Thursday, August 31, 2006

Officers use old classrooms to learn tactics

From Daily Republic
By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - The "boogey man" waited for the police officers in a classroom of the old Crystal Middle School.

To get to their target, the officers swept across the deserted library. They crept around book shelves then slinked to the door at the rear of the library. One officer swiftly opened the door and the team poured into the room, each member racing into position.

Three of the officers pointed their weapons at an overturned table. Then Los Angeles police Officer Gus Chacon told them what to say.

"Suspect - let me see your hands!" Chacon barked.

Suisun City police Officer Pedro Arroyo was the designated "boogey man," as Chacon calls the pretend suspect. Arroyo stood up and sheepishly raised his hands.

Afterward, Chacon told the police officers how they could have better handled their weapons and approach the suspect.

For four days this week, officers from Suisun City, Rio Vista, Benicia and other local agencies will practice entering buildings and handling active shooters at the former Crystal Middle School campus. The skills the officers learn could be used in various situations, from serving search warrants to dealing with a barricaded armed suspect. The officers brushed up on their tactical training together so they could work together effectively during an emergency, Suisun City police Lt. Ed Dadisho said.

The abandoned campus was ideal for training because, with the different rooms, officers didn't know what to expect, Chacon said. Officers didn't use live ammunition or guns.

Four officers from the Los Angeles Police Department metropolitan division taught the course. The unit helps police throughout Los Angeles in special weapons and tactics, crime suppression, crowd control and other operations, LAPD Sgt. Andrea Balter said.

On Tuesday the officers began learning about clearing rooms of suspects. The basic skills officers gain in clearing rooms can be used for various situations such as serving search warrants, Balter said.

"Say you have two officers respond to a burglary alarm," Balter said. "They have to open the door and clear the building to make sure no one is in there."

On Wednesday, officers practiced apprehending active shooters, a police term for a suspect in the midst of attacking. The scenario was a school shooting with 18 dead and the suspect hiding somewhere on campus. Groups of officers cautiously trod through the littered hallways, their boots crunching on shattered glass. They systematically searched one end of the hallway before loud pops rang out.

The officers investigated the other end of the hallway. They slipped into one room full of cabinets and checked them. They opened one cabinet to find it splattered in red paint and Arroyo crouched inside.

Police developed active-shooter tactics because of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, Dadisho said. The tactics can be used for situations other than attacks at a campus.

"It can be in a house where the suspect is actively stabbing somebody," Dadisho said. "It can be used whenever there is a need for an immediate reaction."

Training will continue today and Friday.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Suisun City police begin tactical training today

From Daily Republic
By Audrey Wong

SUISUN CITY - Police will conduct tactical training starting today through Friday at the old Crystal Middle School campus on Cordelia Road and School Street.

Officers will practice entering buildings and handling active shooters, said Suisun City police Lt. Ed Dadisho. Active shooter is a police term for a suspect currently firing on victims. That could be a situation such as a sniper or like the Columbine high school attack, said Suisun City police Sgt. Ted Stec.

Tactical building entries are for situations such as serving search warrants, a barricaded suspect, parole and probation searches among other things, Stec said.

Police will not use live ammunition or guns in the exercises, Stec said. Officers will use fake guns and dress in plain clothes. Stec said he did not expect a lot of noise from the training.

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department will lead the training. Dadisho was previously an LAPD sergeant. The first part of the training will be classroom instruction followed by role playing.

All Suisun City police officers have learned to deal with active shooters and entering buildings to meet state requirements for officers training, Stec said. But officers need to practice and polish their skills so they are prepared for anything, Stec said. Suisun City police also provide assistance for other local police departments during major incidents.

The training sessions will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Demolition of ranch house marks new beginning

From Vacaville Reporter
By Melissa Murphy/Staff Writer

Rush Ranch is getting a new nature center on its property, but not before some internal housekeeping is completed.

An excavator, manned by Ken Borders, an equipment operator with the Fish and Game Department, started in on Friday to tear down an old building that had once served as the ranch caretaker's house to make room for the future construction. Volunteers showed up on Friday and Saturday to help sort through the debris.

"It's always sad to get rid of things you're familiar with," Kirsti Muskat, a volunteer with Solano Land Trust, said Saturday morning after watching the frame of the house shake every time a part of the roof was pulled off. "But we're generally excited to see it go to make way for a better place. This is just one step in the process of building the nature center."

The State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) approved a $500,000 grant to the Solano Land Trust for construction of a nature center at Rush Ranch. This grant adds to the $500,000 awarded last year from the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, according to the ranch's Web site.

