Oroville Dam evacuation brings hundreds looking for shelter to Colusa

(Feb. 15) Erosion at the emergency spillway of the Oroville Dam and the possibility of the structure failing prompted the California Department of Water Resources to issue a rapid evacuation order for downstream communities along the Feather River, sending nearly 200,000 residents from Butte, Yuba and Sutter counties scrambling toward safety. The evacuations caused chaos on area roads and highways, with bumper-to-bumper traffic slowing to a crawl, including traffic heading into Colusa County on westbound Highway 20. Many evacuees made their way the Colusa County Fairgrounds after multiple media sources reported they would find an evacuation center. Instead, they arrived here to find no such center had been set up. The Colusa County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release at the time that – due to the county’s lack of a medical facility, limited ground ambulance services and sustained high river levels – no emergency evacuation centers would be independently opened by the county. While it wasn’t an official evacuation center, the Fairgrounds served as a place to stop and rest, handing out water and allowing the use of its restrooms. Evacuees were also allowed to sleep in the parking lot overnight, and many did. Another 400 to 500 stayed overnight at the Town & Country Center parking lot on Bridge Street in Colusa. Area inns and hotels were booked to capacity, Colusa Unified School District closed due to the threat of flooding, and local businesses and citizens volunteered to lend a helping hand to evacuees.

“Storm called normal winter by official”

(Jan. 11) Three inches of rain soaked the county amid concerns of record rainfall, causing localized flooding in some areas that county officials weren’t expecting, including on Highway 20 and Lonestar Road. Despite that, Assistant Public Works Director Mike Azevedo said he thought it was just a normal winter.

”Meeker joins WPR staff”

(Jan. 25) Veteran newspaperwoman Susan Meeker officially joined the Pioneer Review’s staff in January as the newspaper’s advertising manager and education reporter, bringing years of experience in covering Colusa County with her.

“Conley takes reins at Colusa Fire Department”

(Jan 4. ) Former Colusa City Fire Chief Randy Dunn stepped down after more than 25 years at the helm of the department, and then-Senior Fire Captain Logan Conley was tapped to be his replacement.

”Twelve displaced in Williams apartment fire”

(Jan. 18) Eleven adults and one child were displaced after a space heater caught fire in a Williams apartment complex and caused around $80,000 in damages. One apartment had major damage, and the one above it had moderate damage due to the fire burning through the floor.

“Arbuckle man rescued from Sand Creek”

(Jan. 18) After he traveled around a road closed sign and attempted to cross Sand Creek – flooded from recent storms – on Cortina School Road, an Arbuckle man had to be rescued from the swift running water. With assistance from Meridian and Williams Fire Departments, the Arbuckle Fire Department was able to pull the man from the creek.

Woman rescued from flood waters

(Jan 25) An Oakland woman was the second person to be rescued by local emergency personnel after she drove around road closed barriers on Highway 20 and became stranded in flood waters just east of Husted Road. Emergency crews arrived to find her on the roof of her car, which was 30 feet off the roadway and in a ditch. Again, Meridian Fire Department’s swift water rescue team was dispatched to help in the rescue. Emergency responders were able to wade out to the woman, load her onto a floating board, and get her out unharmed.

“Not too crabby: Colusa City Firefighters Association Crab Feed fundraiser is highest grossing ever”

(Feb. 1) About 400 people showed up for the event in 2017, and Firefighters’ Association President and dinner chairman Craig Dunn said it was the best ever in terms of money raised – for sure in gross terms, and probably in net as well.

”High-speed pursuit spanning Colusa, Butte counties ends in Gridley”

(Feb. 8) Gridley resident Marcos Montes, 22, was arrested after leading officers from the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office on a 28-mile chase that began in the City of Colusa and ended on the outskirts of the man’s hometown, hitting speeds of more than 100 mph. He was arrested at about 2:50 PM on Feb. 1, at the intersection of Sycamore and Oregon Streets in Gridley, on suspicion of felony evading arrest with wanton disregard for public safety.

