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SAVE THE DATE FOR TASTE OF MORONGO BASIN

Mark your calendar to save the date for the Eighth Annual Taste of Morongo. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Joshua Tree’s Foundation, the extremely popular event will be held Saturday, September 12 at the Bell Center at Copper Mountain College. Taste of Morongo features food from about a dozen local restaurants, as they compete to win over your taste buds. There will also be raffles and music. Proceeds go toward high school scholarships, student leadership camps, and local community service projects.


MAJOR EXERCISE STARTS SUNDAY ABOARD THE TWENTYNINE PALMS MARINE BASE

The Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center will hold a battalion-level exercise on the Twentynine Palms Marine base starting today, August 30, through September 8. Marines and sailors of Battalion Landing Team 2/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Pendleton, will take part in the training exercise. The battalion is the ground combat element of the 13th MEU (mew) and is preparing for deployment in early 2016. BLT-EX provides the battalion an opportunity to conduct live-fire combined arms training in its core mission essential tasks. The battalion exercise will run concurrently with the 13 MEU’s Realistic Urban Training Exercise, allowing the MEU command element to practice command and control of all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. The MAGTF (mag taff) is composed of a command element, ground combat element, air combat element and logistics combat element.


SUSPECT IN CUSTODY FOLLOWING ARSON FIRE AT WALMART

A suspect is in custody following an arson fire at Wal-mart early this morning. About 1:30 a.m., propane tanks stored outside the garden area caught on fire in front of the store. When firefighters from Yucca Valley, Yucca Mesa, Joshua Tree, Wonder Valley, the Combat Center, and Morongo Valley arrived, flames were showing and the fire had spread into the eaves of the roof and was burning fertilizer and other items in the garden area. Quick work by firefighters contained the fire to the garden area of the Walmart. There were no injuries.
Deputies and Wal-Mart management reviewed their video tapes and found detailed camera footage showing a man setting fire to the caged racks of propane tanks outside the garden area of the store by using an accelerant and a lighter. Yucca Valley Deputy Troy Kaukani immediately identified the suspect from the surveillance footage as 56-year-old Dennis Chance. Chance is a well-known transient who frequents the area and has had numerous contacts with Yucca Valley deputies. Deputies went to a nearby gas station where Chance was seen on surveillance video buying gasoline and pumping it into what appeared to be a white Clorox type-bottle approximately an hour before the incident. He left the store and was captured on video pouring the contents of the white bottle on the propane cages before igniting them. After an extensive search of the area, Kaukani found Chance, who was wearing the same clothing as seen on video. Dennis Chance, 56, was arrested on suspicion of arson. Dennis Chance was booked at the West Valley Detention Center with his bail set at $250,000.


Photo courtesy Carl Pillen

Photo courtesy Carl Pillen


Photo courtesy Carl Pillen

Photo courtesy Carl Pillen


HIGH-SPEED PURSUIT ENDS IN MOTORCYCLE CRASH, ARREST

A Twentynine Palms man was arrested following a high-speed pursuit through residential streets and crash. Shortly after 2 p.m., a deputy tried to make a traffic stop on Rene Ruiz, 19, near Highway 62 and El Rey Avenue in Twentynine Palms. A Sheriff’s report states that Ruiz fled on his motorcycle, blew through a traffic light, two stop signs, and drove through opposing lanes of traffic at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour. Ruiz lost control of his bike near Larrea Avenue and Two Mile Road and crashed into the desert. Ruiz suffered road rash and other minor injuries; he was taken to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs and then arrested for investigation of felony failure to yield. Rene Ruiz was booked at the West Valley Detention Center with his bail set at $100,000.


