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COMMUNITY NEWS

May 23, 2020

City offices closed for Memorial Day holiday

Offices for the City of Merced will be closed Monday, May 25, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.
There will be no trash collection on Monday. All refuse collection will be delayed one day during the week.
During the coronavirus pandemic, people are reminded they should still observe social distancing guidelines, even on holiday weekends.
City parks are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., but users are cautioned against holding large gatherings. Park restrooms are closed, as are other park facilities including playgrounds and picnic shelters, per the State and County orders.

 

 

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May 23, 2020

California High-Speed Rail Extends Public Review Period and Changes Public Hearing Format for the San Jose to Merced Project Section

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Today the California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority) announced the public review period for the San Jose to Merced Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) has been extended. The public review period previously scheduled to end on June 8, 2020 has been extended by 15 days to Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The Authority also announced that it will transition from an in-person public hearing on May 27, 2020 to a “virtual” public hearing format.

In response to agency and stakeholder requests in consideration of limitations caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, the Authority has elected to extend the public review period for the Draft EIR/EIS to provide additional time for review and comments.

The public hearing for the San Jose to Merced Project Section Draft EIR/EIS will be held via teleconference and online video conference, rather than in-person meeting. The virtual public hearing will include a webcast and moderated call-in number for the public to submit oral comments. The date and time of the public hearing remain the same. Interpretation will be available in Spanish, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. This is the only opportunity to provide oral comment on the Draft EIR/EIS.

San Jose to Merced Draft EIR/EIS Virtual Public Hearing
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
3:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

To view a live stream of the public hearing, please visit http://videossc.com/HSR/

The public can provide comments by joining the webinar at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82252284338?pwd=TWZHSnBhMlRWdGhXYnVwV05ReUgwUT09 or by phone by dialing (669) 900-9128 and entering the webinar ID: 822 5228 4338.


The public can continue to submit comments on the San Jose to Merced Draft EIR/EIS the following ways:
• Via web comment form on the Authority’s website: www.hsr.ca.gov/programs/environmental/eis_eir/draft_san_jose_merced_comment.aspx
• Via email to San.Jose_Merced@hsr.ca.gov with the subject line “Draft EIR/EIS Comment”
• Via conventional mail at the address below:
Attn: San Jose to Merced: Draft EIR/EIS
California High-Speed Rail Authority
100 Paseo de San Antonio, Suite 300
San Jose, CA 95113

After the comment period closes on June 23, 2020 and the comments received have been evaluated, staff will prepare and issue the Final EIR/EIS document and present it to the Board to consider certification and project approval under the California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

The environmental review, consultation, and other actions required by applicable Federal environmental laws for this project are being or have been carried out by the State of California pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 327 and a Memorandum of Understanding dated July 23, 2019, and executed by the Federal Railroad Administration and the State of California.

To view the contents of the Draft EIR/EIS, please visit: www.hsr.ca.gov/programs/environmental/eis_eir/draft_san_jose_merced.aspx

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May 22, 2020

Only a Few Weekends Left to Get Your Fair Food Fix at the Merced County Fair’s “Fair Food Fridays!”
Get Your Fair Food Fix and Support Valley Food Vendors in May and June

MERCED, CALIFORNIA – May 21, 2020: The Merced County Fair and Valley fair food vendors have gained much success with the new “Fair Food Fridays” event at the Merced County Fairgrounds! The event series launched on Friday, May 1, drawing lines of cars all waiting to get their fair food favorites like corn dogs, kettle corn, Icees and cotton candy at special pandemic pricing. Although this event draws a long line of cars, last week’s event got people through in less than 30 minutes!

Here’s a list what’s on the menu:

$5 Corn Dogs
$5 ICEE in souvenir cup with straw - 32 oz.
$3 Cotton Candy
$6 Small Kettle Corn
$10 Large Kettle Corn
$7 Caramel Kettle Corn
$5 French Bread Pepperoni Pizza
$8 Funnel cake w/powdered sugar
$9 Funnel Cake w/ fruit and whip cream
$10 Funnel Cake w/the chocolate, fruit, whip cream
$25 (6) Pack Frozen or Hot Cinnamon Roll with frosting on the side

Despite the recent cancellation of the 2020 Merced County Fair, CEO Teresa Burrola wanted to bring the taste of the fair for the community to still enjoy, while supporting the fair’s Valley food vendors and their families who have been hit hard by COVID-19 and widespread cancellation of fairs and events throughout the state.


 

“We wanted to bring something positive to the fairgrounds and give the community something fun to do while still aligning with the pandemic guidelines,” said Burrola. “So we came up with the idea to have a drive-thru food event! It has definitely put a smile on people’s faces and our food vendors could not be more thankful for the support. We look forward to continuing our ‘Fair Food Fridays’ throughout the month and into June.”

The Merced County Fair’s “Fair Food Fridays” is a drive-thru, to-go only food event with special pandemic pricing. This event is cash only, with the exception of Country Fair Cinnamon Rolls who will accept card. For more details, call (209) 722-1506 or visit www.mercedcountyfair.com/fair-food-fridays.


WHEN: 11:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
May 22 and 29; June 5, 11-13.


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May 22, 2020

Gray’s Veteran Employment Bill Advances with Unanimous Bipartisan Support

(Sacramento) – A bill to increase job opportunities for veterans and military spouses has cleared its first committee hearing with unanimous bipartisan support.

Assembly Bill 3045, authored by Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced), requires the California Department of Consumer Affairs to grant professional licenses to veterans and military spouses who hold an equivalent license in another state. The bill would streamline the licensing process for hundreds of state-regulated professions from appliance and automotive repair to construction and security officers.

“California is home to more veterans than any other state in America, yet we routinely lag behind in our treatment and accommodation of veterans and their families,” said Assemblymember Gray.

After introducing a similar measure, Assemblymembers Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) and James Gallagher (R-Yuba City) agreed to unite with Assemblymember Gray and consolidate their efforts behind AB 3045.

“Supporting our veterans is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s an American issue. Working across party lines only increases our odds of success,” said Assemblymember Gray, whose district includes the former Castle Air Force Base in Atwater.

Gray’s legislation is strongly supported by numerous veterans organizations including the US Department of Defense, the American Legion, AMVETS, the California State Commanders Veterans Council, and the Military Officers Association of America.

 


“The patchwork of licensing requirements and regulations that exist in all 50 states harms the veterans and military families who want to work in California,” said Assemblymember Gray. “Other states have agreements in place to allow license portability when veterans and their spouses move between states, but California has not made similar accommodations. That’s ridiculous. We need laws that help bring veterans move into our state instead of keeping them out.

“Especially as we enter what is likely to be a period of economic hardship, we must do all we can to support employment opportunities for veterans and their spouses. Frankly, it’s the least we can do to acknowledge their service and sacrifice.”

AB 3045 now moves on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration at a hearing to be scheduled later this month.

# # #

Assemblymember Adam C. Gray represents the 21st Assembly District which includes all of Merced County and portions of Stanislaus County.

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May 22, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP & LANE CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 - FROM ATWATER BOULEVARD TO
MERCED/STANISLAUS COUNTY LINE

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work.
(No work will occur on Monday, May 25, 2020 due to the Memorial Day Weekend.)
Closures are as follows:
• Full on and off-ramp closures at Atwater Boulevard on southbound SR-99
beginning Thursday, May 28, through Saturday, May 30, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to East Atwater Overhead beginning Wednesday, May 28, through Saturday, May 30, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 at
Applegate Road beginning Thursday, May 28, through Saturday, May 30, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from West Atwater Overhead to northbound SR-99
beginning Wednesday, May 28, through Saturday, May 30, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Alternating closures of the #1 (left) and #2 (right) lanes of northbound SR-99 from Hammatt Avenue to the Merced/Stanislaus County line for grinding operations beginning Tuesday, May 26, through Friday, May 29, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.


Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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May 21, 2020


Merced County Department of Public Health Attestation Approved to Move into Stage 2.5


MERCED COUNTY, CA – The Department of Public Health (Department) is pleased to announce that Merced County is now approved to move more quickly through Stage 2 of California’s Roadmap for reopening. The approval is posted on the California Department of Public Health website and is available for public review at: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/County_Variance_Attestation_Form.aspx

“We are pleased that several businesses will return to a new sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Salvador Sandoval, Merced County’s Public Health Officer. “As we prepare to move forward and start to slowly re-open, it is imperative that we all follow the safety measures in place. This is a new normal and the County cannot afford to let its guard down. The Department is committed to the health and safety of each individual in our County. This disease remains prevalent in our community.”


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May 21, 2020

Education Leaders Work to Ensure Schools Are Safe for Students, Staff

These are extraordinary times. I never thought as County Superintendent I would work with our school district superintendents on plans to close schools and create distance learning plans across the county. I want to thank the families, students and staff for their cooperative spirit and flexibility to overcome this pandemic and continue education for our students. As in every situation, the health and well-being of our students, families and school communities is our top priority.
This entire experience is painful and isolating and we know that some of our students are experiencing both physical and emotional challenges. While all school districts in Merced County have continued the school breakfast and lunch program, for some families, the food costs are mounting up.
In other homes, the isolation is beginning to create anxiety and even depression. We know that schools provide much more than access to knowledge and we ache as educators to reopen our schools.
As you have likely heard, Merced County has been approved to move into Stage 2.5, which allows for offices, malls, dine-in restaurants, child care facilities and schools to reopen. While this is good news for our community and local economy, we are cautiously optimistic and spending countless hours planning for next school year and some of the challenges we face.
Merced County’s Variance Attestation Form, which was approved by the state of California late Tuesday, is a 19-page document that outlines the readiness to open businesses and includes safety plans, timelines and much more.
Though schools are part of Stage 2.5, in the Variance Attestation Form it states that schools will remain closed for the remainder of this school year and that a reopening task force is working to identify new procedures and protocols under which schools will operate to keep our students and staff safe.


The reality is schools will look different this fall.
To maintain social distance in our schools, we will have to be flexible in our thinking and offer options to parents and students. Some students will attend school, some will continue with distance learning and some might work in a blended model of attending on specific days.
Some children need the support of a daily school experience. Some children can thrive at home while they learn at their own rate, but need content direction from education professionals. We are working to identify ways all students can succeed while keeping everyone on our campuses safe.
There have been questions about graduations in June and schools are identifying unique ways to honor graduating classes without the traditional commencement.
We have worked closely with our partners at the Merced County Department of Public Health to review different graduation scenarios and we know that the gathering of large crowds still endangers our children.
Simply put: In the current situation we cannot hold mass gatherings.
There will be time again in the future to celebrate the accomplishments of our children without putting them and their families at risk of infection and causing a spike in the virus that would cause us to delay the reopening of our public schools.
As an educator of nearly 40 years, I understand how difficult this is for our students and families and we hope that we can celebrate our graduates in a more traditional way.

Steve M. Tietjen, Ed.D.
Merced County Superintendent of Schools

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May 19, 2020

Bulky Item Drop-Off Site re-opening

The Bulky Item Drop-Off Site on the corner of Hwy. 59 and Yosemite Ave. will be open Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 3 p.m.

The Bulky Item Drop-Off is for City Of Merced residential refuse service customers only. No commercial sources, such as apartment complexes or businesses are allowed. Verification of service, such as a utility bill, will need to be provided with matching ID at check-in.

This is for bulky items such as furniture and mattresses. No general household waste, green waste or hazardous waste will be accepted. For more information, call 209-385-6800.

 

 

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May 16, 2020


Budget on agenda for in-person Council meeting

The City Council will hold its first public in-person meeting Monday since March to discuss the 2020-21 budget.

City Manager Steve Carrigan is proposing a $265.3 million budget, an increase of $10.8 million from last year to reflect the expansion of housing developments and the need to renovate and expand water and sewer services. The general fund budget is $43.9 million, a slight increase related to the $2 million Redevelopment Agency settlement payment that is the second of five payments.

The budget does not include any layoffs, but will delete one position and keep five other positions vacant. In addition, Department expenses were held to last year’s levels, and $1.1 million in one-time revenues were used to balance the general fund budget.

The meeting will be held Monday, May 18, in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St.

It will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Monday on Facebook Live at City of Merced, on the City’s website, www.cityofmerced.org, and Comcast Public Access Channel 96. A link to the live meeting is on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org.

In-person Council Meetings will have strict social distancing practices in place and the use of
face coverings is encouraged. Seating in the Council Chamber will be limited and an overflow
room will be available in the Sam Pipes Room with the same social distancing practices in place.

• Members of the audience who wish to address the City Council are requested to complete a speaker card available at the podium on the right-hand side of the Council Chamber. Please submit the completed card to the City Clerk before the item is called, preferably before the meeting begins.

• For at-risk individuals or those not wanting to attend an in-person meeting during the current COVID-19 pandemic, please submit your public comment to the City Council electronically no later than 1 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Comments received before the deadline will be read as part of the record. Material may be emailed to cityclerk@cityofmerced.org and should be limited

 

• You may provide telephonic comments via voicemail by calling (209) 388-8688 by no later than 1 p.m. on the day of the meeting to be added to the public comment. Voicemails will be limited to a time limit of three (3) minutes. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on, for example:, Public Hearing item number, Consent item number, or Oral Communications. Your comments will be played during the meeting to the City Council at the appropriate time.

To view video (if available) or listen to the City Council meeting live, go to the City’s website
www.cityofmerced.org, Facebook Live, or Comcast Public Access Channel 96.

Accommodation for individuals with disabilities may be arranged by contacting the City Clerk at
(209) 388-8650. Assisted hearing devices are available for meetings held in the Council
Chamber.

At least 72 hours prior to each regular City Council meeting, a complete agenda packet is
available for review on the City’s website at www.cityofmerced.org or at the City Clerk’s Office,
678 W. 18th St. All public records relating to an open session item that are distributed to a majority of the Council will be available for public inspection at the City Clerk’s Office during regular business hours. Spanish and Hmong translation is available at every regular meeting.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.


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May 16, 2020

County Partners Provide Homeless Support Amidst the Pandemic

MERCED COUNTY, CA –In an effort to protect vulnerable homeless individuals from COVID-19 and slow the spread of the virus in our communities, 98 homeless individuals have been sheltered in hotel rooms in Merced County. This statewide initiative is known as “Project Room Key.”
Merced County allocated $3.5 million in funding to address housing, health care, toiletries and food needs for unsheltered individuals who test positive for COVID-19. In addition, services are available to those who have symptoms and require isolation based on medical advice, and those that are medically vulnerable and highly susceptible to the virus. The funding, originally allocated to address homelessness, was made available through a partnership between the Merced County Continuum of Care, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Human Services Agency and funds provided by state and federal COVID-19 response allocations. No General Fund dollars are included in this effort.
In addition to the nearly 100 individuals housed, staff with the Mass Care and Shelter Branch and community organizations have contacted more than 300 homeless individuals to provide immediate services, including food and other essential items and services.
Housing and health care services are provided on a priority basis, but food and toiletries are available to all.
The program was coordinated locally by the Merced County Human Services Agency, the Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Department, Merced County Department of Public Health, and community partners comprised of faith-based and non-profit organizations.


“We are taking a multi-agency approach to engaging with unsheltered homeless individuals and identifying those who need services and medical follow-ups due to COVID-19,” said Yvonnia Brown, Director of the Merced County Human Services Agency. “These efforts will not only provide much needed assistance to those individuals, it will also help contain the spread of COVID-19 within the community at large.”
“We are excited about being a part of a program that is providing basic needs for individuals with some of the greatest need,” said Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, Director of the Merced County Department of Public Health. “We care about the health and safety of all residents, including the most vulnerable in our community. This project highlights how Merced County is advocating for the well-being of homeless individuals by providing some of the most basic vital needs. It is our hope that this project will be successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
Please check the Department’s webpage at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus for the most-up-to date information about the current cases in Merced County.
For general information pertaining to COVID-19, please contact the Merced County Public Health Department information line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).


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May 16, 2020

SEASONAL ROUTES ON STATE HIGHWAYS IN THE CENTRAL SIERRA OPEN FOR SUMMER SEASON

Stay-At-Home Order Remains In Effect Alpine, Tuolumne, Mono and Inyo Counties – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) announced today it has opened seasonal highways in the Sierra after completing necessary road repairs and removing winter snow and debris in preparation for the summer season.
The opening of the Sierra routes comes at a time when California’s “stay-at- home” order remains in effect until further notice. All Californians are reminded that it is critical to stay home during this time in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, social distancing behaviors and other preventive measures as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Public Health help protect the health and well-being of everyone. #StayHomeSaveLives
A comprehensive update on the status of the seasonal passes is listed below:
• State Route 4 (Ebbetts Pass) Open for the summer season
• State Route 89 (Monitor Pass) Open for the summer season
• State Route 108 (Sonora Pass) Open for the summer season
• State Route 120 (Tuolumne County) Open for the summer season. Yosemite National Park remains closed at this time. National Park Service officials manage Tioga Road inside Yosemite National Park. Please call the Park Service for updates at: (209) 372-0200
• State Route 120 (Mono County) Open for the summer season. Yosemite National Park remains closed at this time. National Park Service officials manage Tioga Road inside Yosemite National Park. Please call the Park Service for updates at: (209) 372-0200
• State Route 158 Open for the summer season
• State Route 168 West (Bishop Creek) Open for the summer season

For the latest road condition information, call the Caltrans Road Condition Hotline at 1-800-427-ROAD (7623). Real time conditions are also available online and for mobile phones at http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov. Changeable Message Signs with flashing beacons will have information regarding the pass closures visible along the highways.
Early season conditions exist and road conditions can change rapidly. All vehicles, including those with four-wheel drive or snow tires should, additionally, carry chains when traveling during the spring season. There are minimal services available and limited mobile phone service along the high elevations of these Sierra routes. Visitors are advised to have a full tank of gas and to carry extra food, water and clothing to be prepared for emergencies.


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP & LANE CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 - FROM ATWATER BOULEVARD TO
MERCED/STANISLAUS COUNTY LINE

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work.
Closures are as follows:
• Full on and off-ramp closures at Atwater Boulevard on southbound SR-99
beginning Sunday, May 17, through Saturday, May 23, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to East Atwater Overhead beginning Sunday, May 17, through Saturday, May 23, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 at
Applegate Road beginning Sunday, May 17, through Saturday, May 23, 2020,
from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from West Atwater Overhead to northbound SR-99
beginning Sunday, May 17, through Saturday, May 23, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until southbound SR-99 for landscape work beginning Tuesday, May 19, through Thursday, May 21, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
• Alternating closures of the #1 (left) and #2 (right) lanes of northbound SR-99 from Hammatt Avenue to the Merced/Stanislaus County line for grinding operations beginning Sunday, May 17, through Friday, May 22, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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May 14, 2020

Infant Tests Positive for COVID-19

MERCED COUNTY, CA – Merced County health officials confirmed its first infant-related COVID-19 exposure case in Merced County.
Health officials confirmed that a five-month-old infant recently tested positive for the virus. The infant is doing well and recovering at home. Due to protected health information requirements and to maintain the patient’s confidentiality, Public Health is not able to disclose further information about this case.
County Public Health officials have noticed an increase in children’s cases over the past two weeks. There have been nine confirmed cases of children under 18 years of age, making it 12 confirmed cases to date (a four-fold increase in two weeks). Pediatric cases have increased from 3% of the caseload to 7% of the caseload. As of May 13, 2020, there are 180 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 67 of which are active cases, 109 recovered and four deaths. This is an increase of 49 cases within a two-week span for the County.
“This case highlights the importance of following local health orders and practicing safety measures in our daily routines,” said Merced County Public Health Officer Dr. Salvador Sandoval. “It is crucial that we protect the vulnerable populations in our community, which includes young children. Now is not the time to become complacent. Transmission levels will continue to rise and will affect our loved ones unless we make a difference by doing our part.”

 

.As the spread of COVID-19 continues to increase locally, Merced County health officials strongly urge the community to continue following health orders and exercising the following measures to help slow the spread of the virus:
EVERYONE SHOULD:
* Stay home, especially if you’re sick
* Limit your time and trips out of your home
* Wear a cloth face covering when you leave home; particularly when social distancing is not possible, as in enclosed places.
* Practice social distancing, which means keeping at least 6 feet between you and any person when outside of your home
* Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible
* Not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
* Call your health care provider first if you think you have COVID-19
All Merced County residents interested in being tested for COVID-19, can register for an appointment online at www.lhi.care/covidtesting.
For additional information pertaining to COVID-19, please visit the Department’s resource website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the Department information line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).
To schedule a phone interview, please contact the Public Health Communication Office from Monday—Friday, 8 a.m.—5 p.m. at 209-381-1187
.


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May 13, 2020

Health Officials Confirm Fourth Death Related to COVID-19 in Merced County

MERCED COUNTY, CA – Today, the Merced County Department of Public Health (Department) confirmed the fourth death related to COVID-19, otherwise known as novel coronavirus. The Merced County resident was a male over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions.
“We are saddened by the confirmation of another death in our community due to COVID-19, and the Department sends its deepest condolences to the family,” said Merced County Public Health Officer Dr. Salvador Sandoval. “We want to remind the residents of Merced County that we must remain united in preventing the spread of this disease. Please do your part to halt the spread.”
Merced County health officials strongly urge everyone to continue following local health orders and practicing safety measures in daily routines.

 

It is crucial that residents do not become complacent, or transmission levels could increase. Please exercise the following measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
EVERYONE SHOULD:
* Stay home, especially if you’re sick
* Limit your time and trips out of your home
* Wear a cloth face covering when you leave home; particularly when social distancing is not possible, as in enclosed places.
* Practice social distancing, which means keeping at least 6 feet between you and any person when outside of your home
* Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible
* Not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
* Call your health care provider first if you think you have COVID-19
All Merced County residents interested in being tested for COVID-19 can register for an appointment online at www.lhi.care/covidtesting.
For additional information pertaining to COVID-19, please visit the Department’s resource website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the Department information line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).
To schedule a phone interview, please contact the Public Health Communication Office from Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.—5 p.m. at 209-381-1187
.


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May12, 2020

California Employers Association - FREE! The Three R's to Getting Back to Work During COVID-19

Worknet Merced County has partnered with the California Employers Association (CEA) to provide Merced County businesses with ongoing training opportunities. Let the CEA help you prepare to get employees back to work when operations can resume during the COVID-19 pandemic. CEA will cover the 3 R's of how to plan and successfully bring your employees back to work – Reconstruct, Reinstate, and Reconnect.

Learning Objectives:
• Reconstruct — Determine what your workplace will look like under this "new normal." Learn how to bring people back and what to do if some of the workforce cannot be reinstated.
• Reinstate — Evaluate the effectiveness of remote work for your team and if it can or should continue. Be prepared for a variety of federal, state, and local requirements regarding testing employees, PPE, physical distancing and more.
• Reconnect — How to welcome employees back and ensure a safe working environment.


The webinar will take place Wednesday, May 13th, from 12:00pm-1:00pm.

Registration Link: https://www.employers.org/events/webinars/the-three-r-s-to-getting-back-to-work-during-covid-19/05/13/2020/

Mario Pena
Worknet Merced County
Merced County Dept. of Workforce Investment
1205 West 18th Street | Merced, CA 95340
P: 209.724.2046 |C: 209.291.8969 | F: 209.725.3592
Visit our website at https://worknetmerced.com

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May 9, 2020

Merced City offices begin to reopen

Employees who have been working remotely will be returning to their offices Monday, May 11, as the City of Merced prepares to resume operations with the public.

The goal is to open up City Hall -- the Merced Civic Center at 678 W. 18th St. -- to the public on Monday, May 18. Other City facilities, including the Police Department and Public Works, will also open to the public on that date. The Parks and Recreation Office will open at a later date.

“With the governor reopening many businesses in the state, it is time to begin moving the City in the same direction,” said City Manager Steve Carrigan. “We are opening City offices with the health and safety of everyone -- City employees and the public -- as the top priority.”

“This is a limited opening, because employee wellness is really important to me,” Carrigan said.

It won’t be business as usual, as a variety of social distancing measures are being put in place at City facilities.

Initially, only counter service on the first and second floors will be available at City Hall. Other City business will be conducted by telephone, email or video conference.

City facilities were shut down to the public and employees began working remotely March 20 to comply with the governor’s stay-at-home order. Normal operations of police, fire, refuse, sewer or water were not affected, and most City functions continued.

The move follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s modification of the stay-at-home order of Thursday, May 7. That moved the state to Stage 2, allowing the reopening of some non-essential businesses with modifications.

 


City Council meetings, along with board and commission meetings, will continue to meet virtually and telephonically.

Parks are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to encourage people to get exercise and fresh air, but users are cautioned to maintain social distance. Park restrooms are closed, as are other park facilities including playgrounds and picnic shelters, per the state and county orders.

The air carrier for the Merced Regional Airport, Boutique Airlines, has been operating and the airport is open to general aviation users.

Even though the building is open next week, City customers won’t have to come to City Hall to make payments. Customers can make payments:
• By using the automated phone system at 209-388-7289
• Paying online at www.cityofmerced.org
• Using the drop box outside City Hall (check, cashier’s check or money order, no cash, please)
• Mailing payments (check, cashier’s check or money order, no cash, please)

Questions about utility bills can be emailed to utilitybillinquiry@cityofmerced.org or people can phone 209-385-6841.

The City will not be charging people late fees and no new water services will be shut off if people cannot make their payments while the state of emergency is declared. However, they still will be ultimately responsible for the payment of all bills once the emergency order is lifted.

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May 9, 2020

Revised Health Order Allows for More Businesses to Reopen

MERCED COUNTY, CA – After careful consideration, Merced County health officials revised the local Health Order (Order) issued on April 24, 2020. The revised Order allows eligible businesses to resume modified operations as long as they follow specific safety measures.
“After careful consideration and thorough discussions with subject matter experts and Merced County health officials, the Public Health Department is starting to implement steps to reopen the County,” said Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, Director of the Merced County Public Health Department. “The reopening plan will promote public health and safety while allowing for our community to take the necessary steps to start the recovery process. The Department is committed to the well-being of all individuals and want the overall health and economy to thrive while keeping protective measures in place.”
Businesses meeting criteria may resume modified operations. Currently, in accordance with the State, curbside retail and manufacturing of goods are able to open. In addition, cemeteries, preventative medical appointments (inclusive of dentistry), and baptisms are all allowed to reopen or resume, with modifications. All businesses in operation will be required to follow the Order, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, and the guidelines outlined in the Order. Merced County also developed reopening guidelines in partnership with business sectors. The Order also allows additional businesses to open locally, with modified operations, as the State allows.

The revised Order:
* Directs all businesses open to operate to designate a Safety Officer
* Prohibits all non-essential gatherings (as detailed in the Order)
* Limits activities in public areas
* Encourages outdoor activity with social distancing requirements to the greatest extent possible
Merced County health officials strongly urge everyone to continue following local health orders and practice safety measures in our daily routines. It is crucial that we do not become complacent, because transmission levels will continue to rise.
If you are a Merced County resident who would like to be tested for COVID-19, you will need to register for an appointment either online at www.lhi.care/covidtesting or by phone 1-888-634-1123.
For additional information pertaining to COVID-19, please visit the Department’s resource website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the Department information line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).

