Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia & Victorville Mull Joint PD & FD

(March 15) VICTOR VALLEY—Cities in the High Desert have resurrected a more-than-20-year-old proposal to unify their police and fire services.
When first brought up in 1991, the concept extended to the town of Apple Valley and the cities of Hesperia and Victorville, all three of which contracted with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement services. Adelanto was not considered because it then had its own police force.
At that time, then-Victorville mayor Terry Caldwell endorsed the idea, as did then-Hesperia mayor Percy Bakker and then-Hesperia councilman Mike Lampignano, and then-Apple Valley mayor Kathy Davis and then-Apple Valley councilman Nick DePrisco. The creation of the joint powers authority to form  a public safety cooperative never fully manifested, however.
In 2002, the city of Adelanto dissolved its police department and contracted with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement services.
In recent months, a dialogue has developed among Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia and Victorville officials about undertaking a study to determine the feasibility of creating unified police and fire services under the aegis of a public safety joint powers authority involving all four municipalities.
Late last month, the Adelanto City Council consented to put up as much as $50,000 to cover the estimated $200,000 cost of such a study. Previously, officials in Hesperia, Victorville and Apple Valley appropriated their share of that study cost. A few residents have expressed skepticism over the efficacy of such an expenditure and some have suggested the cities and town could farm the study out to existing staff members, including city managers and finance directors, to complete the study at no cost.
In Adelanto, the city at present pays the sheriff’s department $4,511,459 annually for  law enforcement services and allots another $100,000 per year for overtime, on-call  and other law enforcement-related expenses and $65,000 for sheriff’s vehicle maintenance for a total law enforcement budget of $4,706,459.  For the $4,706,459, Adelanto is provided with a part time lieutenant, three sergeants, two detectives, 15 full time  officers, one part time officer, two sheriff’s service specialists, four clerical workers and a motor pool assistant who devotes 40 percent of his work week to Adelanto.
Under its contract with the San Bernardino County Fire Department, Adelanto pays $3,117,634 per year for a force that consists of one battalion chief, six fire captains, six engineers, six firefighter/paramedics and one paid call firefighter.
Apple Valley is now paying $10.7 million directly to the county sheriff to provide a 71-employee presence of both sworn and non-sworn personnel, vehicles, radio and dispatch, computers and equipment and a county administrative fee, augmented with another $553,251 separate from the county contract for support services to the sheriff’s contingent.
The Apple Valley Fire Protection District is an entity that is independent from the town.
Hesperia pays $12,174,790 million for police service through its $11,463,162 contract with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and another $711,628 for augmenting that service with vehicle fuel and maintenance.
Hesperia expends $8,253,243 annually on fire service, including a contract with the San Bernardino County Fire Department and maintaining the vehicles and facilities of  the Hesperia Fire Protection District.
In Victorville, the city is paying $18,523,78 to the sheriff’s department under its contract with them and another  $893,536 in outside contract expenses for a total of $19,417,318 to maintain law enforcement services.
Victorville’s budget for its fire department, which is also a division of the county fire department, is  $13,643,541.
The study would determine if the cities could save money and perhaps enhance services by pooling their financial resources and creating a valleywide public safety district with police and fire divisions, and terminating their contracts with the fire and sheriff’s departments of San Bernardino County.  Last year the county increased the administrative fees for the sheriff contracts from 3 to 5 percent. Additionally, the county’s chief executive officer, Greg Devereaux, has said the county is considering charging contract cities for equipment usage and services that have not been charged for in the past.