The Patwins, the Native Americans who lived in the Solano County area and areas to the north, resided on what is now Rush Ranch for hundreds of years, the Web site said.

The Suisun Marsh is billed as the largest estuarine marsh in the entire United States. Now protected by state law, the whole of the marsh is a local environmental treasure that is a home to a variety of wildlife and birds.

The new facility will include a nature center and adjoining caretaker residence, as well as lab, living quarters, public toilets and office space for visiting scientists, said Ken Poerner, a member of Solano Land Trust.

The sorted debris will be given to a landfill to reuse. According to Poerner, who also organized the demolition project, 70 to 80 percent of the lumber gathered will be chopped up and reused, while about 10 to 15 percent of the metal will also be reused in some capacity.

Poerner put aside some floor beams that he plans to use to help restore the ranch's corral. He pointed out that the old house only sits on dirt and that a concrete foundation was never poured.
Muskat's children were also sorting through debris, finding chunks of insulation, window frames, pipes and water faucets. The Muskats regularly volunteer at the ranch, but this was the first time they've been a part of a demolition project.

"Sometimes (volunteering) is a lot of fun," said Tallin Muskat, 15, wearing work gloves while tearing through drywall. "We've been able to drive a bulldozer before."

More volunteers showed up to help Saturday morning.

One volunteer, Jessica Schneider, who works with the National Estuarine Research reserve, said she is very excited about the new facility. She watched, mesmerized, as the building was being torn down. She said that she's looking forward to having a convenient lab on the property in which to do research.

"We have a strong investment in this project," said Schneider, who also works with the weather station that sits close to the demolished building. "We have a great partner -ship with Solano Land Trust, plus it's a lot of fun."

Members of Boy Scout Troop 481 also showed up Friday to volunteer their time.
"A lot of people care about Rush Ranch and what it has to offer," Poerner said. "This is for the future."

Melissa Murphy can be reached at

Sunset on the water--Suisun Slough boat cruises take guests for tours

From Daily Republic
By Stephanie Jucar

SUISUN CITY - The California Sunset, a blue and white, two-story boat docked in the Suisun City harbor, is hard to miss.

"It's the biggest boat in the harbor," said the boat's owner, Capt. Dan Thiemann.
Thiemann and his fiancee, Betty Jo Coleman, started giving 90-minute tours through 8 to 10 miles of Suisun City sloughs for the first time July 1.

"We're just getting started but we already have some regulars," he said.

Fairfield resident Caroline Fox came for a second time - and brought a friend.

"I've always dreamed of going here," she said, donning a jacket and scarf.

She spotted the boat several weeks ago on a walk down the edge of the harbor.

"It's a nice place to go with a friend," she said.

After taking pictures with Lynn Holt, the pair listened to the captain's message.

"We should see some exciting stuff in the way of wildlife," Thiemann said to his guests before he started the tour. "You're going to see what you would have seen in California 200 years ago, untouched by man. No roads, no buildings."

Many people who have lived in the area their whole lives have never seen the sloughs from sailing on the water, Thiemann said."This is their chance to see it," he said. "People want to sit, relax and have fun."

Short cruises are available Thursday through Sunday during the day and in the evening.
"We try to keep it as family-oriented as possible," Coleman said.

Rain or shine, Thiemann said he'll take people on tours year-round as long as guests come at tour take-off times.

On a late summer evening about 18 people of all ages hopped on the boat for a tour.
On a normal weekend night, Gina Prendivalle, 47, and Brian Pene, 40, usually eat a nice dinner at a restaurant together or mingle at a bar.

But on a Friday night a couple weeks ago, the couple decided to check out the scene at the Suisun City waterfront.

"It's a perfect night to go out and do this," Prendivalle said, leaning over the railing with her hair whipping in the wind on the second story of the boat.

They watched the sunset and cuddled close as the night grew cooler.

Keith and Nancy Weitemeyer celebrated their 32nd wedding anniversary on the California Sunset, taking pictures of the late summer sunset and relaxing on the boat's second-floor benches.

"This is fun," the wife said. "I like being on top of the water."

Thiemann enjoys having large families with kids because they can learn about local waterways and sloughs, he said.

The California Sunset was the first boat 8-year-old Alondra Trujillo has ever been on.

"It's fun," she said, while chewing on a Snickers bar sold at a concessions stand in the boat. "I liked it when he started the boat."

Thiemann also lets passengers take the helm for a few minutes, while he answers their questions about boating and the wildlife around them.

The California Sunset is also available for private parties, Thiemann said.

