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In the News - Friday, jANUARY 13, 2006

Supervisors reorganize,

address development

   Allen Ishida will serve as vice-chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors for 2006. He was selected by a unanimous vote of the board at Tuesday’s (January 10) regular meeting.
In that role, Ishida will serve as chair-in-waiting under the 2006 chairman, Steve Worthley, District Four supervisor. He could step in as chairman to conduct the meetings in Worthley’s absence.
   Traditionally, the chair positions are rotated on an annual basis. With Worthley assuming the chair, the vice-chair would then be Jim Maples, District Five supervisor.
   Maples, who announced that he is retiring in December 2006, deferred to his colleague Ishida. Supervisor Ishida is then in line to become chairman in 2007.

  “It was a situation where Jim [Maples] thought the long-range interests of the board would be better served if Allen [Ishida] had the opportunity to gain the experience,” said Eric Coyne, who handles the board’s media relations.
   Coyne said the vice-chair qualifies for a higher rate of pay so it was a noble gesture by Maples.
   In other BOS business, the Planning Commission met Wednesday, Jan. 11, and requested that Tom Cairns of Lemon Cove Granite “fish or cut bait.” Cairns’s mining permit was extended last year so an Environmental Impact Report could be prepared.
   The extension ends this month so the commission has the option to cancel the permit if no EIR is forthcoming. Next week, the county Planning Department will meet with Cairns and his consultant, Quad Knopf, who have asked for another year’s extension.
   County staff also updated the Planning Commission on several matters including the Kaweah River Management Plan. That’s the ordinance that regulates commercial rafting on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River.

  “In the 2005 season that ran for 11 weeks there were no problems and no complaints,” said George Finney, long-range planning director. “In fact, there have been no complaints in the last several years so in the future staff will only present an annual report if there are any new developments or complaints.”
   Theresa Szymanis, the countywide planning manager, said that two new staff members have been hired, one of whom will be working to complete the county’s general plan. The other person has a background in historical preservation and will help monitor Native American issues and assist with scenic-highway applications.

  “We expect to complete the county’s general plan by the end of the year,” Szymanis said.
   Ishida also said that the Board of Supervisors would discuss the next go-round on the proposed J.G. Boswell Company development in Yokohl Valley at its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Those wishing to address the board during the public comment period should call 733-6271 or check the agenda at:

‘Build it’: Assemblyman

promotes scenic highway bill

   This month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave his State of the State speech with the recurring phrase, “I say build it,” referring to several major initiatives, including transportation.
   On Thursday, Jan. 26, Assemblyman Bill Maze (R-District 34) will travel to Three Rivers for a special Town Meeting to provide a first-hand report from Sacramento. Maze was in the audience for the governor’s speech and will have the latest reaction to the bold plans.
   It is Maze’s bill to designate State Route 198 a scenic highway that could have immediate implications for the future of Three Rivers. The legislation, now in a Senate committee, seeks to change the current status of “declared eligible” to “officially designated.”
   Tom Sparks, spokesperson for the Village Foundation, the group sponsoring the meeting, believes that the scenic highway designation is the foundation on which to build the future of Three Rivers.

  “We’ve learned some difficult lessons and have come to the realization that the scenic highways program is the best hope to get grant money here,” Sparks said. “At the upcoming meeting, Assemblyman Maze will tell us more about the opportunities that are available in this program.”
   Sparks said because Highway 198 was declared eligible years ago, a corridor protection plan was adopted by the county as a general plan amendment. Under this amendment, county and state officials can apply certain rules to all new construction along the corridor that includes the highway around Lake Kaweah and through the town of Three Rivers.
   The existing corridor protection plan, which dictates that new construction must be set back at least 100 feet from the centerline of the highway, will be subject to review and updated as a part of the new legislation. Sparks said the scenic highway status would bring both benefits and obligations to the affected communities.
Sparks said a properly administered program would do the following:

  —Protect from encroachment or inappropriate land use and preserve scenic values by proper placement, landscaping, or screening.

