universities. The content is further supported through literature, computer simulations, and art projects.
All of the activities and other classroom instruction are based around integrated STEAM learning – science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics. This approach helps students develop 21st century skills including critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
The session started June 18 and will continue through July 13. The classes are open to children who are going into kindergarten through 8th grade. They are being held at Sheehy Elementary, Givens Elementary, and the MCSD STEAM Center. At the end of the program, students will present their projects to their families and peers during a special showcase.
Summer Academy also offers online programs for foreign language and mathematics. Students enrolled in those courses can work from home at their own pace but also have the option of attending classes at the school sites for extra support and unique learning opportunities that incorporate art into both subjects. Those who meet certain math requirements this summer will be eligible for advanced math classes in the fall, setting them on an accelerated college/career path by completing high school requirements while still in middle school.
MCSD began offering Summer Academy in 2013 to give students more time to learn, and it has continued to evolve into an enriching experience that students, parents, and staff look forward to each year.
Please let me know if you have any questions.





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July 10, 2018

City of Merced False Alarm Reduction Program
City to go live on July 1, 2018

The City of Merced will go live with their new Alarm Reduction Program on July 1, 2018. In an effort to reduce false alarms within the City of Merced, the City has updated its alarm ordinance and collaborated with PM AM Corporation to implement and administer the False Alarm Reduction Program. The partnership will also provide educational training for our citizens. PM AM is a national company with expertise in this area and will be responsible for our alarm permit registrations, false alarm billings, and educational material. Per Chief Goodwin, PM AM has a record of providing excellent customer service. As of July 1, A False Alarm Management System (FAMS) website has been established to assist City of Merced customers atwww.FAMSpermit.com/Merced . Prior to July 1, please continue to contact the Merced Police Department at 209-388-7800 for questions or permit processing.

The goal of the ordinance and the city’s partnership with PM AM is to reduce the number of false alarm activations requiring a response by the Merced Police Department. Chief Goodwin states, “This will free up police resources and reduce the fines levied on alarm customers by having a company who can reach out to the citizens of our city who may have alarm malfunctions. With this type of partnership the alarm owner should be notified quickly of any false alarms so that they can correct the malfunction.” With fewer false alarm activations the officers will be available to respond to the more urgent calls.

For current alarm permit holders, there is nothing that will need to be done. All

 

account and transaction history will be uploaded to the new system. As of July 1, 2018, users will be able to visit the citizen web portal and they will be able to request a user name and password. Once the user validates their information, the system will email back their username and password. For those citizens who are unable to complete the new account setup, you may contact PM AM at 1-888-387-1959 and a customer service representative will be able to assist you.

Initial Alarm Registration: The City of Merced Alarm Ordinance requires all residents and businesses to apply for an alarm permit by completing an online application available atwww.FAMSpermit.com/Merced. Alternatively, citizens can also complete the application by hand and send it to:

City of Merced False Alarm Reduction Program
P.O. Box 141415
Irving, TX 75014

Failure to register your alarm will result in additional penalties or fines.

For any questions related to the City of Merced Alarm Reduction Program, please call PM AM at 1-888-387-1958 Monday through Friday 6:30 AM to 3:30 PM PST.

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July 10 , 2018

The Next Chapter of California’s Water Wars Has Begun


(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) released the following statement condemning today’s announcement from the State Water Resources Control Board to ignore decade’s worth of science and public opinion by adopting radical new requirements to seize and waste critically needed San Joaquin Valley water supplies.

“The State Water Resources Control Board’s decision today is the first shot fired in the next chapter of California’s water wars. The board has chosen to create, in their own words, ‘a permanent regulatory drought’ and shrugged off our concerns as ‘significant but unavoidable’.

This is what theft looks like. A small group of special interests have spent years plotting one of the largest water takes in our state’s history. They attempted and failed to change the law and win in court, so instead they have infiltrated government itself. They positioned their allies to influence the process from within and spent hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to prop up their house of cards. Despite entire agencies at their disposal and seemingly unlimited funds, no amount of trickery can obscure the truth – their fish first philosophy will decimate our region, poison our drinking water, and provide no environmental benefit what-so-ever.

These special interests are desperate to claim the moral high ground and demonize our entire region. They speak about the people of the San Joaquin Valley as if we are parasites on the land and demand we apologize for our very existence.

They do this because without the zealous drumbeat of environmentalism on


Assemblymember Adam C. Gray

their side, the truth would have an opportunity to surface. People would begin to question the wisdom of poisoning the drinking water of poor immigrant communities or the sense in decimating the farms that feed the nation and fields that make California’s farm-to-fork movement possible. People would question why the proponents of a plan designed to save fish cannot demonstrate any meaningful benefit to those very fish or why the questions and concerns of a million people do not deserve even a halfhearted response. People might even question whether it is really environmentally friendly to sacrifice the health of one environment for the health of another.

They have left us no alternative. We will continue to negotiate with the best interests of the Valley at heart, but, if the state continues to violate the principles of good faith, a decades worth of lawsuits are about to begin.

The final public comment period is now open until July 27th with final adoption scheduled for August 21st. Please submit your comments to tell the State Water Board exactly how their plan will impact your community. They have made the comment period short to try to keep us quiet. Let’s not let them.”

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July 10, 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM THE TRUCK INSPECTION STATION
TO LE GRAND ROAD IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99) from the truck inspection station to Le Grand Road in Merced County for striping work.

Work is scheduled as follows:

• Full on-ramp closure from the truck inspection station to northbound SR-99 beginning Sunday, July 8, 2018, through Friday, July 13, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 at Sandy Mush Road and at Le Grand Road beginning Sunday, July 8, 2018, through Friday, July 13, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

This work is part of a project that is re-striping 27 miles total of SR-99 in Merced County.
The 6-inch stripes being installed improve the safety and mobility of the roadway by improving visibility and road comprehension for motorists. The reflective material used is also beneficial for emerging technology that allows autonomous vehicles to “see” the road clearly.
There will also be intermittent lane closures for 11 miles on southbound SR-99 from Harvard Avenue to the Merced/Madera County line at the same time as the ramp closures.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 


CONSTRUCTION ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 59 FROM THE BLACK RASCAL CANAL
TO OAKDALE ROAD IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is performing pavement work on northbound and southbound State Route 59 (SR-59) from the south fork of the Black Rascal Canal to Oakdale Road in Merced.
Work is scheduled as follows:
• One-way traffic control on northbound and southbound SR-59 from Black Rascal Canal to Belcher Avenue beginning Sunday, July 8, 2018, through Monday, July 9, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. for grinding and paving.

• One-way traffic control on northbound and southbound SR-59 from Belcher Avenue to Oakdale Road beginning Tuesday, July 10, 2018, through Friday, July 13, 2018, from 6:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. for grinding and paving.

This work is part of a 6.8 mile pavement improvement project on SR-59.
The purpose of this project is to restore the roadway, extend the service life of the pavement and to limit costly maintenance efforts for the future, both for motorists and taxpayers. An overlay of rubberized asphalt concrete will be used to enhance this section of SR-59/Snelling Highway – a pivotal roadway for local motorists and agricultural traffic.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM BEAR VALLEY ROAD
TO STATE ROUTE 132 IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) long term for approximately 15 miles from Bear Valley to the junction with SR-132. (Due to the Fourth of July holiday, there is no scheduled construction Wednesday, July 4, 2018, or Thursday, July 5, 2018.)

The closure is necessary for repair work due to the violent storm on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Caltrans crews and construction partners are working to re-open this section of SR-49 by Wednesday, August 1, 2018.
The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water and must be given a new foundation and fully repaired before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

The town of Coulterville is accessible via southbound SR-49 and via eastbound and westbound SR-132. SR-49 and SR-132 meet in Coulterville. Businesses are open in Coulterville.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues. For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ

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June 26, 2018

Turn in illegal fireworks, no questions asked

People possess illegal fireworks and want to get rid of them legally can dispose of them during the City’s Safe Surrender Day Sat., June 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We’re not going to ask any questions. We don’t care how you got them, we just want them off the streets and out of people’s homes,” said Merced Fire Chief Michael Wilkinson.
People can turn the fireworks in at Fire Station 51, the Fire Department’s headquarters, located at 99 E. 16th St. Fire personnel will be on hand to take them and put them in a safe container.
“This isn’t some sort of a sting operation,” Merced Police Chief Chris Goodwin said. “This is a public safety campaign. Illegal fireworks are dangerous. They can cause fires, they can hurt people, they are a public nuisance. We just want people to know how they can safely get rid of illegal fireworks without setting them off.”
The City has cracked down on illegal fireworks and so far four people were arrested for the sale of illegal fireworks. The police and fire department have plans for holiday enforcement teams to patrol City streets during the Fourth of July holidays citing people for setting off illegal fireworks. Fines can range from $1,000 to $2,000 and there is the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Illegal fireworks are generally anything that explodes or leaves the ground, and doesn’t have the California Fire Marshal’s Seal of Approval. They would include firecrackers, barrel bombs, M-80s, skyrockets and mortars. They are commonly bought out-of-state and brought into California. It’s also illegal to modify the “safe and sane” fireworks that are sold in Merced.
People with questions about Safe Surrender Day can call 209-388-SAFE (388-7233).
Call 388-SAFE to report illegal fireworks
People are encouraged to report anyone they see or know who is buying, selling, distributing, possessing or setting off illegal fireworks by calling 209-388-SAFE (388-7233). Someone will answer the line as available, but all messages will be followed up on.
Please don’t call 911 except to report a fire or injury. Part of the problem with illegal fireworks is that authorities usually receive multiple calls for any one offender. One neighbor setting off numerous skyrockets can swamp the 911 dispatchers with many calls on the same incident. The 209-388-SAFE number relieves pressure on the emergency dispatchers but still allows the illegal fireworks to get reported and acted upon.

 

On July 3 and 4 there will be a call center opened from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and operators will be answering the phones and sending reports of illegal fireworks directly to dispatchers. The information will be forwarded to teams in the field.
In addition, people can report illegal fireworks by sending an email tocelebratesafe@cityofmerced.org. Those emails will also get forwarded to authorities.
A third option is to report illegal fireworks using the Merced Connect app. The Merced Connect app is free and available at the Apple Store and Google Play. In addition to allowing you to report illegal fireworks, residents can obtain other information about City government.

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June 22, 2018

A heat wave arrives, cooling zone opens over weekend

The City of Merced will open its cooling zone Saturday and Sunday as a heat wave arrives in the first days of summer. Temperatures are forecast to reach 105 degrees for Saturday and 102 Sunday before dropping to 98 degrees on Monday.

The cooling zone for the City of Merced will be in the Sam Pipes Room of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall) 678 W. 18th St. from 3 to 8 p.m. People can bring their pets to the cooling zone as long as they don’t disturb other people or pets.

“This weather doesn’t look like it will last long, but it is opening the door for a hot summer time,” said Assistant City Manager Stephanie Dietz. “The cooling zone will give residents a cool place to go to escape the summer heat.”

“As always, we are asking people to check in on your neighbors, watch out for our vulnerable populations,” Dietz said. “Try to stay cool, and don’t leave kids or pets in your vehicles.”

People are reminded to stay hydrated during the heat wave, wear loose clothes and light colored fabrics.

Information on other cooling zones in Merced County can be found atwww.co.merced.ca.us

Below are some tips from the state Office of Emergency Services.

Tips to Prevent Heat Related Illness
• Never leave infants, children or the frail elderly unattended in a parked car.
• Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty.
• Dress in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Use a hat and sunscreen as needed.
• Drink fruit juice or a sports beverage to replace salts and minerals lost during heavy sweating. (If a client/resident is on a low-sodium diet, check with his/her physician first.)
• During the hottest parts of the day, keep physical activities to a minimum and stay indoors in air-conditioning and out of the sun.
• Use fans as needed.
• Open windows to allow fresh air to circulate when appropriate.
• Use cool compresses, misting, showers and baths.
• Avoid hot foods and heavy meals—they add heat to the body. Eat frozen treats.
Read more: Division of Occupational Safety & Health (bilingual resources), Center for Disease Control and Prevention Tips for Preventing Heat-related Illness

 

 

Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
Heat stroke—which occurs when the body can’t control its temperature—may result in disability or death if emergency treatment is not given. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses a large amount of water and salt contained in sweat.
Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but may include:
• An extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, orally)
• Unconsciousness
• Dizziness, nausea and confusion
• Red, hot and dry skin (no sweating)
• Rapid, strong pulse
• Throbbing headache
Warning signs of heat exhaustion vary, but may include:
• Heavy sweating
• Muscle cramps
• Weakness
• Headache
• Nausea or vomiting
• Paleness, tiredness, dizziness

What to Do
If you see any of these signs for heat stroke or heat exhaustion, you may be dealing with a life-threatening emergency and should do the following:
• Have someone call 911 while you begin cooling the victim.
• Get the victim to a shady area.
• Cool the victim rapidly with a cool bath or shower, or by sponging with cool water, until body temperature drops to 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit, orally.
• If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
• Do not give the victim alcohol to drink.
• Again, get medical assistance as soon as possible.
If a victim’s muscles twitch uncontrollably as a result of heat stroke, keep the victim from injuring him/herself, but do not place any object in the mouth and do not give fluids. If there is vomiting, make sure the airway remains open by turning the victim on his/her side.

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June 22, 2018

Assemblymember Adam Gray Honors Veteran of the Year

Assemblymember Adam Gray honored Modesto American GI Forum Commander Steve Fimbrez as the Veteran of the Year for the 21st Assembly District. Commander Fimbrez was honored yesterday at a luncheon in Sacramento.

Steve joined the U.S. Air Force in July 1975, and he was sent to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio Texas for basic training. After completing basic training he was stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul Illinois where he trained to become a Fire
Protection Specialist. Later Steve received additional training at Chanute Air Force Base for Munitions and advanced Firefighter Rescue training. Steve was honorably discharged from the Air Force in July 1979.Upon returning to his home state of California, Steve continued his career as a Firefighter at the Defense Depot in Tracy, California. In January of 1982 he was hired by the Modesto Fire Department where he rose to the rank of Captain and retired after 33 years of service.

Steve is currently serving as the Commander for the American GI Forum PFC Oscar Sanchez Chapter of Modesto. He also serves as the Secretary for the State of California American GI Forum, and is the second Vice Commander for the newly formed American GI
Forum Riders, which is a veteran’s motorcycle and car club. Steve is currently serving as the veteran representative for the Stanislaus County Commission on Aging.

“Our community is fortunate to have such a dedicated individual such as Steve Fimbrez serving the needs of our veterans and their families,” said Assemblymember Gray. “Steve is a stellar example of how many in our armed forces continue their service for a lifetime.”


Modesto American GI Forum Commander Steve Fimbrez as the Veteran of the Year for the 21st Assembly District.

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June 22, 2018

CONSTRUCTION ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 59 FROM THE BLACK RASCAL CANAL
TO OAKDALE ROAD IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is performing pavement work on northbound and southbound State Route 59 (SR-59) from the south fork of the Black Rascal Canal to Oakdale Road in Merced.
Work is scheduled as follows:
• One-way traffic control on northbound and southbound SR-59 from Black Rascal Canal to Belcher Avenue beginning Monday, June 25, 2018, through Friday, June 29, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. for grinding and paving.

• One-way traffic control on northbound and southbound SR-59 from Belcher Avenue to Oakdale Road beginning Monday, June 25, 2018, through Friday, June 29, 2018, from 6:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. for grinding and paving.

This work is part of a 6.8 mile pavement improvement project on SR-59.
The purpose of this project is to restore the roadway, extend the service life of the pavement and to limit costly maintenance efforts for the future, both for motorists and taxpayers. An overlay of rubberized asphalt concrete will be used to enhance this section of SR-59/Snelling Highway – a pivotal roadway for local motorists and agricultural traffic.
Motorists should expect 15 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

CONSTRUCTION ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 33 FROM MCCABE ROAD
TO STATE ROUTE 140 IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform one-way traffic control on northbound and southbound State Route 33 (SR-33) from McCabe Road in Santa Nella to SR-140 in Gustine for pavement work.

Work is scheduled beginning Sunday, June 24, 2018, through Friday, June 29, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

This work is part of a project that will install a slurry seal (a mixture that rejuvenates pavement) and asphalt overlays for 13.3 miles from SR-152 to SR-140 in Merced County.

Slurry seal is economical, corrects existing distresses in the roadway such as surface cracking and makes pavement waterproof to prevent further deterioration.

Motorists should expect 15 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials, and construction related issues.


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 AT GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD IN TURLOCK

TURLOCK – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform shoulder work on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99) at Golden State Boulevard in Merced County.

Full on and off-ramp closures are scheduled on northbound and southbound SR-99 at Golden State Boulevard beginning Sunday, June 24, 2018, through Tuesday, June 26, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

The closures for shoulder work at Golden State Boulevard are part of a project that will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of Bradbury Road to just north of the county line.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM BEAR VALLEY ROAD
TO STATE ROUTE 132 IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) long term for approximately 15 miles from Bear Valley to the junction with SR-132.

The closure is necessary for repair work due to the violent storm on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Caltrans crews and construction partners are working to re-open this section of SR-49 by Wednesday, August 1, 2018.
The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water and must be given a new foundation and fully repaired before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Northbound and southbound SR-49 from the Mariposa/Tuolumne County line to Moccasin/SR-120 was re-opened on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Eastbound and westbound SR-132 from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road in Mariposa County was re-opened on Friday, May 18, 2018.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues. For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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June 22, 2018

Costa Continues Advocating for Bipartisan Farm Bill

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement after the House of Representative passed H.R. 2, more commonly known as the Farm Bill, with a razor-thin margin vote of 213 to 211:

“The partisan Farm Bill the House passed today abandons some of the most vulnerable people in our Valley. At the same time, it fails to build on the farm policies in previous Farm Bills that have successfully supported California producers. As I said when I voted against this exact same bill last month, it simply fails our farmers and our families. Worst of all, while the House advanced a bad Farm Bill today, it has failed to address the two largest issues currently facing California agriculture: ensuring a stable agricultural workforce and dealing with the President’s unnecessary and harmful trade war.

“While I do not support the Farm Bill the House passed, I am hopeful that the action taken today will bring us one step closer to conferencing with the U.S. Senate. I look forward to getting back to work on a bipartisan Farm Bill that serves farmers, feeds Americans, and provides our nation with food security.”


Congressman Jim Costa


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June 21, 2018

Turn in illegal fireworks, no questions asked

People possess illegal fireworks and want to get rid of them legally can dispose of them during the City’s Safe Surrender Day Sat., June 30 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“We’re not going to ask any questions. We don’t care how you got them, we just want them off the streets and out of people’s homes,” said Merced Fire Chief Michael Wilkinson.
People can turn the fireworks in at Fire Station 51, the Fire Department’s headquarters, located at 99 E. 16th St. Fire personnel will be on hand to take them and put them in a safe container.
“This isn’t some sort of a sting operation,” Merced Police Chief Chris Goodwin said. “This is a public safety campaign. Illegal fireworks are dangerous. They can cause fires, they can hurt people, they are a public nuisance. We just want people to know how they can safely get rid of illegal fireworks without setting them off.”
The City has cracked down on illegal fireworks and so far four people were arrested for the sale of illegal fireworks. The police and fire department have plans for holiday enforcement teams to patrol City streets during the Fourth of July holidays citing people for setting off illegal fireworks. Fines can range from $1,000 to $2,000 and there is the possibility of criminal prosecution.
Illegal fireworks are generally anything that explodes or leaves the ground, and doesn’t have the California Fire Marshal’s Seal of Approval. They would include firecrackers, barrel bombs, M-80s, skyrockets and mortars. They are commonly bought out-of-state and brought into California. It’s also illegal to modify the “safe and sane” fireworks that are sold in Merced.
People with questions about Safe Surrender Day can call 209-388-SAFE (388-7233).
Call 388-SAFE to report illegal fireworks
People are encouraged to report anyone they see or know who is buying, selling, distributing, possessing or setting off illegal fireworks by calling 209-388-SAFE (388-7233). Someone will answer the line as available, but all messages will be followed up on.
Please don’t call 911 except to report a fire or injury. Part of the problem with illegal fireworks is that authorities usually receive multiple calls for any one offender. One neighbor setting off numerous skyrockets can swamp the 911 dispatchers with many calls on the same incident. The 209-388-SAFE number relieves pressure on the emergency dispatchers but still allows the illegal fireworks to get reported and acted upon.

 

On July 3 and 4 there will be a call center opened from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and operators will be answering the phones and sending reports of illegal fireworks directly to dispatchers. The information will be forwarded to teams in the field.
In addition, people can report illegal fireworks by sending an email tocelebratesafe@cityofmerced.org. Those emails will also get forwarded to authorities.
A third option is to report illegal fireworks using the Merced Connect app. The Merced Connect app is free and available at the Apple Store and Google Play. In addition to allowing you to report illegal fireworks, residents can obtain other information about City government.

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June 20, 2018

Christopher Goodwin named Merced Police Chief

(A swearing in ceremony for Merced Police Chief Christopher Goodwin will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 6 in the City Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall) 678 W. 18th St., Merced.)

From patrolling the streets of Merced, to managing drug informants, to supervising the SWAT team, Christopher Goodwin has pretty much done it all in the Merced Police Department.

On June 18, he will have achieved the top position in the Department as he becomes the police chief for the City of Merced.

Goodwin, a 21-year veteran of the Department, has been doing the job temporarily since the retirement of Chief Norman Andrade in December.

“Chris was the best person for the job,” City Manager Steve Carrigan said when he made the announcement Tuesday. “He knows the City, he knows the community, he knows the Department. He has everything I was looking for in a police chief.

“Chief Goodwin is the most qualified for the job. He’s been a beat cop, he’s commanded the patrol officers and command staff, he’s led SWAT and the training program,” Carrigan said. “And a big advantage he has is that Chris has been doing the chief’s job for the last seven months where he has been terrific, so it will be a seamless transition.”

“It’s a lot of work being chief, but I’m excited for this opportunity to work with the community and the City and the individuals in this Department,” Goodwin said. “I received a lot of support over the last several months from people asking me to take the job, so I feel good about that.”

“Law enforcement is a challenging profession right now,” he said. “To overcome that will take training within the Department, developing competent personnel, and listening to the community. We need to respond to their needs. The more we can get feedback and communicate with the community, the better off we will be.”

To address the challenges Goodwin is working on a body camera/video policy and increasing and enhancing the use of social media in the Department.

The chief plans to bring a policy to the City Council that would outline the release of video from officer worn body cameras and car cameras. “It comes back to being more transparent to the community, and also being able to tell our side of the story,” he said.

“That’s why I think we need to use social media more,” Goodwin said. The Department has a Facebook that is mostly used to post news releases. He plans to set up a Twitter account, and train staff to use the platforms to engage the community more.

While serving as interim chief, Goodwin took ownership of the position and focused on needs of the Department.

Recruiting and retention became one of his priorities, so Goodwin and top management went to police academies to conduct interviews with recruits who were reluctant to take a day off from classes and come to Merced to interview for a job.

“We are hiring for dispatchers and police officers” is something Goodwin seems to work into just about every conversation. The change and more aggressive recruiting resulted in numerous candidates applying for jobs in Merced, with three candidates in training and six waiting to start classes in July.

Other changes followed in the Department. A focus on promotions resulted in a new lieutenant and two new sergeants. The Department was reorganized creating better span and control, allowing for better accountability.

The City Council is in the process of evaluating the construction of a new police headquarters building, and Goodwin attended a conference in Dallas devoted to police station construction. He also is one of three top City officials reviewing stacks of cannabis dispensary applications and oversees the background checks on all cannabis business applications.


When Goodwin took over in January he also was plunged into leading the Department’s budget process for the upcoming year. Council indicated it will be adding two dispatchers and a new officer to the force, moving an officer off of Measure C funding and into the general fund and moving a police officer position up to a sergeant’s position as part of his span and control reorganization.


The City contracts with Merced College to run the campus police department. Goodwin sees that as a beneficial partnership in many ways.

“The criminal justice and reserve classes will help us with recruiting,” he said. “The arrangement let’s us know what’s going on out there because it’s almost a small city unto itself. Now we know and work with the campus officers in case we have to call on them for backup, and we’re working with the college administration on how the campus impacts the City.”

He also plans to reach out to other jurisdictions to begin working with them.

Goodwin worked his way up through the ranks of the Department starting as a patrol officer in 1996. He’s served as a field training officer, detective and sergeant on patrol and in the Gang Violence Suppression Unit. He served as a lieutenant and captain before his appointment to chief. He was in the Department’s SWAT unit and defense tactics instructor, supervisor, lieutenant and captain until he took the reins as chief. Goodwin has been involved with the Department’s active shooter program since 2000.

He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal science.

Born in Santa Clara and raised in Campbell, he came to Merced as a police officer in 1996. His wife, Jackie, is a local businesswoman. He has a daughter and two sons.

Goodwin is a “huge” college sports fan who became mildly obsessed with the North Carolina Tarheels basketball in the 80s and it has stuck. He also enjoys duck hunting when it is in season and working out with CrossFit.

Goodwin officially assumes the position June 18. The position of police chief pays up to $157,372 a year.

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June 20, 2018

Wolfsen’s Meat and Sausage Honored at the State Capitol as 2018 Small Business of the Year for AD 21

Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) joined Vance, Donna, and Warren Wolfsen as they were honored as this year’s “Small Business of the Year” at a luncheon in Sacramento. The annual “Small Business Day” event and luncheon are organized in partnership with the California Small Business Association, and feature representatives from each of California’s 120 Legislative districts.
Wolfsen’s began as the “West Side Locker” in the 1940s offering custom butchering for wild game hunters. The current owners purchased the business in 1988 and eventually focused in on their mission of making and selling high quality meats and sausages. They are known for their “old-world style linguica,” enjoyed by many Merced County natives, and their store has attracted a regular following of customers from every corner of California. Assemblymember Gray and the Wolfsen family were surprised to encounter the honorees from the 13th Assembly District, Genova Bakery of Stockton, which provides Wolfsen’s with the artisan bread used in their deli.
“Today was a wonderful opportunity to recognize the contributions of California’s small businesses – they are the backbone of our economy,” said Gray.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Assemblymember Adam C. Gray represents the 21st Assembly District which includes all of Merced County and portions of Stanislaus County.


Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) joined Vance, Donna, and Warren Wolfsen

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June 20, 2018

Merced receives grant for physical activity program

MERCED – The City of Merced Parks and Recreation Department, in collaboration with Dignity Health, will soon be offering adults with arthritis a new way to manage pain and stay fit. Thanks to an instructor training grant from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the City of Merced in collaboration with Dignity Health will offer the Walk With Ease (WWE) program to the Merced community. Merced City Parks and Recreation is one of 88 park and recreation agencies to receive the WWE instructor training grant.

The WWE program, developed by the Arthritis Foundation, is scientifically proven to help reduce pain and stiffness associated with arthritis, but also offers benefits for people managing other chronic conditions. Studies by the Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the Institute on Aging at the University of North Carolina have shown that the WWE program contributes to reduced pain, increased balance and strength, increased levels of physical activity, and improved overall health.
Together, NRPA and the CDC aim to reach more people living with arthritis and other chronic conditions to improve their levels of physical activity and quality of life through this trusted and measurable program administered by local parks and recreation agencies across the country.
“Sixty percent of adults in the United States suffer from one or more chronic conditions,” said Joey Chavez, Interim Director of Parks and Recreation. “This grant from NRPA and the CDC allows us to help the

older adults in our community, and adds a new way Merced residents can work to achieve a healthy lifestyle. We are excited because this is a new type of program offering for our community, and we hope many people will take advantage of it.”

The programs provided by Parks and Recreation in collaboration with Dignity Health will be offered at the Mercy Outpatient Center located at 2740 M. Street on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 to 10 a.m. Classes run for six weeks and are taught by certified and trained instructors. The classes are ideally suited for anyone that is interested in a low-impact exercise program in their local community, especially those looking to manage their chronic condition. The first session is scheduled to begin June 25, with other sessions rolling out throughout the summer and fall. To register visit the Parks and Recreation office at 632 W. 18th Street, Merced, CA 95340.
For more information, call 385-6235 or visithttps://www.cityofmerced.org/depts/parks_n_community_services/default.asp

The National Recreation and Park Association is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts that enhance quality of life for all people. Through its network of more than 60,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens, NRPA encourages the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles, conservation initiatives and equitable access to parks and public space. For more information, visit www.nrpa.org. For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication,Parks & Recreation, visit www.parksandrecreation.org.

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June 20, 2018

CONSTRUCTION ADVISORY
CALTRANS TO BEGIN PAVEMENT IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
ON STATE ROUTE 33 IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is preparing to begin a 13.3 mile pavement improvement project on State Route 33 (SR-33) from SR-152 to SR-140.

This project will include a slurry seal (a mixture which rejuvenates pavement), and hot mixed asphalt and rubberized hot mixed asphalt overlays to extend the service life of the pavement and improve the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Slurry seal is economical, corrects existing distresses in the roadway like cracking in the surface and makes pavement waterproof to prevent further deterioration.

This work is scheduled to be done at night, and motorists should expect 15 minute delays. There will be lane closures, shoulder closures, and temporary on and off-ramp closures.

This $3.8 million project has been awarded to Granite Construction Company. Construction is scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 24, 2018, and to be completed in October 2018.
While this project is not funded by SB 1, many “fix-it-first” projects like this one are beginning throughout the state to improve roadways. There will be $15 billion used for “fix-it-first” highway repairs across the next decade, including smoothing pavement and filling potholes.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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June 8, 2018

Assemblymember Gray Honors CASA of Merced County
as the Nonprofit of the Year in Sacramento

Sacramento – Assemblymember Adam Gray was pleased to honor the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Merced County as the 2018 California Nonprofit of the Year from his Assembly District at California Nonprofits Day at the Capitol.

Cathie Lancaster, Executive Director, Nancy Young-Bergman, Founding President, and Bette Woolstenhulme, former Board President, traveled to Sacramento to join with one hundred other nonprofit leaders to be honored by their state Senators and Assemblymembers during a celebration luncheon as part of the 2018 California Nonprofits Day.

“CASA volunteers are often the key element in improving the lives and future of children in the Dependency Court System,” according to Assemblymember Gray. “What these generous and caring members of our community do for some of our most vulnerable children cannot be overstated.”

Founded in September 2010, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Merced County is dedicated to providing quality intervention and advocacy services for abused, abandoned, and neglected children. CASA is seen nationally as a positive solution to the high volume of dependency cases, and Merced County faces one of the highest caseloads per capita in the state. CASA provides important information to the Court in order to assist the judge in making the life-changing decisions that he must make.

“Children in Merced County need our protection,” said Cathie Lancaster. “Almost 5,600 reports of child abuse or neglect in Merced County are recorded annually. As of 2017, the number of children in foster care was over 500. Many of these children are no longer able to be returned to their parents in hopes of reunification and are waiting adoption or being placed in permanent foster homes.”


Cathie Lancaster, Executive Director, Nancy Young-Bergman, Founding President, and Bette Woolstenhulme, former Board President, and Adam Gray

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California Nonprofits Day, now in its third year, was formally recognized by Assembly Concurrent Resolution 191, authored by the chair of the Assembly Select Committee on the Nonprofit Sector, Assemblywoman Monique Limon (Santa Barbara), who spoke at the celebration luncheon. The day is organized by Assemblymember Limon and CalNonprofits.

According to “Causes Count,” a 2016 report commissioned by CalNonprofits, the nonprofit sector is the 4th largest industry in the state, employing nearly one million people. Each year, California nonprofits generate over $200 billion in revenue and bring in $40 billion in revenue from outside of California. The unpaid labor contributed by volunteers at nonprofits is equivalent to 450,000 full-time jobs every year.

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June 8, 2018

Make a splash this summer in a pool near you

This week recreational swim is coming to a pool near you, brought to you by the Merced Parks and Recreation Department.

Recreational swimming will begin the week of June 11 at McNamara Pool, from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. There also will be rec swimming at Golden Valley High School pool, 2121 E. Childs Ave., Saturdays and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Cost of recreational swimming is $1 for swimmers under 18 and $2 for adults.

But it’s Free Swim Fridays at McNamara Pool for kids thanks to the generosity of the Merced Satellite Rotary Club, which is covering the cost of swimming for youths to swim every Friday afternoon. Sorry adults, you may feel like a kid, but if you’re over 18 it will still cost two bucks to swim.

All of the aquatics programs run through Aug. 12.

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June 8, 2018

CONSTRUCTION ADVISORY
CALTRANS TO BEGIN PAVEMENT REHABILITATION PROJECT
ON STATE ROUTE 59/SNELLING HIGHWAY IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is preparing a project to rehabilitate pavement on northbound and southbound State Route 59 (SR-59)/Snelling Highway in and near Merced.
This project spans 6.8 miles, from the south fork of the Black Rascal Canal to just south of Oakdale Road.
The purpose of this project is to restore the roadway, extend the service life of the pavement and to limit costly maintenance efforts for the future, both for motorists and taxpayers. An overlay of rubberized asphalt concrete (RAC) will be used to enhance this section of SR-59/Snelling Highway – a pivotal roadway for local motorists and agricultural traffic.
This $2.2 million project has been awarded to Teichert Construction.
Work is scheduled to begin on Sunday, June 10, 2018, and to be completed in October 2018.

This work will be done using one-way traffic control and is scheduled during both the daytime and nighttime. Motorists should expect 20 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

While this project is not funded by SB 1, many pavement-based “fix-it-first” projects are and will continue to be across the next decade.

Due to SB 1, Caltrans will allocate $15 billion for “fix-it-first” repairs, similar to the smoothing of pavement on SR-59, throughout the next 10 years. Construction is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM STATE ROUTE 140 IN MERCED
TO THE MERCED/STANISLAUS COUNTY LINE IN TURLOCK

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various road construction activities on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99) from SR-140 to the Merced/Stanislaus County line. Ramp closures are scheduled as follows:

• Various full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 from SR-140 to Golden State Boulevard in Turlock beginning Sunday, June 10, 2018, through Friday, June 15, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. for bridge work.

• Various full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 from SR-140 to SR-140/SR-59 (V Street) in Merced beginning Tuesday, June 12, 2018, through Wednesday, June 13, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. for bridge work.

• Full off-ramp closure from northbound and southbound SR-99 to Golden State Boulevard beginning Sunday, June 10, 2018, through Friday, June 15, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. for shoulder work.

The full off-ramp closures at Golden State Boulevard are part of a project that will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of Bradbury Road to just north of the county line.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM BEAR VALLEY ROAD
TO STATE ROUTE 132 IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 15 miles from Bear Valley to the junction with SR-132.

The closure is long term and is necessary for repair work due to the violent storm on March 22, 2018. Caltrans crews and construction partners are working to re-open this section of SR-49 by August 1, 2018.
The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be given a new foundation and fully repaired before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Northbound and southbound SR-49 from the Mariposa/Tuolumne County line to Moccasin/SR-120 was re-opened on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Eastbound and westbound SR-132 from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road in Mariposa County was re-opened on Friday, May 18, 2018.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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June 8, 2018

Costa Advances Legislation to Improve Water Reliability and Flood Protection

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a significant piece of water infrastructure legislation – H.R. 8, the Water Resources Development Act – by a vote of 408 to 2. Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) worked on a bipartisan basis to improve the legislation by including one provision that would increase water supply reliability in California’s San Joaquin Valley and another provision that could reduce permit compliance costs for utility ratepayers.

Rep. Costa’s first amendment incorporates into the Water Resources Development Act a bipartisan measure Costa has been leading in the House. The legislation would resolve a legal technicality that makes it more difficult to improve the structure and operations of water reservoirs than current law intends. This would have a real impact in the Valley, as it would allow Merced Irrigation District to move forward with a project to raise the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam. When completed, this project will increase water supplies for eastern Merced County by 57,000 acre-feet during some years.

The second amendment Congressman Costa helped lead would make permanent a budget-neutral solution that has been successfully helping the Army Corps of Engineers work through its backlog of project permitting. Currently, the Corps has the authority to allow utility companies to pay for additional staffing to help the Corps complete its review process on the utility’s project. The amendment, which Rep. Costa cosponsored with fellow
Valley Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10), eliminates the expiration date on


Congressman Jim Costa
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

the Corps’s authority to accept such staffing support when offered. Accordingly, the Corps can continue to choose this option as a way to complete project reviews more quickly without reducing the quality or thoroughness of the review.

Costa described both amendments as “straightforward, commonsense solutions that address our daily water realities and infrastructure needs in the Valley and across California.”

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June 7, 2018

Fireworks blamed for grass fire

On June 4, 2018 the Merced City Fire Department responded to a vegetation fire in the area of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and 19thstreet. Upon arrival at the fire, five separate spot fires were located. It was determined that the fires were started by fireworks.

The use of Fireworks is not permitted until June 28th, therefor the use of fireworks was Illegal as well as at least one of the fireworks was not Safe and Sane (was a mortar tube). Two Engine Companies responded and a Battalion Chief to the incident. An unreliable witness said that the fireworks were thrown from a vehicle.

The City of Merced has a Zero Tolerance for illegal fireworks. So far this year, four people have been arrested for the sales of illegal fireworks.

Call 388-SAFE to report illegal fireworks
People are encouraged to report anyone they see or know who is buying, selling, distributing, possessing or setting off illegal fireworks by calling 209-388-SAFE (388-7233). Someone will answer the line as available, but all messages will be followed up on.

Please don’t call 911 except to report a fire or injury. Part of the problem with illegal fireworks is that authorities usually receive multiple calls for any one offender. One neighbor setting off numerous skyrockets can swamp the 911 dispatchers with many calls on the same incident. The 209-388-SAFE number relieves pressure on the emergency dispatchers but still allows the illegal fireworks to get reported and acted upon.

On July 3 and 4 there will be a call center opened from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and operators will be answering the phones and sending reports of illegal fireworks directly to dispatchers. The information will be forwarded to teams in the field.

In addition, people can report illegal fireworks by sending an email tocelebratesafe@cityofmerced.org. Those emails will also get forwarded to authorities.

 


A third option is to report illegal fireworks using the Merced Connect app. The Merced Connect app is free and available at the Apple Store and Google Play. In addition to allowing you to report illegal fireworks, residents can obtain other information about City government.

Turn in illegal fireworks, no questions asked
The City also will hold a fireworks Safe Surrender Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 30 at Station 51, 99 E. 16th St. where people can turn in illegal fireworks with no questions asked.

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June 6, 2018

 

The Bus kicks off Free Fare Summer program on
National “Dump the Pump” Day

MERCED - The Bus invites members of the community to try the bus on us this summer! Starting on National Dump the Pump Day, June 21 and continuing through August 31, 2018, The Bus will offer FREE service on all fixed routes countywide. By riding public transit, residents can help reduce congestion, minimize their carbon footprint, and save money.
"We are excited to offer free fixed route service throughout summer to encourage people who've never ridden the bus to give it a try,” said Artis Smith, Transit Director. This free service program is made possible through the State of California’s Low Carbon Transit Operations Program (LCTOP) which is provided to transit agencies to improve mobility and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bus schedules and hours of operation can be found at www.mercedthebus.com or by calling The Bus at (209)723-3100. Real-time information regarding bus locations, services and arrival times can be found at www.thebuslive.com. All buses are equipped with bike racks and are wheelchair accessible.
The Bus is the single public transportation service provider for all of Merced County. It is administered by the Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County and managed by the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG).

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June 6, 2018

Merced has Zero Tolerance for illegal fireworks

Three men arrested for the sale of illegal fireworks in the City
(EDITORS: For more information on the undercover operation, contact Lt. Alan Ward at 209-388-8840.)
Use a skyrocket or a barrel bomb and it could cost you up to $2,000. Keep using illegal fireworks or sell them and it could land you in court, as three men learned Friday.
Three men were arrested for sale of illegal fireworks Friday as part of the City of Merced’s Zero Tolerance campaign on illegal fireworks.
Officers from the DART team arrested two Livingston men and a Winton man on charges of selling illegal fireworks, advertisement of illegal fireworks and conspiracy to sell illegal fireworks.
Officers seized a large amount of fireworks and $666 in cash in an undercover operation. The three men were booked in the Merced County Jail.
ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY
This year the City of Merced has Zero Tolerance for illegal fireworks in an effort to cut down on fires, injuries, noise, lost pets and neighborhood disruptions.
The Zero Tolerance Policy is in effect for any fireworks not labelled “safe and sane” by the California State Fire Marshall. Basically, if it explodes or leaves the ground, it’s not safe and sane.
Extra officers will be on patrol over the Fourth of July holidays to enforce fireworks violations. There also is a special phone number and email for people to report illegal fireworks.
“The last few years Merced has looked like a battle zone with the sky lit up with skyrockets and the air filled with explosions. It’s time for that to end,” said Council Member Kevin Blake, who asked for the increased enforcement of the City ordinance’s against illegal fireworks.
“I received a number of calls from constituents who had to medicate their pets because they were traumatized due to the loud noises over the holidays,” he said.
“We want people to have a fun Fourth of July, but not a dangerous one, a Fourth that is enjoyable for everyone, including your neighbors,” Blake said.
“We want people to be good neighbors and stick with the ‘safe and sane’ fireworks,” said Mayor Mike Murphy. “Have respect for people. Some of these illegal fireworks explode and leave buildings shaking. They scare little kids, senior citizens, and our veterans and pets who may be sensitive to loud explosions. We need to show consideration for everyone.
“This is the first year of a multi-year campaign. We are expecting to build on it each year,” Murphy said. “Once word gets out that we are serious, that we will cite you, that we will take away your illegal fireworks, people will be less likely to buy them and use them.”
The City shows a definite uptick in fires around the Fourth of July season when fireworks gain in popularity. While not all fires can be attributed to illegal fireworks, last year there July 4th saw 75 percent more calls than the average day, according to Fire Department records.
FIREWORKS RULES
• “Safe and sane” fireworks with the State Fire Marshal seal of approval can only be used from noon June 28 through noon July 6.
• The non-safe and sane fireworks are illegal year-round, 24-7.
• If fireworks can leave the ground or go up in the air they are illegal. Illegal fireworks include cherry bombs, bottle rockets, mortars, aerial shells, M-80s and firecrackers.
• Illegal fireworks the lack of the seal of approval by the California State Fire Marshal.