Task force arrests eight in two days

(Feb. 8) Over the course of two days in the week prior, the Colusa County Task Force and other local law enforcement agencies arrested a total of eight people in Arbuckle on suspicion of drug-related charges, placed six children in the custody of Colusa County Child Protective Services, and solved a recent burglary case. The first five arrests came on Feb. 2, when the Task Force served multiple search warrants in Colusa County, including three in Arbuckle where officers located undisclosed amounts of methamphetamine, narcotic paraphernalia, and items indicative of sales. The Task Force initiated drug endangered children cases for a total of six children at two locations. The Task Force arrested Samantha Renee Allread, 19, Travis Lovell Weatherly, 26, Joel Villanueva, 36, Saul Alonzo Anguiano Carmona, 34, Vanessa Aileen Saavedra, 36, all of Arbuckle. On the following day, the Task Force conducted parole searches on Joseph Coutee, 30, and Myles Bill, 24, both of Arbuckle, and arrested both on suspicion of being in possession of heroin and items indicative of sales. Coutee was also allegedly found in possession of stolen property from a recent burglary in the Arbuckle area.

Growers, vendors flock to 52nd annual Colusa Farm Show

(Feb. 15) Farm Show organizers said the annual exposition ran pretty smoothly, with the weather the first two days better than initially expected, considering the forecast called for rain all three days.

Colusa banking on boat ramp construction by end of May

The City of Colusa was making headway in the permitting process for their boat ramp project, and they said at the time that – if everything went according to plan – they’d begin construction on May 29.

Agencies investigating after two cows killed, one decapitated in foothills

(Feb. 15) Two dead cows, one of which was decapitated, were found this week on a rural road near Stonyford, in the foothills of western Colusa County, and the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office and California Department of Fish and Wildlife both said they were investigating. Area resident Slim Edwards came upon the animals while taking his daughter to a school bus stop. He said the cows were placed in the middle of the road and appeared to have been struck by a vehicle.

”Educators launch county-wide literacy program”

(March 8) The Colusa County Office of Education launched its “And Literacy For All” program, a countywide English and Spanish early literacy initiative that uses computer technology to teach young children to read in both languages.
The downloadable program Footsteps2Brilliance – geared toward pre-kindergarten through third-grade students – gives young learners access to electronic books, educational games, creative writing activities and vocabulary words on smartphones, tablets and computers. It was introduced in a number of the county’s school districts in May on a trial basis.

Dunn out, Cain in as city manager for Colusa

(March 1) The City of Colusa decided to part ways with Interim City Manager Randy Dunn, bringing his five-year run in the position to a close. The council voted unanimously to terminate Dunn’s employment agreement in a 10 AM closed session meeting on Feb. 24. Public Works Administrative Director Jesse Cain assumed the duties of City Manager, and was officially appointed at the following meeting.

Supes receive mid-year budget update from CAO

(March 8) The Colusa County budget was tracking well and there were no real areas of concern through the end of December, CAO Wendy Tyler told the Board of Supervisors. She said that the county would be facing difficulties presented by the state’s budgetary decisions in the upcoming budget year, but not due to their own lack of funds or mismanagement. Despite those difficulties at the state level, Tyler said the county would be “essentially debt free” after 2017/18.
“I will point out that in the next fiscal year, when we develop that budget, we will include debt payments that will eave this county nearly debt free,” Tyler said. “You guys are in a great position to do that.”

Six arrested, four children turned over to Child Protective Services after round of Task Force Warrants

(March 15) The Colusa County Task Force served three warrants from Feb. 22 into March, resulting in six arrests and the placement of four drug endangered minors into Child Protective Services custody. Officers discovered a large underground chamber below the yard of one of the houses searched, on the 100-block of West Florimond Drive in Colusa, which they suspected had been used in collaboration with illegal activities. The chamber was about 33 feet long, six feet tall, and opened up to a 20-foot by 20-foot room. Alejandro Belmontes-Miranda, 20, Mykel Daimian Hill, 40, and Corrina Manzano, 44, all of Colusa, were arrested at the residence on suspicion of various drug charges. On a separate search warrant in Williams, Santos Lopez Flores, 34, was arrested on drug and child endangerment charges. On Feb. 28, Task Force agents served a warrant on the 900-block of Gail Ave. in Arbuckle,where they arrested Ana Rosas-Cazares and Juan Preciado Rosas on drug charges.

Williams pharmacy burglarized, high speed pursuit lead to arrest in Arbuckle

(March 15) David Michael Gibson, 24, of Citrus Heights, was arrested in Arbuckle after Williams Police Officers said he burglarized the Fouch & Sons Pharmacy in Williams, stole prescription pills, then led a Williams police officer on a high-speed chase on Interstate 5.
The officer pursued the vehicle through Williams and onto southbound I-5, reaching speeds in excess of 120 mph. The suspect vehicle exited the freeway in Arbuckle, where the driver and passenger fled the vehicle on foot. Officers located Gibson after a search of the area, and were working to investigate the outstanding suspect.