STATE SUSPENDS EXIT EXAM REQUIREMENTS FOR HIGH SCHOOL

Since 2006, all California high school students have been required to pass the California High School Exit Exam, or CAHSEE, before they could receive their diploma. The exam tests students’ knowledge and competency in math and English. However, with the change over to Common Core standards, the testing was abruptly canceled, which meant some students would not receive their diploma because they had not yet passed the exam. On Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that scraps the requirement for about 10 seniors in the Morongo Unified School District Class of 2015. Managing editor Tami Roleff talked with Morongo Unified School District Superintendent Tom Baumgarten about how the change would affect local students in the class of 2016…
Morongo Unified School District Superintendent Tom Baumgarten said that if the CAHSEE requirement is dropped, it would affect a very small number of local students who haven’t passed the test yet. “Our schools have worked really hard, so the percentage is getting lower every year, and it’s probably less than 10 percent of the entire senior class would have this issue.” In fact, the cancellation of CAHSEE would affect 29 seniors—out of a total of 482 in the entire senior class of 2016—at Yucca Valley High, Twentynine Palms High, and Black Rock High schools. A bill that would eliminate the requirement for current students is expected to be passed when the legislature comes back from break. “Students who have currently not passed it would not be held to that graduation requirement. You can see the conundrum; they won’t be able to take it any longer. Baumgarten says dropping the CAHSEE requirement would be good news for those 29 Morongo Basin seniors. “They would be able to graduate without taking the CAHSEE. ”


MORONGO BASIN HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL KICKS OFF TONIGHT

High school sports are back today with three football games. The Yucca Valley High School Trojans will host Granite Hills at home at 7 p.m. The Twentynine Palms High School Wildcats will host a scrimmage against Temple City at home. The junior varsity game starts at 5, with the varsity game following. The Joshua Springs Lightning will play Spring Mountain High School in Las Vegas, starting at 3 p.m.


PIONEER PASS CHALLENGE GOES BACK TO ITS ROOTS

The 55th annual Pioneer Pass Challenge sees the unique event returning to its roots. Reporter Mike Lipsitz tells you how to sign up for this very extreme golf event…
The 2015 Pioneer Pass Golf Challenge returns to the original site of the Blue Skies Golf Course and the new Hawk’s Landing Golf Club September 4 and 5. Sign up for 18 holes on the links at Hawk’s Landing and a full day, nine holes in the mountains coming down from Big Bear. Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Yucca Valley and the Morongo Basin Historical Society, this is a 55-year tradition and extreme golf at its best. Both days are $130 and benefit local non-profits and charities. Register by this Saturday, August 29. For more information call Debbie at 760-365-3315 or Shelley at 760-228-3447. Sponsorship opportunities are still available.


JOSHUA TREE CHAMBER MIXER TONIGHT

Mojave Sands and Joshua Tree Chamber of Commerce are holding their Second Annual End of Summer Mixer on Sunday, August 30, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Mojave Sands. (corner of Hwy 62 and Sunburst). There will be fabulous prizes, great food to purchase and local musicians. Come prepared to have fun and network with others in the community. There will also be an opportunity to sign up for Chamber membership.


YUCCA MESA POTLUCK DINNER TONIGHT

The Yucca Mesa Improvement Association will hold its regular potluck dinner Friday, August 28. The evening will cover sustainable energy, from rainwater harvesting, gray water systems, and private solar energy, as well as septic systems as related to the sewer project in Yucca Valley. The potluck starts at 6 p.m. at the Yucca Mesa Community Center.


PIONEER DAYS CONTESTS KICK OFF THE EVENT SEPTEMBER 19TH

The Twentynine Palms Pioneer Days will hold three contests during the kick-off on Saturday, September 19, at Luckie Park in Twentynine Palms. At noon is the hat contest for Best Men’s Hat, Best Women’s Hat, and Best Children’s Hat. The pie baking contest starts at 1 p.m. (although pies must be received by 12:30) and winners will be Most Visually Appealing, Just Like Mama Used to Make, and Up-and-Coming Pie Maker (for entrants below 12 years old). Reporter Sara Snyder has the details on the tattoo contest…
Starting at 2 is the tattoo contest with winners for Best Men’s Tattoo, Best Women’s Tattoo, and Most Patriotic Tattoo. Tattoos must be of appropriate content and in a suitable area for family attendance. All contest winners will receive a ribbon as well as most deserved bragging rights. Contestants should sign up in person at the Pioneer Days Kick Off. For more information, call the Twentynine Palms Chamber of Commerce at 760-367-3445 or 29Chamber@29Chamber.org