Corporate parties, family reunions, birthdays, school field trips, weddings, amongst many other kinds of parties, have used the boat, he added.

On a romantic night with a partner, an educational tour with kids or a family outing, the California Sunset is a boat that invites you to explore the sloughs of Suisun City.

Reach Stephanie Jucar at 427-6935 or

Suisun City boat cruise: California Sunset
Cruise through the Suisun City sloughs

  • Departs from Suisun City waterfront by Main Street
    4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday; noon, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
    $15 adults; $5 children, under 3 are free.
  • Monday through Wednesday open for reserved groups of 10 or more at any time
  • For reservations call (916) 289-8375
  • Note: Regular cruise times Thursday through Saturday may change due to large party reservations

Friday, August 25, 2006

Agencies look to restore tidal wetlands

From Daily Republic
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Several state, federal and local agencies are turning back the clock on 70 acres in Suisun Marsh to restore tidal wetlands.

It's a start. The ultimate goal is to someday restore 5,000 to 7,000 acres of the marsh to the tidal wetlands that were once prevalent there. Tidal wetlands are home to such rare species as the delta smelt, Suisun thistle and California clapper rail, according to a study for the project.

Restoration work is to be done at the Blacklock site along Little Honker Bay in the eastern marsh. The California Bay Delta Authority provided a $536,000 grant for the project.

"This restoration represents an opportunity to realize the many ecosystem benefits that are commonly associated with healthy tidal marsh habitat," the project draft environmental study said.

Suisun Marsh and Suisun Bay in their natural state had 68,000 acres of tidal wetlands, a project study said. Farmers in the mid-1800s to early 1900s put up levees to create farmland. More than 90 percent of the tidal wetlands were lost.

Later on, many of these farms converted to duck clubs or became state preserves.

With managed wetlands, the land remains behind levees and is flooded and drained by the caretakers at certain times of the year. The goal is to grow plants that attract waterfowl.In contrast, tidal wetlands are subject to the daily rhythms of the tide.

The Bureau of Reclamation released an environmental report on the proposed Blacklock restoration project. It can be found at The bureau is accepting comments through Monday.

Restoration of the land involves breaching the levees. Sediment would be carried in by the tides over time build up the subsided land. Plants and wildlife communities would establish themselves naturally, the environmental report said.

The Suisun Resource Conservation District is a partner in the restoration effort. The goal is to complete the needed work by Oct. 15, Executive Director Steve Chappell said.

Also working on the project are the state Department of Water Resources and state Department of Fish and Game, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing advice.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Suisun City still searching for tenant to fill Alberston's lot

From Daily Republic
By Daily Republic staff

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City's Redevelopment Agency and the owner of Sunset Center are still looking for someone to fill the large hole left when the Albertsons grocery store closed its doors.

"We are cooperating with the owner to get some replacement for the old tenants," Suisun City Redevelopment Agency Director Al da Silva said.

Just who those future tenants will be is unknown and no announcement about a new tenant is expected for some time, da Silva said.

The Suisun City Albertsons closed in early August because it had become one of the underperforming stores in the grocery chain, according to Albertsons spokeswoman Stacia Levenfeld.

It was the only Albertsons closed among six stores located in Solano and Napa counties.

In June, an investment firm purchased 168 Albertsons stores in Northern California and Northern Nevada. It also announced it would close 31 of those stores.

Suisun City leaders hope to see a new business open up at the old Albertsons site that would bring in more taxable revenue than Albertsons. Suisun City didn't receive a lot of revenue from Albertsons because groceries are not taxed.

First stop: Coffee for Suisun City

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - The Suisun City train station on Main Street may become more than just a place to get on the train or the bus soon.

Kirk Knutson, owner of El Capitan Coffee Company and the person who now opens up the train station early in the mornings, is hoping the coffee stand he now runs there from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. will become something greater.

"It is going to be awesome," Knutson said. "I have a lot of ideas I am going to run through the City Council."

Knutson was running a cafe in Woodland when the Greyhound Bus Company cut out its stop and the person who took tickets at the train station three weeks ago.

Suisun City officials, who knew Knutson when he ran a small coffee business at 333 Sunset Avenue some time ago, called him and asked if he would be interested in opening and closing the train station doors.

Knutson took on the duties and set up his coffee stand on Aug. 1 and early morning passengers using Amtrak have liked having the doors open so early as well as pastries and a cup of hot coffee at hand.

He would like to expand his business hours until 5 p.m. as well and offer sandwiches, soups and salads on several tables he would like to set up.

"It will be pretty nice," Knutson said of expanding what is now a brisk morning business.
Amtrak plans to offer more train service along the route and Knutson sees his business expanding along with that.

