of Kaweah Country
readers' poll results --
The Best of Kaweah Country
the News - Friday, SEPTEMBER 17, 2004
pot in them thar hills…
Recent bust nets
By John Elliott
On Tuesday, Sept. 14, a task force of Tulare County Sheriff’s
deputies eradicated a marijuana garden above the Sierra King subdivision
south of the Mineral King Road on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
Officers removed more than 4,000 plants, some of which reached heights
of six feet or more.
“This is our busiest
time of the season as the plants begin to mature,” said Sergeant
Michael Strawser, the strike force commander. “A number of other
gardens have also been discovered, so we’ll be returning to Three
Rivers maybe as early as next week.”
The raid began with a procession of Tulare County vehicles
traveling up Sierra Drive just as students were boarding morning school
buses. Heavily armed deputies dressed in camouflage were distributed among
a dozen trucks and patrol vehicles.
Sgt. Strawser said that Southern California Edison employees
first spotted the garden while inspecting a segment of the flume. The
East Fork flume supplies river water for hydroelectric generation to Power
House No. 1 in Three Rivers.
possible that this was one of the gardens that the growers intended us
to find,” Strawser said. “The magnitude of all that is being
cultivated is difficult to imagine.”
Investigators now believe that the most powerful of the Mexican
drug cartels are operating in Kern, Tulare, and Fresno counties. And it’s
the marijuana that’s the flagship business; the methamphetamine
production, Strawser said, is merely a means to generate money during
“The really big
money and profits are in marijuana cultivation,” Strawser said.
There is so much at stake, the experts say, even legalization
won’t solve the problem.
“If pot were legalized
then the growers would evade the taxes and target smokers under the age
of 18,” Strawser said.
This season to date, deputies in Tulare County have eradicated
“If you subtract
the extraordinary garden [72,000 plants] that we took down on the Tule
reservation in 2003, then we are actually ahead of last year in terms
of eradication,” Strawser said. “We are getting lots of information
from ranchers and local residents, especially in the Three Rivers area.”
Strawser also said that deputies have made only one arrest
because the growers seem to know just when to run.
“In Badger, we
arrested a Mexican national in a garden with a weapon and methamphetamine
base in his possession,” Strawser said. “The suspect said
he was acting alone and the judge gave him a suspended sentence.”
According to Strawser, the department would like to set up
checkpoints on key roads during the peak harvest season. Unfortunately,
there are issues like racial profiling and the fact that Tulare County
lacks the sufficient manpower and resources.
After gathering several hundred pounds of the most recent
haul, the pot was loaded on a county truck and transported to a site east
of the Bob Wiley Detention Center. The contraband, which would have had
an estimated value of $16.1 million if it had hit the streets, was then
doused with diesel fuel and burned.
when we can hit them [the growers] hard and see millions of their dollars
go up in smoke,” said a deputy.
County cuts fire protection
At the Tuesday, Sept. 14, Board of Supervisors meeting, Tulare
County fire chief David Hillman announced a plan to cut firefighter positions
at six fire stations, but not at Three Rivers. Chief Hillman said the
cuts, effective October 1, are necessary because of a $1.8 million shortfall
in the county’s fire budget.
knew about the shortfall when we approved the current budget,” said
Supervisor Bill Sanders, whose district includes Three Rivers. “In
this year alone, the state authorized 28-percent raises in CDF benefits.”
Sanders said there is no way that the county general fund
can keep pace with those kinds of increases for CDF personnel. Tulare
County contracts with the California Department of Forestry (CDF) for
its fire protection in unincorporated areas.
The cuts, Sanders said, will not immediately affect Three
Rivers. At the end of the current fire season, Chief Hillman’s “Amador
Plan” calls for CDF personnel now stationed at Hammond to cover
That allows Chief Hillman to use the county firefighter normally
stationed at Three Rivers to cover elsewhere in the county. The rationale
behind the plan is that during the off-season when there are fewer calls,
state firefighters assigned to cover mountain forests can also service
foothills communities like Three Rivers and Springville.
But at least one local ambulance volunteer and paid call
firefighter, who asked not to be identified, said Three Rivers would be
“During an incident
when local CDF personnel are asked to serve as backup response in other
areas, response time might be affected,” Sanders admitted.
