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Reedley High drives next generation of auto mechanics

Reedley High School car shop undergoes all-new look, steers a long-term career path for students towards automobile industry

REEDLEY – Seven years of combined efforts to upgrade Reedley High’s auto shop has paid off with a ceremonial announcement of its official completion.
The ceremony took place on Jan. 20 just outside the shop’s new garage doors. The facility underwent a complete remodel that will benefit students interested in navigating a career in the automotive repair industry with top-of-the-line equipment as they earn first-hand experience through the shop. Following the ceremony, staff and the school’s mechanic students gave the community a peek under the hood of their automotive stomping grounds.
“A big takeaway for my students is that they get a basic knowledge of the automobile industry,” Reedley High automotive instructor Gustavo Mendoza said. “They may go on to pursue other careers, but if not, they’re going to be able to—from front to back—fix a car.”
Although still quite fresh in his position at Reedley High, where he started teaching just last year, Mendoza came into the role with years of experience that he shares with his students. In the auto shop, he said students learn how to do basic car checks like tire rotations, vehicle inspections, brake alignments and tire balancing. That way, if his students make the decision to pursue a long-term automotive career or continue their training at Reedley College, they can do so safely and with confidence.
Oscar Leon, Reedley High senior, said the new shop will further assist students like himself as they get an idea of what they would like to achieve as they look towards their futures.
“I feel like a lot of us really want to keep going in the automotive industry, so I think this gives us a big advantage because a lot of the other people that want to do this, don’t have this opportunity,” Leon said. “It’ll help us succeed a lot [further].”
Remodeling the school’s auto shop has improved its standards, technology and curriculum to best match what other car dealerships and automotive shops are operating with, according to Fabrizo Lafaro. Lafaro is the superintendent of Valley ROP (regional occupation program), which seeks to supply quality career technical education to support student academic and career success for a handful of Fresno County school districts, including Reedley High. This won’t just supply students with better equipment and academic tools, however; Lafaro said the next step is to get the shop certified through the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) education foundation.
As it stands now, students who complete this three-year course are eligible for Reedley High’s dual enrollment program with Reedley College. There, they have a straight shot at continuing their automotive education through the college’s own program. With the ASE certification, however, Reedley High students who complete the course will—in a sense—have a stamp of approval that proves their skills match that of an entry level technician, expanding their opportunities even further. Even if they don’t seize those possibilities, Lafaro said students can benefit from the course regardless.
“These are life-long skills,” Lafaro said. “We have plenty of boys and girls that will not go into the industry, but now they’re not afraid to open the hood. They’re not afraid to check the oil, they’re not afraid to change their oil and rotate their tires.”
Reedley High School senior William Ramos shared similar sentiments. He said the school’s automotive program helps students understand the function of different car parts and their operations and doesn’t just provide them with job opportunities, but skills in self-sustainment as well.
“Say if our car breaks down, we already know what to do,” Ramos said. “We don’t have to take it somewhere, we can just do it ourselves. It just gives us an extra level of skills to learn.”
Furthermore, Lafaro said another step the school and district wants to take for the auto shop is to eventually create a small automotive service at the high school. Right now, students fine-tune their skills on mock cars provided by the school. Lafaro said the hope is to take it even further and open the shop up to other students and staff, so automotive students can put their skills to the test and provide basic car services in their improved work space.
With the improvements brought to the school’s car shop, Reedley High senior Brandon Rios said students like himself are excited to finally be back in their workroom. Now that it’s back in action, he said students are able to better achieve some visual, hands-on work.
“[In the shop] you actually get to learn what certain bolts do, what certain wrenches do,” Rios said. “Last year, it wasn’t at its best, but this year, we’ve upgraded all of our equipment. Now we’re working with the latest stuff.”
According to Lafaro, the auto shop upgrade was funded by Proposition 51 money and matched by Kings Canyon Unified School District;s (KCUSD) own revenues. Approved by Californians in 2016, Prop 51 is state funding used to improve and build new facilities for school districts. He said the renovation totaled to just over $1 million and that’s not including the price of the shop’s new equipment, which came out to approximately half a million.
At the ceremonial announcement, KCUSD superintendent John Campbell said, from a global standpoint, that the term “equity” has been thrown around a lot in education. However, he said Kings Canyon Unified has continued to maintain equity for its students by doing what’s best for its kids and supplying them with what they need. He said there are still many roles in maintenance-esque careers that need to be filled, and that careers in those fields are all just as honorable as pursuing a college education.
“College isn’t for every single child,” Campbell said. “We need to work with our kids to give them the opportunities to do what they want to do.”
On the initial reasoning behind upgrading Reedley High’s auto shop, principal John Ahlin said the school has always established a goal towards creating multiple pathways for student opportunities. Regardless if students decide to take their education to local colleges, larger universities or seize hands-on work, he said the school wants to ensure when students leave the school, they’re career ready. He said the reason it took a lengthy time to get the auto shop into what it is now is because the school wanted a top-notch facility.
“We didn’t want to just remodel and get a facility we weren’t really proud of,” Ahlin said. “This is a facility we can be really proud of because it has all the technology and all of the [necessary] industry standards [needed].”
In addition to the automotive shop, Reedley High School also recently established new classroom buildings for the school’s special education department. Reedley High special education instructor Anthony Domenici said during the ceremony that the classrooms built surpassed his department’s expectations. With 15 years of experience as a special education teacher, he said there has been no district that compares to Kings Canyon Unified in terms of dedication and addressing the care needed for students with special needs.
“All too often, our population goes unnoticed, uncared for or ignored,” Domenici said. “That has not ever been the case with KCUSD.”
Facilities were also added to the school’s recently completed soccer field, which was updated about a year and half ago. Recently, the field has received new concessions and bathroom facilities. Ahlin said the newly updated soccer field is noteworthy to the school because it puts a lot of importance on student’s interest in soccer, especially since the school’s boy’s varsity soccer team made it to Division One championships last year.
“We wanted to make sure we had not only a great playing field, but a facility that could host big tournaments and big games,” Ahlin said.

