Lewis Griswold

February 1, 2014

Lewis Griswold: Downtown Visalia gets a three-wheeling beat cop

Officer Jason McWilliams has been assigned as the new downtown beat cop in Visalia.

Officer Jason McWilliams has been assigned as the new downtown beat cop in Visalia.

The job involves getting to know merchants and property owners, and McWilliams said he's game because he likes Visalia's thriving downtown scene.

"Main Street is nice and people want to keep it nice," he said.

McWilliams said he wants everyone to know that he's easy to reach.

"I'll give you my cell phone number," he said. "If you call me, I'm going to show up and try to help you."

The 16-year law enforcement veteran is no stranger to retail. For two years, he arrested shoplifters and burglars on Mooney Boulevard, Visalia's main commercial strip.

"I had the most felony arrests in my department last year," McWilliams said.

One perk of his assignment is zipping around downtown on the police department's three-wheeled Segway, which has lights and a siren.

He took it for a spin last week.

"It's great for community relations," he said. "People just come up to me and start asking questions."

TCOE: The Tulare County Office of Education will build an office building on South Mooney Boulevard where the Mooney Drive-In Theater used to be.

The site, an 11-acre vacant lot, is next to the Greatest Generation World War II mural.

"We think it'll be a great location because it's centrally located" in the county, Tulare County Schools Superintendent Jim Vidak said.

For decades, the Office of Education has rented two office buildings from Tulare County, including space for the Pena planetarium. But county officials need the buildings for their own use, so the time has come to build, Vidak said.

Construction of the $25 million project will start this year.

The 87,000-square-foot building will include a large space that can seat 1,000 people and also be converted into several smaller rooms as needed, he said.

It'll be finished next year. Administration, teacher and administrator training programs, credentialing and other functions will be under one roof.

About two-tenths of a mile southward, a new planetarium building will go up on the football field of the former Liberty School. The Office of Education purchased the school last year.

PHOTOS: Last month The Bee published a story about a Hawaiian woman's quest to collect photographs of all members of the armed forces from California who died in the Vietnam War.

The story included a list of names from central San Joaquin Valley counties for whom photos are still needed.

Bee readers responded, said volunteer Janna Hoehn of Maui, Hawaii, who has reached out to newspapers to get the word out. Within days, she received 40 photos by email and expects more.

Here's the story and list of names.

Photos of the fallen from all over will be displayed in the planned Education Center near the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

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About Lewis Griswold

Lew Griswold

@fb_lewgriswold

A 29-year resident of Visalia, Lewis Griswold is thoroughly in touch with his community. His South Valley columns shed light on the quirky and quaint, the light-hearted and the heart-rending. Contact him with your ideas. Phone: (559) 441-6104. Twitter: @fb_lewgriswold. Email: lgriswold@fresnobee.com

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