Click here to see Revised Order


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May 8, 2020

Work Continues on 2020 Merced County Fair Virtual Livestock Sale
Community support already pouring in; Friends of the Merced County Fair to underwrite all sale commissions and the first $10,000 add-on donation received

 

MERCED, CALIFORNIA, May 7, 2020 – Plans continue to move forward on the 2020 Merced County Fair Virtual Livestock Sale, supported by Merced Irrigation District (MID), to support the more than 500 Merced County Fair 4-H and FFA exhibitors through the utilization of the StockShowAuctions.com (SSA) online sales platform. The virtual sale will take place starting Thursday, June 11 at 8 a.m. and go until Saturday, June 13 at 8 p.m. Buyers, both past and new, will need to register as a buyer on www.stockshowauction.com/register either in advance of the sale or during, then they can login during the sale and place bids, add-ons and receive notifications if they get outbid. Merced County Fair livestock staff will be available to answer questions at livestock@countyofmerced.com or (209) 722-1421. Additionally, step-by-step instructions have been posted on the fair’s website (www.mercedcountyfair.com/livestock-exhibits).
“Agriculture has long been the backbone of the Merced County Fair and while today's world with COVID-19 is prohibiting us from having our annual fair, it won’t stop us from holding a sale for our hard-working 4-H and FFA exhibitors. I look forward to their innovative outreach in securing buyers for our new virtual livestock sale,” said Teresa Burrola, CEO of the Merced County Fair.
There is already one local business stepping up to support the exhibitors in the Merced County Fair Virtual Livestock Sale. Dr. J.L. Byerly D.V.M. owner of Sierra Gateway Veterinary Clinic has donated $10,000 towards add-ons to support those exhibitors who do not receive adequate bids on their projects.
Dr. Byerly said he “is hopeful that our community will help to support our 4-H and FFA exhibitors in buying their animal projects or placing add-on bids. It is a real call to action for our agricultural community to step up for our youth in Merced County.”
Additionally, the fair’s non-profit foundation, Friends of the Merced County Fair has committed to covering the costs of the online sale platform, as well as all sale commissions – so every dollar spent by buyers will go directly to the students.
“We are so grateful for Friends of the Merced County Fair who have always greatly supported our annual auctions and through this latest act of generosity – it will put every dollar bid during the virtual sale into the pockets of these kids to use to recoup their animal project expenses and invest in their next project or save for school,” said Burrola.

Merced County Fair 4-H and FFA exhibitors who submitted animal projects will be contacted by the Livestock Department regarding the virtual sale with more details and resources. Exhibitors will need to continue feeding and caring for their animals and marketing to secure buyers, just like they would if their animals were going to the traditional auction. The Merced County Fair has put together exhibitor information sheets by species and an extensive Q&A so they can better understand the new sale process. These resources are available at www.mercedcountyfair.com/livestock-exhibits. More information such as step-by-step instructions on how to upload their project for the online sale will be posted in the coming weeks. These details are also available on the SSA website at www.stockshowauction.com/auctions. Additionally, the Livestock Department will be available to assist with online registration and address questions at livestock@countyofmerced.com or (209) 722-1421.
Each year, the livestock competition at the Fair helps to create the next generation of men and women in agriculture and by participating, 4-H, FFA and Independent students not only have the opportunity to showcase and sell their animal projects, they also learn responsibility and gain agribusiness experience. While this year looks different, the life and business skills gained through these experiences – and even more so with the adaptation to an online sale – will continue to serve these youth.
About The Merced County Fair:
The Merced County Fair, first founded in 1891, represents the 35th District Agricultural Association. The fair’s mission statement outlines that it “promises to meet the needs of our community by providing a fun, safe venue to celebrate our area’s agricultural heritage, discover new technology and be entertained.” Each June, the Merced County Fair welcomes more than 70,000 people from throughout Merced County and beyond to attend the five-day event. Members of the Board of Directors include: President, Carol Sartori-Silva; First Vice President, Lee Lor; Second Vice President, Kim Rogina; Vicky Banaga; Mark Erreca; Lori Gallo; Emily Haden; Flip Hassett; and Luis Lara. Teresa Burrola heads up the daily operations in her role as CEO. The 2021 Merced County Fair will run June 9 - 13. For more information about the Merced County Fair, please visit www.MercedCountyFair.com. Connect with the Fair on Facebook (@mercedfair), Twitter (@Merced_CA_Fair) and Instagram (@mercedcountyfair).


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May 8, 2020

Essential Workers May Be Eligible For Help Paying For Child Care

Families who are considered part of the essential workforce and are currently working during the stay-at-home order may be eligible to get help paying for child care. This includes essential service workers who work in the health care sector, such as public health and emergency services, service workers in food and agriculture sectors, teachers and educational staff, producers of early learning and care services, including kitchen and other support staff, state and local government workers, information technology, energy production, transportation and logistics, chemical production and hazardous materials, along with financial services.
Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen said child care keeps our families working and helps our economy. “It is crucial that we provide child care and other services for the essential workers who are on the front lines every day,” he said. “MCOE continues to work with child care providers to help provide safe child care environments and is able to help offset costs for more essential workers.”
Christie Hendricks, assistant superintendent of the Early Education Department at the Merced County Office of Education, says her agency specializes in helping families pay for child care and providing child care referrals to families for their specific child care needs.
“We have been very busy in the last month, setting up the staff to work remotely and enrolling essential workers on this child care program. It has been a little crazy and we very happy to be able to help essential workers," she said. "There are 300 child care slots or openings for families of essential workers; they have already had 150 applications from families seeking the service."



Rosa Barragan, program manager with the MCOE Early Education Department, said these are additional child care slots due to the COVID-19 pandemic and encourages families to apply. Her office is working to get the word out to businesses and the 20 local school districts serving Merced County.
“These are new funds, for families meeting the eligibility criteria, to help pay for child care. MCOE Child Care Resource and Referral is updating child care supply at least twice a week. We also provide child care referrals to licensed child care providers; we are calling it an enhanced referral,” Hendricks said.
Barragan said there are 169 family child care providers and 11 centers open, ready to serve the children of essential workers. MCOE works with the California Department of Social Services, which handles community care licensing, and are all working closely with child care providers to ensure they are following the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and best practices put in place by CDSS to ensure the child care environments are safe and minimize the spread of COVID-19.
For more information, call MCOE at (209) 381-4585 or email childcare@mcoe.org

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May 8, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 - FROM CHILDS AVENUE TO ATWATER BOULEVARD

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work.
Closures are as follows:
• Full off-ramp closure from southbound SR-99 to Childs Avenue beginning
Monday, May 11, through Tuesday, May 12, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to SR-140 beginning Thursday, May 14, through Friday, May 15, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from 16th Street to southbound SR-99 beginning Monday, May 11, through Tuesday, May 12, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures at Atwater Boulevard on northbound and
southbound SR-99 beginning Sunday, May 10, through Saturday, May 16, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to East Atwater Overhead beginning Sunday, May 10, through Saturday, May 16, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 at
Applegate Road beginning Sunday, May 10, through Saturday, May 16, 2020,
from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from West Atwater Overhead to northbound SR-99
beginning Sunday, May 10, through Saturday, May 16, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.


 

Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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May 7 , 2020

Castle Air Museum Reopening to the Public

Friday, May 8, the Castle Air Museum, 5050 Santa Fe Drive in Atwater will be one of the first air museum's in California to reopen it's gates to public admission for the first time in nearly two months due to the COVID 19 Pandemic. We are elated to be able to welcome back all of our visitors from our communities, region, state, nation, and world to once again walk through our doors, roam our expansive outdoor exhits area and witness where History Has Landed! Since the Museum is an outdoor venue our destination is well suited for social distancing, all the while being in awe at the size and scope of the largest military aviation museum on the West Coast!! Welcome back!! And Come be Amazed!!!

We feel that May 8th is a very fitting date to reopen, as this date also commemorates VE Day, or Victory in Europe Day 75 years ago, marking the end of World War II on the European Continent.

 

 

For more information please contact me at the information below. Thank you for your support!

Joe Pruzzo
Executive Director
Castle Air Museum
209.723.2178 Main Ext. 304
209.723.0323 Fax
www.castleairmuseum.org

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May 7 , 2020


MERCED COUNTY, CITIES PREPARE FOR REOPENING OF
ECONOMY

MERCED— Merced County and its six Cities are committed to reopening our local economy in the safest way possible and as quickly as possible.

That’s why today, we launched www.reopenmercedcounty.com—a new website dedicated to assisting businesses and preparing them for when the State decides to open additional factions of the economy.

The site includes resources, guidelines, event information, and a survey local businesses can take that will allow the County and Cities to gather details that will help us apply for grants and identify needs in the business community.

“The idea of this site is to get our business owners better prepared to reopen when that time comes,” said Chairman Rodrigo Espinoza of the Merced County Board of Supervisors. “When the Governor pulls the trigger to reopen another group of businesses, we don’t want them all at the starting line, we want them as close to the finish line as possible.”

This website will be continuously updated moving forward as the State releases additional information and as more resources become available through local, State and Federal programming.

 

It was earlier this week that Governor Newsom announced that the State can begin moving into “Stage 2” of modifying the “Stay at Home” Executive Order beginning this Friday if certain conditions are met. This move, which is based on improving COVID-19 numbers and health indicators, will allow some retailers to reopen with modifications, such as curbside pickup. This includes bookstores, music stores, toy stores, florists, sporting goods stores, and others. More specifics as well as guidelines will be released by the Governor’s Office later this week.

It’s important to note that local entities (such as Merced County and its Cities) must operate within the confines of the Governor’s Executive Order and cannot supersede its directives. Any business operating within a City that has taken stricter measures than the County or State directives must adhere to the stricter measures. As the Governor opens various parts of the economy, Merced County Public Health will continue to issue guidance documents to ensure our business community can reopen in a timely manner.

For additional information about COVID-19 in Merced County, please visit www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus.

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May 6, 2020

Merced County Fair Launches ‘Fair Food Fridays’ Drive-Thru Fair Food Event Series
Get Your Fair Food Fix and Support Valley Food Vendors in May and June

MERCED, CALIFORNIA – May 5, 2020: The Merced County Fair has teamed up with Valley fair food vendors to bring the new drive-thru “Fair Food Fridays” event to the Merced County Fairgrounds! The event series launched on Friday, May 1, drawing lines of cars all waiting to get their fair food favorites like corn dogs, kettle corn, Icees and cotton candy at special pandemic pricing.
Despite the recent cancellation of the 2020 Merced County Fair, CEO Teresa Burrola wanted to bring the taste of the fair for the community to still enjoy, while supporting the fair’s Valley food vendors and their families who have been hit hard by COVID-19 and widespread cancellation of fairs and events throughout the state.
“We wanted to bring something positive to the fairgrounds and give the community something fun to do while still aligning with the pandemic guidelines,” said Burrola. “So we came up with the idea to have a drive-thru food event! It has definitely put a smile on people’s faces and our food vendors could not be more thankful for the support. We look forward to continuing our ‘Fair Food Fridays’ throughout the month and into June.”
The Merced County Fair’s “Fair Food Fridays” is a drive-thru, to-go only food event with special pandemic pricing. This event is cash only to keep the lines moving as quickly as possible.


The line-up has now been expanded to include cinnamon rolls, funnel cake and pizza, along with the corn dogs, kettle corn, Icees and cotton candy. For more details, call (209) 722-1506 or visit www.mercedcountyfair.com/fair-food-fridays.


WHEN: 11:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. May 8, 15, 22 and 29; June 5, 11-13.
WHERE: Merced County Fairgrounds, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Merced, California 95341
Enter the fairgrounds from 11th Street and exit on Childs Avenue


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May 5 , 2020

COVID-19 Testing Available to All Merced County Residents

MERCED COUNTY, CA—On Monday, an additional COVID-19 testing site will open to all Merced County residents who would like to be tested. PLEASE NOTE: Due to expected high demand, testing availability was changed to by appointment only in order to prevent unnecessarily-long wait times for clients. Walk-ins will not be accepted at this time.
* Registration is available online or by phone:
* www.lhi.care/covidtesting
* 1-888-634-1123
This new test site, which was made possible thanks to a partnership with the State of California and OptumServe (a private health services company contracted by the State), will be one of 80 locations across the State and will allow for more than 100 additional tests a day for the community. The site does not include antibody testing at this time.
Appointments at the testing site will be scheduled Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Merced County Fairgrounds located at 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Merced.


 

A soft opening of the site was held Thursday and Friday and provided testing for first responders, health care personnel, and a limited number of individuals from the public.
For additional information pertaining to COVID-19, please visit the Department’s resource website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the Merced County Public Health Department Information Line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).
For additional information, read Governor Newsom’s announcement about the efforts to expand community testing in underserved areas.


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May 5 , 2020

The Bus welcomes First Transit as new operator for
countywide transit services

MERCED – On May 1, 2020, First Transit, Inc. (First Transit) became the new operations and maintenance provider for The Bus as part of a 5-year, $51 million contract with the Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County (TJPA). Through this contract, First Transit will maintain TJPA’s fleet of 76 vehicles and will employ the drivers and staff necessary to provide paratransit, demand response, and fixed route transit services for The Bus.
Fares, routes, and the buses themselves will not change, although passengers may notice bus drivers wearing new uniforms as well as new ‘First Transit’ stickers affixed to buses. Passengers will still be able to utilize the same phone numbers, website, and social media sites for information regarding bus service and how to purchase passes. “This change should not be felt by passengers in any immediate way, but we look forward to systemwide improvements that will come with the high quality customer service and employee training that First Transit is bringing to the Merced County region,” said Christine Chavez, Transit Manager for the Merced County Association of Governments, the agency responsible for the administration of TJPA.
“We are excited about this new partnership with First Transit,” said Stacie Guzman, Executive Director of Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG) and TJPA. “We are an agency that places passenger safety and service reliability at a premium and First Transit is a company that has demonstrated the ability to deliver both.”
First Transit provides nearly six decades of experience and professional skills to put to work for transit operations and maintenance. They have operated fixed route systems in cities across North America and around the world. Their goal is to provide the safest, most efficient passenger transportation service possible, so bus patrons enjoy a safe, comfortable ride with an operator who is courteous and understanding of their needs.
TJPA’s contract with First Transit represents 100 jobs in Merced County and provides the opportunity to work with a proven industry leader in the electrification of bus fleets in the industry just as The Bus embarks on the process of shifting its own fleet to zero-emission vehicles.



All bus schedules and hours of operation can be found at www.mercedthebus.com or by calling (209) 723-3100. Real-time information regarding bus locations, services and arrival times can be found at www.thebuslive.com or by downloading ‘The Bus Live’ app on your smart phone for free. All fares are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 emergency. Passengers are asked to only use The Bus to provide or receive essential services and to wear a mask while on board as well as comply with social distancing requirements. All buses are equipped with bike racks and are wheelchair accessible.
The Bus is the single public transportation service provider for all of Merced County and is administered by the Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County and managed by the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG). For more information, please visit www.mercedthebus.com and www.mcagov.org.

 

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May 5 , 2020

Caring Kids Play Group Moves to Digital Platform

While school sites are temporarily closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Merced County Office of Education is continuing its Caring Kids program through online sessions, enabling children’s play groups to continue.
Monica Adrian, a behavior support specialist with MCOE, said these play group sessions started about a month ago and will continue during California’s stay-at-home order.
Adrian said they average eight to 10 families a day taking advantage of the online play group sessions Monday through Friday from noon until about 1 p.m.
“We still need social connections even more and to have some sense of normalcy,” Adrian said. “We reduce stress levels. They sing songs and have stories read.”
Play groups are open to children of all abilities, including those with special needs.
If play group sessions are full, Adrian said they can create new times and sessions.
“It’s for anybody who wants to come. It’s filling a big gap. They’re fun. The goal is to keep stress levels low. It’s intended for children typically age 6 or 7 and under,” Adrian said.
There also are opportunities for the youngsters’ parents to have a daily break, talk with each other, seek additional resources and make important connections.
Young children can learn important skills while playing. That’s the focus of the inclusive social skills play groups MCOE offers. The play groups were offered year-round, open to anyone and involving parents, grandparents and caregivers.
Adrian said there are few resources in Merced County for young children and their families. The play groups offer a safe and welcoming opportunity where children learn not only about school readiness but also gain key social skills.


Caring Kids was instituted in 2003 and the play groups were added four years ago.
Christie Hendricks, assistant superintendent of the Early Education Department of the Merced County Office of Education, said the play groups give children a chance to learn age-appropriate skills. The Caring Kids program is funded through a Proposition 63 grant through the Merced County Mental Health Services behavioral health program.
Adrian said through the play groups young participants can transition seamlessly into preschool or kindergarten from these experiences.
For those interested in joining the program, contact Adrian at (209) 261-4194.

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May 1 , 2020

Council to consider COVID19 Recovery Program

The City Council will consider a COVID19 Recovery Program during its Monday meeting.

Council will hear a report from its subcommittee on potential measures to assist local businesses and residents due to the COVID19 pandemic. The City has received other requests, including one from the Merced Hotel Motel Association asking to delay payment of transient occupancy taxes until after July 1.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, and “stay home” orders, the Merced City Council will hold its meeting telephonically. The meeting format is allowed under Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order N-29-20.

There will be no meeting held in the Civic Center in order to protect the public, City staff and Council from the coronavirus. The meeting will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Monday on Facebook Live at City of Merced, on the City’s website, www.cityofmerced.org, and Comcast Public Access Channel 96.

People may submit public comments to the City Council electronically no later than 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Comments received before the deadline will be read as part of the record. Material may be emailed to cityclerk@cityofmerced.org and should be limited to 500 words or less. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on, i.e. item number or Oral Communications. Comments will be read to the City Council at the appropriate time. Any correspondence received during or after the meeting will be distributed to the City Council and retained for the official record.

People may provide telephonic comments via voicemail by calling (209) 388-8688 by no later than 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting in order to be added to the public comment. Voicemails will be limited to three minutes. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on. Your comments will be read to the City Council at the appropriate time.

 

For public hearing items, if people want to speak live during the meeting they need to leave callback information in advance. They will be contacted with further details.

On the agenda:

• Report to Council on possible measures to assist local businesses and residents through a proposed COVID19 Recovery Program and provide direction to staff.

• A Public Hearing on an appeal of a conditional use permit for a mixed use development including 218 apartments and 14,000 square-feet of retail at Yosemite Avenue and McKee Road.

• Consider a request from Mayor Pro Tem Serratto to discuss eviction concerns.

The Council will meet in closed session at 5 p.m. with real property negotiators and labor negotiators.

A link to the live meeting is also on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.

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April 30, 2020

Merced County Health Officer Places Temporary Hold on COVID-19 “Social Distancing and Safety Plan” Requirements for Businesses

In response to feedback from the local business and agricultural community, the Health Officer is temporarily suspending Section 5 of the most recent Public Health Order from April 24, 2020 regarding essential businesses and additional COVID-19 precautionary measures until further clarification can be developed.
Section 5, which was scheduled to become effective Friday, May 1, required businesses to develop a “Social Distancing and Safety Plan.” This Plan included several elements to help slow the spread of COVID-19, including limited capacity (five people per 1,000 square feet), door monitoring to ensure proper numbers, cloth face masks for employees and patrons, telecommuting options, employee screening, and several others.
The rest of the Health Order remains in effect. While Section 5 is suspended, Merced County will reevaluate that portion of the Order and its requirements to better allow local businesses to improve their COVID-19 safety protocols without overburdening their essential operations. Additional guidance documents will also be developed and provided to businesses as they look to follow the updated Health Order.
Some businesses have already been able to establish the safety protocols detailed in the Health Order, and their commitment to customer and employee safety is greatly appreciated. However, each business within our community is unique in terms of how it serves the public, and those that need additional time and guidance to improve their COVID-19 safety response protocols will be afforded that opportunity.


 

Merced County remains committed to protecting public health while concurrently working with businesses to assist them during this difficult time.
County officials are already evaluating preliminary options for reopening parts of the economy without putting our community at risk for a spike in cases. As part of the most recent Health Order, the definition of essential services was expanded to include drive-up services for faith-based organizations, animal care facilities, drive-through automatic car washes, and pool maintenance.
Local entities (such as Merced County) must operate within the confines of the Governor’s Executive Order and cannot supersede its directives. Any business operating within a city that has taken stricter measures than the County or State directives must adhere to the stricter measures. As the Governor opens various parts of the economy, Merced County Public Health will continue to issue guidance documents to ensure our business community can reopen in a timely manner.
Any future revisions to the Health Order will continue to be shared with the public and our business community moving forward. For the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 in Merced County, please visit www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus.


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April 30, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 - FROM STATE ROUTE 59 TO ATWATER BOULEVARD

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work. Closures are as follows:
• Full on-ramp closure from SR-59/Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to northbound SR-99 beginning Monday, May 4, through Tuesday, May 5, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full on ramp closure from R Street to southbound SR-99 on Friday, May 8, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from southbound SR-99 to 16th Street on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from 16th Street to northbound SR-99 on Wednesday, May 6, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures at Atwater Boulevard on northbound and
southbound SR-99 beginning Sunday, May 3, through Saturday, May 9, 2020,
from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to East Atwater Overhead beginning Sunday, May 3, through Saturday, May 9, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 at
Applegate Road beginning Sunday, May 3, through Saturday, May 9, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from West Atwater Overhead to northbound SR-99
beginning Sunday, May 3, through Saturday, May 9, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until
6:00 a.m. Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.


 


For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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April 30 , 2020

UPDATED GUIDELINES FOR LANDFILL CUSTOMERS

Merced – Customers visiting the landfills in Merced and Los Banos will notice some changes when they arrive to dispose of their items. Both sites are still open to the public six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 7:00am to 3:30pm, but procedures at the gates have changed slightly due to the COVID-19 emergency.
For their safety, customers must stay in their vehicles until they arrive at the scale house to weigh in. When approaching the scale house window, customers must comply with social distancing requirements while waiting to pay their fee and are advised to wear a mask in accordance with state and local guidance. And while cash is still accepted, customers are asked to use credit or debit cards for payment to reduce risk to employees.
“Since the beginning of the stay-at-home order we’ve seen a 27 percent increase in the number of residents using the various services at both landfills,” said Eric Zetz, Director of the Regional Waste Management Authority. “While we are eager to assist customers in the proper disposal of their items, we are asking people to be patient while they wait to enter and exit the site and to check our Facebook page for current disposal and recycling information, as well as updates on wait times.”
The Highway 59 landfill near Merced will be undergoing scale house lane improvements this summer which will reduce wait times for customers entering the site. Scale house lane improvements at the Billy Wright landfill in Los Banos will happen later this fall.

Both landfill sites in Merced and Los Banos allow for disposal of a range of items at no cost and have recycling and diversion programs for things such as mattresses, carpet, e-waste, household hazardous waste and more. Disposal fees apply to most material brought to the landfill, but some recycling programs accept specific items for free or a reduced rate. For more information, visit www.mcrwma.org or the /MCRWMA Facebook page.
Merced County Association of Governments is a joint powers authority responsible for administering the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority. The Regional Waste Authority operates two regional landfills, one in Merced on North Highway 59 and the Billy Wright landfill in Los Banos.

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April 28, 2020

Valley Caregiver Resource Center, a nonprofit organization serving seniors and caregivers throughout the Central Valley, is open via phone and internet, ensuring the needs of those they serve are still being met
Caregiving Continues during COVID-19 restrictions

Fresno, CA—Michelle DiBuduo, Executive Director of Valley Caregiver Resource Center, has issued the following statement:
“The health and safety of our community and staff members is our highest priority at Valley Caregiver Resource Center. Though our physical offices are closed to the public at this time, our staff is still available for those we serve. Phones are being answered and calls will be routed to the appropriate staff, who are working virtually. Classes, counseling and meetings are being held, and services are available; all will be delivered online or via phone.
Please call us at 1 (800) 541-8614 or (559) 224-9154, with your questions, or if you should need any information. We are here to help.
The most important thing to remember is this: We’re all in this together. We are all looking forward to a brighter future.”
Valley Caregiver Resource Center provides information and assistance on all aspects of care, including the following:
Caregiver Resource Center
We assist caregivers in exploring immediate and long-term care options and provide support and guidance in decision making.
HICAP


The HICAP Program provides free counseling on Medicare benefits, prescription drug plans, and more. Free for Medicare recipients.
OASIS/PALS
These two licensed adult day programs offer senior day care programs that provide opportunities for seniors in all different stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia, allowing them to participate in meaningful sand engaging activities during the day. Though the onsite classes are closed, enrollments are being accepted
Ombudsman
The Ombudsman advocates for the dignity, quality of life, and quality of care for all residents in long-term care facilities.


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April 25, 2020

Health Order Amendment Includes Requirements for Social Distancing and Safety Plans

MERCED COUNTY, CA – Merced County Health Officials amended the current Stay-At-Home Order (Order) today to include minimum requirements for social distancing and safety plans for essential businesses. The Order also expands the definition of essential services to include drive-up services for faith-based organizations, animal care facilities, drive-through automatic car washes, and pool maintenance. The amended Order is effective immediately and supersedes the prior Order issued on April 17, 2020.
“In an effort to align Merced County’s Stay-At-Home Order with the Governor’s Order, changes were made to provide clarification to the essential services in our community and to assist with social distancing and safety plans,” said Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, the Department of Public Health Director. “It is our hope that the changes to the Order will promote public health and safety and still allow for essential services to thrive in our community.”
Although the Order has been amended, it’s important that social distancing and safety measures remain, as we’re still at-risk for a surge of transmission in our community. The Order allows for faith-based organizations to provide weekly services through streaming or other technologies or by conducting drive-up services, where the patrons remain in their vehicles. Services must abide by physical distancing guidelines and individuals must refrain from direct or indirect contact with others.
Animal care facilities are now added to the essential list of businesses. This includes facilities that provide food, shelter, veterinary and/or routine care and other necessities of life for animals.
Additionally, drive-through automatic car wash businesses, where customers remain in their vehicles with no cash exchange, are now deemed essential. Vacuum centers associated with car washes shall remain closed. Social distancing must still occur with a six-foot distance between customers and employees.
Moving forward, Merced County will continue adding to the list of essential businesses when possible, however, local entities (such as Merced County) must operate within the confines of the Governor’s Executive Order and cannot supersede its directives.


All essential businesses shall be required to develop a Social Distancing and Safety Plan. The minimum requirements that must be included in the plan are:
* Limit capacity of business to 5 people per 1,000 square feet.
* Door monitoring of individuals in/out to ensure appropriate capacity is maintained.
* One adult may enter the business per party/cart. No large family visits.
* Social distancing must be ensured (see details in amended Order).
* Employees shall wipe down all carts and baskets using disinfectant.
* Provide adequate handwashing facilities for employees.
* All employees must wear cloth masks, provided by employer.
* All visitors to a business should wear a cloth mask. Individuals not wearing a mask may be denied entry into the business.
* Customers must bag their own groceries/items when bringing reusable bags. Employees shall use new bags when bagging customer groceries/items.
* All workers who are able to telecommute should be allowed to do so.
* All workers must be given adequate protections whenever possible, including social distancing of employees and customers.
* Universal screening of all employees for fever, cough, and shortness of breath shall occur (already included in the Febrile Respiratory Illness Health Officer Order dated April 7, 2020).
For additional information pertaining to COVID-19, please visit the Department’s resource website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the Department information line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).