During the Fourth of July holiday period special teams of police officers and firefighters will be patrolling the City streets tracking down fireworks violators. Once found, the fireworks will be confiscated and the owners will be cited. Repeat offenders could end up in court.
Anyone caught possessing, using or selling dangerous or illegal fireworks is subject to fines ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 as well as criminal prosecution.

 


HOW TO REPORT ILLEGAL FIREWORKS
The number 209-388-SAFE became active June 1, and people are encouraged to report anyone they see or know who is buying, selling or distributing illegal fireworks. Someone will answer the line as available, but all messages will be followed up on.
Residents can report illegal fireworks displays before the holidays by calling 911.
During July 3 and 4 people are being asked to call 209-388-SAFE (7233) to report illegal fireworks displays, not 911 in order to keep the emergency dispatchers free for urgent calls.
On July 3 and 4 there will be a call center opened from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. and operators will be answering the phones and sending reports of illegal fireworks directly to dispatchers. The information will be forwarded to teams in the field.
Part of the problem with illegal fireworks is that authorities usually receive multiple calls for any one offender. One neighbor setting off numerous skyrockets can swamp the 911 dispatchers with many calls on the same incident. The 209-388-SAFE number relieves pressure on the emergency dispatchers but still allows the illegal fireworks to get reported and acted upon.
In addition, people can report illegal fireworks by sending an email to celebratesafe@cityofmerced.org. Those emails will also get forwarded to authorities.
A third option is to report illegal fireworks using the Merced Connect app. The Merced Connect app is free and available at the Apple Store and Google Play. In addition to allowing you to report illegal fireworks, residents can obtain other information about City government.
The City also will hold a fireworks Safe Surrender Day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 30 at Station 51, 99 E. 16th St. where people can turn in illegal fireworks with no questions asked.

 

 

 

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June 6, 2018

Hotel Tioga changes hands, getting improvements

The Hotel Tioga has changed hands and will soon be offering fully renovated and updated market rate apartments in Downtown Merced. The historic building, which opened in 1928, will have commercial spaces on the first floor.

PCG Commercial of Roseville had been marketing the building in early 2017. The property was purchased in April by Hotel Tioga Investors, LLC and will be redeveloped by the same firm. The fully renovated Hotel Tioga will bring additional multimillion dollar investments to downtown and will add to the major economic impacts of the El Capitan Hotel and Mainzer Theater projects that are currently underway.

“The Hotel Tioga was a huge boost for the town 90 years ago, and the sale and work that will be done shortly will once again be transformative,” said Merced Mayor Mike Murphy. “This is another big step forward for Merced and the Downtown.”

“The Hotel Tioga project fits right in with our Downtown Strategy,” Murphy said. “This will promote nightlife, and a diversified center that will include retail and hospitality.”

“This is an exciting time for Merced,” said District 3 Council member Jill McLeod, who represents Downtown area. “The sale of the Hotel Tioga, along with the renovation of the El Capitan and the Mainzer will bring so much new life and energy to the Downtown.”

A DOWNTOWN ICON
The historic building, opened in 1928, has been an icon of Downtown Merced and a social and business hub. Adding the additional market-rate housing to the Downtown housing scene adds a new dimension to the work/life potential in the City’s core. Economic Development Director Frank Quintero said a key element of the Downtown Strategy is having a strong residential base.

Hotel Tioga is strategically located close to the Merced Transportation Center and UC Merced’s Downtown Administration Building on N Street between Main and 16 streets.
“Bringing this much housing to the Downtown will help attract the restaurants and other kinds of businesses that people keep saying they want,” Quintero said. “This can be the foundation for the revitalization of the Downtown that everyone is looking for.”

“This will create the opportunity for something similar to a live-work space, ‘Quintero said. “The live-work unit is actually an idea that has been modernized to meet the needs of entrepreneurs, small businesses and professionals.

“Once revamped, the Hotel Tioga will provide another option for living in Downtown Merced,” Quintero said. “Currently, the vacancy rate in Merced is under 1 percent, so the Hotel Tioga will create new opportunities.”

 

RENOVATION PLANS
When renovated the apartment units will feature new kitchens, countertops, light fixtures, and flooring. The 73,670-square-foot building will offer a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units.

The architect for the project is Page & Turnbull, a full-service architecture, design, planning, and preservation firm that transforms the built environment.

Founded in 1973, the firm has offices in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. It brings together architects, planners, architectural historians, and conservators to take existing structures and adapt them to meet contemporary needs.

Nine decades ago when the Hotel Tioga was built it was aimed at the Yosemite tourists. Visitors could drive up the “all-weather” Highway 140 or take the Yosemite Valley Railroad train to enjoy the natural wonder.

HISTORIC BUILDING
The building, which cost $250,000 to build, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In its prime it had a ballroom, handcrafted tile floors, art deco ceilings and the City’s first neon sign on the roof that could be seen for miles. Also on the roof were two penthouses with legendary views of the Sierras and the Central Valley.

 

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June 6, 2018

CONSTRUCTION/TRAFFIC ADVISORY
G STREET AND YOSEMITE
INTERSECTION CLOSURE

Snelson Companies, Inc., in partnership with PG&E, will be constructing a new gas main to meet future demand for the UC Merced. For this reason, Snelson Companies, Inc. will be closing westbound Yosemite Avenue at the intersection of G Street and Yosemite Avenue. The work will commence on June 4 until June 11 starting at 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Please follow the advance warning signs and detour arrows that will guide you around the jobsite.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to weather, availability of equipment and/or materials, construction related issues, and traffic incidents.


Should you have specific concerns or questions about the project, please contact the PG&E superintendent listed below:
Jack Symonds 209-639-2994

For the safety of the workers and other motorists, please slow down for the construction zone.
Snelson Companies Inc. and PG&E would like to thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation during this project.

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June 6, 2018

First Year of Measure V Exceeds Expectations

Merced- In November 2016, Merced County voters passed Measure V – a countywide ½ cent sales tax for transportation- with an overwhelming approval of 71.3%. The sales tax, which went into effect April 1, 2017, was projected to generate an estimated $15 million annually. However, with the first twelve months of revenue collected, Measure V has exceeded projections by nearly $1.8 million - totaling $16.8 million in new revenue. Per the voter-approved Measure V Expenditure Plan, 50% of the new revenue has been allocated directly to the local jurisdictions within Merced County, 44% has been allocated to regional projects on the east and west sides of the county, and 5% to transit uses. MCAG receives 1% of the revenue for administration and implementation activities.
“This is an exciting time for our region” said Patrick Pittenger, Executive Director of MCAG. “Measure V is providing local jurisdictions with the resources to address long-standing street and road maintenance issues, and as a region we are able to plan for and implement much needed improvements to our regional transportation system.”
$8.4 million has been distributed to the six cities and the County of Merced to address local transportation needs such as repairing potholes and bridges, repaving streets, replacing traffic signals and improving sidewalks and bicycle facilities. More than $7 million has been collected for regional projects with 27% dedicated to projects on the east side of the county and 17% to west side. Projects eligible for this funding have been identified by the Measure V East Side and West Side Regional Projects Committees and will go to the MCAG Governing Board for approval later this month.



Since July 2017, The Bus has utilized the Measure V program to provide free fixed route service countywide to seniors, Veterans, and ADA eligible individuals. To date, Measure V has funded over 138,700 free rides to seniors, veterans and ADA eligible individuals with disabilities in Merced County.
MCAG, is the state-designated Local Transportation Authority for Merced County responsible for the implementation and administration of overseeing Measure V. In an effort to keep the community informed about this transformative measure, MCAG features monthly updates in their electronic newsletter which can be found on the MCAG website mcagov.org. Additional information about Measure V including specific project information by jurisdiction can be found at MeasureV-mcag.com.
Merced County Association Governments (MCAG) is the regional transportation planning agency and metropolitan planning organization for Merced County. In addition to regional transportation planning, MCAG also manages The Bus, YARTS and the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority.

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June 6, 2018

 

Costa Hosts Housing Roundtable to Increase Affordable Homeownership in Merced County

Merced, CA – In his continued efforts to increase access to affordable, safe, and secure housing in the San Joaquin Valley, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) hosted a housing roundtable today to bring together key leaders to collaborate on making homeownership an affordable option in Merced County. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Regional Administrator Jimmy Stracner, additional regional HUD officials, and nearly 20 housing leaders and local officials participated in the roundtable, which also marked this year’s launch of National Homeownership Month.

Merced County’s homeownership statistics fall well below the national average. According to 2016 Census data, the homeownership rate in Merced County is 52.2%, compared to 63.5% nationally.

“Homeownership is the foundation for a strong middle class in America,” said Rep. Jim Costa, who has long worked to make homeownership affordable in the Valley. “The single largest investment that the average American family makes in a lifetime is the purchase of a home. The values of pride of property, understanding the complexity of financing a home, and living in a house where families can flourish are all made possible by homeownership. The purpose of today’s roundtable was to have local and federal leaders sit down together and consider ways to provide more opportunities for homeownership in Merced County.”

During the roundtable, HUD officials discussed the federal agencies and programs specifically aimed at helping Americans buy and maintain safe and secure housing. These include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and a nationwide network of nearly 2,100 housing counseling agencies certified by the Office of Housing Counseling (OHC). More than 1.2 million people turned to the FHA for home financing last year alone, while the education and support provided by housing counselors reduce the likelihood homeowners at risk of default end up facing foreclosure by 30%.

“We at HUD are determined to sustain a housing market that is honest and fair for every hard working American,” said HUD Regional Administrator Jimmy Stracner. “Today, we renew our commitment to all responsible future homeowners that seek their share of the American dream.”

“Homeownership is such an integral part of the American dream and experience. We need to explore and take all creative steps necessary to best position our Valley’s residents so that everyone within our region has the opportunity to sustainably own a home,” stated Mark Hendrickson, Director of Community & Economic Development for Merced County.


Congressman Jim Costa
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Kim Rogina, President of the Merced County Association of Realtors, was one of the local housing leaders who attended today’s roundtable. She shared, “The Merced County Association of Realtors supports and encourages the American dream of homeownership. We are a hardworking community that strives for an affordable and abundant supply of homes for our citizens. Our Association’s Charitable Foundation just received a grant of $25,000 from the California Association of Realtors to aid first time home buyer’s with down payment assistance. We are in the process of fundraising to match that amount. The quality of our community depends on the opportunities afforded individuals and families.

Congressman Costa hopes today is just the beginning of this collaborative effort. He reflected on today’s roundtable with, “We have had bipartisan policies for almost 100 years to encourage and make affordable homeownership. I strongly believe this is how we create healthy communities and a lasting middle class.”

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June 6, 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM BEAR VALLEY ROAD
TO STATE ROUTE 132 IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 15 miles from Bear Valley to the junction with SR-132.

The closure is long term and is necessary for repair work due to the violent storm on March 22, 2018. Caltrans crews and construction partners are working to re-open this section of SR-49 by August 1, 2018.
The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be given a new foundation and fully repaired before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Northbound and southbound SR-49 from the Mariposa/Tuolumne County line to Moccasin/SR-120 was re-opened on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Eastbound and westbound SR-132 from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road in Mariposa County was re-opened on Friday, May 18, 2018.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM STATE ROUTE 140 TO
SOUTH TURLOCK/GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various road construction and maintenance activities on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99) from SR-140 to South Turlock/Golden State Boulevard. Ramp closures are scheduled as follows:

• Various full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 from SR-140 to South Turlock/Golden State Boulevard beginning Sunday, June 3, 2018, through Friday, June 8, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. for bridge work.

• Full on-ramp closure on southbound SR-99 at South Turlock/Golden State Boulevard beginning Sunday, June 3, 2018, through Friday, June 8, 2018, from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. for drainage work.

Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible. No consecutive ramps will be closed at the same time.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.


For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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June 6, 2018

 

SB 1 Funding Approved for Highway 99 Widening Project in Merced County

MERCED- The Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced last week that $2.7 billion in competitive grants funded through the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB 1) was awarded by the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to 64 projects throughout the State of California to tackle congestion, support valuable trade corridors and bolster local agency efforts to invest in transportation.
Among the projects approved was the Northbound State Route 99 (SR-99) Livingston Median Widening Project in Merced County. This $37 million project will widen northbound SR-99 to three lanes (from the two existing) through Livingston and Delhi, including widening of the bridge over the Merced River. The widening project will reduce congestion, improve goods movement, and remove a bottleneck condition where SR-99 is already three lanes to the north and south of the project. This project is a result of a partnership between the State of California and Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG), which is contributing $5.5 million of regional transportation funding. The State funding is provided by the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program (TCEP) which was approved by the CTC. Construction for the Livingston Median Widening Project is scheduled to break ground in the spring of 2019. The complementary Southbound State Route 99 Livingston Median Widening Project is programmed on a later construction schedule through a different funding source.


The Trade Corridor Enhancement Program, created by Senate Bill 1, will provide approximately $300 million annually throughout the state for infrastructure improvements on federally designated Trade Corridors of National and Regional Significance, on the Primary Freight Network, and along other corridors that have a high volume of freight movement. Currently, California serves as the nation’s largest gateway for international trade and domestic commerce, and freight movement which generates about a third of California’s $2.2 trillion economy. The CTC approved three years’ worth of funding (fiscal years 2017-20) totaling approximately $1.4 billion be awarded to 28 projects, valued at more than $4 billion.
Additional approved Trade Corridor Enhancement Program projects can be found at: http://catc.ca.gov/programs/sb1/tcep/docs/2018_Adopted_TCEP.pdf .
The Road Repair and Accountability Act (SB 1), the landmark transportation infrastructure bill signed by Governor Brown in April 2017, invests $54 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways and bridges in communities across California and puts more dollars toward transit and safety. These funds will be split equally between state and local investments. For complete details on SB 1, visit http://www.rebuildingca.ca.gov/.

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June 6, 2018

2018 BUCKS FOR BOOKS SCHOLARSHIP RECIPIENTS CHOSEN

LODI, CA – The Lodi Grape Festival would like to congratulate the recipients of the 2018 Bucks for Books scholarship. The students receiving the award are: Gabriella Borra, Lodi High School; Benjamin Colorado, Lodi High School; Tyler Davis, Lodi High School; Sofia Demski, Lodi High School; Meagan Gonzalez, Seton Hall University (Lodi High School); Grace Hayes, St. Mary’s High School; Hayden Lewis, Lodi High School; Charlotte Magapio Suiza, Lodi High School; and Christein Wiegum, Lodi High School.
Since 2004 the Lodi Grape Festival Bucks for Books scholarship program has awarded $101,000 in scholarships to students graduating or that have graduated within the Lodi Unified School District or living in the district boundaries to be used towards the purchase of books for college classes. The money for the fund is generated solely from fundraising efforts by the Lodi Grape Festival Board of Directors through donations, the Ultimate Wine Collection raffle at the Lodi Wine and Food Festival and the annual Bucks for Books concert at Heritage Oak Winery.
Scholarship applications are available in January and are due by March 1. For more information or to receive an application please e-mail info@grapefestival.com or call (209) 369-2771 or visit www.grapefestival.com.

The Lodi Grape Festival is September 13-16, 2018. For more information visit www.grapefestival.com and follow us on Facebook, Twitter at @lodigrapefest and Instagram at @lodigrapefestival.

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May 23 , 2018

McSwain Unveils New Playground Equipment for Kindergartners

McSwain School held a ribbon cutting this morning and the youngsters couldn’t have been happier to celebrate a brand-new playground.
McSwain Union Elementary School District Superintendent Steve Rosa was anxious to see the long-needed upgrade completed and said his young students were equally excited.
One of the most appealing features of the new playground are the new shade structures which will keep students cool in the hot San Joaquin Valley sun. The previous playground areas lacked the shade, which made the slides and ladders hot to the touch at certain times.
Rosa said the project was supported by the district’s capital improvements budget. The McSwain Educational Foundation contributed more than half of the total cost; work on the playground started in March, with completion on May 7.
Kindergarten teacher Catarina Lourenco said the new playground is very exciting.
“The kids are super excited. We so appreciate everything the school and the foundation have given us. We didn’t have any shade out there. It’s amazing to see the school’s efforts to give a gift to the students. The community involvement is so amazing,” Lourenco said.
The new playground will allow the school’s transitional kindergarten students to join in the fun.
Modern playground fixtures with slides, steps and climbing apparatus replace the antiquated structures which were swapped out. The old wooden mulch was removed in favor of new rubberized bark which provides a safe, cushioned surface and an ability to play all year round, Rosa said.
The structures provide age-appropriate opportunities for the 110 young students to build motor development skills. Kindergarten students use the playground before school, during morning recess and at lunch time. The playground with its two figure eight-shaped play areas covers the entire kindergarten wing.


Marsha Seivert, president of the McSwain Education Foundation, cuts the ribbon for new kindergarten playground equipment at McSwain Elementary School on May 22.


McSwain students enjoy new playground equipment at McSwain Elementary School.


McSwain Elementary School opened a new kindergarten playground today thanks to funds from the district's capital improvements budget and the McSwain Education Foundation.


McSwain Transitional Kindergarten student Luca Miglizzo, 5, enjoys the new playground equipment at the elementary school on May 22.

PHOTOS BY NATE GOMES COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

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May 23 , 2018

Costa Supports Increased Access to Responsible Home and Business Loans in the Valley

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) voted to increase opportunities for San Joaquin Valley residents to access responsible banking and home loans when supporting S. 2155, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.

The legislation makes changes to law currently regulating credit unions, community banks, and small lenders, including key financial institutions serving the Central Valley. Central Valley Community Bank, United Security Bank, and credit unions like Travis, Educational ECU, Golden 1, and Valley First are just some of the Valley’s financial institutions which would be positively impacted by the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act.

These types of smaller, community-based lenders serve as pillars of financial services in rural and less-populated communities like the San Joaquin Valley, and they currently provide over 60 percent of small business loans and 80 percent of agricultural loans throughout the United States. Provisions in the legislation would help these institutions responsibly increase their available loan funds and incentivize lenders to create mortgage agreements that are better for the borrower and the institution alike.

“Our Valley was hit hard and is still recovering from the 2008 financial crisis. In order to continue the economic recovery, consumers and businesses need access to fair and responsible loans from community banks and credit unions – which are the backbone of financial services in the San Joaquin Valley. This legislation maintains the strong consumer protections against predatory lending practices in the Dodd-Frank banking reform. It also relieves community banks and smaller lenders from unnecessary requirements that reduce their ability to finance loans. That’s what this bill is about: using narrow and targeted reforms to increase the ability of small lenders and credit unions to provide loans to our small businesses, farms and dairies, and home owners,” said Rep. Jim Costa, who voted in favor of S. 2155 today.

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act will also support home ownership in rural communities across the Valley. As Gary Quisenberry, Executive Vice President at Central Valley Community Bank, explains, “The reforms in the bill that address home ownership – for example mortgage loans, escrow accounts, loan data, and appraisals –


Congressman Jim Costa
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

would be especially beneficial for home ownership, particularly in the rural areas of the Valley.” The changes the legislation makes to real estate loans would generate over $163 million for new residential lending in California alone, while allowing borrowers the ability to adjust or request changes to their mortgage, should another financial crisis hit.

Jeremy Empol, Vice President of Federal Government Affairs for the California Credit Union League, thanked Congressman Costa and other members of Congress who helped pass the legislation through both chambers of Congress with, “The Credit Unions of California thank Congressman Costa and the bipartisan coalition that supported S. 2155. Through this bipartisan process, that was done by the book, Congress has provided common sense regulation for credit unions and other community lenders that will ease regulatory burdens, allowing us to make lending more affordable for rural communities, small businesses, and low-income borrowers. Credit unions appreciate the unity and pragmatism of this bipartisan package for the 160,000 members in California’s 16th Congressional District and the 11.6 million members in California.”

The Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act passed in the House of Representatives today by a vote of 258 to 159, and it will be sent to the President to sign into law.

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May 22 , 2018

Altamont Corridor Express (ACE®) Passenger Rail Service Partners with California’s Great America to Offer Discounted Park Tickets for Passengers

Stockton (CA) – Starting May 29th through August 10th, California’s Great America will offer discounted admission into the park for guests who ride the ACE train to the Great America station in Santa Clara. When ACE passengers purchase their ACE ticket, they are automatically qualified to receive the discounted park admission rate of $39. Park guests simply show their ACE ticket at the admission gate to receive the discount for up to 10 tickets. For additional information, ACE tickets, and schedules for ACE train 07 (Westbound) and 10 (Eastbound), visit www.acerail.com/fun.

About the Offer
Discounted Ticket Price: $39
Valid Dates: Weekdays only starting on May 29th through August 10th.*
*Blackout Dates: July 4th, due to no ACE train service in observance of the Fourth of July holiday and June 22nd, 27th, and August 8th, due to California’s Great America park closure.

 


For a complete list of park closures and operating hours, visit https://www.cagreatamerica.com/explore/calendar-and-hours.

About the ACE Train Service
Started in 1998 and serving over 1.3 million riders annually, the ACE train runs four daily round trips starting at the Cabral Station in Downtown Stockton and stops in Lathrop/Manteca, Tracy, Vasco Road, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Great America, Santa Clara and San Jose’s Diridon station. For more information on ACE, please visit www.acerail.com.

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May 22 , 2018


The Fresno Food Expo Expands to Welcome all
Food & Beverage Companies from California’s $71.25 Billion Food Industry

New Retail Advisory Committee announced;
California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross Keynote on the State of Food in California

Fresno, California – May 21, 2018…The Fresno Food Expo is now welcoming all California food and beverage businesses to exhibit their products on July 26 - establishing the only food industry tradeshow exclusively for California food and beverage brands.

“California is the largest fresh and finished food-producing state in the nation - and the Fresno Food Expo is building a world-class tradeshow that makes connecting with California food brands convenient, efficient and accessible,” said Amy Fuentes, Manager of the Fresno Food Expo. “Our awards and marketing programs are dedicated to bringing recognition and sales opportunities to all food companies in the Golden State.”

Also new for 2018, the Expo has developed a California Retail Advisory Committee to gain insight, connectivity and guidance on the current needs and trends for retailer and foodservice buyers, and to ensure the Expo’s platform continues to deliver relevant California food connections. In addition to bringing their buying teams to the Expo, this committee will also judge the Expo’s New Product Awards. Committee appointees include: Albertsons and VONS, Southern California; Albertsons and Safeway, Northern California; Bristol Farms; Erewhon Markets; and Whole Foods Market, Northern California and Reno.

“Discovering and carrying quality California products remains a high priority for our store,” said Randy Ducummon, Vice President for Whole Foods Market, Northern California & Reno. “Having the Fresno Food Expo expand its borders to include all California food and beverage products provides a unique and incredibly valuable opportunity for us to connect with California food businesses, while also sourcing new store offerings.”

The Expo has confirmed California Food and Agriculture Secretary, Karen Ross to Keynote at the Welcome Breakfast. The Secretary will discuss the future of food and agriculture in California and the food industry’s economic impact in California. The breakfast is open to participating exhibitors, sponsors and qualified, pre-registered attending buyers.

Returning is the Expo’s New Product Awards platform, which is open for submissions now through July 6 at
5 p.m. The New Product Awards will feature new products or packaging concepts introduced to the marketplace between January 1, 2017 andJuly 26, 2018. These awards will be judged by representatives from the new California Retail Advisory Committee.

For award program details and to apply, visit www.fresnofoodexpo.com/awards/new-product-awards.

“Since 2013, the Fresno Food Expo has launched more than 160 new products through its awards program from startups to multi-generation family businesses to national corporations whose entries are now seen in major retail outlets throughout the U.S. and internationally,” concluded Fuentes.

The 2018 Fresno Food Expo will take place on Thursday, July 26, 2018. More than 150 exhibitors and 700 key, pre-qualified international and domestic buyers are expected to participate in the buyer portion of the show, which will take place from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. It will be followed byExpolicious, the Expo’s evening celebration from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tickets go on sale for Expolicious on June 4, 2018. Registration is currently open for buyers and exhibitors. For more details, visit www.FresnoFoodExpo.com.

About Fresno Food Expo
The Fresno Food Expo was launched in 2011 by the City of Fresno in an effort to connect the region’s food industry companies to new retail and foodservice customers, and put a spotlight on the San Joaquin Valley’s thriving and diverse food industry. Since then, the Expo has transitioned to a 501c-6 which is governed by a 13-member Board of Directors made up of Presidents and CEOs from the Region’s largest and most productive food companies, whose focus is connecting California food companies to retailers and foodservice distributors who actively seek out and make it a priority to sell local/California products.

The 2018 Fresno Food Expo Executive Board Members include:
• Chairwoman, Agnes Saghatelian, President Valley Lahvosh Baking Company
• Vice Chair, Vincent Ricchuiti, Director of Operations Enzo Olive Oil Company
• Secretary, Rod Noll, Vice President U.S. Cold Storage
• Treasurer, Denver Schutz, Technical Services Manager Gerawan Farming
• Lee Brand, Mayor, City of Fresno
• Helen Chavez-Hansen, Owner/President, La Tapatia Tortilleria, Inc.
• Mark Ford, President, JD Food
• Mike Grazier, President, Busseto Foods
• Jimmy Maxey, Chairman, Certified Meat Products
• Chuck Nichols, President Nichols Pistachio
• Justin Parnagian, Sales Director, Fowler Packing
• Fred Ruiz, Co-Founder & Chairman Emeritus, Ruiz Foods
• Bill Smittcamp, President & CEO, Wawona Frozen Foods

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May 22 , 2018

Crime Victims United Endorses Morse for Merced District Attorney

Crime Victims United of California, the state’s most influential victims’ rights advocates, unanimously endorsed Larry Morse for Merced County District Attorney.

“You have always been a great supporter of victims and victim’s rights and we look forward to working alongside you,” said Harriett Salerno, Chair of Crime Victims United.

Morse also received the support of Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klass. Polly Klaas’s horrific kidnapping and murder in 1993 when she was 12-years-old sparked tougher crime laws on repeat violent offenders in California.

Klaas founded the Klaas Kids Foundation in the aftermath of Polly’s murder. Klaas and Morse have served together for several years on the State Board of Directors of Fight Crime, Invest in Kids, a national organization that lobbies for evidence based solutions to juvenile delinquency and crime.

“We know that Larry Morse has always put victims first,” said Klaas. “I am proud to support his reelection as Merced county District attorney. He has played an essential role as a board member of the California District Attorneys Association in watching out for the rights of victims of crime,” he continued. “We can’t afford to lose him.”

“I’m honored by these endorsements,” said Morse. “Our bottom line as prosecutors is to see that every step is taken to hold people who break the law accountable for their actions.”

Morse has won the endorsement of every law enforcement group that has made an endorsement in the election. In addition to those endorsements, Morse has won the support of the North Valley Labor Federation and the Merced County Farm Bureau.

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May 19 , 2018

 

MCSD Hosts 4th Annual STEAM Fair
Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math

Hundreds of students, parents, and staff from all 18 Merced City School District campuses came together Thursday evening for the fourth annual STEAM Fair. It was held at the district’s new cutting edge STEAM Center, which opened in August next to Ada Givens Elementary.

This event was a chance for the schools to showcase work done throughout the year in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. It featured a variety of interactive student displays, performances by school bands, a solar car station, and an educational drum circle facilitated by special guest presenter, Dr. Craig Woodson.

Community partners from UC Merced, Mercy Medical Center Merced, the City of Merced, and Castle Air museum also set up booths with hands-on activities, from science experiments to CPR training. It was an opportunity for students to see how professionals in our community use STEAM every day. Children also had a chance to meet JiJi the ST Math penguin, which is the mascot for a computer program they frequently use in the classroom.

MCSD Superintendent Dr. RoseMary Parga Duran says, “We love bringing our community together for this event each year. It’s a chance to celebrate the outstanding work being done in our schools, while also providing new learning opportunities and inspiring experiences for our students.”

The Merced City School District is home to an award-winning STEAM program that combines daily classroom curriculum with educational excursions and visits to the STEAM Center. The facility provides a 21st century space for all of the district’s TK-8th grade students to enjoy collaborative, hands-on learning. It also allows groups of teachers to work together and learn from one another, and it provides a place for additional community collaboration and special events, including the STEAM Fair.

 

n
A family enjoys one of the student displays at the MCSD STEAM Fair


Students enjoy hands-on learning activities at the Merced City School District’s annual STEAM Fair


Educator and musician, Dr. Craig Woodson, leads a drum circle during the Merced City School District STEAM Fair


The “School of Rock” band from Rivera Middle School performs during the annual MCSD STEAM Fair

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May 19 , 2018

Delhi High School Students Form First County School Mariachi Band

There’s a new sound coming from Delhi High School as 22 students have formed a mariachi band that has entertained and inspired many people in the Delhi community.
Adolfo Melara, superintendent of the Delhi Unified School District, said planning for the mariachi ensemble started last fall when educators visited Lincoln High School in San Jose. The group started in January and is here to stay.
“Through hard work, a lot of research and perseverance, we have created a fledgling mariachi band and we’re very proud of them,” Melara said. “Their first performance was at our March board meeting and it was an incredible success.”
Melara said they want to be a showcase for the high school in the community, across the state and the country.
“They have truly become a showpiece for the Delhi Unified School District,” Melara said.
Matthew Wellman directs the mariachi band. He volunteered for the job when the original teacher left his position. Twenty-two students, 15 of them seniors, are part of the seventh period elective ensemble.
Wellman plays trumpet with the group and says it will be a fixed feature for Delhi for the foreseeable future.
“It’s a blast. These talented kids rose to the occasion and the community seems really excited. It’s been a learning experience for everyone,” Wellman said. He has taught 15 years at Delhi High School.
The group has performed at Delhi’s multicultural festival, for the Local Control and Accountability Planning meeting and for the medical science graduation ceremony.
Joe Gutierrez of Los Banos is a Merced College trustee and is trying to promote creation of other mariachi groups in schools. He has been putting on mariachi concerts in Los Banos.
“This is history. They are the first high school in Merced County ever to have a mariachi band. You should see the pride in the parents. For the short time they have been together they’re doing great,” Gutierrez said.
High school mariachi bands are a win-win situation for everybody and it’s an awesome community atmosphere, Gutierrez said. He praises Wellman for his efforts and said he knew it would be well-received.
Melara said the district spent about $15,000 for violins, guitars and trumpets for the group.
“It’s a class, not a club, part of the music program. We want students’ education to be relevant to their experience. I thought it was a way to connect music programs to students in the community,” Melara said. He said Gutierrez was an inspiration to putting the program together.
Students’ costumes are just a white shirt, black slacks or skirts. Their first major performance was April 26 with the first three songs they learned.
“I could not be prouder to see our students showcasing their talents. It is really inspiring,” Melara said.



PHOTOS COURTESY DELHI UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT

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May 19 , 2018

City budget, Arts Commission on agenda

The preliminary budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year and an update on the Arts and Culture Commission will be presented to the City Council at the Monday night meeting.

The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St. The Council meets the first and third Mondays of the month, except when there is a holiday, when it meets the following day.

The $233,059,750 budget includes $42,639,790 in the General Fund. The budget is designed to lay a foundation for the City’s growth, but also provide a cushion for any potential economic down cycle that could occur in the future.

There will be public hearings on the budget at the June 4 and June 18 Council meetings. The entire preliminary budget is available online at www.cityofmerced.org.

On the agenda are labor agreements with Merced Association of City Employees, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Merced Fire Fighters. The agreement includes a 2.5 percent pay increase over the next two years.

Staff is asking for further direction on an Arts and Culture Advisory Commission when it presents a draft ordinance to the Council. A group of stakeholders has been working on the draft ordinance to create the commission at the direction of the Council. After receiving direction from Council, any changes will be incorporated into the ordinance before it is formally introduced at a later date

 


The Council will also get an update on its goals and priorities for the third quarter. The Council sets its goals and priorities at the beginning of the fiscal year and receives quarterly progress reports.

The Council will meet in closed session at 5:30 p.m. Monday to confer with labor negotiators.

City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet. A link to the live meeting is on the City’s web site at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org and is available outside the chambers prior to the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be turned in to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council. Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all Council meetings.

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May 19 , 2018

MCOE Special Education Teacher Honored by Fresno State

Yvonne Carlon received the shock of her life recently — but in a good way.
The teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students for the Merced County Office of Education received the Carolyn Dobbs Special Education Teacher of the Year Award from California State University, Fresno.
Carlon, 45, teaches four hearing-impaired students at Peterson Elementary School in Merced and has worked at MCOE for 12 years.
“It was a great honor to receive it; I was shocked to be the one named,” Carlon said.
Normally Carlon teaches preschool to second grade students but this year she has all second-graders. She points out her students are everyday normal kids who had can do anything that others do.
While a student years ago at Modesto Junior College, Carlon said she fell in love with sign language. She was an aide with the Stanislaus County Office of Education for 4 1/2 years and decided to pursue a degree from CSUF, graduating 12 years ago.
For three years she worked in a severely handicapped classroom. Carlon received a master's degree in deaf education and has a multiple subjects credential. She uses sign language as well as voice with her students.
The Kremen School at CSUF recently honored local special education teachers with the Dobbs award which recognizes the importance of the work of special education professionals.
The annual award, created in 2005, was named after Mary Carolyn Dobbs (1911- 2011) by the Kremen School.
Born in 1911 – the same year Fresno State was founded – Dobbs received the honorary doctorate degree in humane letters in 2004 in recognition of her contributions to special education through tireless advocacy for children with special needs.


From left, MCOE Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Susan Coston, MCOE Special Education teacher Yvonne Carlon and MCOE Special Education Coordinator Maria Duran-Barajas pose for a photo. Carlon recently received the Carolyn Dobbs Special Education Teacher of the Year Award from California State University, Fresno.

PHOTO COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dobbs, a Fresno State alumna, was a teacher and internationally renowned pioneer in special education. Her selfless work brought significant changes at the state and national levels in the classroom and in everyday life for students.


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May 19 , 2018

Costa Votes for Valley Farmers and Families

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement after the House of Representatives rejected H.R. 2 – commonly referred to as the Farm Bill – by a vote of 198 to 213:

“The Farm Bill the House rejected today is a clear example of what happens when Republicans and Democrats fail to work together: bad policy that serves too few Americans. Today’s vote makes clear that the Farm Bill is too big and too important to pass in the House using partisan arm-twisting. This bill could not get enough support in the House because it simply fails to serve our nation’s food needs. It does not do enough to support our food system or our food security.

“American agriculture needs a Farm Bill that promotes trade, adequately supports dairy producers, and assists specialty crop farmers. Our nation needs a Farm Bill that feeds Americans, ensures our food producers can be successful, and supports our food security and food safety net. Sadly, the Farm Bill we voted on today not only fails to meet these basic tests, but it also increases food insecurity and further divides our country along both partisan and regional lines.

“My vote against this version of the Farm Bill was a vote to return to the bipartisan, deliberative policy process that has historically resulted in successful farm and nutrition programs – programs that advance the interests of all Americans. It was a vote demanding fair support for our San


Congressman Jim Costa


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joaquin Valley farmers and families. It was a vote for a good Farm Bill, one that actually serves our food producers, feeds Americans, and provides our nation with food security. The Senate is currently working on such a bipartisan, solution-oriented bill, and I hope we take up this serious piece of legislation and get back to work on America’s food bill soon.”

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May 18, 2018

Castle Air Museum Open Cockpit Day

Castle Air Museum located at 5050 Santa Fe Drive in Atwater will be hosting its 22nd Annual Open Cockpit Day, Sunday May 27, 2018 from 9 AM to 5 PM!
Over 40 of the Museum’s 70 vintage military aircraft open for viewing like the still secret SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, B-52 Bomber, the Navy F-14 Tomcat of Top Gun fame, and new exhibits like the F-16 Fighting Falcon, which is a former 144thFighter Wing aircraft from the California Air National Guard in Fresno! The Cold War era vaunted MIG-21 Soviet Fighter, Army Chinook Helicopter and Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star Radar and Early Warning aircraft!! Don’t forget for only an extra $10 per person see our Presidential Aircraft that flew two U.S. Presidents and a multitude of dignitaries around the globe for 30 years!
Food Court, Children’s activities, Law Enforcement and Fire Department displays, and Helicopter rides are just part of this year’s celebration at the Castle Air Museum in Atwater! For more information, please go to our website at www.castleairmuseum.org



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May 18, 2018

Billions in SB 1 Funding Approved for
Congestion Relief, Freight and Local Projects

STOCKTON – Caltrans today announced that $2.7 billion in competitive grants funded through the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (SB 1) were awarded to 64 projects throughout California to tackle congestion, support valuable trade corridors and bolster local agency efforts to invest in transportation. These three programs, the Solutions for Congested Corridors, Trade Corridor Enhancement and Local Partnership Programs are vital infrastructure improvement programs created by SB 1.

“California is expected to keep growing, both economically and in population,” said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman. “These projects funded by SB 1 will help to ensure that we can keep our economy moving and growing, and ease commutes for our residents so they can move efficiently between destinations.”

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved the grants for these three competitive grants during their May commission meeting in San Diego:

Trade Corridor Enhancement Program

California is the nation’s largest gateway for international trade and domestic commerce, and freight movement generates about a third of California’s $2.2 trillion economy. Because of its importance and expected growth, SB 1 provides $300 million annually for projects related to the routes and transportation infrastructure vital to California’s trade and freight economy. Three years’ worth of funding (fiscal years 2017-20) totaling approximately $1.4 billion was awarded to 28 projects, valued at more than $4 billion.

Projects receiving funding include:

• Northbound SR-99 Livingston Median Widening Project in Merced County – The $37.4 million project will widen northbound SR-99 to three lanes (from the two existing) in and near the City of Livingston. A separate southbound project will also occur along this stretch but is not currently tied to SB 1.

• Central Valley Gateway Projects (I-205/International Parkway Interchange Improvements and I-580/International Parkway Interchange Improvements in San Joaquin County) – These two projects, totaling $24.7 million, will widen ramps, construct turn pockets, install bike and pedestrian improvements, and modify traffic signals.

• State Route 132 West Expressway/Expressway Phase 1 in Stanislaus County – The $149.4 million project will construct a two-lane expressway with full access control and grade separation divided highway.

The final approved project list, by county, for the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program can be found at http://catc.ca.gov/programs/sb1/tcep/docs/2018_Adopted_TCEP.pdf .

More information on the program can be found on the CTC's SB 1 Trade Corridor Enhancement Program web page.


Local Partnership Competitive Program

The CTC awarded approximately $309 million to 27 projects to fund transportation improvements valued at more than $1.7 billion. This funding represents three years (fiscal years 2017-20) of matching funds for local entities that have already chosen to make their own investments in transportation.

The Local Partnership Program (LPP) was created by SB 1 to provide counties, cities and regional transportation agencies that have passed sales tax measures, developer fees or other voter-approved transportation fees with additional support for local projects from the State. The LPP creates a continuous appropriation of $200 million annually to fund road maintenance and rehabilitation, sound walls and other transportation improvement projects. These funds are distributed through a 50 percent statewide competitive component and a 50 percent formula component. The recipients of the formulaic component were finalized in March.

Local projects receiving funding include:

• The State Route 99 (SR-99)/Fulkerth Road Interchange Improvement Project in Stanislaus County – The $11 million project will widen Fulkerth Road, construct retaining walls under SR-99, widen the northbound off-ramp, reconstruct the northbound on-ramp to provide two mixed-flow lanes and one HOV lane, realign the southbound off-ramp for two mixed-flow lanes and one HOV lane, and improve the intersection in the City of Turlock.

The final approved project list, by county, for the Local Partnership Program Competitive Program can be found at http://catc.ca.gov/programs/sb1/lpp/docs/2018_Adopted_CompetitiveLPP.pdf .

More information on the Local Partnership Program can be found on the CTC's SB 1 Local Partnership Program web page.

Solutions for Congested Corridors Program

SB 1 created the Solutions for Congested Corridors Program, which provides $250 million annually for multimodal corridor plans that make performance improvements along the state’s busiest highways. Approved projects and plans provide more transportation choices while preserving the character of the local community and creating opportunities for neighborhood enhancement projects.

The CTC approved four years’ worth of funding (Fiscal years 2017-18 to 2020-21) totaling approximately $1 billion to nine projects statewide as part of this program. These projects are valued at approximately $3.5 billion.

The final approved project list, by county, for the Solutions for Congested Corridors Program can be found at http://catc.ca.gov/programs/sb1/sccp/docs/2018_Adopted_SCCP.pdf .

More information on the program can be found on the CTC's SB 1 Solutions for Congested Corridors Program web page.

The Road Repair and Accountability Act (SB 1), the landmark transportation infrastructure bill signed by Governor Brown in April 2017, invests $54 billion over the next decade to fix roads, freeways and bridges in communities across California and puts more dollars toward transit and safety. These funds will be split equally between state and local investments. For complete details on SB 1, visit http://www.rebuildingca.ca.gov/.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
OVERNIGHT FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 140 FROM BERT CRANE ROAD
TO HULL ROAD IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – Eastbound and westbound State Route 140 (SR-140) will be closed for five consecutive nights from Bert Crane Road to Hull Road west of Merced beginning Sunday, May 20, 2018, through Friday, May 25, 2018, from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

The Merced Irrigation District will be working on a project in the area to install piping.