THREE-PART SERIES, PART ONE

Marissa Handley lives out her belief to serve others

Dinuba Teenage Citizen of the Year candidate is active in Future Farmers of America, Fusion Club and Floral Team

photo by Kenny Goodman
Marissa Handley is one of three candidates for the 2023 Teen Citizen of the Year, which will be announced at the Dinuba Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet on Feb. 9.

DINUBA – Marissa Handley says her desire to serve others, along with a medical battle she’s dealt with during much of her high school experience, has been a driving force in her desire to run for Dinuba Teenage Citizen of the Year.
Handley is one of three candidates for the 2023 Teen Citizen of the Year, which will be announced at the Dinuba Chamber of Commerce annual Awards Banquet on Feb. 9. Also in contention for the award are fellow Dinuba High School seniors David Camarillo and Sydney Vela.
“I believe one of the greatest things you can do in life is to be of service to others,” Handley said. “I was really shy when I was a freshman. Then it started when I was a junior and became student council president, and got out of my bubble. I want to inspire other people to get out of their box.”
Also in her junior year, Handley was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism (Graves disease), a condition that caused her to miss a considerable amount of school time. The illness can cause weight loss, irregular heartbeat, memory problems and muscle pain.
“It was really hard for me, but I would like to show the community that even if you have an illness or disability, you can still be a productive member of society,” she said. “Although my illness doesn’t define who I am or make me weak, it’s what shaped me into the person I am today.”
Marissa’s primary school activities have been in FFA (she showed her goat at the Tulare County Fair), the Fusion Club (designed to get special education students more involved in school activities) and Floral Club. She said the Fusion Club did a skit from the movie “Madagascar” during a recent school assembly rally, and she’s served as a club vice president for four years.
Handley said the Floral Club meets two days out of the week, and students work with floral arrangements, flower identification and history, and participate in competitions. She’s also a two-year member of Link Crew.
Community service activities include volunteering at Second Hand Animal Shelter with duties including walking dogs along with cleaning and feeding. As part of Handley’s 100-plus hours of community service, she has donated 40 bags to the homeless filled with items including toothbrush, comb, soap and other toiletries.
“I would like to encourage Dinuba to make regular contributions to the community, no matter how big or small,” she said. “One small gesture can make a huge impact.”
Despite her medical challenges, Marissa achieved a 4.0 grade point average as a junior and has a cumulative 3.44 GPA. She plans to attend California State University-Monterey Bay and major in business marketing.
When it comes to service, Handley said she draws inspiration from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King—“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve… you only need a heart full of grace, A soul generated by love.”

Sanger looks to tap state reserves, increase city water preservation

City of Sanger requests $4 million allocation from California Department of Water Resources to fund permanent water storage tank