Sanders said he plans to call for a countywide assessment
and a fee on new development to help raise funding for the escalating
going to let the system collapse, but we must find a quick fix and a long-term
solution,” Sanders said.
After Chief Hillman presents the details of his budget cuts,
Sanders said he plans to call a Three Rivers Town Meeting and invite Chief
Hillman to address Three Rivers.
“Three Rivers will
not lose its firefighters and there won’t be a reduction in service,”
DUI causes motorcycle crash
On Sunday, Sept. 12, Daniel Santos of Visalia was riding his 1999 Harley
Davidson westbound on Sierra Drive in the vicinity of the First Baptist
Church. According to Greg Fox, California Highway Patrol investigating
officer, Santos failed to negotiate the curve and left the roadway striking
a utility guy-wire.
Santos, 54, was not seriously injured but received bruises and lacerations.
He was transported by ambulance to Kaweah Delta Hospital.
Based on evidence gathered at the scene, the cause of the accident was
determined to be the fact that Santos was driving under the influence
(DUI) of alcohol.
TRUS seeks bus driver,
By Amy Dolcourt-McElroy
On Wednesday, Sept. 8, at their first meeting of the 2004-2005
school year, the Three Rivers Union School board of trustees faced a variety
Welcome news is that enrollment grew by 20 students over
the summer, bringing the total to 192. This could increase the 2005-2006
budget, as schools are funded based on the previous year’s average
daily attendance. The newly enlarged student load is not a detriment to
this year’s budget.
Off-ballot candidates— As of Tuesday, Sept. 14, seven
individuals had expressed interest in the two vacant school board positions.
The deadline to apply for the school board is today (Friday, September
17). Candidates should submit to the TRUS office a resume and letter of
intent addressed to “Board of Trustees.” The candidates will
be invited for a public interview at the Wednesday, Oct. 6, meeting, and
the two new school board members, elected by the sitting board, will be
sworn in at the December organizational meeting.
Route reorganization— Forty-nine students
rely on the school bus for transportation to and from school, but currently
there is not enough staff to drive all the necessary runs. TRUS superintendent
Sue Sherwood is temporarily taking the morning run up South Fork Drive
in her own car. In the meantime, the board is considering whether to hire
a part-time bus driver, not hire any bus driver, or to ask Woodlake Union
School District to host one run. The board will present a final decision
at the October 6 meeting.
Other transportation revisions during the past couple of
school years include each teacher being allotted one field trip per year
by bus. And, currently, after-school athletics no longer take a bus to
out-of-town games, but instead relies on private cars and parent drivers
for the commute.
Update and upgrade— The board approved
the financing for more than 15 modernization projects, ranging from replacing
the heating and air-conditioning in the portable building (room numbers
4 to 7) to increasing the well capacity to installing blinds in the gym.
The projects will begin after the plans are approved by the
Division of State Architecture, which the board expects will occur some
time in December.
The funding for these projects comes from a $600,000 grant
from the State of California, and since TRUS qualified under “financial
hardship,” the usual fund-matching requirement has been waived.
A matter of principle:
Local youth, leaders
‘American Heritage Girls’
It all came down to one small yet powerful word: “God.”
Due to the Girl Scouts of America allowing “flexibility” in
the use of the word “God” in the Girl Scout Promise, leaders
from a Three Rivers troop became disillusioned with the worldwide organization,
finding the omission of God unacceptable for their young daughters.
The group of girls in grades four through six are now affiliated
with the nonprofit “American Heritage Girls,” an organization
founded in 1995 on the premise of “building women of integrity through
service to God, family, community, and country.”
While the name has changed, the experiences remain the same
and the membership dues are retained locally to assist with club projects.
The girls, under the guidance of their leaders, will continue to accomplish
activities and projects to earn badges, plan and participate in events,
and they have adopted the Community Food Pantry as their pet community-service
On the November 4 general election ballot, Three Rivers residents
will be asked to decide whether a measure to assess a property tax to
assist with the Memorial Building’s operation and maintenance should
According to Bill Tidwell, Three Rivers Memorial District
president, expenses currently surpass income at the Memorial Building,
which has been a local events center for more than 40 years.
Currently, the Senior League, Lions Club, Woman’s Club,
and Jazz Club hold meetings here. It is also available for weddings and
The Three Rivers Woman’s Club recently contributed
a generous donation to assist with the facility’s operations until,
and if, voters approve the funding initiative. The Three Rivers Lions
Club also contributed several thousand dollars.