Detours are as follows:

East on SR-140:
- Left on Bert Crane Road
- Right on Atwater Jordan Road
- Right on Applegate Road
- Left on eastbound SR-140

West on SR-140:
- Right on Applegate Road
- Left on Atwater Jordan Road
- Left on Bert Crane Road
- Right on westbound SR-140

Motorists should expect 15 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM STATE ROUTE 120/MOCCASIN IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY
TO BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

TUOLUMNE/MARIPOSA COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 36 miles from Moccasin Creek at the junction with SR-120 to Bear Valley Road for repair work after heavy rain on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure. Access to the town of Coulterville is available using alternate routes.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM MISSION AVENUE IN MERCED TO
APPLEGATE ROAD IN ATWATER

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various road construction and maintenance activities on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99) from Mission Avenue to Applegate Road.

Ramp closures are scheduled as follows:

• Various full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 from Mission Avenue to 16th Street in Merced beginning Sunday, May 20, 2018, through Friday, May 25, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. for striping work.

• Various full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 from SR-140 in Merced to Golden State Boulevard in Turlock beginning Sunday, May 20, 2018, through Friday, May 25, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. for bridge work.

• Full off-ramp closures from northbound SR-99 to Childs Avenue in Merced and Franklin Road and Applegate Road in Atwater on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. for landscape and irrigation work.

Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible. No consecutive ramps will be closed at the same time.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.


For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.


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May 17, 2018

Congressman Costa Crosses Party Lines to Bring More Water to the Valley

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) again crossed party lines in the House Natural Resources Committee to support two bills that could dramatically improve the reliability and quantity of Valley water supplies.

The first bill – introduced by Representatives Ken Calvert (CA-42) and Costa (CA-16) – aims to bring all Endangered Species Act regulation of species that have a portion of their lifecycle in the ocean, like salmon, under a single regulating government agency. By doing so, H.R. 3916, aptly named the FISH Act, would eliminate the redundant and often conflicting requirements that commonly result from multiple agencies regulating water resources for the restoration of a single species without taking other factors, including water resources or other species, into account.

Shasta Dam fell victim to such contradictory requirements in 2016, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considered requiring water be released from the Dam to supplement flows for Delta smelt, while the National Marine Fisheries Service was mandating that same water be held behind Shasta Dam to provide additional cold water for salmon rearing. Costa called this contradiction “absurd” before noting that regulation by a single agency “would make much more common sense” and that “San Joaquin Valley water agencies, the Metropolitan Water District and the Association of California Water Agencies support this.”

Congressman Jim Costa also advocated for support of H.R. 4419, a bill introduced by Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-4) which would streamline the process for creating or expanding water projects by the Bureaus of Reclamation and Indian Affairs. This legislation would dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to complete such water projects by limiting the project


Congressman Jim Costa

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review phase to three years and a cost of $3 million dollars. This includes the expansion of Shasta Dam, which has been stuck in the “feasibility study” step of the process since 2010. It would also apply to feasibility studies for Temperance Flat Dam and a raise of San Luis Reservoir.

“Eight years of delay in completing storage facility studies is simply inconsistent with the challenges facing California today,”stated Rep. Costa, directly speaking to the expansion of Shasta Dam. “This legislation would address this and provide Congressional methodology to more rapidly construct the needed water storage in California, and across the nation. If we can’t do it in the fifth largest economy in the world – and manage our water supply – god help the rest of the planet.”

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May 16, 2018

Atwater FFA Students Earn Top State Recognition and Awards

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

With over 300 high schools throughout the state and over 300o individual high school students competing, the Atwater High School agriculture and FFA program’s students earned recognition and awards that put them at the top of the state during the recent Fresno State University, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo University, and California State Leadership Convention events taken place over the past couple weeks.

The Atwater FFA Milks Quality and Dairy Foods team of Callie Norton, Luke van Warmerdam, Kendyll Cruz, and Natalie Frontella placed 2nd overall in the Cal Poly state championship in a contest where students demonstrate their knowledge and skills in milk quality (tasting), cheese identification, real vs imitation dairy foods, and a written exam on the dairy industry.

The Atwater FFA Marketing Plan team comprised of Jasmine Sandoval, Anessa Cardenas, and Alison Melanader placed 2nd overall at the Cal Poly state championship in a contest that seeks to effectively prepare students for the opportunities and expectations of the agricultural business workplace. Students seeking careers in agriculture business must develop a high degree of knowledge and skill as well as the capacity to create and present a marketing plan.

The Atwater FFA Novice Parliamentary Procedure team comprised of Nandani Patel, Teresa Cavallero, Isabel Murrillo, Jennifer Velazquez, Simarjot Gandhoke, Jerrod Nickerson, and Celeste Chargoy and the Advanced Parliamentary Procedure team comprised of Emily Junez, Anessa Cardenas, Michael Bray, Natalie Frontella, Emmanuel Mejia, Callie Norton, and Cristal Venegas each placed 5th overall in the state championships held at fresno State University. Parliamentary procedure is a set of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies. FFA students throughout California participate in various parliamentary procedure contests where students demonstrate their public speaking, understanding, and implementation of skills.
“This is an opportunity to get students involved in an application that develops and strengthens public speaking, critical thinking, and leadership skills that can be applied towards any academic and career endeavor,” said West.

The Atwater FFA Farm Business Management team comprised of Ricardo Ortega, Zion Brigham, Liliana Vargas, and Belinda Espinoza placed 4th overall at the Cal Poly State Finals competition. The Atwater FFA Poultry team comprised of Anna Lozano, Victor Mejia, Stephania Valdovinos, Sayra Ramos placed 5th overall at the Cal Poly State Finals. The Atwater FFA Land and Soil Evaluation team comprised of Audrey Esau, Micheal Bray, Jose Ruiz, Arturo Valdovinos placed 6th overall in the state with a combined state finals contest at Fresno State University and Cal Poly, SLO. The Atwater FFA Meats team comprised of Daisy Flores, Emily Junez, Mariah Castro, and Bailey Weimer placed 6th overall in the state. The Atwater FFA Agronomy team comprised of Luz Soto, Elisabeth Garner, Maria Ruelas, Jennifer Velazquez placed 8th overall in the state. The Atwater FFA Vegetable team comprised of Dillon Guillen, Jose Montanez, Tyler Brawley, Kelsi Kamesch placed 11th in the state. The Atwater FFA Nursery and Landscape team of Brissa Garcia, Noemi Perez, and Vanessa Varela placed 13th overall in the state at Cal Poly. The Atwater FFA Ag Mechanics team comprised of Joel Rojas, Daisy Flores-Mota, Marie Corado, Juanable Perez placed 20th overall in the state at Cal Poly.

During the 90th annual California State Leadership Convention held in Anaheim a few weeks ago, Atwater FFA members were recognized throughout the state in front of over 7000 high school agriculture students in attendance. Atwater FFA’s Kaya Briscoe-Mattis was the California State Proficiency winner in Small Animal Production. Her application is now going on to the National FFA for national recognition. Atwater FFA Reporter Grace Reyes was recognized as one of the state’s Star Reporters. Belinda Espinoza, Anna Lozano, and Callie Norton were all scholarship finalists and recipients in various state-wide FFA scholarships given to a select few throughout the state.

There are over 87,000 high school agriculture students in California representing over 375 high school agriculture programs, and the success of the Atwater FFA agriculture program can be attributed to the agriculture pathway sequence of courses at Atwater High School, the increased student involvement/participation outside of the classroom, and the tremendous support from the school/district, community, and agriculture industry. “We will say it time and time again,” says FFA advisor Kaylyn Davenport, “We are seeing a positive return on everyone’s investment with our students, and we all should take tremendous pride in their accomplishments.”



Atwater High School agriculture students Anessa Cardenas, Allison Melander, and Jasmine Sandoval of the Marketing Plan team placed 2nd overall in the state during the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo FFA State Finals Field Day.


Atwater High School agriculture students Luke Van Warmerdam, Callie Norton, Kendyll Cruz, and Natalie Frontella of the Milk Quality and Dairy Foods team placed 2nd overall in the state during the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo FFA State Finals Field Day.


Atwater FFA's Kaya Briscoe-Mattis and her FFA advisor Shelby West gather together during the recent state FFA State leadership Convention in Anaheim where Kaya was recognized as the state proficiency winner in Small Animal Production. Her application goes on to the National FFA Finals in Indianapolis, Indiana this summer.

For more information on this event, upcoming events, and information on the Atwater FFA, log on their website at www.AtwaterFFA.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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May 16, 2018

Hilmar Dual Language Immersion Program Teaches Students Portuguese

Elementary school students in Hilmar are learning the Portuguese language through a dual language immersion program and the results are proving encouraging.
Isabel Cabral-Johnson, superintendent of the Hilmar Unified School District, said the Portuguese program began last August and will expand to a second-grade class for the next school year.
Hilmar is the only school district in California to offer the Portuguese dual language immersion program.
“It speaks to the innovativeness of the district and the value we place on languages and cultures,” Cabral-Johnson said. “This is a great enrichment activity. In six months, students are speaking Portuguese and solving problems together. They are attentive and engaged.”
Melissa Cunha teaches the Portuguese-math class to first-graders at Elim Elementary School. She said they start their day with math, science and social studies, all in Portuguese.
“Through exposure and repetition the students have picked up the language very quickly. By November, over half the class was participating eagerly in Portuguese. By January, all of the students openly spoke and participated using the Portuguese language,” Cunha said.
Cabral-Johnson, who also speaks Portuguese and Spanish, said almost all Hilmar students who applied have passed the test to get their seal of biliteracy recognition, which appears on their diploma and high school transcripts. Hilmar has conducted a similar Spanish language immersion program for about 20 years, beginning in kindergarten and continuing through all grades.
She said there has been a lot of interest in the Hilmar community to offer Portuguese language instruction. Hilmar educators last year visited a school near Provo, Utah that offers a similar program and are planning a return visit soon.
A monthly meeting is held to update parents on the program. She said it is progressing very well and students are like sponges, capable of learning a new language if they are given the resources.
Cunha explained since the Portuguese language is the seventh most used language in the world, the students at the beginning of the year were informed how important and how special an opportunity they had to be able to learn another language.
“Many students became very eager and excited because they wanted to work for the government in the future. We discussed many times how many different jobs require a second or third language. And how important it is for their future success,” Cunha said.
Cabral-Johnson said students are provided visual aids and manipulative, hands-on materials. They learn the same first grade math material mandated in state standards that other students receive, as well as the Portuguese language.
“We have found out they are not losing anything in English while doing this. By very animated teaching, we are bringing the language to life,” Cabral-Johnson said.
At least 40 percent of Hilmar's students have a Portuguese heritage. It is easier to create pathways in the brain to learn a language at an early age. Children are not afraid to speak another language, according to Cabral-Johnson.
Hilmar has 2,400 students from transitional kindergarten through high school.
“The kids don’t care. You get an opportunity to practice language without inhibition. We are always looking for things to enhance the education of students,” Cabral-Johnson said.
Cabral said this has been an amazing opportunity, not only for her, the students and their families. She said she can't wait to see what the future holds for all of these language learners.

 


Hilmar Unified School District second-grade teacher Melissa Cunha reads to her students in Portuguese. She teaches California's only Portuguese dual language immersion program at Elim Elementary School.


Pictures and Portuguese descriptions adorn the hallway and door outside of Melissa Cunha's second grade class at Elim Elementary School in Hilmar.


Hilmar Unified School District second-grade teacher Melissa Cunha reads to her students in Portuguese. She teaches California's only Portuguese dual language immersion program at Elim Elementary School.


Students in Melissa Cunha's second grade Portuguese dual language immersion program are encouraged to speak only Portuguese during part of the school day and are pictured here in different regions of Portugal.

PHOTOS BY DYLAN MCMULLEN COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

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May 16, 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
OVERNIGHT FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 140 FROM BERT CRANE ROAD
TO HULL ROAD IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – Eastbound and westbound State Route 140 (SR-140) will be closed for five consecutive nights from Bert Crane Road to Hull Road west of Merced beginning Sunday, May 20, 2018, through Friday, May 25, 2018, from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

The Merced Irrigation District will be working on a project in the area to install piping.

Detours are as follows:

East on SR-140:
- Left on Bert Crane Road
- Right on Atwater Jordan Road
- Right on Applegate Road
- Left on eastbound SR-140

West on SR-140:
- Right on Applegate Road
- Left on Atwater Jordan Road
- Left on Bert Crane Road
- Right on westbound SR-140

Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 132 FROM GRANITE SPRINGS ROAD
TO PINEY CREEK ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed eastbound and westbound State Route 132 (SR-132) for approximately half a mile from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road for repair work after heavy rain on March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term in order to repair the roadway after a wash-out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-132 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure. There is a local detour available before the closure on either side.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM OWENS CREEK IN MERCED TO
GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD IN TURLOCK

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various road construction activities on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99) from Owens Creek to Golden State Boulevard. Ramp closures are scheduled as follows:

• Various full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 from Owens Creek to Webber Canal in Atwater beginning Monday, May 14, 2018, through Friday, May 18, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. for striping work.

• Various full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 from Childs Avenue to Bradbury Road in Delhi beginning Monday, May 14, 2018, through Friday, May 18, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. for bridge work.

• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to Golden State Boulevard beginning Monday, May 14, 2018, through Friday, May 18, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. for shoulder work.

• Full on-ramp closure from Golden State Boulevard to southbound SR-99 beginning Monday, May 14, 2018, through Friday, May 18, 2018, from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. for shoulder work.

The work at Golden State Boulevard is part of a project that will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of Bradbury Road to just north of the county line.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM STATE ROUTE 120/MOCCASIN IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY
TO BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

TUOLUMNE/MARIPOSA COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 36 miles from Moccasin Creek at the junction with SR-120 to Bear Valley Road for repair work after heavy rain on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure. Access to the town of Coulterville is available using alternate routes.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

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May 16, 2018

Congressmen Costa, Denham, Garamendi, and McClintock Introduce Legislation to Update Water Infrastructure Projects

Washington, D.C. – In their ongoing work to improve access to safe and reliable water, Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA-16), Jeff Denham (R-CA-10), John Garamendi (D-CA-3), and Tom McClintock (R-CA-4) introduced H.R 5726, the Non-Federal Reservoir Operations Improvement Act, in the House of Representatives today. If enacted, the bipartisan legislation would resolve a technicality that impedes structural and operational improvements of water reservoirs and prevents reservoirs from functioning as efficiently as possible.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulates the flood-control operations of many federal and non-federal reservoirs, guided by criteria set down in a “Water Control Manual” for each project. Up-to-date manuals, guidelines, and flood-control information help improve the efficiency of reservoir operation, creating more useable water. However, these manuals are often not reviewed and updated for decades by the Corps, who cite budget constraints. While current law allows the Corps to accept non-federal funds to review and update this information for Corps-owned reservoirs, it cannot accept similar funds for reservoirs not owned by the Corps, such as those owned by states, counties, or irrigation districts.

This effectually prevents dam owners, like Merced Irrigation District, from raising the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam, because the project requires that the Corps updates the flood control manual for Lake McClure. The Non-Federal Reservoir Operations Improvement Act fixes this issue by allowing the Corps to accept non-federal funding to review and update operational documents and flood information for non-federal, locally-owned projects.

“This bill is a straightforward solution to a senseless problem that blocks improved water supply in the San Joaquin Valley, and in communities across the United States,” said Rep. Costa, lead sponsor on the bill. “Merced Irrigation District has been trying to raise the spillway gates at New Exchequer Dam to increase the carryover storage capacity of Lake McClure for years, but cannot move forward without updated operations guidelines and flood information. This project, when complete, will increase water supplies for eastern Merced County by 57,000 acre-feet during some years, and every additional acre-foot of water is vital to the future of our community. Merced Irrigation District is willing to pay to update the information and move the project forward, but the Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates Exchequer, indicated that the law prohibits it from accepting these non-federal funds. This is absurd, and I introduced the Non-Federal Reservoir Operations Improvement Act to remove this ridiculous obstacle from hindering progress in securing water for our Valley.”


Congressman Jim Costa

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“We must address California’s lack of storage,” shared Rep. Denham, lead Republican on the legislation. “In the Valley, we’ve seen water tables dry up, community water systems completely empty, and the economic viability of some towns completely dried up as well. We must move this issue forward.”

Rep. Garamendi, an original cosponsor on the bill, stated, “Water is one of California’s most scarce and precious resources, but can also do incredible damage. By removing bureaucracy and making it easier for the Corps to update its operations manuals and flood control guidelines using modern data, this bill will increase water supply availability while also providing better flood protection for communities downstream of dams.”

“Droughts are nature’s fault. Water shortages are OUR fault,” said Rep. McClintock, who is also an original cosponsor on the legislation. “This bill is an important step in reforming the bureaucratic mess that has made it all but impossible to manage our crucial water supplies. After our local water agencies have spent years trying to satisfy one bureaucracy, another suddenly pops up to claim jurisdiction with an entirely new set of demands in an often endless permitting process. This bill will cut through the red tape and allow us to store more water from wet years so that we will have it in dry ones.”

The Non-Federal Reservoir Operations Improvement Act was included as a provision in the Senate’s current version of the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, indicating support for the measure in the Senate.

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May 16, 2018

MERCED COUNTY “MUCH SAFER” ONE YEAR AFTER OPERATION “SCRAPBOOK”

One year after a gang sweep he termed “the most successful in Merced County history,” District Attorney Larry D. Morse II said today that “Merced County remains much safer as a result of Operation Scrapbook.”
In a one-year anniversary review of the criminal prosecutions that resulted from the May 10, 2017 sweep of Sureno gang members operating in Merced County and state prisons, Morse noted that 79 defendants were implicated in Operation Scrapbook. In Merced County, there have been 34 convictions, 21 cases are still pending in the court system, and one defendant resolved their case by admitting a violation of probation. One defendant remains at large with an active warrant for his arrest. Fourteen defendants were charged with felonies in federal court and three defendants were referred to San Joaquin County for prosecution, Morse said. Five of those arrested were ultimately not charged with crimes, he added.
Out of the 34 convictions in Merced County, 18 have been sentenced to prison and at least three will be spending the rest of their lives in prison, Morse said.
Following an investigation that began in early 2017, more than 500 federal, state and local law enforcement personnel gathered in Merced County on May 10th to serve arrest and search warrants throughout the county on suspected Sureno gang members and some who were conducting gang business in county jail and in state prisons. By day’s end law enforcement officials had recovered more than 120 firearms, including dozens of assault weapons, seized 21,000 rounds of ammunition, $225,000 in cash and six and a half pounds of methamphetamine, Morse said, adding that the entire operation was concluded without any injuries to law enforcement or those targeted for arrest.
“Operation Scrapbook not only took violent and dangerous gang members off our streets, the seizure of so many high powered guns and ammunition
DISTRICT ATTORNEY
LARRY D. MORSE II
550 W. Main Street
Merced, CA 95340
Phone (209) 385-7381
Fax (209) 725-3669
Chief Deputy District Attorney HAROLD L. NUTT
Chief Deputy District Attorney
ROBERT O. CARROLL
Director of Administrative Services
JEANNETTE M. PACHECO
INVESTIGATIONS
(209) 385-7383
Chief Investigator
WILLIAM K. OLSON
VICTIM WITNESS
(209) 385-7385
Victim Witness Program Director
LISA DeSANTIS
LOS BANOS DIVISION
445 I Street
Los Banos, CA 93635
Phone (209) 710-6070
Fax (209) 827-2029 www.countyofmerced.com/da
undoubtedly saved innocent lives, including law enforcement officers who very likely would have been confronting these well-armed gangsters at some point,” Morse said.
Based on information gathered through this investigation from MAGNET, (Merced Area Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team) and the District Attorney’s VIPER intelligence unit, local law enforcement was able to gather information on at least eight homicides and violent assaults and prevented at least a dozen additional violent crimes, Morse noted.
Merced County’s homicide rate had topped 30 per year between 2013 and 2015, much of it gang related, and making the county one of top three deadliest in California. In the aftermath of 2014’s Operation Red Right Hand, which targeted Norteno gang members in Merced County and resulted in more than 50 arrests, gang investigators noted an increase in rival Sureno gang activity, Morse said, which led to Operation Scrapbook.
Morse said results from the two major gang sweeps have been dramatic. In 2016, there were only nine reported homicides in Merced County. In 2017 there were 19, but only three were gang related, he noted. Overall, Morse said, homicides in Merced County have been reduced by half in the last two years and gang violence is down dramatically as a result of both Operation Red Right Hand and Operation Scrapbook.
“Working closely with Sheriff Vern Warnke, the police chiefs and our allied agencies, and utilizing the intelligence gathering capabilities we’ve developed through the VIPER program, we have made significant progress in reducing gang violence in Merced County,” Morse said, adding, “it’s a trend intend to continue.”

 

 


THIRTEEN ARRESTED IN AUTO INSURANCE FRAUD RING

Thirteen people were arrested Friday following a lengthy investigation by the Merced County District Attorney’s office into an automobile insurance fraud ring involving 10 different insurance companies that paid out more than $430,000 in bogus claims, District Attorney Larry D. Morse II announced.
Last month, a Merced County Grand Jury indicted 21 people for their role in orchestrating staged auto accidents and vandalism and then submitting bogus claims. The scheme began in September of 2011 and continued through June 2016 during which time there were 20 fraudulent claims submitted to insurance companies for payment, Morse said.
The insurance fraud ring was brought to light in January 2016 when an investigator with the Special Investigation Unit of Allstate Insurance contacted Merced County District Attorney Investigator Sheri Carpenter regarding a claim that she believed was a staged accident. Carpenter started her investigation by running the names through an insurance database provided by the National Insurance Crime Bureau which linked the claim to 19 other similar claims.
During the investigation it was discovered that some of the same vehicles were used for multiple claims, with the same damage being reported. The main method of theft, according to Carpenter, came from the alteration of hospital bills that were submitted by the suspects to the insurance companies for which they were paid directly. Carpenter found that many of the same bills were used in multiple claims with the names and dates of service being altered to reflect a new claim date. In some cases, she noted, the totals on the hospital bills were altered to reflect a larger amount so that the payouts to the suspects would be higher.
“Not only is insurance fraud a crime, it costs Merced County residents substantially more in premiums and insurance costs every year ,” Morse said. He praised the work done by Carpenter in “unraveling this sophisticated and far reaching conspiracy to defraud insurance companies and consumers. Investigator Carpenter worked this complex case relentlessly for the last two years in addition to her other work and did an incredible job of putting all the pieces together. It was a first rate effort,” Morse said.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), auto related insurance fraud, particularly staged accidents, are a significant component of the $30 to $32 billion lost to insurance fraud each year.
“Unfortunately, many individuals view insurance companies as their personal piggy banks and they engage in fraudulent behavior without any concern for the economic harm they cause all consumers,” said Frank Scafidi, public affairs director for the NICB. “NICB commends District Attorney Morse and the participating law enforcement agencies for their diligence and extensive investigative efforts in this case.”
Joanna Tucker, 29, from Livingston, was described by Carpenter as the “ringleader” of the scam and directly involved in 19 of the 20 claims.
Deputy District Attorneys Walter Wall and Scott Drexel presented the case over several days to a Merced County Grand Jury last month which returned with 19 felony counts of insurance fraud and 17 felony counts of grand theft against Tucker. The grand jury also handed down indictments of 20 other defendants on charges of insurance fraud and grand theft.
Tucker’s boyfriend, Johnathan Huerta, 30, also of Livingston, was indicted on 10 felony counts of insurance fraud and nine counts of grand theft.
Investigators from the District Attorneys office, with assistance from Merced Sheriffs Department, Merced Police Department, Merced County Probation, Livingston Police Department, Atwater Police Department, State Parole and the Merced Area Gang and Narcotics Enforcement Team (MAGNET), arrested Tucker, Huerta and 11 other defendants in a coordinated sweep on Friday. Tucker was being held on $500,000 bail. Huerta’s bail was set at $100,000, Carpenter said.
Three defendants were already in custody outside Merced County on unrelated charges, Carpenter noted.
Also taken into custody Friday were Rhonda Valencia 45, Diana Tucker 26, and Freddy Barajas 29 all of Livingston; Jessica Valencia 27, Alejandro Cervantes 31, Patricia Diaz 31 and Angelina Galvan 35 all of Atwater; Britney Groves 29, Charlece Scott 27, and Monique Eguiluz 28 all of Merced.
Others for whom arrest warrants have been issued were Maria Hernandez, 59, Celina Garza-Hernandez, 27 and Sarai Bernal, 27 all of Merced; Rico Tucker, 28, Carlos Tucker, 26, Heena Birly, 25, and Jessica Barajas, 30 all of San Jose and Jairo Barajas, 29 of Livingston.

MAN CONVICTED OF ATTEMPTED MURDER OF TWO-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER

Gerardo Ruiz-Lopez, 42, of Merced, was convicted of attempted murder and felony child abuse, by a Merced County jury on Wednesday afternoon, after he attempted to kill his two-year-old daughter in 2016, Merced County District Attorney Larry D. Morse II announced.
Ruiz-Lopez began sending his ex-girlfriend and the mother of his daughter disturbing texts messages, followed by phone calls on July 10, 2016, while he had custody of their daughter for the weekend. Due to the nature of the text messages and calls, the mother called the Merced Police Department to do a welfare check on Ruiz-Lopez and their daughter.
Once the police arrived at Ruiz-Lopez’s home and could not get anyone to answer the door, they forced entry into the home because they feared the child may be in danger. During their search of the home, they found Ruiz-Lopez and his daughter unresponsive and shut in the walk-in closet upstairs. Inside of the closet with them, were two five-gallon propane tanks that were both freely releasing propane gas due to the safety lines being purposely cut. Also in the closet were toys, a tablet and pillows.
The officers immediately picked up the victim’s limp body and took her outside, where she received treatment and ultimately survived. When officers spoke to Ruiz-Lopez, he claimed that he did not remember sending the texts, the calls, or taking the propane into the closet, however, the jury did not find that to be true. Ruiz-Lopez also attempted to plead insanity, and the jury found him not legally insane.
“I want to thank the police officer who acted quickly to save the child’s life,” said Deputy District Attorney Caleb Hegland who prosecuted the case. “I would also like to thank the jurors who gave their time and attention to this trial. The defendant is now facing a life sentence and will hopefully never have the chance to harm a child again,” he added.
Ruiz-Lopez will be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 3 of the Merced County Superior Court and faces 7 years-life.

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May 8, 2018

Atwater FFA Prepares for its Largest Spring Plant Sale

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

Atwater High School horticulture students have spent the past couple months preparing for the 13th annual Atwater FFA Spring/Summer Plant Sale scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, May 11th and 12th from 8am to 4pm at the Atwater High School Agriculture Department. Over 5000 annual and perennial plants, ferns, succulents, and fruit & shade trees will be available. This year’s crop includes organic strawberries. The plants have been grown and maintained by the students and all the funds generated from the sale go back into the horticulture program to cover supplies, equipment, and facility maintenance expenses.

“This is a hands-on approach towards learning plant/horticulture skills, responsibility, and the opportunity to strengthen communication and customer service skills during the sale,” said Atwater FFA instructor Dave Gossman. “The students have put in numerous hours towards in preparation and gain a tremendous amount of pride through the experience.”

Atwater High School became the state’s first certified high school horticulture program through the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC). The school’s nursery is a student run operation whose bi-annual plants sales help cover the costs of supplies, materials, equipment, and facility upgrades for the program.

 

 

For more information on this event, upcoming events, and information on the Atwater FFA, log on their website at www.AtwaterFFA.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Atwater High School horticulture students Jennifer Ambriz, Jaqueline Ceja, and Amy vang place plant tags on some of the 5000+ plant stock that will be available to community members during this weekend's plant sale.


Atwater High School horticulture students Jasmine Sandoval and Noemi Perez inspect the succulent plant stock in preparation for the FFA program's largest plant sale on May 11th and May 12th.


Atwater High School horticulture student Sarah Baird waters the various flowering plants in the school's greenhouse that will be available during this Friday and Saturday's FFA plant sale.

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May 8, 2018

Costa Honors Fresno Students for Works in Congressional Art Competition

Fresno, CA – Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) honored Fresno County high school students who participated in the 2018 Congressional Art Competition with an awards ceremony Friday evening at the Fresno Arts Council.

More than 50 pieces of art were submitted to the district-wide competition, with high school students from Fresno County submitting 24 pieces total. Fresno students’ work was judged by local artists and members of the Fresno arts community.

Rep. Costa honored all student entrants individually during Friday’s ceremony before awarding this year’s first and third place winners. “It is vital that we engage in creative and innovative thinking, which is why I seize the opportunity to host the Congressional Art Competition in our Valley every year,” said Costa. “Looking around this room – at these remarkable students and their moving works – I am proud of each and every one of these young people, for what they have created here and for sharing it with our community.”

Congressman Costa announced Anna Titteringten as this year’s third place winner and Emilie Haskell as this year’s first place winner. Anna attends Edison High School, and her third place piece is an oil on canvas work entitled “Tiny Tears.” Emilie also attends Edison High School, and her grand-prize-winning work is an acrylic on Masonite board piece entitled “Serene.”

This year’s second place winner is Lylah Carranza from Los Banos High School. Lylah was announced as the second place winner at the awards ceremony honoring Merced County students, which was held Wednesday, May 2nd at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center. Her prize-winning work is a colored pencil piece entitled “Hidden.”

Emilie’s “Serene” will be sent to Washington, D.C. in June, where it will hang on display with other first place pieces from across the country to be viewed by the millions who visit the Capitol each year. All first place winners, including Emilie, are also invited to the Capitol to attend the opening of the display exhibiting the 2018 winning works and the congressional reception celebrating the student winners.

Lylah’s “Hidden” and Anna’s “Tiny Tears” will be displayed in Congressman Costa’s district offices.

 


Rep Costa with first place winner Emilie Haskell


Rep Costa with third place winner Anna Titteringten

Left: Rep Costa honoring Fresno student entrants of Congressional Art Competition

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May 8, 2018

Congressman Costa Continues to Lead on Trade for California Agriculture

Washington, D.C. – In his ongoing efforts to fight for California agriculture, today Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) led other California members of the U.S. House of Representatives in calling on the Administration to replace its tariffs with a “strategic,” allied approach for addressing unfair or unbalanced trade practices.

The message, sent to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, expresses deep concern regarding the $3 billion worth of retaliatory tariffs China has imposed on more than 80 agriculture products since President Trump raised tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on March 8th. “In 2017 alone, California exported approximately $28.5 billion in products to China,” the letter states.

After acknowledging that deceptive or unbalanced trade practices must be addressed, the letter continues with, “The currently proposed tariffs will not effectively advance our shared goal of changing China’s harmful practices” and calls on the Administration “to address these fundamental challenges through aligned efforts with our allies across the globe and abandon the current back and forth retaliation that will ultimately impact both rural and urban businesses in California and across the nation.”

Rep. Costa has been urging the Administration to rethink its approach to trade since the Administration’s plans to raise steel and aluminum tariffs became public in early March. Costa warned the House of Representatives in March that California agriculture would“likely feel the most intense and direct pain


Congressman Jim Costa

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from these tariffs. California farmers and ranchers earned roughly 44% of their total revenue from international trade in 2016. But this pain will radiate across the country.”

Congressman Costa was joined today in sending the letter to Lighthizer by lead Republican, Representative David G. Valadao (CA-21), and Representatives Jeff Denham (CA-10), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Steve Knight (CA-21), Salud O. Carbajal (CA-21), Jimmy Panetta (CA-21), and John Garamendi (CA-03).

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May 5, 2018

Road project, Mall EIR on City Council agenda

A road repair project on N Street and the Merced Mall environmental impact report are topics on the Merced City Council agenda Monday night.
The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St. The Council meets the first and third Mondays of the month, except when there is a holiday, when it meets the following day.
The Council will be asked to award a $1,007,139.55 contract to Taylor Backhoe Services, Inc. of Merced for a roadway rehabilitation project.
The funds would reconstruct N Street from Childs Avenue to 8th Street and include the replacement of a 6 inch and 8 inch water main, curb and gutter work, concrete handicap ramps, sidewalks, driveway approaches and traffic loops.
The project will require partial lane closure of N Street so staff will coordinate the work with affected school officials and construction will not begin until school is out for summer break.
The Merced Mall has announced renovation and expansion plans for the 52-acre site. There would be an additional 50,000 square feet of building space added, along with facade improvements.
Council is being asked to approve the hiring of an environmental consultant for the project, along with an agreement by the Mall to reimburse the City for the $84,390 in consultants and staff time costs.
Staff will be giving Council an update on a report from Quad Knoff regarding property owner polling for Industrial Park Study Area No. 7. The City is considering the 1,267-acre site for a potential industrial park. The property owners were recently polled on whether they favored the concept and 88.5 percent participated.

 

 

Also on the agenda is a continued public hearing on the repeal of the Regional Transportation Impact Fee Ordinance. The City collected $5.1 million in fees from 2005 to 2016, with the funds earmarked for regional projects. However, not all jurisdictions in Merced County were consistent in collecting the fees, so there is a move to rescind the agreement that created the fee.
The Council will meet in closed session at 5 p.m. to confer with labor negotiators.
City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet. A link to the live meeting is on the City’s web site at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.
The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org and is available outside the chambers prior to the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be turned in to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council. Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all Council meetings.

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May 5, 2018

Merced Youth Council Music Festival

The City of Merced Youth Council is hosting their 3rd Annual Music Festival at Applegate Park’s Merced Open Air Theatre (MOAT) on Saturday, May 19.

Local and Bay Area bands and individuals will perform original music, sing, dance and read poetry during the event. There will be performances from Jukebox Breakers, M.A.D. Skillz, Rob Rivas, Hmong Student Association, Building Young Leaders and more.

Other activities include airbrush face painting, rock climbing, tie-dying, student clubs and raffles. All activities are free.

The event will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the MOAT, 1045 W. 25th St. For more information call 385-6235, visit the website CityofMerced.org, and click on Parks and Community Services or follow MercedYouthCouncil on Facebook.

Click here to see Flyer

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May 5, 2018


ARRESTS MADE IN THE UC ORIENTAL MARKET FIRE IN DOWNTOWN MERCED

At 7:00 a.m. this morning, detectives from the Merced Police Department arrested the owners of the UC Oriental Market, 44-year-old Mai Moua and her husband 49-year-old Zang Her, in connection to the December 18, 2016 fire that left the building located at 630 W. Main in Merced completely destroyed, announced District Attorney Larry D. Morse II.
The blaze began around 10:00 a.m. that Sunday morning, and firefighters were on scene in just over four minutes after receiving the call. The fire was battled by a total of 51 firefighters from the City Fire Department, Turlock Fire Department, and Merced County Fire Department.
Although there were ultimately no injuries, firefighters have described this structural fire as one of the most significant in recent Merced history because of the risk to the firefighters involved in containing it.
Due to the nature of the fire, an arson investigation was initiated by the Merced Police Department and the Merced City Fire Department Investigation Unit, and was aided by a forensic accountant from the Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

The losses from the fire are estimated to be over $1 million in total.
Moua and Her recently purchased the UC Oriental Market, however, they did not own the building.
Both defendants were booked at the Merced County jail and have been charged with one count each of arson of a structure, and one count each of filing a fraudulent insurance claim. Arson is considered a strike offense under California law, requiring registration as an arsonist, and the charges carry a maximum of seven years in state prison.
“Arson is a strike offense under California law for good reason. Structural fires like this one pose great risk for the firefighters trying to contain them. We were extremely fortunate that none of the 51 firefighters battling this blaze were injured. It could have been so much worse,” Morse said.

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May 5, 2018

 

Morse Releases His Personnel File

Today Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse released his 25 year personnel file from the County and called on his opponent, Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Helms Lewis to do the same.

“The District Attorney’s office has an annual budget of about $13 million with nearly 100 employees,” said Morse. “I’ve managed it successfully through recession and recovery for 12 years.”

“Voters should be able to see Ms. Lewis’ employment history at the Merced County Counsel’s office to evaluate her work history in making their choice as to who is best qualified to lead the office,” continued Morse.

Morse told members of the Merced County Farm Bureau during a recent joint candidate appearance that he would release his employment history. Ms. Lewis did not say if she would do so.

Ms. Lewis worked for more than a decade at the Merced County Counsel’s office before joining the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s office late last year as a deputy district attorney assigned to auto theft.

A county employee’s personnel history can only be released with the employee’s consent.

“Managing offices in Merced and Los Banos with 27 attorneys, an investigations unit, our Victim Witness Division and our outstanding clerical staff is one of the biggest responsibilities of serving as District Attorney,” said Morse.

“In 20 years at the County, Ms. Lewis has never been a manager at any level,” Morse concluded. “I believe that is a critical distinction between us.”

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May 5, 2018

Tacherra Campaign Calls on Poythress to Give Back High Speed Rail Donations

After expressing his opposition to High Speed Rail, Madera Supervisor Rob Poythress, under investigation by the California Attorney General’s office for corruption, should return “donations” to his campaign from HSR vendors and those who will benefit financially.


The Tacherra for Senate campaign today called out corruption-ridden Madera County Supervisor Rob Poythress on his two-faced positions on High Speed Rail: Speaking out publicly against it while pocketing thousands in contributions from those supporting it.

“Rob Poythress is showing every day why he is under criminal investigation for corruption,” said Tacherra spokesman Carl Fogliani. “It’s obvious he has hung out the “For Sale” sign to fund his failing campaign by shoving cash into his dirty pockets. It will be the voters who have to pay for this waste of money for not just High Speed Rail but for his continued prosecution as well.“

The leading candidate in SD 12, Johnny Tacherra, challenged Poythress when he heard the news.

“I hope Rob gives up his support of High Speed Rail and gives the money back,” said Tacherra. “I’m starting to see why the state Attorney General’s office is so interested in Rob’s “Pay to Play” schemes in local government and hope he will start thinking of the taxpayers. His values are very far away from what our party needs to send to Sacramento. We don’t need to send a corrupt liberal Republican to join the corrupt liberal Democrats.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The Madera, Merced and San Benito Republican Committees have already endorsed the battle-tested Republican frontrunner Johnny Tacherra in the race for State Senate for the open seat of term limited Senator Anthony Cannella. Tacherra is a farmer from Fresno County who nearly upset Congressman Jim Costa in 2014 despite no support from the national GOP or California Republican Party. Tacherra is a recognized expert on water issues with a strong proven base in the core of this “swing” district.

“Poythress should not only consider leaving the race, he should apologize to all those members of the Senate Republican Caucus who endorsed his candidacy after he deceived them into believing he was a viable candidate,” said Tacherra consultant Carl Fogliani. “He is possibly the worst candidate for state Senate in California GOP history as a banker under investigation by the Attorney General for government corruption. If Senate Republicans do not want an even tinier caucus they need to cut bait on Poythress to have a chance to keep this seat.”

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May 4 , 2018

Rep. Costa Visits Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School

Fresno, CA — Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) visited Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School in Clovis where he met with students and faculty and spoke to students about the importance of community engagement and his time serving in Congress. In addition, Rep. Costa heard directly from students about some of the programs and opportunities unique to Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School, the only Armenian school in the state of California from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Costa’s visit also featured components of Armenian culture, including sharing in a Mezza Table and student performances of traditional Armenian dances.

“One of the great things about our San Joaquin Valley is its diversity and the interweaving of all of its rich cultures,” said Rep. Costa. “Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School – in addition to providing students with a high-quality education – celebrates and engages students in the vibrant Armenian culture that plays a significant role in our Valley home. It was an honor to meet with these remarkable students and dedicated educators today.”

Curtis Shamlin, Principal of Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School, shared, “We truly appreciate the words Congressman Costa shared with us. We thank him for his service to our country and his continued recognition of our Armenian community.”

Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School focuses its educational courses and extra-curricular programs on academic excellence and the development of a rich appreciation of Armenian culture. To do so, the school broadly promotes technology and scientific advancements, visual and performing arts, and Armenian language, cooking, dance, and other Armenian culturally-significant areas.


Congressman Jim Costa

 


Rep Costa with Principal Shamlin and students at Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School


Rep Costa Speaking to Students at Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School.

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May 4 , 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 132 FROM GRANITE SPRINGS ROAD
TO PINEY CREEK ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed eastbound and westbound State Route 132 (SR-132) for approximately half a mile from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road for repair work after heavy rain on March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term in order to repair the roadway after a wash-out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-132 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure. There is a local detour available before the closure on either side.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM STATE ROUTE 120/MOCCASIN IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY
TO BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

TUOLUMNE/MARIPOSA COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 36 miles from Moccasin Creek at the junction with SR-120 to Bear Valley Road for repair work after heavy rain on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure. Access to the town of Coulterville is available using alternate routes.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM OWENS CREEK IN MERCED TO
GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD IN TURLOCK

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various road construction activities on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99) from Owens Creek to Golden State Boulevard. Ramp closures are scheduled as follows:

• Various full on and off-ramp closures from Owens Creek to Webber Canal in Atwater beginning Monday, May 7, 2018, through Friday, May 11, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. for striping work.

• Various full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 from Childs Avenue to Bradbury Road in Delhi beginning Sunday, May 6, 2018, through Friday, May 11, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. for bridge work.

• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound SR-99 at Golden State Boulevard beginning Sunday, May 6, 2018, through Friday, May 11, 2018, from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. for shoulder work.

The work at Golden State Boulevard is part of a project that will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of Bradbury Road to just north of the county line.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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May 3 , 2018

Costa and Merced County Arts Council Honor Merced Student Entrants in Congressional Art Competition

Merced, CA – Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) and the Merced County Arts Council honored Merced high school students who participated in the 2018 Congressional Art Competition Wednesday evening with an awards ceremony at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center.