Click here to see ORDER


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April 25, 2020

Merced County Increases COVID-19 Testing with One New Community Testing Site
Sites being stood up are part of a partnership between California and OptumServe

MERCED COUNTY, CA -- Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent announcement to add more than 80 community testing sites across the state focused on underserved communities, Merced County will launch an additional testing site in the City of Merced.
The new testing site is projected to open on April 30, 2020. This new site is one of 80 testing sites powered through a partnership with OptumServe, the federal government health services business of Optum, a leading health services innovation company.
Testing will be by appointment only. Additional information will be released when appointments become available.
“This testing site will help Merced County dramatically increase testing needs for individuals who have had limited access to COVID-19 tests up until now,” said Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, Director of Public Health for Merced County “We’re thrilled to partner with the state and OptumServe to help ensure that our communities are healthy, while also helping meet California’s testing goals.”
To determine where to locate new testing sites, the state looked at both rural and urban areas where Californians would have to travel between 30 and 60 minutes to reach an existing testing site or hospital. That information was then evaluated based on underserved populations so residents have access to testing regardless of socioeconomic status.
OptumServe has extensive expertise in rapidly deploying and setting up health care services and has worked closely with the military under the leadership of former Army Surgeon General and retired Lieutenant General


Patty Horoho, RN.
“OptumServe is honored to assist California in expanding COVID-19 testing for residents,” said Patty Horoho, CEO of OptumServe. “We are bringing our full commitment and capabilities to serve Californians, including extensive experience conducting large community health events.”
At maximum capacity, OptumServe will be able to support up to 80 testing sites at one time throughout the state, increasing total testing capacity by more than 10,500 tests per day.
“Thanks to Merced County and to OptumServe for the collaboration to make these testing sites possible,” said Charity Dean, M.D., Assistant Director of the California Department of Public Health. “We’re working together as part of the state’s Testing Task Force to ensure regions with the greatest need have access to tests, and these sites are going to be a major component in reaching our testing goals.”


More Information:
* Governor Newsom announcement to expand community testing in underserved areas
* www.optumserve.com
* Merced County Department of Public Health website www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus


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April 24, 2020

FAA revises Airport grant

The Federal Aviation Administration has announced it revised the amount of funding the Merced Regional Airport will receive from the CARES Act to $3,364,156.

“We appreciate the funding because it allows us to complete Airport projects we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish without the grant,” said City Manager Steve Carrigan. “The money will sustain existing jobs and bring new investment to the local economy as we improve the airport and quality of services provided.”

 

The federal grant will be used to maintain existing airport services and allow for additional resources to make airport terminal improvements, resurface the terminal parking lots, perform taxiway crack and slurry seal projects and replace the airport security camera system, Carrigan said.

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April 24, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 - FROM MISSION AVENUE TO GOLDEN STATE BOULEVARD

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work.
Closures are as follows:
• Full on-ramp closure from Mission Avenue to southbound SR-99 on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, from 7:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from southbound SR-99 to 16th Street on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, from 7:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures at Atwater Boulevard on northbound and
southbound SR-99 beginning Sunday, April 26, through Saturday, May 2, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound and southbound SR-99 at
Applegate Road beginning Sunday, April 26, through Saturday, May 2, 2020,
from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from West Atwater Overhead to northbound SR-99
beginning Sunday, April 26, through Saturday, May 2, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from southbound SR-99 to Atwater Boulevard beginning Sunday, April 26, through Saturday, May 2, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from southbound SR-99 to Hunter Road on Thursday, April 30, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to Winton Parkway beginning on Monday, April 27, through Tuesday, April 28, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound SR-99 from South Avenue to
Bradbury Road beginning Sunday, April 26, through Monday, April 27, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.



• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to South Avenue beginning on
Wednesday, April 29, through Thursday, April 30, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from Shanks Road to northbound SR-99 on Monday, April 27, 2020, from 7:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to South Turlock/Golden Gate
Boulevard beginning Sunday, April 26, through Monday, April 27, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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April 23, 2020

The Bus awarded $3.1 million for Electric Buses

MERCED – On the eve of Earth Day, the California State Transportation Agency announced that The Bus will receive more than $3.1 million in state funding for the purchase of three electric buses to transport Merced County residents.
The three new zero-emission vehicles will be in operation in 18-24 months and represent an expansion of service rather than replacing buses scheduled for retirement. Two of the buses will be used to increase the frequency of service on routes between Merced and the communities of Planada and Le Grand. The other bus will serve the residential areas of Merced that are located north of Merced College. Service to both of these areas were identified as ‘Unmet Transit Needs’ by the Social Services Transportation Advisory Council (SSTAC) in 2019. The SSTAC is composed of private citizens who depend on transit along with representatives from both social services agencies and the transportation industry. The group assesses the regional transit system every year and makes recommendations on transit services that they believe should be provided to the public.
“The addition of these vehicles to The Bus’ fleet is not only important because of what they mean to the collective efforts aimed at improving air quality in our region, but also because they will allow us to expand service in communities who don’t have the access to transportation they need,” said Stacie Guzman, Executive Director of Merced County Association of Governments.
This is the third grant award to purchase electric buses that the Agency has received in the last year; the first was submitted in cooperation with the City of Merced. The full award announcement can be found here: https://calsta.ca.gov/-/media/calsta-media/documents/2020-tircp-award-list.pdf. In total, all of the grant funding equates to the addition of nine electric buses that will be put in service throughout the County.



All bus schedules and hours of operation can be found at www.mercedthebus.com or by calling (209) 723-3100. Real-time information regarding bus locations, services and arrival times can be found at www.thebuslive.com or by downloading ‘The Bus Live’ app on your smart phone for free. All fares are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 emergency. Passengers are asked to only use The Bus to provide or receive essential services and to wear a mask while on board as well as comply with social distancing requirements. All buses are equipped with bike racks and are wheelchair accessible.
The Bus is the single public transportation service provider for all of Merced County and is administered by the Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County and managed by the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG). For more information, please visit www.mercedthebus.com and www.mcagov.org.

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April 23, 2020

California High-Speed Rail Authority Releases Draft Environmental Document for First Segment into Northern California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California High-Speed Rail Authority is releasing the first project-level Draft Environmental Document for a project section in Northern California. The document, which covers the 90-mile extent of the 145-mile San Jose to Merced Project Section from Scott Boulevard in Santa Clara to Carlucci Road in Merced County, will be open for public comment starting on Friday, April 24.

“The release of the draft environmental document for this project section marks an important milestone for the high-speed rail program. With the release of this first environmental document in Northern California, we are continuing to show progress on every mile of the statewide system,” said Authority CEO Brian Kelly. “We look forward to hearing from the communities along the route to ensure our project provides a clean, next-generation travel option while improving local quality of life.”

“This is an important step towards bringing high-speed rail to San Jose and the Silicon Valley. Now is the time to make investments that will connect all of California with sustainable transportation options,” said City of San José Mayor Sam Liccardo. “We want to see high-speed rail get to San Jose — and will keep working with the Authority to limit impacts to neighborhoods and ensure that Diridon Station becomes a world-class intermodal hub."

The San Jose to Merced Project Section would connect Silicon Valley and Central Valley with a fast and reliable high-speed rail travel option. By shortening travel times and integrating the high-speed rail system with other modes of travel, this segment of the statewide high-speed rail system will tie California’s regions together like never before. This section is also an important component of the entire statewide system that will connect the Bay Area with the Central Valley and Southern California.

The approximately 90-mile project extent will travel through or near the communities of Santa Clara, San Jose, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and Los Banos. The project comprises high-speed rail system infrastructure, high-speed rail stations at San Jose Diridon and Gilroy, a maintenance of way facility (MOWF) either south or southeast of Gilroy, and a maintenance of way siding (MOWS) west of Turner Island Road in the Central Valley. Stations at San Jose Diridon and Gilroy would provide links with regional and local mass transit.

With the release of this San Jose to Merced Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), the Authority remains on track to complete environmental clearance for the full Phase 1 system by the federally mandated 2022 deadline. From Friday, April 24 through Monday, June 8, the San Jose to Merced Project Section Draft EIR/EIS is available for a minimum 45-day CEQA and NEPA review and public comment period.

In conjunction with the public review period for the document, the Authority invites you to participate in the community open houses and a public hearing. The public hearing will provide an opportunity for the public to submit verbal comments on the Draft EIR/EIS. Comments received regarding environmental issues will be reviewed and responded to as required by law. The final EIR/EIS document for San Jose to Merced will be issued in 2021.

Due to public health and safety requirements concerning the coronavirus (COVID-19), the community open houses and/or the public hearing for the Draft EIR/EIS may need to occur online and/or as teleconference meetings only. Please check the Authority website (www.hsr.ca.gov) for more information, including up-to-date information on the planned hearing and open houses.




Public Hearing is scheduled on:

May 27, 2020, 3:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Santa Clara County Government Center
Board of Supervisors Chambers
70 West Hedding Street
San Jose, CA, 95110

Public Open House meetings are scheduled on:
San Jose Open House Meeting
May 11, 2020
4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
San Jose City Hall, Rotunda,
200 E. Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA, 95113
Gilroy Open House Meeting
May 14, 2020
4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Veterans Memorial Hall,
74 w. 6th Street
Gilroy, CA, 95020
Los Banos Open House Meeting
May 18, 2020
4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m.
Los Banos Community Center,
645 7th Street,
Los Banos, CA, 93635

The Authority is issuing this document as lead agency under CEQA, and also under NEPA pursuant to 23 U.S.C. 327 and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) effective as of July 23, 2019, between the State of California and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under a program commonly known as NEPA assignment (the MOU assigned FRA’s NEPA responsibilities for the project to the State of California). After the comment period closes on Monday, June 8, 2020 and the comments received have been evaluated, staff will prepare and issue the Final EIR/EIS document and present it to the Board to consider certification and project approval under CEQA and NEPA.

There are several ways to submit a comment regarding the Draft EIR/EIS for the San Jose to Merced Project Section including:
• At one of the four meetings detailed above
• Online via the Authority’s website (www.hsr.ca.gov)
• Via email at San.Jose_Merced@hsr.ca.gov with the subject line “San Jose to Merced Draft EIR/EIS Comment”
• Via mail at the address below:
Attn: San Jose to Merced: Draft EIR/EIS California High-Speed Rail Authority
100 Paseo de San Antonio, Suite 300
San Jose, CA 95113

To view the contents of the Draft EIR/EIS, please visit our website starting Friday, April 24, 2020: www.hsr.ca.gov.

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April 21 , 2020

The 2020 Merced County Fair Cancelled Amid COVID-19 Concerns
Jr. Livestock Auction to Move Forward With Virtual Sale through Stock Show Auctions (SSA)

MERCED, CALIFORNIA, April 21, 2020 – At an emergency meeting yesterday, the Merced County Board of Directors and fair CEO made the difficult decision to cancel the upcoming 2020 Merced County Fair, which was to be held June 10 - 14, due to COVID-19 public health concerns. In light of Governor Newsom’s current position on the likelihood of public events in the near future, and after consultation with the Merced County Department of Public Health, it became apparent that this year’s fair could not take place. However, the fair is moving forward with plans to hold a virtual Jr. Livestock Auction in June. The fair is working with StockShowAuctions.com (SSA) to utilize its online platform for the more than 500 4-H and FFA Merced County Fair exhibitors to sell their animal projects in a professional, easy to use way.

“The decision to not hold this year’s fair was not made lightly as it impacts the livelihood of many individuals and businesses in our community and the fair industry. However, it is the right decision to make at this time in order to protect the health and safety of our community” said Teresa Burrola, CEO of the Merced County Fair. “The silver lining is that we are working through plans to hold a virtual livestock sale to support our hard-working 4-H and FFA exhibitors who have already invested in their animal projects for this year’s fair.”

Through SSA, the Merced County Fair will be able to hold a virtual auction that enables buyers to purchase as they have in the past, just from the convenience of their home. Market beef, market goats, market sheep, market swine, market rabbits, and replacement heifers will be included in the virtual auction, which will be held from June 11 – 13. Merced County Fair 4-H and FFA exhibitors will need to enter their animal projects as normal; deadline for entries is May 7. After that date, all exhibitors who entered will be contacted and provided details for the virtual auction and processing. Exhibitors need to continue feeding and caring for their animals and marketing to secure buyers, just like they would if their animals were going to the traditional auction. The Merced County Fair is working through developing a “toolkit” for exhibitors to utilize to secure and guide buyers in the new virtual auction. Additionally, staff and volunteers will be available to assist with online registration and bidding process information. More details will be posted on the fair’s website (www.mercedcountyfair.com/livestock-exhibits). Advisors, exhibitors and buyers with questions can also email livestock@countyofmerced.com.

“I am incredibly proud of our livestock team for diligently working to source a great platform and plan for our exhibitors to still market and sell their animal projects – which is such an important experience for our livestock youth. We hope that our exhibitors and buyers will participate in this year’s ‘virtual auction’ and keep this longstanding tradition of the fair alive this year,” said Burrola.


Tickets have not yet gone on sale for the 2020 Merced County Fair; so there are no refunds that will need to be issued. All purchased 2020 Merced County Fair VIP Parking Passes will be honored for the 2021 Merced County Fair. If purchasers would prefer a refund on their VIP Parking Pass, email the Fair at info@mercedcountyfair.com or call (209) 722-1506. The fair is also working to process refunds for RV and vendor deposits, which will be issued in the next two weeks.
The 2020 event would have marked the 129th Merced County Fair held – a longstanding tradition for the community. Through the annual fair and its 220 interim events, more than $23 million in economic impact dollars are generated for the local economy, based on a 2015 report put out by the California Department of Food & Agriculture. The Merced County Fair will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and stay in close contact with health officials to determine when it is appropriate to resume interim events at the fairgrounds.

“On behalf of my Board and our staff, I want to thank our sponsors, vendors, exhibitors and community for all of the years of support. We will be back next year and it will be a celebration to remember!” said Burrola. “Until then, please continue to follow public health guidelines so we can stop the spread of COVID-19.”

About The Merced County Fair:
The Merced County Fair, first founded in 1891, represents the 35th District Agricultural Association. The fair’s mission statement outlines that it “promises to meet the needs of our community by providing a fun, safe venue to celebrate our area’s agricultural heritage, discover new technology and be entertained.” Each June, the Merced County Fair welcomes more than 70,000 people from throughout Merced County and beyond to attend the five-day event. Members of the Board of Directors include: President, Carol Sartoni-Silva; First Vice President, Lee Lor; Second Vice President, Kim Rogina; Vicky Banaga; Mark Erreca; Lori Gallo; Emily Haden; Flip Hassett; and Luis Lara. Teresa Burrola heads up the daily operations in her role as CEO. The 2021 Merced County Fair will run June 9 - 13. For more information about the Merced County Fair, please visit www.MercedCountyFair.com. Connect with the Fair on Facebook (@mercedfair), Twitter (@Merced_CA_Fair) and Instagram (@mercedcountyfair).

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April 20, 2020

Council to consider COVID19 Recovery Program

After a special presentation from an economist on COVID19, the City Council will consider a COVID19 Recovery Program during its Monday meeting.

Dr. Robert Eyler, an economist and the Director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis and Dean at Sonoma State University, will give a presentation on “Economics in the Time of COVID19.” Later in the meeting the Council will hear about the City’s COVID19 Recovery Program and provide staff direction.

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, and “stay home” orders, the Merced City Council will hold its April 20 meeting telephonically. The meeting format is allowed under Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order N-29-20.

There will be no meeting held in the Civic Center in order to protect the public, City staff and Council from the coronavirus. The meeting will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Monday on Facebook Live at City of Merced, on the City’s website, www.cityofmerced.org, and Comcast Public Access Channel 96.

People may submit public comments to the City Council electronically no later than 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Comments received before the deadline will be read as part of the record. Material may be emailed to cityclerk@cityofmerced.org and should be limited to 500 words or less. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on, i.e. item number or Oral Communications. Comments will be read to the City Council at the appropriate time. Any correspondence received during or after the meeting will be distributed to the City Council and retained for the official record.

People may provide telephonic comments via voicemail by calling (209) 388-8688 by no later than 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting in order to be added to the public comment. Voicemails will be limited to three minutes. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on. Your comments will be read to the City Council at the appropriate time.

 


 


For public hearing items, if people want to speak live during the meeting they need to leave callback information in advance. They will be contacted with further details.

On the agenda:

• A discussion of a proposed COVID19 Recovery Program and direction to staff.

• A Public Hearing to consider modifying program and service fees charged by the Parks and Community Services Department.

• A Public Hearing to consider annexation into community facilities district for the Stoneridge South Subdivision and future apartment project.

A link to the live meeting is also on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.


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April 20, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 AT BRADBURY ROAD

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work.
Closures are as follows:
• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound SR-99 at Bradbury Road beginning on Monday, April 20, through Friday, April 24, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 5-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.


 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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April 18, 2020

Health Order Amended to Promote Mental and Physical Health

MERCED COUNTY, CA – In an effort to promote health and wellness, Merced County Public Health Officials have amended the current Stay-At-Home Order (Order) allowing modified recreation in parks and golf courses. The amended Order is effective immediately and supersedes the prior Order issued on April 8, 2020.
“After careful consideration, in an effort to maintain physical and mental health during this stressful time, the Department feels it’s necessary to promote options for wellness while still adhering to the safety measures in the Health Officer Order,” says Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, the Department of Public Health Director.
Although the Order has been amended, it’s important that social distancing and safety measures still remain, as we’re still at-risk for a surge of transmission in our community. The Order allows for golf courses to resume operations, under an approved operational guideline. Once an operational guideline is approved, the golf courses will be able to operate with restrictions, which include the continued closures of Pro-shops, driving ranges, and any restaurants or bars located on-site. Green open spaces at parks will now be accessible to residents, along with park pathways. The picnic areas, BBQs, and other related facilities at parks will remain closed. Individuals at golf courses, or using the walking trails, bicycle paths and green spaces in the parks will be required to continue social distancing and are advised to wear face cloth covering while outside of their homes.
Golf courses and parks are required to be closed for the upcoming major holiday weekends – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, and 4th of July.


The Order:
* Directs all individuals living in the County to continue to stay at home unless they are providing or receiving essential services;
* Directs all businesses and governmental agencies to cease non-essential operations at physical locations in the County;
* Prohibits all non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals (including church services and funeral services);
* Orders cessation of all non-essential travel; and
* Restricts access to certain recreation areas (excluding golf courses, walking trails, bicycle paths, and green spaces in parks).
For additional information pertaining to COVID-19, please visit the Department’s resource website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the Department information line at (209) 381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).

Click here to see ORDER

Click here to see Golf Course new rules


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April 18, 2020

Merced Airport receives $16.8 million grant

The Merced Regional Airport will receive $16,885,618 from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a result of the CARES Act.
In total, the CARES Act allocated $10 billion in funds to provide economic relief for airports around the country. Pres. Donald Trump signed the CARES Act, also known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, into law on March 27.

“Our aviation industry is just one of many suffering profound economic losses during this health crisis,” said Congressman Jim Costa. “These grants will help make up for the reduction in business operations and help keep workers from losing their jobs.”
“We want to thank Rep. Jim Costa, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Sen. Kamala Harris for helping securing this funding during these difficult times,” said Mayor Mike Murphy. “We will put this money to good use while operating and managing our airport.”
“This grant will put many local residents to work as we move out of the current crisis,” he said.

“This funding will not only help the Airport, but also local businesses that will be providing goods and services for the projects that will improve our facility,” said Economic Development Director Frank Quintero, who oversees the Airport’s operations.
Airport Manager Martin Pehl said, “This grant will greatly assist the Airport, and its operations, and benefit the public and the aviation community.”
Pehl said among the projects the grant would be used for include refurbishing the terminal building and parking lot, improving the runway and taxiway and addressing other parts of the airport’s master plan.
The CARES Act is a more than $2 trillion economic relief package, with $10 billion allocated for airport improvement grants. The grants will provide economic relief to airports around the country affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said, “This $10 billion in emergency resources will help fund the continued operations of our nation’s airports during this crisis and save workers’ jobs.”

 


 

Virtual Town Hall next Wednesday

There will be a Virtual Town Hall to answer residents’ questions about the current coronavirus situation and how it affects the City of Merced from 6-7 p.m. Weds., April 22.
The Town Hall will be carried on Facebook Live, Comcast Channel 96 and Microsoft Teams.

Mayor Mike Murphy and City staff will answer questions from the public that have been submitted in advance and online during the Town Hall.

Questions can be emailed to cityclerk@cityofmerced.org and include COVID19 Town Hall in the subject line. People can also ask questions via Microsoft Teams at www.cityofmerced.org/virtualtownhall during the meeting.

 

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April 18, 2020


MCOE Launches New Distance Learning Website, Utilizes METV Station

Merced County schools have transitioned from in-person instruction at school sites to distance learning to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and the Merced County Office of Education has launched a Distance Learning platform to assist educators, students and families.
By accessing mcoe.org/distancelearning, academic resources are expanded exponentially. This resource is available for the entire community, including students, parents and teachers.
Elements of the MCOE Distance Learning website are still being perfected, but the site offers specific curriculum for second through eighth-graders. MCOE administrators are continuing to identify and curate content that will appear Monday through Friday on the Merced Educational Televisions (METV) channel and stream online. METV videos will complement other resources available on the MCOE Distance Learning website and include content from Camp Green Meadows naturalists, MCOE content experts and teachers from across the county.
“All 20 school districts in our county are working together to make sure the learning continues,” said Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen. “While this is a change for our students and families, we want you to know you are not alone and MCOE is here to help.”
MCOE Educational Technologies Coordinator Matt Edwards said Educational Services content coordinators created Google Classroom templates for second through eighth grades with 30 to 40 lessons for each of the four main subject areas, which are mathematics, English, history and science. Classroom content for kindergarten and first grade is being developed.
Edwards said teachers can preview content and request a copy of the grade-level Google Classroom for use with their students. For teachers new to digital or distance learning, two of the biggest hurdles are content and how to deliver.
“Our goal was to try and help teachers overcome these hurdles by having curated content in a free delivery method with an easy learning curve,” Edwards said.


Along with the website, there is curated content that teachers and parents can both use in the absence of digital curriculum, according to MCOE Continuous Improvement Director Francisco Romo. These courses are focused on the priority standards at each grade level and will give students a chance to continue their academic growth throughout the distance learning time frame.
“We are offering online virtual coaching to educators that need support in a number of subject areas,” he added.
The MCOE Distance Learning website also features science connections such as engineering, physics and outdoor science learning as elements of science education that may require focused support.
MCOE Mathematics Coordinator Duane Habecker – who created the site and its structure – said the purpose of the MCOE Distance Learning website is to support educators along with parents and students.
Parents have access to daily scheduling advice and enrichment opportunities for all subjects. Teachers have access to MCOE content coordinators via virtual office hours in which they receive support on how to run a classroom through distance learning, Habecker said.
Many lessons Habecker has created will air on METV, which is broadcast on Comcast channel 97, AT&T U-Verse channel 99 and a livestream that can be found at mcoe.org/metv. The livestream will also be broadcast on the METV Facebook page, facebook.com/metvmerced.
“On the MCOE educational TV station METV, we will start each day with visual and performing arts, and then focus on a subject area that day, like mathematics, language arts, science and history,” Tietjen added. “We have provided many ways to access this resource and we hope families with take advantage of the TV station or the livestream.”
METV will have Distance Learning programing from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

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April 18, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 - FROM 16th STREET TO WINTON PARKWAY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work.
Closures are as follows:
• Full on-ramp closure from 16th Street to southbound SR-99 on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from SR-59/MLK Way to northbound SR-99 on Thursday, April 23, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from East Atwater Overhead to southbound SR-99 beginning Sunday, April 19, through Friday, April 24, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to East Atwater Overhead beginning Sunday, April 19, through Friday, April 24, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound SR-99 at Applegate Road beginning Sunday, April 19, through Friday, April 24, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from Applegate Road to southbound SR-99 beginning
Sunday, April 19, through Wednesday, April 22, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from West Atwater Overhead to northbound SR-99
beginning Sunday, April 19, through Friday, April 24, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.

• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound SR-99 from Hammatt Avenue to Winton Parkway beginning Sunday, April 19, through Friday, April 24, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible. This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
15-MINUTE DELAYS
ROAD MAINTENANCE ON STATE ROUTE 49 FROM BEAR VALLEY ROAD IN MARIPOSA COUNTY TO ROUTE 120 IN TUOLUMNE COUNTY

MARIPOSA/TUOLUMNE COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will conduct one-way traffic control on northbound and southbound State Route 49 from Bear Valley Road (north of the town of Mariposa) to Route 120 near Moccasin in Tuolumne County for shoulder work.
Work is scheduled beginning Monday, April, 2020, through Friday, April 24, 2020, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Motorists should expect up to 15-minute delays.
Work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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April 16, 2020

MCAG MODIFIES PUBLIC COMMENT PROCESS FOR BOARD MEETING

MERCED - Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG) has changed the way it receives public comment for its Governing Board meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 16, 2020 at 3:00pm. Due to the COVID-19 emergency, Governor Newsom issued an executive order last month that allows public meetings to be conducted using web or teleconference tools so that board members and residents can adhere to social distancing standards and shelter-in-place guidelines.
Members of the public are still able to participate in the meeting through the internet or phone. Public comments may be submitted by email to info@mcagov.org or by voicemail at (209) 330-9070. Comments received by noon on Thursday will be read by staff at the appropriate time in the meeting. Comments received after that time will be distributed to board members and retained for the official record. Comments are limited to 500 words by email or three minutes in length on voicemail.


For more information about how to participate in the MCAG Governing Board meeting, please contact Mary-Michal Rawling at (209) 723-3153 x119 or mary-michal.rawling@mcagov.org. The meeting agenda with web link and phone number can be found at: http://www.mcagov.org/AgendaCenter.
MCAG is the regional transportation planning agency and metropolitan planning organization for Merced County. In addition to regional transportation planning, MCAG also manages The Bus, YARTS, the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority and administers Measure V funds. For more information, visit www.mcagov.org.

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April 14, 2020

Travis Credit Union Selects Merced County Community Organizations to Receive $1M towards Local COVID-19 Efforts
Also, TCU will match up to an additional $4M for donations made to the TCU Foundation

VACAVILLE, CA—Travis Credit Union today announced that it has launched and implemented its $1 million philanthropic initiative, which was disbursed to local organizations working to provide COVID-19 related relief to non-profits primarily focused on services in the areas of education, youth/family, food banks and small business support. These nearly 100 non-profits in the counties of Merced, Napa, Solano, Contra Costa, and Yolo were notified via personal phone calls, including several from Barry Nelson, president and CEO of TCU.

In determining the donation amount allocated for each agency, TCU considered the organization’s total size, scope of service, statement of immediate needs, as well as all facets of support being offered to local individuals and families impacted by COVID-19.