Lum Now In Control At Needles Hospital

(March 15) NEEDLES — Community Health Care Partners, Incorporated has assumed day-to-day management of the Colorado River Medical Center, pursuant to an intended eventual full takeover of the hospital and its grounds.
Based on a vote of the city council and the hospital board of trustees on February 26, effective March 1 Community Healthcare Partners, Inc. became interim manager of Colorado River Medical Center. The four separate documents drafted by city attorney John Pinkney and approved by the city council and hospital board on February 26 bypass a previous arrangement by which Community Healthcare Partners was to purchase the hospital outright for $2.577 million, and instead substituted a long term escrow process for the hospital’s purchase, an interim lease, a management agreement and a leaseback agreement.
Under the escrow and interim management and lease agreements, the city will receive most of the proposed purchase price for the hospital but will not immediately be paid for that portion of the sale relating to the land upon which the hospital is located. That is because the land was originally Bureau of Land Management property that was provided to the city sponsored foundation that built the hospital on the proviso that the property would always be devoted to a beneficial public service, which included a revisionary clause to have the property returned to the Bureau of Land Management. The sale of the hospital and the property on which it sits is therefore being held up by the Bureau of Land Management’s vetting of the sale and its arrangement. Until the hospital becomes an actual holding of Community Healthcare Partners, hospital employees will technically remain city employees.
Payments made for services rendered prior to March 1 will be revenue into the city. Payments for services rendered at the hospital thereafter will be made to Community Healthcare Partners, which is a company owned by Bing Lum. Lum and another  company he owns, AM Pharmacy, made a previous unsuccessful bid to purchase the hospital.
Pinkney said language in the documents signed on February 26 makes clear Community Health Care Partners will immediately pass back to the city any incoming revenue billed by the city prior to March 1. The city will also be responsible for any bills owed by the hospital to contractors, professionals, vendors or suppliers prior to March 1.
The city will use a portion of the sale money to satisfy those past bills.
The next major step is for the Bureau of Land Management to grant its approval of the interim lease agreement, which is anticipated by March 26 and in no case later than June 30. Upon the bureau’s approval of the interim lease, Community Healthcare Partners will put $2.2 million into an escrow account in anticipation of what is termed the first closing of escrow. Shortly thereafter, the status of hospital employees as city employees will end and their employer will become Community Healthcare Partners.
The second and final closing will happen once the BLM gives final approval of the transfer. At that point, Community Health Care Partners will pay the city another $377,000 to complete the purchase of the hospital and the land it sits upon in full. The second closing deadline has been set for no later than February, 22, 2015.
If the Bureau of Land Management balks at allowing the land transfer to Community Health Care Partners and the second closing has not occurred by February 22, 2015, then Community Healthcare Partners and the city will forge a 28-year lease agreement.
Lum told the Sentinel, “We could move into full ownership now but are awaiting a review by BLM [the Bureau of Land Management]. The city already owns the hospital along with the covenants on the land by the BLM, about 2.3 acres. We will soon own the rest. Most of the hospital footprint, the land, building and equipment will be transferred over to us very quickly. The only holdup is the BLM land. Both parties are allowing this to go forward with the current interim agreement lease while we are working this out with BLM. Whatever happens, it will not go beyond two years to resolve this problem.”
Lum continued, “The city as the seller and myself as the buyer have gone through a very long due diligence process to make sure the transaction will ultimately be successful for the city, the community and our company. We have achieved that and are now serving in a management role while both sides are continuing to resolve the BLM land issue. In the meantime we want to enhance the hospital services and ensure a robust hospital for the city of Needles and the Tri-state area.”