YUCCA VALLEY RECREATION SOFTBALL LEAGUE TAKING APPLICATIONS

Yucca Valley Recreation is offering four adult slow pitch softball leagues, teams will play an average of ten games followed by playoffs and a championship game; league play begins the week of September 8. Teams may choose men’s league, ladies league and two coed leagues. Games will be played once a week at the Community Center with Ladies Monday; Coed Tuesday or Thursday; and Men’s Wednesday. The Town offers a Casual Coed division for teams that prefer a “decaf” level of play. Casual Coed is well-suited for newcomers as well as corporate or family teams that want to play for fun and exercise. Team managers must pay the league fee of $400 per team at the time of registration; team rosters are not required until the first game. Sponsored teams may display a dugout banner during their games. First place teams receive a League Champion trophy and player t-shirts; a second place trophy is awarded to the runner up. Umpire fees, scorekeeping, balls, lights and field preparation are all included. Registration for adult softball is available through August 31,at 5:00 p.m., or when divisions are full. Interested teams can register online at www.yucca-valley.org or in person at the Yucca Valley Community Center.


TWENTYNINE PALMS CITY COUNCIL PART 2: TRAFFIC LIGHTS AND A SCULPTURE

During a three-hour meeting Tuesday night, the Twentynine Palms City Council received an update on future traffic signals on the highway. CalTrans will install a signal at Utah Trail and Highway 62, with the state agency bearing 100 percent of the costs due to it being deemed a “safety issue.” The light is expected to be completed in the next fiscal year. A traffic signal at Lear Avenue is still awaiting the purchase of the right-of-way on the southeast corner of Lear and the highway, and the CalTrans permit process generally takes six to nine months. The signals at Encelia Avenue should arrive in mid-October. Council members asked about putting in a median or dividers on the highway east of Encelia to prevent motorists from making left turns into and out of the Stater Brothers parking lot. Medians are planned for the future, but staff will investigate installing temporary poles, similar to what’s on the highway in Morongo Valley. Council members were reminded that the entire construction costs for the lights at Encelia and Lear are funded through grants from the San Bernardino Association of Governments and state funds.
Also, Council members Cora Heiser and John Cole were appointed to an ad hoc committee with the Twentynine Palms Water District and Marine Corps Base to develop a wastewater master plan. Managing editor Tami Roleff concludes her two-part story about Tuesday’s city council meeting with this report about the pioneer women sculpture…
After rejecting the purchase of the Pioneer Women sculpture in June by noted artist Ricardo Breceda, the city council gave it a second chance at its meeting last night. The Public Arts Advisory Committee will pursue a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the sculpture, and as well as for one of a Chemehuevi Indian woman, with grants from local Indian tribes. The consensus was that the pioneer women statue should be placed near the Old Schoolhouse Museum.


TWO YUCCA VALLEY RESIDENTS FACE CHILD ABUSE CHARGES

Two Yucca Valley residents were arrested Tuesday and are facing possible child endangerment charges. According to a Sheriff’s report, deputies were called to a home in the 7800 block of Valley Vista Avenue about 2 p.m. for a report of a man and woman fighting. During a parole compliance check of the home, a deputy discovered drugs, drug paraphernalia, and ammunition. Also in the home was a 12-year-old girl. After an investigation, Danielle Gonzalez, 35, and Jason Erickson, 37, were arrested on suspicion of felony child cruelty and being a felon in possession of ammunition. Erickson was also arrested for violating the terms of his parole. Danielle Gonzalez and Jason Erickson were booked at the Morongo Basin Jail with their bail set at $100,000 each. The girl was placed with Child Protective Services.


TWENTYNINE PALMS WATER DISTRICT MOVES COUNTY TAKEOVER OF THE FIRE DEPARTMENT FORWARD

The Twentynine Palms Water District Board took the next step in turning over responsibility for fire protection to the county last night. Reporter Mike Lipsitz was at that meeting and files this report…
Last night the governing board for the Twentynine Palms Fire Department voted to move forward with the application to the Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO, for takeover of fire service by San Bernardino County. The vote was 3-1-1 with Director Carol Giannini voting against, and Director Sam Moore absent. In his presentation, Fire Chief Jim Thompson stressed some urgency in moving forward with the LAFCO application because he warned both Hesperia and San Bernardino city would soon be petitioning LAFCO for county takeover as well. The application fee alone, which initiates LAFCO’s study to determine the feasibility of a takeover, comes with a $70,000 price tag. In water business, directors amended the 2015/2016 fiscal year budget to account for $62,000 in fuel costs inadvertently omitted when the budget was approved earlier this year. And in his report, General Manager Ray Kolisz reported water consumption was down down 20 percent, still short of the 28 percent called for by the state, but called “very positive” by Kolisz.