By John Elliott
It was a season opening game that the Woodlake Tiger fans
would just as soon forget. But the ceremony prior to the game honoring
coaching legend Leo Robinson was something those who attended will always
remember and attracted media attention from several local television stations.
Four speakers including son Ron Robinson, a retired Major
League baseball player, paid tribute to the late Coach Robinson and reminded
the large crowd what an inspiration his 41 years at Woodlake had been
to all who knew and played for him.
Frank Ainley, Woodlake’s current athletic director,
spent many years coaching with Robinson. He said what distinguished Robinson
is that he never gave up and “Coach Robinson just got the dad-gum
After the glowing tributes, a contingent of current Tiger
players led a procession from the bench over to the southeast corner of
the stadium. There, in front of Robinson family and a legion of Tiger
fans, the players unveiled the new monument to Coach Robinson adorned
with a remarkable likeness in bronze and plaques listing the records of
“A True Tiger.”
Ainley said it is a tremendous challenge coaching at a small
school like Woodlake and nobody met that challenge better than Coach Robinson.
“In high school
football, there is no draft or free agents,” Ainley said. “We
just go out each season and do the best we can do with what the good Lord
The game was anti-climatic after all the emotion of the dedication
ceremony. Tranquillity took the opening kickoff and in spite of committing
two critical penalties, scored on a nine-yard run. The extra point staked
Tranquility’s Tigers to a 7-0 lead.
On Woodlake’s opening series, sophomore quarterback
Ryan Baker completed two passes, but the running game stalled and the
Tigers were forced to punt. Tranquillity started another drive that ended
when Travis Groeber, senior linebacker, made a key tackle and Tranquillity
was forced to punt.
But a fumble by the Tigers allowed Tranquillity to recover
the errant ball deep inside Woodlake’s territory. A quick 21-yard
burst and a botched extra point had Tranquillity leading 13-0 with 6:46
remaining in the first half.
On Woodlake’s next drive, Baker completed five of six
passes and had his youthful Tigers deep in Tranquillity territory. He
then scored Woodlake’s only points of the game on a three-yard quarterback
After a long pass play just before halftime, Tranquillity
regained the game’s momentum by scoring on a six-yard pass. A two-pointer
failed and the visiting (Tranquillity) Tigers led 19-6.
In the second half, an interception and several penalties
stopped Woodlake before they could ever mount any comeback. On this night,
they were simply outplayed by a more experienced team and succumbed 33-6.
“We expected them
[Tranquillity] to play well because we knew they had 14 starters who returned
to play this season,” said Doc Harrow, Tiger team trainer. “This
just might be their year.”
In the junior varsity game, the Tigers prevailed 7-6 in a
defensive struggle. A game-saving tackle on a two-point conversion attempt
as time expired preserved the Woodlake win.
1915 ~ 2004
Arnold Claire Burnett died of cancer on Sunday, Aug. 29,
2004, in Phoenix, Ariz. The former Kaweah Country resident was 89.
A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Saturday, Sept.
18) at 1 p.m. at the Three Rivers home of Ollie Craig. All who knew Arnold
are welcome to attend.
Arnold was born on Aug. 24, 1915, in Sanger to Clyde and
Marie Burnett. He was raised on the family farm and attended Fresno State
Arnold worked for the Bank of America for 20 years. In 1950,
he was appointed manager of the Woodlake branch, at the time the youngest
person in bank history to achieve this position.
In the late 1950s, with his friends Ollie and Leon Craig
of Three Rivers, Arnold formed LOA, a mail-order company. The company
was awarded computerized postage permit number one.
An envelope with this postal imprint was sent to the Moon
and back. Arnold was very proud to have been a part of this achievement.
Arnold was a member of the Lions Club International, Rotary
International, Masons, and Eastern Star. He served as Worthy Patron of
Eastern Star in Woodlake.
Arnold loved flying airplanes and was a member of the Woodlake
flying club. He enjoyed traveling, ballroom dancing, and playing bridge
with his Three Rivers friends.
Arnold was preceded in death by his older sister, Gilberta
Powell, and his youngest son, Jim.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Miriam; son Bill
Burnett; daughter Jan Burnett; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren;
his sister, Harriett Hickman; and several nieces and nephews.