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About Town, Week of Aug. 12

Aug. 16, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: A service was held for the late Rhea DeHart at St. Patrick’s Church in Watsonville Friday. DeHart was a longtime teacher, union member, PVUSD Board of Trustee, mentor and activist who helped lead the drive to unionize South County teachers. She died Aug. 2 at Valley Convalescent Hospital at 96. Close to 200 people attended the 3 p.m. event.

A tree limb that broke loose and landed on a power line led to a power outage Thursday for about 6,060 PG&E customers in Santa Cruz and another 280 in Capitola. Around 3 p.m. the limb struck the lines near Portrero and River streets in Santa Cruz. The dropped lines triggered a fence fire and power outage. 

Work is on schedule for the new addition to Pajaro Valley Prevention and Student Assistance on the corner of East Lake and Brewington avenues. Ground was broken in September 2018 for the $3.1 million project on the property that formerly held medical offices. CEO Erica Padilla-Chavez said completion is slated for December with a January move in.

A car chase that ended in a grassy field near Riverside Thursday somehow triggered a five-acre grass fire, set two homes on fire and destroyed three outbuildings. The blaze, in the Moreno Valley area, also severely damaged or destroyed nine vehicles including the stolen car and two sheriff’s SUV patrol vehicles. The incident started around 4 p.m. when Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies initiated a pursuit of a reported stolen vehicle. Deputies ended up detaining two people.

A gas leak on campus at Aromas School sent kids home early on their first day of school Thursday. No injuries were reported. A crew from PG&E responded and were able to safely repair the problem. School will resume today on normal schedule.

Watsonville Police will conduct a DUI checkpoint between 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday at an undisclosed location.

Watsonville Police have joined forces with law agencies around the state in wearing black bands across their badges in recognition for CHP officer, Andre Moye Jr., who died Monday in Riverside near Interstate 215.

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Watsonville Police wear black bands over their badges in honor of a CHP officer who died in the line of duty Monday in Riverside. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Aug. 15, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula:

California Highway Patrol officers raced around the Watsonville Nursing Center Thursday searching for a man who ran from them following a traffic stop. CHP officer Julieta Trenado said officers tried to pull over the Watsonville man in a red Honda for speeding and a registration issue on Auto Center Drive at 2:30 p.m. When he stopped, he took off on foot and disappeared behind 535 Auto Center Drive. Watsonville Police joined the CHP in creating a wide perimeter and then in a search of the nursing center. As of 3:30 p.m. the man had not been located, Trenado said.

The other day the little warning light in my dashboard lit up, indicating a tire problem. On my way home from work I swung into Lloyd’s Tire Mid-Town at 5:15 p.m., though I knew it was past closing time. Still, when the worker, Jose, spotted me from inside the locked door, he came right out and asked me what was going on. When I explained the dash light, he quickly did a walk around and said, “Come by after 7:30 and we’ll pressure you and see what’s going on.”

On Thursday morning as I rolled into their driveway on my way to work, Jose was at my window before I turned the key off. Before I got out of the car he was checking my left rear.

“Here’s your problem.” With that, he got the tire off and found a screw deep in the tread. Off he went into the work area. He got the tire off within minutes and began fixing the problem. Several months ago Jose sold me two new tires and talked me into a $30 insurance plan for them. When he was done with the repair Thursday morning he showed me the bill: $0.00. With that, Jose disappeared back in the shop, but not before thanking me, welcoming another customer and getting to her problem. I was back on the road in under 20 minutes

Major roadwork is still ongoing along Lee Road between Riverside Drive and West Beach Street in Watsonville. Do be aware there are delays with traffic control as heavy equipment and workers are going at it. On Wednesday morning the traffic was backed up about 40 cars deep on West Beach Street.

Lee Road work (for AT) web

Work continues on Lee Road between Riverside Drive and West Beach Street near the construction site of the new Hampton Inn and Suites. — Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

An extreme heat advisory has been set by meteorologists for inland areas between Redding and Bakersfield as summer heat ratchets up under a stubborn low-pressure system. Redding will top out at 103 degrees, Sacramento 104 and Fresno at 106 today. There is also a heat warning from Concord and Livermore to south to Gilroy. Santa Cruz and Watsonville will have a high around 90 today. However, forecasters say things will begin to cool off a bit into Friday, aided by an offshore flow, and by the weekend morning fog will tamp temperatures down significantly.

Six police officers were injured during an eight-hour gun battle in Philadelphia Wednesday. Police initially went to a home to serve a search warrant for drug-related issues where a man opened fire on them and then barricaded himself in a second-floor apartment around 4:30 p.m. Two other officers ended up being trapped in the building for five hours before the suspect, Maurice Hill, surrendered after midnight. The incident, which led to extensive lockdowns, took place in north Philadelphia in a section known as Nicetown-Tioga. Eric Gripp of the Philadelphia Police Dept. said the six officers that were shot were treated at the hospital and released. Police said Hill had a very long criminal history.

A memorial ceremony was held this morning at the California Highway Patrol Academy in Sacramento for their officer, Andre Moye Jr., who died in another gun battle, this one in Southern California, Monday. Two other officers were also injured and the gunman shot and killed in what started out as a routine traffic stop in Riverside near Interstate 215 just after 5:30 p.m.

