Lewis Griswold

GRISWOLD: Pirates commandeer Visalia neighborhood

A Visalia couple combined their love of pirate lore and charity to create Pirates for Hope, a themed Halloween display that took over their front yard.

The neighborhood extravaganza was open to visitors during Halloween week. It'll stay in place for several more days, and the public is welcome to walk through in exchange for a canned food donation for Visalia Emergency Aid. Five years ago, they collected 300 cans; last year it was 1,500. By Saturday, they had collected 2,100 cans, plus about 2,000 articles of clothing and 300 new and used toys.

Carol Douglass credits her husband, Steven, a construction worker who "looks just like Jack Sparrow" in his pirate costume, for putting it all together.

The couple has long decorated their home for Halloween, but after their children enjoyed the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, "we took it to another level," Douglass said.

The Disneyland-like display has taken over much of the 3500 block of West Pryor Avenue. The home across the street has a sinking pirate ship in the front yard. The next-door neighbor's front yard is a graveyard. At least eight homes boast some kind of pirate display.

There are cannons, stocks, flags, a volcano, a castle, a giant octopus, hooks, shark fins, spiders, a smoke machine, a casket and more.

"It has just gotten bigger each year," Douglass said.

Needle disposal

Getting rid of needles just got easier in Visalia. The city is accepting "home-generated medical sharps" free at its quarterly Dump On Us events.

The next one is in January. Dump on Us lets Visalia residents toss junk for free, and there's a separate line for needles, which must be in an approved container. It's illegal to put needles in the regular trash.

But the city program is temporary, said Kim Loeb, natural resources conservation manager.

The city staff is preparing to ask the City Council to pass an ordinance requiring pharmacies to take used needles for free. San Luis Obispo County has a similar ordinance.

The California Pharmacists Association recognizes the need for proper disposal, but opposes bringing biohazards into pharmacies, said CEO Jon Roth.

Fresno County (including Fresno city) has a free needle disposal program twice a year at its household hazardous waste disposal events. The household hazardous waste Web page has a link to a list of businesses that take needles for a fee.

Visalia to upgrade police radios

Visalia police are buying new radio gear and vaulting into the 21st century.

The purchase involves 125 new hand-held radios, 40 car radios and nine motorcycle radios from Motorola.

The radios have 1,000 frequencies and are designed to communicate with law enforcement agencies outside Visalia in case police get called to an emergency. Under the new national P25 standard for law enforcement, police radios must have "interoperability."

The city is spending about $300,000, but by trading in the old 1993 radios, it got a $58,000 discount.