More than 50 pieces of art were submitted to the district-wide competition, with high school students from across Merced County submitting 28 pieces total. The Merced students’ work was judged by local artists and members of the Merced Arts Council, which has partnered with Rep. Costa for the annual art competition for years.

The Merced Arts Council works to inspire and support the arts and artists in Merced County in part through programs at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center, which include arts education and training, world-class performances, and art exhibits showcasing works of local, regional, and national importance. “The Congressional Art Competition is a great way to recognize our young artists in Merced County. We have an abundance of young talent here, and it's important to acknowledge and encourage these young artists to continue expressing themselves through their art,” shared Colton Dennis, Executive Director of the Merced County Arts Council and Multicultural Arts Center.
Costa announced Lylah Carranza as this year’s second place winner during tonight’s Merced awards ceremony. Lylah attends Los Banos High School, and her winning colored pencil piece is entitled “Hidden.”

Congressman Costa honored all student entrants individually during this evening’s awards ceremony, noting the importance of engagement with the arts for both personal and community development. “Creativity, innovation, and original thinking are key for good art, but also for strong character and strong communities,” said Costa. “The Congressional Art Competition encourages our young people to exercise their artistic talent and to strengthen their creative mind, which we see in the remarkable and thought-provoking art our students produce. I am proud of our students and honored to host this competition each year.”

This year’s first and third place winners will be officially announced at the awards ceremony honoring Fresno and Madera County student participants held at the Fresno Arts Council on Friday.

The annual Congressional Art Competition – which Rep. Costa hosts in his district every year – honors thousands of high school students across the United States for their creativity, ingenuity, and artistic talent. First place winners from each congressional district will have their pieces sent to Washington, D.C. in June, where they will hang on display to be viewed by the millions who visit the Capitol each year. Winners are also invited to the Capitol to attend the opening of the display exhibiting the 2018 winners’ works and the congressional reception celebrating the student winners.


Costa announced Lylah Carranza as this year’s second place winner during tonight’s Merced awards ceremony. Lylah attends Los Banos High School, and her winning colored pencil piece is entitled “Hidden.”

 

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Congressman Jim Costa

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May 3 , 2018

 

Farmers and Labor Endorse Morse

Merced District Attorney Larry Morse’s re-election bid has been endorsed by the Merced County Farm Bureau and the North Valley Labor Federation.

“District Attorney Larry Morse has worked effectively in providing the agricultural community tools to fight agricultural crimes,” said Merced Farm Bureau President Gino Pedretti III. “He has worked well with Sheriff Warnke and our organization. We look forward to his continued efforts in these matters.”

Tim Robertson, Executive Director of the North Valley Labor Federation, which includes Merced County, also announced his association’s endorsement of Morse.


“We have a long history to look at with Larry Morse,” he said. “He has stood for workplace safety and recognizes that quality of life improvements come from personal security in our homes, schools, workplaces, educational opportunities and jobs. We strongly support his re-election,” concluded Robertson.

“I’m proud of these endorsements” said Morse. “They indicate that many in Merced recognize and support the work of our District Attorney's office. I look forward to continuing that work in the years to come.”

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May 1 , 2018

MCSD Students Complete Foreign Language Program

Students at Cruickshank Middle School in Merced were recognized with certificates during a ceremony on Thursday, April 26 for completing the school’s first “Duolingo” extended day foreign language program.
The course utilized the online Duolingo for Schools program, along with classroom instruction and peer collaboration. It was held before school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Participants could choose from a variety of languages, including Spanish, German, and Portuguese. One student also used the class as an opportunity to improve his English skills after moving to Merced from Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The course was taught by Gloria Berumen, who led a pilot of the Duolingo program during the Merced City School District’s Summer Academy last year. She says it’s a great opportunity for students to get a head start on the foreign language component of the high school A-G requirements.
Ms. Berumen adds, “I’m extremely proud of these students for their hard work and dedication to learning a new language. I’m also thankful for the support of their parents who helped get their children here early and encouraged them throughout this course.”
Ms. Berumen has also provided support for other MCSD teachers and administrators interested in offering Duolingo programs on their campuses. They had an opportunity to observe her classes and learn more about how to effectively incorporate instructional activities with the online component.
The Merced City School District will be offering Duolingo again during the upcoming Summer Academy, which will run from June 18-July 13. Students in grades 3-7 can work online from home at their own pace with an option to attend classes in person for additional support. Registration for Summer Academy continues through May 9, and interested families can apply at their child’s school.


Cruickshank Principal Jarod Garst and teacher Gloria Berumen present a certificate to eighth-grader Jasmine Alvarado for completing the school’s first Duolingo foreign language program.


Cruickshank Middle School students work on the Duolingo online foreign language program during an extended day class held before school.

 

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May 1 , 2018

Two New Officers Sworn in Friday

Two new officers were sworn into the Merced Police Department by Police Capt. Bimley West Friday, Nicolas Rosales and Jesus Gonzalez. Interim Chief Christopher Goodwin was at a training.

The pair were joined by family and friends, members of the Department and City staff for the ceremony Friday afternoon in the City Council chambers.

Rosales, 22, grew up in Merced and graduated from Golden Valley High School. He took criminal justice classes at Merced College before attending the police academy. Law enforcement runs in the family -- he has a cousin who works in the Merced County Sheriff’s Department. Rosales’ brother, Dominic, pinned his badge on him during the swearing in ceremony.

In his spare time, Rosales enjoys fishing, working out and spending time with his family and friends.

Gonzales, 26, grew up in Livingston and graduated from Livingston High School. He is currently working on his criminal justice degree at Stanislaus State University. The oldest of four, Gonzales is engaged to be married to Diana Angulo. She pinned his badge on him during the swearing in ceremony.

In his spare time, Gonzales enjoys playing soccer and playing the guitar.

The Department currently has 89 sworn officers and is budgeted for 97 positions.

The City is currently recruiting for both police officers and police officer trainees. The position of police officer pays $60,507.20 - $73,548.80 a year. Trainees can earn from $39,187.20 - $47,632.00. More information on the jobs can be found at the City’s website, www.cityofmerced.org.

 



Jesus Gonzalez, left, and Nicolas Rosales, were sworn in to the Merced Police Department this afternoon by Capt. Bimley West.


Jesus Gonzalez has his badge pinned on his by his fiancée, Diana Angulo.


Jesus Gonzalez, left, and Nicolas Rosales, were sworn in to the Merced Police Department this afternoon by Capt. Bimley West.

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May 1 , 2018

$1 Million Federal Grant for San Joaquin Valley Wetlands Conservation

Washington, D.C. – The collaboration between Ducks Unlimited, Grassland Water District, the State of California’s Wildlife Conservation Board and Department of Water Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local private land owners to conserve wetlands within the northern San Joaquin Valley was awarded a $1 million North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant this week.

The project, officially titled “San Joaquin Wetlands Conservation III,” will both restore 1,340 acres of floodplain wetlands on the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge and enhance 2,207 acres of wetlands and upland habitats in the Grasslands Ecological Area.

By pooling state grants and private dollars, and then leveraging them for matching federal funds, this partnership aims to increase Grassland Water District’s ability to recycle and deliver water within its district, improve water conveyance to San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, and reconnect the San Joaquin River to its floodplain. This will reduce downstream flooding, improve private wetlands to benefit waterfowl, and provide wildlife habitat for salmon, waterfowl, and songbirds.

Ric Ortega, General Manager of Grassland Water District, shared, “The grant-and-match funding emphasizes the ongoing partnership to deliver and manage large-scale habitat restoration projects in the San Joaquin Valley, which is widely recognized as one of the most critical habitat areas in North America. These wetlands are also critical to our local economy, groundwater sustainability, and water quality, especially given the fact that only 5% of wetlands remain in California.”
“Programs funded through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act are a prime example of how public and private collaboration can deliver ecosystem-based conservation projects benefitting wildlife and people alike,” said Matt Kaminski, Ducks Unlimited Regional Biologist. Kaminski continued, “In delivering these projects, Ducks Unlimited will hire local contractors to construct these projects, thus benefitting wetland habitat, waterfowl, wildlife enthusiasts, and the local economy in Merced and Stanislaus Counties.”


Congressman Jim Costa

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Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16), a long-time supporter of the NAWCA, said,

“The Wetlands are an integral part of our San Joaquin Valley and vital for the economy in Merced County. They contribute roughly $73 million dollars to the county, and their additional benefits to groundwater recharge are extensive. I have always believed that government most effectively serves our communities when local, state, and federal governments work together, which is why I am a strong advocate for partnership programs, such as those authorized in the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.”

The San Joaquin Wetlands Conservation III project is the third phase in a five-phase initiative to conserve wetlands and associated habitats in Merced and Stanislaus Counties. The San Joaquin Valley is recognized as one of the most important North American wintering areas for waterfowl.

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May 1 , 2018

San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission Chooses Siemens to Build New Locomotives
Siemens’ Charger diesel-electric locomotives will power more capacity on the growing Altamont Corridor Express (ACE®) service

April 27, 2018 – Stockton, CA -- The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) has awarded Siemens a contract to build four diesel-electric Charger locomotives with an option to purchase four more. The locomotives will service the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE), a growing commuter rail service that currently runs four daily round trips from Stockton to San Jose, with future planned extensions to Ceres, Modesto and Sacramento. Delivery of the vehicles will begin December 2019.

“Our service is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and we are proud of the important part that this line has played in developing a strong, sustainable link between Stockton and the greater Bay Area,” said Steve Dresser, Chair, SJRRC Board of Directors. “With this announcement, we will be taking even more cars off the road, and providing a quieter, smoother ride for our growing number of passengers.”

Starting with just two daily round trips in 1998, ACE rail is now carrying 1.3 million passengers annually. The new locomotives will be able to pull 10-car trains, a 43% increase from the current capacity of seven cars. Using the QSK95 Cummins engine, they will also provide a 16% improvement in fuel efficiency over the existing SJRRC locomotives. Importantly, comparing the fuel consumption of a fully-seated ACE commuter train to two-person car travel, travelling by train results in a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

These clean, efficient locomotives will have EPA Tier 4 emissions certification, representing huge reductions in diesel emissions from the current vehicles. Their higher (4,400) horsepower, in addition to providing higher passenger capacity, will also help the train to better catch up on delays and improve on-time performance. Lower-noise diesel electric engines, a streamlined locomotive design and smoother traction control will result in quieter, smoother rides and an overall improved experience for both operators and passengers.

Funding for the locomotives is provided in part by grants through the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, and the Low Carbon Transit Operations Program.

In addition to being “Buy America-compliant,” these locomotives will also be “Made in California” - at Siemens’ Sacramento rail manufacturing plant, which is also powered by up to 80 percent renewable energy.

“More than 1,200 Siemens employees in Sacramento are very excited – and proud -- to be building locomotives for our neighbors along the Altamont Corridor,” said Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rolling Stock. “These

 


locomotives are not only stronger and quieter, they’re smarter and easier to maintain. We look forward to bringing an overall improved experience for the current and future riders of the Altamont Corridor Express.”
The main components of the new locomotive are produced in Siemens plants in the United States – including gearboxes and traction motors in Norwood, Ohio and traction converters in Alpharetta, GA. The diesel engines are manufactured by Cummins in its Seymour, Indiana plant.

Siemens has also established a robust and diverse base of U.S. suppliers across the country to support production of the Charger locomotives. Siemens Charger locomotives are currently servicing transportation agencies across the U.S., including California (Caltrans), Illinois (IDOT), Washington (WSDOT) and Maryland (MTA). Additional states served by the locomotives are Oregon, Wisconsin, Missouri, Michigan and Iowa. Charger locomotives are also powering new trainsets for Brightline, a passenger rail service connecting South and Central Florida.

About ACE rail: ACE rail runs four daily round trips starting at the Cabral Station in Downtown Stockton and stops in Lathrop/Manteca, Tracy, Vasco Road, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Great America, Santa Clara and San Jose’s Diridon station. All its trains are ADA-accessible with free WiFi. Each year ACE reduces 43.5 million vehicle miles from the road, and each train removes the equivalent of 695 cars in the nation’s worst commute areas. ACE operates a 187,000 sq. ft. rail maintenance facility, and the facility was the first of its kind in the country to achieve LEED Silver certification.

Siemens’ Rail, Transit & Mobility Portfolio: Siemens Rolling Stock is part of the Siemens Mobility Division which provides efficient and integrated transportation of people and goods by rail and road – including all products, solutions and services regarding mobility. Siemens designs and manufactures across the entire spectrum of rolling stock including commuter and regional passenger trains, light rail and streetcars, metros, locomotives, passenger coaches and high-speed trainsets. In the U.S., Siemens is providing rail vehicles, locomotives, components and systems to more than 25 agencies in cities such as Washington D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago, Phoenix, Seattle, Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, Denver, Baltimore, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Houston, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, St. Louis, Atlanta and Charlotte. Cities also rely on Siemens to provide traction-power substations and electricity transmission, as well as signaling and control technology for freight and passenger rail and transit systems. Siemens has transportation manufacturing hubs in: Sacramento, CA; Louisville, KY; Marion, KY; Pittsburgh, PA

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May 1 , 2018


Arts Commission stakeholder meeting Friday

The third of three stakeholder meetings to finilize the draft ordinance on the City of Merced Arts Commission will be Friday. The meeting will be from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 4, in the Sam Pipes Room, on the first floor of the Merced Civic Center (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St.

Staff is seeking people with an interest in the arts, whether it is music, film, painting, photography, murals, poetry, dance or any of the other ways that humanity has found to express themselves.

The discussion will include the review of the elements needed to establish a citywide Arts Commission ordinance including the purpose of the Commission, membership criteria and term, responsibilities and duties, and funding.

Individuals who are interested in the Arts Commission are encouraged to attend the meeting and give their comments on the development of an ordinance for consideration by the City Council.

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May 1 , 2018

Valley Airports Win in House FAA Reauthorization

Washington, D.C. – Fresno Yosemite International Airport and rural airports in Merced County are big winners in H.R. 4, the FAA Reauthorization Act that the House of Representatives passed Friday, April 27th with strong bipartisan support.

The legislation reauthorizes funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through the 2023 fiscal year and includes funding for airport infrastructure, modifies safety procedures, and increases consumer protections for passengers.

More specifically, the bill reauthorizes funding for the Airport Improvement Program, which provides funds vital for Fresno Yosemite International Airport's expansion and efforts to increase services. In addition, H.R. 4 funds Essential Air Service and provides for $10 million annually for small community air service programs. These programs serve rural airports in Merced County and across the country. The legislation also improves funding for the contract tower operating on Merced County Castle Airport.

Beyond extending funding, the legislation revamps regulations governing transportation infrastructure projects and transportation services. San Joaquin Valley Congressmen Jim Costa (CA-16) and Jeff Denham (CA-10) led the charge on two amendments that would directly benefit transportation in the Valley, No. 17 and No. 79. The amendments aim to reduce duplicative and often contradictory regulations to make them more commonsense and effective based on the realities individuals and communities face every day.

Amendment No. 17 eliminates the requirement for redundant construction permits for transportation infrastructure projects. It would allow the State of California, and potentially agencies in other states, to approve all required construction permits. This creates a one-stop-shop for permitting, which streamlines the process while still maintaining environmental and community protections.


Congressman Jim Costa

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When urging his colleagues to support amendment No. 17, Congressman Costa made clear the real effects of the amendment with, “In 2015, Congress passed the FAST Act, which implemented a pilot program to provide reciprocity for environmental permitting and requirements with states, like California, that have laws that provide equal or greater environmental protection… That’s why it makes such good common sense.” Costa continued, “This amendment would further streamline the delegation process… reduce project delivery times and costs, lead to more projects being constructed at a faster rate, and improve our deteriorating infrastructure.”
Both amendment No. 17 and No. 79 passed in the House of Representatives and are thus included in the FAA Reauthorization Act sent to the Senate for consideration.

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April 27 , 2018

City celebrates Arbor Day Friday

Friday is Arbor Day in the City of Merced. The City Council has issued a proclamation declaring the day, and to celebrate it students at Ada Givens School will join staff from the Public Works Department in planting Chinese pistache trees at the adjacent park at 10 a.m.
Public Works has made it a tradition to plant trees at City schools and parks on Arbor Days for decades to involve students in the planting process and teach them about the role trees play in the City.
Merced, which has more than 80,000 City-owned trees on streets and in parks, is a Tree City USA for the 37th year. To qualify as a Tree City USA a community must maintain a tree department, have a community tree ordinance, celebrate Arbor Day and spend at least $2 per capita on urban forestry.

 


Arbor Day dates back to 1872 when a Nebraska publisher encouraged people to plant trees to beautify the state, and also to help preserve soil and provide firewood. It’s estimated that more than 1 million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day.
Since then, Arbor Day has grown in popularity and spread around the globe.

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April 27 , 2018

Valley Rail Project Receives Major Grant Funding Today by State – Will Fund Series of New Stations and Track Improvements to Increase Connectivity and Frequency of Passenger Rail Service to Sacramento

(April 26, 2018, Sacramento, CA) – Today the California State Transportation Agency announced a series of grant awards under the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP), and selected the Valley Rail Project as a major awardee, providing $500,500,000 to fund a series of new stations and track improvements to increase connectivity and frequency of service to the Sacramento region. The Valley Rail Project is a joint proposal by the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission to dramatically improve passenger rail service to the Sacramento region with both Amtrak San Joaquins and Altamont Corridor Express (ACE®) service.

The Valley Rail project will implement a new transportation vision for serving the Sacramento region with integrated intercity and commuter rail service. The grant funds will help perform track improvements on the existing Union Pacific Railroad Sacramento subdivision freight corridor that runs just east of Interstate 5 to make it usable for passenger service, and build new shared San Joaquins and ACE stations in Lodi, Elk Grove, Sacramento City College, Sacramento Midtown, Old North Sacramento, and Natomas which will include a shuttle connection to the Sacramento International Airport.

“The Sacramento community is very excited about this project,” said Sacramento Vice Mayor Steve Hansen. “Right now we have train tracks that run through midtown without providing any benefit to the local area. By building a new station in midtown we will now tap into that existing infrastructure, bringing customers to our local businesses, giving business travelers access to the Capitol without clogging up our roads, and providing new easy access for our local residents to reach key parts of the Bay Area or destinations throughout the Central Valley.”

“This TIRCP grant will revolutionize the way that the SJRRC can grow by adding new service that would now include Sacramento for ACE and adding additional trains for the Amtrak San Joaquins. The State of California recognizes the important part the SJRRC plays in connecting the Central Valley, Bay Area, and State Capital, and we are grateful for their support,” says Steve Dresser, Chair, San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission

Additional new stations will also be constructed along the ACE and San Joaquins routes as a result of this award: on the San Joaquins line, new stations will be built in Madera and Oakley; on the ACE route, new stations will be built in Ceres, Modesto, Ripon, Manteca, and North Lathrop.


The TIRCP grant program receives significant funding from SB 1, the state’s gas tax program that provides critical resources to improve California’s highways and local streets, bridges, and transit systems – providing broad benefits to every community in California.

“This project would not be possible without SB 1,” said Vito Chiesa, Chair of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and Stanislaus County Supervisor. “With this funding, we will be able to move quickly in implementing an incredibly important transportation project that will better connect communities, improve mobility, reduce congestion, improve air quality, and support a good quality of life.”

The Valley Rail project is a transformational, megaregional initiative. Valley Rail
results in the initiation of San Jose bound commuter service from Sacramento using existing commuter rail equipment (expected by 2020). Four trains from Ceres are included in the proposal, with three heading up to Sacramento (with a transfer to San Jose in Lathrop) and one direct route to San Jose by no later than 2023. Feeder electric bus service will connect to Ceres from Merced. Valley Rail also adds two new San Joaquins round-trips between Fresno and Sacramento, on top of the two round-trips currently available. Total rail service between Stockton and Sacramento will be nine round-trips across all available routes and service providers, including one Sacramento to Stockton only round-trip.

The award also includes funds for ACE to procure zero emission buses to support feeder service between Merced and Ceres, and rolling stock for both corridors to support service increase. The grant is coordinated with 2016 TIRCP investments that are already being implemented in order to expand platforms to accommodate longer 10-car trains to add capacity on the four ACE round trips that currently cross the Altamont Pass.

In addition, Valley Rail funding will help convert the entire fleet including the thruway bus network to renewable diesel fuel, providing greenhouse gas (GHG) benefits across the entire existing (449 track miles) and proposed expanded (119 track miles) San Joaquins and ACE services.
“Improved passenger rail is an integral part of Sacramento and the Valley’s regional transportation network. It is essential to support travel and economic growth in this interconnected economy, and connect communities in ways that are convenient and sustainable,” said Chiesa.

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April 27 , 2018

Movies in the Park coming to a park near you
The City of Merced Parks and Recreation Department will be providing another summer of family nights for the “Movies in the Park” series. These free movies nights are open to everyone and will be held in different parks throughout Merced.
This year there will be another “dive-in” movie held at the pool and, new this year, there will be a rooftop screening of a movie. The movies will play throughout the summer and end in fall. Come out for a night of fun, bring your family, friends and neighbors. Don’t forget to bring lawn chairs and a blanket to stay cozy. Movies begin when the sun sets.
For more information on Movies in the Park or other Parks and Recreation Department programs, call 209-385-6235.
Movie Lineup:
May 4: Coco @ Applegate Park Merced Open Air Theatre, 1045 W. 25th Street.
May 18: Wonder Woman @ Rahilly Park, 3400 N. Parsons Ave.
June 1: Pitch Perfect 3 @ Joe Herb Park, 2200 Yosemite Parkway.
June 15: Wonder @ Rudolph Merino Park, Pacific & El Redondo.
July 29: Black Panther @ Brooks Park, South G. St. & Gerard.
July 13: Lilo & Stitch (Movies at the Pool),@ El Capitan High, 100 Farmland Ave.


July 20: The Ninjago Movie @ McNamara Park, 1040 Canal St.
July 27: A Wrinkle in Time @ Richard Bernasconi Park, 3770 De Soto Way.
Aug. 3: Despicable Me 3 @ Stephen Leonard Park, 7th & T St.
Aug. 24: Star Wars: The Last Jedi @ Elmer Murchie Park, Jacobs Dr.
Sept. 7: UP (Movies on the Roof) @ West America Bank Parking Garage, M & 18th St.
Sept. 21: Avengers : Infinity War @ Carol Gabriault Park, 1601 Willow Dr.
Oct. 5: Hocus Pocus @ Youth Sports Complex, 1800 Blk. Wardrobe Ave.
Oct. 19: Jumanji @ Applegate Park Zoo, 1045 W. 25th.

 

Click here to see flyer

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April 27 , 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE - SPECIAL EVENT
STATE ROUTE 140 FROM FIFTH STREET TO STATE ROUTE 49

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform a full highway closure of State Route 140 from Fifth Street to State Route 49 for a special event.

The full closure is scheduled to take place on Saturday, May 5, 2018, from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
55-HOUR RAMP CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 99 AT SOUTH TURLOCK/GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD

Merced County – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform a 55-hour closure of the on-ramp from South Turlock/Golden State Boulevard to southbound State Route 99 for construction.
The closure is scheduled to begin Friday, April 27, 2018, at 10:00 p.m., through Monday, April 30, 2018 at 5:00 a.m.
The on-ramp from South Turlock/Golden State Boulevard to southbound State Route 99 will also close from Tuesday, May 1, 2018, through Friday May 4, 2018, from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
In addition, the off-ramp from northbound SR-99 to South Turlock/Golden State Boulevard will close beginning Monday, April 30, 2018, through Friday, May 4, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 132 FROM GRANITE SPRINGS ROAD
TO PINEY CREEK ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed eastbound and westbound State Route 132 (SR-132) for approximately half a mile from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road for repair work after heavy rain on March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term in order to repair the roadway after a wash-out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-132 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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April 26 , 2018

Rivera Takes Top Honors at “MCSD Battle of the Books Invitational”

Students from five Merced area middle schools went head to head in the inaugural “Merced City School District Battle of the Books Invitational” at Tenaya Middle School on Friday, April 20.
The competitors came from four MCSD schools: Cruickshank, Hoover, Rivera, and Tenaya as well as McSwain Middle School. Multiple teams from each school competed throughout the day in a literary competition that focused on10 novels they read in advance.
The titles included such works as, “A Ring of Endless Light” by Madeleine L’Engle, “Bud, Not Buddy” by Christopher Paul Curtis, and “On the Far Side of the Mountain” by Jane Craighead George. The questions required the students to remember specific details from each story.
The day began with four rounds of competition in classrooms throughout the campus before students came together in the multipurpose room to hear the results.
A team of four girls from Rivera Middle School earned a perfect score to take first place in the small group contest. They also helped Rivera win an exciting rapid fire tiebreaker against Hoover to claim the trophy for the most overall points for their school.
MCSD Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Paula Heupel says, “It was thrilling to see all of the students so excited and knowledgeable about literature. The teacher librarians from each of our schools did a tremendous job of organizing this inaugural event, and we look forward to the continued success of this competition in the future.”
The Merced City School District would also like to acknowledge and thank all of the other staff members and volunteers who helped make this opportunity possible, including those from the Merced Union High School District, Delhi Unified School District, and Livingston Union School District.

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MCSD Board Clerk Jessica Kazakos presents a trophy to Rivera Middle School for winning the Battle of the Books

 


Rivera Middle School students Julia Nies, Elena Santos-Gonzalez, Tianna LiWang, and Kaylie Escorbar-Islas won the small group portion of the MCSD Battle of the Books Invitational by earning a perfect score


Students from Hoover Middle School answer rapid fire questions in a tiebreaker round of the Merced City School District Battle of the Books Invitational


Students from Rivera Middle School won the rapid fire tiebreaker round to win the inaugural MCSD Battle of the Books Invitational

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April 26 , 2018

Students, Scientists Talk Shop at UC Merced’s Dinner With A Scientist

Scientists will meet at UC Merced for an evening of fine food and conversation — though the conversation will be with sixth- through eighth-grade students who are prospective scientists.
The Merced County Office of Education, in conjunction with UC Merced, will host the annual Dinner With a Scientist on April 26 at the Joseph E. Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center. Students will arrive beginning at 4:30 p.m.
The event gives Merced County students the opportunity to interact with scientists from a variety of fields of study over dinner in a professional environment.
Each table is assigned at least one scientist representing local organizations, such as UC Merced, San Luis Wildlife Refuge, Green Meadows Outdoor School, Merced College and the Merced Police Department, to name a few.

For more information on Dinner With a Scientist, contact Stacie Arancibia at sarancibia@mcoe.org.

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April 26 , 2018

 

Changes to Amtrak San Joaquins Fare Policy
Aimed at Benefiting Passengers

The San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA) will be changing the reservation and fare policy for the Amtrak San Joaquins bringing numerous benefits to its passengers. On Monday, April 23, 2018, Amtrak San Joaquins will no longer be “Revenue Managed” or “Reserved Ticketed”. SJJPA’s cancellation of “Revenue Management” means that Amtrak San Joaquins passengers will no longer see fare fluctuations based on ticket purchase time or capacity constraints. Amtrak San Joaquins will have one fare for each station pair no matter when or through what channel a passenger purchases a ticket. The past revenue management policy discouraged impulse travelers and disproportionately impacted riders purchasing tickets at stations. The new one-fare policy will increase the equity of the ticket purchasing experience and benefit passengers immediately. The only exceptions to this policy include potential peak travel times such as holidays and onboard ticket purchases.
The cancellation of “Reserved Ticketing” will see Amtrak San Joaquins no longer require ticketed passengers to travel on specific train numbers or on a specific date offering increased flexibility. In the past, tickets must have been purchased for a specific train on a specific date. If the reservation needed to be changed, the passenger needed to do so ahead of his/her departure time and potentially incur change penalties. With the new policy, a passenger will purchase a ticket and select a specific train and date, but he/she is not required to travel based on his/her selection. If plans change or a meeting runs long, the passenger can travel on another train/bus or date as long as he/she travels between the same origin and destination on the ticket. The flexibility of unreserved ticketing will benefit passengers and remove an impediment to riding the service. These fare policy changes put the San Joaquins in line with the other two California intercity rail corridors – Capitol Corridor and Pacific Surfliner.

“These changes to our fare policy are passenger focused and will result in a simpler passenger experience,” says David Lipari, Marketing Manager for SJJPA. “We want passengers to not worry about pricing fluctuations or


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undue ‘sold out’ situations. Our hope is for passengers to think of train travel as an easy travel experience from the process of purchasing a ticket to the disembarking at their destination.”

The cancellation of “Reserved Ticketing” will also result in San Joaquins trains never appearing as sold out. Standees will be allowed in order to prevent travelers from being unable to purchase tickets on a specific train. The San Joaquins has not experienced significant capacity problems, but at times, certain trips would show as sold out when just a short segment of the corridor reached capacity.
The fare policy changes are system wide, but the San Joaquins thruway bus system will remain “Reserved Ticketed” due to the capacity constraints of the buses. Tickets for Amtrak San Joaquins can be purchased at amtraksanjoaquins.com. The San Joaquins offer many discounts including 10-Ride and Monthly Passes.

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SJJPA is responsible for the management and administration of Amtrak® San JoaquinsSM. SJJPA is governed by Board Members representing each of the ten (10) Member Agencies along the San Joaquins Corridor. With 365 miles of track, 18 stations, and over 1.1 million annual riders, Amtrak San Joaquins is the 6th busiest Amtrak service running 7 daily round-trips (two between Sacramento and Bakersfield and five between Oakland and Bakersfield). For more information visit www.sjjpa.com

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April 26 , 2018

The Merced Police Department invites you to attend the swearing in ceremony for our newest Police Officers. The swear in will take place at the Merced Civic Center Council Chambers located at 678 W. 18th Street on Friday, April 27, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. We hope you will join us in congratulations and support.


Officer Jesus Gonzalez #266



Officer Nicolas Rosales #265

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April 26 , 2018

Valley Congressmen Costa and Valadao Commemorate Armenian Genocide in House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Jim Costa (CA-16) and David G. Valadao (CA-21) – in their continued work to serve the people of the San Joaquin Valley – joined to commemorate the 103rd anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with dual speeches in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Costa and Valadao have been strong advocates for the Armenian community they represent, and both are active members of the Congressional Armenian Caucus. The Valley Congressmen have consistently called for the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States, including urging the current and past Administrations multiple times to recognize the Genocide, as Presidents Reagan and Eisenhower did during their terms. Both Representatives have also joined the Congressional Armenian Caucus in leading H. Res. 220, a legislative resolution in which the House of Representatives directs the U.S. to examine and learn from the world’s reaction to the Armenian genocide in order to prevent war crimes, crimes against humanity, and future genocides.

In addition to their work surrounding the Armenian Genocide, Congressmen Costa and Valadao are leaders in efforts to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Armenia, to support the free and fair treatment of the democratic Republic of Artsakh, and to hold accountable the Turkish security forces who violently attacked protesters outside of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington, D.C. last year. Last month, Congressmen Costa and Valadao were awarded the Gratitude Medal by the President of Artsakh, Bako Sahakayan, for their work supporting the nation’s development and right to self-determination.

“The Armenian people show us what resilience, strength, and dedication can achieve, both in the important role they play in our San Joaquin Valley and in their contributions across the world,” said Rep. Costa. “Growing up in the San Joaquin Valley, I heard the stories of the Armenian families who settled there. We as a nation should recognize and learn from the Armenian Genocide to prevent similar atrocities from ever occurring again. It is the right and moral thing to do.”

Rep. Valadao stated, “Although the tragic events we remember today occurred 103 years ago, the sense of loss still runs deep in Armenian communities across the nation where those who lost a loved one have been steadfast in their efforts to ensure the memory of those lost never fades. As a country, we must recognize the horrific events of the Armenian Genocide and work together to ensure such atrocities never take place again.”

In their speeches today, Congressmen Costa and Valadao spoke about the significance of the Armenian Genocide and the strength and spirit of the Armenian people.


Congressman Jim Costa

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Costa: Water Allocation Should Not Take This Long

Fresno, CA – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement after the Bureau of Reclamation announced an increase in water allocation for Central Valley Project water contractors:

“Although this increase in water allocation is good for our San Joaquin Valley, it should not have taken the Bureau of Reclamation this long to increase its allocation. Part of what I fought so hard for in the Water Infrastructure Improvement for the Nation Act, or the WIIN Act, was the flexibility to maximize water supplies and the movement of water through the Delta when water is abundantly available, as it has been for the last month. Our Valley farmers make planting, investment, and other key decisions based on water, and delays in a secure water allocation add unnecessary uncertainty to the already highly-unpredictable agriculture sector. We must do everything we can to ensure the tools we do have for water allocation are used as effectively as possible.”

Congressman Costa has spent over 30 years working to secure safe and reliable water sources for the San Joaquin Valley, both in the California state legislature and in the U.S. Congress. Rep. Costa was pivotal in getting the WIIN Act signed into law in 2016, and last month he called on U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to increase water pumping during the storms falling across Central and Northern California, consistent with the WIIN Act.

The updated allocations would provide for the following water supplies for Valley contractors:
• Friant Division Contractors will receive a 100% Class 1 allocation.
• San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors will receive a 100% water allocation.
• South of Delta Agriculture Water Service Contractors will receive a 40% water allocation.

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April 26 , 2018

 

Assemblymember Adam Gray Names
Wolfsen’s Meat and Sausage as 2018 Small Business of the Year

Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) announced today the selection of Wolfsen’s Meat and Sausage of Gustine as the 2018 Small Business of the Year for the 21st Assembly District. The annual “Small Business Day” event and luncheon are organized in partnership with the California Small Business Association, and feature representatives from each of California’s Legislative districts.
Wolfsen’s began as the “West Side Locker” in the 1940s offering custom butchering for wild game hunters. The current owners purchased the business in 1988 and eventually focused in on their mission of making and selling high quality meats and sausages. Their products are made in-house and they offer over sixty kinds of smoked and fresh sausages. They are known for their “old-world style linguica,” enjoyed by many Merced County natives, and their store has attracted a regular following of customers from every corner of California.


Assemblymember Adam C. Gray with Vance and Donna Wolfsen

“Wolfsen’s has been an absolute staple in our community since the beginning, and I could think of no better way to help celebrate their thirtieth anniversary in business than to nominate Vance and Donna Wolfsen for this well-deserved award,” said Gray.

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April 26 , 2018

 

Major Progress Made in Effort to Establish San Joaquin Valley Medical School

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D – Merced) today announced that his bill to fund the creation of a San Joaquin Valley medical school passed its first committee vote with unanimous, bipartisan support. Gray also praised the University of California for the release of a complementary report which highlights the health care shortages that exist in the San Joaquin Valley and suggests a path towards the establishment of more robust medical infrastructure in the Valley, including the establishment of a fully independent medical school at UC Merced. The report was funded by a budget item Gray secured in 2015.

“Today marks a renewed effort to undertake the construction of major new medical infrastructure projects in the Valley,” said Gray. “The UC’s report highlights the compelling access to care failures that families in the Valley know all too well. We simply are not providing adequate health care for one of the fastest growing, poorest, and least healthy regions of the state.”

Gray’s bill, AB 2202, appropriates a currently unspecified sum of money to the UC Regents for the construction of a branch campus of the UCSF School of Medicine in partnership with UC Merced and the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program.

“The establishment of a branch campus is a near-term solution that is a proven pathway to opening a fully accredited medical school,” said Gray. “In this bill, we have taken the lessons learned from medical schools in other regions and applied what we have learned for the Valley.”


Assemblymember Adam C. Gray


The University of California report, titled Improving Health Care Access in the San Joaquin Valley, details the numerous health challenges faced by the residents of the San Joaquin Valley and provides a number of recommendations to improve access to care. The report highlights the importance of leveraging existing infrastructure at the UCSF Fresno Medical Center to provide new access to care options like telehealth and residency expansion while recommending the establishment of a branch campus as the most proven track to a fully independent medical school.

“This report gives us a road map to follow,” continued Gray. “We will highlight these recommendations at a health summit at UC Merced with Chancellor Leland and President Napolitano in early summer and continue the hard work necessary to ultimately establish a school of medicine at UC Merced.”

The report is available at https://www.ucop.edu/uc-health/_files/uc-sjv-final-report-april-2018.pdf

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April 26 , 2018

MERCED DA OFFICE MOVES INTO RENOVATED BUILDING IN LOS BANOS

After about ten of years of working from a portable building, the Merced County District Attorney’s employees who work in Los Banos recently moved into a remodeled section of the old Merced County courthouse building located at 545 W. I Street, announced District Attorney Larry D. Morse II.
The Merced Superior Court relinquished possession of the old courthouse when it moved into new facilities on G Street near Mercy Springs in the fall of 2016. Since then, the building still continued to be occupied by the Sheriff’s Department’s west side station, the Probation Department’s west side office and a satellite Public Defender’s office.
Due to significant growth on the west side of Merced County and the opening of the new courthouse, the District Attorney’s need for additional employees grew, as did the need for additional office space. As a result, Morse began pressuring the county to remodel the old courthouse, which would provide a larger and more permanent space for the office staff. The county accepted the challenge last year, and began remodeling the building in stages.
“These new facilities are a dramatic upgrade over the facility our staff has occupied for years. We are looking forward to the day that jury trials will be held in Los Banos. Having adequate office space is essential to that goal. We appreciate the Merced County CEO’s office and the Board of Supervisors working with us to repurpose the old courthouse,” said Morse.
With stage one completed, the District Attorney’s office is now housed in at least three times the space with completely updated and modernized facilities. The next phase of the remodel is geared towards getting the building ready for the other departments who will share the building with the District Attorney’s office, including the Public Defender’s Office, the Probation Department and the Sheriff’s Department. These departments have moved into portable buildings while their sections of the building are being remodeled.
“The fact that the county was able to provide the District Attorney’s office with impressive facilities by intelligently repurposing an existing building at a far smaller cost than new construction, should be a source of pride for the citizens of Merced County,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Hal Nutt.

 


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BOARD APPROVES DA’S REQUEST FOR $5K FOR STATEWIDE DIVERSITY PROJECT

The Merced County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a request from District Attorney Larry D. Morse II to contribute $5,000 to help fund statewide outreach efforts for racial diversity within California district attorney offices. The California District Attorneys Association Diversity Project was created as a response to a 2016 Stanford Criminal Justice Center report that underscored the lack of racial diversity within district attorneys’ office in the state, according to Morse.
“It is essential to the fair administration of justice that Californians of every ethnicity believe that the criminal justice system is truly representative of them and their life experiences. The Stanford study correctly attributed the comparatively low numbers of minority candidates for prosecutor jobs as a major impediment to attaining racially represented offices, and that must change,” Morse said. “Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, who is African American, has been a leader in CDAA’s efforts to do more to inspire members of minority communities to choose careers as prosecutors,” he said.


DA Jeremy Toscano, Chief DA Hal Nutt and DA Larry Morse II at conference table


DA Larry Morse inside new building


Staff working in their new offices

 

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Morse, who along with Lacey serves as a member of CDAA’s Board of Directors, said the Diversity Project will begin its outreach efforts in elementary and high schools and work with various educational systems to bring about meaningful and focused opportunities in colleges and law schools. Project objectives include a campaign to promote the benefits of a prosecution career while addressing cultural concerns that often discourage members of minority communities from considering work as prosecutors.
“The public’s faith in our justice system is its cornerstone and gives legitimacy to the verdicts and sentences that are handed down each day. California is an incredibly diverse state and our courtrooms and our district attorney offices must reflect that diversity in order to retain the public trust,” he said. “My colleagues around the state are committed to ensuring that we are doing everything possible to make our offices as representative of the communities we serve as possible.”
The contribution will be made from the District Attorney’s state asset forfeiture funds with no cost to the county’s general fund, Morse noted.

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April 26 , 2018

Tacherra Spokesman Calls on Poythress to Honorably Withdraw in 12th Senate District

After losing his home county GOP endorsement to Johnny Tacherra, Rob Poythress should use his campaign funds for legal defense in his Attorney General corruption case as he is no longer a viable GOP candidate who can win in November.

After another sign of collapse, Tacherra for Senate spokesman Carl Fogliani called on the embattled Madera County Supervisor to step out of the race for State Senate and turn his attention to his legal defense now that he has acknowledged being under investigation by the California Attorney General’s office for corruption in connection with sweetheart land deals to donors and possibly connections to his banking interests dealing with Madera County.

“I just hope he’ll do the right thing and focus on his criminal case instead of giving democrats a chance to run against a hot mess of a candidate,” stated Fogliani. The recent endorsement of the Madera County Republican Party for Tacherra(to go along with Merced and San Benito Counties), shows Poythress cannot even win the support of his own community.

“The people who know him best know his ethical shortcomings,” continued Fogliani. Johnny Tacherra is a farmer from Fresno County who nearly upset Congressman Jim Costa in 2014 despite no support from the national GOP or California Republican Party. Tacherra is a recognized expert on water issues with a strong proven base in the core of this “swing” district.”

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This endorsement comes as another blow to scandal-tarred Supervisor Rob Poythress who is under investigation by the California Attorney General’s office for corruption. Despite his financial backing once again by those seeking favors in his role as a Madera County Supervisor, Poythress was unable to stop the momentum for Tacherra, even in his home county.

“Poythress should not only consider leaving the race, he should apologize to all those members of the Senate Republican Caucus who endorsed his candidacy after he deceived them into believing he was a viable candidate,” said Tacherra consultant Carl Fogliani. “He is possibly the worst candidate for State Senate in California GOP history as a banker under investigation by the Attorney General for corruption who just proved he will lose his home county outright. Johnny Tacherra has the values, name identification and organization needed to win in November. Senate Republicans need to cut bait on Poythress and focus on keeping this seat Republican.”