Community gathers to learn more about new Colusa Medical Center

(March 15) More than 150 county residents heard from the brass at American Specialty Healthcare for the first time at a community meeting at the Colusa County Fairgrounds. Then-Colusa Medical Center CEO Kelly Gentry said that they were doing everything possible to get the facility open by late spring or early summer, but noted that there were a lot of contingencies involved in that – including getting everything through the appropriate regulatory agencies. Gentry said the new facility would offer an emergency room, acute care – including an intensive care unit, respiratory care, ancillary services, outpatient services including outpatient surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, clinics, and the reopening of the home health agency. They announced that the hospital would have a total of 49 beds, of which 21 would be acute, four would be ICU, and 24 would be skilled nursing/sub-acute.

Williams gets presentation on marijuana facility

Tim McGraw, founder and CEO of Canna-Hub – a real estate company that specializes in cannabis real estate parks – made a presentation to the council detailing the potential commercial marijuana cultivation complex he wanted to build in Williams, and how such a project might benefit the city.
McGraw described a multi-tenant, multi-use cannabis business park, built on an 80-acre parcel near the intersection of I-5 and Highway 20. Initially, the complex would include 62 half-acre, indoor cannbis grow operations on the sourthern 40-acres of parcel, and could expand to more than 100 over time.

Former paraeducator pleads guilty to possessing child pornography

(March 29) William Richard Wolfenbarger, 34, of Arbuckle, pleaded guilty t felony possession of sexually explicit images of children in court on March 22. He had been arrested on Aug. 29, 2016, by Colusa County Sheriff’s deputies, after the FBI uncovered approximately 4,000 images on his personal computer of minors under the age of 18 engaged in or simulating sexual activity, including at least 10 images of children under the age of 12. Law enforcement initiated the investigation in February 2016 after Wolfenbarger was arrested for violating California’s “Peeping Tom” law by recording a minor in a state of undress on two occasions, though the district attorney’s office never filed charges in relation to that incident.

Wolfenbarger sentenced to two years in prison for child pornography

(April 5) The former special education paraeducator was sentenced a week after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography, and was sentenced to two years in prison – the middle term allowed by law. Wolfenbarger was required to register as a sex offender, and barred from owning firearms or ammunition as a convicted felon.

Colusa recognizes top juniors, seniors

(April 12) Adriana Abele, Grace Boeger, Justin Davies, Lucas Davison, Vanessa Mendoza, Vanessa Munguia, and Alissa Selover were the seniors honored during this year’s dinner. The juniors were Benjamin Davies, Sidney Lay, Kendall McCarty, Aubrey Miller, Estefania Orozco, Laura Preciado, and Emerson Redding. Colusa residents ask supes to address odor issue at Colusa Industrial Properties. Four Colusa residents, including Rob Moriconi, Jeff Sutton, Fred Pilgrim and John Rogers, asked the board of supervisors to do something about a terrible odor coming from Western Milling’s compost operation at Colusa Industrial Properties. Colusa County Director of Community Development Greg Plucker had initiated a dialogue with the company and expressed that they needed to resolve the issue, as the company was operating without meeting state permitting requirements – specifically for odor mitigation. Plucker said that the issue arose from the company not being able to properly manage the compost due to flooding on site. The county and the company arrived at a solution whereby the compost material would be moved one mile west from its previous location – though Plucker said he still wasn’t convinced that would allow for year-round management, and thus odor control, to happen.

New jail moving forward

(May 3) The Board of Supervisors, absent Denise Carter, voted unanimously to approve the Colusa County Detention and Treatment Facility’s Project Delivery and Construction Agreement (PDCA) and the Board of State and Community Corrections Jail Construction Agreement, and approved the form of documents for the solicitation of bids for the design and build of the new, 96-bed jail project for the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office.

18 displaced in reported apartment explosion

(April 12) A smoke explosion that started in a water heater closet at a four-plex apartment building in Williams displaced 18 adults and children. No one was injured as a result of the incident. There was heat and fire damage to the front apartments on the top and bottom floor, and smoke damage to the others.

The last of Maxwell’s affected businesses finally operational after flood

(April 19) Nearly two months after the flood rocked Maxwell and parts of Williams, Davies’ Chevron was the last business to reopen its doors.