SANGER – To ensure Sanger has a plentiful water supply, the city is trying its hand at getting some additional funding to do away with its outdated water towers and make way for another new and improved water tank.
The city has decided to seize the opportunity for increased water storage in Sanger by applying for a grant through the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The application was approved by Sanger City Council at its Jan. 19 meeting. According to Sanger city engineer Joshua Rogers, the city is requesting $4 million to fund an additional water tank, tank no. 4, that will be added onto the city’s already established tank no. 3. This is to ensure that during the hottest peak periods of July and August, the city has additional water storage available.
“Obviously, the tanks only do you as good as how much water is being produced,” Rogers said. “But by having more storage, you can make it through some of those peak periods.”
In addition to expanding water capacity, Rogers said the plan is also to decommission the city’s two elevated water towers at Jensen Avenue and Academy Avenue and at Greenwood Avenue and 9th Street. This is due to the water towers being outdated and expensive to maintain. Not only that, but according to the staff report on the matter, the combined water storage for the elevated tanks is 135,000 gallons. This is less than a quarter of storage compared to the recently established tank no. 3, which has 750,000 gallons of water capacity. When it was initially developed, future plan constructions included the integration of tank no. 4, adding another 750,000 gallons of water to the city’s supply.
The construction of tank no. 3 itself is estimated at about $3.5 million, so if the allocation is granted, Rogers said the city will also purchase portable, temporary water tanks. He said these would be planted around the city as needed and could be used to supplement buildings like existing businesses or multifamily housing units.
According to a city staff report, Sanger has already been actively working on making improvements to its overall water system. Rogers said the city has recently undergone some well projects to rehabilitate wells that were facing mechanical or electrical failures, as well as establish new wells to ensure a good level of water storage. In the past, the wells have presented some issues with water pressure, and although these issues were improved last year, Rogers said the city would like to stay prepared.
“We’re continuing to develop projects to build redundancy into the water system and just get it to where we’ve got plenty of water and aren’t scraping by during some of the peak periods,” Rogers said.
According to Rogers, DWR is expected to announce their grant allocations through the month of March. If the city is successful in receiving the grant, he said they should know in about three to four months. If the city is not able to receive the funding, Rogers said there are other pots of money to look into. With other grants, development impact fees and water funds available, he said there are other methods of funding the permanent water tank. However, the causality from that outcome means the process would be delayed, as the city already has other projects underway and it would take a while to get funding for the tank together.
The city was able to apply for this DWR grant through the department’s 2022 Urban Community Drought Relief Program. According to DWR, the program is part of DWR drought relief programs established in response to current drought conditions. It seeks to address drought impacts on local communities with the state through monetary support. Eligible applicants for most of these programs include public agencies, public utilities, special districts, colleges and universities, mutual water companies, non-profit organizations and federally recognized California Native American tribes.
Last year, an amendment to the Budget Act of 2021 granted DWR an additional $545 million to allocate in grants to assist in a second cycle of drought relief. Applications for the grant are accepted up until Jan. 31. According to the city’s staff report on the matter, the grants are intended to: provide water to communities that face the loss or contamination of their water supplies, to address immediate impacts on human health and safety, to secure the future of California’s water supply and to protect fish and wildlife resources.

Hurtado victorious in Senate Dist. 16 election

Senator Melissa Hurtado wins the Senate District 16 election, despite watching her 20 vote lead dwindle to 13

TULARE COUNTY – After a recount was requested by both Senator Melissa Hurtado and challenger David Shepard, Hurtado retained a seat in the senate, now district 16, by 13 votes.
On Jan. 17, the last elections office to roll out their recount results was Kern County, and the results confirmed Hurtado’s win with 13 votes more than Shepard. She is now set to represent the newly formed 16th senate district. Hurtado had formerly represented district 14, which encompassed portions of Fresno, Kings, Madera and Merced counties.
When Shepard fell 22 votes shy in his race against Hurtado, he requested a recount just days later. The two were neck-and-neck in the race for senate district 16, which includes portions of Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Kern Counties.
“It’s time for David Shepard to admit the race is over,” Lisa Gasperoni, campaign consultant for Melissa Hurtado said in a statement. “Shepard’s ongoing attempts to undermine the will of the voters and change the outcome of the election to his personal benefit are becoming more and more desperate.”
Shepard released a statement about the recount on Jan. 18, and stated that he made a commitment to the district’s residents, promising them that they would no longer be forgotten in the voting process. Shepard claimed that he and his team had to “face countless complications,” in order to make this recount reality.
“Although the result is not the one we had hoped for, I am so incredibly thankful for the team that surrounded me during the recount and believed in me and my candidacy for state senate,” Shepard said in a statement.
Kern County
Shepard gained one extra vote from the recount in Kern County, while Hurtado’s votes remained the same. During the recount process, neither Kings nor Kern county accepted any previously rejected vote-by-mail ballots, according to Gasperoni. This comes after a time when Shepard has been critical of Kern County’s process on social media, such as their lack of planning and inaccurate estimates on updates to the public.
Shepard claims Kern County’s only sorting machine broke down on Nov. 14 and did not come back online until more than a day later. While the machine was down, the count continued and ultimately did not play much of a factor in vote counting and verification process. He also claimed Kern County “misreported” counts to the Secretary of State off by 10,000 ballots. This was ultimately an estimation and not an actual number reported in the updates.
“This raises questions about the procedures Kern County Elections chooses to implement. Ensuring the ability of the Kern County Elections Office to accurately count and report results should be a bipartisan issue,” Shepard said in a statement.
Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties
In Fresno County, there was a slight difference from the original count versus the recount. Shepard received two more votes than originally counted, and Hurtado received one more. Fresno County’s clerk and registrar of voters James Kus said that there were 10 uncured ballots that were not counted, which Shepard’s campaign challenged.
After the recount, Shepard was critical of all the elections offices in the district, including Fresno, and stated that this has “brought to light that greater accountability to our local county elections office is vitally necessary to preserve free and fair elections.” Shepard claims that the nine votes he was able to secure from the recount belonged to individuals who were initially excluded, for reasons which he did not specify.
“During the recount we uncovered blatant mismanagement and inconsistencies of vote counting procedures in multiple counties, which excluded numerous voters from having their votes counted in this election,” Shepard said. “Violation of the basic constitutional rights upon which our democracy is founded can change election results.”
Kus said they went back through these ballots, and of those 10, only one was actually accepted to be counted. The rest either had missing signatures, or the signatures did not match. He also said that they did find an election worker error, but that was corrected in the recount.
Over in Kings County, Shepard gained two more votes, while Hurtado’s stayed the same. In Tulare County, there was a similar increase in votes for both parties. Shepard received five more votes from Tulare County after the recount, while Hurtado received three more votes this time around.
After Tulare County’s recount, Shepard’s campaign requested for a hand recount on eight out of 200 precincts, according to Maryalice Cypert, the elections program coordinator. However, the eight precincts were still not eligible to be counted in the recount.