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April 26 , 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 132 FROM GRANITE SPRINGS ROAD
TO PINEY CREEK ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed eastbound and westbound State Route 132 (SR-132) for approximately half a mile from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road for repair work after heavy rain on March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-132 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM STATE ROUTE 120/MOCCASIN IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY
TO BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

TUOLUMNE/MARIPOSA COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 36 miles from Moccasin Creek at the junction with SR-120 to Bear Valley Road for repair work after heavy rain on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure. Access to the town of Coulterville is available using alternate routes.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

 

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM STATE ROUTE 140 TO
BRADBURY ROAD IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform pavement repair on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99). Ramp closures are scheduled as follows:

• Full connector-ramp closure on northbound and southbound SR-99 at SR-140 beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound and southbound SR-99 at 16th Street beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full on-ramp closure on southbound SR-99 at G Street beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound and southbound SR-99 at SR-59/Martin Luther King Jr. Way beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full on-ramp closure on southbound SR-99 at R Street beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound and southbound SR-99 at Westside Boulevard beginning Sunday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 7:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

• Full on-ramp closure on northbound SR-99 at Collier Road beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.


• Full on-ramp closure on northbound SR-99 at South Avenue beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

• Full on-ramp closure on southbound SR-99 at Shanks Road beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

• Full on-ramp closure on southbound SR-99 at Bradbury Road beginning Monday, April 23, 2018, through Friday, April 27, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

The work at the Turlock Rest Area is part of a project that will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of the Bradbury Road overcrossing to just north of the county line.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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April 25 , 2018

Le Grand Elementary, Westside Top Winners in Merced County Academic Pentathlon

More than 340, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students from schools throughout Merced County demonstrated their academic knowledge and cooperative learning skills when they competed in the Academic Pentathlon on April 14 at El Capitan High School.
At an awards ceremony at the Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre on April 18, the top winners for the three grades were announced, with Westside Union Elementary School in Los Banos in first for 6th grade, Le Grand Elementary School took the top spot for 7th grade and Le Grand Elementary School took 8th grade.
The first place overall top scoring student for the Pentathlon was Aleksey Dvorkin, a 6th grader from Westside Elementary School in Los Banos.
The teams competed in five exciting tests to demonstrate their knowledge in literature and fine arts, math, science, social science and the Super Quiz.
The Super Quiz competition differs from that of the other written testing formats. The Super Quiz is the only part of the event that is open to the public, and it is one of the most memorable and exciting parts of the Academic Pentathlon competition. Before a crowd of cheering parents, students and supporters, team members engaged in a battle of wits against other participating teams. The first place teams in Super Quiz were Peggy Heller in Atwater for 6th grade, Livingston Middle School for 7th grade and Le Grand Elementary took 8th grade.
This year’s Super Quiz theme was Africa.
Teams were comprised of nine team members, three from each division of “A” Honor, “B” Scholastic and “C” Varsity students. This team composition gives students the opportunity to develop skills working with students of different ability levels, motivation and interests.
For more information about this event, contact Stacie Arancibia at (209) 381-5910.


Don Ouchley, Deputy General Manager of Energy Resources for the Merced Irrigation District, speaks to the crowd at the 2018 Merced County Academic Pentathlon Awards at the Merced Theatre on April 18. MID was the top sponsor of the event.


Hundred of students, teachers, school administrators, families and friends attended the 2018 Merced County Academic Pentathlon Awards at the Merced Theatre on April 18.

PHOTOS BY DYLAN MCMULLEN COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

 

 


Aleksey Dvorkin, a 6th grader at Westside Union Elementary School in Los Banos, earned the overall top scoring student in the 2018 Merced County Academic Pentathlon.


Le Grand Elementary School was the top scoring team for 7th grade at the 2018 Merced County Academic Pentathlon.


Le Grand Elementary School was the top scoring team for 8th grade at the 2018 Merced County Academic Pentathlon.


Westside Union Elementary School in Los Banos was the top scoring team for 6th grade at the 2018 Merced County Academic Pentathlon.

 

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April 24 , 2018

The Altamont Corridor Express (ACE®) Operations Team To Host Training Exercise With Law Enforcement
On May 1st, 10 am - Noon

Stockton (CA) – The Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) operations team will be coordinating with local, state, and federal First Responders and emergency agencies, to host a hands-on training at the Rail Maintenance Facility located at 1020 E Alpine Ave in Stockton on May 1st, from 10 am to noon. This training will focus on creating partnerships between the railroad and First Responders as well as resources to work with railroad related emergencies.

Participating agencies include the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, Antioch Police Department Swat, Merced Police Department Swat, Kensington Police Department, Sacramento Fire Department, Lodi Fire Department, Manteca Fire Department, Merced Fire Department, the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, and AMR.

 

The public may see emergency vehicles at the ACE Rail Maintenance Facility and are asked not to contact local authorities as they will be participating in the drill.

The media is invited to attend, and we request an RSVP be made to Chris Kay, PIO, via email: chris@acerail.com.

ACE passenger rail service, started in 1998 and serving over one million riders annually, runs four daily round trips starting at the Cabral Station in Downtown Stockton and stops in Lathrop/Manteca, Tracy, Vasco Road, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Great America, Santa Clara and San Jose’s Diridon station. For more information on ACE rail, please visit www.acerail.com.

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April 19 , 2018

Outpouring of Donations for Planada Elementary After Flooding

There’s a silver lining to the clouds of adversity that have hovered over Planada Elementary School for more than three weeks.
Damage from the March 23 storm that severely damaged the wing housing four fifth-grade classrooms and the library ultimately may range between $500,000 and $750,000 when all repair costs are calculated.
How these costs will be recouped still must be determined.
When doors to the classrooms and library were opened early that stormy day, five to seven inches of water rushed out. That was the result of stormwater flowing over the banks of Miles Creek, about a mile from the school, and into places it shouldn’t have gone.
Planada Elementary School District Superintendent Jose L. Gonzalez still is able to look on the bright side despite many challenges in trying to make things right.
“We are exhausting all resources to make sure facilities are restored to good order,” Gonzalez said. “The outpouring of support from colleagues and organizations has been extremely uplifting. Hopefully this was the first and last disaster I will experience.”
Gonzalez, superintendent since 2010, said third-graders at a Salida elementary school have collected a dozen cartons of books with more than 400 of them for their counterparts in Planada, which they recently received. Children’s book authors also exhibited the spirit of kindness by donating books to the school. The Fresno-based “Reading Heart” group also donated 1,500 books to the library and students.
“The resiliency of students and staff is really rewarding; we really bond together,” Gonzalez said.
Preliminary estimates of structural damage range between $300,000 and $500,000, with all shelving and furniture in the classrooms and library a total loss. A complete list of damage was due to be compiled.
Principal Idelfonso Nava said the first thing that had to be done March 23 was relocate the fifth graders into four vacant rooms on campus. A vacant staff room became the makeshift library.
Video surveillance equipment showed floodwaters creeped into the building about 4 a.m. that fateful morning. Within a half-hour, the whole building was surrounded with water.
“It’s a lesson learned,” Nava said. “We are using it as a teachable moment, the cause and effect of water and Mother Nature. We have used (the flood) as a positive thing.”
Nava said the school is getting back to a normal routine, with students and staff “rolling with the punches.”
“It would have been more disruptive without those four rooms that Friday and the week after. It created extra work for teachers. Most came in over the weekend to set up their rooms and have a sense of normality when students returned,” Nava said.
Teachers also spent some of their spring break getting acclimated to their new surroundings. Meanwhile, workers with Advanced Technologies, Inc. in West Sacramento have been removing water-damaged structural elements in the affected wing and trying to avoid the outbreak of mold.
Gonzalez said Planada belongs to the Central Valley Regional Insurance Group, which unfortunately does not provide flood insurance. The Merced County Board of Supervisors proclaimed a state of emergency and Gonzalez is hoping Gov. Jerry Brown will do the same, making it easier to gain reimbursements.
Gonzalez was meeting with the state Office of Emergency Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency to prepare a preliminary damage estimate, part of the process triggering state aid under the California Disaster Assistance Act. He also is working with the State Department of Education to obtain facilities hardship reimbursements. The district is exploring claims against Merced County and the Merced Irrigation District from the creek overflow.
The superintendent said 2,500 books, some of them timeless and irreplaceable, were lost in the flood. Teachers lost personal belongings and the school’s resource materials were lost. All shelving and furniture in those rooms is a total loss.
Nava said it has been estimated it could take five to six weeks before repairs can be made. He said you can’t really prepare for something like this ahead of time. Staff members had to get together and devise a plan.
“The ones mostly affected were the fifth graders. We have a great staff with a great, positive attitude. This translates to the students. We were able to weather the storm,” Nava said.

 

PHOTOS COURTESY PLANADA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT

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April 19 , 2018

New Democrats Introduce Fiscally Responsible Savings Account

SACRAMENTO – Today, the California New Democrats introduced landmark legislation to create a new, more flexible state savings account to weather the state’s boom-and-bust revenue cycle and insulate Californians from the drastic cuts made during recessions. The measure, Assembly Bill 1740, will establish a complementary account to the state’s existing “Rainy Day Fund.” This proposal is consistent with the Assembly Democrats’ “Blueprint for a Responsible Budget,” released in January.

“If we don’t save during the good times, we will inevitability be forced to make cuts to critical services during the bad. Education, public safety, and other important government services will all be on the chopping block without sufficient reserves to weather us through the next recession,” the New Democrats said in a statement.

In 2014, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 2, a measure which strengthened the state’s existing Budget Stabilization Account (BSA) by increasing the amount of money that the State can save when the state is in the green. In January, the governor proposed fully funding the BSA to its constitutional cap of $13.5 billion, meaning that in future years, the Legislature will not be able to save any additional money to protect against cuts to vital services that Californians depend on.

Since the year 2000, the state has had two, multi-year recessions: the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s (which cost the state approximately $80 billion over three years) and more recently, the Great Recession (which cost the state approximately $115 billion over four years). California’s chief non-partisan financial analyst believes that the state will need $20 billion in savings to battle a mild recession, or $40 billion in savings to battle a moderate recession.


Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) is the Convener of the New Democrats. The Executive Committee of the New Democrats includes Assemblymembers Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Tom Daly (D-Anaheim), Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), Tim Grayson (D-Concord), Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield).

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The current BSA, even fully funded by the Governor at $13.5 billion, is a little more than half of what California would need for a mild recession. AB 1740 will help close the savings gap shortage, by providing another, optional savings account for the Legislature to utilize without tying up funds for infrastructure expenditures.
“Just as families throughout our state struggle to live within their means, so, too, should government,” The New Democrats’ statement said. “When times are good, we save, so that when times are bad, we aren’t forced to choose between a good education for our children and offering healthcare services to our seniors. AB 1740 is a long-term reform that will help ensure that future generations are not saddled with our debt or forced to make severe cuts to education and other important programs. We look forward to working with our legislative colleagues and the Governor to put our state on a strong fiscal path and preserve the gains we have made over the past years.”

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April 19 , 2018

Costa Statement on House Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Consideration

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement after the House Committee on Agriculture considered and voted on H.R. 2 – the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 – more commonly known as the Farm Bill:

“We have some of the most productive farms in the world in our San Joaquin Valley, while roughly 25 percent of individuals living in our district receive nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. I am, and I have always been, committed to commonsense farm and food policy that feeds Americans and ensures our farmers, ranchers, and dairy producers can be successful. Unfortunately, we did not consider this type of policy today.

“The Farm Bill we considered today is deeply disappointing. For over 40 years, our Farm Bill has been the product of bipartisan deliberation, negotiation, and cooperation during which we come together and work out our differences to write America’s food bill. Today’s bill was not the result of this serious and important process, and this is reflected powerfully in the bad quality of the policy we considered today. This bill serves some very well, but it also abandons large numbers of Americans, pits regions of our country against each other, and creates rifts within industries and communities.

“Although there are areas of this measure that may be good for some Valley farmers, there are important provisions that we must improve before we enact the Farm Bill. We should increase our investment in programs promoting trade and make the dairy provisions fairer and more effective. We should strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of SNAP, not dismantle and devastate the parts of SNAP that are working, and working well. The Farm Bill is about supporting our food producers and feeding Americans. It must serve our communities, not merely specific individuals or groups within our communities.


Congressman Jim Costa

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“My vote today was not a vote against those who may benefit from the bill we considered. My vote today was a call for a commonsense, bipartisan Farm Bill that will enlarge the group served to the widest range of Americans possible, including those who may benefit from today’s measure.

“The Senate is currently working on a bipartisan Farm Bill, and it is my hope and belief that eventually we will reach a bipartisan policy agreement that will pass in both chambers and the President will sign. This is how we should pass legislation that reauthorizes Americans’ farm and food priorities to ensure they serve our communities, our economy, and our nation.”

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April 18, 2018

Atwater FFA Successful at College Agriculture Skills Competitions

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

Seven Atwater High School FFA judging teams joined over a thousand other high school agriculture students at the Cosumnes River College and Reedley College FFA Field Days focused on Career Development Event (CDE)skills competitions on April 14th. The agriculture related skills competitions resulted in top placings for the Marketing Plan, Agronomy, Land and Soil Evaluation, and Farm Business management teams placing in the “Top 5”.

The Atwater FFA Marketing Plan team comprised of Jasmine Sandoval, Anessa Cardenas, and Alison Melanader placed 1st overall at the Cosumnes River College FFA Field Day in a contest that seeks to effectively prepare students for the opportunities and expectations of the agricultural business workplace. Students seeking careers in agriculture business must develop a high degree of knowledge and skill as well as the capacity to create and present a marketing plan.

The Atwater FFA Agronomy judging team of Luz Soto, Elisabeth Garner, Maria Ruelas, and Jennifer Velazquez placed 2nd overall at the Cosumnes River College FFA Field Day in a contest that involves the study field crops and weeds with students responsible for the identification of nearly 200 crops and plants, seed, bean, and hay evaluation, and an oral presentation pertaining to their evaluations.

The Atwater FFA Land and Soil Evaluation team placed 4th overall at the Reedley College FFA Field Day with a team that included Audrey Esau (1st high overall), Michael Bray, and Jose Ruiz. The contest involves the evaluation and interpretation of soils and soil profiles. Students analyze various soil pits and determine soil texture, water holding capacity, and erosion characteristics while associated the data with agriculture applications.


The Atwater FFA Farm Business Management team placed 4th overall at the Cosumnes River College FFA Field Day. The team was comprised of Kelsi Kamesch, Liliana Vargas, Ricardo Ortega, Catalina Diaz, and Zion Brigham. The Farm Business Management CDE helps students learn business skills and apply economic principles to agricultural businesses. Contest focus areas include business record keeping, depreciable property, and tax management.

The Atwater FFA Best Informed Greenhand (BIG) team placed 9th overall at Reedley College and was led by Lillian Sackett, Lizbeth Arias, and Supreet Gandhok. The contest objectives are to understand the aims, purposes, history, and structure of the Local, State, and National FFA student organizations and know the opportunities it makes available as referenced in the current National FFA Manual and State Constitution.

The Atwater FFA Ag Mechanics team of Daisy Flores-Mota, Joel Rojas, Juanabel Perez, and Marie Croado placed 9th overall in a contest involving hands on application skills in woodworking, electrical, oxy-fuel welding & cutting skills, tool identification, and a written exam on all aspects of agriculture mechanics.

The Atwater FFA Floriculture team of Hayley Vargas and Kathy Vargas


The Atwater FFA marketing Plan team comprised of Allison Melander, Jasmine Sandoval, and Annessa Cardenas placed 1st overall at the Cosumnes River College FFA Field Day.


The Atwater FFA Soil and Land Evaluation team comprised of Michael Bray, Audrey Esau (1st high individual overall), and Jose Ruiz places 2nd overall at the Reedley College FFA Field Day.

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placed 13th overall with an incomplete team (team consists of four students). The competition involves plant identification, application of “hands-on” floral arrangements, and industry related floral skills.

The Cosumnes River College and Reedley College FFA Field Days are designed to showcase students’ “hands-on” and technical skills in various agriculture related fields. “Students apply their knowledge and skills learned in the classroom in real-life job skill environments,” said FFA advisor Kim Macintosh. “We have a group of students that take tremendous pride towards their work ethic and skill development in a variety of agricultural related skills and occupations.” The FFA judging competitions and state championships continue with Fresno State University and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo scheduled in the coming two months.

For more information on this event, upcoming events, and information on the Atwater FFA, log on their website at www.AtwaterFFA.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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April 17 , 2018

Burbank Elementary Receives Donation to Build School Garden

Students and staff at Burbank Elementary in Merced will soon begin building their own school garden, thanks to a generous donation. Big Creek Lumber delivered supplies to the campus on Thursday, including enough redwood planks to build two large redwood garden beds. The kit also included 10 bags of soil courtesy of Sun Land Garden Products and tools courtesy of Orgill.
Burbank submitted an application for the supplies and was one of ten schools across California selected this year.

Learning Director Sarah Medlin says, “This is a great opportunity to provide hands-on learning for our students. They will use science, math, and engineering skills to build and grow their garden, while also focusing on healthy eating, teamwork, and responsibility.”

This is the third year Big Creek Lumber has offered the redwood garden bed grant program.

Marketing Manager Michelle Overbeck says, “When we show up at a school with the garden bed materials, soil, and tools on our truck, I love to see the excitement of the kids waiting to build their school gardens. We feel fortunate that we are able to help our communities.”

Several Burbank students helped to unload the supplies and are now looking forward to starting the construction process with help from school staff.

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Burbank Elementary students carry one of the redwood planks donated by Big Creek Lumber for their new school garden.

 


Burbank Elementary students gather with representatives from Big Creek Lumber after accepting a donation of supplies to build a school garden.


Burbank Elementary students flex their muscles before helping to unload garden bed supplies donated by Big Creek Lumber.


Burbank Elementary students carry one of 10 bags of soil provided by Sun Land Garden Products for their new school garden.

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April 17 , 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 33 TO STATE ROUTE 152 IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform litter removal on State Route 33 (SR-33) and SR-152.
Work is scheduled as follows:
• Full off-ramp closure from southbound SR-33 to westbound SR-152 just east of the O’Neill Forebay on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

• #2 (right) lane and right shoulder closure on westbound SR-152 from Gonzaga Road to the O’Neill Forebay on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

 


For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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April 14 , 2018

Road projects, fire coverage, crime statistics on agenda

Road repair projects, fire coverage and crime in the City are topics on the Merced City Council agenda Monday night.
The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St. The Council meets the first and third Mondays of the month, except when there is a holiday, when it meets the following day.
The City expects to receive $1,402,613 for its Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation Account as a result of SB 1 funding. The City must allocate the money by May 1.
Projects eligible for the funding include road maintenance and rehab projects, pedestrian and bike safety projects, transit facilities and traffic control devices.
Various sidewalk and curb and gutter placement projects are proposed for funding, along with improving Childs Avenue from Parsons Avenue to Campus Parkway and Yosemite Avenue from St. Augustine to SR 59. Also on the list are scrub seal projects on Canal Street, E. El Portal Avenue, W. 26th Street and Merced Avenue.
The Merced Fire Department reviewed fire service staffing, response times and outcomes to determine ways to improve service delivery as part of its Standards of Coverage Assessment Report.
Recommendations include the need to plan for an additional fire station in North Merced, consideration of relocating two existing stations and improve operations of the dispatch/call center.

Interim Police Chief Chris Goodwin will give the Council an update on crime statistics in the City for 2017.
Also on the agenda is a public hearing to review applications to include in the 2018 Department of Housing and Urban Development Annual Action Plan.
The Council will meet in closed session at 5 p.m. to confer with labor negotiators.
City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet. A link to the live meeting is on the City’s web site at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.
The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org and is available outside the chambers prior to the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be turned in to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council. Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all Council meetings.

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April 14 , 2018

Notice of Availability: ACE Extension Lathrop to Ceres/Merced Draft Environmental Impact Report

About the Project
The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC), acting as lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), has prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the ACEExtension Lathrop to Ceres/Merced project. The ACE Extension Lathrop to Ceres/Merced project would extend ACE passenger rail service from Lathrop to Ceres in Phase I and from Ceres to Merced in Phase II. The full Notice of Availability (NOA) and the DEIR provide a full description of the project and can be viewed online at: www.acerail.com/About/Projects-Initiatives/Current/ACE-Extension-Lathrop-to-Ceres-Merced.

SJRRC has prepared a DEIR that provides an environmental evaluation of potential impacts and mitigation measures. This DEIR will be available for a 45-day public review period beginning on April 13, 2018. To view the NOA and the DEIR, or to view a list of the 12 libraries where hardcopies of the DEIR will be available, please visit www.acerail.com/About/Projects-Initiatives/Current/ACE-Extension-Lathrop-to-Ceres-Merced.

Open House
SJRRC will hold an open house to receive comments on the DEIR. Written comments may be made on comment cards that will be provided at the open house. The open house will be held on the following date and location:
Stanislaus County Fairgrounds
Building E-7
900 North Broadway
Turlock, CA 95380
Tuesday, May 8, 2018, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Comment Period
The comment period for the ACE Extension Lathrop to Ceres/Merced project DEIR is April 13, 2017 – May 28, 2018. Comments on the DEIR must be received by the end of the review period, which is Monday, May 28, 2018 at 5:00 PM. Comments can be submitted via email toACEextension.south@gmail.com.

Written comments can be mailed to:
San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission
ATTN: ACE Extension Lathrop to Ceres/Merced Project
949 E. Channel Street
Stockton, CA 95202

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April 14 , 2018

Costa Honors Local Victim Advocates with Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus Awards

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressmen Jim Costa (D-CA-16) and Ted Poe (R-TX-2) – co-founders and co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus (VRC) – held the Caucus’s annual awards ceremony honoring individuals for their outstanding efforts and achievements supporting and empowering victims and survivors of crime. Since they founded the VRC in 2005, Costa and Poe have been leading the congressional effort to protect the rights of crime victims and ensure survivors have access to the resources they need for recovery.

“Our survivors deserve justice, plain and simple,” said Rep. Costa. “Unfortunately, our system often does not do enough to ensure they receive the support, fair treatment, and advocacy required for true justice. Congressman Poe and I formed the bipartisan Victims’ Rights Caucus because we knew something had to be done to change this. We have been working in Congress for the past thirteen years to elevate the understanding of the effects of crime on survivors and communities, and to provide survivors with real justice that fits the crimes they endured.”

Costa continued, “In the same vein, those who work tirelessly every day to serve our victims and survivors far too often go unnoticed. These advocates, public servants, and other deeply dedicated individuals are frequently a lifeline for our survivors and their families. It is a true honor to recognize and thank them for their outstanding work with our annual awards.”

At this year’s awards ceremony, Congressman Costa honored two local victim advocates: Arien Pauls and Julie Nauman.

Rep. Costa awarded Arien Pauls the “Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award,” which is given to an individual who is a survivor of a violent crime and has used the experience to help other survivors. Pauls is a survivor of human trafficking who now works in Fresno, California to both serve other human trafficking survivors and educate young girls about the vulnerabilities and risks that can lead to human trafficking. She is a lead victim advocate at Breaking the Chains and a prevention educator at the Central Valley Justice Coalition.

Reflecting on her work, Rep. Costa deemed Pauls “an example of true strength and the triumph of the human spirit.”


Congressman Jim Costa

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Costa honored Julie Nauman, Executive Officer of the California Victim Compensation Board, with the “Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award for Public Awareness.” This award recognizes an individual or organization that has used its voice – throughout the media – to promote and to bring about change at the national level for crime victims and survivors. In her role on the Board, Nauman led her team to design and implement multi-lingual survivor outreach programs and public awareness campaigns about survivor compensation. In addition, after the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017, Nauman and the California Crime Compensation Board reached across state lines to ensure the hundreds of Californians who were attending the concert received information, assistance, and guidance with victim compensation.

“When my district was faced with the shooting on April 17, 2017, Julie was a remarkable ‘first responder’ in every sense of the word,” shared Rep. Costa when honoring Nauman yesterday. “She personally helped my district staff provide compensation… then helped connect the Fresno Police Department with resources that could fund victim and survivor assistance services.”

In addition to Pauls and Nauman, the VRC honored awardees Megan Rondini (posthumous winner), U.S. Center for SafeSport, Honorable Judge Lisa Block Rowdin, and Jessica Johnson.

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April 14 , 2018

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association Endorses Poythress

Rob Poythress (R-Madera) announced today that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association (HJTA) supports his candidacy for State Senate. Jon Coupal, president of the HJTA praised Poythress' commitment to protecting Proposition 13 and keeping taxes down.

The Jarvis organization joins the California Small Business Association, Congressman Jeff Denham, the Madera Deputy Sheriffs Association, and many of the region's leading farmers in supporting Poythress for Senate.

Rob Poythress is a farmer, small business owner and Madera County Supervisor as well as the Republican front-runner in SD 12.

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April 13 , 2018

Students to Compete at Academic Pentathlon on Saturday at El Capitan

More than 330, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students from schools throughout Merced County will demonstrate their academic knowledge and cooperative learning skills when they compete in the Academic Pentathlon on Saturday, April 14 at El Capitan High School.
After weeks of intense study and practice, junior high teams will compete in five exciting tests to demonstrate their knowledge in literature and fine arts, math, science, social science and the Super Quiz.
The Super Quiz competition differs from that of the other written testing formats. A relay-type competition will take place among all of the teams by grade level. The Super Quiz is the only part of the event that is open to the public, and it is one of the most memorable and exciting parts of the Academic Pentathlon competition. Before a crowd of cheering parents, students and supporters, team members will engage in a battle of wits against other participating teams.
This year’s Super Quiz theme is Africa. The Super Quiz kicks off at 1 p.m. in the El Capitan High School Gymnasium.

Each team is comprised of nine team members, three from each division of “A” Honor, “B” Scholastic and “C” Varsity students. This team composition gives students the opportunity to develop skills working with students of different ability levels, motivation and interests.
The awards ceremony, sponsored by Merced Irrigation District, will be held on Wednesday, April 18 at 6 p.m. at the Art Kamangar Center at the Merced Theatre.
For more information about this event, contact Stacie Arancibia at (209) 381-5910.

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April 13 , 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 132 FROM GRANITE SPRINGS ROAD
TO PINEY CREEK ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed eastbound and westbound State Route 132 (SR-132) for approximately half a mile from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road for repair work after heavy rain on March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-132 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM STATE ROUTE 120/MOCCASIN IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY
TO BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

TUOLUMNE/MARIPOSA COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 36 miles from Moccasin Creek at the junction with SR-120 to Bear Valley Road for repair work after heavy rain on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For videos on the storm repair work being done by Caltrans and our construction partners, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_XAGWcbbqoV2h6LOQR7WnQ.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM STATE ROUTE 140 IN MERCED
TO THE TURLOCK REST AREA AT THE STANISLAUS COUNTY LINE

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform pavement repair on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99).

Ramp closures are scheduled as follows:

• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound and southbound SR-99 at SR-140 beginning Wednesday, April 18, 2018, through Friday, April 20, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 5:30 a.m.

• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound and southbound SR-99 at SR-59/Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Merced beginning Wednesday, April 18, 2018, through Friday, April 20, 2018, from 7:00 p.m. until 5:30 a.m.

• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound and southbound SR-99 at the Turlock Rest Area beginning Sunday, April 15, 2018, through Friday, April 20, 2018, from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

The work at the Turlock Rest Area is part of a project that will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of the Bradbury Road overcrossing to just north of the county line.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.


 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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April 12 , 2018

Gray Demands Action After State Water Board Loses in Court

April 10, 2018 - Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D - Merced) renewed calls today to fix the state's broken water rights management system following a court ruling that condemned the State Water Resources Control Board’s broken enforcement process.

In a case between the Byron-Bethany Irrigation District (BBID) and the State Water Board, a judge ruled this month that the Board lacks the authority to issue curtailment notices to pre-1914 and riparian water right holders. The judge ruled that the Board violated BBID's due process rights by ordering immediate cessation of diversions and threatening the district with large fines without first providing the district its right to due process.

"The ruling reaffirms what we have known for some time," Gray said. "We need to reform the State Water Board's coercive enforcement process to guarantee water rights holders a fair hearing and due process. The Judge's decision makes that clearer than ever."

Assembly Bill 313, water rights legislation introduced by Assemblyman Gray last year, would have restored fairness in the handling of water rights enforcement by requiring hearings to take place in a neutral court. Under current law, the State Water Board initiates enforcement actions and conduct hearings in its own hearing room where Board staff serve as the prosecution team and Board members serve as judge and jury.


Assemblymember Adam C. Gray

After receiving bipartisan support and approval by the Legislature, Governor Brown vetoed Gray's bill. In his veto message, the Governor directed the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) to make recommendations to improve the State Water Board's hearing process. However, a January 1st deadline to provide the recommendations passed without CalEPA providing the recommendations.

"The court's ruling proves our bill is exactly the medicine the State Water Board needs," continued Gray. "We must create a more accountable and equitable process that levels the playing field for everyone. The current system just isn't good government."

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April 12 , 2018

City of Atwater Spring Clean-up
Allied Waste will be conducting a Clean-up Day on Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 8:00 AM to 1:30 PM.

 

Check-In Point will be at Buhach Colony High School back parking lot off Avenue Two.
Atwater residents can dispose of large items that don’t fit into regular refuse containers free of charge

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April 12 , 2018

REPEAT CAR THEFT ARRESTED FOR THIRD TIME IN
FIVE MONTHS

For the third time in the past five months, the District Attorney's office filed felony charges for vehicle theft related crimes against Remijio Ray Andrada, 24, of Atwater, after he was found accessing a vehicle in Atwater that was reported stolen, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Hal Nutt.
Andrada was previously convicted of felony vehicle theft on November 15, 2017 and was afforded an opportunity to go to a drug rehabilitation program. He entered the program in early December, but left the program after four days. About a month later on December 28, 2017, officers of the Los Banos Police Department apprehended Andrada during a new investigation concerning a stolen vehicle. Andrada was charged with another felony vehicle theft and was convicted on February 14, 2018.
At his sentencing hearing on February 14, 2018 before a Merced County Judge, Deputy District Attorney Travis Colby argued for incarceration of Andrada by stating, “The People are gravely concerned that this defendant is not understanding the seriousness of these charges and will just walk away from this program, and we will be back here with another stolen car case and another victim.” However, the judge allowed Andrada to return to the same program from which he previously walked away.

The judge released Andrada from jail and into the rehabilitation program on February 27, 2018. Andrada left the program the very next day.
Less than three weeks later, on March 18, 2018, officers of the Atwater Police Department received information that Andrada was in their town and in possession of a stolen car. The officers responded to a residence where they observed Andrada accessing the driver’s door of a vehicle that had previously been reported stolen, and then watched him enter the residence. After a short period of time, officers were able to apprehend Andrada in the backyard of the residence hiding under a pile of clothing.
Andrada is facing felony stolen vehicle charges and is currently in custody of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office. His case is set for a preliminary hearing on the latest charges at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 in Department 13 of the Merced County Superior Court.

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April 10 , 2018

MCSD Students to Attend Camp Green Meadows

Sixth-graders in the Merced City School District will have an opportunity to attend the Jack L. Boyd Outdoor School, affectionately known as Camp Green Meadows, beginning in the fall.
The MCSD Board of Education unanimously approved a contract with the Merced County Office of Education during its March 27 meeting for students to participate in the outdoor learning program.
Camp Green Meadows is located just two miles outside of Yosemite National Park in the town of Fish Camp. It is owned and operated by the Merced County Office of Education and has served tens of thousands of students from throughout Central California for more than 50 years, providing about 2,500 Merced County students the outdoor school and camping experience annually. Students participate in an engaging science curriculum that is aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Students use the Sierra National Forest as a classroom and participate in activities that are designed to teach kids to think like and express themselves like scientists. Science is a hands-on experience for students at Camp Green Meadows.
MCSD sixth-graders will visit the outdoor school between late August and September, and the contract runs through the 2020-2021 school year.
MCSD Superintendent Dr. RoseMary Parga Duran says, “We are excited to offer this opportunity for our students. We worked closely with MCOE to develop a program that provides an enjoyable outdoor experience while still delivering the type of rigorous instruction our sixth graders need to excel academically.”
“We are thrilled that students in Merced County’s largest school district will benefit from the outdoor learning experience at Camp Green Meadows,” said Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen.
The Merced City School District serves approximately 12,000 students in preschool through eighth grade, including more than 1,000 sixth-graders. It is home to an award-winning STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) program, which provides hands-on learning opportunities in the classroom, at the district’s cutting edge STEAM Center and through a variety of educational excursions. For example, all MCSD fourth-graders have an opportunity to spend a day learning in Yosemite National Park through the “Every Kid in a Park” program.



Photos courtesy of Merced County Office of Education.


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April 10 , 2018

NOW ACCEPTING ENTRIES FOR 2018 MERCED COUNTY FAIR
COMPETITIVE EXHIBITS; ENTRIES DUE MAY 3
Don’t miss the chance to win the coveted blue ribbon and showcase your talents for all Merced to see!

MERCED, CALIFORNIA, April 9, 2018…The Merced County Fair is now accepting entries for its 2018 competitive exhibits! All Livestock & Still Competitive Exhibit Handbooks are available online now; deadline for majority of entries is Thursday, May 3 at 5:00 p.m.

A longstanding tradition of fairs and something that makes the Merced County Fair so special is the competitive exhibits, highlighting the hard work and talents of the Merced County community! Featuring competitive divisions ranging from table settings, computer art and farm junk sculpting to photography, amateur wine and home brew, plus so much more - there is bound to be a category that interests most everyone in our community!

“We want to encourage everyone in Merced County to participate in this engaging competition that not only represents the talents of our community, but generates an incredible amount of community pride,” said Teresa Burrola, CEO, Merced County Fair. “The best thing is that it doesn’t cost you to enter! So whether you are entering for the first time, or you are a seasoned fair exhibitor, take the time to look at this year's competitive exhibit divisions.”

The Merced Sun-Star has generously sponsored this year’s Merced County Fair Still Competitive Exhibits making it possible for the fair to continue to offer community members the chance to enter their still exhibits for free.

“We are proud to continue our involvement with the Merced County Fair, helping create an opportunity to get more people entering their work in this annual tradition!” said Rob Peres, VP of Advertising, Merced Sun-Star.

There are over 200 competitive divisions and categories featured in the Livestock & Still Competitive Exhibits. Detailed information on divisions, entry instructions, rules and more are available at:

 

www.mercedcountyfair.com/exhibitor-handbook. Hard copies may also be picked up at the Merced County Fair Administration Office, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. - Noon or 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

All Livestock entries must be submitted online. Still entries have the option to submit online or via hard copy. For questions regarding the 2018 Merced County Fair Competitive Exhibits, please call (209) 722-1506.

About The Merced County Fair:
The Merced County Fair, first founded in 1891, represents the 35th District Agricultural Association and is celebrating its 127th anniversary in 2018. More than 65,000 people from throughout Merced County and beyond attend the five-day Merced County Fair each June. Members of the Board of Directors include: Emily Haden, President; Lori Gallo, First Vice President; Carol Sartori-Silva, Second Vice President; Vicky Banaga; Mark Erreca; Lee Lor; Kim Rogina; and Flip Hassett. Teresa Burrola heads up the daily operations in her role as CEO. The 2018 Merced County Fair will run June 6 – 10. For more information about the Merced County Fair, please visit www.MercedCountyFair.com.

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April 10 , 2018

The City of Merced will be hosting its 3rd annual Earth Day event held on April 21st from 3:00pm-6:00pm near the Merced Applegate Park Zoo. This event will have bounce houses and activities making recycled crafts, bird feeders, planting seeds, and much more. To end the night, enjoy a movie with family and friends as we invite you all to our first exclusive Movies in the Parks series showing “Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.” Stay cozy and bring your blankets and lawn chairs. Movie begins when sun sets around 7:40pm.

Click here to see flyer

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April 10 , 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM BRADBURY ROAD IN DELHI
TO THE MERCED/STANISLAUS COUNTY LINE

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform pavement repair work on northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99) from Bradbury Road to the Turlock Rest Area at the Merced/Stanislaus County line.
Work is scheduled as follows:
• #2 (right) lane and right shoulder closure on southbound SR-99 from Bradbury Road to the county line in Turlock beginning Monday, April 9, 2018, through Tuesday, April 10, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

• #2 (right) lane and right shoulder closure on northbound SR-99 from Griffith Road in Turlock to the county line beginning Monday, April 9, 2018, through Tuesday, April 10, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

• Partial off-ramp closure on northbound SR-99 at the Turlock Rest Area beginning Monday, April 9, 2018, through Tuesday, April 10, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is part of a project that will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of the Bradbury Road overcrossing to just north of the county line.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 140 FROM LOWER TROWER ROAD
TO MOUNT BULLION CUTOFF ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform one-way traffic control on eastbound and westbound State Route 140 (SR-140) for 3.5 miles from Lower Trower Road to Mount Bullion Cutoff Road west of Mariposa.

This work is being done in part to repair the eroded shoulders and slopes of this stretch of SR-140 following heavy rain from March.

Work is scheduled beginning Monday, April 9, 2018, through Friday, April 13, 2018, from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by storms throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

Motorists can expect delays of 10 minutes. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.


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April 10 , 2018

Morse Lines Up Law Enforcement for Re-election Bid

The Merced Police Officers Association has voted overwhelmingly to endorse Merced District Attorney Larry Morse for re-election.

“Larry Morse has a superb record of supporting the men and women of law enforcement,” said Emily Foster, President of the Merced Police Officers Association. “He has led the fight to bring additional resources to support public safety in Merced County. We want people to know that re-electing Morse will help make Merced safer.”

“I’m proud and thankful for this endorsement,” said Morse. “Successful law enforcement requires teamwork. Having the support of the men and women of the Merced Police Officers Association is an honor.”

The Merced Police Officers Association’s action follows early endorsements of Morse by the Los Banos Police Association, the Merced Police Sergeants Association, Merced Chief of Police, Chris Goodwin, Livingston Police Chief, Ruben Chavez, former Merced Police Chiefs, Norm Andrade and Pat Lunney, former Merced County Sheriffs, Tom Sawyer, Hank Strength, and Gary Carlson, and former Atwater Police Chiefs, Frank Pietro, Richard Hawthorne, and Jerry Moore.

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April 10 , 2018

 

Fresno County Sherriff Margaret Mims Endorses Poythress

Rob Poythress (R-Madera) announced today that Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims was the third Sheriff in SD 12 to endorse his candidacy.

Sheriff Mims joins Stanislaus Sheriff Adam Christianson and Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney in backing Poythress.

Poythress, the Republican front-runner, is also endorsed by Senator Anthony Cannella, Congressman Jeff Denham, Assemblyman Heath Flora, Senator Tom Berryhill, the Stanislaus County Republican Party, the Monterey County Republican Party, and many others.

Stanislaus County GOP Backs Poythress for SD 12

The Stanislaus County Republican Party has joined with the Monterey County Republican Party, Senator Anthony Cannella, Congressman Jeff Denham, Assemblyman Heath Flora, and Senate Republican Leader Pat Bates in supporting Rob Poythress for State Senate.

Rob Poythress is a farmer, business owner and Madera County Supervisor who is the front-runner in the district currently represented by Senator Cannella.

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April 6, 2018

Be Prepared for the Coming Storm

City crews are going around the streets making sure drains and gutters are clear of obstructions in preparation for the storm coming in this Friday and Saturday. They also have made sure storm drain pumps are in good working order.

The National Weather Service said the Valley could receive 3/4s to 1.5 inches of rain through Saturday and heavier rainfall amounts in the foothills.

If City residents need sand and/or sandbags they can obtain them at the locations on the attached pdf . Click here to see map

 

Follow the Merced weather forecast from the National Weather Service at:http://bit.ly/2uV2Kau

And remember, slow down and turn on your lights and windshield wipers in the rain.

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April 6, 2018


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 132 FROM GRANITE SPRINGS ROAD
TO PINEY CREEK ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed eastbound and westbound State Route 132 (SR-132) for approximately half a mile from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road for repair work after last week’s heavy rain.

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-132 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure, and a signed detour is available for motorists on either side of SR-132.

Caltrans will also perform one-way traffic control from Narcisco Way in Coulterville to Bonds Flat Road in La Grange for storm repair work. This work is scheduled beginning Tuesday, April 3, 2018, through Friday, April 6, 2018, from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Motorists should expect 5 minute delays.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties. Changeable message signs (CMS) on neighboring state roadways have been activated to warn drivers of the SR-132 closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM MOCCASIN CREEK IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY
TO BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

TUOLUMNE/MARIPOSA COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 36 miles from Moccasin Creek at the junction with SR-120 to Bear Valley Road for repair work after heavy rain on Thursday, March 22, 2018.

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by last week’s storm throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties. Changeable message signs (CMS) on neighboring state roadways have been activated to warn drivers of the SR-49 closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM CHILDS AVENUE IN MERCED
TO BRADBURY ROAD IN DELHI

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform bridge work in several locations across nearly 24 miles of northbound and southbound State Route 99 (SR-99).

Ramp closures are scheduled as follows:

• Full on-ramp closure from Childs Avenue to northbound SR-99 beginning Sunday, April 8, 2018, through Friday, April 13, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full connector ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to SR-140 in Merced beginning Sunday, April 8, 2018, through Friday, April 13, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound and southbound SR-99 at 16th Street in Merced beginning Sunday, April 8, 2018, through Friday, April 13, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full on-ramp closure from G Street to southbound SR-99 in Merced beginning Tuesday, April 10, 2018, through Friday, April 13, 2018, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full on-ramp closures from Collier Road and South Avenue to northbound SR-99 in Delhi beginning Sunday, April 8, 2018, through Friday, April 13, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

• Full on-ramp closures from Shanks Road and Bradbury Road to southbound SR-99 in Delhi beginning Tuesday, April 10, 2018, through Friday, April 13, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.

