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In the News - Friday, JULY 7, 2006


County receives

funds for pot wars

   When it comes to the management of public lands in Tulare County, there is no greater threat than that of marijuana cultivation. In addition to public safety issues, the wanton destruction of resources has already cost U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars.
   Last month, it was Sen. Dianne Feinstein who announced that the Interior Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2007 would contain $300,000 earmarked for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. The timing for the appropriation couldn’t be better because, since 2000, the agency has expended hundreds of thousands of dollars raiding gardens on federal lands and has only been reimbursed for a small percentage of the expenditure.
   Sheriff Bill Wittman estimates that the marijuana task force operating in Tulare County since 2004 has eradicated pot plants with a street value of $3.6 billion. The majority of this cultivation occurs in commercial operations overseen by gang cartels, Wittman said.
   Eric Coyne, Tulare County media officer, said the Board of Supervisors has made the escalating pot problem a priority. Steve Worthley, board chairman, and Supervisor Connie Conway made a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby for federal assistance to reimburse the Sheriff’s Department.
   Supervisor Allen Ishida was also in Washington and testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

  “Marijuana cultivation on federal lands is a huge public safety issue,” said Ishida. “The Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Wittman are very concerned. I don’t want to read in the headlines that a hiker has been shot by a gang member because they stumbled onto a marijuana patch while visiting Sequoia National Park.”
   Sheriff Wittman said he was very appreciative of the $300,000 that was approved on June 29. The money, he said, would allow the department to dedicate more manpower to combat the drug cartels that are operating in several remote areas of the county.
   Coyne also announced that the 2006-2007 state budget contains $4.3 million for Tulare County roads.

  “That road money was much more than we expected and is indicative of a budget that overall is a little better for the counties,” Coyne said. “The county should realize those dollars in the next few weeks. That money could be turned into asphalt by the end of 2006.”
   Supervisor Ishida said that on Wednesday, July 19, St. Anthony Retreat will host a special reception for the Sierra Nevada Conservancy. Ishida serves as a director of that organization and will lead a tour earlier that day of District 1 (Three Rivers) sites for potential grant projects.
   The reception is open to the public and is an opportunity for the Three Rivers community to get more involved with the new conservancy. For more information, call Supervisor Ishida, 733-6271.

Cyber Café logs on

for second year

   When Tony and Pat Moreno opened the Three Rivers Cyber Café one year ago they were faced with letting their customers know what they didn’t do.

  “At first, I couldn’t believe all the folks who thought we served some kind of cuisine in here,” Tony recalls. “No, unfortunately, we are not a restaurant but rather an onramp for what I like to call the information superhighway.”
   And although the café does offer soft drinks, coffee, and snacks, the Morenos admit at first they weren’t quite sure where that road was leading in terms of owning a computer-based business with a storefront. From the outset, a stream of visitors from nearly every    European country and lots of other places stopped by to log on and check email, send a digital photo, or just check up on what was going on back home.
   Internet savvy travelers from all over the globe frequent the friendly, informal Three Rivers atmosphere the Morenos have created to search for travel routes and book reservations.

  “We’ve become a local clearinghouse for information, and visitors who are used to these café experiences enter these doors pretty much knowing what searches they want to start out doing,” said Tony. “I expected the traffic in the tourist season and we have really enjoyed meeting and greeting all the folks who have walked through our door.”
   But Tony said he has been pleasantly surprised by the computer repair part of the business that has really skyrocketed. It took a little more investment of time and an education process that helped to acquaint more locals with the business.
   Now all the classes and free seminars are really starting to pay dividends.

  “Most users need some kind of help with their computer, whether it’s cleaning viruses or upgrading software,” Tony said. “People really appreciate the fact that I make house calls.”
   So when Tony is out on a service call, Pat is tending the shop and helping Internet users log on, dispensing vital visitor information, or running a color copy of a document or a photo.

  “In the high-tech world there is always something new,” Tony says. “In the last year it’s been high-speed Internet that’s getting even faster, wireless hot spots, and inexpensive long-distance phone calling to anywhere on the planet via the Internet.”
   With a year on the books, these technophiles know where they are headed and it’s an exciting place. So with their characteristic down-home style, this Saturday, July 8, Tony and Pat will host a very special high-tech event just to thank all their friends and customers for a great inaugural year.

  “Everyone is invited and that’s what the celebration is all about,” Tony said. “Just to say thanks.”

Art absconded

from storefront… again

   In April, it was a Potwisha camper who made off with a large, heavy wall fountain from in front of Three Rivers Garden Arts. Although a Sequoia Park ranger remembered seeing the curious piece it was never recovered.
   On the evening of July 4, someone made off with a 75-pound reddish-stained cement ball that was part of another fountain. According to the shop’s owner, this was a theft of a different kind.