  —Make development compatible with the environment and harmonious with the surroundings.

  —Maintain grading standards that prevent erosion and preserve existing contours and vegetation whenever possible.

  —Protect hillsides by maintaining open ridgelines and opting only for low-density development on steep slopes.

  —Void the need for sound walls by using appropriate setbacks for residential development adjacent to the highway.

  “The community benefits of the program are obvious,” Sparks said. “We can preserve an identity of a place while enhancing land values. When we do these things, the area is even more attractive to residents and visitors.”
   To facilitate a more direct line to transportation enhancement funding, Sparks was recently appointed as an alternate to the board of the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG). That’s the funding conduit for millions of dollars in grants, and Sparks hopes to steer some of that money toward local projects.
   Through the Village Foundation at the upcoming meeting, Sparks will bring together a cross-section of the Three Rivers community to furnish input for the Maze legislation. There will also be an update on the grant for a playground project and plans to form a local chamber of commerce.

Assault supect to be arraigned;

burglaries rampant during holidays

   Earlier this week, Jim Fansett, Three Rivers’ resident deputy sheriff, was able to make more details public related to an assault case that occurred New Year’s Eve on North Kaweah Drive. In that incident, Stan McDowell, 66, a longtime resident of Three Rivers, discharged a shotgun at his residence wounding a female companion.
   According to the police report, the woman sustained minor injuries. McDowell was booked into Tulare County Jail but released Thursday, Jan. 5, on $60,000 bail.
   Today (Friday, Jan. 13), McDowell is scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing to enter a plea on three separate charges stemming from the shooting incident, including assault with a deadly weapon, making terrorist threats, and brandishing a firearm.
   As a result of the investigation, at least one item stolen in a Christmas burglary at an Old Three Rivers Drive residence was recovered from McDowell’s property. The item, a cuckoo clock, was returned to its owner.

  “At this stage in the investigation we can’t be certain that McDowell knew the item was stolen,” Fansett said.
   Breaking and entering-- There were three burglaries reported over the holidays; two were residential and one occurred at Three Rivers School. The one involving the missing clock occurred sometime on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
   The victim in that burglary reported food items among the missing loot that included antique saws and possibly two firearms. The value of the loss was estimated at $2,500.
   Another burglary at a North Kaweah Drive residence was also reported over the holiday period. In that heist, a computer valued at $800 was stolen.

  “That one was really strange because the computer was all that was stolen and there were lots of other valuables left untouched,” said Deputy Fansett.
   Fansett said he couldn’t be sure that this burglary was related to any of the other recent incidents. The victim said the computer contained the records of a business that was recently sold.
   The burglary at Three Rivers School occurred sometime during Christmas vacation between December 16 and 31. A thief or thieves pried open a rear window to the computer lab to gain entry and then stole at least five processors and monitors, a digital camera, and a video camera.
   Anyone with information that could aid in the investigation of these or any crime is asked to call Deputy Fansett at 740-8894.

Pick your poison:
Friday the 13th

or Full Moon

   The most pervasive superstition in western civilization is the fear of the number 13 — streets, building floors, desks, and room numbers traditionally exclude this number. And even in these oh-so-modern times, it is estimated that eight percent of Americans will consider Friday the 13th (that’s today!) a day fraught with peril.
   For the rest of the population, the day may actually be a bit safer as many others will choose to remain home.
   The origins of triskaidekaphobia, especially when the number coincides with a Friday (paraskevidekatriaphobia) are deep-rooted yet growing misty with time. From Greek goddesses to the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, several incidents are blamed for the worldwide shunning of 13, the most misunderstood number.
   And, thank goodness, this month’s Full Moon misses Friday the 13th by one night or things might have really gone “loony.”