Motorists should expect 10 minute delays, especially due to intermittent lane closures within this stretch of construction work. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
SPECIAL EVENT
STATE ROUTE 165 FROM THIRD AVENUE TO CANAL DRIVE IN STEVINSON

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close the #1 (left) lane and right shoulder of northbound and southbound State Route 165 (SR-165) from Third Avenue to Canal Drive for a special event.

The event is the annual Stevinson Santo Antao Association parade. These traffic restrictions (and the parade) are scheduled to take place from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Motorists should expect 15 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

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April 5 , 2018

Dos Palos ROP Student Selected for Weeklong Business Academy in NY

New and unexpected career paths she never expected face Dos Palos High School student Isabel Mejia-Sanchez.
The 17-year-old junior will get a chance to spend a week this summer at the Business Leadership Academy offered at Mercy College in Long Island, N.Y. Only 200 students of the 1,800 who apply are accepted for the program.
Jenny Hunger, Dos Palos High School ROP business teacher, said in January while she and her students were attending a virtual enterprise trade show, two recruiters from Mercy College asked if they could observe her business plan competition students.
This lead to Mejia-Sanchez’ invitation to the leadership academy and exposure to myriad business opportunities.
“This will be an excellent experience for her and our school will be represented well!” Hunger said. “She will be going to New York for one week during the summer for intensive business training. She will also be visiting over 15 different Fortune 500 companies in New York City.”
Mejia-Sanchez said receiving this opportunity has opened new and unexpected career paths she had never considered before.
“I am honored to have been given the chance to attend this program and bring back what it has to offer to Dos Palos High School. I look forward to witnessing more students in my area becoming involved with ROP Virtual Enterprise,” Mejia-Sanchez said.
With an emphasis on college and career readiness, virtual enterprise is an in-school, live, global business simulation that offers students a competitive edge through project-based, collaborative learning and the development of 21st-century skills in entrepreneurship, global business, problem-solving, communication, personal finance and technology, Hunger said.
Virtual enterprise has allowed Mejia-Sanchez to explore careers that accommodate her interest in legal, economic and government studies. She wants to attend a four-year university and further involve herself in the community through activism.
“I want to steadily become an example of success for other younger, low-income students like myself. Humility and hard work are vital; there will always be someone better than you, even if you can’t see them; they are your true competition,” Mejia-Sanchez said.
While being involved with ROP Virtual Enterprise she is also active in many clubs on campus, such as Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC), Mock Trial and a Bronco cheerleader.
Hunger said this is Isabel’s first year in virtual enterprise and she competed on the Business Plan Team. This team is comprised of six of the top performing students in the class. These students write a business plan for a fictitious business and compete throughout the state.
This year they placed in the top 16, making it to the semi-finals. Schools placing in the top six represent California at the National Youth Business Conference in New York City.

 


Isabel Mejia-Sanchez, left, competed with fellow Dos Palos High School Virtual Enterprise students at a trade show in January. Mejia-Sanchez was selected for a weeklong Business Leadership Academy in New York.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

PHOTO COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

 

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April 5 , 2018




High flows expected on Merced River throughout spring and summer months

Starting this week, high flows are expected along the Merced River and the public is cautioned to stay out of the fast-moving water.

Melting snow coupled with the potential for future storm runoff will combine to create dangerously-fast currents along the waterway. The flows are expected to remain high throughout the spring and into early summer.

“With the warm weather rapidly approaching, a lot of people might think it’s a good idea to cool down in a river or canal,” said Merced County Fire Chief Nancy Koerperich. “However, these channels are not there for swimming or rafting. Their purpose is to carry high volumes of cold, fast-moving water downstream. We do not want any tragedies this year: Please stay safe and stay out of the River.”

Sheriff Vern Warnke shares Chief Koerperich’s concerns about dangerous flows along the river. Warnke said the River is to be considered off-limits and should not be entered for recreational purposes.

“Despite our efforts to warn people not to go in the river, they do it anyway—and often need to be rescued,” Warnke said. “This is fast moving water that can put a lot of people in danger very quick. Anyone who enters the water and needs to be rescued can be held personally liable for the costs associated with that operation.”

 

 

Although it’s been a below-average year in terms of precipitation, late storms have brought significant snowpack and runoff to the central foothills.

“March brought significant storms and fresh snowpack to the Central Sierra Nevada,” said Hicham ElTal, Deputy General Manager at MID. “With spring temperatures quickly arriving, the Merced River will experience large volumes of water.”

From our partners at Merced County and Merced Irrigation District
For more information, please contact the agencies below

Contact Merced County:
Mike North
209-726-2744
mnorth@countyofmerced.com
Contact MID:
Mike Jensen
209-354-2856
mjensen@mercedid.org

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April 3 , 2018

Denise Frazier named Chief Building/Construction Project Official

Denise Frazier has been named the Chief Building/Construction Project Official, overseeing the City of Merced’s building permit process and its building inspectors and plan checkers.

Frazier has extensive experience in the field with Merced, Atwater and working on projects at the University of California, Merced.
“We’re growing and it’s exciting times and I want to build on that,” Frazier said.

“It’s not business as usual here in the City, it’s business is bustling,” Frazier said. “There’s a whole lot of talent, mixed with a whole lot of energy of the staff, all with a common focus of not only how to do we get this done, but how do we get this done better.”

She said the department is on track to issue 3,000 permits this year, something not seen in more than a decade. For perspective, this January and February the Department issued 110 permits for single family homes. Last year for the same period it issued 16 single-family permits.

“Denise is a great role model for employees in the division,” said Director of Development Services Scott McBride, who oversees her department. “She worked her way up the ladder starting as a Permit Technician to now being the Building Official. Along the way she continued to add to her skills and alibies by seeking out training and course work to help her advance.

“In addition to her work in the public sector she’s also been involved in major construction projects as a project administrator for a contractor that helped build a portion of UC Merced,” McBride said. “Given her broad range of experiences she can also relate to employees in the division and continue to be a mentor and leader to them.”

The increased workload has meant that the Department has streamlined its operations, improved its training and relied on outside consultants to do some of the work.

Electronic plan checking has also made the Department more effective and efficient. A contractor will submit the plans for a house via email, which is routed to all City Departments for review, and if all of the required information is included, the permit is issued quickly. If not, emails are exchanged and the additional information is sent in. Either way, no one has to lug up to 4 sets of bulky plans back and forth to City Hall during the review process to obtain the permit.

“I’ve had designers and contractors tell me that they wish everyone had electronic plan checking like we do because it is so easy,” she said. “It saves those folks a lot of money and drive time. It’s cheaper to shoot an email than pay someone to drive here several times.”
Frazier supervises the Inspection Services staff of four inspectors, two plan examiners and a temporary technician. She trains the plan review and counter staff and oversees updates on the fee schedule and web site.


Denise Frazier

 

One of her accomplishments was to develop the process and policy for the electronic plan review at the City. Frazier also started cross training staff to improve efficiency and coverage. She’s on the multi-Departmental team that deals with blighted properties in the City.

Frazier has been serving as the acting assistant building official since September, 2017. She started with the City in November 2013 as a Plan Examiner I and was promoted to a Plan Examiner II in November 2015.

While working at UC Merced for McCarthy Building Companies, she was a project administrator working on the 35,000 sf Student Services building, the 19,000 sf Student Athletics Center and the 102,000 sf Science and Engineering building.

She worked for the City of Atwater from 1999 to 2007 as a building technician before becoming the deputy building official.
A native of North Dakota, she met her husband, Brian, when he was stationed at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. The couple has two children in college, a daughter, Audrey, and a son, Conner.

In her spare time, Frazier likes to travel to state and national parks, camp, visit regional festival and fairs and pamper their two apricot poodles, Teddy and Molly.

The position pays $8,628.65 to $10,488.18 a month.

 

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April 3 , 2018


TEN YEARS OF HANDS-FREE LAW: CHALLENGES REMAIN
Put Your Phone Down. Just Drive!

Drivers are using their cell phones less often while driving, 10 years after “hands-free” became the law, but distracted driving remains a serious safety challenge in California. Observing April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the first week in April as California Teen Safe Driving
Week, safety advocates will focus on education and enforcement efforts statewide.

The Merced Police Department will join law enforcement throughout the state to step up enforcement along with awareness efforts by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to discourage distracted driving. Officers will have a special emphasis this month on enforcing all cell phone and distracted driving laws.

April 5th and 13th have been designated as the two statewide enforcement dates when law enforcement agencies will step up distracted driving enforcement activities. The California
Department of Transportation will put distracted driving messages on the changeable message signs on freeways during April.

Since 2011, OTS has conducted an observational study of handheld cell phone use every year. “This year’s study on the use of handheld cell phones and texting shows a decrease over past years; however, more work needs to be done to target those who were observed to still be breaking the law,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft. “The best way to put an end to distracted
driving is to educate all Californians about the danger it poses. We will do this through enforcement and education efforts like our new advertising campaign “Just Drive”, reminding drivers to put down their phones and focus on the road.”

 

 

 

Preliminary 2017 data shows that nearly 22,000 drivers were involved in distracted driving collisions in California, a decline from the more than 33,000 drivers involved in distracted driving collisions in 2007, the last full year before the hands-free law went into effect.

“Smart phones are part of everyone’s lives now. Texting, phone calls and posting on social media are nearly addicting,” said Sgt. Dan Dabney of the Merced Police Department. “But doing these things can have deadly consequences while driving on our city’s street. Changing these dangerous habits will help make our roadways safer for everyone.”

The Merced Police Department will be deploying extra traffic officers with grant-funded resources in April. Violators will be stopped and cited. This campaign is funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

FROM THE MERCED POLICE DEPARTMENT

CONTACT: Sgt. Dan Dabney, dabneyd@cityofmerced.org, (209) 385-7719

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April 3 , 2018

Madera Deputy Sheriffs' Association Backs Poythress

Building on an impressive string of law enforcement endorsements, Rob Poythress (R-Madera) announced that the Madera Deputy Sheriffs' Associationis endorsing him for State Senate.

The Madera DSA joins Stanislus County Sheriff Adam Christianson and Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney in endorsing Poythress.

Poythress, the Republican front-runner is also endorsed by the senate Republican Leader; Pat Bates, the incumbent Senator, Anthony Cannella; as well as many community and statewide leaders.

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March 31, 2018

Costa, Hmong & Lao American Veterans Celebrate Legislative Victory

Fresno, CA – Yesterday, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) was joined by Special Guerrilla Unit (SGU) veterans and veterans organization leaders to announce and celebrate the enactment of the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act as incorporated into last week’s appropriations law.

This is a significant legislative victory for SGU veterans and for the people of the San Joaquin Valley, home to thousands of Hmong and Lao American veterans who served in the Special Guerrilla Unit during the Vietnam War. Valley veterans leaders have been working on this for decades, including those who passed away before yesterday’s celebration, such as General Vang Pao, who was the commander of SGU forces during the Vietnam War, and Charlie Waters and Bill Dietzel, well-respected veterans advocates and leaders.

Congressman Costa has led the bipartisan legislative initiative to extend to SGU veterans burial benefits in national cemeteries, including San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella, since 2010. Costa has introduced legislation to extend burial benefits to SGU veterans in each of the last five Congresses, working closely with local SGU veterans organizations in this long-fought victory.

“Today is a day of celebration for our SGU veterans, both here in our San Joaquin Valley and across our nation,” said Rep. Costa.“These courageous men and women fought alongside U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, with some making the ultimate sacrifice. After nearly a decade of determination, advocacy, and bipartisan, bicameral policy efforts, we successfully enacted this legislation. This law is a powerful symbol of a grateful nation, and it is important to ensure our SGU veterans and their families receive the honor, recognition, and benefits they have earned. This was simply the right thing to do.”

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Key Hmong and SGU leaders from across the United States joined for the celebratory announcement, including Peter Vang and Major Cheurchai Vang with Lao Veterans of America, Inc., Chue C. Tchang and Major Nhia Long Vang with SGU Veterans, local veterans advocates Harry Paul and Bob McLaughlin, city council officials Blong Xiong and Vong Mouanoutoua, and General Vang Pao’s son, Chi Neng Vang.

The official extension of veterans burial benefits to SGU veterans was secured in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, the appropriations bill that was signed into law last week.

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March 31, 2018

Sewer plan, assessment district elections on Council agenda

The Sewer Master Plan and assessment district election results are on the Merced City Council agenda Monday night.
The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St. The Council meets the first and third Mondays of the month, except when there is a holiday, when it meets the following day.
After numerous stakeholder meetings and several Council sessions, staff is asking Council for direction on the finalization of the draft Sewer Master Plan. The plan is designed to evaluate and help the City plan and expand its wastewater collection sewer system to meet the needs of its growing population.
Council also is being asked to approve staff beginning the process of evaluating financing options that could include formation of an assessment district.
Four assessment districts recently held elections and Council is being asked to approve the results. Voters approved increasing assessments in the Moss Landing Maintenance District.
Voters in the Northwood Village, East College Homes and the Ridgeview Meadows maintenance districts did not approve increasing assessments.
Also on the agenda is awarding an $811,785 contract to Rolfe Construction for the replacement of the sewer main along B Street. The 3,200 feet of sewer line stretches from Gerard Avenue to just beyond E. Childs Avenue.
There is also a request from Council to discontinue work on a proposed ordinance for meeting decorum and conduct.

 

 


The Council will meet in closed session at 5 p.m. to confer with labor negotiators, and discuss anticipated litigation.
City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet. A link to the live meeting is on the City’s web site at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.
The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org and is available outside the chambers prior to the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be turned in to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council. Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all Council meetings.

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March 31, 2018


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM MOCCASIN CREEK IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY
TO BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

TUOLUMNE/MARIPOSA COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 36 miles from Moccasin Creek at the junction with SR-120 to Bear Valley Road for repair work after last week’s heavy rain.

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by last week’s storm throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties. Changeable message signs (CMS) on neighboring state roadways have been activated to warn drivers of the SR-49 closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD
TO THE MERCED/STANISLAUS COUNTY LINE

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close the #1 (left) and #2 (middle) lanes and left shoulder on southbound State Route 99 from Golden State Boulevard to the Merced/Stanislaus County line in Turlock to install concrete barriers.
Work is scheduled beginning Monday, April 2, 2018, through Friday, April 6, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This project will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of the Bradbury Road overcrossing in Delhi to just north of the Merced/Stanislaus County line in Turlock.
The purpose of this project is to rejuvenate the roadway, extend the service life of the pavement and to limit maintenance costs in the future.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 132 FROM GRANITE SPRINGS ROAD
TO PINEY CREEK ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed eastbound and westbound State Route 132 (SR-132) for approximately half a mile from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road for repair work after last week’s heavy rain.

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-132 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure.

Caltrans will also perform one-way traffic control from Narcisco Way in Coulterville to Bonds Flat Road in La Grange for storm repair work. This work is scheduled beginning Tuesday, April 3, 2018, through Friday, April 6, 2018, from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Motorists should expect 5 minute delays.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties. Changeable message signs (CMS) on neighboring state roadways have been activated to warn drivers of the SR-132 closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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March 31, 2018

18 PEOPLE CITED FOR ILLEGAL CONTRACTING IN MERCED UNDERCOVER STING OPERATION

Merced County District Attorney Investigators and the Contractors State License Board held an undercover operation last week in Merced that resulted in 18 misdemeanor citations to people engaging in contracting work without a contractor’s license, false advertising, and failing to carry worker’s compensation insurance announced Supervising Investigator Anna Hazel.
According to Hazel, all 18 people were cited for contracting without a license and for false advertising after providing estimates to undercover personnel at a staged job site over the course of two days last week. A state contractor’s license is required when the quoted value of the construction materials and/or labor exceed $500 and it is required for unlicensed contractors to state in their advertisements that they are unlicensed.

Additionally, seven people were cited for not having the required workers’ compensation insurance to cover their workers and seven people were cited with charging more than 10% or $1,000 for a down payment for the job.
CSLB Registrar David Fogt said, “It’s common that unlicensed contractors don’t cover their workers with insurance in case they get hurt. Cutting corners like this allows them to offer lower prices, but it presents a big risk for homeowners. If a contractor doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees, the homeowner can be liable for medical costs related to an accident on their property.”

“It can be tempting for homeowners to get lured in by what may seem like a good deal at first, but they should do their due diligence to make sure they’re hiring qualified workers,” Fogt added. “Additional costs can incur later that the homeowner may not be prepared for.”

On Wednesday, March 21, citations were issued to Christopher Dickerson, Juan Gallegos, Dwight Torrence, and Gabriel Fausette from Merced, Thomas Chisholm and Kimberly Yates from Newman, Rogelio Avalas from Winton and Hector Fausto from Gustine.

 

On Thursday, March 22, citations were issued to Albert Acevedo Jr., and Jesus Alvarez of Merced, Jacob Toscano and Alex Diaz of Los Banos, Kyle Hutchens and Rick Trillo of Modesto, Joshua Wilmoth of Denair, Richard Martinez of Selma and Steve Martin of Santa Nella. Annie Waidtlow of Carlsbad was also cited and her case was referred to the DA’s office for consideration of additional criminal charges.

Investigators found the cited contractor’s advertisement’s on Facebook, Craigslist, or on business cards provided to vendors or potential customers. After identifying the suspected unlicensed contractors, undercover personnel invited the individual’s to place bids on different construction projects at a location in Merced where the operation was held.

All 18 people will appear on the misdemeanor charges in Merced County Superior Court on June 13, 2018 where they face up to one year in jail and various fines. All individuals cited were provided with informational material related to worker’s compensation and contracting law.

If you are considering a construction project over $500, please ask any contractor you are considering for the job if they are licensed in the state of California. Then consult the Contractors State Licensing Board website at www.cslb.ca.gov prior to hiring any contractor to complete the work. The website allows for consumers to verify online that the contractor they are considering is licensed, bonded and covered by worker’s compensation insurance.

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March 31, 2018


TWO HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTE COLLECTION EVENTS
Free to Merced County Residents

Merced – The Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority (Authority) is hosting two free Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events (HHW) in April. The first HHW event will be held on Saturday, April 14, from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. for all Merced County residents and Conditionally-Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQG). This event will be held at the Highway 59 Landfill HHW Facility, 7040 N. Highway 59, Merced.
A second event will be held in conjunction with the City of Los Banos Spring Cleanup on Saturday, April 21, from 7:00 a.m.to 2:00 p.m. HHW collection will be located at 403 F Street, Los Banos. Please note, the trash cleanup is for City of Los Banos residents only, but the Household Hazardous Waste event is open to all Merced County residents and Conditionally-Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQGs).
HHW is any leftover household product that contains ingredients that are “corrosive,” “reactive,” “ignitable/flammable,” and/or “toxic.” Examples of HHW include: Ammonia-based cleaners, non-empty aerosol cans, fluorescent tubes, automotive and household batteries, paint, pool chemicals, solvents, and used motor oil (in containers no larger than 5 gallons in size).
Before bringing items out to the facility, please call 916-296-7478 to identify the amount and type of HHW that will be dropped off. Please note that under State of California transportation regulations, there are quantity limitations on how much HHW can be transported. There is no cost for residents within Merced County, but quantity limitations apply. Fees apply for CESQGs.

For more information, please visit http://mcrwma.org/31/Household-Hazardous-Waste or call Regional Waste Authority at (209) 723-4481 x 224.
The Merced County Regional Waste Authority is comprised of city and county governments, with members who meet to discuss and solve regional issues concerning solid waste. Members include one elected representative from each of the six cities and one elected official from each of the county’s five districts. More information can be found at www.mcagov.org or by calling (209) 723-4481 x 224.

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March 29, 2018

MCOE to Host Informational Seminar on How to Become a Teacher

The Merced County Office of Education will host an informational seminar on becoming a teacher April 11 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Newbold Room of the county schools office at M and 13th streets.
Elmano Costa, chairman of the Department of Teacher Education at California State University, Stanislaus in Turlock, will lead the session. Costa was a teacher and principal in Merced County for 17 years before joining the university.
Two previous sessions have been held here to discuss Central California's teaching shortage. Several dozen people attended these briefings.
Tricia Aquino, an MCOE human resources specialist dealing with certificated recruiting and hiring, said classified employees with the county schools office are invited to come to the session and learn about what's entailed in getting a degree or teaching credential.

For more information, contact Aquino at taquino@mcoe.org.

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March 29, 2018

Costa Continues Fight for Commonsense & Fair Immigration Law Enforcement,
Leads Hispanic Caucus in Calling for End to Work Site Audits

Washington, D.C. – In a letter released late last week, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) led his fellow Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) members in calling on Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Thomas Homan to redirect ICE’s limited resources from the recently increasing number of I-9 work site audits to more strategic and effective vehicles for law enforcement and ensuring community safety.

This is another concentrated effort Costa has taken to ensure immigration laws are fairly enforced according to the realities communities across the United States face every day. He has consistently worked with local ICE officials in the Central Valley, Sacramento, and San Francisco for decades to ensure laws are followed justly and immigrants’ rights are protected. “We need to focus immigration enforcement on the real threats: transnational criminal gangs, human and drug traffickers, and terrorists,” said Rep. Costa. “Instead of using its limited resources to apprehend hardened criminals, ICE is sending its agents to go check employment paperwork. We need smart law enforcement, not policies that intimidate immigrants, divide communities, and undermine our economy.”

For years Congressman Costa has been advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, working with immigration officials, local community groups, and industry representatives to create a bipartisan plan for addressing what Costa sees as a “broken immigration system.” More recently, Rep. Costa has held numerous meetings with local businesses, agriculture groups and growers, immigration groups, and individual constituents regarding issues with the immigration system, including the I-9


Congressman Jim Costa

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work site audits in Fresno, Madera, and Merced counties. Costa also met with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra multiple times to discuss immigration in California earlier this year, including the role of state and local law enforcement, and sent his own official message to ICE Acting Director Homan regarding the I-9 work site audits earlier this month.

The letter to Homan Rep. Costa led as a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus states the “I-9 audits would be counterproductive, reduce reporting of crimes, undermine safety and harm the economy. ICE should instead focus its limited resources on hardened criminals, not hard-working individuals who are positively contributing to our communities.”

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March 29, 2018

Republicans Rally Behind Tacherra in 12th Senate District

Local Republican Parties in critical “swing” counties of Merced and San Benito endorse Tacherra for open seat of term limited Senator Anthony Cannella.

Today Fresno County farmer and small businessman Johnny Tacherra announced the backing of both the Merced and San Benito County Republican Committees in his bid to replace term-limited Senator Anthony Cannella in the 12th district.

“With his already high name ID and ability to connect with voters in every corner of the district, Johnny Tacherra is the clear choice for State Senate District 12,” said Merced County Republican Chairman and Atwater Councilman Brian Raymond. “Johnny Tacherra is the only candidate on the ballot that we can send up to Sacramento to bring some common sense to the State Senate and clean up the Capitol’s culture of corruption. The Merced County Republican Party voted to endorse Johnny Tacherra for the 12th State Senate District and we ask every Republican heading to the polls this June to support the only candidate who can keep the 12th Republican, Johnny Tacherra.”

Johnny Tacherra is battle-tested and has a strong campaign organization that can compete and win a general election,” said Tacherra strategist Carl Fogliani. “Everyone inside the 12th district knows his millions in name

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identification and a base that is in the heart of the 12th district make him the only candidate the Republicans can field with a chance to hold this seat.”

A strong agricultural district that leans conservative, the 12th District will be one of the premier battlegrounds across the state in 2018. Johnny Tacherra has built his campaign around lowering regulation on business and agriculture, creating jobs for middle-class families in the Central Valley and building a world class infrastructure in both water and transportation so that the Central Valley is no longer left behind.

Johnny Tacherra is a family man, farmer and owner of a small business in Fresno County.

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March 28, 2018

Atwater FFA Earns Honors at MJC Skills Competition

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

The Atwater High School FFA judging teams earned the Modesto Junior College FFA Field Day Sweepstakes Award with seven individual Career Development Event teams competing and the annual MJC FFA Field Day on March 24th. Over 2400 high school agriculture students representing over 100 high schools across the State of California participated in the 66th annual FFA Field Day in various agriculture skills and application contests. The Nursery & Landscape team led the pack with 1st place team finish with the Atwater FFA Poultry (1st overall), Milk Quality and Dairy Foods (2nd overall), and Farm Business Management (4th overall).

The Atwater FFA Poultry team of Anna Lozano (1st high individual), Alfredo Elizarraraz, Emmanuel Mejia, and Sayra Ramos placed 1st high team overall in a contest that blends practical hands-on experiences with a basic knowledge of the poultry industry required for careers in the poultry field. Other Atwater FFA contestants included Hannah Carrillo, Jay Dugdale, Olivia Cone, and Stefanie Angulano.

The Atwater FFA Milks Quality and Dairy Foods team of Callie Norton, Luke van Warmerdam, Kendyll Cruz, and Anthony Frontella placed 2nd overall in a contest where students demonstrate their knowledge and skills in milk quality (tasting), cheese identification, real vs imitation dairy foods, and a written exam on the dairy industry.

The Atwater FFA Farm Business Management team placed 4th overall. The team was comprised of Belinda Espinoza, Liliana Vargas, Ricardo Ortega, and Zion Brigham. The Farm Business Management CDE helps students learn business skills and apply economic principles to agricultural businesses. Contest focus areas include business record keeping, depreciable property, and tax management.

The Atwater FFA Floriculture team of Arely Venegas-Avalo, Faith Ceja, Hayley Vargas, and Kathy Vargas placed 7th overall. The competition involves plant identification, application of “hands-on” floral arrangements, and industry related floral skills.

The Atwater FFA Agronomy judging team of Flor Agundis, Elisabeth Garner, Luz Soto, and Maria Ruelas placed 7th overall in a contest that involves the study field crops and weeds with students responsible for the identification of nearly 200 crops and plants, seed, bean, and hay evaluation, and an oral presentation pertaining to their evaluations.

The Atwater FFA Nursery and Landscape team of Brissa Garcia, Noemi Perez, and Vanessa Varela placed 9th overall in a contest that involves demonstrated knowledge and skills in their plant identification, plant selection & evaluation, transplanting, and written exam on all aspects of horticulture and the horticulture industry.

The Atwater FFA Ag Mechanics team of Daisy Flores-Mota, Joel Rojas, and Marie Croado placed 13th overall in a contest involving hands on application skills in woodworking, electrical, oxy-fuel welding & cutting skills, tool identification, and a written exam on all aspects of agriculture mechanics.

The Modesto Junior College FFA Field Day is designed to showcase students’ “hands-on” and technical skills in various agriculture related fields. “Students apply their knowledge and skills learned in the classroom in real-life job skill environments,” said FFA advisor Sam Meredith. “We have a group of students that take tremendous pride towards their work ethic and skill development in a variety of agricultural related skills and occupations.” The FFA judging competitions continue with Reedley College, Cosumnes River College, Fresno State University, and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo scheduled in the coming two months.

For more information on this event, upcoming events, and information on the Atwater FFA, log on their website at www.AtwaterFFA.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Seven Atwater High School FFA Career Development (CDE) teams joined 2400 California High School agriculture students throughout California at the 66th annual Modesto Junior College FFA Field Day skills competition.


Atwater High School FFA's Farm Business Management team of Zion Brigham, Liliana Vargas, Ricard Ortega, Belinda Espinoza (not pictured) and advisor Shelby West placed 4th overall at the Modesto Junior College FFA Field Day competition.


Atwater High School FFA's Milk Quality and Dairy Foods team comprised of Luke Van Warmerdam, Kendyll Cruz, Callie Norton, and Anthony Hernandez placed 2nd overall at the Modesto Junior College FFA Field Day.


The Atwater High School FFA Poultry team comprised of Ana Lozano, Alfredo Elizarraraz, Sayra Ramos, and Emmanuel Mejia placed 1st overall at the Modesto Junior College FFA Field Day.

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March 28, 2018

MERCED COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS INVITED TO APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP-BASED SUMMER PROGRAM IN YOSEMITE & SEQUOIA

April 2018—Merced, CA – High school students from Merced County will have the opportunity to participate in a transformative outdoor and academic program in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks this summer. The Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) summer courses introduce students to the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada, while challenging them academically, emotionally and physically. ARC selects 12 students for each of its courses: a 40-day course in Yosemite and a 25-day course in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

During the summer courses, students explore the Parks’ iconic granite rock formations, cascading waterfalls and alpine lakes, while backpacking, rock climbing, rafting and more. Participants study language arts and environmental science, write poetry and personal essays, and learn to navigate in the backcountry using a topographical map. They return home having learned about stewardship, conservation and the importance of teamwork.

“I learned to be an independent, problem-solving leader. I’ve become more independent by learning how to cook my own food, by doing chores that no one asked me to do, and by taking initiative in my education,” says Joel Duarte, a 2017 summer graduate from Dos Palos. He adds, “I’ve become a leader by setting my goals high and not being afraid to push myself.”

On the 2017 Sequoia course, students supported one another on 1,000-foot climbs while carrying heavy backpacks. They shared with one another their struggles at home and in school. They workshopped their poetry together, discussing their deepest hopes, fears and dreams. Giselle San Ramo, a Dos Palos High School student on the course, said the experience was “exhilarating.” She wrote at the end of the course, “Coming to ARC has helped me realize many things about learning to trust people, while also being independent. I’ve learned that it’s okay to share some of the weight off of my shoulders.”

Teenagers like Duarte and San Ramo build their self-confidence and become better-equipped to achieve academic and personal goals on ARC courses. ARC’s intensive curriculum helps prepare students for the independence and academic rigor of college. Participants showed a 15 percent improvement on SAT English questions on a pre- and post-assessment last year.

ARC’s Associate Director Will Fassett says the summer courses connect Merced youth to the outdoors. “Many young people in Merced don’t realize that Yosemite and Sequoia are world renown," he said. "This is an opportunity for local youth to have a multi-week adventure in these extraordinarily places.”

ARC’s courses are offered to students on a sliding scale based on family income, but many students pay less than $50 for their participation. First-generation students, English-language learners, and all students who are motivated to experience a challenging outdoor and academic adventure are encouraged to apply. The summer 2018 program is accepting applications now until April 13.

 


High school students participate in the 2017 ARC Summer Course in Sequoia National Park. The summer program is available to Merced County students in Yosemite National Park and focuses on leadership, teamwork, language arts and environmental stewardship.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF ADVENTURE RISK CHALLENGE

 

SENT ON BEHALF OF ADVENTURE RISK CHALLENGE

 

Visit www.adventureriskchallenge.org to learn more about the program and download applications for the 2018 Summer Courses.

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March 28, 2018

MERCED COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE CELEBRATES VICTIMS’ RIGHTS WEEK

Los Banos Chief of Police Gary Brizzee will be the featured speaker at the Merced County District Attorney’s annual Victims’ Rights Week ceremony held at noon on Tuesday, April 10, at the Courthouse Park announced DA Larry D. Morse II.
Brizzee has served as Los Banos Police Chief since May of 2010. He has worked for the department since 1997. A graduate of Los Banos High School, Brizzee earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from California State University. Prior to joining the Los Banos Police Department Brizzee worked as a special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.
“Being victimized can happen to any one of us, at any time, and it is incumbent upon us in the criminal justice system to do all that we can to recognize and support victims,” said Brizzee. “They need to know that there is an entire community to support them,” he added.
Victims’ Rights Week will be celebrated April 8-14. This year’s theme “Expand the Circle, Reach All Victims,” emphasizes the importance of inclusion in victim services and how community advocates can better ensure that every crime victim has access to services and support and how professionals, organizations, and communities can work in tandem to reach all victims, Morse said.
“For victims of crime, the court system is just one step in a healing process. Sadly, sometimes the crime is so horrific that healing never occurs. Those who have suffered the loss of loved ones through murder and other acts of violence often carry the weight for the rest of their lives,” said Morse. “We need to continue to work with victims to provide any and every resource we can and let them know that they are never alone,” Morse added.

 

Lisa DeSantis, Victim Witness Coordinator for the District Attorney’s office, encouraged participants to bring a photo of their loved one so it can be displayed on easels set up for the event. There will also be a time for participants to write a special message to their loved ones and tie it to a tree that was planted in remembrance of victims.
“After the dust settles, victims and their families are often left to put their lives back together and in some cases that takes a lifetime to accomplish,” Brizzee said. “Occasions like this,’ he added, “allow the community to stand shoulder to shoulder with victims and their families to remind them that they won’t walk that path alone.”
For more information on the Victims’ Rights Week ceremony, please contact Lisa DeSantis at the District Attorney’s Victim Witness Program at (209) 385-7385.

Click here to see flyer

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March 28, 2018

San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Awards Application Now Available!

MERCED- The Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State has released a call for nominations for the 2018 San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Awards. The purpose of the Blueprint Awards program is to encourage quality in planning and development by recognizing outstanding achievements and practices in the built environment. In recognizing and celebrating projects that reflect the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Principles, the awards identify visual examples of attractive, functional and environmentally friendly projects throughout the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley.
The San Joaquin Valley Blueprint was an unprecedented regional planning process that developed a regional vision of land use and transportation to guide growth in the San Joaquin Valley through 2050. In addition to creating a valley wide preferred growth scenario, the planning process also resulted in the development and adoption of 12 smart growth principles that aim to create walkable neighborhoods, foster distinctive communities with a strong sense of place, mix land uses, provide a variety of transportation and housing choices, and preserve open space and farmland. The complete list of the Blueprint Smart Growth Principles can be found here: http://valleyblueprint.org/smart-growth-principles.html.



The 2018 Blueprint Awards offer six categories for sustainable development projects: residential development, commercial development, mixed use, downtown revitalization, transportation enhancement and historic revitalization. These categories are for on the ground, existing projects that exemplify the Blueprint Principles. In addition, the Darrel Hildebrand Blueprint Leadership Award will be awarded to an individual who has shown enthusiasm and tenacity in promoting the Blueprint Principles in the San Joaquin Valley.
Interested applicants can download the nominations packet at bit.ly/BlueprintNom2018 or contact Ismael Herrera (559) 278-0519 or isherrera@csufresno.edu. Applications are due by noon on April 20, 2018. The 2018 San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Awards will be presented at the Blueprint Awards Luncheon on May 11, 2018 in Modesto.

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March 27, 2018

Atwater FFA Students Earn State’s Highest FFA Degree

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

Twenty eight Atwater FFA students were presented with their State FFA Degree earlier this month during the Central Region State FFA Degree Ceremonies held at Merced College. The FFA State Degree is the highest degree a student can earn at the state level and is only presented to a small percentage of the over 86,000 FFA membership. Requirements for the degree include a minimum of two years of agriculture course work and 24 months of active FFA membership, Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) project(s) earnings and investments of at least $1000 or at least 500 unpaid hours outside of class time, leadership activity involvement, active in school and agriculture activities, and carry a satisfactory scholastic record.

“The state degree represents the cream of the crop,” explains FFA advisor Natalie Borba. “Our program continues to grow with more students taking advantage of the opportunities agricultural education and FFA has to offer towards personal growth, premier leadership, and educational and career success.”

Atwater High School students who earned their FFA State Degree include Ana Lozano, Anthony Naranjo, Belinda Espinoza, Catalina Diaz, Dahlia Flores, Daisy Flores, Emily McCartney, Emily Junez, Joel Rojas, Jonathan Garcia, Kassia Beznoska, Kayalynn Briscoe-Mattis, Kendyll Cruz, Makenna Caldie, Marcos Ahumada, Megan Escobar, Natalie Frontella, Nicholas Giesbrecht, Paige Brigham, Renessa Hardin, , Ricardo Ortega, Samantha Theodozio, Sayra Ramos, Sidney Miller, Stephania Valdovinos, Victoria Lopez, Wyatt Tucker, and Zion Brigham. Each student is prepared and is planning to attend either a community college or a major university to further their education towards their career interest.

 

 

 

For more information on this event, upcoming events, and information on the Atwater FFA, log on their website at www.AtwaterFFA.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 


Atwater High School agriculture students Kayalynn Briscoe-Mattis (center) joins her FFA advisor Shelby Wst (left) and her mother Melissa Mattis (right) during the California FFA State Degree Ceremony held at Merced College.


Atwater High School agriculture student Natalie Frontella is joined by her parents Teresa Frontella and Joseph Frontella during the FFA State Degree Ceremony as students are recognized with the FFA's highest state award.


Atwater High School agriculture students Joel Rojas is joined by his FFA advisor Shelby West (left) and his mother Christina Magnuson (right) after earning his FFA STate Degree at Merced College.

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March 27, 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 59 FROM REILLY ROAD
TO SANDY MUSH ROAD IN MERCED COUNTY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 59 (SR-59) for five miles from Reilly Road to Sandy Mush Road for repair work following last week’s heavy rain.

The closure is expected to last multiple days, in order to safely allow the water level from the crossing with Mariposa Creek to fall before re-opening the road.

This stretch of SR-59 experienced flooding beginning during last Thursday’s storm.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties. Changeable message signs (CMS) on neighboring state roadways have been activated to warn drivers of the SR-59 closure.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure. Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 132 FROM GRANITE SPRINGS ROAD
TO PINEY CREEK ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed eastbound and westbound State Route 132 (SR-132) for approximately half a mile from Granite Springs Road to Piney Creek Road for repair work after last week’s heavy rain.

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-132 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional 15 minutes of travel time due to the closure.

Caltrans will also perform one-way traffic control from Bonds Flat Road in Tuolumne County to Granite Springs Road for storm repair work. This work is scheduled beginning Tuesday, March 27, 2018, through Friday, March 30, 2018, from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by the storming throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties. Changeable message signs (CMS) on neighboring state roadways have been activated to warn drivers of the SR-132 closure.

Motorists can expect delays of 10 minutes. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LONG-TERM FULL HIGHWAY CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 49 FROM MOCCASIN CREEK IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY
TO BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

TUOLUMNE/MARIPOSA COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has closed northbound and southbound State Route 49 (SR-49) for approximately 36 miles from Moccasin Creek at the junction with SR-120 to Bear Valley Road for repair work after last week’s heavy rain

The closure is expected to be long term, in order to repair the roadway after a wash out.

The roadway on this stretch of SR-49 was severely eroded due to the massive amount of water, and must be fully repaired and given a new foundation before re-opening. This effort is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the roadway for motorists.

Motorists can expect an additional hour of travel time due to the closure.

There is also a scheduled moving lane closure on northbound and southbound SR-49 between SR-120/north Chinese Camp and New Melones Reservoir beginning Wednesday, March 28, 2018, through Friday, March 30, 2018, from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

The #1 (left) and #2 (right) lanes, right turn lane, left turn lane and two-way left turn lane will be intermittently closed for a sweeping operation. Motorists can expect 10 minute delays in this stretch, and alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by last week’s storm throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties. Changeable message signs (CMS) on neighboring state roadways have been activated to warn drivers of the SR-49 closure.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 140 AT MILES CREEK BRIDGE IN MARIPOSA COUNTY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform one-way traffic control on eastbound and westbound State Route 140 (SR-140) at and near the Miles Creek Bridge. This work is being done to repair the eroded shoulders of this stretch of SR 140 following last week’s heavy rain. The road’s shoulders will be rebuilt using a new foundation and large rocks, and roadside dikes will be repaired to prevent flooding.

Work will be done on two different sections of this stretch of roadway, totaling approximately four miles. Work began on Monday, March 26, 2018, and is expected to conclude in April 2018.

Work is scheduled in this stretch beginning at 8:15 a.m. and concluding at 6:30 p.m. daily until completion.

Caltrans crews have cleared drains, installed sand bags where necessary and kept a constant watch over the roadways impacted by last week’s storm throughout Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.

Motorists can expect delays of 10 minutes. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

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March 24 , 2018

New officer joins the ranks of Merced PD

Eduardo Gaytan was sworn in to the ranks of the Merced Police Department by Interim Police Chief Christopher Goodwin Friday and had badge No. 264 pinned on him.

Gaytan, a Fresno native, is a graduate of Fresno High School. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Army.

The 27-year-old is married and the father of a son and daughter.

The Department currently has 88 sworn officers and is budgeted for 97 positions.

The City is currently recruiting for both police officers and police officer trainees. The position of police officer pays $60,507.20 - $73,548.80 a year. Trainees can earn from $39,187.20 - $47,632.00. More information on the jobs can be found at the City’s website, www.cityofmerced.org.


Officer Eduardo Gaytan has badge No. 264 pinned on him by his father.


Eduardo Gaytan is sworn in by Interim Police Chief Christopher Goodwin Friday afternoon.


Officer Eduardo Gaytan and his family pose for photos after he was sworn in as an officer in the Merced Police Department Friday.

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March 24 , 2018


Poe, Costa Lead Legislation to Protect Fund Essential for Crime Victims

Washington, D.C. – Wednesday, Rep. Ted Poe (TX-2) and Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16), co-chairmen of the bipartisan Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus (VRC), introduced H.R. 5363 to protect the Crime Victims Fund from both budget sequestration or being redirected to other uses.

The Crime Victims Fund is the bedrock of support for victims and survivors of crime nationwide. Sequestration or redirection of funds would threaten to severely reduce services for victims of crime. Over 7.9 million crime victims were helped by the Crime Victims Fund in FY2016 alone, a majority of whom are survivors of physical, sexual, and domestic assault, including children victims of sexual and physical abuse. As co-chairs of the VRC, Congressmen Poe and Costa have been championing the rights of crime victims and safeguarding the Crime Victims Fund for over a decade.