Tuesday’s Vote Sets Up May Contest Between Torres and Leon In 32nd

(March 15) Democrat Assemblywoman Norma Torres and Paul Leon, the Republican mayor of Ontario, will square off in May to determine who will succeed Gloria Negrete-McLeod as state senator in California’s 32nd Senatorial District.
Torres and Leon fought to the top of the heap of six candidates in the Tuesday March 12 special election that was held because Negrete-McLeod, who was reelected to a four-year term in the state Senate in 2010, resigned that post to depart to Washington D.C. after she was elected to Congress in November.
Torres proved the top vote-getter with 13,295 votes or 43.6 percent throughout the district, which spreads into both Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Leon polled 8,064 votes or 26.4 percent in both counties. Since no candidate captured a majority of the vote, a run-off will be held on May 14.
Democrat Larry Walker, the San Bernardino County treasurer-tax collector/auditor/controller, ran a distant third, with 4,232 votes in both counties or 13.9 percent.  Rialto School Board Member Joanne Gilbert, also a Democrat, received 2,134 votes, or seven percent. Pomona Planning Commissioner Ken Coble, a Republican, pulled in 1,989 votes, or 6.5 percent. Ontario City Councilman Paul Vincent Avila, a Democrat by registration who was disowned by his own party after he engaged in the highly unorthodox move of endorsing Leon, a Republican and his opponent in the race, brought in 785 votes in both counties, or 2.6 percent.
Torres had her best showing in Los Angeles County, where she was previously mayor of Pomona. According to the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters, she captured 2,925 votes there, or a whopping 57.02 percent. Leon captured 1,031 votes in Los Angeles County, or 20.1 percent.
Conversely, Leon had his strongest showing in San Bernardino County, though he still ran behind Torres. In San Bernardino County, Torres received 10,370 votes, or 40.88 percent. Leon captured 7,033 votes in his own county, or 27.72 percent.
The odds and circumstance would appear to favor Torres in the May 14 run-off. The 32nd District, which includes all of Pomona in Los Angeles County, and parts of San Bernardino County, including all of Bloomington, Fontana, Montclair, Muscoy, Ontario, and Rialto, and parts of Colton and San Bernardino, is a heavily Democrat-leaning jurisdiction, with 48 percent of its voters registered as Democrats and 28 percent registered Republican. On March 12, the four Democratic candidates – Torres, Walker, Gilbert and Avila – received 67 percent of the votes cast. The two Republicans – Leon and Coble – captured less than half of that at 33 percent.  Torres, who is a serving member of the state legislature, having been reelected to a third term in the Assembly in November, has a political fundraising advantage as well.
On March 13, she told the Sentinel, “I’m very happy with the results. We think we had a very good showing at the polls although the overall voter turnout was not as high as I would have preferred. We did our best to get out the vote. I am now looking toward moving and representing an even larger area.”
As for the May 14 showdown with Leon, Torres said “I’m very confident and not just because of the huge Democratic registration lead in the district but I am confident because of the number of votes I got this time around. If you look at the percentage by which I won, I outperformed both of the Republican candidates by a substantial number.“
Torres said that on one level moving up to the Senate “is going to be twice as much work as being in the Assembly” but that she welcomes the challenge. “I have already invested time in conducting polls and reaching out to the voters in the district, a part of which I have represented in the Assembly for a long time. There is a lot of work to do out there and I am anxious to start.”
Leon told the Sentinel, “I think we did quite well. We were able to get into the run-off without drawing on funding from throughout the state. My contributions came pretty much from local sources, friends, acquaintances who like what the campaign had to say, people who support my positions on the issues. We are now in the position we wanted to be in. We made it through the primary and have made it into the run-off. It’s the dawn of a new day and we’re ready to get going with the next phase of the campaign.”
Leon says he is unfazed by Torres’ relatively strong showing, which he said was in some measure an outgrowth of the million dollars she poured into the campaign. He said he would pound the pavement to “knock on doors” in making his pitch that he deserves to go to Sacramento to represent the people of the 32nd District. He said he would wage “a classic, standard campaign. We will raise money, put mail in people’s mailboxes, make phone calls, spread the message. We will maximize the funding we have by being smart with the money we collect.”
Leon said he believed he could overcome the Republican Party’s registration disadvantage in the 32nd District by “showing people can benefit from our philosophy and our approach to government. I think I will be seen as the better candidate if people look at what we have accomplished in the city of Ontario with balanced budgets, creating jobs by increasing economic opportunity, and reducing crime. My qualifications proceed me. I have built up the trust of people with what I have done in city government. I want to take that trust to the state level.”
The Republican Party has a stake in the outcome of the race in the 32nd Senatorial District, as last November the GOP suffered its worst electoral showing in California history. The Democrats, who already had the advantage of holding the governor’s position and majorities in both the Assembly and Senate, achieved supermajority status in both houses of the legislature, meaning the Democratic delegation in Sacramento can impose new taxing authority over the state’s businesses entirely without any Republican support. Electing Leon, an anti-tax, anti-regulation Republican who happens to be Hispanic, would represent an inroad into the Democratic domination of Sacramento politics, though it is unclear whether the Republican Party, which is still reeling from the loss in November, has the wherewithal to mount a well-financed campaign on Leon’s behalf to assist him in overcoming Torres’ apparent advantage.
The winner of the May 14 race will serve out the remainder of Negrete-McLeod’s Senate term, which expires in December 2014.