  “The thief didn’t make off with the whole fountain, just the heavy ball that sat on top,” Bonnie Waldron, the shop’s owner reported. “I am convinced that this is a malicious crime by somebody local.”
   Waldron said that this theft irks her even more than the last one. This piece, she said, is valued at several hundred dollars.

  “These artworks are quite heavy and it’s important to display them in front of my store,” Waldron said. “I’m now considering moving my business elsewhere.”
   Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact Waldron at her shop or the Sheriff’s Department, 733-6211.


Jack Ennis
1923 ~ 2006

   John “Jack” Ennis Jr., a 16-year resident of Three Rivers, died Saturday, June 24, 2006. He was 82.
   Jack was born Dec. 17, 1923, in Manhattan, N.Y. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
   Following his retirement in 1990 from Litton Aerospace in Woodland Hills, he and his wife, Sami, moved to Three Rivers.
   In addition to his wife, Sami, Jack is survived by his son, John Ennis III; daughters Martha Scuria and Mary Hudson; and six grandchildren.
   Services were held last week and he was laid to rest in Chatsworth with veteran’s honors.

Richard Collins
1923 ~ 2006

   Richard Vincent Collins, formerly of Three Rivers, died Wednesday, June 28, 2006, in Prairie Village, Kan., due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 83.
   Dick was born June 8, 1923, in Salina, Kan., to Leroy Vincent Collins and Julia Beryl Cost Collins. He attended Harvard University and Kansas State University, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Physics.
   He served in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1946, then again from 1951 to 1954. From 1949 until his retirement in 1977, he worked for the Midwest Research Institute, then Butler Manufacturing.
   Dick married the former Carol Campbell in 1949. She preceded him in death after 46 years of marriage.
   He later reunited with a former classmate, Isabelle Neal Elmer, of Three Rivers. They were married in 1998 and Dick relocated to Three Rivers.
   He was a member of the Three Rivers Community Presbyterian Church and former member of the Visalia Mighty Oaks Barbershop Chorus.
   In addition to his wife of eight years, Isabelle Elmer Collins, of Three Rivers, Richard is survived by his daughter, Dana, and husband Tom Moriarty of Fairway, Kan.; Isabelle’s daughters, Susan and Nan; grandson, Richard Collins Moriarty of Fairway, Kan., granddaughters, Dhanya and Quincy of Sedona, Ariz.; and two sisters, Doris Ann Yordy of Great Falls, Mont., and Carol Mae Bruton of Denver, Colo., and their families.
   A memorial service was held Friday, June 30, in Prairie Village, Kan. Remembrances may be made to the Community Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 685, Three Rivers, CA 93271.

Karl Opitz
1913 ~ 2006

   Karl Opitz, a former longtime resident of Three Rivers, died Wednesday, June 28, 2006., in Fresno. He was 93.
   Karl was born Feb. 13, 1913, in Los Angeles. He and his wife, Helen, relocated to Three Rivers in the1950s.
   Karl was a Tulare County farm advisor, then a subtropical horticulture specialist at the University of California San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Research and Extension Center. He played a prominent role in the expansion of citrus and olive production and the development of the pistachio industry in the San Joaquin Valley.
   Upon his retirement, he could be seen daily in his yard of his Dinely Drive home. His cymbidium orchids were his pride and joy.
   In November 2001, Karl was preceded in death by his wife, Helen. No services are scheduled.

Ray Strong
1905 ~ 2006

   Ray Strong of Three Rivers died Monday, July 3, 2006. He was 101.
   Ray was born in January 1905 in Corvallis, Ore. He lived in Santa Barbara from 1960 to July 2004 when he moved to Three Rivers to live with his daughter, Barbara Strong.
   Ray began painting when he was eight years old and made a career out of this talent. He received his early training from private teachers, as well as at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and the Art Students’ League in New York. But Ray would say that he learned the most from nature.
   During the Depression, he worked for the federal Public Works of Art Project, painting murals at public buildings and parks. In 1960, Dr. Ventress VanderHoof, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History director, invited Ray to paint nine dioramas for the new Bird Habitat Hall.
   When the commission was completed, Ray and his wife, Betty, stayed in Santa Barbara. He co-founded the Santa Barbara Art Institute and a plein air painters organization called “The Oak Group.” He was known in Santa Barbara as “the dean of plein air painting.”
   Ray continued to paint up until his death, including landscapes of Three Rivers in his portfolio.
   In 1992, Ray was preceded in death by his wife, Elizabeth. He is survived by his daughter, Barbara, as well as son Tim of Upper Lake.
   No services will be held per Ray’s request.

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