OBITUARY

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Henry “Hank” Ramirez
Henry “Hank” Ramirez of Sanger, Calif. went home to be with our Lord on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023 at the age of 81. After several months of declining health, Hank passed away peacefully in his home with family by his side.
Hank was born Sept. 22, 1941 in Sanger, to Enrique Ovalle Ramirez and Alta Gracia Neri Ramirez. He was one of 10 children. He didn’t have the opportunity for much formal education. He helped out on his family’s small ranch and worked any odd jobs he could find starting at an early age. His work ethic and desire to take care of his family led him to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Upon graduating from the police academy, he was hired on with Sanger Police Department where he would spend the next 25 years trying to make a difference. He had a stellar career and was respected by all who knew him.
Hank is survived by his wife of 51 years, his beautiful sweetheart Aurelia Ramirez; children Hank Ramirez Jr, Richard Ramirez, Greg Ramirez, and Kristi Ramirez; grandchildren Alyssa Menchaca, Steven Bustamante, Richard Ramirez, Jr. Adam Ramirez, and Christopher Anaya; brother Bob Ramirez; sisters Alice Collier, Grace Noah, Amy Sanders, and Ana Tinoco; and countless extended family members. Hank was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers Chuck Ramirez, Angel Ramirez, and George Ramirez; his sister Shelly Willaford; grandson Henry M. Ramirez. All held him in the highest regard and loved him dearly.
The service will be held at St. Mary’s (Bethel/North) on Feb. 2, 2023 with a Rosary at 9:30 a.m and funeral Mass at 10 a.m. There will be a luncheon at St. Mary’s Hall (next door) immediately following. His family will be present to welcome loved ones. 
Please send memorial donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