“The Crime Victims Fund is the lifeblood of victim service providers,” said Rep. Poe. “The Fund is paid for by convicted federal felons who are assessed fees and fines. With the money in this Fund, victim service providers help victims heal, cope, and persevere after a crime. H.R. 5363 takes necessary steps to protect the Fund, ensuring that the money cannot be spent on unrelated programs and remains untouched by sequestration. Congress must act now to ensure that this Fund – paid into by criminals – is used only for its intended purpose: to help restore victims.”

“At a time when they need it the most, the Crime Victims Fund provides vital support for crime victims, including survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, and mass violence,” said Rep. Costa. “We have seen the powerful


Congressman Jim Costa

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impact the Fund has on individuals and communities across our nation, and I will continue to do everything I can to protect the Fund and our ability to provide this life-altering support to survivors. It is simply the right thing to do.”

The Crime Victims Fund was designed to help ensure survivors have access to the essential services they need to recover by having criminals pay for the harm they afflicted on victims. The Crime Victims Fund consists solely of criminal fines, forfeitures, and other criminal penalties. No federal tax dollars go into the Fund, and it has no impact on the national deficit, so many hold that the Crime Victims Fund should not be treated like other parts of the federal budget.

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March 23, 2018

Californians appointed to state posts could soon be barred from writing checks to lawmakers who vote on their nomination

By PATRICK MCGREEVY
MAR 20, 2018 | 12:05 AM
| SACRAMENTO

A few months before the state Senate confirmed Lucy Dunn's reappointment to the California Transportation Commission in 2013, she made a political contribution to the president pro tem of the state Senate, whose support was crucial to her staying on the panel.
Last year, Dunn, the president and CEO of the Orange County Business Council, was confirmed for a third term on the influential transportation panel. Three months later she contributed to a political campaign for the current Senate leader, Kevin De León.
Dunn's contributions are allowed by state law, but some believe such payments undermine public confidence in the appointment process. That concern is behind a new proposal by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) to outlaw contributions to senators by political appointees for up to a year between the time they are chosen by the governor until their required confirmation by the Senate.
"The state Legislature should safeguard the public's confidence in our government institutions," said Gray, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Governmental Organization.
"We have adopted a number of limitations and transparency measures in other areas, but the contribution activities of political appointees — who have a personal financial interest at stake — to state senators during the confirmation process remains almost entirely opaque," Gray added.
The legislator said he came up with the bill after becoming concerned about reports from Washington that presidential appointees have given large sums of campaign contributions to senators involved in their confirmation.
"Anti-corruption measures like these maintain the public's trust in our democracy," said Jack Blattner of government watchdog group California Common Cause, adding the proposed restrictions would "[ensure] that conflicts of interest do not arise through the appointment process."
Campaign donors have long received political appointments at the state Capitol.
Banker Mark Ferron and attorney Wylie Aitken each contributed the maximum $25,900 to Gov. Jerry Brown's election in 2010 before he gave them coveted appointments to the state Public Utilities Commission and California Arts Council, respectively. Mary Nichols, an environmental activist, contributed $5,000 to Brown's campaign before he re-appointed her as chairwoman of the state Air Resources Board.

 


Nichols later contributed thousands of dollars to candidates for the state Senate — including $1,000 to former Agoura Hills Sen. Fran Pavley's re-election campaign — before the vote on her confirmation.
Dunn contributed $1,000 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign before he first appointed her to the Transportation Commission in 2008, and she gave to Brown's campaign before he twice reappointed her to the panel.
Gray's proposal does not regulate contributions to the governor, focusing instead on donations to senators involved in the confirmation process.
The prohibition would also apply to a contribution or gift to a candidate for the Senate if that person's term would begin within 365 daysof the appointment. It would include in the ban fundraising events held in the home of an appointee.
The measure does not apply to appointments made by Assembly and Senate leaders, most of which are to panels that don't pay more than a stipend. But an aide to Gray said the intent is to eventually apply the measure to any appointment requiring Senate confirmation.
Dunn contributed $2,500 to former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg's campaign committees, including $500 in September 2012 to his campaign for lieutenant governor, which was later abandoned.
The last contribution was made after Brown reappointed her, but less than four months before Steinberg, then chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, recommended that her reappointment be confirmed. The full Senate later voted unanimously to confirm her.
The commission, for which Dunn has served as chairman, decides how the state spends billions of dollars annually on transportation projects in California.
Dunn declined to comment. Steinberg, who is now the mayor of Sacramento, said Dunn was "infinitely qualified" for her appointment, and he was not influenced by political contributions when making decisions on confirmations.
Still, he supports Gray's bill.
"Political contributions have no bearing on the Senate's confirmation process," Steinberg said. "That said, I think the Gray bill is a good idea because it gets at reducing even the appearance of impropriety. Establishing and maintaining the public's trust in the integrity of government and elected officials is paramount to successful governing — and appearances matter."

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March 23, 2018

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 49 AT MERCED RIVER BRIDGE IN BAGBY

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform one-way traffic control just south of the Merced River Bridge in Bagby for shoulder work.
This work is part of a contracted project that will shore up the slopes and potential slide areas in the area of the Detwiler Fire burn scar.
Work is scheduled beginning Monday, March 26, 2018, through Friday, March 30, 2018, from 7:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Caltrans crews have been patrolling the area throughout the winter months, clearing mud and debris from the roadway, taking preventive measures like installing temporary barricades and levees and monitoring culverts to avoid drainage issues.
Because the fire wiped out vital hillside vegetation, water, mud and debris have been more prone to slip down onto the roadway. The focus of this project is to counter that trend.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

 

 

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD
TO THE TURLOCK REST AREA

MERCED/STANISLAUS COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close the #1 (left), #2 (middle) and #3 (right) lanes, and right and left shoulders, on northbound and southbound State Route 99 from Golden State Boulevard to the Turlock Rest Area for construction work.
The work includes a striping operation and installing concrete barriers.
Work is scheduled beginning Tuesday, March 27, 2018, through Wednesday, March 28, 2018, from 9:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This project will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of the Bradbury Road overcrossing in Delhi to just north of the Merced/Stanislaus County line in Turlock.
The purpose of this project is to rejuvenate the roadway, extend the service life of the pavement and to limit maintenance costs in the future.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

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March 23, 2018

MAN SENTENCED TO 15 YEARS- LIFE FOR SECOND DEGREE MURDER

Victor Santos Garcia, 32, of Merced, was sentenced to 15 years to life by Merced County Judge Carol Ash on Friday, March 16, 2018 for second degree murder and driving while intoxicated with gross negligence, for a 2016 crash that killed 67-year-old Elena Maciel Garcia (no relation) of Newman, announced the Merced County District Attorney’s office.
A Merced County jury found Garcia guilty of second degree murder and driving while intoxicated with negligence on January 19, 2018.
Testimony at trail showed that on March 30, 2016, at about 7:30 p.m., the defendant was driving a 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe westbound on a two-lane road, Highway 140 near Central Avenue at about 103 miles per hour. The speed limit on that street is 55 mph. Elena Garcia was driving eastbound at or near the speed limit. Garcia entered into the eastbound lane while he was attempting to pass other cars and crashed head-on into Elena Garcia’s 2015 Toyota Corolla, and she was killed instantly. Victor Garcia’s blood alcohol level was .17% four hours after the crash.

“Based on the facts and the law, we are satisfied with the sentence,” said Tomas Min, one of the two deputy district attorneys who jointly prosecuted the case. Gerad Egan was the second prosecutor on the case.
Victor Garcia had two prior arrests for driving under the influence prior to March of 2016. On February 7, 2016 in Merced County where his BAC was found to be .22%, and a second in on April 22, 2014 in Madera County where his BAC was found to be .16%. Victor Garcia had never applied to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver’s license and his right to apply for a driver’s license was suspended on the date of the fatal crash.

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March 23, 2018

Costa Supports Essential Valley Programs With Omnibus Vote

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended version of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, more commonly referred to as “the Omnibus,” by a vote of 256 to 167. The legislation is a government spending bill, in that it funds federal government programs through September 2018 at the new levels established in last month’s budget agreement.

Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16), who voted in favor of the spending package, noted the vital nature of Congress passing the Omnibus, both for the nation and California’s San Joaquin Valley. “Although this legislation is imperfect, too many Americans and too many people in our Valley would be harmed if we did not pass the Omnibus today.” Rep. Costa continued, “My vote today was a vote for Valley water and agriculture, preventing wildfires, fighting the opioid epidemic, ensuring our children, elderly, and most vulnerable have food, keeping our communities safe, improving education and opportunities for our students, and many other programs and services imperative for our communities. Just as I served so many people of the Valley today, I will continue to fight for other legislation and issues that are also important in our communities, including comprehensive immigration reform and securing permanent legislative protections for DREAMers.”

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 includes:
• $1.48 billion for Reclamation water resources projects, including $20 million for Shasta Dam, $4.35 million for Sites Reservoir, $1.5 million for Temperance Flat Reservoir, $2.2 million for the Friant-Kern Canal, and $3.75 million for the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project
• Funding for agriculture programs and services crucial in the San Joaquin Valley, including $985.1 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, $3.03 billion for agriculture research programs, and $26.45 billion for rural housing loans and rental assistance
• $3.828 billion for wildland fire management and a new funding mechanism for wildfire suppression that will prevent “fire borrowing,” where the government borrows from forest management activities to fight wildfire disasters instead of treating them like other natural disasters
• Funding specifically targeted at improving the safety of water, including $1.693 billion for the Clean Water Fund, $1.163 billion for the Safe Drinking Water Fund, $50 million for new Water Infrastructure for Improvements to the Nation (WIIN) Act programs to address lead in drinking water, and $63 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) grants
• $2.525 billion in new grant funding for highways and $1.5 billion for National Infrastructure Investments (TIGER) grants
• $3.365 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which funded $6.3 million in local development in Fresno in 2016 alone
• $5.4 billion for Community Health Centers
• $16.443 billion for education for disadvantaged students
• $1.414 billion for Federal Impact Aid to local schools
• $75 million for Comprehensive School Safety Initiative grants
• $1.83 billion for Career, Technical, and Adult Education programs



Congressman Jim Costa

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• Critical financial assistance to help make college more affordable, including an increase in the maximum Pell Grant award per student and $350 million to cancel loans under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
• $10 billion for Employment and Training services performed within the Department of Labor
• Full funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program, which are vital for providing a reliable source of food for the food insecure and vulnerable
• Nearly $4 billion to fight the opioid epidemic, including $130 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response program and $1 billion in new grants to states and Native American tribes to address opioid abuse in their communities
• $2.4 billion for state and local law enforcement activities, including $275 million for the COPS program and $416 million for the Byrne-JAG program
• $295 million for Veterans Employment and Training programs
• $107.709 billion for the Veterans Benefits Administration and $70.699 billion for the Veterans Health Administration
• A 2.4% pay increase for men and women serving in the armed forces

The bill also incorporates language and would accomplish the primary goals of two bipartisan legislative initiatives Congressman Costa led in the House of Representatives with the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act (H.R. 4716) and the Agricultural Certainty for Reporting Emissions Act, or ACRE Act (H.R. 5275). The Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act extends veterans burial benefits to Hmong and Lao Americans who served alongside U.S. Armed Forces during the Vietnam War, thousands of whom live in the San Joaquin Valley. The ACRE Act exempts agricultural operations from being subject to an emissions reporting requirement intended to regulate severe industrial chemical toxic waste.

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March 22 , 2018

Cruickshank Middle School Students Make History by Winning Quiz Bowl
**They competed against high school teams from across the Valley.**

Cruickshank Middle School in Merced is celebrating a remarkable achievement by three stellar students. Samuel Stalnaker, Daniel Chen, and Zachary Robinson won the annual Quiz Bowl during the California Scholarship Federation/California Junior Scholarship Federation spring conference in Hanford on March 17. The Quiz Bowl began in 1995 and is traditionally a competition among high school teams in the Central Region, which stretches from San Joaquin County in the north to Kern County in the south. Last year was the first time the Quiz Bowl allowed any middle school teams to participate, with the understanding that they would compete against high school teams in any semi or final round. All three boys on the winning team attended last year’s conference and watched the first Cruickshank team compete, which inspired them to sign up this year.
Their adviser, Wendy May, says, “These boys held their own as random questions from literature, geography, history, math, and science were projected on a screen while the proctor read them aloud. Furthermore, there isn’t any official preparation for this event. You either know the answer or you don’t. In the end, Cruickshank beat Visalia’s El Diamante High School by one point! The boys were convinced the winning point for them was from a literature question regarding W.W. Jacob’s, The Monkey’s Paw, which they read at the beginning of the year as part of the district’s new curriculum.”
The Cruickshank students made history with their victory as the first middle school to win the Quiz Bowl. The large perpetual trophy is now displayed in the school’s front office. Cruickshank Principal Jerod Garst says he and his entire campus are very proud of the boys and their adviser. “Sam, Daniel, Zachary, and Ms. May always go above and beyond in their academic endeavors. We are honored to have them represent Cruickshank Middle School, and we want to congratulate them on this historic achievement.” Daniel and Zachary also received another special recognition during the conference. They both took home the Marian Huhn Memorial Award. This award recognizes outstanding 8th grade student members of CJSF for their academic excellence and service to their school and community. Fourteen applications were submitted from across the Central Region, and only five students were selected as winners, including Daniel and Zachary. Each of the five students also received a $250 award.


Cruickshank Middle School students Daniel Chen and Zachary Robison were also among the five students from across the Valley to receive the Marian Huhn Memorial Ward during the CSF/CJSF spring conference.

 



California Junior Scholarship Federation students from Cruickshank Middle School celebrate a Quiz Bowl win with their advisor, Wendy May.


Cruickshank Middle School students Zachary Robinson, Daniel Chen, and Samuel Stalnaker hoist their trophy after beating El Diamante High School by one point to win the CSF/CJSF Quiz Bowl.


All five recipients of the Marian Huhn Award celebrate their achievement, including Cruickshank Middle School students Zachary Robinson and Daniel Chen (far right)

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March 22 , 2018

Merced County Students Awarded for Biliteracy Proficiency

Nearly 400 students from throughout Merced County were recognized at Atwater High School on March 20 for completing the Seal of Biliteracy Proficiency.
The accolade, which is listed on student transcripts, is awarded by the Merced County Office of Education in partnership with school districts, and recognizes attained proficiency in English and at least one other world language by high school graduation.
This year, students submitted applications for proficiency in Spanish, Portuguese, Hmong, Tagalog, Punjabi, Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Italian and French.
Introduced in early 2011 by Assembly member Julia Brownley, Assembly Bill 815 is a verification of linguistic proficiency.
Students write speeches about why they feel it is important to be multilingual. They read their speeches at the awards event in English and their target languages, which included Spanish, Portuguese, Hmong, Punjabi, Arabic, Hindi and Italian.
MCOE received 831 applications for the program from 13 high schools throughout the county: Atwater, Buhach, Delhi, Dos Palos, El Capitan, Golden Valley, Gustine, Hilmar, Le Grand, Livingston, Los Banos, Merced and Pacheco High. From those, 544 autobiographies were submitted and 532 were scored as proficient. 517 target essays were submitted and those that were proficient made it to the interview round.
410 students made it to the final step of the process, English and Target Language Interviews, which were held in February. Of those, 370 earned the Seal of Biliteracy.


Parents and teachers photograph students from Hilmar High School who earned the Seal of Biliteracy at the awards event at Atwater High School on March 20.

 


Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen speaks to attendees at the Seal of Biliteracy Proficiency awards at Atwater High School on March 20.


Merced Union High School District Superintendent Alan Peterson congratulates a student who earned the Seal of Biliteracy Proficiency during the awards event at Atwater High School on March 20.


Buhach Colony High School student Manal Akil delivers a speech — in both English and her target language of Arabic — at the Seal of Biliteracy Proficiency awards at Atwater High School on March 20.

PHOTOS BY DYLAN MCMULLEN COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

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March 22 , 2018

Costa Continues Work to Strengthen the American-Portuguese Relationship

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) continued his efforts to strengthen the relationship between the United States and Portugal by advocating for the Advancing Mutual Interests and Growing Our Success Act, or the AMIGOS Act (H.R. 5173).

A second-generation Portuguese American himself, Rep. Costa has worked with Portuguese American organizations and Portuguese officials for decades. Costa and his family have been members of Portuguese American fraternal organizations and clubs since his grandparents came to the United States at the turn of the 20th Century. Congressman Costa’s memberships include the Portuguese American Leadership Council of the United States (PALCUS) and the California Portuguese American Coalition (CPAC). Outside of his support for these organizations, Rep. Costa initiated and facilitated the Sister State relationship between California and Azores, Portugal, which was made official in 2002. More recently, Costa played a significant role in establishing a Sister University relationship between Fresno State, his alma mater, and the University of the Azores.

Congressman Costa represents a large Portuguese American population in California’s San Joaquin Valley, and is a co-chair of the Congressional Portuguese American Caucus. Rep. Costa also represented a sizeable Portuguese American population in the Central Valley during his time serving in the California state legislature.

Noting that Portugal in one of America’s oldest and most important allies, Rep. Costa called on his colleagues to support the AMIGOS Act on the floor of the


Congressman Jim Costa

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U.S. House of Representatives today. “Portugal was one of the first countries to recognize the United States after we declared our independence and won the Revolutionary War… To defend western democracies, Portugal, along with the United States helped organize western Europe to create NATO… For these reasons and more, I call upon my colleagues to join me in supporting a commonsense, bipartisan piece of legislation. The AMIGOS Act will further opportunities for business in America, by creating more jobs, and continue to enhance the relationship that has existed for over 200 years between the United States and Portugal.”

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March 22 , 2018

As a Community, We Can Improve Literacy Outcomes

Steve M. Tietjen, Ed.D.
Merced County Superintendent of Schools

In a world of warp-speed change, with internet access available to all corners of the universe, our community faces a crisis of workforce opportunities. Increasingly, the best jobs of this information age will require high-level comprehension of written language. Those jobs inevitably will fall to applicants with the best abilities to process information, in other words — the most literate.
The Merced County educational attainment rate, a measure of adults 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher, is nearly 14 percent, which lags behind most of the state. This bears a direct correlation to the percentage of students that scored above standard in English language arts and literacy on the 2017 Smarter Balanced Assessment, which is an assessment of grade-level learning that measures progress toward college and career readiness. As a community, we can and must improve our literacy rates, but it will take a cultural shift. If this were a curriculum problem in our schools, we would have fixed it long ago.
We have to think ahead. Our citizens have to move with industrial progress. UC Merced is expanding rapidly. High-speed rail and ACE Trains are on the horizon. Google (Waymo) has planted a large footprint at Castle. The big question: Will in-county economic growth have to import workers for mid to high-level jobs that are sure to follow? Or can it pull from pools of qualified local applicants? The second option will prevail only if the local workforce has elevated its literacy rates beyond their historic levels. This is stark reality, and we must face it head-on.
We believe much can be done, with some of it already underway. In February, MCOE inaugurated sponsorship of a community engagement coalition — parallel to and supportive of the current educational system. The coalition is designed to elevate the literacy numbers in our county. It is titled the “Literacy Coalition of Merced County” (LCMC). LCMC seeks to mobilize interest and develop action plans from business and industry, community groups, service clubs, law enforcement, faith-based groups and public service groups, as well as local branches of national non-profits such as the NAACP, United Way and the Boys and Girls Club.
Other California counties have done it. Fresno (Fresno Compact); Shasta (Reach Higher Shasta); San Mateo (The Big Lift); Marin (Marin Promise); and Stanislaus (Stanislaus Reads) all have developed community engagement initiatives that foster improvements in literacy levels. By all reports, those


Steve M. Tietjen, Ed.D.
Merced County Superintendent of Schools

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organizations are producing positive results. It is time for Merced County to aspire for something similar. Our LCMC partners are among you now, working within the infrastructure of community spirit, seeking involvement from groups and individuals with hearts and minds for the challenge. Join in — let’s collaborate to elevate our county’s prospects.
Together, we can provide our children with more opportunities to prosper in Merced County.

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March 21, 2018

Atwater FFA Members Have A Ball!

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

Over 150 Atwater High School FFA members participated in the 16th annual FFA “Bowling Tournament” Meeting on March 13that Bellevue Bowl in Atwater. The purpose of the meeting was to create an opportunity for FFA members to participate in a recreational activity and develop one’s social and team building skills.

The Atwater FFA holds monthly meetings, scheduled at a regular time and guided by a sound agenda, that provide an efficient transaction of business, promote chapter unity and encourage better attendance. Chapter meetings are excellent learning and teaching tools. “The important thing to realize is that the chapter meetings are planned and run by the students,” says FFA Advisor Kim Macintosh, “Tonight’s meeting was an excellent way to bring everyone together as a chapter.”

Trophies were awarded to the top three teams. Joel Rojas, Logan Herrera, Mathew Mason, and Tyree Harris placed 1st overall as a team and earned the championship for the tournament. Hayley Vargas, Litzy Suastigui, Yahaira Reyes, Flor Agundis, and Vanessa Varela placed 2nd overall as a team. John Ochoa, Isaac Duran, and Jerry Rodriguez were recognized as 3rd place team finishers. Specialty awards were given to individuals during the tournament. The ¨Maybe I Need A New Sport¨ award went to Daniel de la Rosa, the ¨Oh Spare Me¨ award went to Logan Herrera, the ¨Strike it Up¨ award went to Joel Rojas, the ¨I’m Just Happy To Be Here¨ award went to Cristal Venegas, the ¨Mrs. King Pen¨ award went to Hayley Vargas, and the ¨Official Non-PBA¨ award went to Flor Agundis.

FFA is a dynamic youth organization within agricultural education that changes lives and prepares students for premier leadership, personal growth and career success. FFA was created in 1928 as Future Farmers of America; the name was changed in 1988 to the National FFA Organization to represent the growing diversity of agriculture. Today, over half a million-student members are engaged in a wide range of agricultural education activities, leading to over 300 career opportunities in the food, fiber and natural resources industry. Student success remains the primary mission of the FFA.

This was the 16th year in a row Bellevue Bowl has sponsored and supported this popular student event. “Bellevue Bowl is just one example of the continued support our AHS students and agriculture program receives from our community and local businesses,” said Atwater High School Director of Activities Nathan Braga, “Our goal is to make a positive difference in young people’s lives, and this event is an example of being able to get together and enjoy each other’s company.”

 

For more information on the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and Atwater FFA, please log on the website www.AtwaterFFA.org .


Atwater High School agriculture students Victoria Lopez, Belinda Espinoza, and Emily McCartney enjoyed the opportunity to bowl during the annual Atwater FFA "Bowling" Meeting held at Bellevue Bowl in Atwater.


Atwater High School members Hayley Vargas, Litzy Suastigui, Yahaira Reyes, Flor Agundis, and Vanessa Varela placed 2nd overall as a team at the annual Atwater FFA "Bowling" Meeting held at Bellevue Bowl in Atwater.


Atwater High School members Logan Herrera, Tyree Harris, Matthew Mason, and Joel Rojas placed 1st overall and earned the team championship at the annual Atwater FFA "Bowling" Meeting held at Bellevue Bowl in Atwater.

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March 21, 2018

Delhi Unified to Provide Free Health Care Services to All Students

Delhi Unified School District is in the initial steps of offering free health care services to its students through a partnership with a San Francisco-based company.
Delhi Superintendent Adolfo Melara said Hazel Health is a company partnering with districts to bring high-quality health care to where children spend the majority of their week — at their school. Hazel Health strives to work with communities that struggle most to have access to adequate health care.
Melara said district trustees approved the partnership in November and enrollment into the program began in early December. All three elementary schools are implementing the program with the middle school and high school slated to start soon.
Hazel delivers accessible health care on campus every day. The company connects students to health care providers with the touch of a button on a tablet or mobile phone. Students get quality care, without leaving school. With Hazel’s early intervention at school, most common health care problems are addressed immediately and the child safely returns to class.
Hazel’s providers partner with school nurses and staff to provide critical, on-campus services such as urgent care, health screenings, patient education, provider-ordered over-the-counter medication and/or prescriptions, referrals to health care professionals, and other school and community resources.
“Delhi Unified School District understands that there can be many barriers for families to getting quality health care, such as transportation, inability to take time off work, insurance, co-pays and other reasons,” Melara said. “We are also aware that a majority of students tend to be absent from school primarily due to illness, whether it be ongoing, urgent, or other type of medical issue, which may require a doctor’s visit.”
He added students cannot learn if they are not at school. Whatever can be done to ensure students do not miss school due to an illness is a positive for the child, the child’s family and the school.

Delhi is the first school district in the county to offer this service, Melara said.
“We also believe that our students deserve it. Therefore, regardless of income, background, immigration status, or current health coverage, Delhi Unified School District and Hazel Health are collaborating to make this a reality for all our students,” Melara said.
Raquel Antunez of San Francisco, education integration specialist with Hazel Health, said Delhi school officials are wonderful partners in the new program. Hazel representatives meet with school staff weekly to address ongoing challenges. She said families have been responsive to health initiatives being introduced.
What do parents have to do to enroll their students in the Hazel Health program?
“It is quite simple. Parents fill out a consent form which details the over-the-counter medication that is available for their students and allowing their students to participate,” Melara said.
The superintendent stressed the district made sure to clarify that Hazel Health services are totally at no cost to the students’ families. Families never have to pay for the use of the program nor for the over-the-counter medications students may receive during the visit. The cost is covered through the contract between Delhi Unified School District and Hazel Health.
Delhi has 2,600 students in transitional kindergarten through high school.

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March 21, 2018

SBDC Day

Fresno — The Central California Small Business Development Center Network (Central CA SBDC) will commemorate the second annual SBDC Day on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.
SBDC Day is a national event to raise awareness about the service offering provided by local and regional SBDC networks and recognize the collective economic effects of America’s SBDCs on the business community.
The Central CA SBDC Network is one of 63 state/regional programs. It covers 14 counties, 51,000 square miles and more than 4 million people in Central California. In addition to our program university host, UC Merced, the network has a strong leadership team that comprises five other service center hosts: Cal Poly, Cal Coastal, CSU Bakersfield, Valley Sierra and Clovis Community College.
SBDCs provide knowledge, education and expertise small businesses are often missing. SBDCs help their clients with everything from taxes, financing, marketing, training or networking and help them overcome challenges, discover new opportunities and unlock their potential so their businesses can soar to new heights. With 1,000 centers across the country, SBDCs provide business consulting to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the United States and its territories.
Small businesses are the engine of economic growth. There are more than 22 million small businesses in America. Small businesses account for 99 percent of all U.S. businesses. They employ 53 percent of the private work force and contribute more than half of the nation's private gross domestic product. They account for 99 percent of all U.S. firms and employ 57 million people.

In the past few years, the Central CA-SBDC network has robustly helped foster entrepreneurship and a more vibrant business community by:
• Helping open 1,482 new businesses
• Assisting clients in creating 7,407 jobs and retaining more than 2,461 jobs
• Providing business consulting assistance to nearly 21,000 clients; and
• Offering training events that more than 52,000 entrepreneurs participated in
March 21 is the day to celebrate the remarkable achievements of SBDC partners, supporters and stakeholders for the small-business community. To hear firsthand some of our clients’ success, please visit our YouTube channel.
“We are excited to be part of this national recognition to celebrate the SBDC which helps clients succeed,” said Diane Howerton, regional director.

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March 21, 2018

California Small Business Association Endorses Rob Poythress for Senate

The California Small Business Association (CSBA) announced today that they have endorsed Rob Poythress (R-Madera) for Senate District 12.

In endorsing Poythress, CSBA which represents 203,000 members, praised Poythress saying "you have demonstrated your commitment and leadership to serving the small business community in your district."

Poythress, who owns a hardware store with his brother, said he was thrilled that CSBA and other small business owners had decided unite behind him.

 

 

The California Small Business Association joins the entire Senate Republican Caucus, Monterey County Republican Party, Stansislaus County Sheriff Adam Christanson, Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney, and many more in supporting Rob Poythress for Senate.

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March 20, 2018

Atwater FFA Earns Honors at Agriculture Skills Competition

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

Atwater High School FFA members joined over 1400 registered agriculture high school students throughout California at the annual Merced College FFA Field Day on March 17th. Atwater FFA’s Milk Quality and Dairy Foods team lead the school with a 1st place finish along with strong showings from the Land and Soil Evaluation, Agriculture Mechanics, Job Interview, and Vegetable Crops teams.

“Our students continue to take advantage of opportunities to be successful personally, academically, and towards their future endeavors.” said Atwater FFA Advisor Sam Meredith, “The opportunity FFA and career development events that are organized by various colleges and universities such as Merced College, provide students a tremendous opportunity to grow and develop personally and academically.”

The Atwater FFA 1st place Milk Quality and Dairy Foods was comprised of Natalie Frontella (1st overall), Kendyll Cruz (3rd overall), Callie Norton, and Luke van Warmerdam. Other participants included Alyssa Carrillo, Anthony Hernandez, Simarjot Gandhoke, and Valerie Carlos. The contest involves milk quality evaluation, milk fat identification, cheese identification, “real vs imitation” dairy products, and a written exam pertaining to the dairy industry.

The Atwater FFA 6th place Land and Soil Evaluation team included Michael Bray, Audrey Esau, Jose Ruiz, and Arturo Valdovinos. The contest involves the evaluation and interpretation of soils and soil profiles. Students analyze various soil pits and determine soil texture, water holding capacity, and erosion characteristics while associated the data with agriculture applications.

The Atwater FFA Ag Mechanics team of Joel Rjas, Daisy Flores –Mota, Juanabel Perez, Perla Caballero, and Moira Conway placed 11th overall (2nd overall on welding) in a contest involving hands on application skills in woodworking, electrical, oxy-fuel welding & cutting skills, tool identification, and a written exam on all aspects of agriculture mechanics.

The Atwater FFA Best Informed Greenhand (BIG) team placed 4th overall in the section and was led by Jessica Agundis, Lizbeth Arias, and Supveet Gandhok. The contest objectives are to understand the aims, purposes, history, and structure of the Local, State, and National FFA student organizations and know the opportunities it makes available as referenced in the current National FFA Manual and State Constitution.

Atwater High School agriculture program junior Anessa Cardenas participated in the Job Interview contest which involves students completing a cover letter, resume, job application, and panel interview. This event emphasizes developing, practicing, and demonstrating skills needed when seeking employment.

The Atwater FFA Vegetable Crops team comprised of Dillon Guillen, Jose Montanez, Stephania Valdovinos, and Victor Mejia had a strong showing in a


The Atwater FFA Milk Quality and Dairy Foods team comprised of (back row) Luke Van Warmerdam, Simarjot Gandhoke, Anthony Hernandez, (front row) Valerie Carlos, Natalie Frontella, Callie Norton, and Kendyll Cruz placed 1st overall at the Merced College FFA Field Day contest.


Twenty-five Atwater High School agriculture students joined over 1400 California high school agriculture students at the annual Merced College FFA Field Day to compete in various agriculture industry and career related skill contests.

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contest designated to create interest and promote understanding in the vegetable crop industry by providing opportunities for recognition through the demonstration of skills and proficiencies.

The next FFA Field Day competition is on Saturday, March 25th at Modesto Junior College with over 2000 high school agriculture students scheduled to compete from all over California in various hands-on application and critical thinking skills.

For more information on this event, upcoming events, and information on the Atwater FFA, log on their website at www.AtwaterFFA.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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March 20, 2018

 

39th Annual Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete
(Tahitian Dance and Cultural Festival)

The Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete is the longest existing, annually held, Tahitian dance and cultural festival outside of French Polynesia and we are celebrating our 39th consecutive year! Come to the event to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Tahiti. Our event features a dance competition with people entering from all ranges and performing to live musicians and drums. Island Style food will also be available throughout the weekend as well as Polynesian craft booths straight from Hawaii and the Polynesian diaspora of California.
Friday’s events begin at 5pm and end at 10pm. They will showcase dance presentations called Ahuroa, which is a synchronized dance performed by elegantly dressed women to a sung Tahitian narrative, often composed in waltz time. The Masters and Grand Masters categories will also be competing. The evening is completed by the Maeva Merced Pageant, where beautiful young men and women and children contend for the Maeva title and to represent the festivities.
On Saturday, beginning at 9am, Solo dancers will compete in both eliminations and finals, with ages ranging from 4 to as long as they can continue to shimmy. Categories will be in both beginners and professional, with both men and women competing. During lunch, there will be a “Tamari’i Exhibition”, showcasing tiny dancers that are too young to compete, but still love to dance in costume and have fun! Then the Group Drumming competition, composed of the most accomplished Tahitian Drumming groups in our area will take the stage.
Sunday morning will feature the first-place winners of the professional soloists who will compete for the Overall Vahine (female) and Tane (male) “Best Dancer Awards.” Also, Couples will take the stage to perform a choreographed duet that highlights their colorful regalia as well as dancing ability. The afternoon continues with Tamari’i (children), Amateur and Professional groups demonstrating their skills in the marvelous ‘Ote’a drum dances and the lively Aparima of Tahiti Nui!
The festivities will be held at Golden Valley High School, located at 2121 E. Childs Ave, in Merced, California. .


39th Annual Kiki Raina Tahiti Fete
(Tahitian Dance and Cultural Festival)
Golden Valley High School – March 23, 24, 25, 2018

Click here to see flyer

Ticket Information

Ages 13 thru Adult
$15 advanced sale
$20 at the door

Child 5 thru 12yrs
$13 advanced sale
$18 at the door

Tickets are limited. 3-day pass, Advanced Sale Only
Adult $40
Child $35

For more info, leave a message at 209 383-1435 or go to www.kikiraina.com

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March 20, 2018

MAN FACES LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE FOR 2016 DELHI MURDER

A 28-year-old gang member was convicted of first degree murder and attempted murder by a Merced County jury on March 9 in connection with a 2016 shooting in Delhi, the Merced County District Attorney’s office announced.
Juan Gonzalez, a member of the Ghost Town Sureno gang, was found guilty of the murder of 23-year-old Abram Hernandez and the attempted murder of his girlfriend, Sheila Koehn, 50, of Delhi, as the couple walked home from an errand at a nearby 7- Eleven store around 10:30 p.m. on March 6, 2016. A video from the 7-Eleven store played for the jury showed Gonzalez in the store when Hernandez and Koehn entered and showed him leaving in a white truck.
During their walk back to Koehn’s house, she observed the same white truck that she saw Gonzalez in at the 7-Eleven parking lot pass by them multiple times. After she saw the truck pass for the second time, she saw Gonzalez run around the corner onto the street they were walking on and brandish a firearm. At that point, Hernandez pushed Koehn out of the way and told her to run. Gonzalez fired at least seven rounds at Hernandez and Koehn killing Hernandez and hitting Koehn once in the back of her leg as she was running away.

 

 

“We thank the jurors for their service and the citizens of Delhi who came forward to report this crime and testify about what they witnessed,” said Supervising Deputy District Attorney Nicole Silveira who prosecuted the case. “Without good Samaritans like them, we would not be able to prosecute these violent gang crimes and make our community a safer place, she added.”
Gonzalez will be sentenced on April 13 and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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March 17 , 2018

STEAM Learning Underway in Lego Club

Students at Reyes Elementary in Merced are learning science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) lessons in a fun, hands-on way. They’re members of the Lego Club, which meets every Friday after school. So far they’ve tackled concepts such as what a fulcrum is and how it works, as well as leverage, load, rotation, balance, and effort. They’ve seen those terms come to life while building catapults, merry-go-rounds, go-karts and much more. The projects also require reading, writing, creativity, and collaboration. Fourth grader Guadalupe Ortega says her favorite part of the class is the construction process, but she adds, “You have to learn vocabulary so you can understand what you’re going to build.” The Lego Club is one of several extended day programs offered at Reyes Elementary and at schools throughout the Merced City School District. These programs provide extra time to learn and are designed to support the unique needs of students at each campus. They are made possible through the Local Control Accountability Plan, which is created with help from parents, staff, and other stakeholders. Other extended day programs offered at MCSD schools include robotics, gardening, drama, leadership, and foreign languages as well as extra support for reading and math.


Fifth grader Robert Smith and fourth grader Jaime Campos work together on a project during the after school Lego Club at Reyes Elementary.

 



Fourth graders America Esquivel and Yaritza Santos work together on a Lego Club project at Reyes Elementary in Merced.


Reyes Elementary fourth graders Guadalupe Ortega and Christian Torres test out their Lego “Crazy Floor” contraption.

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March 17 , 2018

Priorities, arts commission, benches on Council agenda

An update on Council priorities, forming an Arts Commission and Downtown benches are on the Merced City Council agenda Monday night.
The meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St. The Council meets the first and third Mondays of the month, except when there is a holiday, when it will meet the following day.
At its March 5 meeting Council members listed priorities for the upcoming budget year. Staff has summarized those priorities and now wants further direction from Council after it takes public comment.
The Council priority list, along with comments from the Town Hall meetings, will be used in creating the 2018-19 City budget.
Staff will update Council on the findings from a stakeholders meeting recently held on the formation of an Arts Commission. The stakeholders represented a variety groups and artistic fields.
Additional stakeholder meetings will be in April with the goal of having an ordinance creating an Arts Commission drafted in May.
Benches in Bob Hart Square were removed in 2014 after merchants and property owners said they were being used by people who bathed in the fountain, sat nude and harassed patrons of nearby businesses.
After a speaker at a Town Hall meeting asked for the benches to be returned, Council asked for a report from staff giving a history on the benches.
Also on the agenda is an update on the playground equipment and Rose Garden at Applegate Park.
Due to safety concerns, the playground equipment was removed. Public comments were sought during recent Town Hall meetings on replacement options. Staff will seek direction on replacement options on the playground equipment, including whether to use a solid surface or bark beneath the equipment.

 

 



The roses died due to the drought and irrigation issues, and some were stolen when they had been replaced. Council has given direction on fixing problems in the Rose Garden and staff is updating the Council on the project and sharing feedback from stakeholders.
The Council will meet in closed session at 5 p.m. to confer with labor negotiators, and discuss anticipated litigation.
City Council meetings are streamed live on the Internet. A link to the live meeting is on the City’s web site at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.
The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org and is available outside the chambers prior to the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be turned in to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council.
Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all Council meetings.

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March 17 , 2018

CONGRESSWOMAN JACKIE SPEIER OFFICIALLY
ENDORSES VIRGINIA MADUEÑO FOR CONGRESS

SAN MATEO , CA – Congresswoman Jackie Speier officially endorses Virginia Madueño for Congress in California’s 10th Congressional District to unseat Jeff Denham.
Jackie Speier represents California’s 14th Congressional District, which stretches from the southern portion of San Francisco through San Mateo County to East Palo Alto. She is a tireless advocate for women’s rights, the public good, and the security of Americans. She was named to Newsweek’s list of 150 “Fearless Women” in the world.
"Virginia is exactly what Congressional District 10 needs. Her background and that of her family is indicative of who lives in District 10. Virginia understands the issues and needs of her community. Her enthusiasm, public service record and continuous community involvement are unlike any other candidate and that is exactly what will help defeat Jeff Denham. I’m happy to endorse Virginia Madueno for Congress,” said Speier.
Rep. Speier serves on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), and is a co-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus. Speier also recently served as a Democratic member of the Select Committee that House Republicans established to attack women’s health; an appointment she agreed to in order
to defend women’s health and hold the committee’s leadership accountable


.Speier’s endorsement joins a growing list of strong support for Virgina who is running to represent the 10th Congressional District. The list includes Rep. Tony Cardenas, EMILY’s List, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus BOLD ACTION and PODER PAC – organizations dedicated to bringing more women and people of color to Congress.
“I am so honored to have Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s endorsement and support to my campaign,” Madueño said Thursday. Jackie Speier is an amazing leader and champion for women, healthcare, immigrants and the most vulnerable. It would be an honor to work alongside her and bring yet one more voice to Washington to help advocate and be a voice for those who feel they have no voice today in our government.

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Virginia Madueño is a candidate for California’s 10th Congressional District. She has received the endorsements of EMILY’s List, BOLD PAC, and PODER PAC and José Hernandez, NASA Astronaut(ret.) and 2012 CA-10 candidate. Virginia, the former Mayor of Riverbank, California is a small businesswoman and currently serves as a Commissioner on the California Boating and Waterways Commission.

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March 16, 2018

Merced County Students to be Awarded for Biliteracy Proficiency

Students from throughout Merced County will be recognized at Atwater High School on March 20 for completing the Seal of Biliteracy Proficiency.
The accolade, which is listed on student transcripts, is awarded by the Merced County Office of Education in partnership with county school districts and recognizes attained proficiency in English and at least one other world language by high school graduation.
Introduced in early 2011 by Assembly member Julia Brownley, Assembly Bill 815 is a verification of linguistic proficiency.
Students will read speeches in their target languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, Hmong, Tagalog, Punjabi, Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Italian and French.
MCOE received 831 applications for the program from 13 high schools throughout the county: Atwater, Buhach, Delhi, Dos Palos, El Capitan, Golden Valley, Gustine, Hilmar, Le Grand, Livingston, Los Banos, Merced and Pacheco High. From those, 544 autobiographies were submitted and 532 were scored as proficient. 517 target essays were submitted and those that were proficient made it to the interview round.

 

410 students made it to the final step of the process, English and Target Language Interviews, which were held in February. Of those, 370 earned the Seal of Biliteracy.
The event starts at 6 p.m. and will be held in Atwater High School’s new gym, 2201 Fruitland Ave. in Atwater.
For more information, contact Stacie Arancibia at (209) 381-5910.

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March 16, 2018

Costa Pushes for Increased Pumping During Storms

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16), a senior member on the House Natural Resources Committee, urged U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to increase pumping during the storms falling in the San Joaquin Valley and across Central and Northern California, consistent with provisions Costa secured in the Water Infrastructure for Improvements to the Nation (WIIN) Act in 2016.

