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Listen To Your News Wednesday, January 16, 2013 News Archive
     

"SUSPICIOUS" CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUND DEAD MAN FOUND IN VEHICLE TUESDAY IN JOSHUA TREE
The Sheriff's Homicide unit is investigating a body found in a vehicle in Joshua Tree yesterday. At 5:44 p.m. Tuesday, a woman called deputies to report that she found a man dead in her vehicle in the 62000 block of Aberdeen Drive. Deputies have described the circumstances surrounding the death "suspicious in nature." An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Moe Hurtado or Sergeant Trevis Newport at 909-387-3589. Callers wishing to remain anonymous can call the We-tip Hotline at 800-78-CRIME (27463) or you may leave information on the We-Tip Hotline at www.wetip.com.

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YUCCA VALLEY STRATEGIC WORKSHOP
About 50 people, including members of the Yucca Valley Town Council, town employees, residents, business owners, and other interested parties, attended a strategic planning session workshop for the Town last Saturday. After reviewing last year's priorities and the Town's needs, Council members and the rest of the participants worked with staff on determining priorities for roads, public safety, and other items in the 2013-14 budget. Most of those who attended expressed their support—using electronic feedback clickers—for using whatever funds were available to maintain and restore roads within the Town, whether it's from the general fund; a potential sales tax, Measure I funds, remaining RDA bonds, or requiring the sewer project to restore the roads. In addition, nearly three-quarters of the attendees opposed eliminating the Town's motor officer from the budget, a move that would have saved $200,000. For most other items, however, from the code enforcement budget, to community development block grants, park maintenance, and community services, a majority supported maintaining the funding at last year's levels, or else slightly reducing the funding. However, at the end of the day, maintaining or even reducing funding by 25 to 50 percent on these budget items resulted in a deficit of $750,000 for next year's budget, clearly an indication that Town services will need to be cut or else the Town will have to dip into its reserves to make up the difference.

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TWENTYNINE PALMS CITY COUNCIL SPECIAL MEETING, PART 2
The Town of Yucca Valley isn't the only agency suffering financial difficulties. After staff presented an analysis of the precarious financial position of the Twentynine Palms Fire Department and possible legal remedies for it at a special meeting Monday, residents of Twentynine Palms had their chance to comment, and to hear background information from county officials. In the second part of his report, Reporter Dan Stork turns to the public and county comment…
Critics of Twentynine Palms City Manager Richard Warne's presentation questioned city spending priorities, the relevance of the pension issue, and the availability of aid from the Marine Base fire department in an emergency. Others lauded Warne's analysis as being spot-on. Going in another direction, Dan O'Brien saw a conflict of interest for Council member Jay Corbin, because his wife works for County Fire. Patrick Munoz cited state law to oppose that view. County Fire Chief Mark Hartwick supported Warne's statement that County Fire could hire all six full-time firefighters – three with permanent positions, and three with contracts that would likely last three years. He also reiterated the benefits he claimed would come from integrated services. He acknowledged that county fire has had to make severe cuts in its own expenses, including pension contribution concessions by firefighters. Local Agency Formation Commission Execute Director Kathleen Rollings-MacDonald said that under current arrangements, the Fire Department will have to borrow from the Water District to pay its bills in the 2013-2014 year, and is required to pay it back before the end of that fiscal year. She added that city has less leeway in allocating its share of general tax levies than some in the city have claimed. She was skeptical about the potential of a Joint Powers Authority in dealing with a systemic problem. Mayor Joel Klink proposed resolving the issue at the first meeting in February, giving the council as well as the Water District time to react to the City staff presentations.

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THREE NEW SPIDERS FOUND IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Three new species of spiders have been discovered in Joshua Tree National Park, and two of them have been deemed as "rare." Their discoverer, Jason Bond—who published his findings in the December issue of ZooKeys—said the new species are "trapdoor" spiders, so called because they build a burrow with a trapdoor made out of vegetation, sand, soil, and silk, to hide the entrance. When the spider feels a vibration close to its burrow, it leaps out of the burrow to seize the hapless insect, injects it with venom, and then brings it back into its burrow to eat. Bond named the three local species of spiders Aptostichus (Ap TAHS ti kus) serrano, and Aptostichus chemehuevi, after the two local Indian tribes, and Aptostichus bonnoi (Bahn no eye), named in honor of Bono of the rock band U2 and their 1987 Joshua Tree album. Bond said the chemehuevi and bonnoi species are rare and are in need of protection. Trapdoor spiders are similar in appearance to tarantulas.

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GOALS OF FIRST-TERM CONGRESSMAN PAUL COOK
There's one word that Congressman Paul Cook uses to describe his initial impressions of the U.S. House of Representatives: "Chaotic." But despite the chaos, Cook still has hopes of accomplishing things. With six bases in his district, he's dedicated to helping veterans and the military, but it'll be difficult. "You don't have much wiggle room with spending. There's a limited amount of discretionary spending. Unfortunately, that's the defense budget. We have to cut $1 trillion. But we have to take care of our people." Cook says he's willing to work toward solutions. "I'm willing to meet anyone anytime to talk." One of Cook's first votes in office was approving relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. "It's very easy to substitute hurricane for earthquake or fires or some fantastic disaster or calamities in California." In our next report Cook will talk about some of the challenges he and the rest of Congress will face.

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HI-DESERT WATER DISTRICT AGENDA
The Hi-Desert Water District meets tonight. On the agenda, the Board of Directors will review a fiscal audit for 2012. Reporter Kristy Lockhart tells us what else in on tonight's agenda…
The board will appoint Directors for 2013 committees. Creation Graphic Design, Inc. will present three different Wastewater Reclamation Project logos for the board to consider. The board will also vote on hiring RBF Consulting, Inc to provide construction support services for the Well 20 West equipping Project. The Board will meet at their main office on the Highway at 6 p.m.