OBITUARIES

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Della Mary Benbow
Della Mary Benbow of Sanger died on Jan. 14, 2023. She was 89 years old. Mrs. Benbow was a production secretary. A chapel service was held on Jan. 25, 2023 at Wallin’s Sanger Funeral Home. She is survived by her two sons and two daughters. Wallin’s Sanger Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Juanita C. Chavaria
Juanita C. Chavaria of Sanger died on Jan. 16, 2023. She was 81 years old. Mrs. Chavaria was a homemaker. Visitation will be at Monte Horeb on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 at 9 a.m. with a chapel conclude at 10 a.m. She is survived by her daughter. Wallin’s Sanger Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Carol L. Cox
Carol L. Cox of Selma died on Jan. 17, 2023. She was 97 years old. Mrs. Cox was a secretary. A chapel service will be held on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023 at 10 a.m. at Wallin’s Fowler Funeral Home. She is survived by her daughter. Wallin’s Sanger Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
Velinda Ann Eastep
Velinda Ann Eastep of Dinuba died on Jan. 12, 2023. She was 75 years old. Mrs. Eastep was a salesperson. A funeral service was held on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023 at Dopkins Dinuba Funeral Chapel with interment at Smith Mountain Cemetery. She is survived by her husband, Jay Eastep, two sons, two daughters, 14 grandchildren and one brother. Dopkins Dinuba Funeral Chapel was in charge of arrangements.
Macaria Espinosa
Macaria Espinosa of Dinuba died on Jan. 14, 2023. She was 73 years old. Mrs. Espinosa was a housewife. A funeral Mass will be held on Monday, Jan. 21, 2023 at 10 a.m. at St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church in Dinuba with interment at Smith Mountain Cemetery. She is survived by her husband, Joe Espinosa, three daughters, eight grandchildren and one sister. Dopkins Dinuba Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Leonor Garcia
Leonor Garcia of Reedley died on Jan. 4, 2023. She was 77 years old. Mrs. Garcia was a C.N.A. A funeral Mass was held on Jan. 23, 2023 at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church with interment at Reedley Cemetery. She is survived by her son, three daughters, three sisters, 15 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Dopkins Reedley Funeral Chapel was in charge of arrangements.
Clemente Garza
Clemente Garza of Sanger died on Jan. 7, 2023. He was 73 years old. Mr. Garza was self-employed. Visitation will be on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 at St. Mary’s New Catholic Church from 9 to 10 a.m.; a Rosary will be said at 10 a.m. and the funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m. with interment at Smith Mountain Cemetery. He is survived by his son, three brothers and three sisters. Dopkins Reedley Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Juan R. Jasso
Juan R. Jasso of Selma died on Jan. 5, 2023. He was 90 years old. Mr. Jasso was a farm laborer.
Visitation will be on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Dopkins Chapel in Dinuba. A graveside service will follow at 1 p.m. at Squaw Valley Indian Cemetery. He is survived by his three daughters, one son, seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and one sister. Dopkins Dinuba Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Sheila Gene Lindquist-Whitlow
Sheila Gene Lindquist-Whitlow of Squaw Valley died on Jan. 14, 2023. She was 57 years old. Mrs. Lindquist-Whitlow was a zookeeper. She is survived by her spouse, Larry Whitlow and one brother. Dopkin’s Reedley Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Henry “Hank” Ramirez
Henry “Hank” Ramirez of Sanger, Calif. went home to be with our Lord on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023 at the age of 81. After several months of declining health, Hank passed away peacefully in his home with family by his side.
Hank was born Sept. 22, 1941 in Sanger, to Enrique Ovalle Ramirez and Alta Gracia Neri Ramirez. He was one of 10 children. He didn’t have the opportunity for much formal education. He helped out on his family’s small ranch and worked any odd jobs he could find starting at an early age. His work ethic and desire to take care of his family led him to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Upon graduating from the police academy, he was hired on with Sanger Police Department where he would spend the next 25 years trying to make a difference. He had a stellar career and was respected by all who knew him.
Hank is survived by his wife of 51 years, his beautiful sweetheart Aurelia Ramirez; children Hank Ramirez Jr, Richard Ramirez, Greg Ramirez, and Kristi Ramirez; grandchildren Alyssa Menchaca, Steven Bustamante, Richard Ramirez, Jr. Adam Ramirez, and Christopher Anaya; brother Bob Ramirez; sisters Alice Collier, Grace Noah, Amy Sanders, and Ana Tinoco; and countless extended family members. Hank was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers Chuck Ramirez, Angel Ramirez, and George Ramirez; his sister Shelly Willaford; grandson Henry M. Ramirez. All held him in the highest regard and loved him dearly.
The service will be held at St. Mary’s (Bethel/North) on Feb. 2, 2023 with a Rosary at 9:30 a.m and funeral Mass at 10 a.m. There will be a luncheon at St. Mary’s Hall (next door) immediately following. His family will be present to welcome loved ones. 
Please send memorial donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Henry Neri Ramirez
Henry Neri Ramirez of Sanger died on Jan. 3, 2023. He was 81 years old. Mr. Ramirez was a peace officer. A Rosary will be said on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. at St Mary’s New Catholic Church with a concluded Mass at 10 a.m. Interment will be at a later date at the Sanger Cemetery. He is survived by his wife, Lydia Aurelia Ramirez, one son, one daughter, one brother and four sisters. Dopkins Reedley Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Jose Luis Torres
Jose Luis Torres of Reedley died on Jan. 4, 2023. He was 68 years old. Mr. Torres was an owner and operator. Visitation will be held on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023 from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. Anthony’s New Church (Frankwood). A Rosary will be said at 6 p.m. A funeral Mass will be on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 at 1 p.m. at St. Anthony’s with interment at Reedley Cemetery. He is survived by his wife, Lydia Torres, four sons, three daughters, two brothers, six sisters, 16 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Dopkins Reedley Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Balbina C. Toste
Balbina C. Toste of Riverdale died on Jan. 15, 2023. She was 83 years old. Mrs. Toste was an owner operator. A Rosary will be said Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. with a funeral Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Ann Catholic Church in Riverdale. She is survived by her four daughters. Wallin’s Riverdale Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Beatriz Trevino
Beatriz Trevino of Reedley died on Jan. 12, 2023. She was 89 years old. Mrs. Trevino was a homemaker. A Rosary will be on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023 at 10 a.m. with a funeral Mass to follow at 10:30 a.m. at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Interment will be at Reedley Cemetery District. She is survived by her two sons, five daughters, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Dopkins Reedley Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.
Rosa Vasquez
Rosa Vasquez of Dinuba died on Jan. 14, 2023. She was 90 years old. Mrs. Vasquez was a homemaker. Visitation will be Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023 from 2 to 7 p.m. at Dopkins Dinuba Funeral Chapel. A funeral service will be held on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023 at 9 a.m. at Dopkins Dinuba Funeral Chapel with interment at Smith Mountain Cemetery. She is survived by her three sons, three daughters, 10 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. Dopkins Dinuba Funeral Chapel is in charge of arrangements.