Every 15 Minutes at PHS

(April 26) The California Highway Patrol’s program came to Arbuckle this year, and had a sobering impact on the entire student body at Pierce High School.

Williams makes plans to repair streets

The Williams City Council authorized City Administrator Frank Kennedy to develop a street repair project in the amount of $900,000, and to solicit bids after that plan had been developed. The council essentially borrowed from itself, financing the project through an inter-fund loan, with the plan to repay itself using the annually budgeted $200,000 for roadway repairs along with additional revenues from upcoming developments. Kennedy said that the funding would not go toward the nearly $20 million in repairs currently on the city’s Regional Transportation Improvement Program request with the Colusa County Transportation Commission. It was during this meeting that councilman Charles Bergson first expressed his displeasure with the county transportation commission, and said that they were not funding necessary projects in the City of Williams as he felt they ought to be.

Second pot business makes pitch to Colusa City Council

(March 29) GreenLeaf Processors spokesman Brett Gaumond pitched the city council on his company’s proposed cannabis oil extraction facility, which they were proposing to open at a building owned by Woody Yerxa at Fifth and Main streets in town. He also said the city would receive revenues from the company in the amount of three percent of their gross sales, which he estimated would be somewhere around $10 million in the coming year if the project were approved.

Army Corps needs more for Colusa boat ramp

(April 26) The Army Corps of Engineers said they needed additional documents from the City of Colusa before they could issue a permit, but city officials remained hopeful the project would be completed by the end of the construction window on the Sacramento River. The soonest the city could have started construction was June 15.

Williams residents hear more about Canna-Hub

(April 5) Questions were answered, and both support and opposition was expressed at a special informational meeting put on by the Williams City Council and Canna-Hub CEO Tim McGraw. The meeting was attended by around 45 people. McGraw said the project could bring between $1 million and $2 million to the city’s coffers in licensing fees and an estimated $5 million in impact fees paid to the city through development, along with increases in real estate taxes and building permit fees, among others. He estimated the fully-developed cannabis park would create in excess of 1,300 year-round jobs.

Wife of convicted sex offender pleads guilty to child endangerment

(May 10) Rachael Wolfenbarger, wife of the recently convicted sex offender Williams Wolfenbarger, pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor charge of child endangerment. She was arrested on Sept. 21 after cell phone records showed she allowed her husband access to her home and children after learning in February 2016 that he had images of child pornography on his cell phone and computer.

Groundwater Sustainability Agency to be formed

(May 10) The 12 member entities that would eventually establish the Colusa Groundwater Authority finalized the governance decisions in the Colusa County Groundwater basins and put the finishing touches on the Joint Powers Agreement that would govern the newly formed body. The Authority is ccharged with managing the groundwater in the Colusa County portions of the Colusa and West Butte Subbasins, serving a coordinating, administrative and implementing role in order to provide for sustainable groundwater management in the basin.

Pierce honors top students

(May 17) The top seven juniors and top six seniors of the Pierce Joint Unified School District were recognized at the annual dinner this year. Senior honorees included Diego Vazquez, Thalia Martinez, Devin Griffith, Ellian Geyer, Cora Cherry, and Bryce Alonso. Juniors included Emily Hathaway, Emily Kuykendall, Asa Kalfsbeek VI, Carlyn Marsh, Alexis Erickson, Maria De Los Santos, and Lauren Curtis.

County approves contract for sidewalk, pedestrian improvements in Maxwell

(June 7) The county committed to spending nearly $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program funds to make sidewalk and pedestrian improvements in Maxwell. The Board of Supervisors voted on May 30 to award the contract for the project to the lowest bidder, Dunton Construction Company, Inc., in an amount not to exceed $459,590. The bid from the Anderson-based company was about 35 percent lower than the next-lowest bid. The work was to consist mainly of installing handicap ramps and some in-fill.

Leaking pipe causes sinkhole on levee near Roberts Road

(May 17) A collapsed pipe owned by Roberts Ditch Irrigation Company caused a sinkhole on the western levee of the Sacramento River, just outside of Colusa near the Sacramento River State Recreation Area. Work started immediately to obtain permits to conduct the repairs. Work on the levee was completed in the late summer.

County unveils Purple Heart Trail signs on its highways

(May 31) As a kickoff to Memorial Day weekend, the arterial highways of Colusa County were officially unveiled as a part of the National Purple Heart Trail System, a symbolic and honorary system of roads, highways, bridges and other monuments that give tribute to the men and women who have been awarded the Purple Heart Medal.