The $1 million in donations represents TCU’s commitment to serve as a financial institution that truly cares about the community’s financial needs and well-being. In addition, TCU intends to match up to $4,000,000 given to the TCU Foundation from other organizations, corporations and individuals.

Merced County Food Bank was one of the local nonprofits who received notification of the donation via Zoom call on Friday afternoon. Joseph Hypes, director of development for the Merced County Food Bank, accepted the donation.

“With so many layoffs happening all over the place, all the food banks are seeing a huge increase,” said Hypes on the call. “One of our pantry sites that normally sees about 300 people, at one point got close to 600 people. “This donation is going to help out a lot of people,” said Joseph. “And it’s going to help us find food…it’s been a struggle.”

“We’re hoping this philanthropic initiative encourages other organizations, corporations and individuals to join the TCU Foundation as new community partners, enabling us to do even more to help organizations that are so essential to lessening the impact of the pandemic,” said Nelson. “We ask that you please visit tcufund.org today to become a partner of the foundation, make a much-needed donation, and help raise hope in our communities.”


In Merced County the following non-profits received funds:

• Atwater Chamber of Commerce
• Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce
• Merced County Office of Education
• Merced County Food Bank
• Merced County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
• Merced County Rescue Mission

 


Fabio Biasella, Chief Marketing Officer Travis Credit Union

 


Joseph Hypes, director of development for the Merced County Food Bank

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

For further information and a list of all donation recipients, please visit traviscu.org.

Headquartered in Vacaville, California, TCU is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution serving those who live or work in Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Merced, Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties. Currently, TCU is the 13th largest credit union in California, with more than 214,000 members and more than $3.3 billion in assets. As one of the leading financial institutions in Solano, Contra Costa, Napa, Yolo, and Merced Counties, TCU’s strength lies in its faithful commitment to its members and the community, and its solid, secure history and long-standing track record of dedicated service.

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April 14, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM EAST ATWATER OVERHEAD TO SOUTH AVENUE

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work. Closures are as follows:
• Full off-ramp closures from northbound and southbound SR-99 at East Atwater Overhead beginning Tuesday, April 14, through Friday, April 17, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound SR-99 at Applegate Road beginning Tuesday, April 14, through Friday, April 17, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from West Atwater Overhead to northbound SR-99
beginning Tuesday, April 14, through Friday, April 17, 2020, from 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from southbound SR-99 to Sultana Drive on Thursday, April 16, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from South Avenue to northbound SR-99 on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible. This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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April 11, 2020

THE BUS SUSPENDS FARES AND IMPLEMENTS NEW PRACTICES AS PART OF RESPONSE TO COVID-19 EMERGENCY

MERCED – The Bus is suspending collection of fares on all fixed-route and paratransit service effective April 10, 2020 and is implementing additional safety measures aimed at protecting passengers and bus drivers during the COVID-19 emergency. In addition to daily disinfecting and social distancing measures already implemented on vehicles, plastic coverings will be added to the front of buses to separate the area between passengers and drivers. Passengers are strongly encouraged to wear a mask while on The Bus and may only use the service to provide or receive essential services in accordance with the order announced by the Merced County Public Health Officer on April 8, 2020. Bus drivers will be required to wear masks as supplies are available.
“The fare suspension is critical to protecting the drivers operating this essential service for our community,” said Christine Chavez, Transit Manager for The Bus. “By temporarily discontinuing the collection of bus fares, drivers will not have to come into close physical contact with each passenger boarding the bus or handle any cash transactions which is another potential source of exposure.”
There are currently 52 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Merced County; three individuals have died from the virus. Passengers are also encouraged to wash their hands often, cover all coughs and sneezes, stay home when sick, and avoid direct contact with sick individuals. For more information about COVID-19, please visit the Merced County website: www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus.
The Bus is the single public transportation service provider for all of Merced County and is administered by the Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County and managed by the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG). All bus schedules and hours of operation can be found at www.mercedthebus.com or by calling The Bus at (209) 723-3100. Real-time information regarding bus locations, services and arrival times can be found at www.thebuslive.com or by downloading ‘The Bus Live’ app on your smart phone for free. All buses are equipped with bike racks and are wheelchair accessible.


 



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April 11, 2020

Westside, Winton Top Winning Schools in Academic Pentathlon

More than 340, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students from schools throughout Merced County demonstrated their academic knowledge and cooperative learning skills when they competed in the Academic Pentathlon in March at the MCOE Downtown Professional Development Center.
In a video announcement from Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen, the top winners for the three grades were announced.
“Congratulations to all of the participants of the Merced County Academic Pentathlon. We know that this year had some unexpected changes, but we thank you for your hard work and accomplishments,” Tietjen said.
This year’s Academic Pentathlon theme was “In Sickness and In Health: An Exploration of Illness and Wellness.” The theme, which became reality for students, is provided by the United States Academic Decathlon.
Westside Union Elementary School in Los Banos was first for 6th grade, and Winton Middle School in Winton took the top spot for 7th and 8th Grades. Individual awards were released to coaches and administrators from participating schools for announcement.



The first place overall top scoring student for the Pentathlon was Nicole Nguyen an 8th grader from Cruickshank Middle School in Merced.
The teams competed in four tests to demonstrate their knowledge in literature and fine arts, math, science and social science. The fifth event, Super Quiz was scheduled to take place with the Award Ceremony in April. These events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Teams were comprised of up to twelve team members, four from each division of “A” Honor, “B” Scholastic and “C” Varsity students. This team composition gives students the opportunity to develop skills working with students of different ability levels, motivation and interests.
For more information, contact Stacie Arancibia at (209) 381-5910 or sarancibia@mcoe.org.

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April 10, 2020

Park use restricted to exercise only

The order directs everyone to stay home unless they are providing or receiving essential services. It comes when Merced County has three deaths and 40 cases of COVID19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“This order from the County Health Officer is intended to stop the spread of the disease and save lives. We want to do our part,” said City Manager Steve Carrigan.

“Use our parks to walk, jog, stretch your legs, play catch with your kids, but stay off the playground equipment,” said Carrigan, “Absolutely no groups, no team sports, no practices are allowed in the parks. It’s OK to bring your immediate family to the park, but that is it.”

The order does not affect the regular use of bike paths or walking trails.

The order has an impact on local religious groups, but Carrigan said they have been cooperative with moving services online or cancelling them due to the health threat.

“They understand the seriousness of the situation,” he said. “Due to the danger, they can’t have services in the parks or buildings. They don’t want to spread COVID19 among the members.”

Carrigan said the Merced Police Department will be patrolling parks and elsewhere in the City looking for any gathering that violates the County health order.

“Our officers’ first job is to educate people and explain to them the dangers involved,” he said. “But if that doesn’t work, we will cite them.”

The order from the County Health Officer:

• Directs all individuals living in the County to continue to stay at home unless they are providing or receiving essential services;


The City of Merced has immediately shut down all play equipment and shelters in its parks to comply with the April 8 order from the Merced County Health Officer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


• Directs all businesses and governmental agencies to cease non-essential operations at physical locations in the County;

• Prohibits all non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals (including church and funeral services);

• Orders cessation of all non-essential travel; and

• Restricts access to certain recreation areas (including parks and golf courses).

Failure to comply with the Order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, county jail sentencing, or both.
More information on the COVID19 situation and help that is available to businesses, employees and the public is available at www.cityofmerced.org.

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April 10, 2020

 

Healthcare Workers Acquire COVID-19 in Merced County

 

MERCED COUNTY, CA – The Merced County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has confirmed that 10 healthcare workers from the Sutter Health Rural Health Clinic (Clinic) in Los Banos have tested positive for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). Clinic staff is working with Public Health Officials to identify and contact all individuals who may have been exposed. The Clinic is currently closed to allow for proper disinfection and notification procedures.
“I would very much like to applaud the cooperation of Sutter Health and this facility with the Merced County Public Health Department in their efforts to slow the spread of this illness by assisting in the identifying and contacting all those possibly exposed and in bringing their health care facility back on-line rapidly and safely,” says Merced County Health Officer, Dr. Kenneth Bird,
Multiple outbreaks are being reported throughout the state and rates of infection among healthcare workers are higher than in most fields because of daily interaction and contact with ill patients. The affected healthcare workers have been ordered to remain under isolation at home. MCDPH is working to notify all individuals exposed to the affected healthcare workers. At this time, there are no hospitalizations or deaths related to the exposures.
If you visited the Clinic on or near the dates of March 29 – April 8 and are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19 (shortness of breath, fever, and cough), please call your medical provider. Do not go in for testing without calling in advance.
Once the Clinic is properly cleaned, it will re-open with limited services and teleservices will be available.



“Healthcare providers are on the front lines of battling this pandemic and their role puts them at a high risk for exposure. Please do not panic or be fearful. We know that healthcare workers are vital to our community and hope for a successful recovery for those affected by COVID-19,” says Public Health Director Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp.
EVERYONE SHOULD:
* Stay home, especially if you’re sick and not invite visitors into your home
* Only leave home for essential services
* Practice social distancing which means keeping at least 6 feet between you and any person, especially when outside of your home
* Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible.
* Not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
* Call your health care provider first if you think you have COVID-19
Please check the MCDPH webpage at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus for the most-up-to date information about the current cases in Merced County. For general information pertaining to COVID-19, please contact the MCDPH information line contacted at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).
For media outlets, please contact the Public Health Communication Office at 209-381-1187 for media related questions or to schedule a phone interview.


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April 10, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM EAST ATWATER OVERHEAD TO WINTON PARKWAY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work.
Closures are as follows:
• Full on-ramp closure from East Atwater Overhead to southbound SR-99 beginning Tuesday, April 14, through Friday, April 17, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to East Atwater Overhead beginning Tuesday, April 14, through Friday, April 17, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closure on northbound SR-99 at Applegate Road beginning Tuesday, April 14, through Friday, April 17, 2020, from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from West Atwater Overhead to northbound SR-99
beginning Tuesday, April 14, through Friday, April 17, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound SR-99 from Hammatt Avenue to Winton Parkway beginning Monday, April 13, through Friday, April 17, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

 

 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

 

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April 7 , 2020

New Health Order Imposes Stricter Directives to Ensure Community Health and Safety

MERCED COUNTY, CA – In response to the rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases and deaths, Merced County Health Officer, Dr. Kenneth Bird, modified and strengthened the current Stay-at-Home Health Order today.
This Order supersedes the prior Stay-at-Home Order issued on March 20, 2020, directing all individuals to stay at home. The new Order clarifies, strengthens, and extends certain terms of the prior Stay-at-Home Order to increase social distancing and reduce person-to-person contact to further slow transmissions and deaths related to COVID-19.
“Merced County has one of the lowest ratios of hospital beds and advanced health care equipment to population in the state. It is absolutely essential that mitigation activities such as social distancing, staying at home, and severe reduction of gatherings be in place in order to prevent our health care resources and health care personnel from being overwhelmed. It is even more critical that each of us comply with these efforts to the fullest extent possible in order to avoid unnecessary deaths from both COVID-19 and non COVID-19 related causes.” Says Dr. Bird.

The Order:
• Directs all individuals living in the County to continue to stay at home unless they are providing or receiving essential services;
• Directs all businesses and governmental agencies to cease non-essential operations at physical locations in the County;
• Prohibits all non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals (including church and funeral services);
• Orders cessation of all non-essential travel; and
• Restricts access to certain recreation areas (including parks and golf courses).
Failure to comply with the Order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine, county jail sentencing, or both.



“People are dying in our community—please take all health directives seriously,” said Merced County Sheriff-Coroner Vern Warnke. “If you heed the directives of Public Health officials, then my deputies won’t be forced to take enforcement actions. Risking a criminal record because of mere disregard to health and safety is reckless, careless, and simply not worth it. This pandemic will end sooner if we all do our part.”
This new Order is imperative in flattening the curve of COVID-19 transmissions and related deaths in Merced County.
For general information pertaining to COVID-19, visit the Merced County Department of Public Health’s website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus or call the informational line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).
To schedule a phone interview, please contact the Public Health Communication Office from Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 209-381-1187.

 

Click here to view the order


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April 8 , 2020

Make a mask, help a first responder

People across the City and County are responding to the shortage of protective face masks with American ingenuity -- they are making their own. And they aren’t stopping there. They are making them for their families, their neighbors, and now they are making masks for medical personnel and first responders.

To help with the process, and to smooth out the distribution end, Rotary Community Corps Merced County has stepped in. The group set up a collection and distribution system, and is organizing volunteers and seeking donations to make more masks.

The campaign is a partnership with Dignity Health, Merced County and the City of Merced.

Organizer Robert Garcia, who is the Community Service Chair for the Merced Sunrise Rotary, said all masks will stay in the community where they were made.

“If someone makes masks in Merced, they will stay and help the people there,” Garcia said. “If they live in Atwater and make masks there, the masks will stay there unless they tell us otherwise.”

Garcia said there is a huge need throughout the area due to the coronavirus emergency. The handmade masks won’t replace the surgical masks and the N95 respirators, but will be used in place of them where they can.

The project started when Garcia was organizing a wellness check-in project at a senior living facility. “The manager at the site said she was in dire need of masks and cleaning supplies,” Garcia said. He started asking around and found out the need was a lot bigger, and the project grew.

Currently the drop-off site is in Merced, but Garcia expects to have more locations in the County soon.

In order to maintain social distancing, the mask drop-off will be a drive-thru at the Merced Senior Community Center, 755 W. 15th St. Merced. It is open from 7 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

Volunteers and supplies are needed, and people can sign up at rccmercedcounty.org.

The website has a video and tips on how to make masks from the University of Florida College of Medicine.


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April 8 , 2020

Travis Credit Union Offers $1M in Donations in Support of Community Partners Amid COVID-19
In addition, Travis Credit Union will match up to $4M for donations made to the Travis Credit Union Foundation

VACAVILLE, CA—Travis Credit Union today announced an immediate $1 million philanthropic initiative that will be disbursed amongst multiple local organizations across five counties to relieve both immediate public health and long-term economic challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 96 non-profits as well as small businesses in the counties of Napa, Solano, Contra Costa, Merced and Yolo will receive checks. TCU will also match up to $4,000,000 given to the TCU Foundation from other sources. The funds will support many efforts, including:
• Frontline organizations that are providing direct service, such as food banks, shelters, family resource centers and school districts, as well as nonprofits and organizations focused on supporting critical populations, including homeless, foster youth, LGBT and Latino individuals.
• Non-profits that support small businesses, including those who serve their community all year through economic development assistance, will receive aid in sustaining the mitigation of the pandemic for the opportunity to recover when the crisis subsides.
Many of the organizations receiving aid are existing TCU (non-profit) community partners that have already aligned with the credit union to serve its members by providing free financial education opportunities as well as those providing essential services throughout the year. “We are showing up to support the most vulnerable in this time of crisis,” said Barry Nelson, president and CEO of Travis Credit Union. “We are making immediate investments to support the organizations who are in the business of people helping people, and we are here, as we have been for nearly 70 years, to serve our community. Credit unions are built for times like this.”
The organizations receiving funds will not receive advance notice. TCU is planning on delivering as many of the checks as possible ‘remotely.’

“TCU plans on continuing to be a safe harbor – a community financial institution that values and truly cares about our neighbor’s financial needs and well-being,” said Nelson. “To that end, and with the generosity of foundation partners, TCU will match up to $4,000,000 through the Travis
Credit Union Foundation.


Please visit tcufund.org today to become a partner of the foundation, make a donation, and help raise hope in our communities.”
The pandemic is impacting many of the credit union’s members financially, so TCU is helping with resources to support financial wellness through the following programs:
At this time, the following fees will be waived:
• Transactions at Non-CO-OP Network ATMs
• Overdraft Transfer Fee
• Skip-a-Pay (Deferred Payments)
• Credit Card Late Charge
Mortgage Payment Forbearance: Members who have a mortgage with TCU may request to defer a payment due to financial hardship.
Disaster Relief Loan Program: This program allows TCU members to borrow up to $10,000.
Small Businesses: This is a difficult time for small businesses, too, and the Business Services
Team at Travis wants to make sure its members have information on the latest financial relief resources.
Learn More
For further information about these programs and online request forms, visit
www.traviscu.org/coronavirus. Members can call the TCU Member Service Center at (800) 877-8328 or use Live Chat during business hours. Headquartered in Vacaville, California, Travis Credit Union is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution serving those who live or work in Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Merced Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties. Currently, Travis Credit Union is the 13th largest credit union in California with more than 214,000 members and more than $3.3 billion in assets. As one of the leading financial institutions in Solano, Contra Costa, Napa, Yolo and Merced Counties, Travis Credit Union’s strength lies in its faithful commitment to its members and the community; its solid, secure history; and its long-standing track record of dedicated service.

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April 7 , 2020

Health Officials Confirm First Death Related to COVID-19 in Merced County

MERCED COUNTY, CA – Today, the Merced County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) confirmed the first death of a Merced County resident with COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). The resident was a male under the age of 65 with underlying health conditions. Due to confidentiality laws, additional identifying information cannot be released.
“The age of this individual highlights the fact that everyone is vulnerable to this disease,” said Public Health Director Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp.
“This tragic death from COVID-19 of one of our own saddens us all, and serves as a reminder that our community is not going to be spared the terrible effects of this illness,” said Merced County Public Health Officer, Dr. Kenneth Bird. “All of us must do everything we can to halt its spread locally. Stay at home, wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and wear a cloth mask if you need to leave home for an essential purpose.”
MCDPH strongly urges all of our residents to comply with the Stay-at-Home Order issued by Dr. Bird.
Residents should only leave their homes to perform or receive essential services and should not participate in any non-essential gatherings. Even leaving the house for essential services should be limited whenever possible. To ensure the safety of the community, health officials are drafting additional health orders for various stages of COVID-19 progression in the community; additional orders will be in place within the next few days.


EVERYONE SHOULD:
* Stay home, especially if you’re sick
* Have no visitors, even family members
* Only leave home for essential services
* Practice social distancing, which means keeping at least 6 feet between you and any person, especially when outside of your home
* Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds
* Not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
* Call your health care provider first if you think you have COVID-19


For general information pertaining to COVID-19, check MCDPH’s webpage at
www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus. For any additional questions, contact the Merced County Department of Public Health’s information line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong).
To schedule a phone interview, please contact the Public Health Communication Office from Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 209-381-1187.


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April 2, 2020

Assemblyman Gray Issues Call for Personal Protective Equipment and Blood Donations

Merced, CA - To help meet the urgent need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the North Valley Labor Federation (NVLF), Assemblyman Adam C. Gray (D-Merced), and a bipartisan coalition of other Valley elected officials, are launching the "Central Valley PPE Initiative," a centralized relief effort to collect medical supplies for first responders and health care workers battling the coronavirus pandemic. The tri-county effort encourages individuals, schools, and businesses to donate essential supplies, such as masks, protective eyewear, surgical gowns, and gloves.

"First responders and trained healthcare workers like nurses and respiratory therapists are critical to containing COVID-19," said Tim Robertson, Executive Director of the NVLF. "This campaign will ensure they have the equipment they need to protect themselves and prevent further spread."

"During times like this, we have a responsibility to support those risking their lives and their safety to protect our community," said Gray. "At a time when many Americans have been told to stay home, our healthcare workers and first responders are showing up every single day to make sure patients receive the care, the support, and the services they need. These individuals are among the true heroes of this historic moment."

The local effort is inspired by a nationwide campaign of the Service Employees International Union – United Health Workers (SEIU UHW) that has recently uncovered 39 million N95 masks for distribution. Assemblyman Gray is spearheading the drive in Merced County, and Rep. Harder is coordinating efforts in Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers is supporting the effort, including U.S. Representatives Costa and McNerney, State Senators Galgiani and Caballero, and State Assemblymembers Flora and Eggman.

The group will work to build public awareness of the need for supplies and assist in collecting supplies for distribution by county public health agencies based on capacity and need.
Items needed the most include (donated items must be new or unused):

• Masks (Especially N95 Respirators)
• Eye Protection (Plastic Face Shields and Especially Non-Ventilated Goggles)
• Surgical Gowns, Shoe Covers, and Caps (Disposable)
• Surgical Gloves (Disposable)
• Ventilators
• Medical thermometers
• Antibacterial cleaning wipes

 


Donations can be dropped off at any of the times and locations below. Pick-up is available for bulk donations from businesses or upon request for individuals who are unable to drop off their items. (Geographic restrictions may apply). To schedule a pickup, drop-off, or if you have any questions, you can email cv.ppe.drive@gmail.com or call or text (209) 259-3856.

MERCED – Salvation Army Merced,1440 W. 12th Street, Merced, Mon. through Thurs. from 9am to 1pm.

MODESTO – Crosspoint Community Church, 1325 12th Street, Modesto Tues. & Thurs. from 2pm to 4pm, and Sat. 1pm to 4pm.

TURLOCK – Monte Vista Chapel, 1619 E. Monte Vista Ave., Turlock, Weds. from 1pm to 5pm, and Sat. from 10am to 2pm.

STOCKTON – Laborers Local 73, 3984 Cherokee Road, Stockton, Weds. & Fri. from 11am to 1pm.

Additionally, and to help meet the urgent need for blood donations, Assemblyman Adam Gray will host the Merced Community Blood Drive on April 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Italo-American Lodge at 1351 West 18th Street in Merced. Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic began, some 2,700 blood drives across America have been canceled as schools, churches and other public spaces that have been shuttered. After listening to officials with the American Red Cross reiterate that these closures have resulted in the collection of roughly 86,000 fewer units of blood, Assemblyman Gray immediately reached out to the Red Cross.

All eligible individuals are invited to participate in the drive, but appointment slots are limited to maintain social distancing guidelines. To reserve a donation appointment, please call (800) 733-2767 or visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter “95340.” Any questions regarding your eligibility to donate blood can be answered by calling (866) 236-3276.

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April 2, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
LANE AND RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM EAST ATWATER OVERHEAD TO EL CAPITAN WAY

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various lane and ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work. Closures are as follows:
• Full on-ramp closure from East Atwater Overhead to southbound SR-99 beginning Sunday, April 5, through Friday, April 10, 2020, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
• Full on and off-ramp closures on northbound SR-99 from East Atwater Overhead to West Atwater Overhead beginning Sunday, April 5, through Friday, April 10, 2020, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
• Alternating closures of the #1 (left) and #2 (right) lanes of northbound SR-99 from Winton Parkway to El Capitan Way for k-rail installation beginning Sunday, April 5, through Friday, April 10, 2020, from 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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April 2, 2020

Council to hold telephonic meeting April 6

 

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, and recent “stay home” orders, the Merced City Council will hold its April 6 meeting telephonically. The meeting format is allowed under Gov. Newsom’s Executive Order N-29-20.

There will be no meeting held in the Civic Center in order to protect the public and City staff and Council from the coronavirus. The meeting will be broadcast at 6 p.m. Monday on Facebook Live at City of Merced, on the City’s website www.cityofmerced.org, or Comcast Public Access Channel 96.

People may submit public comments to the City Council electronically no later than 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Comments received before the deadline will be read as part of the record. Material may be emailed to cityclerk@cityofmerced.org and should be limited to 500 words or less. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on, i.e. item number or Oral Communications. Your comments will be read to the City Council at the appropriate time. Any correspondence received during or after the meeting will be distributed to the City Council and retained for the official record.

You may provide telephonic comments via voicemail by calling (209) 388-8688 by no later than
3 p.m. on the day of the meeting in order to be added to the public comment. Voicemails will be limited to three minutes. Please specify which portion of the agenda you are commenting on. Your comments will be read to the City Council at the appropriate time.


On the agenda:

• Certification of March 3, 2020 Special Municipal Election returns for City-sponsored Measures K (Mayor’s Term), L (Citizens’ Stipend Setting Commission) and M (Finance Officer Requirements)

• Approval of a supplemental appropriation in the amount of $150,000 from the General Fund Balance to cover expenditures due to COVID-19

A link to the live meeting is also on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.


NOTICE: The City of Merced is doing its part to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Our offices are closed until further notice. In order to protect the health and safety of the public and our employees, core staff are working on-site, and others are working remotely. It may take additional time for someone to reply, so please bear with us.

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April 2, 2020

Merced County School Closure Extended

Merced County School Communities,

Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen has been working closely with the 20 school district superintendents in monitoring the impact the COVID-19 health crisis has on our students and school communities. The safety of students and staff continues to be a top priority during this unprecedented pandemic. As such, careful consideration has been given in how to best proceed for the remainder of the school year.

Based on the recommendation from Governor Newsom and State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, the Merced County Office of Education, in coordination with the 20 county school districts and the Merced County Department of Public Health, is announcing that the temporary school site closure will extend for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

The school year is not over. It has transitioned from in-person classroom instruction to distance learning. In Merced County, there is no definitive date for when school sites will reopen.

Until the following conditions are met, schools will continue with distance learning:

• The California State Shelter in Place order has been lifted
• The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Merced County has remained constant for a two week period or declined
• The directive to Social Distance has been removed
• The limit placed on social gatherings has been removed

During this timeframe, schools will continue to provide essential services to students, like meals during the regular school schedule. Though the buildings will be closed, education and enrichment activities will continue through extended learning.

Our school leaders and their staff are doing all they can to ensure that learning continues. Our educators are working hard to provide instructional resources for distance learning opportunities for every student they serve.

As children are now at home during the regular school day, we encourage parents and guardians to:

• Create a space in your home dedicated to school work and learning.
• Use a schedule similar to a school schedule that includes time for learning, recess or break, meals and physical activity.
• Be active and help your child with educational activities sent home or online.

 

For the benefit of public health, we recommend:

• Follow the guidance of public health official and stay at home except to obtain or provide essential services.
• Do not allow students to socialize in person with friends. This includes congregating for sports, games, or any other outings. Students, and all residents, must stay in their homes unless traveling for an essential function.

Distance learning information for students and parents is available at http://bit.ly/DistanceLearningMCOE.

More information and additional resources are available at www.mcoe.org/covid19.