Kingsburg’s GUSS Automation marks machinery milestone

GUSS Automation, LCC secures 200 deliveries of the company’s self-driving pesticide, herbicide sprayers

KIGSBURG – Nine years after coming off the drawing board, GUSS Automation’s autonomous sprayers have made their way to fields across the world after reaching a benchmark in deliveries.
The autonomous sprayers were the first of their kind to hit the markets worldwide, starting with the first customer purchase in 2019 before climbing to 200 deliveries this month. Made to address ag labor shortages and increase safety among workers, the machines have made for conventional equipment among ag operations, according to GUSS chief operations officer Gary Thompson. He commended the achievement in high regard as GUSS Automation, LCC, leads this technology through uncharted territory.
“In so many ways, we’re creating a whole new market with autonomous farm equipment,” Thompson said. “So for us to get 200 machines out in the field is a very large milestone for us.”
Since the autonomous sprayers made their official market debut in 2019, Thompson said they have been delivered to locations within California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Hawaii, Georgia, Florida and even Australia. The spray company’s deliveries thus far include the initial GUSS machine, mini GUSS and Herbicide GUSS, with the mini GUSS being the sprayer to take the mark of the 200th delivery. According to Thompson, GUSS machinery takes about six weeks to get up and running following initial construction and sells for about $300,000 a pop.
The GUSS sprayers first underwent conception in 2014 following a vision from commercial spray business owner Dave Crinklaw, who desired to create a solution to agricultural labor challenges and inefficiencies. According to Thompson, it took Crinklaw about three and half years of developing and refining the GUSS prototype to ensure it was self-driving. Following its completion, GUSS began utilizing their machinery commercially in their own spray business Crinklaw Farm Services.
In the beginning, the company was first hired by farmers to spray their orchards, which was the original intent of the machine to begin with, according to Thompson. Because Crinklaw was in the spray business for about 40 years, he understood the struggle of an ag labor shortage and constructed the machine to address the challenge. After running the sprayers commercially for a while, the company began to garner a lot of attention from growers interested in purchasing the sprayers.
“That’s what really got us to start thinking about manufacturing and selling to other growers instead of just running them ourselves,” Thompson said.
On top of their current sprayers, GUSS Automation has other machinery in the works. Thompson said the company has plans to release an electric-powered version of the Herbicide GUSS. Currently, all GUSS machines are fueled through diesel. He said the prototype for the electric-powered machine is currently underway and the vehicle itself is likely to be released in about a year.
As a way to further expand the company’s reach, GUSS Automation partnered with Deere & Company, known more commonly as John Deere, in spring 2022. Through this partnership, Thompson said GUSS can continue to expand globally to different markets, as well as gain synergies from the resources available through the tractor company. As John Deere is the largest tractor manufacturer worldwide, he said there is a lot they can bring to the table in terms of resources for marketing sales, machine parts and materials as well as engineering help.
“Deere and GUSS are both committed to investing in innovation and technology to help farmers be more productive and profitable while growing more food using fewer resources,” Chris Davison, director of small tractor and high value crop production systems at John Deere, said via press a release.