$51M Later, County Drops Colonies Recovery Lawsuit

After the expenditure of more than $50 million in public funds by all four entities, the county of San Bernardino this week dropped the litigation relating to the Colonies settlement it has been pursuing for nine years against the city of Upland, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the county’s own transportation agency, San Bernardino Associated Governments, known by its acronym SANBAG.
The suit was filed by the county in 2004 after the county and its flood control district were sued in 2002 by the Colonies Partners over drainage issues at the Colonies at San Antonio residential and Colonies Crossroads commercial subdivisions in northeast Upland. The county’s lawsuit against the three other governmental agencies was filed as a precaution before the Colonies Partners’ lawsuit went to trial, on the assumption that the other entities had some level of liability with regard to the issues involved in the underlying lawsuit. The Colonies Partners, which had obtained approval for its residential and commercial projects from the city of Upland, sued the county because its flood control division had diverted stormwater collected in what was known as the 20th Street Storm Drain onto its property. The 20th Street Storm Drain was a project built by the county at the city of Upland’s behest to alleviate flooding originating at the northwestern corner of Upland. The storm drain ran along the periphery of the 210 Freeway, which was built by Caltrans in part with money provided by SANBAG. It was the county’s contention that Upland’s commissioning of the stormdrain and its failure to spell out in the approval of the Colonies projects which entities bore responsibility for the provision of infrastructure and the mitigation of developmental impacts contributed in large measure to the circumstances which led the Colonies Partners to file suit, as did  Caltrans’ and SANBAG’s designing of the freeway. The county’s lawsuit for two years was a relatively inexpensive formality until a November 26, 2006 vote by the county board of supervisors to settle the Colonies lawsuit with a $102 million payout to the Colonies Partners. The 3-2 vote to settle the suit was favored by then-supervisors Bill Postmus and Paul Biane as well as Gary Ovitt, who remains on the board. Since that time, the legal war between the county and the three defendants has escalated, to the point that the county expended roughly $26 million in pursuing the suit, while Caltrans has spent $11 million defending itself, SANBAG spent $8 million and Upland about $6 million.
In addition to the seemingly interminable legal squabbling and the expense that entailed, other events and factors at last convinced the county to abandon the lawsuit.
In 2010, Postmus and the former president of the San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies’ union who had served as a consultant to the Colonies Partners, Jim Erwin, were indicted, charged with bribery and extortion with regard to the 2006 settlement vote that conferred the $102 million on the Colonies Partners. The following year, Postmus pleaded guilty to 14 of the counts contained in that indictment, including accepting a bribe from one of the managing principals in the Colonies Partners, Jeff Burum, as well as engaging in a conflict of interest, fraud and conspiracy. Postmus then went before another grand jury as a star witness and that grand jury issued a superseding indictment alleging conspiracy, bribery, extortion, fraud and misappropriation of public funds against Erwin, who had previously pleaded not guilty; Paul Biane, who had joined with Postmus in the 2006 vote to approve the settlement with the Colonies Partners; Mark Kirk, the chief of staff to Gary Ovitt, who had also voted for the settlement; and Burum. The indictment referenced three separate $100,000 donations made by Burum to political action committees controlled by Biane, Kirk and Erwin in addition to two $50,000 donations made to two political action committees controlled by Postmus.  Prosecutors allege those donations were in fact bribes. Kirk is alleged to have influenced Ovitt to support the settlement and Erwin is alleged to have assisted Burum in threatening Postmus and Biane prior to the vote. That criminal case is yet ongoing.
The county’s civil case against Upland, Caltrans, and SANBAG had been removed to the San Diego Superior Courtroom of Judge Ronald Prager. On February 5, Prager entered a finding that dismissed a major portion of the suit against the three civil defendants. Prager ruled that the county cannot compel Upland, SANBAG, and Caltrans to pay for a settlement that violated state law. He referenced both the state’s conflict of interest code, Government Code Section 1090, and Penal Code Section 182, the prohibition against bribery.
“Postmus’ guilty plea is evidence of a violation of section 1090,” Prager noted, which he said rendered the settlement with the Colonies Partners null and void. “SANBAG presented evidence that Postmus pled guilty to conspiracy to accept a bribe, in violation of penal code section 182 and having a conflict of interest in violation of section 1090 by accepting bribes from Jeff Burum to vote in favor of the settlement agreement,” Prager wrote. The activity Postmus and others engaged in was “unseemly… disgusting” and representative of the “worst of the worst” in government, Prager said, making it “fundamentally wrong to perpetuate this case.” Prager all but directed the county to seek to recover the money from the Colonies Partners rather than pursuing redress from the three governmental entities it had sued.  “I don’t understand why the county of San Bernardino is not going after the Colonies and getting their money back,” Prager said.
The board of supervisors on March 12 met in closed session and voted to finalize bringing an end to the county’s effort to recoup from  SANBAG, Upland and Caltrans the $102 million it paid to the Colonies Partners as a result of the November 2006 settlement. This week’s vote was made pursuant to an understanding among all four litigants that none of the parties would seek legal fees from each other in the case. The parties immediately informed Prager of the agreement.
Prager then issued an order that executed a  dismissal with prejudice of the entire lawsuit and all of its causes of action.

