It’s Thoma time: After a decade serving the homeless as director of the Jesus Center soup kitchen, Director Katy Thoma is calling it quits. In a way, you could say the Boss gave her her walking papers: “My work is done,” she said. “I just feel like God had a call on my life for a period of time and I’m done.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m going to rest,” Thoma said, going on to squelch potential rumors. “I’m not leaving town. I’m not sick. It’s exciting.”

During her tenure, Thoma managed to get churches all over Chico to unite toward one cause, and when arsonists burned down one Jesus Center site, she just swept up and started raising money for a new one.

Pleas entered in tank explosion: Howard “Jake” Jacobsen, 72, and Northern Lights Mechanical of Everett, Wash., each pled no contest in Butte County Superior Court Dec. 9 to felony counts of state worker safety violations in connection with the Feb. 13, 2001, fuel tank explosion at Jesse Lange Distributor in south Chico.

The explosion killed one worker, Jack Nickerson, and seriously injured another as they were cleaning a 25,000-gallon gasoline storage tank that was to be removed. Jacobsen, part owner and General Manager of Northern Lights Mechanical, was supervising the project when the explosion occurred.

An investigation that concluded last October revealed a number of violations, including improper grounding of equipment and failure to check for fuel vapors in the work area.

Under the agreement Northern Lights will pay a fine of up to $250,000 and Jacobsen faces three years, eight months in state prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17, 2004.

“This is an extremely important case that goes a long way to protect employee safety,” Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said. “The total disregard of state safety regulations led directly to the death of Mr. Nickerson and the life-altering injuries.”

Chico soldier killed in Iraq: Spc. Arron R. Clark, 20, of Chico was killed on Dec. 5 in Baghdad, according to the Department of Defense. Clark was on a convoy mission when an “improvised explosive device detonated,” the DOD report said. Clark was assigned to the 440th Signal Battalion, 22nd Signal Brigade, V Corps, based in Darmstadt, Germany.

The incident is under investigation. One source said Clark was part of a team clearing the way for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to Iraq. A few hours after the attack, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. official running the war-torn country, told the Associated Press that American forces were getting better intelligence in the fight against insurgents who stage attacks daily. Two Iraqi civilians also died in the attack that killed Clark, and another 13 were wounded.