MAJOR EXERCISE STARTS SUNDAY ABOARD THE TWENTYNINE PALMS MARINE BASE

The Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center will hold a battalion-level exercise on the Twentynine Palms Marine base starting Sunday, August 30, through September 8. Marines and sailors of Battalion Landing Team 2/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Camp Pendleton, will take part in the training exercise. The battalion is the ground combat element of the 13th MEU and is preparing for deployment in early 2016. BLT-EX provides the battalion an opportunity to conduct live-fire combined arms training in its core mission essential tasks. The battalion exercise will run concurrently with the 13 MEU’s Realistic Urban Training Exercise, allowing the MEU command element to practice command and control of all elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. The MAGTF is composed of a command element, ground combat element, air combat element and logistics combat element.


MISS YUCCA VALLEY PAGEANT APPLICATIONS NOW AVAILABLE

The Yucca Valley Rotary Club has applications available now for the annual Miss Yucca Valley Scholarship Pageant. Reporter Rebecca Havely has all the details…
The annual Miss Yucca Valley Scholarship Pageant is seeking applicants. The pageant will be held on February 6, 2016. Any Yucca Valley area high school junior may apply. Participants must be able to serve for one year in the Miss Yucca Valley Court at local civic functions as needed. You may apply online, by mail, email or in person. Online applications are due by September 28; go to yvrotary.org. You may mail the application or deliver it in person to Dr. Sheldon Hough’s office at 57463 Twentynine Palms Highway, Suite #204, Yucca Valley 92284, no later than October 1. Also due by October 1 are emailed applications; send those to info@missyuccavalley.org. For more information on the rules and procedures for the Miss Yucca Valley Scholarship Pageant visit yvrotary.org or call 760-365-6609.


BLOOD DRIVE IN YUCCA VALLEY TOMORROW

LifeStream will conduct a community blood drive on Friday, August 28, at Wal-Mart in Yucca Valley from 11 to 3. Donors will receive incentives. In addition, LifeStream now offers free cholesterol screening with every blood donation. Those aged 18 to 44 years may register for Be the Match bone marrow screening free of charge. To make an appointment to donate blood, call 800-TRY-GIVING


COLLEGE BOARD IN WORKSHOP SESSION TOMORROW

The Copper Mountain College Board of Trustees will hold a workshop/study session at 9 a.m. Friday, August 28. Among the items the trustees will discuss are trustee self-evaluation and goal setting, as well as goal-setting for the college superintendent/president. The workshop will be held in the community room of the Bell Center on the college campus in Joshua Tree.


HUGE SOLAR FARM APPROVED NEAR BLYTHE

The Bureau of Land Management announced earlier this week its approval of the Blythe Mesa Solar Power Project. The project will be built on former farm land, covering more than five square miles, just off Interstate 10 near the town of Blythe. The Blythe Mesa Solar Power project is the ninth energy project approved in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and is the third project near Blythe. This 485-megawatt project is expected to generate enough power for 120,000 homes.


FULL MOON 5K RUN IN YUCCA VALLEY FRIDAY NIGHT

Under a magnificent night sky, the Full Moon 5k Run is tomorrow night. Reporter Mike Lipsitz laces up his running shoes…
Runners of all ages, Yucca Valley’s 12th annual Full Moon 5K Run is this Friday, August 28, at 7:00 p.m. at Machris Park on Santa Barbara Drive in Yucca Valley. This is a challenging and beautiful 3.1-mile loop. Awards will go to the top men’s and women’s overall winners and the winners in each age category. An $18 entry fee gets you registered, an event t-shirt, and post-race refreshments. To enter the Full Moon 5K Run, register on-line at to the Community Services Office at the Yucca Valley Community Center, visit yucca-valley.org, or at the race from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. Z107.7 FM Community Radio is among the proud sponsors of the Full Moon 5K Run. For more information, call 760-369-7211.


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