   Odd occurrences have also been noted through the ages during the Full Moon, which occurs this month on Saturday, Jan. 14. The Moon-goddess Luna is blamed for this phenomena, because early Christians believed that worshippers of Luna were crazy, or “lunatics.”
   As a result, the belief remains today that lunacy and other psychic disturbances are affected by the Full Moon.

Flu arrives

in the foothills

   Flu season has started a little early in Kaweah Country this year, though not with the vengeance that it has in other parts of the state. Flu season usually starts to take off in mid-January and can peak in January, February, or March.
   California is among four states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified as hot spots for influenza. Other states include Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.
   As Tulare County enters the height of flu season, health professionals recommend slowing its spread with frequent hand washing, not sharing food or drink; covering coughs and sneezes; avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; and getting regular exercise, plenty of rest, and eat healthy, balanced meals. Those who develop flu-like symptoms should stay home from work or school.
    Symptoms include fever, cough, nausea, and headache.
   Vaccines are still available, unlike last year when widespread shortages were reported.
   A person who has received the vaccine might still contract the flu. It could be a different strain of flu than is covered in the vaccine or it could mean the vaccine only weakened the virus’s strength, instead of totally protecting against it.
   CDC officials report that no particular demographic group is hit harder than others, but children, the elderly, and those with chronic diseases are most vulnerable.
   For local information about flu cases and the availability of the vaccine, call the Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency, 685-4703.


Celesta Beutler Moffitt,

raised and educated in Three Rivers
1935 ~ 2005
   Celesta A. Beutler Moffitt died peacefully at her Yakima, Wash., home on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2005, after a long, courageous battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease). She was 70.
   Graveside and memorial services were held December 12 in Yakima. A local service will be held Saturday, Jan. 21, 1 p.m., at the Presbyterian Church of Woodlake, 600 W. Naranjo Blvd. (at Cypress Street).
   Celesta was born March 11, 1935, in Colton, Calif., to Willis and Frances Beutler, who later moved their family to Three Rivers, residing on the North Fork and owning and operating the Three Rivers Market. Celesta was raised in Three Rivers and enjoyed the Sierra Nevada Mountains where she spent many days in the summer with her grandfather, Onis Brown, a mountain guide and packer, and skied often during the winter.
   After graduating from Woodlake High School, she attended College of the Sequoias in Visalia, where she met the love of her life, Harold (Hal)Moffitt. They were married in Three Rivers on Nov. 27, 1954.
   Celesta spent the early years of her marriage raising three children and working to help support the family while Hal was in graduate school at the University of California in Riverside. In 1967, the family moved to Wenatchee, Wash., where Celesta continued raising her family and working in a State of Washington research laboratory.
   In 1969, the family moved to Yakima, where she spent the rest of her life. In Yakima, she worked in various research and quality control laboratories until she opened her own business.
   Celesta was an accomplished needlework artist and for a number of years owned and operated the Knit Shop in Yakima. She was adept at knitting and cross stitch, having completed many sweaters that served as models in the shop (and later were given to family members).
   One of her major endeavors was the completion of 20 elaborate cross-stitch canvases of angels and fairies of which she was most proud. She enjoyed sharing her knowledge and ability with her many customers and friends.
   In later years, she became a stained glass artisan and created many windows for homes and businesses in the Yakima area and lamps and door windows in homes of the family.
   Celesta and Hal enjoyed travel, particularly in their RV to the mountains and beaches of western North America. In 2004, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a trip to Alaska. Over the years they have traveled to Canada, Mexico, Fiji, New Zealand, and Thailand.
   Celesta is survived by her husband of 51 years, Harold; her sons, Michael Moffitt and his wife, Angie, of Puyallup, Wash., and Patrick Moffitt and wife Donna of Yakima; her daughter, Karen Smelser, and husband Tom of Hermiston, Ore.; her mother, Frances Beutler of Woodlake; her brothers, Garry Beutler and wife Jan of Porterville and Larry Beutler and wife Diana of Twain Harte; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
   Celesta was preceded in death by her father, Willis Beutler.
   In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the ALS Association-Evergreen Chapter and Memorial Home Health and Hospice, in care of Valley Hills Funeral Home, 2600 Business Lane, Yakima, WA 98901.





