$6 MILLION SETTLEMENT IN 2010 FATAL CRASH IN JOHNSON VALLEY

A nearly $6 million settlement was announced Wednesday in several lawsuits stemming from a 2010 off-road racing crash during a Johnson Valley off-road race that killed eight people and injured 12 others. The agreement was finalized during a mediation hearing Tuesday according to attorneys. Plaintiffs will receive $5.825 million in the settlement, which still must be approved by the Department of Justice. The federal Bureau of Land Management will pay the bulk of the money, $4.825 million, and race organizer and promoter, Mojave Desert Racing Inc., will pay its insurance policy limit of $1 million. The Aug. 14, 2010, accident occurred during the California 200 on BLM land in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Open Area. A modified Ford Ranger pickup driven by Brett Sloppy of San Marcos went off course during a jump and landed in a crowd of spectators next to the racecourse. Lawsuits filed were consolidated in Los Angeles federal court. Originally named as a defendant, Sloppy was dismissed from the litigation earlier this year. Months after the accident the BLM released a critical report that found the agency did not follow its own standard procedures for permitting the event. As a result numerous changes were implemented. The amount of insurance that race organizers are required to carry was also substantially increased.

DUI/DRIVER’S LICENSE CHECKPOINT IN TWENTYNINE PALMS TONIGHT

The Twentynine Palms Police Department will be out in force Thursday night cracking down on impaired drivers with a DUI and driver’s license checkpoint. A checkpoint is scheduled Thursday, December 19, starting at 6 p.m. and going to 2 a.m. at an undisclosed location within the city limits. Police Chief Rich Boswell warns motorists the police department will also have saturation patrols looking for drunk and drugged drivers. The DUI/driver’s license checkpoint is the result of a grant of more than $21,000 to the City of Twentynine Palms to combat drunk and drugged driving.

YUCCA VALLEY TOWN COUNCIL PART 2: MOBILE HOME PARK RENOVATION, GENERAL PLAN UPDATE

The Yucca Valley Town Council met in regular session Tuesday night. Managing Editor Tami Roleff had a two-part report. Yesterday in part 1, citizens demanded the town reopen the marijuana dispensary. Today in part 2, renovation of a mobile home park and a general plan update…
After listening to public comment for 45 minutes about the medical marijuana dispensary at Tuesday’s meeting of the Yucca Valley Town Council, the Council got down to business and agreed to join the California Municipal Finance Authority, which would allow the non-profit organization Caritas Affordable Housing, to issue $70 million in bonds to purchase and renovate Aztec Mobile Home Park, among others. The Council then met in a two-hour joint session with the Planning Commission to go over the General Plan update. The Council and Commission continued its discussion from last week on scenic highway designations, wildlife corridors and private property rights, and bike routes and trails. The Council then continued the discussion to another joint session with the Planning Commission on January 7.

TWO ARRESTED FOR GROWING AND SUPPLYING MARIJUANA TO MINORS

A Twentynine Palms man has been arrested, accused of growing and supplying marijuana to minors, and a second suspect is still being sought. According to a Sheriff’s Department press release, the Juvenile Officer for Twentynine Palms received information that marijuana was being furnished to minors. Deputies served a search warrant in the 5300 block of Abronia Avenue in Twentynine Palms and found several ounces of marijuana, measuring scales and a large amount of cash. Randy Kelley, 25, was arrested for investigation of marijuana sales, and the Sheriff’s Department has also listed Bruce Cohen, 52, as a suspect. Investigation led to another residence in the 8200 block of Church Street in Yucca Valley, where deputies located a large marijuana cultivation operation with over 200 marijuana plants, measuring scales, approximately 25 pounds of processed marijuana, several firearms and explosive devices. The Yucca Valley residence was unoccupied at the time of the search warrant and the investigation is still ongoing.

MAN CAUGHT RED-HANDED VANDALIZING JOSHUA TREE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AIR CONDITIONERS

A transient was arrested Monday afternoon after a Sheriff’s detective caught him vandalizing air-conditioning units at the old Joshua Tree Elementary School. According to a Sheriff’s report, a neighbor called police after seeing Philip Donnelly, 22, inside one of the portable class rooms allegedly stealing items. When Detective Heidi Hague arrived in her unmarked car, she saw Donnelly with his head inside an air conditioner, cutting out the copper tubing and wiring. The Freon and compressor oil had been drained from the air-conditioner units. The report states that despite being caught red-handed, Donnelly denied being responsible for the damage. Philip Donnelly was arrested for vandalism, booked into the Morongo Basin Jail, with his bail set at $25,000.

MORONGO VALLEY CSD GENERAL MANAGER RESIGNS

The Morongo Valleys CSD met in regular session last night. Reporter Mike Lipsitz said the four-hour meeting ended with a big surprise…
In addition to the swearing in of newly elected officers at last night’s marathon four-hour meeting of the Community Services District in Morongo Valley, directors approved a new fee schedule for facility rentals, and approved policy changes in connection with use of district vehicles, staff levels, and financial reports. And under the heading “Good News,” longtime Morongo Valley booster Paul Geeson was selected as recipient of the Chuck Osborne Volunteer of the Year Award. Last night’s meeting ended just after 11 p.m., but not before CSD General Manager Rick Lebel left all present dumbstruck with his announcement that after two years of service, he’d be retiring from the district at the end of January. And the tears did flow.