"With gas prices and airlines, people will be using Amtrak," Knutson said.

Suisun City Redevelopment Director Al da Silva called the new business "an evolving situation" that already allows the city to keep the train station open to residents.

Knutson's presence helps meet two Suisun City goals, da Silva said, keeping the station open and seeing it "put to a higher use."

"Eventually maybe we hope he will offer additional retail services," da Silva said. "We are talking with him about more permanent structure; maybe get into a formal agreement with a lease."

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Pez dispensers, Pez collectors -- Husband, wife avid fans of iconic candy containers

From Daily Republic
By Ian Thompson

SUISUN CITY - Pez collector Dawn Stec says her favorite dispensers are the ones that look slightly used.

While some Pez collectors keep their prizes in their plastic wrapping, Stec said she likes to "free my Pez and fill them with candy.

"If I find one that has been used, it is more special to me because a child has probably used it," Dawn Stec said.

Her husband, Suisun City Police Sgt. Ted Stec, likes handing out Pez that look like police officers to his men during briefings and jokingly says the 50-plus police Pez dispensers the couple have "look like me."

The Pez Candy Inc. sells the candies that look like small bricks, dispensed from pocket-sized mechanical dispensers, according to the

The name comes from the German word for peppermint, pfefferminz, the first Pez flavor. The candy was invented in Austria in 1927 and initially came in a small tin similar to modern Altoid tins.

The first dispensers, some of which are included in Dawn Stec's collection, looked like a cigarette lighter and dispensed the small breath mint as an alternative to smoking.

In 1952, Pez was introduced to America. Three years later, the company put heads on the dispensers and marketed them to children. These first head dispensers included Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus and Spacetrooper.The company is now headquartered in Traun, Austria, and produces more than 3 billion candy bricks a year in its American facilities alone. The dispensers are produced in Hungary and China.

Now, there are more than 450 unique dispenser heads with thousands of variations.
Name a cartoon character from Bugs Bunny to Snow White to Spongebob Squarepants and there is probably a Pez dispenser with his or her head on it.

"The Batman one (from the 1960s) is fairly rare because he has a cape," Dawn Stec said.
The list of the rarest, which the Stecs still don't have, includes a Lions Club Pez and a Make-A-Face Pez where the dispenser came with a 13 extra parts for people to make different faces. It was soon pulled from the market because the company thought the small parts represented a choking hazard for children.

The company has a general rule against putting likenesses of real people on its dispensers. It has only created three in its history - Betsy Ross, Daniel Boone and Paul Revere.

A bride and groom Pez duo the Stecs have is another of the rare dispensers.

"A Pez company employee had them created and they were given out as party favors for a wedding," Dawn Stec said.

Dawn Stec started her casual Pez collecting in high school when she starting picking up the colorful candy dispensers in the grocery store.

When she got a job in Fremont, Dawn Stec set up some of her collection at her desk and friends soon started bringing in Pez dispensers that they found and added them to her collection.

"It was then that I got a collection without realizing it," Dawn Stec said.

For the first 10 years, she kept her collection in a shoe box and thought her hobby of collecting Pez was fairly unique until she found another collector and saw his collection.

When Dawn Stec told her then-future husband Ted that she collected Pez and the worldwide extent of Pez collectors, Ted Stec said he was a little skeptical.

"Then I went to my first Pez convention and it convinced me this was all real," Ted Stec said. "It was a lot of fun to meet people who collected Pez dispensers."

The couple put up a table at the firemen's muster earlier this summer, selling firemen Pez dispensers to firefighters from all over the state who gathered in Old Town Suisun City.

Ted Stec also likes the sports Pez dispensers for baseball and football, as well as dispensers honoring the top drivers in NASCAR racing.

"I am looking forward to the Orange County Chopper Pez when it comes out," Ted Stec said.

Both Dawn and Ted Stec said their passion for Pez is nothing compared to Dawn's mother, Tina Gunsauls, who Dawn introduced to collecting several years ago.

"She does 10 times as much collecting as I do now," Dawn Stec said, also noting her mother runs a Pez selling business out of her home in Red Bluff.

Dawn's father even built an extension to the house to hold both his wife's and his daughter's Pez collection, but also to house Gunsauls' place of business.

As for where Dawn and Ted Stec would like to take their collecting, they said they would some day like to buy a live-work residence and set up a candy store that would feature Pez.

Unlike the chewing gum card collectors who immediately toss the obligatory stick of gum when they get their sports card pack, the Stecs say they also like the Pez candy too.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at