Sincerely,

Steve Tietjen, Ed.D., Merced County Superintendent of Schools
Sandra Schiber, Ed.D., Atwater Elementary School District
Bliss Propes, Ballico-Cressey Elementary School District
Adolfo Melara, Delhi Unified School District
Justin Miller, Ed.D., Dos Palos-Oro Loma Joint Unified School District
Lori Gonzalez, El Nido Elementary School District
Bryan Ballenger, Ed.D., Gustine Unified School District
Isabel Cabral-Johnson, Hilmar Unified School District
Scott M. Borba, Le Grand Union Elementary School District
Donna Alley, Le Grand Union High School District
Andres Zamora, Livingston Union School District
Mark Marshall, Ed.D., Los Banos Unified School District
Mike Crass, McSwain Union Elementary School District
Al Rogers, Ed.D., Merced City School District
Richard Lopez, Merced River Union Elementary School District
Alan Peterson, Merced Union High School District
Kristi Kingston, Plainsburg Union Elementary School District
Jose Gonzalez, Planada Elementary School District
Alison Kahl, Snelling-Merced Falls Union Elementary School District
John Curry, Weaver Union School District
Randall Heller, Winton Elementary School District

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March 31 , 2020

County Opens Mobile COVID-19 Specimen Collection Sites


MERCED COUNTY, CA – In an effort to streamline testing capabilities, the Merced County Department of Public Health (Public Health) in collaboration with the Merced County Emergency Operation Center and many county partners, will open two Mobile Specimen Collection sites for COVID-19 (novel coronavirus).
Initially, there will be two collection days per week, one on the westside of the County, and one on the eastside of the County. Each site will remain open for four hours per day. Additional hours per day and days per week may become more frequent if supply and personnel availability increase.
PLEASE NOTE: Use of these mobile specimen collection sites are by appointment only, and you must have a prescription from a physician. If you do not have a provider and have symptoms call 209-381-1180 for a phone consultation. Anyone without prior approval will not be tested. Locations will be provided to clients once appointments are made. Call 209-381-1180 for more information.
“This is a huge victory for the residents of Merced County,” said Public Health Director Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp. “Being able to offer these Mobile Specimen Collection sites will help ensure a more accurate depiction of how the COVID-19 pandemic in affecting Merced County. These numbers will help us better prepare additional preventative strategies.”

This Mobile Specimen Collection service is available to individuals who are displaying symptoms of COVID-19, are not currently hospitalized, and whose medical providers do not offer specimen collection services. A physician’s referral and prior approval from Public Health is required to utilize the Mobile Specimen Collection service. All mobile specimen collections are scheduled by appointment only and walk-ins will not be accepted.
Specimen collection appointments will be tiered based on severity of symptoms and additional risk factors, such as: membership in a vulnerable and high-risk population, exposure history from contact with a COVID-19 positive patient, or travel to a community with widespread COVID-19. Individuals who do not display symptoms will not be tested, to conserve supplies for individuals with higher risk.
For general information pertaining to COVID-19, please contact Public Health’s COVID-19 Information Line at 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong) or visit our website at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus
To schedule a phone interview, please contact the Public Health Communication Office from Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 209-381-1187.


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March 31 , 2020

TRAVIS CREDIT UNION FOUNDATION SPEARHEADS CAMPAIGN
TO SUPPORT COMMUNITY EFFORTS IN FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
Although We’re Not Able To Gather, We’re Still In This Together

Vacaville, CA – The Travis Credit Union Foundation is responding to the COVID-19 public health crisis by raising funds for local service organizations that are providing support and resources to individuals and families impacted by the virus.

While suspending business operations and implementing self-quarantine and shelter-in-home practices are necessary to keep the virus from spreading, these changes to our everyday lives have also limited individual and family access to income, food and other critical resources. Community organizations are also working beyond their means with limited reserves to meet the growing demand for services. To bolster support for these vital operations, the Travis Credit Union Foundation asks that you partner with us in raising much-needed funds for our community.

“Although COVID-19 means that we’re not able to gather, we’re all still in this together,” says Barry Nelson, president and CEO of Travis Credit Union. “And together, we can make a difference in the lives of vulnerable families,

 

children, youth, and seniors by providing funding through the Travis Credit Union Foundation to local charities that are helping reduce the anxiety and uncertainty caused by this public health crisis.”

Established early in 2018, the Foundation serves as the philanthropic arm of Travis Credit Union. Our mission is to build financially empowered communities, and 100 percent of funds raised by or donated to the Foundation go back to the community. The Foundation seeks to create philanthropic solutions to build sustainable financial wellness for generations to come by supporting financial education, literacy and wellness initiatives.

Please visit tcufund.org today to join the Travis Credit Union Foundation in lifting communities through this pandemic. Make a donation and help raise hope in your community.

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March 31 , 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
STATE ROUTE 99 - MERCED COUNTY RAMP CLOSURES

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on State Route (SR-99) for maintenance work. Closures are as follows:
• Full on-ramp closure from Childs Avenue to southbound SR-99 for paving
operations on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
• Full off-ramp closure from northbound SR-99 to Hammatt Avenue for paving
operations on Thursday, April 2, 2020, from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from Hammatt Avenue to northbound SR-99 for paving
operations on Friday, April 3, 2020, from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related\ issues.

 

 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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March 27 , 2020

Health Officials Confirm Two More Cases of COVID-19 in Merced County

MERCED COUNTY, CA – The Merced County Department of Public Health (Department) has confirmed two more cases of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in Merced County, bringing the total to four confirmed cases. The new cases are currently under investigation. Based on information provided by the individuals, Public Health staff will assess risks of exposure and contact any affected individuals. To date, three of the four confirmed Merced County cases are all individuals under the age of 40.
According to statistics compiled by the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHSA), and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), individuals in the age range of 18-45 years of age comprise 51% of the 2,535 positive cases in California.
The Department wants to strongly urge all of our residents, especially those in the 18-45 age range, to comply with the Stay at Home Order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom and Merced County’s Health Officer, Dr. Kenneth Bird. Residents should only be leaving their homes to perform or receive essential services and should not be participating in any non-essential gatherings.
“Although all of the cases of COVID-19 in our county, to date, can be traced to exposures outside of our county, we must consider the very likely possibility that exposure to an unrecognized case within our community can occur. Now, more than ever, we must take every possible measure to slow the spread of this illness.” Says Merced County Public Health Officer, Dr. Kenneth Bird



“It’s going to take each of us doing our part to ensure that we minimize the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic here in our own community. We each have a responsibility to rise to the call. My fear is that mixed messaging has lessened the seriousness of COVID-19 which leads to misunderstanding the critical importance of adhering to simple and effective preventative measures”, says Public Health Director, Dr. Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp.
EVERYONE SHOULD:
? Stay home, especially if you’re sick and no visitors
? Only leave home for essential services
? Practice social distancing which means keeping at least 6 feet between you and any person, especially when outside of your home
? Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible.
? Not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
? Call your health care provider first if you think you have COVID-19
Press releases will no longer be issued for each new positive case in Merced County. Please check the Department’s webpage at www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus for the most-up-to date information.


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March 26 , 2020

Health Officials Confirm Second Case of COVID-19 in Merced County

MERCED, CA – The Merced County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has confirmed the second case of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) in Merced County. The individual contracted the virus out of the county and was not community acquired.
The individual is doing well and is isolating and recovering at home. MCDPH is working to identify potential contacts. Based on information provided by the individual, Public Health staff will assess risks of exposure and contact any affected individuals.
As the numbers continue to increase globally and nationally, Merced County Health Officials continue to strongly urge that individuals exercise the following measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19:
1. If you are experiencing symptoms of illness, self-isolate at home.
2. EVERYONE SHOULD practice social distancing which means keeping at least 6 feet between you and other nonfamily members.


3. PLEASE wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible. Handwashing is one of the most effective prevention measures in minimizing disease spread.
4. Always avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
5. Stay at home if you are sick.
For information on COVID-19, call the Merced County Department of Public Health information line at (209) 381-1180 (English, Spanish, Hmong) or visit www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus
To schedule a phone interview, please contact the Public Health Communication Office from Monday-Friday, 8:00am - 5:00pm at (209) 381-1187.


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March 25 , 2020

Schools Provide Meals During Closure; Students Urged to Stop Congregating

Merced County schools are closed due to the COVID-19 health crisis, but will continue to provide essential services to students and families during this temporary school closure.
“During this difficult time, we know the anxiety our families feel and we will provide as much information and resources as possible,” said Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen. “It is vital that we follow the guidance of public health officials and practice social distancing and only go out when necessary. All schools are closed and children should not be congregating there or anywhere because it puts the child, their families and the community at risk.”
As children are now at home during the regular school day, we encourage parents and guardians to:

• Create a space in your home dedicated to school work and learning.
• Use a schedule similar to a school schedule that includes time for learning, recess or break, meals and physical activity.
• Be active and help your child with educational activities sent home or online.

“We ask that parents support their children in their studies and emotional well-being while balancing other responsibilities,” Tietjen added.
The Merced County Office of Education has created a webpage with educational resources and a map with locations and information about the school closure meals program at www.mcoe.org/covid19.

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March 24 , 2020

Take Out or Deliveries from Local Resturants

Hey everyone! Here's a running list of take out / delivery options for the Merced, Atwater & Los Banos areas. If you have any additions, please email them to update@mymerced.com


Destino’s
Merced
Curbside pickup and delivery
580-4418
Dennys
Order online and they will deliver to your door
Merced
722-2549
www.dennys.com/
Applebee’s
Free delivery with order on their website or App.
Merced
724-9930
www.applebees.com
Black Bear diner
Delivery or takeout
Merced
383-9600
Joy of the south
Takeout
Merced
446-8231
510 Bistro
Merced
We will run it out to your car or you can come in and get it. Please call
209-381-0280.
Granny’s Pantry
Atwater
Takeout
357-0807
BBQ pit
Merced
Takeout only
383-2558

 

Agave’s Mexican Grill
Merced
Delivery and takeout
580-4662
Ace’s and Kings Cheesesteaks
Merced
Drive up and Pickup
580-4113
J and R Tacos
Merced
Delivery or takeout
384-2923
Bella Luna Bistro
Merced
Pickup or delivery
383-1700
The Kitchen at the Mission
Los Banos
Takeout
829-7506
Espana’s
Los Banos
Delivery, Take-out and Curb Side Pick-up.
826-4041
M and M Italian Restaurant
Los Banos
Take out
827-1666
Little Oven Pizza
Merced
Pickup or delivery
233-9829

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March 24 , 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
MERCED COUNTY RAMP CLOSURES

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform various ramp closures on Interstate 5 (I-5) and State Route (SR-99) for maintenance and construction work. Closures are as follows:
• Full off-ramp closures from northbound and southbound I-5 to SR-152 for paving operations on Thursday, March 26, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
• Full on-ramp closure from Shanks Road to northbound SR-99 for tree work
beginning Wednesday, March 25, through Thursday, March 26, 2020, from 7:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

 

 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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March 21 , 2020

Yosemite National Park is Modifying Operations to Implement Latest Health Guidance

Yosemite NP, California – Yosemite National Park is announcing modifications to operations at the request of the local health department. As of 3:00 pm today, Friday, March 20, 2020, Yosemite National Park is closed to all park visitors until further notice. This closure will be enforced 24-hours a day/7-days a week and there will be no access permitted to Yosemite National Park.
Park visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Yosemite National Park. Visitors are encouraged to learn about park resources and stories through the many multimedia presentations currently available on the park’s website. In place of traveling to Yosemite National Park in person, visitors are encouraged to download the park’s free App and continue to enjoy Yosemite National Park through the park’s webcams. There are many wonderful resources available for all ages to remotely explore Yosemite National Park.
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners at Yosemite National Park is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with the federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.

The NPS urges visitors to do their part when visiting a park and to follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups; washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; and most importantly, staying home if you feel sick.
For high-risk populations, such as the elderly and people with underlying conditions, we ask that they take extra caution and follow CDC guidance for those at higher risk of serious illness.
Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Please check with www.nps.gov/yose for specific details about park operations.

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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March 21 , 2020

City employees start working remotely today

Due to the governor’s stay-at-home order, City of Merced employees began working remotely today. Operations of police, fire, refuse, sewer or water are not affected.
Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order Thursday evening ordering Californians to stay at home unless they are performing essential functions. People can still conduct essential business such as get groceries, go to medical appointments or check on elderly relatives. Taking pets to vet appointments, going to an essential job and engaging in outdoor activities while maintaining social distance are also permitted.
The City of Merced already planned to have employees work remotely starting at 5 p.m. today. Public access to City buildings was cut off after Tuesday.
“All of these actions are to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said City Manager Steve Carrigan. “We have heard the forecasts, and we want to do our part.”
City business will continue, Carrigan said, with a core staff in City buildings and others working remotely in order to practice social distancing.
The City declared a local emergency Friday, March 13, due to the spread of the coronavirus.
A number of City board and commission meetings have been cancelled. City-sponsored activities have been cancelled or postponed.
The air carrier for the Merced Regional Airport, Boutique Airlines, has suspended operations. The airport is only open to general aviation users with planes at the facility.

 



Parks are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to encourage people to get exercise andfresh air, but users are cautioned to maintain social distance. Park restrooms are closed, as are other park facilities.
With the closure of City Hall, people can’t pay utility bills or make other payments in person.
Customers can make payments:
• By using the automated phone system at 209-388-7289
• Paying online at www.cityofmerced.org
• Using the drop box outside City Hall (check, cashier’s check or money order, no cash, please)
• Mailing payments (check, cashier’s check or money order, no cash, please)

Questions about utility bills can be emailed to utilitybillinquiry@cityofmerced.org or people can phone 209-385-6841.
The City will not be charging people late fees and no new water services will be shut off if people cannot make their payments during this emergency. However, they still will be ultimately responsible for the payment of all bills.

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March 21 , 2020

Travis Credit Union Restricting Hours Amid Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak in Merced County

VACAVILLE, CA – Travis Credit Union cares about the wellness of our members and communities. Today, Travis Credit Union announced that the branches located in Merced County will be conducting business from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m., Monday through Friday and closed on Saturdays, until further notice. School closures and other restrictions due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have created staffing challenges.

“We are in the business of people helping people,” stated Barry Nelson, president and CEO of Travis Credit Union. “We are working hard to make sure we continue to provide essential services while also following recommended health guidelines. Our first priority is to keep Travis Credit Union’s members and employees safe and well-informed while adhering to the health guidelines being issued by local, state and federal government.”

The new hours will be effective Monday, March 23, 2020 at the Atwater and Merced locations:
• Travis Credit Union Atwater Branch
981 Bellevue Road
Atwater, CA

• Travis Credit Union Merced Branch
1194 West Olive Avenue
Merced, CA

Members are invited to contact the Travis Credit Union call center at (800)877-8328 to make an appointment if services are needed after 3 p.m. Access to online and mobile banking are available for those who prefer not to visit a branch, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We know this crisis is impacting many of our members financially, so we’re waiving fees to help those experiencing financial hardship on a case-by-case basis,” added Nelson.
At this time, the following fees will be waived.
• Transactions at Non-CO-OP Network ATMs
• Overdraft Transfer Fee
• Skip-a-Payment
• Credit Card Late Charge
• Disaster Line of Credit
? Travis Credit Union Restricting Hours (continued) ?

For up-to-date information and member relief resources from loan repayment deferment to penalty and fee waivers as well as a listing of all branch and ATM locations, please visit the website at https://www.traviscu.org/coronavirus.

Headquartered in Vacaville, California, Travis Credit Union is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution serving those who live or work in Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Merced Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties. Currently, Travis Credit Union is the 13th largest credit union in California with more than 214,000 members and more than $3.3 billion in assets. As one of the leading financial institutions in Solano, Contra Costa, Napa, Yolo and Merced Counties, Travis Credit Union’s strength lies in its faithful commitment to its members and the community; its solid, secure history; and its long-standing track record of dedicated service.

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March 19 , 2020

MCOE Providing Online Resources, Information on School Closure Meal Programs

The Merced County Office of Education has created online resources and a Google Map with information on school closure meal programs during the temporary school closure at mcoe.org/covid19.
On Sunday, MCOE and all 20 school districts in the county announced that schools will temporarily close on March 19 and plan to reopen on April 20 depending on the circumstances at the time.
“The safety and well-being of our students and communities is the top priority of education leaders across Merced County,” said Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen. “Working in partnership with our school districts, MCOE will help to provide online resources for students and families during the school closure. It’s important to keep students active and engaged in educational activities. We have also created a Google Map with student meal program locations and will continually add to and update it with any changes.”

 

Parents should contact their local school to learn more about ongoing education and enrichment activities.

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March 19 , 2020

Important Coronavirus Update: ACE Service Adjustments

 

STOCKTON, CA - As the State and Counties along the ACE Service corridor have implemented severe restrictions on non-essential travel, all transit agencies have been asked to reduce service to deal with the drop in ridership and revenue, while also trying to maintain the desired social spacing to prevent the potential spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) onboard. ACE staff are monitoring Coronavirus developments on a daily basis and participating in frequent updates from local, state, and federal public health agencies and local jurisdictions.

ACE train ridership has dropped almost 85% within the last week. To comply with the various mandates and provide essential transportation service for our riders and broader communities, ACE will be making the following operational adjustments:

Suspension of Saturday Service: The Saturday Service Pilot Program will be suspended beginning Saturday, March 21, 2020. Over the past several weeks, Saturday Service has seen a consistent and considerable reduction in ridership and does not meet the guidelines for essential service. ACE will continue to evaluate the situation and timing for reinstating Saturday Service.

Reduction on Train Sizes: With an almost 85% reduction in ridership, ACE will be reducing train sizes, while still allowing for safe spacing of passengers.

The ACE trains will begin operating on Thursday, March 19, 2020, with the following train set sizes:

• ACE 01/04 - 5 cars
• ACE 03/06 - 5 cars
• ACE 05/08 - 4 cars
• ACE 07/10 - 4 cars ** (only for this week see below)
Suspension of ACE 07 and ACE 10**: To comply with the mandates to reduce service, ACE Trains 07 and 10, that are currently carrying less than 40 riders, will be suspended as of Monday, March 23, 2020. The shuttle services for these trains will also be suspended.

At this time, ACE is committed to continuing to operate its remaining three round-trips on their regular schedules unless otherwise advised. ACE staff is continuing to ensure that all trains receive a thorough and complete disinfecting regime at the end of each day. This regime includes: handrails, seats, tables, windows, and other surfaces frequently touched by passengers. ACE staff is ensuring that soap dispensers are topped off each night as a part of routine maintenance. We are working with our transit partners to incorporate other measures as recommendations are provided.

Get accurate information about Coronavirus and prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

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March 18 , 2020

Merced City Hall closing public counters after today

The City of Merced is closing City Hall and other City offices to the public at 5 p.m. today due to the coronavirus outbreak.
This will not affect the delivery of essential services including police, fire, refuse, sewer and water.
The closures will be evaluated on a weekly basis as part of the City’s declared local emergency.
City government will continue to function without direct public contact. People can continue to call, email, fax and conduct their City business online. There may be a delay in getting a response due to the changes.
“At this time we feel it best to take these measures to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus,” said Mayor Mike Murphy. “We have heard from the President and the Governor that it is important to limit public contact and to reduce the size of public gatherings. We are trying to do our part during this public health emergency.”
“City Hall will continue to function, just in a different capacity,” said City Manager Steve Carrigan. “We will deliver services, just in a way that is safe for the public and for our employees.”
In addition to the City Hall closure there will be no public access to any City facility including the Fire Department, the Park and Recreation Office, the Public Works Department, Police Station, or Welcome Center. The City has stopped renting its facilities during the emergency. Only passengers with tickets will be allowed in the Merced Regional Airport. Park restrooms and the Bulky Item Drop Off Site are also closed.
The City Hall closure means people won’t be able to pay their utility bills or make other payments in person, said Finance Officer Venus Rodriguez.
“There are a number of other options that maintain safety for our customers and staff,” Rodriguez said.
Customers can make payments:
• By using the automated phone system at 209-388-7289
• Paying online at www.cityofmerced.org
• Using the drop box outside City Hall (check, cashier’s check or money order, no cash, please)
• Mailing payments (check, cashier’s check or money order, no cash, please)


Questions about utility bills can be emailed to utilitybillinquiry@cityofmerced.org or people can phone 209-385-6841.

“We will not be charging people late fees and no new water services will be shut off if people cannot make their payments during this emergency,” Rodriguez said. “However, they still will ultimately be responsible for their bills.”

After 5 p.m. Friday, the City will be adjusting its staffing in order to comply with the federal and state guidelines regarding social distancing.

Carrigan said many employees will start working remotely or on staggered shifts at City Hall each day.
“People may notice a variation in service, but there will be no change in the essential operations of the City,” Carrigan said.
The City declared a local emergency Friday, along with Merced County, due to the spread of the coronavirus. As of Monday, no active cases of the disease have been found in the county, but it has been reported in surrounding counties.
A number of City board and commission meetings have been cancelled in Merced. City-sponsored activities have been cancelled or postponed.
All schools in Merced County are closing as of Thursday, March 19, and in the Bay Area shelter-in-place orders have been issued for San Francisco and a number of other counties.

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March 18 , 2020

Temporary School Closure Protects Public Health

Temporary school closures are unprecedented at the local, national and global level as we deal with the COVID-19 health crisis. As Merced County Superintendent of Schools, my greatest responsibility is to provide direction to our local school districts, direction that prioritizes the safety and health of students and school communities.

Therefore, Merced County schools will temporarily close on Thursday, March 19, with a planned reopening on April 20. We are constantly assessing the situation as it changes, and with that in mind, we will consult with public health officials to determine if schools will remain temporarily closed longer than the currently proposed timeline.

We know the decision to close public schools has an impact on every other part of our society. It impacts our students, employees, families, neighborhoods and businesses. Education leaders across the county — from all 20 school districts and private schools — are unified in putting the health of our students and school communities first, which is why they agreed on a common plan for closing schools. The length of time for the closing was tied to the incubation cycle of the virus. Our County Health leaders recommended that we keep our schools closed for two incubation cycles so we would have the greatest chance to stop the virus from spreading.

It is crucial during this temporary school closure that we follow the guidelines and recommendations from public health officials. We all should try to remain at home and practice social distancing. If we must leave our homes for essential things like food, our trips should be constrained by guidelines established by our local, state and federal officials.

Our school districts will provide engaging learning activities and education resources for our students during this temporary closure. Especially for our younger students, this will require assistance from a parent or guardian. Many resources for your children can be accessed on our website found at the end of the article.

 

 

 

Schools will also continue to provide healthy eating options for students. Some school districts will use their school sites as pickup locations and others in the more rural parts of our county will utilize bus routes and drop off prepared meals.

More information about school meals, learning activities and other resources are available at https://mcoe.org/covid19.

We understand that there are still a lot of unanswered questions and uncertainty on what happens next. We will communicate regularly through social media and our partners in the news media. Please check the website regularly for updates, making sure to watch the most recent posting. We are grateful to community members throughout Merced County for their tremendous prevention efforts during these challenging times.

Steve Tietjen, Ed.D.
Merced County Superintendent of Schools

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March 18 , 2020

2nd Annual San Joaquin Valley Portuguese Festival Postponed Indefinitely

LIVINGSTON, CA., Monday, March 16, 2020 - Due to government recommendations and the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, the Carlos Vieira Foundation’s 2nd Annual San Joaquin Valley Portuguese Festival has been postponed indefinitely. The event was due to take place on April 18, 2020 at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds to celebrate the culture and heritage of the Portuguese people and honor their contributions to the San Joaquin Valley and the state of California. The festival was meant to be held as a fundraiser for the Carlos Vieira Foundation’s Race for Autism campaign.
For those who have pre-purchased tickets and are interested in a refund, please request a refund from your purchasing source. Otherwise, any funds will go towards helping children with autism in central California. For updates regarding the San Joaquin Valley Portuguese Festival, please follow Carlos Vieira Foundation on Facebook (@CVFoundation) and Instagram (@CarlosVieiraFoundation). For more information about the Carlos Vieira Foundation or to make a charitable contribution, please visit carlosvieirafoundation.org.
Background info about CVF:
The Carlos Vieira Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that focuses on the following three campaigns: Race for Autism, Race 2B Drug-Free, and Race to End the Stigma. CVF was built on one man’s dream of helping children, families, and individuals within our local community. Through local support, CVF is able to assist families and individuals across twenty-one counties within Central California. CVF’s mission is to assist in strengthening communities by providing key resources, awarding direct-help grants, fundraising, and working with other organizations.

If you would like more information about the Carlos Vieira Foundation please contact them direct at (209) 394-1444 or email info@carlosvieirafoundation.org.

CANCELLED

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March 17 , 2020

COVID-19 Notification: March 15, 2020

RUMOR CONTROL: There are rumors circulating on social media falsely claiming that Merced County doesn’t have any COVID-19 cases because people aren’t being tested. To clarify, within the public health system, every person who has met CDC criteria for severe disease within Merced County has been tested. Those tests have either come back negative or are still pending. Testing has been limited across the state of California, as noted multiple times by state officials as a barrier to response. However, commercial lab systems have recently gained the capacity to test. The Merced County Department of Public Health is actively identifying other methods to enhance testing capability for providers throughout the community and increase testing county-wide. We will continue to be notified should positive tests come through either system (public health or commercial). So far, there have been none.

For the most up to date information, please visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus and https://www.cdph.ca.gov/covid19.

We urge everyone to stay calm and follow all guidelines handed down through the state and local levels.

There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Merced County at this time.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
• Sign up for COVID-19 alerts from Merced County by visiting www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus and entering your email on the right side of the page.
• Merced County Public Health COVID-19 Information Webpage:
• www.countyofmerced.com/coronavirus
• Merced County Public Health Information Line:
• 209-381-1180 (English, Spanish, and Hmong).
• Email COVID-19-specific questions to Merced County Public Health:
• COVID19@countyofmerced.com.
• CDC Resources for Households:
• https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/index.html
• CDC Guidance for Businesses and Employers:
• https://bit.ly/2IH2G2u


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March 17 , 2020

COVID-19: State Financial Help

 

It goes without saying that we are living in unusual and difficult times. Over the last few days, I have heard from and spoken with many of you regarding resources available to assist with financial pressures. Below are several resources that I encourage you to share with friends, family, and loved ones throughout California.

FILING YOUR TAXES: The State of California has given taxpayers more time to file state income tax returns and to pay any taxes owed.
• Individual taxpayers will have until June 15th to file their returns and pay any taxes owed.
• Those who have quarterly estimated payments due on April 15th will now have until June 15th to make those payments.
• Any taxpayer filing under this special deadline relief should note the name of the state emergency (e.g., "COVID-19" or "Coronavirus") in black ink on the top of the tax return to inform FTB that you are filing under the special extension period. The FTB also will waive interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that otherwise would apply.
• Employers experiencing a hardship as a result of COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day extension of time from the EDD to file their state payroll reports and/or deposit state payroll taxes without penalty or interest. A written request for extension must be received within 60 days from the original delinquent date of the payment or return.
• Should you have other questions or should you need assistance, please visit the FTB's website by clicking HERE.
• PLEASE NOTE: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not yet acted on extending the April 15th filing deadline for federal income tax returns.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BENEFITS: The State of California has extended and increased Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits because of reduced hours or closed operations due to COVID-19. UI provides partial wage replacement benefit payments to workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced, through no fault of their own (including because of COVID-19). Eligible individuals can receive benefits that range from $40-$450 per week.

• Governor Newsom’s recent Executive Order waived the one-week unpaid waiting period. This means that, if you will be filing to collect UI benefits, you will be eligible for the first week that you are out of work or have reduced hours.
• Though not full wage-replacement, depending on your income level, UI benefits will recognize 60-70% of your wages.
• If you are eligible for UI benefits, the EDD processes and issues payments within a few weeks of receiving a claim.
• Please visit the EDD's "How to File an Unemployment Insurance Benefits Claim” website by clicking HERE.


I understand that eligibility for benefits may be confusing at times and even more so during the current pandemic. As such, I encourage you to monitor closely the resources at THIS WEBSITE, which includes a very helpful graphic about the various State benefit programs. This includes utilization of California programs like Paid Sick Leave, Paid Time Off, Disability Insurance, and the like.