County Tab With Law Firm Working Rialto Perchlorate Case Now Exceeds $2 Million

(March 15) The county is set to increase by another $455,000 the $1.87 million it has already paid the law firm of Gallagher & Gallagher for assistance in staving off lawsuits relating to water contamination in northern Rialto.
The board of supervisors this week deferred  upping  Gallagher & Gallagher’s retainer to $2,325,000 while paperwork pertaining to the firm’s work is processed. The firm for four years has provided legal services to the county related to the former Broco facility closure at the Mid Valley  Landfill and other actions related to perchlorate contamination in Rialto’s aquifer.
In the late 1990s, a plume of contaminants containing perchlorate was found to be migrating through the local water table.
It is believed that five corporate entities – Pyro Spectaculars, Ken Thompson Inc., Chung Ming Wong, BF Goodrich, and Emhart Industries – were engaged in manufacturing activities that resulted in the accumulation and release of the perchlorate.
Water agency officials, state officials and federal officials believe the county of San Bernardino may have engaged in activity that exacerbated the perchlorate problem.
The county runs the Mid-Valley Landfill in north Rialto.
Officials with the Rialto-based West Valley Water District and their lawyers have alleged that San Bernardino County razed and buried a hazardous waste-disposal facility at the site, an act those officials maintain was not only illegal but has worsened the contamination of the groundwater below Rialto.
Broco Inc. maintained the hazardous-waste disposal operation in northern Rialto from the mid-1960s until the late 1980s. The county purchased the property in 1994 and used it in the expansion of the Mid-Valley Sanitary Landfill.
According to attorney Barry Groveman, who represents the West Valley Water District, it appears the county simply knocked the hazardous waste facility down and spread the debris around before burying it. That action was against the law, Groveman said.
Groveman said the county was in violation of state hazardous waste handling regulations and the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Burying hazardous waste and storing it without a permit is illegal.
In the area around the Broco site, Pyro Spectaculars, Ken Thompson Inc., Chung Ming Wong, BF Goodrich and Emhart Industries had operations that were ongoing in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Public health officials have identified that area as the origin of the plume of perchlorate.
Perchlorate is a product used in the manufacture of both fireworks and ordnance. In very minute quantities perchlorate can wreak havoc on the thyroid gland.
The site has been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as one of its Superfund sites, which makes federal funding for the remediation available but also carries with it a requirement that the parties responsible for the contamination assist in the effort. Simultaneously, the EPA will apply the Superfund money toward the remediation. Eventually, if any of the parties deemed responsible for the contamination refuse to sponsor or otherwise pay for a share of the remediation, the EPA will sue and under federal law, any party proven responsible will be required to pay triple the cost of that portion of the clean up for which it was the contaminating party.
The ability to impose triple damages serves as an incentive for the responsible entities to undertake the clean-up on their own or participate in funding an EPA-sponsored remediation.
Previously, the city of Rialto sued BF Goodrich over the contamination issue. Rialto dropped that lawsuit after the company agreed to undertake a remediation effort. BF Goodrich did pay a total of $4 million – $1 million each to the cities of Fontana, Rialto and Colton as well as to the West Valley Water District. That money was used to treat specific wells that were producing perchlorate-laden water but did not redress the underlying problems in the aquifer. BF Goodrich, like the other companies, will yet likely be on the hook for millions of dollars more in decontamination efforts.
An EPA-designed program of remediation, consisting of contaminated water being pumped out of the ground to then be treated and distributed to water districts, is underway. It will likely take two decades or more for the perchlorate levels to be reduced to acceptable limits.
Rialto officials had initially resisted the call to have the area declared a Superfund site, largely because doing so could have a deleterious impact on property values in the area. As the expense of completing a remediation of the problem has been driven home to city officials, it is now accepted that the Superfund designation is the only realistic way of coming to terms with the problem.
The county of San Bernardino, nevertheless, has committed  several million dollars to a court battle to obtain a finding that it is not responsible for the contamination.
In May 2009, then-county counsel Ruth Stringer convinced the county board of supervisors to retain Gallagher & Gallagher at a cost of  $710,000. The legal services Gallagher & Gallagher was to provide pertained to allegations against the county for perchlorate contamination in connection with particular matters that fall outside of the defense work covered by the county’s insurance. Gallagher & Gallagher currently represents the county in connection with the federal and state court litigation and federal and state agencies’ investigations of the perchlorate groundwater contamination in the Rialto-Colton Basin.
The board of supervisors previously approved three amendments to the Gallagher & Gallagher contract, in the amounts of $560,000 on March 23, 2010, $250,000 on December 10, 2010, and $350,000 on February 14, 2012.
Available records show Price Postel & Parma, another firm representing the county with regard to perchlorate contamination lititgation, had been paid $4 million by the county as of December 2009.
In a report to the board of supervisors dated March 12 from Jean-Rene Basle, the current county counsel, and Gerry Newcome, the county director of public works, it is stated, “Currently, outside legal services and consultant services remain necessary to assist county counsel and the solid waste management division with issues concerning implementation of the Broco Closure Plan, with continued legal services connected with the Zambelli settlement and to address continuing allegations of damages from third parties claiming that the county’s actions in the Rialto-Colton Basin have resulted in harm to certain parties not involved in the federal perchlorate litigation. Therefore, a further amendment to the contract is needed at this time in order for Gallagher & Gallagher to continue to provide necessary legal services and legal-consultant services to complete these matters. The other related matters that are outside the defense work covered by the county’s insurers include: (1) assistance with the implementation of the now-approved final closure plan for the Broco facility under submission to the Department of Toxic Substances Control, including: (a) technical support from a specialized technical consultant, Geo-Logic Associates, who provides professional geologists, certified engineering geologists and certified hydrogeologists to address technical implementation questions; and (b) addressing the continuing vigorous opposition to the county’s proposed plan by the West Valley Water District; (2) coordination, communication, and meetings with other interested agencies and parties concerning other perchlorate issues in the basin; (3) assistance with the defense of the Stout and Zambelli parties as required by the county’s settlement agreements with each of these parties and; (4) various settlement issues to the extent not otherwise covered by county insurance policies.” Stout and Zambelli are entities named in the litigation.
The board of supervisors held off on Basle’s request to increase the contract amount by $455,000, from $1,870,000 to 2,325,000, until a future date when billing and other documents from the firm have been provided.