Dinuba speeds up process for EV charging stations

The city of Dinuba makes the red tape for electric vehicle charging stations a little easier to cut through following state mandate

DINUBA – Smaller cities all across California are straightening up their ordinances to make way for electric car charging stations, and Dinuba is right there with them.
In accordance with state legislation, cities like Dinuba with less than 200,000 residents are required to make for a quick and easy permitting process for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. After its second reading, the city of Dinuba officially adopted the ordinance at its Jan. 10 city council meeting. From a statewide standpoint, Dinuba’s public works business manager George Avila said the goal is to enable people’s interest in going electric and eliminate any type of obstacles that could interfere.
“By establishing this expedited process, it facilitates these permits being issued,” Avila said. “So people can be more motivated to build an electric vehicle charging station.”
In addition to speeding up the permitting process, the updated ordinance is part of an overall scheme to minimize air pollution. According to a city staff report on the matter, the statewide plan is to cut down on motorized vehicle emissions and assure the best interest in public health, welfare and safety. With this emphasis on bringing emissions down, Avila said it appears the state is giving priority to electric vehicles as it pulls away from the use of fossil fuels.
“There’s a bunch of things that are being done,” Avila said. “It’s all part of the grand plan and effort from the state to promote cleaner air.”
To get a station, residents will have to fill out a checklist detailing the area of desired installation, the station’s size, zoning etc, and other technical aspects like the station’s voltage, according to Dinuba city attorney David Yanez. He said the state provided examples of ordinances that fall in compliance with the mandate, so the city adopted a code that was deemed basic and straightforward with no major changes to report on the overall ordinance. The checklist is currently in the process of becoming finalized and should be ready to go after input from the city’s fire department is received, according to Yanez.
“That should be approved and ready on the city’s website by Feb. 10, when the ordinance takes effect,” Yanez said.
Also according to the city staff report, the city’s review period timeline is based on the size of the EV station project. Yanez said the standard timeline is based on the state’s established five to 10-day wait for permitting approval, but if the project exceeds 25 stations, then the city has more time to review the application. If an applicant does not receive a response on their permit within the required timeline, then the application is essentially deemed approved and the applicant can carry on the next step. However, Yanez said the city understands it needs to review the applications and provide feedback right away, or they might miss an opportunity to address and mitigate health and safety concerns with the applicant.
“That’s really what the law is saying, that cities can really only review this if there’s some health and safety concerns,” Yanez said.
The mandate for updated EV station codes officially became operative in 2023. The city already had an ordinance for EV charging stations in place following a mandate from Assembly Bill (AB) 1236, which went into effect in 2017 as per the bill’s requirements. However, the passing of AB 970 in 2021 had cities tidying up their city codes to ensure the permitting for the stations could be streamlined. Larger cities were expected to make this change by January 2022 but smaller cities, like Dinuba, had a deadline set for January 2023. Yanez said the city fell a little behind on getting the ordinance updated prior to Jan. 1, due to meeting cancellations and the holidays, but predicted that there shouldn’t be any repercussions on the matter.

Relocated Tiger Pantry at Reedley College gets boost from donation

Reedley’s community development director secures $2,000 funding from Foresters Financial, pantry now located near Student Center

REEDLEY – Reedley College’s Tiger Pantry has a new larger location along with a welcome infusion of money to help meet students’ food and supply needs entering the spring semester of 2023.
Shortly before the winter vacation break in December, Reedley Community Development Director Rodney Horton helped secure a donation of $2,000 from Foresters Financial, a financial services company provider he’s worked for and with in the past.
Horton, a Pennsylvania native who began as the city’s community development director in early 2022, was inspired to secure the donation when he learned about the Tiger Pantry while attending Reedley Collerge’s State of the College program in November.
“The Tiger Pantry really caught my attention, and I want to help knowing how tough it is for college students,” he said. Horton then took the steps of applying for a grant through Foresters Financial, which has a history of helping build communities through grant funding. The result was the grant, which was used for the first time for a donation on Jan. 6, just before the start of the semester.
The initial donation—repeated on Jan. 13—featured boxes of canned food, drinks, bread, chips, cereal and other food staples. The shelves were stocked at the new pantry location, in Room 103 in the Student Center (the former game room site). Up until last semester, the pantry had been located in a concession area near the college’s main gym.
“If people have non-perishable items that are not set to expire and you have no intentions of using it, go ahead and share them from your personal pantry with the folks at Tiger Pantry. It definitely will go to good use,” he said. “We waste so much of our food resources. So being able to share with others really maximizes the use of our food, which for many people is a scarce commodity.”
Horton said there is $100 remaining in grant money, and one more donation, which is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 1.
Elva Vidal, provisional food pantry coordinator, praised Horton for his generosity in securing the donation and his work after that as well.
“He got us set up for the semester, and everyone felt good about that,” she said. “[Rodney] was super nice about asking what the students like, because we get a lot of donations but sometimes it’s things that students can’t use. But all the things he got us were [items] that our residents use, and are saving time.”
Grant money also is going to help Clyde’s Closet, which is in the process of moving to the Career Development Center. Donations are helping to provide professional clothing (jackets, blazers and other items) for students needing them for job interviews.
“It’s nice to see some of the students get some clothing so that they’re able to get their career going,” Vidal said. There may be more grant money available in the future to help stock the closet as well.
In addition to the Tiger Pantry itself, the college also has set up the Diaper Program at the Tiger Pantry in collaboration with the Central California Food Bank. The program offers diapers to student families that have children of diaper-wearing ages.
As students walked through the pantry, checking out the shelves for needed food items, veteran worker Carolina Mata was there to help. Now a senior at Fresno State majoring in nursing and kinesiology, the former Reedley College student continues to work at the pantry to assist her fellow students.
“I started here to gain more experience on how to help others and be able to talk to people because I was a bit shy,” Mata said. “To see [students’] faces when we help them just makes me so happy. It’s wonderful, because now we can order more food because more students are on campus.”
Helping students with their daily nutritional needs during tough times is the whole foundation for the pantry program.
“We want the students to know that the pantry is always around for them,” Vidal said. “Beyond that, we’re here to help guide them. One thing is, we never want them to be hungry, and to be able to focus [on studies]. We have appointment times to sign them up for CalFresh, or if they need more help or assistance.
“We don’t want them to miss an opportunity. So anytime it’s open, and anytime after hours contact us. If you can’t make it, we’re there for you.”

