City funds Hooker benches: The Chico City Council this week agreed to fund local woodworker Paul Adkins’ efforts to create two wooden benches made from the wood of the Hooker Oak tree (pictured), whose milled planks have been stored in the city maintenance yard for the 30 years since the big tree fell. Mary Gardner, the city’s arts projects coordinator, said the idea is part of the Bidwell Park centennial celebration and that the benches would be placed inside the old City Municipal Building.

Originally Gardner asked for $17,340, which would have paid for each bench at $5,000 apiece, paid for someone to research the history of the tree and for promoting a community poetry contest that calls for a poem about the park’s 100th birthday. Gardner said the wood is in poor condition and carving it into a couple of benches will prove a challenge for the woodworker.

The council agreed to fund the project but whittled the amount down to $12,500 for the benches and research—the poem promotion will have to come back another day.

New age reform: Members of the California State Students Association (CSSA) and University of California Students Association (UCSA) are currently seeking an author for a reform bill that would eliminate age discrimination in the Cal Grant Entitlement Program.

Laura Kerr, lobbyist for the CSSA, said finding an author during tight budget times will be difficult, but that the new bill “is good policy.”

The reform bill would look to remove language that requires recipients of the Entitlement Program to meet the federal definition of an “independent student,” or students over 24. It would also remove language that requires Cal Grant recipients to have graduated after the 2000-01 school year.

In 2000, Governor Gray Davis signed the current SB 1644 into law, which expanded the Cal Grant, making $1.2 billion available to students with at least a 2.0 GPA. The bill was divided into entitlement and competitive awards.

In the current bill, students over the age of 24 are ineligible for entitlement grants and are automatically kicked into the competitive-grant program. The competitive program is funded to provide 22,500 awards for students who have waited 18 months or students over 24 year of age. However, more than 114,000 students applied for the competitive grants.

You dumpa my lawn, I getta you truck: The county unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday that authorizes fines and vehicle confiscation for illegal dumpers. Illegal dumping has become a huge problem in some areas of the county, one that has been tough to enforce and costly to clean up. The new ordinance cleans up language from an already approved version and sets up a schedule of fines and penalties culminating in the confiscation of vehicles for those caught dumping anywhere but at the actual dump.