TWENTYNINE PALMS WATER DISTRICT SETS FIRE TAX WORKSHOP SET FOR FEBRUARY

Last night, the Twentynine Palms Water District Board of Directors met in regular session. It was Suzi Horn’s first meeting as a Board Director and the Water District welcomed her. On the Water side the District will be adopting changes to the work system, a new technological system called Springbrook that is said to speed up work processes and make things easier on the employees. It is designed to link the different parts of the Water District together and ultimately be a step towards a bright future. On the Fire Department side, Larry Briggs gave his thanks to the Fire Department for responding quickly to a fire that occurred in late November in the historic plaza. For the month of November, the Fire Department responded to 192 calls for assistance. The Fire Department then moved on to talk about what should be done regarding whether they should raise taxes or not. They decided they need to have an informational workshop tentatively scheduled for February 22 in the Water District Board Room. All citizens are invited and encouraged to attend.

COUNTY REVISES IMMIGRATION DETAINER POLICY

In a consent agenda item, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors moved to resolve an impasse in dealing with criminals who are in this country illegally. Dan Stork has the background of the issue, and the local resolution…
In recent years, the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) has entered into agreements with local law enforcement agencies to hold criminals who are in the country without proper authorization for possible deportation. Such holding actions are called 287g detainers, and the agreements implementing them have to periodically renewed. In the years that the program has been in effect, there have been protests that the 287g detainers have been used to harass and persecute minor offenders. In response, the state of California passed the Trust Act, which limits 287g detainers to those who have been convicted of serious, specified crimes. Sheriff John McMahon initially opposed implementing the Trust Act in San Bernardino County, because he felt that it placed his department in a position of uncertainty between federal and state law. But after extensive community outreach and meetings with federal officials, Sheriff McMahon chose to amend the language in the 287g memorandum of agreement with ICE to adhere to the requirements of the Trust Act, and the Supervisors ratified that MOA in its December 17 meeting. A press release from the Sheriff’s Department said that 287g detainers have accounted for a very small percentage of total arrests made in the county. In response to a citizen’s query at the Supervisors’ meeting, McMahon estimated that 5 percent of the jail population of 6,000, or about 300 prisoners, are being held on immigration detainers.

TWENTYNINE PALMS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL MOVIE TONIGHT

The Twentynine Palms Elementary School fourth grade will have a movie night tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the multi-purpose room. In honor of the Christmas season, the movie will be the Polar Express. The admission price is $7 which includes hot cocoa, a cookie, and a bell. Families will want to wear their pajamas, bring blankets, a favorite stuffed toy, and a pillow to lie on. To purchase tickets, see one of the fourth grade teachers. Come show off your Christmas spirit.

SANTA’S ELVES IN MORONGO VALLEY TOMORROW EVENING

Santa’s elves will visit some families in Morongo Valley Friday evening. Reporter Mike Lipsitz puts on his pointy elf shoes and digs into his bag of goodies to tell us more…
In Morongo Valley tomorrow evening, Santa’s elves will brighten the holidays for more than three dozen families. Now in its eighth year, the Morongo Valley Chamber’s Christmas Cheer delivers warm clothes, toys, nutritious treats and other necessities to local children in need. Volunteers worked with Morongo Valley’s Elementary School, Youth Sports League, and parents to identify where the need is greatest. This year will break all records with more than 100 children, primarily ages 3 to 10, on the list. It’s twice as many as usual said Janet Osborne, a volunteer organizer for Christmas Cheer. But, she says, the community really pulled together and brought in almost $4,000 for the effort.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS: SCORES AND SCHEDULES

The Yucca Valley High School boys’ basketball team visited Sultana last night and came up just short by a final score of 63-65. Coach Gilbert Perry said they were led by seniors Trenton Pecaro with 29 points and JaShawn White with 17. The Trojans were able to stay within striking distance but could not pull out the victory.

The Yucca Valley High School Lady Trojan basketball team earned their fifth win in a row last night with a 39-15 victory over Sultana High School from Hesperia in Trojan Gym. Coach Jess Geeson said the girls jumped out to a 23-5 halftime lead and never let the Lady Sultans get closer as they improved their record to 6-4 on the season. Senior Hannah Hughes led all scorers with 17 points and freshman Taylor Spitz added eight points. Junior Ashley Priest hit for six points. The girls return to action on January 1 at the Loma Linda Holiday tournament.

Last night, the Trojan soccer fans watched a great match as the Varsity boys battled a very talented Sultana soccer team. The Trojan defense kept Sultana under constant pressure during the first half, scoring 2 goals. The second half, Sultana came out strong and a little more organized and scored their only goal. The Trojans beat Sultana 2-1. Coach Tee Vallo said standouts were Jonathan Teague, with one goal; Logan Vallo, one goal; and Abel Rodriguez with one assist. Next up for the Trojans, Village Christian December 26 at the Ontario Christian Tournament.

In high school sports today, the Yucca Valley High School boys’ basketball team host Hemet High School at home, with tip-off at 6:30.

Coming up in high school sports tomorrow, the Yucca Valley High School girls’ soccer team travels away to West Shores High School. Game time is 3:15.

The Yucca Valley High School wrestling team will participate in the Palm Springs Pow Wow Tournament tomorrow.