Record harvest boosts Sumo Citrus supply

Sumo Citrus observes twice the amount of produce for 2023, hits the shelves in droves following record crop yield

Mid Valley Times | Staff


DINUBA – Known for their level of sweetness, texture and distinctive “top-knot” look, Sumo Citrus is piling up on shelves this year with double the amount of fruit up for grabs.
Following the largest mandarin harvest to date, customers can find the “world’s favorite fruit” at more stores than previous years, according to brand Sumo Citrus. These mandarins are easily recognizable among fruit aisles for their large sizes, bright, bumpy orange skin and unique top knot that give the fruit its signature look. Sumo Citrus vice president of sales Ron Steele said the brand is pleased to bring this year’s enormous volume of crop yield to consumers.
“We’re so thankful to our incredible growers who have so much pride in what they do,” Steele said. “They work tirelessly year round ensuring that, at harvest time, every single individual piece of fruit meets our unusually high standards of sweetness, taste and texture.”
This year, Sumo Citrus will land in more grocery stores due to an expanded distribution in the U.S. and now Canada. Coming into its thirteenth season of harvest, the 2023 Sumo Citrus season officially started in January and will run through April. The fruit’s prices range from $3.99 to $4.99 a pound. It is available at retailers across the U.S. and sold individually or in bulk bags for convenient sharing, regardless if it’s with the family, at sporting events or at the workplace.
“The growth of the Sumo Citrus brand has completely surpassed our expectations,” Sunnia Gull, Sumo Citrus director of marketing, said. “We’re also fortunate to have enjoyed notable recognition this past year from trusted consumer media organizations like Good Housekeeping and The Kitchn. With all of this incredible momentum, we’re excited for the 2023 season to begin.”
In 2022, the fruit brand saw tremendous growth and received various awards from media outlets, including American women’s magazine Good Housekeeping and food and cooking resource The Kitchn. The brand was named “2022 Best Citrus” in the “Powerhouse Produce” category of Good Housekeeping’s Healthy Snack Awards. In the awards, the fruit was called “juicy and seedless, these enormous mandarins are known for their perfectly balanced sweetness and for being easy to peel.”
In the 2022 Kitchn Essentials Grocery Edition Awards, Kitchn named Sumo Citrus a winner in the “produce” category. On the brand, Kitchn said the fruit was like taking a typical orange and giving it a major “glow-up,” with twice the amount of sweetness, an easy-to-remove peel and no seeds.
“Turns out the orange of our dreams already exists, and it’s all thanks to Sumo Citrus,” Kitchn stated about the fruit in the Kitchn Essentials awards.
Sumo Citrus is derived from a blend of satsuma, orange and mandarin citrus varieties. The fruit was originally cultivated in Japan during the 1970s by a lone grower setting out to develop the “perfect citrus fruit.” It quickly became known as the “dekopon” in reference to its distinctive top knot. Eventually, the fruit made its way to the San Joaquin Valley of California, where highly trained, expert growers who understand the fruit’s unique characteristics are able to cultivate it.
According to Sumo Citrus, the fruit is packed with 163% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C along with three grams of dietary fiber, making for a strong snack option in winter months. Sumo Citrus fruit is also verified as a non-GMO product and is seedless and easy to peel, making it an ideal, no-mess snack for work, home or an on-the-go quick snack.