This situation is fluid, so I will continue to provide you with resources as they become available. I want to extend my sincerest thanks to our healthcare providers, first responders, emergency response teams, school officials, non-profits, and local elected officials who are working around-the-clock to keep our community safe. Your leadership and guidance during this time is appreciated.

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March 17 , 2020

MCOE Press Release - MESSAGE ON MERCED COUNTY SCHOOLS SUSPENSION

As a precautionary step to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and in consultation with Merced County school district leaders and health officials, we are supporting a suspension of school operations in Merced County effective Thursday, March 19 through Friday, April 17. By closing effective Thursday, this gives our families time to make arrangements for child care. We plan to reopen on April 20, but that decision will depend on the circumstances at the time.

This is not a decision we take lightly. We know that temporarily closing a school has a tremendous impact on our families. The safety of our students and staff remains our top priority, and we have confidence that this is the proper precautionary course for Merced County. We are working with all of our local education agencies to support the continuity of learning and to ensure students have access to healthy meals.

Public health officials recommend that families make arrangements for child care during closure that avoids leaving children with elderly or those with compromised immune systems who are more vulnerable to the impact of the virus.

This is a dynamic situation where information and circumstances can evolve quickly. For the latest updates, visit the California Public Health Department’s 2019 novel coronavirus website at: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Immunization/ncov2019 and for local health updates visit the Merced County Health Department’s 2019 novel coronavirus website at: https://countyofmerced.com/coronavirus.

We also understand that implementing these changes with such limited notice is challenging and disruptive, and we appreciate your patience and cooperation. We are grateful to community members throughout Merced County for their tremendous prevention efforts during these challenging times.



Sincerely,
Steve Tietjen, Ed.D., Merced County Superintendent of Schools
Sandra Schiber, Ed.D., Atwater Elementary School District
Bliss Propes, Ballico-Cressey Elementary School District
Adolfo Melara, Delhi Unified School District
Justin Miller, Ed.D., Dos Palos-Oro Loma Joint Unified School District
Lori Gonzalez, El Nido Elementary School District
Bryan Ballenger, Ed.D., Gustine Unified School District
Isabel Cabral-Johnson, Hilmar Unified School District
Scott M. Borba, Le Grand Union Elementary School District
Donna Alley, Le Grand Union High School District
Andres Zamora, Livingston Union School District
Mark Marshall, Ed.D., Los Banos Unified School District
Mike Crass, McSwain Union Elementary School District
Al Rogers, Ed.D., Merced City School District
Richard Lopez, Merced River Union Elementary School District
Alan Peterson, Merced Union High School District
Kristi Kingston, Plainsburg Union Elementary School District
Jose Gonzalez, Planada Elementary School District
Alison Kahl, Snelling-Merced Falls Union Elementary School District
John Curry, Weaver Union School District
Randall Heller, Winton Elementary School District

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March 14 , 2020

City of Merced declares state of emergency

The City of Merced has declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. The action follows declarations by Merced County today, the President and an earlier declaration by the State of California.
The declaration gives the City:
• Expanded access to personnel, equipment, and facilities;
• The ability to waive local provisions and regulations that could hinder response to the emergency;
• Enhanced opportunities for mutual aid;
• Access to state/federal funding/reimbursement related to disaster relief.
“While we have declared a state of emergency, we want everyone to remain calm,” said Mayor Mike Murphy. “This is a situation that will eventually pass and we will work through it.
“The essential operations of the City will continue. Police and fire services will be there when you need them, your garbage will still be picked up,” Murphy said. “We are fine-tuning our operations to make sure that any interactions with the public are safe for all people.”
“We are following the recommendations and best practices that come from the health experts at Merced County, the State of California and the Centers for Disease Control,” said City Manager Steve Carrigan. “We urge everyone to avoid large gatherings of over 250 people and to practice social distancing.”
City staff has been meeting with groups and organizations throughout the community to discuss the coronavirus outbreak and its effect on their membership. State guidelines call for large gatherings to be cancelled, along with small ones where people can’t maintain social distancing.
The Monday night City Council meeting will take place as usual in the Council Chambers, however, people in the audience will be urged to maintain their distance from one another, Carrigan said. In addition, the Sam Pipes Room will be set up for people to watch the meeting, and chairs will be set up 6-feet away from each other. The meeting is broadcast on Facebook Live at City of Merced and also on Comcast Channel 96 for people who want to stay home.
All City operations have been undergoing a re-examination to see how the face-to-face interactions can be limited.
“We’re having more meetings by conference calls, we’re seeing if we can respond by text or email rather than meeting with people,” Carrigan said. “We’re trying to avoid non-essential contact.”
“For the health and safety of everyone, please practice good personal hygiene,” said Merced Fire Chief Billy Alcorn. Alcorn oversees the City’s Emergency Operations Center.
“Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer if that’s not possible,” he said. “Cough or sneeze into your arm, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or face.”
Alcorn said people should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects.
“And, if you are feeling sick, stay home. As a community we need to do our part together to limit the spread of disease,” Alcorn said.

New health, safety measures for City Council meetings

The Merced City Council will continue to meet during the coronavirus outbreak, but new health and safety measures are in place to protect the public, Council and staff.

The regular Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St.

The public will be greeted with a welcoming video advising them to maintain their “social distance” during the meeting by sitting apart from other members of the public. Hand sanitizer is available outside the Chambers.

In addition, the Sam Pipes Room is set up on the first floor of the Civic Center with chairs spaced six-feet apart, with a live video feed of the Council meeting.

The Council meetings continue to be livestreamed for people to watch at home on Facebook Live, Comcast and the City’s website.

On the agenda:

• Council will hear a presentation on railroad quiet zones and implementation and ask for direction.

• A public hearing will be held on approving a lien against a property on East 23rd Street that the City cleaned up.

• Council is being asked to approve the 2020/21 Goals and Priorities that are used to set the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.


The Council will meet at 5 p.m. in closed session to confer with labor negotiators and to initiate litigation.

The meetings are streamed on Facebook Live on the City’s Facebook, City of Merced. A link to the live meeting is also on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org, outside the chambers prior to the meeting and at the City Clerk’s Office 72 hours before the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be submitted to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council. Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all regular Council meetings.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.

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March 13 , 2020

Castle Air Museum Corona Virus Visitor Information

Dear friends of and visitors of the Castle Air Museum,
As the situation regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, we want to reiterate to you that the health and safety of our visitors, staff, and volunteers is our first and foremost priority. We are taking every precaution and putting additional preventive actions in place as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We want to share a few of the steps we are taking at the Museum.

• The public areas of the Museum are being continuously cleaned as part of our normal course of business, and we will maintain rigorous standards including cleaning and disinfecting high-touch, high-traffic areas.
• We have placed hand sanitizers, for use by our visitors and crew, throughout the Museum Gift Shop and high traffic areas. We also have ample replacement supplies on order.
• Every member of the Museum staff has been charged with the highest standard of personal hygiene as well as taking responsibility for doing their part in maintaining cleanliness in their work area.
• We are ensuring that everyone on the Museum has the information they need to stay healthy, and anyone not feeling well is being directed to stay home until they are fully recovered.
• We will continue to follow the health and safety procedures established by the Centers for Disease Control and make adjustments to our procedures, as appropriate.
• We will continue with our special events and fundraisers as planned for the time being.


 

Just as you are doing in your everyday activities, we are taking this public health concern seriously. Our protocols are based on guidance from the CDC and other world, U.S., and state and local health organizations, and their recommendations will continue to guide our business protocols and plans. We will continue to stay informed, but you can find current information on the CDC website.

As previously stated, we are totally committed to maintaining a safe environment for you during your visit to the Castle Air Museum. We sincerely appreciate your support and assistance during this ever evolving situation.

Finally, while we are open and we still have tours and school groups visit, we have had, not surprisingly, multiple cancellations of large groups and private events. While we don’t believe this will last forever, it is having a financial impact on operations. You can help us out in the meantime by donating to the Museum at :www.castleairmuseum.org and click on the “Support Us” Tab, or just click on the Donate Button.

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March 13 , 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURES
STATE ROUTE 99 FROM STATE ROUTE 165 IN TURLOCK
TO HAMMETT ROAD IN NORTHERN STANISAUS COUNTY

STANISLAUS COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close various off and on-ramps on southbound and northbound State Route 99 (SR-99) from SR-165 in Turlock to Hammett Road in northern Stanislaus County for bridge, electrical and pavement work.
Work will primarily be performed Sunday, March 15, 2020, through Friday, March 20, 2020, from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. No two consecutive ramps will close simultaneously.
Motorists should expect delays of 15 minutes and additional lane closures throughout this stretch of SR-99 during nighttime hours. Alternate routes should be taken if possible.


 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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March 12 , 2020

President/CEO Barry Nelson Addresses Coronavirus (COVID-19) As It Relates to Travis Credit Union

Vacaville, CA — Out of an abundance of caution, Travis Credit Union is canceling all in-person events (financial education seminars, shredding, etc.) through mid-April as a preventative measure to help limit exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“While the immediate health risk from coronavirus in our region is considered to be "low," the well-being and our first priority remains keeping Travis Credit Union’s members and employees safe and well-informed while doing what we can to help minimize potential spread of the coronavirus,” stated Barry Nelson, president/CEO of Travis Credit Union. “We are taking every recommended precaution to ensure a safe environment for all.”
The decision is supported in part by the actions of many of Travis Credit Union’s community partners, who have begun canceling community event programming through the months of March and April. “Individuals who registered via email for the Travis Credit Union financial education seminars will receive a cancelation notice and will also be given access to online financial education resources,” stated Nelson.

The Credit Union will continue monitoring the news from the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and will take action for events happening for the rest of the year on a periodic basis.

The Credit Union continues to operate as normal and provides updates if operations in branches or other services are impacted which, is communicated via Traviscu.org.

Access to Online and Mobile banking are available for those who prefer not to visit a branch, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

 

“Although the coronavirus has been impacting our economy, you can rest assured that the Credit Union is monitoring these events closely. We will continue to safeguard our members’ financial well-being with competitive products and services, and immediate access to friendly, knowledgeable staff who have only your best interests at heart,” Nelson added.

According to Nelson, Travis Credit Union’s financial health has never been stronger. The Credit Union maintains a diversified and well-managed balance sheet, supported by strong levels of capital and growth. The Credit Union continues to surpass its high standards for financial performance, convenient account access, and member value.

“Looking ahead in 2020 and beyond, our commitment to creating extraordinary member experiences is stronger than ever,” said Nelson.

Headquartered in Vacaville, California, Travis Credit Union is a not-for-profit cooperative financial institution serving those who live or work in Alameda, Colusa, Contra Costa, Merced Napa, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties. Currently, Travis Credit Union is the 13th largest credit union in California with more than 214,000 members and more than $3.3 billion in assets as of December 31, 2019. As one of the leading financial institutions in Solano, Contra Costa, Yolo, Napa and Merced Counties, Travis Credit Union’s strength lies in its faithful commitment to its members and the community; its solid, secure history; and its long-standing track record of dedicated service.

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March 7, 2020

MCSD, OLM Take Top Honors at Third Annual Merced County STEM Fair

The Merced City School District and Our Lady of Mercy took the top spots at the fourth annual Merced County STEM Fair on March 4 at UC Merced.
Hosted by the Merced County Office of Education and the UC Merced Office of Research and Development, the event showcased nearly 40 science projects from more than 60 students in grades 5 through
8. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The overall winning projects are:
First place is eighth grader Essey Afewerki from Hoover Middle School in Merced for his project “The Effect of Fire on Soil Microbes”; second place is eighth grader Nicole Torres, seventh grader Kalyya Saeyang eighth grader and Georgina Torres from Tenaya Middle School for their project “Cat Allergens and Enzymes”; third place is eighth grader Jessica Ma from Hoover Middle School for her project “Acid Rain Herbert”; fourth place is sixth grader Elise Metcalf from Chenoweth Elementary School for her project “Pavlov's Fish”; fifth place is seventh graders Branyon Bliss and Guerin Bliss from Our Lady of Mercy for their project “What Chemical is the Best for Saving Wood”; and sixth place is seveth grader Bryan Xiong from Hoover Middle School for his project “Mirrors and More.”
Those exhibits will compete in the California Science & Engineering Fair on April 20-21 at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Ribbons for first through third place were also awarded by grade.
Judges include local scientists and professors from MCOE, UC Merced and Merced College, among others.

In addition to projects on display from those school districts, other exhibits included the Poster Showcase from UC Merced Graduate and Undergraduate students, a campus tour and various lab tours.

 







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PHOTOS BY DYLAN MCMULLEN COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

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March 6 , 2020

PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTEMS WORK TO PREVENT SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS

MERCED – The Bus and Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) public transit systems have put preventative measures in place to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Effective immediately, enhanced disinfecting procedures will be used daily to clean all frequently contacted surfaces on all buses and coaches.
“The health and safety of our passengers is our first priority,” said Christine Chavez, Transit Manager for YARTS and The Bus. “These proactive measures will help prevent the spread of infection should the virus become present in any of the communities we serve.”
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Merced or Mariposa Counties. Passengers are encouraged to wash their hands often, cover all coughs and sneezes, stay home when sick, and avoid direct contact with sick individuals. For more information about COVID-19, please visit the Center for Disease Control website: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.
The Bus is the single public transportation service provider for all of Merced County and is administered by the Transit Joint Powers Authority for Merced County and managed by the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG). All bus schedules and hours of operation can be found at www.mercedthebus.com or by calling The Bus at (209) 723-3100. Real-time information regarding bus locations, services and arrival times can be found


at www.thebuslive.com or by downloading ‘The Bus Live’ app on your smart phone for free. All buses are equipped with bike racks and are wheelchair accessible. Seniors, Veterans and ADA eligible passengers can ride all fixed route service for free year-round with qualifying identification. Those wishing to see if they are eligible for the free fare should contact The Bus office to learn more.
YARTS is a regional public transit service that provides a year-round alternative to driving to Yosemite. YARTS schedules make connections with all intercity transportation providers in Merced: Amtrak, Greyhound and Boutique Air at the Merced Airport, and also connects to transit providers in Mono, Tuolumne and Fresno Counties during summer operations. United Airlines also provides connection through its carriers to Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Mammoth Lakes Airport. Park entrance fees are always included in any YARTS trip. For more information about YARTS, ticket prices, or the seasonal schedules, please visit www.yarts.com or call (877) 989-2787.

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March 6 , 2020

Dos Palos High School Takes First Place at Mock Trial, Continues to State

The Merced County Office of Education in partnership with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office and the Merced County Bar Association hosted the Merced County Mock Trial for the fourth year in February and Dos Palos High School took first place.
Students learn the gamut of roles and responsibilities in the courtroom and participate as the defense and the prosecution attorneys, witnesses, the court clerk and even the bailiff. Students may also serve as courtroom artists and journalists. Mock Trials are held in more than 30 other counties across California.
The hypothetical case, provided by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, which runs the program statewide, is a murder trial and involves a pretrial issue regarding the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Pacheco High School in Los Banos placed second and Gustine High School placed third in the trials at the Merced County Administration Building Board Chambers. Jennifer Aguilar from Dos Palos earned the Outstanding Role award. She was a pretrial attorney in one trial and a defense attorney in another.
Local attorney Carlos Fuentes was presiding judge at one of the trials and Merced County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Min presented on behalf of the DA’s office.
The Merced County District Attorney’s Office provided volunteers to participate as attorney coaches to prepare teams and assisted with recruiting the presiding judges. Local attorneys Anthony Colacito, Tom Pfeiff, Carlos Fuentes and Marvin Brown will serve as the presiding judges. The Merced County Bar Association assisted with recruiting scoring attorneys and additional presiding judges.
Students who participate in the Mock Trials will gain a better knowledge of the legal system and increase their analytical abilities, self-confidence and communication skills.
Dos Palos High School will represent Merced County at the California Mock Trial State Finals in Los Angeles, March 20-22, 2020.
For more information, please contact MCOE Events Planner Stacie Arancibia at (209) 381-5910.

 

 








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PHOTOS BY DYLAN MCMULLEN COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

 

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March 4 , 2020


Le Grand Elementary Focuses on Robotics, Competes in Lego League

Eight Le Grand Elementary School students have been competing in an international Lego competition that has seen them construct a robot, learn computer programming skills, core values and take part in community service projects.
It’s part of the FIRST Lego League (FLL), a worldwide competition that included a contest in Clovis in late 2019. Le Grand students finished eighth out of 23 teams in the robotic competition but their coach, Eric Hansen, said the first effort was just to learn what was involved. He expects his students to contend for first place in the 2020 event.
The Le Grand students, all sixth through eighth-graders, started practices in August and continued through December. One of their first tasks was to master scratch coding skills, or programming computers to perform certain tasks. The students met three times a week during their lunch hour.
Hansen, the robotics coach and an instructional paraprofessional at the school for four years, said the students had to build and program a robot using Legos. Each robot is unique; the Le Grand robot had two wheels and a forklift-type attachment on the front with an arm on the side to push objects out of the way.
Each two-minute game during the competition earned the team points. That was followed by the City Shaper competition where students had to identify a problem within their community and devise a plan to remedy it.
The Le Grand students devised a robot which could gather trash at the nearby Le Grand community park. The third element of the Clovis competition involved interviews, where students had to demonstrate problem-solving skills and collaborative teamwork.
Takeo Bush, 11, of Chowchilla, said he made new friends and had a lot of fun during preparation and the competition. A sixth-grader, he wants to become a biomedical engineer and engineer devices for hospitals.
Bush said this biomedical technology can do a lot of good. He has been involved in the Hour of Code since second grade, where students write computer directions for their robot.
Camille Torres of Le Grand, also 11, said she learned to program and control a robot. She wants to go to college and has an interest in archaeology.
Hansen said the students had a great first year in competition which was a learning experience on what is required for a winning effort.
One main Lego League emphasis is learning the core values of responsibility, innovation, discovery, teamwork, inclusion and fun.
“We will try it again next year. We are going for first and will go all the way,” Hansen said. The 23-year-old went through local schools and wishes these skills were available to him when he was a student.
Scott Borba, Le Grand Union Elementary School District Superintendent, said he would love to see more Lego League teams in Merced County but said his group is the only one at this age group he’s aware of now.
“I’m proud of my students and how they worked together and competed,” Borba said.
He wants Le Grand students to have opportunities to learn 21st Century skills, which is only going to help them to be more successful in college and career fields in the 21st century.
The district is starting to increase its focus on computer science, specifically coding. Starting in third grade all students learn basic coding skills and more advanced skills continuing through eighth grade.
In partnership with the Le Grand Union High School District, a Career

 




PHOTOS COURTESY LE GRAND ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT

 

 

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Technical Education pathway for coding is in the works, Borba said.
“We are going to give our students as many opportunities as possible,” Borba said.
The school’s mantra, Borba said, is “We are a small school with big dreams.” He would like to see two FIRST Lego League teams in the future and more girls involved.
“STEM seems to be male-dominated and I would like to see that change. Our girls are science rock stars, too,” Borba said.


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March 2 , 2020

Atwater FFA Showcases Industry Skills at State Competition

Written by:: Atwater FFA

Atwater FFA joined 42 other high school skill/industry-based high school agriculture teams throughout California at the LeGrand FFA Field Day where they competed in both Agriculture mechanics and Floral contests “We have an expanded number of skill-based Career Development Event (CDE) teams and a record number of students participating,” said Atwater FFA advisor and coach Sam Meredith.

The Atwater FFA Floriculture team placed 3rd overall out of 24 high school teams with a group comprised of Kathy Vargas, Hayley Vargas, Perla Caballero, and Xitlalic Alvarado-Vargas. The contest involves plant identification, application of “hands-on” floral arrangements, and industry related floral skills.

The Atwater FFA Ag Mechanics team earned a “Top 10” finish as they placed 9th overall out of 18 high school teams. The team was comprised of Daisy Flores-Mota, Thomas Garner, Moira Conway, Vincent Gonzalez, Everett Hill. The Ag Mechanics contest involves hands on application skills in woodworking, electrical, oxy-fuel welding & cutting skills, tool identification, and a written exam on all aspects of agriculture mechanics.

“The FFA judging season is an opportunity for students to showcase their life, industry, critical thinking, and communication skills through hands-on, skill-based applications among their peers from all over California at major colleges and state universities,” said FFA advisor Kaylyn Davenport.


Atwater High School FFA's Floral team comprised of Kathy Vargas, Hayley Vargas, Perla Caballero, Xitlalic Alvarado-Vargas placed 3rd overall during a recent state FFA skill-based competition held in LeGrand.

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“Atwater High School continues to be a top contender and recognized throughout the state as a major player at the year’s competitions.” The competitions continue with UC Davis, Chico State University, Merced College, Modesto Junior College, Cosumnes River College, Reedley College, Fresno State University, and Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo scheduled in the coming two months.

For more information on the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and Atwater FFA, please log on the website www.AtwaterFFA.org .

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March 2 , 2020

MCOE to Host Annual STEM Fair on Wednesday

The Merced County Office of Education will partner with the UC Merced Office of Research and Economic Development to host the county’s STEM Fair on March 4 at the UC Merced Joseph E Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center in conjunction with UC Merced Research Week and Poster Showcase. While on campus, students will have the opportunity to tour the campus and participate in lab demonstrations.
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The event will showcase nearly 40 science projects from more than 60 students in grades 5 through 8, with the top three teams moving on to the state competition to represent Merced County.
Participating school districts include Atwater Elementary, Los Banos Unified, Merced City, Planada Elementary and Our Lady of Mercy.
Judging begins at 9:30 a.m. and the event is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with the awards presentation at 3 p.m.
Judges include local scientists and professors from MCOE, UC Merced and Merced College, among others.

 

 

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February 29 , 2020

Refuse rates, Measure C on Council agenda

A refuse rate increase and a review of Measure C are on the City Council agenda for its Monday night meeting.

The regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St.

On the agenda:

• A public hearing will be held on raising the rates to pay for refuse collection, along with spring cleanup, street sweeping and other services. The increase is needed due to increased costs and also due to changes in state laws and rules, and other factors affecting operations. If adopted, the new rates would go into effect July 1.

• Measure C is a half cent sales tax approved in 2006 that supports 31 fulltime employees and a number of special projects. Staff will present Council with an update on the measure that expires in 2026, and ask Council for direction.

• Council is being asked to approve a $4,526,455 contract with Tyler Technologies that will move the City on to a new computer software system to replace the 31-year-old software it currently uses. The contract is for 5 years.

 

The Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in closed session to confer with labor negotiators.

The meetings are streamed on Facebook Live on the City’s Facebook, City of Merced. A link to the live meeting is also on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org, outside the chambers prior to the meeting and at the City Clerk’s Office 72 hours before the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be submitted to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council. Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all regular Council meetings.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.

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February 29 , 2020

MCOE Unveils 2019 Education Report

On Wednesday, Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen unveiled the 2019 Merced County Schools Annual Education Report during a luncheon event at the new MCOE Downtown Professional Development Center.
“We started this event nearly a decade ago to give the public a better understanding of how our public schools operate, how we all work together and some of the struggles we face,” Tietjen said at the event that drew more than 200 people. “I believe that by working together and coordinating our efforts, we are better poised to serve our students and communities.”
This is the first event in the new professional development center, also known as the Mondo building, which will host professional development and teacher training events, along with student events.
The annual report featured a performance from Ballico-Cressey Schools Taiko Drum Group and videos produced by Merced Educational Television (METV), a program operated by MCOE.
One video highlighted the Region III Migrant Education program that MCOE operates, which serves Madera, Merced and Stanislaus counties. The second video focused on MCOE’s Continuous Improvement program, which provides professional development for teachers and educators in Merced County and the region.
In his remarks, Tietjen talked about new professional development facility, upgrades at MCOE’s outdoor school Camp Green Meadows, the expansion of Head Start services, among other MCOE updates.
He also acknowledged several school districts that are positive outliers for serving students and the Merced Union High School District’s commitment to college and career readiness.
The 2019 Merced County Teacher of the Year Rosbelina Ward presented to the group, along with MCOE Mathematics Coordinator Duane Habecker.
For copies of the annual report or to learn more about education in Merced County, call Nathan Quevedo at (209) 381-6658.

 


Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen presents to more than 200 attendees on Feb. 26 at the Merced County Schools Annual Education report.

 

PHOTOS BY DYLAN MCMULLEN COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

 

 

 


More than 200 people attended the Merced County Office of Education's
Ninth Annual Education Report on Feb. 2
6 at the MCOE Downtown
Professional Development Center. The report details collaborations,
partnerships and achievements in schools across the county.


MCOE Math Coordinator Duane Habecker presents at the ninth annual
Merced County Schools Annual Education report on Feb. 26 at the
Merced County Schools Annual Education report.


More than 200 people attended the Merced County Office of
Education's Ninth Annual Education Report on
Feb. 26 at the MCOE Downtown Professional rDevelopment Center.
This was the first event held at the new training cente2019

.

Merced County Teacher of the Year Rosbelina Ward
presents at the ninth annual Merced County Schools Annual Education
report on Feb. 26 at the Merced
County Schools Annual Education report.
Students from the Ballico-Cressey School District perform with
Taiko drums at the ninth annual Merced County Schools Annual Education
report on Feb. 26 at the Merced County Schools Annual Education report.

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February 29 , 2020

HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTE COLLECTION IN LOS BANOS
Held in conjunction with the Los Banos Spring Cleanup

Los Banos – The Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority (Authority) is hosting a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) event in conjunction with the City of Los Banos Spring Cleanup on Saturday, March 7, 2020 from 7:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The HHW event will be held at 403 F Street, Los Banos. Please note, the trash cleanup is for City of Los Banos residents only, but the Household Hazardous Waste event is open to all residents and businesses of Merced County.
There is no cost for residents within Merced County and discounted rates will apply to businesses. Before bringing items out to the facility, please call Clean Harbors at 916-396-1505 to identify the amount and type of HHW that will be dropped off. Please note, under State of California transportation regulations, there are quantity limitations on how much HHW can be brought to the event at one time; please contact Clean Harbors for details.
HHW is any household product that contains ingredients that are corrosive, reactive, flammable, and/or toxic. Some examples of HHW are ammonia-based cleaners, fluorescent tubes, car batteries, paint, and used motor oil. Items commonly found in homes that cannot be brought to the landfill at any


other time except HHW collection days include wet chlorine tablets, full or partially full aerosol containers, and lithium-ion batteries that have started to bulge or become hot. This kind of battery is found inside rechargeable devices such as cordless tools, mobile phones, laptops, cameras, and children’s shoes, and should be brought to the landfill for disposal in the item it is powering.
For more information on types of HHW or what quantities will be accepted at the landfill, please visit www.mcrwma.org/31/Household-Hazardous-Waste or call the Regional Waste Authority at (209) 723-4481.
The Merced County Association of Governments provides administrative oversight of the Merced County Regional Waste Authority. The Regional Waste Authority operates two regional landfills, one in Merced on North Highway 59 and the Billy Wright landfill in Los Banos. For more information, visit www.mcagov.org or the Regional Waste Authority page on Facebook.