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TWENTYNINE PALMS TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT
This week, the Twentynine Palms Police Department will crack down on drivers who are speeding and talking on cell phones on the main streets and in the residential areas of the city. The deputies will also focus their attention on the "rolling road block." Drivers who impede or block the normal flow of traffic—even if they are going the speed limit—can be in violation of California vehicle codes that requires drivers to be in the right lane when traveling slower than the normal flow of traffic. For example, a driver can be going the speed limit of 65 miles per hour on Highway 62 in the fast lane, but if there is a line of cars behind trying to go faster, the driver can be in violation of laws against the "rolling road block."

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TWENTYNINE PALMS PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING
At last night's meeting of the Twentynine Palms Planning Commission, agendized business was short and sweet, and then the Planning Commission returned to code revision. Reporter Dan Stork tallies the discussions…
The Twentynine Palms Planning Commission designated one of their number – Greg Mendoza – to represent it at the next City Council meeting. At that meeting, the Council is scheduled to hear an appeal of a recent Commission decision, in which it re-instated a requirement for a truck-loading zone at a barber shop. Then staff asked the Commission to rule whether abandonment of a right of way adjacent to the Twentynine Palms RV Resort would be consistent with the General Plan. The Commission ruled that it would be inconsistent with public safety guidelines, as it would leave a tract without a secondary access route. The Commission went on to advise council that request by the resort operator for abandonment for abandonment would be viewed differently, if it were preceded by a realignment of the route, as was discussed in 2007. Then the Commission moved on to what may be the best-kept secret in the Morongo Basin – judging by the total disappearance of the audience – as they entered the twelfth study session on the revision of the City's Development Code. Sections considered this evening included Development Agreements, Site Plan Reviews, and guidelines for compliance with CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act).

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HI-DESERT MEDICAL CENTER AGENDA
The Hi-Desert Medical Center is operating in the red, and must find the money somewhere to cover its operating costs. Assignment reporter Mike Lipsitz explains how the hospital intends to do this…
The Hi-Desert Memorial Healthcare District Board of Directors meets in regular session at 6:00 tonight in the Helen Gray Education Center. As always, the public is invited to attend. Jumping out from tonight's action agenda, the board will be asked to approve the immediate withdrawal of investment assets to cover operational shortfalls. And in a related matter, the board will be asked to consider a Finance Committee recommendation for the establishment of a policy and procedure for dealing with future operational shortfalls – more specifically, the recommendation is that the deficits be made up from automatic investment account withdrawals. Those actions and others will follow regular committee reports and updates on the packaged wastewater treatment plant and the financial consultant's report.

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LOCKS OF LOVE AT YUCCA VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL
The Yucca Valley High School will be holding an event Thursday to help disadvantaged children who may have lost their own hair. Reporter Taylor Thacker has more on the program, "Locks of Love."…
Ever thought of having a haircut as helping someone in need? Well now you can! On Thursday, January 17, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Yucca Valley High School will have professionals from Kole Michael Salon cutting hair for donation. This event will take place in the school's wrestling room and everyone is invited. Dyed hair is ok, but bleached is not and the donation must be a minimum of 8" long.

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MORONGO VALLEY COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT AGENDA
It's good to keep your employees and volunteers happy, and one way to do that is to recognize their efforts periodically. Reporter Mike Lipsitz says that at its meeting tonight, the Morongo Valley Community Services District board will be asked to vote on an employee recognition program, and then later at the same meeting, recognize an employee of the year…
The Morongo Valley Community Services District meets in regular session tonight at 7:00 in the Covington Park Multi-Purpose Room. On the action agenda, the board will vote on a policy providing for a basic Employee Recognition Program to promote employee morale, efficiency, initiative and retention of high quality employees. Also tonight, the CSD Board will consider a resolution ordering the transfer of funds between categories other than transfers from designated reserves for capital outlay and contingencies. Those actions and others will precede presentation of the 2012 Chuck Osborne Community Volunteer of the Year Award which goes to Bill and Gayl Swarat, of Swarat Signs in Morongo Valley.

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HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS AND SCHEDULES
The Yucca Valley-Twentynine Palms High Schools boys' soccer game Tuesday began with a moment of silence to honor the Hi-Desert Star's sports editor, John Gavin, who died Friday. The boys started out slow on a very cold afternoon. Defender Paul Desilets opened up the scoring in the first half with an assist from Logan Vallo and Twentynine Palms answered shortly after with a goal, ending the half 1-1. In the second half, Yucca Valley out-shot the Wildcats 17 to 2 and used team play and effort to see 6 different Trojans score. Junior Bradley Soares, Seniors Haemish O'Donnell, Diego Martinez, and Robert Duran, and junior Logan Vallo all had a goal each. The game ended Yucca 6; 29 Palms 1.

The Yucca Valley High School girls' soccer team hosted the Lady Wildcats from Twentynine Palms High School in a De-Anza League game yesterday. Coach Scott Phillips said the Lady Trojans dominated the game and outshot the Lady Wildcats 30-2 finishing with a 4-1 victory. Senior Chaylin Couzens continued her outstanding play scoring a hat trick and adding an assist. Junior Teresa Nava added a goal and assist, and juniors Amy Priest and Vivian Chow had assists.

In high school sports tomorrow, the Twentynine Palms High School boys and girls soccer teams will travel away to Desert Hot Springs to play the Golden Eagles. The girls' game starts at 3:15; boys, at 5 p.m.

Also tomorrow, the Yucca Valley High School girls soccer team travels away to Indio to play Shadow Hills High School. Match time is 3:15.

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