Wife of convicted sex offender sentenced to jail, probation

(May 31) Rachael Wolfenbarger, who pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor charge of child endangerment earlier in the month, was sentenced to 90 days behind bars and formal probation for her part in a the child endangerment case stemming from her husband’s interest in child pornography.

Western Milling removes existing material from compost operation at CIP

(May 24) The battle over the unsavory smell that was coming from Western Milling’s compost pile at Colusa Industrial Properties came to an end, as the company told the county it would abandon the operation that had dawn the ire of Colusa residents located downwind.

Head-on collision in Maxwell sends two to emergency room

(June 14) One of the drivers in the two car collision, Fredi Emanuel Rivera Flores, 33, of Williams, was arrested on suspicion of felony driving under the influence and driving with a license suspended for DUI. Both Flores and the second driver, Maxwell resident Jesse Jones, 30, were transported by Enloe Ambulance to Glenn Medical Center – Flores with minor injuries and Jones with moderate injures.

Solo vehicle crash knocks out power to 6,000 PG&E customers

(May 24) A pair of Chico residents escaped serious injury after their vehicle collided with a power pole on Highway 45, about three miles south of Princeton. The damage to the power pole caused an outage for about 6,000 customers in Colusa and Maxwell – some of whom were without power for more than two and a half hours.

Colusa County Fair held

(June 14) After four days of fun, the Colusa County Fair came to a close on June 11. Fair organizers said that while they don’t keep actual numbers, they guessed that attendance was up, and a number of new events were a hit with fairgoers.

High School Graduations

(June 7) A total of 331 high school seniors graduated from Colusa County high schools this year.

Gridley woman dies in Princeton crash

(May 17) Jennifer Patteson, of Gridley, was killed in a single vehicle crash when her SUV drifted off a road and struck a walnut tree near Princeton.

Sudden limb drop

(June 7) Colusa trees experienced early bout of summer branch-shedding phenomenon, as around 18 limbs had fallen around the community. The culprit was Sudden Limb Drop, also known as “summer limb drop,” “high temperature limb drop’ or “sudden branch drop.”
The phenomenon occurs when a seemingly sound and healthy limb suddenly comes crashing down to the ground. While there are a number of theories behind it, the exact science behind the phenomenon is unknown.

Colusa to allow for commercial cannabis

(June 14) Despite opposition from a number of community members at their June 6 meeting, the city council voted to approve a trio of ordinances that paved the way for commercial cannabis operations to come to Colusa, changing the city’s zoning and municipal codes and approving development agreements with Cultivation Technologies, Inc. and GreenLeaf Processors.

Colusa pharmacy burglarized

(June 21) A pair of suspected burglars were caught on camera the prior week as they were breaking in through the glass back door of Davison Drug & Stationary, but were gone by the time Colusa police officers responded to the alarm call and never saw the suspects in person. Officers said it was unclear if the burglary was connected in any way to recent burglaries at the pharmacy in Williams.

Negotiations go foul negotiations back on track

(June 28 and July 5) Colusa County CAO Wendy Tyler sent out a press release at around 4 PM on June 27 that said American Specialty Healthcare had abandoned the Colusa Medical Center. The county’s announcement came after closed session negotiations for the sale of the hospital property ran afoul. Through County Counsel Marcos Kropf, the county announced that it would be seeking unpaid rent and would be looking to take possession of the facility immediately. As soon as the story hit the web, American Specialty chairman Gurpreet Singh and CEO Gia Smith called to refute it, calling it a misunderstanding with the county. Less than 24 hours after the county issued the press release, lines of communication were restored, discussions regarding the sale of property resumed, and the two parties were working together with a renewed focus on re-opening the hospital. The target date for its opening was once again pushed back, this time to late summer or early fall.

Teacher salary negotiations stall in Williams

(June 28) After months of difficult negotiations, Williams teachers and the school district remained at odds over salaries. Teachers were frustrated by the district’s unwillingness to offer anything in the way of raises, while the district maintained that there wasn’t money in the budget to accommodate any sort of raises. The union said that they hoped to negotiate a new contract for the next year without pursuing legal action, but felt that might not happen. The Williams Teachers Association initially asked for seven percent raises, but the district held firm at zero.

Brian Pearson
Brian Pearson is the former Managing Editor & Reporter for the Williams Pioneer Review. Brian joined the Williams Pioneer Review in June 2016 and is committed to bringing hyperlocal news to its readers. A few of his projects included reporting local government and the sports page.