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February 26, 2020

Atwater FFA Hosts Major Speaking Invitational

Written by:: Atwater FFA

Twenty novice and advanced FFA parliamentary procedure teams representing high schools throughout California gathered at Atwater High School this past weekend the annual Atwater FFA Parliamentary Procedure Invitational. The Atwater FFA Advanced Parliamentary Procedure team placed 2th overall with senior Emmanuel Mejia earning the “Advanced High Chair” award. The Atwater FFA Novice Parliamentary Procedure team also earned a 2nd place placing overall. “Today was a good start considering this was the first major contest for many competitors throughout the state,” said FFA advisor Shelby Fishman. “They put forth a tremendous effort and the experience provides us with a foundation to build upon.”

Parliamentary procedure is a set of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies. FFA students throughout California participate in various parliamentary procedure contests where students demonstrate their public speaking, understanding, and implementation of skills.
“This is an opportunity to get students involved in an application that develops and strengthens public speaking, critical thinking, and leadership skills that can be applied towards any academic and career endeavor,” said Fishman.

Atwater High School’s agriculture program continues to grow. “With the growth and expansion of agriculture instructors over the past few years, we have been able to expand opportunities for students outside the classroom in college and career related skills that will serve and benefit their futures,” said Fishman. “It’s all about providing opportunities for students to enhance their personal growth, academic success, and career development.”

Students who competed on the team included (Advanced) Emmanuel Mejia (Outstanding Chair), Alyssa Carrillo, Simarjot Gandhoke, Michael Bray, Jennifer Velazquez, Daniel Lopez, Nandani Patel, Celeste Chargoy, Jose Vazquez, Kendall Borba, Allison Garner, Jatziry Castro Delgado, Mateo Duran, Joshaua Medeiros, Katrina Andujar, Teela Armenta, and Sydney Nickelson. The teams will be heading to the UC Davis Parliamentary Procedure Invitational on March 6th to compete again with sectional, regional, and state final competition coming up in the coming two months.

 


Atwater High School FFA's Advanced Parliamentary Procedure team comprised of (top row) Michael Bray, Daniel Lopez, Emmanuel Mijia, Nandani Patel, Jose Vazquez, Klarithsa Cruz Hernandez, Celeste Chargoy, Simarjot Gandhoke, and Alyssa Carrillo placed 2nd overall athe Atwater Parliamentary Procedure Invitational.


Atwater High School FFA's Novice Parliamentary Procedure team Jatziry Castro Delgado, Sidney Nickelson, Katrina Andujar, Allison Garner, Kendall Borba, Joshua Medeiros, and Mateo Duran placed 2nd overall athe Atwater Parliamentary Procedure Invitational.

For more information on the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and Atwater FFA, please log on the website www.AtwaterFFA.org .

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February 25, 2020

FFA Students Attend State Leadership Academy

Written by:: Atwater FFA

Sixteen Atwater High School FFA students joined over three hundred and fifty students from central and northern California FFA regions for the Made for Excellence (MFE), and Advance Leadership Academy (ALA) conference on February 14th and 15th at the Double Tree by Hilton in Modesto, California. This two-day conference is designed primarily for high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. The MFE curriculum focuses on the personal growth of each individual. Students learned about using conflict resolution techniques appropriately, setting goals, and building self-esteem. Each student created a plan of action which outlined a game plan to accomplish their individual high school and career goals. The ALA course focuses on improving leadership skills, identifying important agriculture issues, and communicating these important aspects to the school and community.

The National and California FFA Organization offer FFA members a series of five leadership and personal growth conferences. Throughout the 2019-2020 school year, the Atwater FFA has sent students to various California locations to participate in the Greenhand Leadership, Made-for-Excellence Leadership and Advanced Leadership Academy, Sacramento Leadership, and Washington DC Leadership conferences.
“We are fortunate to have a strong support network with our school administration, district, and especially the Atwater community who have supported fundraisers that have raised $5,000 to help pay for student conference and transportation fees,” explains Kim Mesa, one of ten current serving Atwater High School FFA advisors. “Our number one priority is getting students involved and providing them opportunities for scholastic, personal, and career success, and without the support of parents, the Atwater High School administration, and members of the community, we would not be able to provide students the opportunity to participate in these special events.”


Sixteen Atwater High School agriculture students including (top row) Sabrina Lopez, Gabriela Moreno, Daniel Lopez, Ethan Slate, Julian Chargoy Velasco, (middle row) Daniel Narez, Gabriella Lucas, Simarjot Gandhoke, Tristan Cardey, Gurkirath Gandhok, (front row) Stefanie Sanchez, Adriana Lopez, America Lara, Perla Caballero, Klarithsa Cruz Hernandez, Celeste Chargoy Velasco participated in a state sponsored leadership conference in Modesto.

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Atwater FFA members who attended the leadership conference were Perla Caballero, Tristan Cardey, Celeste Chargoy Velasco, Klarithsa Cruz Hernandez, Gurkirath Gandhok, Simarjot Gandhoke, America Lara, Adriana Lopez, Daniel Lopez, Sabrina Lopez, Gabriella Lucas, Gabriela Moreno, Daniel Narez, Julian Chargoy Velasco, Stefanie Sanchez, and Ethan Slate.

For more information on the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and Atwater FFA, please log on the website www.AtwaterFFA.org .

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February 22 , 2020


COSTA UNVEILS LEGISLATION TO FUND COMPLETION OF CALIFORNIA'S HIGH-SPEED RAIL, OTHER NATIONAL RAIL PROJECTS

 

FRESNO, Calif.-- After leading the fight in Congress for investment in America’s national rail infrastructure, Congressman Jim Costa unveiled the High-Speed Rail Corridor Development Act, legislation that would provide $32 billion to fund projects in federally designated high-speed rail corridors.

“This legislation will provide the needed funding to finish California’s High-Speed Rail project. California is leading the nation in building modern, green train technology, which will get our cars off the road and improve our air quality”, said Costa. “We must invest in our future for our health and our economy. We already see the benefits, with new business investments in our communities and more high-paying jobs. The 119-miles of construction has already employed more than 3,000 workers and supported 500 small businesses. This is the time to bring our transportation infrastructure into the 21st century. We can, and we will, get this job done!”

"Building transformative infrastructure projects – like high-speed rail – requires leaders with vision and determination. Congressman Costa has always demonstrated he has both when it comes to building clean, fast high-speed rail. His bill represents the kind of partnership we need with the federal government to get this important work done." - Brian Kelly, CEO, California High-Speed Rail Authority.

"This administration remains committed to fulfilling the vision of the voters and completing the full Phase 1 high-speed rail system. Congressman Costa’s continued partnership to help us close the funding gaps to complete not only Valley to Valley but the entire project, puts us a step closer to that reality. Together, we look forward to bringing the tremendous economic, transportation and environmental benefits of truly high-speed rail to California." - Lenny Mendonca, Chairman, California High-Speed Rail Authority.

“Increasing mobility and building infrastructure are key tools of economic development, especially for the Central Valley. I am proud to join Rep. Costa on this bill to authorize key funding for projects in federally designated high-speed rail corridors. If America wants to continue its leadership of the world economy and counteract the effects of climate change, we must dream big and upgrade our infrastructure to ensure Californians can move efficiently and effectively as the Central Valley grows.” – Congressman TJ Cox (CA-21)

The High-Speed Rail Corridor Development Act is a reauthorization of the High-Speed Rail Corridor Development Program and builds upon the success of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 . It authorizes $32 billion dollars through 2024 for the High-Speed Rail Corridor Investment program and also authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to award grants for projects that are part of a state rail plan, encourage intermodal connectivity, and those with environmental benefits.

There are currently 30 active construction sites within the California High-Speed Rail system between Madera and Kern counties, with more than 500 certified small businesses working to build the Central Valley segment. To date, more than 3,000 construction workers have been dispatched to the project.

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February 22 , 2020

Gray Introduces Legislation to Strengthen California’s Firefighting Mutual Aid System

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Adam C. Gray (D-Merced) has introduced Assembly Bill 3198 to establish a grant program for local fire departments participating in California’s firefighting mutual aid system.

For nearly seven decades, fire departments have been part of a “neighbor helping neighbor” system of mutual aid. Under the California Fire Service and Rescue Emergency Mutual Aid System, local jurisdictions experiencing an emergency incident likely to exceed, or has exceeded, their ability to control it may request the outside assistance of other jurisdictions.

“Unprecedented wildfires have undoubtedly strained California’s firefighting mutual aid system and we are all too familiar with reports of mutual aid requests for fire suppression going unfilled due to lack of available resources,” said Assemblymember Gray. “It is time to ensure local fire departments have the mutual aid resources they need to quickly deploy at the onset of an emergency incident.”

“As Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, I listened to fire officials from across the state communicate their frustrations with mutual aid as we know it this past month,” said Assemblymember Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita). “Through their testimony, it was clear this system we’ve relied on for decades requires significant updates to accommodate resource shortfalls and more pernicious fires. I commend my colleague Assemblymember Adam Gray for recognizing the urgency in supporting our brave firefighters and first responders in their important, lifesaving work.”

 

 

“The Administration and the Legislature have been very proactive in addressing the challenges posed by these catastrophic wildfires,” continued Assemblymember Gray. “Working together, we have made significant progress in deploying technology to detect fires earlier, prioritizing mitigation work, prepositioning resources during extreme weather, and establishing a Wildfire Threat Center to improve forecasts and enhance alerts and warnings. This grant program will be an additional tool for our first responders to keep Californians safe during any type of disaster.”

Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Chair of the Senate Government Organization Committee, and Assemblymember Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, are coauthoring the bill.

“In the weeks ahead, I look forward to working with the fire service, local governments, the Administration and my colleagues in the Legislature to refine this proposal to craft a grant program that best meets the needs of the firefighting mutual aid system,” concluded Assemblymember Gray.

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February 21, 2020

OPENINGS ON MEASURE V CITIZENS OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE

Merced - The Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG) is currently accepting applications for the following seats on the Measure V Citizens Oversight Committee:
• Agricultural industry representative
• Bike/pedestrian or transit advocacy group representative
• Building industry representative
• Ethnic community group representative
• Major private sector employer representative
The Citizens Oversight Committee (COC) was created as a result of the passage of Measure V in 2016. Its main function is to review the local, half-cent transportation tax expenditures to assure they conform to the Measure V Expenditure Plan approved by Merced County voters. Committee members are appointed by the MCAG Governing Board to serve two-year terms. Each COC member may serve up to eight years, if reappointed. The COC meets quarterly at the MCAG office in Merced; all meetings are open to the public and governed by the Brown Act. Committee members are volunteers and receive no compensation.
Additional information about the COC and the application packet are available on the Measure V website: www.mcagov.org/MeasureV or at the MCAG office on 369 W. 18th Street in Merced.

 

MCAG is the state-designated Local Transportation Authority for Merced County responsible for the implementation and administration of Measure V. To keep the community informed about the measure, MCAG features monthly updates in their newsletter on the MCAG website mcagov.org. Additional information about Measure V including financial statements and specific project information by jurisdiction can be found at www.mcagov.org/MeasureV.
The Merced County Association Governments (MCAG) is the regional transportation planning agency and metropolitan planning organization for Merced County. In addition to regional transportation planning, MCAG also manages The Bus, YARTS and the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority.

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February 21, 2020

ENHANCED Altamont Corridor Express (ACE®)
Saturday Service Coming February 29, 2020

(STOCKTON, Calif.) – The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) is pleased to announce a revised and ENHANCED Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) Saturday Service schedule beginning February 29, 2020.

Utilizing feedback received from ACE passengers, ACE has committed to implementing an updated schedule to provide better travel options for riders.

The new schedule will provide an earlier departure at 6:05am from Stockton allowing commuters a full 8-hour workday. The second morning westbound train at 9:15am will be connected to a northbound Amtrak San Joaquins train to provide service to additional communities as a far south as Los Angeles. The evening adjustments have been made with commuters and leisure travelers in mind.

The Wheels bus service will continue to operate on Saturdays from the Pleasanton Station to connect passengers to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART Station. ACE passengers can utilize their tickets for free transfers to VTA services at Santa Clara and San Jose’s Diridon Station. ACE tickets are accepted on Amtrak San Joaquins busses to/from the Tri-Valley and South Bay region providing additional travel times. For schedule information, see https://amtraksanjoaquins.com/thruway-bus/route-6/

For the current ACE rider, Saturday Service offers commuters the flexibility to work on Saturday without the need to drive. For leisure travelers, the service provides a safe and scenic ride to their destination.

Tickets: Mobile tickets are available on the ACERAIL mTickets app and must be validated prior to boarding. Monthly pass holders can show their monthly pass to the onboard staff. Traditional paper tickets are available only at the Stockton ACE station on Saturdays.

ACE Saturday Service Schedule: https://acerail.com/schedules/


ACE Saturday Service is a one-year pilot program funded by SB1 through its State Rail Assistance Program (SRA). If ACE Saturday Service is proven successful, SJRRC will be pursuing additional funds to maintain the service.

About the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission and ACE Train Service
The San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC) owns and operates and is the policy-making body for the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE®) service. SJRRC is governed by a Board of Directors which consists of six full-voting members from San Joaquin County and two special-voting members from Alameda County. Ex-officio members represent Caltrans District 10, the San Joaquin Regional Transit District (SJRTD), SJCOG and StanCOG.

Started in 1998 and serving over 1.5 million riders annually, the ACE train runs four daily round-trips starting at the Cabral Station in Downtown Stockton with stops in Lathrop/Manteca, Tracy, Vasco Road, Livermore, Pleasanton, Fremont, Great America, Santa Clara, and San Jose’s Diridon station. For more information on ACE, please visit www.acerail.com.

949 E. Channel St., Stockton, CA 95202 | www.acerail.com

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February 21, 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
EXPECT 15-MINUTE DELAYS
STATE ROUTE 140 FROM BRICEBURG TO SWEETWATER CREEK

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will conduct one-way traffic control on eastbound and westbound State Route 140 from Briceburg to Sweetwater Creek to remove trees and vegetation burned during the Briceburg fire.
Work is scheduled to begin Monday, February 24, 2020, through Friday, February 27, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Motorists should expect 15-minute delays.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.


 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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February 19, 2020

Interim Police Chief Tom Cavallero was sworn in

Interim Police Chief Tom Cavallero was sworn in today by Assistant City Manager Stephanie Dietz. His wife, Wendy, pinned his badge on him. His extended family was there for the ceremony and photos afterwards.


Tom Cavallero

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February 14 , 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
RAMP CLOSURE
STATE ROUTE 99 AT 16TH STREET IN MERCED

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform a full off-ramp closure on northbound State Route 99 (SR-99) in Merced for utility work.
Work will occur as follows:
• Full off-ramp closure from 16th Street to southbound SR-99 beginning Tuesday, February 18, 2020 to Thursday, February 20, 2020 from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.
Motorists should expect 5-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.


 

 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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February 18 , 2020

Budget review, Bicycle Commission on Council agenda

A mid-year budget report and an expansion of the Bicycle Advisory Commission’s scope are on the City Council agenda for its Tuesday night meeting.

The regular meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St.

On the agenda:

• Staff will present the mid-year FY 2019-20 financial report to Council. As part of the review, staff will ask Council to appropriate $14,500 for a block party trailer and $200,000 for Workers Compensation.

• Council is asked to expand the scope of the Bicycle Advisory Commission to include pedestrian activities. The re-formed commission would add two ex-officio, non-voting members, to represent schools and people with disabilities on the board.

• Council has adopted a Legislative Platform that establishes what bills and positions it supports and opposes in Sacramento and Washington. The Council is being asked to update the Platform as part of an annual review of the document.

The Council will meet at 5 p.m. in closed session to confer with labor negotiators and for existing litigation.

The meetings are streamed on Facebook Live on the City’s Facebook, City of Merced. A link to the live meeting is also on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org, outside the chambers prior to the meeting and at the City Clerk’s Office 72 hours before the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be submitted to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council. Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all regular Council meetings.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.

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February 14 , 2020

Council wants to hear from public at annual Town Halls

Every year the City Council holds Town Hall meetings in Merced neighborhoods to gather input and comments about how the City is operating, improvements that can be made and programming ideas residents suggest.
The results of these meetings are used by the City Council to develop priorities that guide the development of the annual budget. Council traditionally holds meetings in South, Central and North Merced.
The sites this year are the Cruickshank Middle School Multi-Purpose Room, the Hoover Middle School Gym and the Golden Valley High School Theatre.
Town Hall Meetings will be televised online on Facebook Live at City of Merced and also on the City website, cityofmerced.org. Spanish and Hmong interpreters will be available at the Town Hall meetings.
Town Halls are from 6 to 8 p.m. Town Hall locations are:

Feb. 19 Hoover Middle School Gym, 800 E. 26th St.

Feb. 20 Golden Valley High Theatre, 2121 E Childs Ave.

Feb. 26 Cruickshank Multi-Purpose Room, 601 Mercy Ave.

 

 

City offices closed Monday

City offices are closed Mon., Feb. 17. for the Presidents Day holiday.
There will be no trash collection that day. All refuse collection will be delayed one day the rest of the week.
The Council meeting regularly scheduled for Monday night will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center, (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St. The agenda is available online at www.cityofmerce.org.

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February 14 , 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
EXPECT 15-MINUTE DELAYS
STATE ROUTE 140 FROM BRICEBURG TO SWEETWATER CREEK

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will conduct one-way traffic control on eastbound and westbound State Route 140 from Briceburg to Sweetwater Creek to remove trees and vegetation burned during the Briceburg fire.
Work is scheduled to begin Tuesday, February 18, 2020, through Friday, February 21, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Due to the Presidents’ Holiday, no work is scheduled on Monday, February 17, 2020.)
Motorists should expect 15-minute delays.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.


 

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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February 13, 2020

MCOE, DA’s Office, Bar Association Team Up for Mock Trial

The Merced County Office of Education in partnership with the Merced County District Attorney’s Office and the Merced County Bar Association will host the Merced County Mock Trial for the fourth year this week. Students from Dos Palos High School, Pacheco High School in Los Banos and Gustine High School will participate in the trials in the Merced County Administration Building Board Chambers on Thursday, Feb. 13 with trials at 9:30 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
The event is open to the public.
The hypothetical case, provided by the Constitutional Rights Foundation, which runs the program statewide, is a murder trial and involves a pretrial issue regarding the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Students learn the gamut of roles and responsibilities in the courtroom and participate as the defense and the prosecution attorneys, witnesses, the court clerk and even the bailiff. Students may also serve as courtroom artists and journalists. Mock Trials are held in more than 30 other counties up and down the state.
The Merced County District Attorney’s Office provided volunteers to participate as attorney coaches to prepare teams and assisted with recruiting the presiding judges. Local attorneys Anthony Colacito, Tom Pfeiff, Carlos Fuentes and Marvin Brown will serve as the presiding judges. The Merced County Bar Association assisted with recruiting scoring attorneys and additional presiding judges.
Students who participate in the Mock Trials will gain a better knowledge of the legal system and increase their analytical abilities, self-confidence and communication skills.
An awards ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 27 at the Merced County Office of Education Downtown Professional Development Center. Medals will be awarded to first, second and third place teams as well as the outstanding role award and a winner for courtroom journalist and artist. The first-place team will represent Merced County at the California Mock Trial State Finals in Los Angeles, March 20-22, 2020.

 

 

For more information, please contact MCOE Events Planner Stacie Arancibia at (209) 381-5910.

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February 11, 2020

Tom Cavallero named interim police chief

Tom Cavallero has been named the interim police chief for the City of Merced. The former Merced County sheriff will oversee the department until a new chief is selected to replace Chris Goodwin, who announced his retirement in December.
Cavallero served in the Sheriff’s Department for 35 years, rising from the ranks of deputy, becoming a sergeant, commander, undersheriff, until he became sheriff-coroner in 2013.
“I am honored to have been offered the position,” Cavallero said. “I’ve worked with this Department for many years and it has excellent men and women who are dedicated, professional and highly trained. I’m here to provide guidance, supervision and the impartial oversight that someone from outside the Department can give.”
“Tom is the right candidate to serve as a bridge while we search for a new police chief,” said City Manager Steve Carrigan. “He has decades of law enforcement experience, he knows Merced, and he has the ability to connect with people.”
Capt. Matt Williams had been serving as the acting chief after Goodwin retired.
The City will hold a nationwide recruitment for the new police chief.


Tom Cavallero

 

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February 11, 2020

Atwater FFA Program and Students Bring Home SAE Honors

Written by:: Atwater FFA

Eight Atwater FFA Students earned honors at the annual Merced-Mariposa Sectional FFA Project Competition Banquet held at the Merced County Fairgrounds last week. Over eighty FFA students representing fourteen high schools throughout the Merced and Mariposa counties were recognized for their SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) programs. An SAE program is the actual, hands-on application of concepts and principles learned in the agricultural classroom. Students are supervised by agricultural education teachers in cooperation with parents, employers, and other adults who assist them in the development and achievement of their educational and career goals.

Throughout late November and early December, various community and business representatives visited various FFA students at their homes and/or workplace to learn about their projects. Students conducted a 15-20 minute overview presentation of their agricultural project and/or agricultural work experience. In addition, students were required to demonstrate a skill pertaining to their SAE. During the banquet, students were awarded a “gold” or “silver” award based on their presentations. Scholarships were also awarded to senior students. “The students and the SAE projects recognized in this county are some of the best in the entire state of California,” said Atwater High School agriculture instructor Dan Flatt.

All eight of Atwater High School’s FFA participants earned “gold” awards. Student participants and their project areas included Simarjot Gandhoke (woodworking), Colby Flatt (welding and fabrication), Kendall Borba (Dairy Goat Placement), Perla Caballero (floral), Tristan Cardey (goats), Michael Bray (rabbits), Ethan Slate (Beef Cattle), and Kiah Betschart (horses). In addition to the results, Michael Bray, Kendall Borba, and Simarjot Gandhoke also were recognized with a merit award in recognition of their outstanding projects. Colby Flatt received a $750 Yosemite Farm Credit Scholarship.

The students plan to attend various trade schools, colleges and universities including Merced College, Modesto Junior College, Fresno State University, Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo, UC Davis, and Chico State University to pursue careers associated with their SAE’s.


Staff and students representing the Atwater High School agriculture program gather together following their sweep of "Gold" award winning and recognized agriculture projects through the annual Merced-Mariposa FFA Sectional Project Competition awards held at the Merced County Fairgrounds.

Atwater High School agriculture students Colby Flatt, Michael Bray, Simarjot Gandhoke, and Ethan Slate gather together with their recognition awards following the annual Merced-Mariposa FFA Sectional Project Competition awards held at the Merced County Fairgrounds.

For more information on the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and Atwater FFA, please log on the website www.AtwaterFFA.org .

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February 11, 2020

Special Education Teacher Grants Available; Deadline Feb. 18

Three grants are available from the state to Merced County special education teachers, but the deadline to apply is quickly approaching.
Stacy Shasky, coordinator of the teacher induction program at the Merced County Office of Education, called attention to the grants offered through the State Department of Education and its Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
The PIP/STP Grant offers a $1,000 grant to any special education teacher working on a provisional internship permit or Short Term Staffing Permit credential. An Intern Grant offers $2,000 to any special education teacher working in the county on an intern credential.
And $5,000 is available in a Loan Forgiveness Grant to any special education teacher working on a clear credential.
The deadline to apply for these grants is Feb. 18.
Shasky said these grants are intended to keep people teaching in the special education field. They also can help teachers recoup college costs from pursuing their education.
Shasky said qualifying teachers must agree to stay with the school district where they are serving for another year.

 

 

Those interested in the grants may contact Gayle Catuiza at gcatuiza@mcoe.org.

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February 7, 2020

2nd Annual San Joaquin Valley Portuguese Festival

Livingston, CA, February 5, 2020 - The Carlos Vieira Foundation is proud to host the 2nd Annual San Joaquin Valley Portuguese Festival presented by PFSA, the Portuguese Fraternal Society of America. The celebration is open to ALL people to come discover the culture and heritage of the Portuguese people and honor their contributions to the San Joaquin Valley and the state of California. The Festival will be held at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds in Turlock, CA on Saturday April 18, 2020 from 9:00 am to midnight. Come experience the Portuguese culture while supporting a great cause, Race for Autism.
This family-friendly event will showcase traditional Portuguese dancing, music, and cuisine. The festival will be kicked off by a Portuguese parade followed by plenty of activities including folklore performances, bloodless bullfight demonstrations, philharmonic performances, a wine and cheese tasting, a cultural exhibit, carnival rides, plenty of Portuguese food and craft vendors, and more. We will also have exciting performances on the 51FIFTY Stage throughout the day including Generations, Alcides Machado, Taylor Amarante, Chico Avila, The Portuguese Kids, and all the way from Portugal, Ana and Jose Malhoa!
Tickets are now on sale for the pre-sale price of $5. Tickets at the gate will be $10, and kids under 10 years old get free admission. All proceeds benefit children living with autism in central California. For more information, visit SJVportuguesefestival.com or call 209.394.1444.

See you there!

 

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February 7 , 2020

TRAFFIC ADVISORY
FULL RAMP CLOSURES
SOUTHBOUND STATE ROUTE 99 AT APPLEGATE ROAD IN ATWATER

MERCED COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will perform full closures of the on and off-ramps on southbound State Route 99 at Applegate Road in Atwater for landscaping work.
Work will begin Monday, February 10, through Tuesday, February 11, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.
Motorists should expect 10-minute delays. Alternate routes should be taken whenever possible.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

 


TRAFFIC ADVISORY
EXPECT 15-MINUTE DELAYS
STATE ROUTE 140 FROM BRICEBURG TO SWEETWATER CREEK

MARIPOSA COUNTY – The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will conduct one-way traffic control on eastbound and westbound State Route 140 from Briceburg to Sweetwater Creek to remove trees and vegetation burned during the Briceburg fire.
Work is scheduled to begin Monday, February 10, 2020, through Friday, February 14, 2020, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Motorists should expect 15-minute delays.
This work is scheduled to begin as listed, but is subject to change due to traffic incidents, weather, availability of equipment, and/or materials and construction related issues.

For the safety of workers and other motorists,please Slow For the Cone Zone.