I’ve been hearing rumors about another Starbucks opening in Watsonville, which will be a fifth location here — this one in Watsonville Square (where Nob Hill and Kelly’s Books are). The Watsonville Planning Commission approved a drive-thru Starbucks in the center in February. I drove past the spot the other day. It shares a wall with the Cork ’n Bottle Liquors near the corner of South Green Valley Road at Main Street in the former Back Doctor location. Right now, there’s no indication of work starting on the new café.

Aug. 13, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: The Trump administration is making moves to weaken the Endangered Species Act, putting some animals closer to extinction. New rules suggested by the Trump team could make it easier to remove certain species from the endangered list and weaken protections. On the greater picture, the changes are designed to open pathways for more coal, oil and gas drilling, especially in regions guarded with animal protections. It was Republican President Richard Nixon that set the bill into law, the same president who put the Environmental Protection Act in place, which is also being cut back by Trump. Credit goes to the EPA, among other things, for removing the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and the American alligator from extinction. What would the statement be if the bald eagle, the powerful symbol of America, was wiped out by Americans?

Classes start in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District tomorrow. 

A routine traffic stop turned into an extended gun battle Monday in Southern California that left a California Highway Patrol officer dead, two other officers injured and the gunman shot and killed. The gunfire broke out 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles in Riverside near Interstate 215 just after 5:30 p.m. when a CHP officer stopped a white GMC pickup. As the officer was going through paperwork and waiting for a tow truck “the suspect entered his vehicle and pulled out a rifle, unknown caliber rifle, and he engaged our officer with multiple gunshots,” CHP Assistant Chief Scott Parker said.

CHP officer Andre Moye Jr. was killed in the shootout. Parker said Moye was able to call for help over his radio and was airlifted to a trauma center where he later died.

“It was a long and horrific gun battle,” Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said at a news conference Monday night.

I spoke with John Kegebein, CEO of the Agricultural History Project at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, this morning about the upcoming fair, which gets going Sept. 11. He showed me a pre-1900s manure spreader that the crew at the AHP restored as the featured showpiece for the AHP’s participation in the fair.

“A lot of work went into it,” he said. “We’re happy with the way it turned out. All the metalwork in it is original; there’s nothing like that around anymore.” The bright red wagon with steel wheels was designed to be hauled by a pair of horses.

“It was called the Farmer’s Friend,” Kegebein said.

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John Kegebein, CEO of the Agricultural History Project at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, shows a pre-1900s manure spreader that the crew at the AHP restored for the upcoming fair. (Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian)

Aug. 12, 2019:

Tarmo Hannula: On Saturday I attended the annual Hiroshima-Nagasaki Day of Remembrance/ Reflecting on the Past, Changing the Future event held at the Town Clock in Santa Cruz. The 90-minute ceremony drew about 50 people. The Rev. Jay Shinseki of the Watsonville Buddhist Temple began with an Invocation.

“These events are not unrelated to things that are happening today,” he said. “We have to make sure that never happens again.” 

The U.S. atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killed around 140,000 people. The bomb dropped three days later on Nagasaki killed 70,000 (some say 80,000) before Japan’s surrender ended World War II. Most of those killed were civilians.

The event was on by the United Nations Association of Santa Cruz County, Armistice 100 S.C., Veterans for Peace, the ACLU and others.

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Also, on Saturday evening my wife Sarah and I went to the west side of Santa Cruz to the West End restaurant for dinner. We felt lucky to get a table right away, being a warm summer weekend night. Afterward, we drove along West Cliff Drive at dusk, relishing the shimmering last strands of light across the Monterey Bay. Rolling past the Lighthouse we spotted several hundreds of people in some form of gathering so we parked to check it out.


The first thing that we noticed was a 50-yard strip of silvery Mylar sheeting stretched out from the Lighthouse across the lawn surrounded by people. Large wooden cones stood about on wood frames and people were milling about with flashlights, penlights, tiny orb lights and glowing smartphones. I asked one woman who was dressed in a shimmering, reflective metallic suit — like some sci-fi space traveler — what was going on and it turned out she was one of several artists behind the open-air project. She said her name was Carmina Escobar of Mexico City and that she was an inter-media performance and multi-media artist. The evening’s event was called “Feast of Beams, Keepers of Light.” It was unusual but fit right into the fabric of Santa Cruz. The 90-minute event included singing, sound effects, modern theater and improve. It certainly registered as something different for us.

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Fire officials are conducting a prescribed burn today between Salinas and San Juan Bautista at the Church Ranch, which could send up a large column of smoke.

I walked into Baker Brothers Furniture & Appliance on East Fifth Street last week and had a long chat with the owner, Debbie, someone I’ve known for years. She said she was delighted to be celebrating 50 years of business at the same location. Like so many other businesses, she’s seen several changes and had to downsize the square-footage.

“But people keep coming back,” she said. “We’re just so thankful of our customers. We get so many repeat customers and we appreciate their loyalty. Like so many of the businesses around this area, there are many of us that are still here and we make up a big part of our community.”

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Debbie Baker, owner of Baker Brothers Furniture & Appliance, 31 East Fifth St., talks about her business reaching 50 years in the same location. (Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian)

For last week’s About Town, visit https://register-pajaronian.com/article/about-town-week-of-aug-5

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