  Community volunteers honored, the annual events season, and the beginning of what would be a number of weather-related Sierra tragedies made headlines in Spring 2005. THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH in retrospect, a month-long series, continues...
   April 1— The month kicked off with the Commonwealth’s April Fool's issue. Just for fun, the editorial copy and ads were printed in reverse position.
   THE LEAD story explained that John Hanggi would be honored by the Lions Club at Recognition Night for being a longtime, on-call responder to hundreds of local emergencies — fires, traffic accidents, and medical aids.
   OFFICIALS AT Sequoia National Park conducted a special tour for media and lobbyists to call attention to their efforts to restore lands that had been clandestinely used to grow marijuana. Several park employees made an impassioned plea to help get more funding for the cleanup of park lands trashed by growers.
   DAYTIME TEMPERATURES were in the upper 70s making the chilly waters of the Kaweah River inviting but extremely dangerous.
   April 8— The 32nd annual Jazzaffair came marching into town. Nine bands played to appreciative audiences at three venues. Rain on Thursday evening and Friday failed to dampen the spirits of those who partied at one of the most successful festivals on the traditional jazz circuit.
   THE APRIL 1 snow totals contained good news for weather watchers. The Kaweah River basin came in at a healthy 159 percent of the norm. Lodgepole (at 6,700 feet elevation), where most Sequoia visitors venture to enjoy winter play, reported 71 inches.
   Farewell Gap in Mineral King at 9,600 feet measured a whopping 12 feet. Rainfall at a gauge located at 1,000 feet in Three Rivers measured 20.50 inches in a very impressive season.
   April 15— Dick Martin, who had served as superintendent of Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks for four years, announced his retirement. Martin’s career, which spanned 43 years as an NPS employee, said his retirement would be effective June 3.
   COUNTY PLANNERS held a local general plan workshop in Three Rivers that had participants wondering what had happened to all the work put in by local volunteers on a Three Rivers element to the county document.
   Planners explained that the county was dealing with more pressing issues like a surge in population growth in the unincorporated communities along highways 99 and 65. Supervisor Ishida said a draft of the county plan is still at least three years off.
   MOUNT WHITNEY’S notorious Notch claimed its second climber of the year. The mishap occurred when Patrick Wang, 27, of Hillsborough, Ore., fell 1,000 feet in a cross-country portion of the snowbound route.
   April 22— For the first time in its 56-year history, the Three Rivers Team Roping was a four-day event. Roping chairman Nancy Brunson said the Lions were trying the new format in order to finish earlier each evening and also because there were more volunteers than ever before.
   The annual event is the largest fundraiser of the year for the local Lions Club. It also means thousands of dollars pumped into the local economy, said Van Bailey, former chairman and one of the Lions credited with rescuing the event in the early 1990s when it was teetering on the brink of extinction.
   TULARE COUNTY restructured its fire service provided by the California Department of Forestry (CDF) in order to address an immediate budget shortfall of more than $1.7 million. Under the reorganization, 15 full-time firefighter positions were eliminated, closing stations at Lemon Cove, Woodville, Dinuba, Doyle Colony, and Visalia.
   The immediate savings in the rest of the fiscal year would be $250,000 and more than a million in the next. The supervisors ordered staff to look into more ways to cut costs.
   THE SNOWPACK remained stubbornly solid especially in the higher elevations. At Farewell Gap there was still 10 feet of snow at the remote sensor.
   April 29— For the first time in years, Kaweah Country was stocked with trout to encourage local fisherman to stay home and fish. Hundreds of trout weighing at least a half-pound were added to Lake Kaweah and the Kaweah River.
   To be continued (Part 1 is on the Jan. 6 page; Part 3 will be published next week).

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