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February 7, 2020

Merced County Head Start Expands to Full-Day Classes Across County

Not only are Merced County’s Head Start classes going from 3 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours a day, many of the instructional sites throughout the county are being remodeled and enhanced, with other upgrades during the current school year.
The Head Start system also is getting additions to its base funding level and raises for its employees.
Christie Hendricks, assistant superintendent of the Early Education Department of the Merced County Office of Education, said a brand-new center was recently opened near Campus Park Elementary School in Livingston. It serves 34 children who are 3 and 4 years of age in two classrooms.
An existing building was remodeled at Shattuck Park near El Capitan Elementary School in Delhi. This refurbished building serves 17 to 20 children.
Linda Kaercher, director of the Head Start Program which resides within MCOE Early Education Department, said the next phase of expansion to the 6 ½ hour model will see four new classrooms at the new Grasslands Elementary School campus in Los Banos. Grasslands Head Start is due to open next fall.
Hendricks said they are in the process of major remodeling of Head Start sites at Schelby School in Livingston and Tenaya Middle School in Merced. With new program improvement dollars, Head Start sites throughout the county have been upgraded with new flooring, lighting, fixtures, restroom upgrades, new countertops and painting.
Hendricks said data shows quality early education is important for children’s outcomes and the federal government has been supportive of Head Start programs of late.
“Our job is to get children ready to succeed in kindergarten. Head Start has 1,157 students from 0 to 5 years old and a site in nearly every community,” Hendricks said. There are 17 Head Start sites throughout Merced County.
“Available research shows the greater the number of hours children spend in quality programs the better their outcome,” Kaercher said.
Kaercher said the extended time for Head Start sessions means adults can have more positive interactions with students.
“The new hours gives a sufficient amount of time to have a good day with the children,” Kaercher said.
There also is an Early Head Start child care partnership program which serves 88 children from birth to age 5 across Merced County, and a program serving pregnant mothers.


An existing building was remodeled at Shattuck Park near El Capitan Elementary School in Delhi. This refurbished building serves 17 to 20 children.


: Merced County Head Start serves more than 1,100 of the county's youngest students.

Merced County Head Start operates 17 facilities across the county in addition to home-based services.


PHOTOS BY DYLAN MCMULLEN COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

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February 7, 2020

Adult ROP Course Focuses on Culinary Essentials, Certification

The Merced County Office of Education’s Career and Technical Education program added a new ROP culinary essentials class for adults with disabilities in January and openings remain in the program this month.
Mary Whited, coordinator of the Regional Occupational Program and career-technical educational services, said 13 adults started the new 18-week culinary essentials class and MCOE plans to do three sessions this year. New enrollees will be accepted and a Feb. 7 orientation is planned.
The culinary essential class provides students with hands-on experience, imparting fundamental skills and knowledge in food preparation, food and kitchen safety, sanitization, food costs, basic culinary terminology, proper use of kitchen tools and equipment and customer service.
Whited said the course is designed for adults with disabilities and offers students a chance to earn a Food Handlers card and ServSafe certification. The program includes completion of an employment portfolio and an internship with local businesses. This gives students entry-level skills and training necessary to secure employment in the food service industry.
Former restauranteur Tisha McParland is teaching the class, which meets Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the MCOE Yosemite Educational Center.
The Adult ROP program is also part of the Gateway Adult Education Network and a consortium of Chowchilla city and Merced and Mariposa county educators.
Whited said a previous short-term class piloted the culinary essentials program. Employability skills were stressed in the class, which is free.
A needs assessment conducted in November 2018 showed one of the weaknesses was a lack of training for adults with disabilities. Whited said the results came as no surprise since it has been known that services are needed for adults who transition out of MCOE or school district programs as adults.

 

“We want to make sure our students don’t fall through the cracks and make sure they transition to the work world,” Whited said.
Prerequisites for the adult ROP program include a high school diploma or equivalent or a certificate of completion or concurrent enrollment in a GED program. The accompanying internships run from two to six weeks at food service, hospitality or retail sales sites.
Technical positions available include food service manager, personal chef, sous chef, pastry chef, airline catering, head cook and caterer. Entry-level positions include fast food service, line cook, food preparation worker, dishwasher, cashier, host-hostess, server-busser and bakery chef.
Students need to have a desire to learn and work hard, commitment, excellent attendance and punctuality and basic keyboarding skills. They must be age 18 or higher.
Whited said ROP provides occupational training courses directly related to a student’s career interest area. The ROP program’s mission statement calls for development of relevant, high-quality career training to secure sustainable employment and advancement.
For more information, contact the ROP program at (209) 381-6684 or email drobles@mcoe.org

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February 7, 2020

Get It Together:
Organize Your Financial Records Free Seminar in Merced

VACAVILLE, CA? One of the best ways to mess up your personal finances is to let yourself get unorganized. Let’s face it; when life gets hectic, you might not stay on top of your bills, bank statements, receipts, or filing the way that you should. Your financial records can be the key to your peace of mind. Unfortunately for most people, those documents are a great source of anxiety and frustration. But that’s all about to end right now. You deserve to not worry about your finances. One important way to have peace of mind when it comes to money is to know where it all is.

Travis Credit Union invites community members to learn the basic fundamentals to help you achieve your financial goals.

The free community seminar will take place on Saturday, February 22 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Merced County Office of Education located at 632 West 13th Street, Newbold Room, Merced, CA where expert advice and resources will be made available to the public.

This seminar presents valuable tips about why some record-keeping systems fail, how to develop and efficient bill-paying system, what records to keep and for how long, how to take a home inventory, what to have handy in case of a natural disaster, and where to go for help.

 

Headquartered in Vacaville, California, Travis Credit Union is a not-for-profit, cooperative financial institution serving those who live or work in Solano, Yolo, Sacramento, Placer, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Napa, Contra Costa, Alameda, Sonoma, Colusa, and Merced Counties. Currently, Travis Credit Union is the 13th largest credit union in California, with more than 214,000 members and more than $3.3 billion in assets. As one of the leading financial institutions in Solano, Contra Costa, Yolo, Napa, and Merced Counties, Travis Credit Union’s strength lies in its faithful commitment to its members; its solid, secure history; and its long-standing track record of dedicated service.

For more information call Travis Credit Union 1-800-877-8328 or see our social media link:
Get It Together: Organize Your Financial Records
Free Seminar
Learn why some record-keeping systems fail, how to develop an efficient bill-paying system, what records to keep and for how long, how to take a home inventory, what to have handy in case of a natural disaster, and where to go for help.
https://bit.ly/3aSmfSa

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February 6, 2020

LANDFILLS NOW OPEN ALL DAY ON SATURDAYS

Merced – The Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority (Authority) has extended operating hours on Saturdays at the landfills in Merced and Los Banos. The change means that both sites are now open to the public six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 7:00am to 3:30pm.
“The Authority Governing Board expressed the importance of providing all-day access to the landfills on Saturdays to better meet the needs of all residents,” said Stacie Guzman, Executive Director of the Authority. “With this change, we hope to provide a more efficient and convenient experience to all who enter the Authority gates.”
“This is an important opportunity for us,” said Eric Zetz, Director of the Authority. “Interacting more often with members of the public means we are able to increase residents’ access to a variety of programs we offer at our landfills.”
Both landfill sites in Merced and Los Banos allow for disposal of a range of items at no cost and have recycling and diversion programs for things such as mattresses, carpet, e-waste, household hazardous waste and more. Disposal fees apply to most material brought to the landfill, but some recycling programs accept specific items for free or a reduced rate. For more information, visit www.mcrwma.org or the Regional Waste Authority page on Facebook.
Merced County Association of Governments is a joint powers authority responsible for administering the Merced County Regional Waste Management Authority. The Regional Waste Authority operates two regional landfills, one in Merced on North Highway 59 and the Billy Wright landfill in Los Banos.

 

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February 5, 2020

Atwater FFA Students Compete in State Skills Competitions

Written by:: Atwater FFA

Nearly sixty Atwater High School agriculture staff and students filled a charter bus and suburban and joined nearly 2000 high school students representing nearly 100 high schools throughout central and northern California at the Arbuckle FFA Field Day and the Modesto Junior College Parliamentary Procedure Invitational contest on February 1st. The FFA Field Day competitions mark the beginning of the FFA judging season where thousands of students throughout California compete in various Career Development Event (CDE) agriculture-related skill contests.
The Atwater FFA Nursery and Landscape team placed 2nd overall with the team comprised of Cristal Venegas (1st overall), Daniel Narez (4th overall), Vanessa Varela, and Stefanie Sanchez. The students demonstrated knowledge and skills in their plant identification, plant selection & evaluation, transplanting, and written exam on all aspects of horticulture and the horticulture industry.
The Atwater FFA Agronomy judging team placed 3rd overall with Elisabeth Garner (3rd overall), Gurkirath Gandhok (7th overall), and Felicity Garcia leading the team. The Agronomy contest involves the study field crops and weeds with students responsible for the identification of nearly 200 crops and plants, seed, bean, and hay evaluation, and an oral presentation pertaining to their evaluations.
The Atwater FFA Floral Judging team placed 4th overall with a team composed of Xitlalic Alvarado-Vargas, Gabby Moreno, Hayley Vargas, Kathy Vargas, and Marissa Nuno. The students competed in plant identification, arrangements, and floral skills.
The Atwater FFA Land and Soil judging team placed 4th as a team. The three members that competed were Sabrina Lopez, Kelly Alcaraz (7th overall), and Estrella Venancio. This contest requires students to be experts at determining soil texture and overall land use. The students on the team continue to develop knowledge, understanding and appreciation for soil and its importance to all life forms.
The Atwater FFA Small Engines team placed 6th overall. Eduardo Torres-Torres, Armando Villalobos, Mario Becerra, and Jose Vazquez-Alaniz participated in the contest that focuses on industry related skills associated with engine theory, problem solving, technical skills, identification and team troubleshooting.
The Vegetable Crops team placed 8th overall and consisted of Supreet Ganhoke, Zoe Machuca, and Klarithsa Cruz. The contest involves gaining knowledge and skills in the vegetable crop industry through the demonstration of skills and proficiencies associated with the vegetable crop industry.
The Atwater FFA Farm Power team competed and finished with a strong placing for their first contest. The contest is designed to test a student’s mechanical skills and abilities relating to power equipment used in agriculture, and shall serve as a training forum for students interested in pursuing a career as an equipment technician. This was the first time Atwater FFA has competed in this contest in over 20 years. Nathan Metz, Haley Hultgren and Julian Chargoy were the program's inaugural students who competed .
The Atwater FFA Ag Mechanics team competed and earned a 13th place overall team finish as they demonstrated their plumbing, problem solving, electrical, Arc welding, tool identification, and a written exam on all aspects of agriculture mechanics. “This contest is all about ‘hands-on’ application of skills,” said coach and FFA advisor Sam Meredith, “We look forward to the opportunity to continue developing our skills and competing against other highly skilled individuals and teams throughout the upcoming contests.” Members of the Ag Mechanics team Daisy Flores-Mota, Moira Conway, Everett Hill, Thomas Garner, and Vincent Gonzalez.
The Atwater High School FFA Novice Parliamentary Procedure team competed at the Modesto Junior College Parliamentary Procedure Invitational. The Atwater FFA Novice Parliamentary Procedure team comprised of Allison Garner, Jatziry Cruz, Kendall Borba, Joshaua Medeiros, Teela Armenta, Mateo Duran, Katrina Andujar, and Sydney Nickelson. The purpose of this contest is to encourage students to learn to effectively participate in a business meeting and to assist in the development of their leadership skills.
For the first time, the Atwater High School FFA competed at the California State Finals Citrus Contest held at Fresno State University and placed 5th overall in the state. Students who participated and competed includedLuz Soto, Daniel Lopez, Simarjot Gandhoke, Emmanuel Mejia, Jacquelyn Chavez, Michael Bray, and Celeste Chargoy. The contest seeks to effectively prepare students for the expectations of the citrus industry. The contest allows students to explore a career in the citrus industry and promote a high degree of knowledge and skill in industry standards as well as critical thinking, oral communication, and plant biology. The knowledge gained from this contest can also be applied to general fruit production.
This was the first primary contest of the year for most of the FFA Career Development Events (CDE’s) throughout the state of California. The primary judging season begins March 2nd at at UC Davis followed by Chico State University followed by UC Davis, Merced College, Modesto Junior College, West Hills College, Reedley College, Fresno State University, and the 2020 FFA State Finals at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo on May 4th. The contests are developed for all California high school agriculture students where they are challenged to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a variety of agriculture pathways and industry.

 

 

For more information on the Atwater High School Agriculture Department and Atwater FFA, please log on the website www.AtwaterFFA.org .


Some of the thirty participating Atwater High School FFA students showcase their ribbons and awards after demonstrating their knowledge and skills associated with various agriculture industries during the first major California Career Development Event contests held for state-wide agriculture students

Atwater High School agriculture students Julian Chargoy, Nathan Metz, Haley Hultgren competed in the California Department of Education sponsored FFA Farm Power contest where students demonstrate their knowledge and skills associated with farm equipment machinery.

"Atwater High School agriculture students Gaby Moreno, Marissa Nuno, Xitlalic Alvarado-Vargas, Kathy Vargas, and Hayley Vargas identify various plants and flowers during the Arbuckle FFA Field Day's Floral contest held this past weekend."

Atwater High School agriculture students Stefanie Sanchez and Vanessa Varela evaluate and judge a class of bedding plants associated with the Landscape and Nursery contest held at Pierce High School in Arbuckle, California


Atwater High School agriculture students Luz Soto, Emmanuel Mejia, and Michael Bray evaluate a class of lemon citrus fruit during the state championship FFA Citrus contest held at Fresno State University.

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February 5, 2020

Merced County Fair to Receive Nearly $800,000 for Facility Improvement Project
Merced County Fair Selected For Facility Improvement Project
State funds designated to improve California fairgrounds for overall operations and
use as emergency response sites

MERCED, CALIFORNIA, February 4, 2020 – The Merced County Fair is proud to announce it has been selected by the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA) Fairs & Expositions Branch to receive funding from the State’s $3 million of general fund monies allocated through the Budget Act of 2018, Control Section 6.10. The Merced County Fair is set to receive $798,950 to install a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in the fair’s Pavilion building.

“This truly is a game changer for our fairgrounds,” said Teresa Burrola, CEO of the Merced County Fair. “Currently the Pavilion building only has evaporative cooling, which is inadequate during the hot summer months here in the Central Valley. Due to that, we’ve seen a decrease in rentals of this building during that time, which hurts us financially as year round rentals sustain operations outside our annual fair.”

The project selection comes after the fair submitted five projects for consideration as part of the Facility Condition Assessment of California fairgrounds. Out of 74 fairgrounds in California, there were 64 fairgrounds that submitted projects; only 12 projects were selected for the first round of funding. All projects will be overseen and managed by the California Construction Authority (CCA) or the Department of General Services (DGS) and must be completed by March 2022.

In 2017, Assemblyman Adam Gray authored Assembly Bill 1499, which enabled the creation of these funds through a percentage of the sales tax revenue generated on fair properties within the State. “We can’t express our gratitude enough for Assemblyman Gray’s championing of these funds that are critical to the longevity of fairgrounds that serve their communities in so many ways,” said Burrola.

Fairgrounds are not only home to their annual fairs and festivals, but they are critical resources during disaster emergency responses. This was the case in July 2017, when the Merced County Fairgrounds served as the Cal-Fire incident command post and base camp during Detwiler fire in Mariposa that consumed more than 2,500 acres. The Pavilion building was designated as the briefing center; however, given soaring temperatures during the peak of summer and no central air conditioning, these emergency responders were forced to rent portable air conditioning systems and pipe them into the Pavilion so they could conduct their briefings and continue to battle the fire.

 

 

Knowing the installation of a HVAC system in the Pavilion was a key capital improvement project that needed funding – whether through State grants or fundraising – in 2018, Burrola contracted Golden Valley Engineering & Surveying to prepare a cost estimate for the HVAC system with an electrical upgrade to the Pavilion. This proved to be a wise move as the fair was ready to submit its Facility Condition Assessment in early 2019 when the funding opportunity presented itself.

The purpose of the Facility Condition Assessment is to create a master list of priority construction projects for California fairgrounds. The CDFA and CCA will use this list for selection of projects to fund as various funding sources become available. The four other projects submitted by the Merced County Fair were: 1) roof replacement on Administration Office, 2) roof replacement on El Capitan Building, 3) roof and rain gutter replacement on Pavilion, and 4) replacement of heating/cooling units with new units on remaining buildings.

About The Merced County Fair:
The Merced County Fair, first founded in 1891, represents the 35th District Agricultural Association. The fair’s mission statement outlines that it “promises to meet the needs of our community by providing a fun, safe venue to celebrate our area’s agricultural heritage, discover new technology and be entertained.” This year marks the 129th year of operation for the Merced County Fair, which welcomes more than 70,000 people from throughout Merced County and beyond to attend the five-day fair each June. Members of the Board of Directors include: President, Carol Sartoni-Silva; First Vice President, Lee Lor; Second Vice President, Kim Rogina; Vicky Banaga; Mark Erreca; Lori Rossi Gallo; Emily Haden; Flip Hassett; and Luis Lara. Teresa Burrola heads up the daily operations in her role as CEO. The 2020 Merced County Fair will run June 10 - 14. For more information about the Merced County Fair, please visit www.MercedCountyFair.com. Connect with the Fair on Facebook (@mercedfair), Twitter (@Merced_CA_Fair) and Instagram (@mercedcountyfair).

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February 4 , 2020

Merced High School Wins 12th Consecutive Academic Decathlon

Students from 10 Merced County high schools converged at UC Merced on Feb. 1 for the Merced County Academic Decathlon and for the 12th consecutive year, Merced High School took the top spot.
The 39th year in Merced County, the Academic Decathlon pits area high schools against each other in a contest of academics. Students compete in the areas of art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, social science and science. This year’s theme was “In Sickness and in Health: An Exploration of Illness and Wellness.”
High schools that participated this year: Merced High, Atwater High, Buhach Colony High, El Capitan High, Golden Valley High, Le Grand High, Delhi High, Livingston High, Los Banos High and Los Banos Valley Community School.
Each decathlon team has nine students. They include three students each from the Honors Division for students in the “A” GPA range, the Scholastic Division for students in the “B” GPA range and the Varsity Division for those with a “C”-level GPA and below.
Golden Valley was the highest scoring team for the Super Quiz and Merced High team member Laura Ness was the top-scoring student.
Merced High will go on to represent Merced County in March at the State Academic Decathlon in Sacramento.
Sponsorship partners for the Academic Decathlon are Educational Employees Credit Union, Community Foundation of Merced County, UC Merced, Merced Vein and Vascular and the Merced County Office of Education.
In addition, Merced School Employees Federal Credit Union donates $5,000 to sponsor the Robert Wayne Scholarship Program.
Participating schools pay a $750 participation fee. Of that, $500 is matched by the Robert Wayne Scholarship Program. This brings the scholarships to $1,000 for each school. All participating teams are awarded that in scholarship money, two scholarships at $250 each and one scholarship at $500.
Wayne, who founded MSEFCU and served on the MCAD Board for many years, passed away on Nov. 9, 2009.


Click here to see the complete list awards.


For the 12th year in a row, Merced High School took the top spot at the annual Merced County Academic Decathlon.


Merced County Academic Decathlon participants who earned the Merced School Employees Federal Credit Union's Robert Wayne Scholarship. The scholarship awards $500 to the highest scoring student on each team and $250 to two other top scoring students on each team.


PHOTOS BY NATHAN QUEVEDO COURTESY MERCED COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION

 

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February 4 , 2020

Dos Palos ROP Class Wins HSBC Bank Grant for NYC Youth Business Summit

Jenny Hunger was surprised last Wednesday when her principal and two school board members made an unscheduled visit to her Virtual Enterprise class at Dos Palos High School.
She was even more surprised when the Western Regional Director for Virtual Enterprise International walked into her classroom at Dos Palos High School and announced that Hunger’s class was one of four selected in the nation for an all-expenses paid trip to New York City for the Youth Business Summit in April hosted by Virtual Enterprise International thanks to the HSBC Bank Opportunity Fund Grant.
“We are completely shocked and honored to receive this award,” said the Dos Palos High School ROP business teacher. “When you know only four schools in the nation are selected, who would have guessed Dos Palos would be one! This opportunity will allow my students to experience the business world outside of the classroom and give them understanding of the various business practices from around the globe. We really can’t thank HSBC Bank enough for providing this opportunity to our students.”
Hunger teaches four Business & Finance CTE courses at Dos Palos High and has taught the Virtual Enterprise course for 10 years where students have operated virtual businesses, including iScream, Hydrus, Hoof Prints and Sweet Shack.
Her class created a video for the HSBC Bank Opportunity Grant Fund competition highlighting the small town of Dos Palos, how important agriculture is to the local economy and why the students created Sweet Shack, their virtual business. Student CEO Jennifer Aguilar’s voiceover during the video explains that the students are limited in how many competitions they can attend due to funding and how students learn public speaking skills and collaborate with industry partners who serve as mentors through the course.
“Students are engaged in hands-on learning by working in simulated real world jobs. Industry partners are encouraged to help ensure students are learning relevant workplace skills for today’s environment and The Morning Star Packing Company has been an exceptional industry partner,” Hunger said.
Hunger’s Virtual Enterprise class earned first place on the tradeshow booth, gold on the newsletter, silver on the branding and ninth place on the business plan at the California State Virtual Enterprise Conference in Bakersfield earlier In January. In past years, the course has earned a multitude of awards.
“We are proud of how our Dos Palos students worked hard to earn this recognition,” said Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen. “Jenny Hunger’s Virtual Enterprise class is a great example of how educators are preparing students for the real-world of business and leadership.”
With an emphasis on college and career readiness, virtual enterprise is an in-school, live, global business simulation that offers students a competitive edge through project-based, collaborative learning and the development of 21st-century skills in entrepreneurship, global business, problem-solving, communication, personal finance and technology.


Jenny Hunger's Virtual Enterprise class at Dos Palos High School was one of four classes selected in the nation for the HSBC Bank Opportunity Fund Grant, which awards an all-expenses paid trip to New York City for the Youth Business Summit in April hosted by Virtual Enterprise International.

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Delhi Unified Planning New CTE Building and School-Based Health Clinic

About two years from now, the Delhi Unified School District will have a new Career and Technical Education building expected to enhance students’ knowledge and bolster their chances of future success.
Adolfo Melara, Delhi schools superintendent, said the 22,000-square-foot CTE Complex will be on the Delhi High School campus. The district also is planning to add a school-based health clinic at the high school.
Back in November 2016, Delhi voters approved the $12 million Measure W bond.
A main focus of the new CTE complex is to improve agriculture learning pathways.
“The CTE building will be dedicated to agricultural mechanics and engineering. It will allow space for students to learn engineering, welding, and fabrication,” Melara said. The building will provide areas for welding stations and fabricating agricultural machinery.
Delhi students will be exposed to world-class academic offerings to make their present and future better. The new project enhances programs in medical pathways, agriculture, public service and business.
“We are extremely excited for students whose education will be expanded in a significant manner. I am very thankful to the community for supporting the bond,” Melara said.
With new course offerings in agriculture, additional teaching staff will need to be hired, he added.
Teter Architects in Fresno-Modesto is designing the new CTE complex, which will be intended primarily for ninth through 12th graders and could include some middle school students as well. There are 1,200 middle school and high school students in Delhi.
Melara said to support the project the district will apply for a grant from the state Department of Education for CTE programs.
“I believe this will enhance the education of our students in Delhi. Technical education is important in attaining good life skills,” Melara said.
The new health center building on campus will be around 3,000 square feet, serving primarily high school students. The health center will address students’ medical, dental and behavioral health needs, in partnership with the Castle Family Heath Centers.
The health center complex is about a year out from completion, Melara said.
“This is a great addition to services we will be offering students and their families in town. It will bring a comprehensive clinic to town,” Melara said.

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February 1 , 2020

Goals and priorities, Loughborough on Council agenda

An update on goals and priorities and the Loughborough Neighborhood Project are on the City Council agenda for its Monday night meeting.

The regular meeting will be at 5 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Merced Civic Center (City Hall), 678 W. 18th St.

On the agenda:

• Staff will give an update on the City Council’s goals and priorities for Fiscal Year 2019-20. Each year, as part of the budgeting process the Council sets goals and priorities to guide the allocation of the annual budget.

• Mayor Pro Tem Matt Serratto will provide a progress report on the Loughborough Neighborhood Project. Following meetings with residents and businesses, Serratto worked with staff to develop plans to get neighbors active in decision-making and to bring community events to the area.

• Council will consider approving a request to close Downtown streets for the Original Merced Criterium Bicycle Race Feb. 23.

The Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. in closed session to confer with labor negotiators, to discuss employee performance and for existing litigation.

 

 

The meetings are streamed on Facebook Live on the City’s Facebook, City of Merced. A link to the live meeting is also on the City’s website at https://cityofmerced.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx. Videos of previous meetings can be found at that link, and are tied to each agenda item. Those services are in addition to the live broadcast of the regular meeting on Comcast’s Government Channel 96.

The Council agenda is posted online at www.cityofmerced.org, outside the chambers prior to the meeting and at the City Clerk’s Office 72 hours before the meeting. Request to Speak forms are available at the meeting or can be downloaded from the City's website. Cards must be submitted to the City Clerk in order for a person to be recognized by the Council. Hmong and Spanish translators are available at all regular Council meetings.

The City Council meets the first and third Monday of the month, except when there is a holiday, then it meets the following day.

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February 1 , 2020

MCOE to Host Annual Education Report on Feb. 26 in Merced, Feb. 28 in Los Banos

The Merced County Office of Education will unveil the Merced County Schools Annual Education Report at community meetings Feb. 26 in Merced and Feb. 28 in Los Banos. This is the ninth time this comprehensive report on local education has been shared with the public.
Two sessions are scheduled on Feb. 26 at the Merced County Office of Education Downtown Professional Development Center, also known as the Mondo Building, at 501 W. Main St. in Merced. The first session is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the second session is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. On Feb. 28, another session is scheduled at the Ted Falasco Arts Center, 1105 5th St. in Los Banos from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Food will be provided at all sessions.
This year’s presentation will focus on the professional development MCOE provides to school districts across Merced County and the Migrant Education program MCOE operates in Merced, Stanislaus and Madera counties. Information and data on student achievement, partnerships and collaborations will be shared. A student performance from the Ballico-Cressey Taiko Drum Club will open up the events followed by presentations from Merced County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Tietjen, MCOE Math Coordinator Duane Habecker and 2019 Merced County Teacher of the Year Rosbelina Ward. The program will feature videos highlighting educators prepared by Merced Educational Television (METV) and filmed in classrooms in several school districts across the county.

 

 

An RSVP is required for the event by calling (209) 381-6601 or emailing rsvp@mcoe.org. Table sponsorships are also available and proceeds will benefit Merced County students. For information on sponsorships, contact Stacie Arancibia at (209) 381-5910 or sarancibia@mcoe.org.

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Merced Fish & Game, Inc 
proposes plans to develope
a Merced Public Range & Sporting Complex Olympic Training Center with City Council. To see proposal, go to Merced Fish & Game, Inc's website:
mfginc.org


Collyn Roper


Click picture to enlarge

The undertaking the Merced Fish & Game,Inc is proposing will be a professionally designed project consisting of:
• 40 Trap fields, 12 of which will be overlaid with Skeet fields,
• A sporting clays course in future plans,
• A meeting house,
• A registration building,
• Several bathroom facilities,
• The California Waterfowl Association Museum,
• RV parking with full hook-ups,
• Additional RV parking,
• Several storage facilities,
• One workshop,
• One pre-manufactured home for the resident manager,
• General parking for additional vehicles.

For Information or Questions:
Contact MERCED FISH & GAME, INC
by email:
mercedfishandgame@yahoo.com


 

 


 

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