The Paul Nelson Aquatic Center was the biggest beneficiary of federal funds recently doled out by the Santa Maria City Council to projects and community organizations, with almost $716,000 earmarked for reconstruction of the municipal pool.

The funds, which come from the federal government’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, aim to address priorities identified by the city last fall: reducing homelessness, expanding youth services, providing affordable housing and revitalizing existing neighborhoods.

For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the city of Santa Maria had $1,750,777 in CDBG money to give out, with the exception of 20% reserved for administration costs.

In a crowded room at the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Center, high school students and youth advocates gathered for the second time to ask Santa Maria Joint Union High School District board members and administrators to realign their graduation requirements with those needed to gain admission to one of California's 31 public four-year colleges or universities.

As they did last May, students from three district high schools — Santa Maria, Righetti and Pioneer Valley — and Orcutt Academy asked the district to help build a "college-going" culture, one where students are encouraged and supported to reach their academic goals.

Pioneer Valley High School junior Anthony Vilchis — a member of Future Leaders of America, the youth advocacy and empowerment group that organized Monday night's forum — took issue with the district's high graduation rate yet low number of students who are able to apply to a four-year college.

Ten outstanding Santa Barbara County educators — including several from schools in the Santa Maria and Santa Ynez valleys — will be honored later this month by the Santa Barbara County Education Office for their dedication to students.

Sponsored by the Santa Barbara Teachers Federal Credit Union, the annual Crystal Apple Award recognizes educators for their "dedication, instructional and motivational skills," as well as their "ability to interact with students, staff and community members."

The awards will be presented on May 23 during the Santa Barbara County Education Celebration. The event will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton.

A Santa Maria man who prosecutors claim sexually abused a teenage girl for more than four years pleaded not guilty Friday to more than six dozen felony counts of child sexual abuse, according to records filed in Santa Maria Superior Court.

Appearing before visiting Judge John S. Fisher for his continued arraignment, 47-year-old George Irwin Hirzel denied each of the 73 counts filed against him. Charging documents filed in late April by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office claim Hirzel continuously abused an unidentified girl from late 2014 until March 2019, while she was between the ages of 14 and 17.

In addition to one count of continuous sexual abuse, Hirzel faces 24 counts of lewd acts with a child between the ages of 14 and 15; 13 counts of sexual intercourse with a minor by someone older than 21; 18 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor; and 17 counts of oral copulation of a person under 18.

The Lompoc Fire Department has acquired 13 new sets of body armor as part of a range of new ballistic gear that was purchased with federal grant funds, the department announced Monday.

The body armor will be used to protect fire personnel in the event of an active-shooter or other violent situation, according to Lompoc Fire. The other gear purchased with the $21,637 granted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security includes new rope equipment, helmets, a plate carrier and soft trauma protection.

“It is a sad day that we have to have this type of [body armor] protection, but is imperative that we ensure our personnel are safe, so they can perform their duties and protect the public,” read a portion of a statement from Lompoc Battalion Chief Brian Federmann.

The new rope rescue equipment will replace several old and worn components of the department’s rescue gear, according to Federmann, and will upgrade all first-out response units with “longer reach capabilities, more advanced technology and quicker deployments.”

Lompoc Fire crews already have started using the new equipment.

A solo motorcycle crash near the summit of Nojoqui Grade caused minor delays on southbound Highway 101 early Monday afternoon. 

At approximately 1 p.m., Santa Barbara County Fire crews and officers from the Buellton division of the California Highway Patrol responded to reports of a motorcyclist who crashed into the center divider. The driver reportedly suffered major injuries in the crash, according to emergency radio traffic.

CalSTAR was originally requested to respond to the scene but later was cancelled.

In the aftermath of the crash, California High Patrol officers ran traffic breaks on southbound Highway 101 near Pork Palace, but all lanes were cleared by 2 p.m. 

A project to resurface State Route 246 from the Santa Rosa Creek Bridge to Hapgood Road between Buellton and Lompoc resumed on Monday.

Caltrans says motorists will encounter lane closures with one-way reversing traffic control Monday through Thursday between the overnight hours of 7 p.m. until 6 a.m. and continue weekly. Delays should not exceed 10 minutes.

The project was suspended last month due to insufficient overnight temperatures for paving.

The contractor conducting the $2 million resurfacing project is Granite Construction of Santa Barbara. 

The routine resurfacing project is expected to be complete this June.

For Santa Barbara County traffic updates, motorists can contact Caltrans District 5 Public Affairs at 805-549-3318 or visit the District 5 website at www.dot.ca.gov/dist05/road_information.htm.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Gunther Cunningham's life would have been vastly different had his family not emigrated from postwar Germany, settling in California when he was a young boy.

For one thing, he almost certainly never would have dedicated his life to football.

Yet Cunningham, who graduated from Lompoc High in 1965 and played a season of football at Hancock College, would go to spend more than five decades in the game, including stints in college and the CFL before making a name for himself in the NFL. He worked for six different franchises over 34 years in the league, including a two-year stint as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Cunningham died on Saturday after a brief illness. He was 72.

Of course Valley Christian baseball coach Pete Fortier alludes to the story of David and Goliath when talking about his team's semifinal match-up.

VCA, the educational academy of the First Baptist Church in southeast Santa Maria, has an enrollment of 55 students and is clearly David.

Tuesday's opponent, Arroyo High School from El Monte, has about 2,200 kids.


Cloudy skies this morning will become partly cloudy this afternoon. High near 70F. Winds WNW at 10 to 20 mph.


Cloudy skies. Low 54F. Winds W at 10 to 15 mph.


Cloudy skies. High near 70F. Winds WSW at 10 to 20 mph.

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