Congressman Costa has spent decades working to secure safe and reliable water sources for the San Joaquin Valley, both as a state legislator and as a member of Congress. Costa was a pivotal actor in getting the Water Infrastructure for Improvements to the Nation (WIIN) Act signed into law. He cosponsored the law’s House provisions relating to California’s water system, and then worked with Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) to ensure that important California provisions were included in the final Senate version of the law. These provisions include allowing for increased pumping opportunities when fish are not near the federal pumps and the authorization of $335 million to fund water infrastructure projects like Temperance Flat, the expansion of San Luis Reservoir, water recycling, desalination, and an improved monitoring network for fish migration.

Focusing his questions today on key parts of the WIIN Act, Rep. Costa asked Sec. Zinke how the Department of Interior will ensure the flexibility required for daily water system decisions in the San Joaquin Valley to be both commonsense and based on the real time, daily water realities in the Valley.


Congressman Jim Costa

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Congressman Costa reflected on today’s committee hearing with, “In the WIIN Act, we worked together to create a truly bipartisan law that can make real improvements to our water system. It is a significant piece of legislation, and I am not about to allow the power in this law go to waste because of glitches in how it is implemented.”

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March 16, 2018


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD
TO THE TURLOCK REST AREA

MERCED/STANISLAUS COUNTIES – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close the #3 (right) lane and right shoulder on southbound State Route 99 from the Turlock Rest Area to Golden State Boulevard in Delhi for paving operations.
Work is scheduled beginning Monday, March 19, 2018, through Thursday, March 22, 2018, from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 10 minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.

This project will replace the two outside lanes and shoulder on both northbound and southbound SR-99, from just north of the Bradbury Road overcrossing in Delhi to just north of the Merced/Stanislaus County line in Turlock.
The purpose of this project is to restore the facility, extend the service life of the pavement and to limit costly maintenance efforts for the future, both for motorists and the state of California.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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March 16, 2018

Business Travelers in the Valley Can Now Take the Train to Sacramento for Morning Meetings!

Amtrak San Joaquins is launching a “Morning Express Service” on Monday, May 7th that reconfigures its schedule in order to bring riders throughout the San Joaquin Valley north to the state capitol by 8:00AM.
On May 7th, the daily Morning Express service will begin in Fresno, CA, departing at 4:25AM and will make stops in Madera at 4:50AM, Merced at 5:20AM, Turlock-Denair at 5:42AM, Modesto at 5:57AM, Stockton (SKT) at 6:30AM, Lodi at 6:44AM, and will arrive at the downtown Sacramento Valley Station at 7:41AM. Return service will depart Sacramento at 12:41PM and 5:30PM, making stops at each of the stations along the San Joaquins southbound line.
This new schedule is expected to be transformative for the service – making it a much more convenient option for business travelers and same-day leisure travelers alike.
Until the launch of this Morning Express service, the first northbound train along the San Joaquins line was not scheduled to arrive in Sacramento until 11:20am. That has made it a challenge to attract business travelers who may need to spend more than just a few hours in Sacramento.
Passengers can transfer to Sacramento Regional Transit’s local bus and light rail system once they arrive in Sacramento, or the station is only a short walk from the Capitol, as well as many state agencies and downtown businesses. Additionally, Amtrak has a formal partnership with Lyft, as passengers who sign up to request a Lyft through the Amtrak App will receive $5 off each of their first four rides.
Amtrak San Joaquins also feeds into to the larger regional rail network, including a connection at the Stockton (SKT) Station to the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE Rail) service to San Jose, as well as a connection to Amtrak long distance trains, including California Zephyr and Coast Starlight at the Sacramento Valley Station.


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SJJPA is responsible for the management and administration of Amtrak® San JoaquinsSM. SJJPA is governed by Board Members representing each of the ten (10) Member Agencies along the San Joaquins Corridor. With 365 miles of track, 18 stations, and over 1.1 million annual riders, Amtrak San Joaquins is the 6th busiest Amtrak service running 7 daily round-trips (two between Sacramento and Bakersfield and five between Oakland and Bakersfield). For more information visit www.sjjpa.com

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Amtrak San Joaquins’ onboard amenities make travel time much more productive and enjoyable compared to driving. Comfortable seating and free Wi-Fi allow passengers to work or relax while they ride. And the trains feature a regional selection of snacks, sandwiches, coffee, craft beer and more.
Tickets for the Morning Express service can be booked now at www.AmtrakSanJoaquins.com, by calling 1-800-USA-Rail or on the Amtrak App. Multi-ride passes are available, including 10-Trip books and monthly passes, and there are a series of additional everyday discounts listed at www.amtrak.com/california-everyday-discounts.

CLICK HERE TO SEE FLYER

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March 15, 2018

Congressmen Long and Costa Lead Bill to Protect Farmers, Ranchers, and Dairy Producers

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressmen Billy Long (R-MO-7) and Jim Costa (D-CA-16) introduced H.R. 5275, the Agricultural Certainty for Reporting Emissions Act, or ACRE Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives with strong bipartisan support. The legislation aims to rectify a widely-understood shortcoming with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), a law which has provided for the clean-up of severe industrial chemical toxic waste for over 30 years.

If CERCLA were to be applied to agriculture operations, 200,000 ranchers, livestock farmers, and dairy producers in the United States would be subject to regulation created to address toxic waste dumps and spills, such as chemical tank explosions. Yet, a recent court decision threatens to make this regulation a daily reality for agriculture producers as soon as May of this year. The ACRE Act will prevent CERCLA from applying to farms, thus freeing farmers, ranchers, and dairy producers from the unintended application of CERCLA, and providing them the certainty they need to run their operations.

“Unfortunately, common sense is not common in Washington, D.C.,” said Rep. Long. “The bipartisan ACRE Act distinguishes between farms and hazardous waste sites to relieve farmers and ranchers of burdensome paperwork and allows them to do their jobs free from unnecessary government regulation. With southwest Missouri being home to hundreds of farmers and ranchers, this practical legislation would allow these men and women to focus on their farms rather than on filling out government forms.”

Congressman Costa, a third-generation farmer in California’s San Joaquin Valley and a senior member on the House Agriculture Committee said, “The ACRE Act is good for our farmers and our food system, both in the San Joaquin Valley and across the United States. It is bipartisan, commonsense legislation that respects the need for certain types of regulation while refusing to allow blind regulation from harming our agriculture system, our businesses, and our communities.”


Congressman Jim Costa

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Because Congress did not expressly state that CERCLA does not apply to farms, the law designed to address toxic waste and superfund sites can be used to regulate the naturally-occurring farm emissions which result from the daily ins-and-outs of raising livestock. Yet, most agree that Congress never intended a law designed to address industrial chemical toxic waste to be applied to farms. Along these lines, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule under the Bush Administration exempting farms from CERCLA’s emissions reporting requirements in 2008, and the Obama Administration successfully defended the farm exemption in federal court for eight years. However, a recent court decision revoked the exemption, with the court ruling that the EPA did not have the legal authority to issue the rule. By explicitly stating the farm exemption, the ACRE Act seeks to make the exemption permanent, restoring Congress’s intent to the original law and protecting agriculture operations from regulatory overreach.

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March 13, 2018

Atwater FFA Earns Top Honors at Chico State Skills Competition

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

Twelve Atwater High School FFA judging teams composed of fifty-three students traveled to the 2018 Chico State – Butte College FFA Field Day and Le Grand FFA Field Day to join 2400+ other high school agriculture students from all over California, Oregon, and Washington competing in various agriculture skills and industry-related career development event contests. The Poultry team led the pack with 1st place team finish with the Atwater FFA Milk Quality and Dairy Foods (2nd overall), Marketing Plan (2nd overall), Soil and Land Evaluation (3rd overall), Nursery Landscape (7th overall), Meats (8th overall), Agronomy (8th overall), Vegetable Crops (9th overall), Ag Mechanics (9th overall), Floriculture (13th overall), and Best Informed Greenhand (13th overall) teams adding to the largest number of students from one school competing at the state university contest.

The Atwater FFA Poultry team placed 1st overall with a team comprised of Ana Lozano (2ndoverall), Emmanuel Mejia (5th overall), Alfredo Elizarraraz, and Stephania Valdovino . The contest blends practical hands-on experiences with a basic knowledge of the poultry industry required for careers in the poultry field. Daniel Lopez, Daniel Narez, Jay Dugdale, and Naomy Gonzalez also competed as an alternates.

The Atwater FFA Milks Quality and Dairy Foods team of Natalie Frontella (4th overall), Callie Norton (5th overall), Anthony Hernandez, and Luke van Warmerdam placed 2nd overall in a contest where students demonstrate their knowledge and skills in milk quality (tasting), cheese identification, real vs imitation dairy foods, and a written exam on the dairy industry. Alyssa Carrillo, Simarjot Gandhoke, and Valerie Carlos also competed as alternates.

The Atwater FFA Marketing Plan team placed 2nd overall in a contest that seeks to effectively prepare students for the opportunities and expectations of the agricultural business workplace. Students seeking careers in agriculture business must develop a high degree of knowledge and skill as well as the capacity to create and present a marketing plan.

The Atwater FFA Soil and Land Evaluation team comprised of Arturo Valdovinos, Audrey Esau, Jose Ruiz, and Michael Bray placed 3rd overall in a contest that helps students gain an understanding of the most basic need for all agricultural pursuits- healthy land on which to grow crops or raise livestock. Participants identify and evaluate soil samples for various indicators, grade plots of land for slope and drainage, and work to determine what type of activity the land would be best suited for.

The Atwater FFA Nursery and Landscape team of Cristal Venegas, Noemi Perez, and Vanessa Varela placed 7th overall in a contest that involves demonstrated knowledge and skills in their plant identification, plant selection & evaluation, transplanting, and written exam on all aspects of horticulture and the horticulture industry.

The Meats judging team of Daisy Flores, Erica Sanchez, Mariah Castro, and Ulyette Curieo placed 8th overall in a contest that involves the evaluation of pork, beef, and lamb carcasses and retail cuts of meat commonly found in supermarkets, quality and yield grading, oral presentations on the meat/carcass evaluations, and a written exam pertaining to the meat industry.

The Atwater FFA Agronomy judging team of Jennifer Velazquez, Luz Soto, and Maria Ruelas placed 8th overall in a contest that involves the study field crops and weeds with students responsible for the identification of nearly 200 crops and plants, seed, bean, and hay evaluation, and an oral presentation pertaining to their evaluations.

The Atwater FFA Vegetable Crops team comprised of Dillon Guillen, Jose Montanez, and Tyler Brawley placed 9th overall in a contest designated to create interest and promote understanding in the vegetable crop industry by providing opportunities for recognition through the demonstration of skills and proficiencies.

The Atwater FFA Ag Mechanics team of Perla Caballero, Juan Abel-Perez, Joel Rojas, Fabian Gonzalez, and Daisy Flores-Mota placed 9th overall in a contest involving hands on application skills in woodworking, electrical, oxy-fuel welding & cutting skills, tool identification, and a written exam on all aspects of agriculture mechanics.

The Atwater FFA Floriculture team of Faith Ceja, Hayley Vargas, Arecele Mauleon, and Kathy Vargas placed 13th overall in a contest that involves plant identification, application of “hands-on” floral arrangements, and industry related floral skills.

The Atwater FFA Best Informed Greenhand (BIG) team placed 13th overall and was led by Jessica Agundis, Lilian Sackett, Lizbeth Arias, and Supveet Gandhok. The contest objectives are to understand the aims, purposes, history, and structure of the Local, State, and National FFA student organizations and know the opportunities it makes available as referenced in the current National FFA Manual and State Constitution.

While all of the above teams competed at Chico State University, the Atwater FFA Ag Mechanics team of Perla Caballero, Juan Abel-Perez, Joel Rojas, Fabian Gonzalez, and Daisy Flores-Mota placed 9th overall in Le Grand as a second state agriculture mechanics contest was created due to high demand and participation. The Ag Mechanics contest involves hands on application skills in woodworking, electrical, oxy-fuel welding & cutting skills, tool identification, and a written exam on all aspects of agriculture mechanics.


Forty-eight Atwater FFA Career development Event (CDE) judging teams from Atwater FFA competed at the 50th annual Chico State FFA Field Day representing the school with the most number of students and high school teams from the state competing at the event with over 2400 registered competitors.


The Atwater FFA Land and Soil Evaluation team comprised of Michael Bray, Arturo Valdovinos, Audrey Esau, and Jose Ruiz placed 3rd overall at the CSU Chico FFA Field Day competition.

 


The Atwater High School Milk Quality and Dairy Foods team comprised of Valerie Carlos, Luke van Warmerdam, Callie Norton, Anthony Hernandez, Simarjot Gandhoke, Alyssa Carrillo, and Natalie Frontella placed 2nd overall at the CSU Chico FFA Field Day.

 


Dan Flatt (coach) Jay Duggan, Emmanuel Mejia, Stephania Valdovinos, Daniel Lopez, Anna Lozano, Naomy Gonzalez, Alfredo Elizarrez, Daniel Narza, and Kim Macintosh (coach) of the Atwater FFA Poultry team placed 1st overall at the CSU Chico FFA Field Day.

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The Chico State – Butte College Field Day and the newly created Le Grand FFA Field Day is designed to showcase students’ “hands-on” and technical skills in various agriculture related fields. “Students apply their knowledge and skills learned in the classroom in real-life job skill environments,” said FFA advisor Sam Meredith. “We have a group of students that take tremendous pride towards their work ethic and skill development in a variety of agricultural related skills and occupations.” The FFA judging competitions continue with Merced College, Modesto Junior College, Reedley College, Cosumnes River College, Fresno State University, and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo scheduled in the coming two months.

 

For more information on the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and Atwater FFA, please log on the website www.AtwaterFFA.org .

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March 13, 2018

Atwater, Merced Take Top Honors at Second Annual Merced County STEM Fair

Atwater Elementary and Merced City took the top spots at the second annual Merced County STEM Fair on March 8 at the Merced County Fairgrounds Pavilion Hall.
Hosted by the Merced County Office of Education, the event showcased nearly 40 science projects from more than 50 students in grades 6 through 8. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
There was a three-way tie for first place at this year’s event. The winning projects are:
Sixth graders Riley Stubbs and Ruth Hansard from Mitchell K-6 in Atwater with their microbiology project “5 Second Rule: Looks Can Be Deceiving”; eighth grader Thomas Garner from Mitchell Senior for his aerodynamic/hydrodynamic project “Comparison of Two Different Propulsion Systems”; and sixth grader Dana Saeteurn from Chenoweth in Merced with her math and computer science project “Help Cat Find His Clarinet: How Sound Cues Affect a Visually Impaired Person’s Ability to Play Video Games.”
Those three exhibits will compete in the California State Science Fair on April 23-24 at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
Participating school districts included Atwater Elementary, Delhi Unified, Dos Palos-Oro Loma, Los Banos Unified, Merced City and Our Lady of Mercy.
The exhibits were judged by local scientists or professors from UC Merced and Merced College, among others.
In addition to projects on display from those school districts, other exhibits include clubs from MUHSD, Google, UC Merced, Merced Educational Television (METV), MCOE Fab Lab and MCOE Teacher’s Center.
There was also a special video presentation from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and Congressman Jim Costa.
This event was made possible by sponsorship from the Merced County Education Foundation, Merced Irrigation District and Pacific Gas & Electric.

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Mitchell K-6 sixth graders Riley Stubbs and Ruth Hansard tied for the top spot for their microbiology project “5 Second Rule: Looks Can Be Deceiving” at the Second Annual Merced County STEM Fair on March 8 at the Merced County Fairgrounds.


Mitchell Senior eighth grader Thomas Garner tied for the top spot for his aerodynamic/hydrodynamic project “Comparison of Two Different Propulsion Systems” at the Second Annual Merced County STEM Fair on March 8 at the Merced County Fairgrounds.


Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen talks with sixth graders Riley Stubbs and Ruth Hansard from Mitchell K-6 in Atwater about their microbiology project “5 Second Rule: Looks Can Be Deceiving.” This project was one of three that tied for first place at the Second Annual Merced County STEM Fair on March 8 at the Merced County Fairgrounds.


Chenoweth sixth grader Dana Saeteurn tied for the top spot for her math and computer science project “Help Cat Find His Clarinet: How Sound Cues Affect a Visually Impaired Person’s Ability to Play Video Games” at the Second Annual Merced County STEM Fair on March 8 at the Merced County Fairgrounds.


From left, Delhi Middle School students Natalie McCombs, Andrea Uribe and Jasmine Cisneros show off their project "Bike Energy Generator" at the Second Annual Merced County STEM Fair on March 8 at the Merced County Fairgrounds.

PHOTOS BY DYLAN MCMULLEN COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

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March 13, 2018

LILLIAN ROBERTS NAMED 21ST ASSEMBLY DISTRICT ‘WOMAN OF THE YEAR’

SACRAMENTO –On Monday, March 12, Ms. Lillian Roberts of Merced was honored as the Woman of the Year from the 21st Assembly District by the California State Assembly during a ceremony at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Assemblymember Adam Gray nominated Roberts, who has been a local leader in the area of education and civil rights for half a century or more. She was instrumental in accomplishing the desegregation of schools in Merced County, serving as the first African-American teacher.

“Lillian’s leadership and commitment in the fight for desegregation was pivotal in our community,” said Gray. “She rose above the issues and changed Merced County for the better,” continued Gray. “She has continued to make her mark in the community with her advocacy and dedication. Lillian’s work as an advocate for change will be always be remembered.”

Lillian retired from education in 1992, but continued to serve children by becoming the first Executive Director of the Merced CASA Association. After establishing the program, she continued to serve for years on the Board of Directors. She has been recognized for her contributions to our community by numerous organizations, including the Merced County Historical Society and the NAACP of Merced County.

“Lillian has set an incredible example for the young women in our region,” continued Gray. “I am proud to honor her as this year’s Woman of the Year for Merced County.”


Pictured – Assemblymember Brian Dahle, Assemblymember Adam Gray, Connie Roberts on behalf of her mother, Lillian Roberts, Assemblymember Susan Eggman, Speaker Anthony Rendon

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Assemblymember Adam C. Gray represents the 21st Assembly District which includes all of Merced County and portions of Stanislaus County.

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March 13, 2018

Tickets Can Now be Booked for New Amtrak San Joaquins Morning Express Service to Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, CA – Beginning today, riders are now able to book upcoming tickets for the new and highly anticipated Amtrak San Joaquins Morning Express train service to Sacramento, set to formally launch on May 7.
Amtrak San Joaquins has reconfigured its schedule and route planning in order to ensure that passengers from as far south as Fresno can board a northbound Amtrak train and arrive in Sacramento before 8:00am. This is expected to be transformative for the service – making it a much more convenient option for business travelers and same-day leisure travelers alike.
Until the launch of this Morning Express service, the first northbound train along the San Joaquins line was not scheduled to arrive in Sacramento until 11:20am. That has made it a challenge to attract business travelers who need to be in Sacramento in the morning or may need to spend more than just a few hours in Sacramento.
“Launching the Morning Express service has been a central component of our Business Plan and growth strategy,” said Stacey Mortensen, Executive Director of the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority (SJJPA), which manages and administers the service. “We are excited to be able to now provide this improved service for our passengers, as it will help fill a long-time need in the community for more convenient travel options to and from the State Capitol.”
On May 7, the daily Morning Express service will begin in Fresno, CA, departing at 4:25AM and will make stops in Madera at 4:50AM, Merced at 5:20AM, Turlock-Denair at 5:42AM, Modesto at 5:57AM, Stockton (Cabral Station – ACE) at 6:30AM, Lodi at 6:44AM, and will arrive at the downtown Sacramento Valley Station at 7:41AM.
Return service will depart Sacramento at 12:41PM and 5:30PM, making stops at each of the stations along the San Joaquins Southbound line.
"As a San Joaquin County resident that works in Sacramento, the new Morning Express Service is going to be a great alternative for me to get to work,” says Katelyn Roedner Sutter of the Environmental Defense Fund, “Not only can I be productive on my way to and from work, but I can help the environment at the same time!”

Passengers can transfer to Sacramento Regional Transit’s light rail system and local bus once they arrive in Sacramento, or the station is only a short distance from the Capitol as well as many state agencies and downtown


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SJJPA is responsible for the management and administration of Amtrak® San JoaquinsSM. SJJPA is governed by Board Members representing each of the ten (10) Member Agencies along the San Joaquins Corridor. With 365 miles of track, 18 stations, and over 1.1 million annual riders, Amtrak San Joaquins is the 6th busiest Amtrak service running 7 daily round-trips (two between Sacramento and Bakersfield and five between Oakland and Bakersfield). For more information visit www.sjjpa.com

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businesses. Additionally, Amtrak has a formal partnership with Lyft – passengers who sign up to request a Lyft through the Amtrak App receive $5 off their first four rides.
The Amtrak San Joaquins also feeds into to the larger regional rail network, including a connection at the Stockton (SKT) Station to the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE Rail) service to San Jose, as well as a connection to Amtrak long distance routes including, California Zephyr and Coast Starlight services at the Sacramento Valley Station.
Amtrak San Joaquins’ onboard amenities make travel time much more productive and enjoyable compared to driving. Comfortable seating and free Wi-Fi allows passengers to work or relax while they ride. And the train’s Café Car features a regional selection of snacks, sandwiches, coffee, craft beer and more.
Tickets for the Morning Express service can now be booked at AmtrakSanJoaquins.com or by calling 1-800-USA-Rail, or on the Amtrak App. Multi-ride passes are available including 10-Trip books and monthly passes, and there are a series of additional everyday discounts listed at www.amtrak.com/california-everyday-discounts.

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March 13, 2018

High-Speed Rail Authority Releases Draft 2018 Business Plan, Solicits Public Comments

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – With new leadership in place, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) today released the Draft 2018 Business Plan that transparently acknowledges the project’s challenges and outlines a sensible path forward that will continue to put thousands of Californians to work building the nation’s first high-speed rail system.

“The Draft 2018 Business Plan presents a strategy to implement the nation’s first truly high-speed rail system in the face of challenges that projects around the world of similar magnitude and complexity have faced and successfully overcome,” said Authority CEO Brian Kelly. “The plan reflects our commitment to apply lessons learned and make organizational improvements necessary to deliver this project to initiate high-speed rail service between the Silicon Valley and the Central Valley as soon as possible, while completing environmental work and making important investments in Southern California,” Kelly said.

The draft business plan acknowledges cost increases affecting each segment of the project ranging from 20-35% and revised schedules that would push out delivery dates for the Silicon Valley to Central Valley Line and Phase 1 System. The draft plan acknowledges and responds to changed circumstances and emphasizes a new way of doing business moving forward.

In the face of these challenges, the draft business plan proposes to continue an investment strategy that builds infrastructure, linked over time, to provide mobility, economic and environmental benefits to Californians and initiate high-speed rail service as soon as possible.

Toward that end, the draft business plan identifies the following investment priorities:
1. Meet Our Commitments to Federal Funding Partner: The Authority will complete the 119-mile segment in the Central Valley and complete environmental review for the entire Phase 1 System between San Francisco to Los Angeles/Anaheim by 2022, as required by the federal grant agreement.
2. Extend the Valley-to-Valley Service from San Francisco to Bakersfield:The draft business plan recognizes the high ridership and revenue potential of linking the Silicon Valley with the Central Valley between San Francisco and Bakersfield.
3. Deliver 224 Miles of High-Speed Rail Ready Infrastructure for Use by 2027: The draft business plan proposes to construct high-speed rail ready infrastructure in the Central Valley (Madera to Bakersfield) and in Silicon Valley (San Francisco to Gilroy) to reduce travel times for existing passenger rail systems, expand clean, electrified service, and prepare the corridors for testing and potential early high-speed rail operations.
4. Continue Bookend Investment in Southern and Northern California: The draft business plan continues to prioritize improving Los Angeles Union Station, the Burbank to Anaheim corridor and the electrification of the Caltrain corridor in the Bay Area.



The positive economic benefits from the program are tremendous, including $6 billion in total economic activity in California to date. Once operational, high-speed rail will breathe new life into local economies by encouraging the movements of residents and visitors between the major regions of the state like never before, while at the same time, protecting California’s environment.

“Building the nation’s first high-speed rail system, consistent with the will of the California voters, remains a tremendous challenge, but it is achievable if we remain committed to getting this transformative project done,” Kelly stated.

With the release of today’s draft business plan, the Authority is now seeking public comment as part of a 60-day public comment period that starts March 9 and closesMay 7, 2018.

The Authority is providing the following options for submitting comments:

• Online comment form through the Draft 2018 Business Plan website at:http://hsr.ca.gov/About/Business_Plans/Draft_2018_Business_Plan_Comments.html
• By email at: 2018businessplancomments@hsr.ca.gov
• By U.S. mail to the Authority:
o California High-Speed Rail Authority
Attn: Draft 2018 Business Plan
770 L Street, Suite 620 MS-1
Sacramento, CA 95814
• Voicemail comment at: (916) 384-9516
• Provide public comment at a Board of Directors Meeting being held on March 20 (Sacramento) and April 17 (Los Angeles).

The Draft 2018 Business Plan, required by Assembly Bill 528 (Lowenthal, Chapter 237, Statutes of 2013), can be found online at: http://hsr.ca.gov/About/Business_Plans/Draft_2018_Business_Plan.htm

The draft business plan transparently identifies the project’s challenges, which include longer schedules and higher costs due in large part to inflation, increased contingencies and construction delays in the Central Valley.

Although high-speed rail continues to face many challenges—major progress has been made on many fronts, including:
• 20 active construction sites with thousands of Californians working along 119 miles in the Central Valley
• Completion of three structures
• Hundreds of businesses planning, designing and building the system—including small businesses, disadvantaged businesses and disabled veteran businesses—with more than 1,699 craft laborers dispatched to work on Central Valley construction projects.

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March 13, 2018

Sheriffs Endorse Frontrunner Tacherra

Farmer and small businessman Johnny Tacherra secures the endorsement of Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke in the race for the open 12th Senate District.

12th Senate District candidate Johnny Tacherra continues to win early endorsements, excite activists and raise resources to run a successful primary campaign. Today the Tacherra for Senate campaign announced the endorsements of two revered law enforcement leaders in the district, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims and Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke.

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Johnny Tacherra for quite a few years now,” said Warnke. Johnny’s hard working, common sense approach to problem solving is exactly what we need up in Sacramento. I know I can count on Johnny Tacherra to stand up for public safety and oppose such disastrous ideas like AB109 and Prop. 57, which have been shown to be total failures and have only made our streets and neighborhoods less safe. That is why I’m endorsing Johnny Tacherra for State Senate.”

A strong agricultural district that leans conservative, the 12th District will be one of the premier battlegrounds across the state to allow the GOP to strengthen their minority in Sacramento and stop the left-wing free for all that is killing jobs, coddling criminals and hurting Central Valley working families . Tacherra has built his campaign around lowering regulation on business and agriculture, creating jobs for middle-class families in the Central Valley and building a world class infrastructure in both water and transportation so that the Central Valley is no longer left behind.

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“Johnny Tacherra is battle-tested and has built a strong campaign organization that can compete in fundraising as well as in the precincts,” said Tacherra strategist Carl Fogliani. “With millions in name identification and a base that is in the heart of the 12thdistrict in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus counties, Johnny Tacherra is the Republican Party’s only chance to hold this seat. His ability to win votes from Independents and conservative Democrats fit this district perfectly.”

Johnny Tacherra is a family man, farmer and owner of a small business in Fresno County.

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March 13, 2018

FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT JOSE HERNANDEZ
ENDORSES VIRGINIA MADUEÑO FOR CONGRESS

MODESTO, CA – Valley native and hometown hero Jose Hernandez has officially endorsed Virginia Madueño for Congress.
Jose Hernandez and Madueño share a story with thousands of Valley natives. Both were raised here, the children of immigrants who sought a better life for their families, both worked hard and have given back to our community – Hernandez as a NASA Astronaut and Madueño as a public servant and small business owner.
Hernandez challenged Jeff Denham in 2012, and, while he wasn’t able to unseat him, he knows what it takes to run a strong campaign. Hernandez believes Madueño has the deep in-district relationships and the proven knowledge and track record to fight for working families, immigration reform and healthcare for residents of California’s Central Valley.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that there is one candidate that working families can trust to win in November and bring our voices back to Washington DC: Virginia Madueño. Virginia understands the issues and needs of our Valley. Her energy, track record of public service and extensive community involvement are the right mix to unseat Jeff Denham. The voters are demanding real leaders with real solutions, and that's exactly why I’m proud to endorse Virginia Madueno for Congress,” said Hernandez.


Hernandez’s endorsement joins a growing list of strong support in the race to represent the 10th Congressional District, including EMILY’s List, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Bold PAC, PODER PAC – organizations dedicated to bringing more women and people of color to Congress.
“I am thankful and humbled by Jose Hernandez’s endorsement and vote of confidence in me,” Madueño said Thursday. Jose is one of the valley’s most inspiring success stories, and a reminder of the opportunities that can exist for when we invest in public education, affordable housing, economic development that works for everyone and affordable, accessible healthcare. I can’t wait to bring his voice, and the voices of our entire community, with me to Washington.”

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Virginia Madueño is a candidate for California’s 10th Congressional District. She has received the endorsements of EMILY’s List, BOLD PAC, and PODER PAC and NASA Astronaut(ret.) and 2012 CA-10 candidate Jose Hernandez. Virginia, the former Mayor of Riverbank, California is a small businesswoman and currently serves as a Commissioner on the California Boating and Waterways Commission.

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March 10 , 2018

Students Raise $2800 to Support Cancer Patients/Research

Students at Sheehy Elementary in Merced enjoyed a ‘sweet’ reward for a job well done on Friday.

The student council organized a “Pennies for Patients” fundraiser in February to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma society. They asked their classmates to bring in spare change with a goal of collecting $750. During a rally at their school on Friday they announced that they far exceeded that goal by raising $2,802.55 in just 15 days!

As a result of their hard work and dedication, Principal Rogelio Gutierrez kept his promise to have an ice cream sundae built on top of his head. Students from each of the top fundraising classes had a chance to contribute with scoops of ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, sprinkles, and of course cherries on top. The school’s cheerleaders also performed as part of the festivities.

This fun event served as a great way to promote school spirit, while the fundraiser itself supported the Merced City School District’s mission to ensure that every student not only excels academically but also builds good character and becomes a productive member of our community.

In addition to supporting a great cause, the “Pennies for Patients” campaign also incorporates a variety of educational elements, as described on the LLS website:

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest non-profit health organization dedicated to finding cures for blood cancers. Our Pennies for Patients program is for elementary and middle schools that would like to support us in our mission to create a world without cancer by conducting a fundraising campaign. By participating in Pennies for Patients, teachers and administrators will have opportunities to incorporate a unique STEM curriculum into their classrooms that give students an insider's look into LLS-funded research, and where there money gets invested. (source: http://www.studentseries.org/participate/elementary-schools)



n

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March 9, 2018


7th Annual Livingston Kite Festival

Livingston, CA - March 8, 2018 Kite fliers and spectators of all ages will experience a visual feast at the 7th Annual Knights of Columbus “Time to Fly” Kite Festival and Community Health Fair Sunday April 8, 2018. This popular festival will feature a variety of activities for kids of all ages from 0 - 99+! The Merced County Sheriff’s Huey Helicopter will land to kick of the event and the First 500 Kids get a free Kite so get there early. The Kite Festival is presented by Livingston Community Health, Hot 104.7 and Radio Lobo. 98.7 Admission to the kite festival is FREE.
Livingston Community Health will provide a FREE full-service health fair with free preventative screenings and resources for the community. Come get your FREE blood glucose, blood pressure, and vision checked along with FREE dental screenings!
Everyone is invited to take part in Kite Building Contest. To enter the contest, participants can enter a kite that they made at home or at festival Kite Building Workshops (no kite kits). The contest consists of two parts: the actual kite itself (how it looks and how well it is made), and the participant’s ability to fly the kite. Participants must be able to fly their kites consecutively in the air for 3 minutes at a height of 100 feet. Kites will be judged on Flight (ability to fly for 3 minutes), Structural Design, Craftsmanship, and Visual Appeal. There will be three competitive age groups 7-14, 15-17, and 18+. Trophies will be awarded for each age groups. The Kite Building Contest is free to enter and takes place from 1:30-3:00pm. All Kites must be registered by 12pm to be entered in contest.

Other activities will include GIANT Kite Flying Demonstrations, the “Jim Strealy” Memorial Sugar-Free Candy Drop, a Rubik’s Cube solving contest, the Rotary Club of Livingston Pie Eating Contest, various cultural performances plus Face Painting, Bounce Houses, Crafts, Kite, and informational Vendor booths, plus and safety demonstrations from PG&E, Livingston Police, Fire, CHP, and Merced County Sheriff. When the weather is ideal, crowds can exceed up to 4,000 people.

For more information, pictures of past years event, vendor application, and Contest rules and entry forms visit our websitewww.livingstonkitefestival.com https://www.facebook.com/LivingstonKiteFestival. Proceeds benefit local youth sports.

Knights of Columbus Contact: Julio Valadez 209-277-1402
Email: livingstonkitefestival@gmail.com
Livingston Community Health Contact: Karla Narvaez-Flores 209-394-7913 Ext. 1417
Click here to see flyer

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March 9, 2018

Traffic Advisory (In effect from 3/9/18 to 3/30/18, depending on weather conditions)
Re: Bridge Repairs on M Street/Veteran’s Boulevard over Bear Creek
City of Merced Project No. 108026

Viking Construction Company, Inc. will be completing cosmetic work on the new bridge railing at the M Street Bridge during the next three weeks causing intermittent lane closures. During this time traffic will be restricted to one lane of travel in one direction while the other direction will be unaffected.

For your safety, please slow down when going through the construction area. Signs will be provided to help guide traffic through the affected area. The project’s progress will be updated continually on the City of Merced Website athttps://www.cityofmerced.org/depts/engineering_
division/projects/under_construction/m_n_g_street_bridges_at_bear_creek.asp.

 

 


Should you have specific concerns or questions about the project, please contact the Project Manager or the City Engineer listed below:
Joel Svendsen, Project Manager 209-385-6820
Steven Son, City Engineer 209-385-6898

Viking Construction Company and the City of Merced would like to thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation during this project.

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March 9, 2018

Costa Statement on New Aluminum and Steel Tariffs

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) released the following statement after President Trump signed new steel and aluminum tariffs which impose a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports and a 25 percent tariff on steel imports:

“California agriculture will likely feel the most intense and direct pain from these tariffs. California farmers and ranchers earned about $21 billion from trade in 2016, which was roughly 44 percent of their total revenue.

“American agriculture is always a target when it comes to international reactionary and retaliatory trade behavior. China, the European Union, Mexico, and Canada are all key markets for American agriculture products, and all have indicated that these new steel and aluminum tariffs will likely result in them raising similar protectionary tariffs on U.S. products.

“We all want to secure American jobs and increase opportunity in the U.S. economy, but raising these steep and wide-ranging tariffs will do just the opposite. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed deep concern with these tariffs because we have seen this before, and we know the overwhelmingly negative consequences, no matter how unintended they may be.

“The most likely way to steer our trade policy toward serving the entire nation is by Republicans and Democrats engaging in real, bipartisan policy deliberation and negotiation. The two parties appear to agree that these

 


Congressman Jim Costa

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tariffs are misguided and unwise, so I call on members of both parties to come together in this agreement, put in the work, and create the policy Americans want, need, and deserve.”

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March 8, 2018

Special meeting on Commercial Cannabis Business Tax Ballot Measure

The Merced City Council will hold a special meeting to consider amending the Commercial Cannabis Business Tax Ballot Measure Ordinance. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 8 in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St.
There will be an opportunity for the public to comment on the topic during the meeting.

 

 

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March 8, 2018

Costa Continues to Fight for Hmong and Lao American Veterans

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16) continued his advocacy for securing Hmong and Lao American veterans recognition and honor for serving alongside American armed forces in the Vietnam War. Taking to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Costa called on his colleagues to support the Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act. Costa introduced this bipartisan legislation with Congressman Paul Cook (CA-8) to extend veterans burial benefits in national cemeteries to these Hmong and Lao American veterans.

The CIA covertly trained Hmong men and women in Laos during the Vietnam War, leading them into direct combat in support of U.S. forces as members of the Special Guerilla Units (SGUs). Countless Hmong lost their lives during this operation, often referred to as “The Secret War.” There are only 5,000 Hmong veterans estimated to still be alive, with thousands living in California’s San Joaquin Valley. The Hmong Veterans’ Service Recognition Act is supported by both the national and San Joaquin Valley chapters of the Lao Veterans of America and the Special Guerrilla Units Veterans & Families Development organization.

Standing next to an image of SGU veterans from the San Joaquin Valley on the House floor this afternoon, Rep. Costa powerfully urged members of the House to “honor these courageous individuals with their choice of being laid to rest next to their brothers-in-arms. It’s the right thing to do.”

 


Congressman Jim Costa

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March 7 2018

MCOE to Host Second Annual STEM Fair on Thursday

The Merced County Office of Education will host the county’s STEM Fair on March 8 at the Merced County Fairgrounds Pavilion Hall.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The event will showcase 40 science projects from 61 students in grades 6 through 8, with the top three teams moving on to the state competition to represent Merced County.
Participating school districts include Atwater Elementary, Delhi Unified, Dos Palos-Oro Loma, Los Banos Unified, Merced City and Our Lady of Mercy.
Judging begins at 9:30 a.m. and the event is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the awards presentation at 3 p.m.
Judges include local scientists or professors from UC Merced and Merced College, among others.
In addition to projects on display from those school districts, other exhibits include clubs from MUHSD, Google, UC Merced, Merced Educational Television (METV), MCOE Fab Lab and MCOE Teacher’s Center.
The event will also feature a special video presentation from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and Congressman Jim Costa.
This event was made possible by sponsorship from the MCE Foundation, PG&E and MID.

 

 

MCOE to Host Teacher Recruitment Fair Saturday in Atwater

A Merced County Teacher Recruitment Fair will he held March 10 in Atwater for candidates who hope to be hired this fall in one of the county’s nearly two dozen school districts.
The recruiting fair will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Merced County Office of Education's Atwater Valley Court Community School gymnasium, 1800 Matthew St., Atwater.
There is no fee to participate in the event designed to help fill open positions in pre-kindergarten through high school in county school districts.
Positions are open in all subject areas for individuals holding teaching credentials, including career-technical education and special education, along with those who have child development permits, or for those who will be eligible in the 2018-2019 school year.
Those attending the recruiting fair are asked to bring plenty of resumes, transcripts, documentation and three letters of recommendation. On-site interviews will be conducted. There is no fee to attend.

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March 7 2018


Costa Calls for Bipartisan Solutions for Public Land and Park Maintenance

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16), a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, called for bipartisan action to address the over $16 billion worth of public land maintenance projects currently backlogged due to lack of funding within the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The unattended maintenance projects are perhaps most noticeable at U.S. national parks, which themselves have over $11.6 billion worth of backlogged maintenance. Yosemite National Park, often said to be the crown jewel of national parks in California, has over $555 million in maintenance work currently not being addressed. On average, over 3.7 million people visit Yosemite every year, with over 100,000 individuals still visiting the park in its slowest month. This maintenance backlog can restrict both areas of the park and facilities open to visitors.

During today’s National Resources Committee oversight hearing, Congressman Costa shared that the backlog of maintenance “has accumulated over decades,” but that raising national park fees is not an acceptable solution. According to Costa, increasing park fees is an “uneven way to handle it, doesn’t really get to the heart of the problem, and it certainly creates tremendous disadvantages for Americans who want to enjoy their parks.” Rep. Costa noted that “this is an area where we can and should have

 


Congressman Jim Costa

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bipartisan support… The fact of the matter is, so many of our national parks throughout the country need the support.” He then called for the committee to “focus our time on a bipartisan bill that can provide real money to do this,” such as the National Park Service Legacy Act.

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March 6, 2018

 

Atwater FFA Earns Top Honors at UC Davis and West Hills College Competitions

Written by: Grace Reyes - Atwater FFA

Over 3300+ California high school agriculture students representing nearly 200 high schools throughout the state of California competed at the UC Davis and West Hills College FFA Field Days. The March 3rd weekend jump started the 2018 FFA judging season where the Atwater FFA judging teams start anew with their sites toward the 2018 state championships in late April and early May. “We have an expanded number of skill-based Career Development Event (CDE) teams and a record number of students participating,” said Atwater FFA advisor and coach Dave Gossman.

The Atwater FFA Poultry team earned a 2nd place finish overall at UC Davis. The team was led by Ana Lozano (1st overall), Ammanuel Mejia, Sayra Ramos, and Stephania Valdovinos. Other Atwater FFA members Gabriella Lucas, Hannah Carrillo, Olivia Cone, and Stephanie Anguiano competed as alternates. The contest blends practical hands-on experiences with a basic knowledge of the poultry industry required for careers in the poultry field.

Atwater FFA competed in a CDE contest called Farm Business Management for the first time. The team comprised of Belinda Espinoza, Liliana Vargas, Ricardo Ortega, and Zion Brigham placed 5th overall. Catalina Diaz also competed as a team alternate. The Farm Business Management CDE helps students learn business skills and apply economic principles to agricultural businesses. Contest focus areas include business record keeping, depreciable property, and tax management.

The Meats judging team earned a 5th place finish overall with a team composed of Emily Junez, Daisy Flores, Julian Castro, and Mariah Castro. Other Atwater FFA members Erika Silva, Jaime Colores, and Ulyette Curiel competed as team alternates. The Meats contest involves