Leading GOP Legislators Want XpressWest High Speed Rail Loan Killed

(March 15) XpressWest, a proposed high speed train to be built from Victorville to Las Vegas, has encountered a severe test this month, with two leading Republican lawmakers calling upon the Obama administration to reject a $5.5 billion loan to facilitate the project.
Until recently, the effort to establish the United States’ first bullet train as a park-and-ride project that would convey several hundred thousand travelers from Southern California to the Nevada gambling Mecca yearly appeared to be chugging along nicely. All of the environmental work for the project had been completed and most of the right-of-way acquisition accomplished. Nevada-based XpressWest was in the ultimate design stage for the project and awaiting finalization of federal loans to begin work on the undertaking, which promised to be a substantial boost to San Bernardino County’s economy during the construction phase of the project.
On March 6, however, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in which they characterized the  federal government’s provision of loans to complete the project a risky application of taxpayer money.
“We are deeply troubled by the prospects of subsidizing another costly, wasteful and risky high-speed rail project, particularly when our nation is facing a debt crisis,” Ryan and Sessions wrote. They said they wanted the government to cancel making the loan or at least postpone a decision on it until the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, makes an assessment of the viability of the project and the risk to taxpayers.
Ryan and Sessions’ call for the administration to back away from its support for the project was unexpected. Many of those connected to the project are themselves Republicans who have celebrated the project as a shining example of public-private participation in American innovation.  There is, as well, some political implication in the emergence of the Republican Congressional leadership’s opposition to the undertaking, in that the strongest backer of the project is Democratic Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who is also the Senate Majority Leader, and a lightning rod of controversy in the partisan bickering between the GOP and his party.
Reid, whose state stands to reap a long-term benefit from the project, reacted immediately to Ryan and Sessions’ letter, stating “We shouldn’t allow Tea Party-driven ideology to limit much-needed investments in our infrastructure that create thousands of direct and indirect jobs.”
XpressWest CEO Anthony Marnell II in short order fired off a letter to Ryan and Sessions, expressing “disappointment” in their letter, which he said relied “upon a report that was formulated using outdated information and faulty data.”
Marnell said, “The fact is that the XpressWest project would generate a wide array of benefits for Nevada, the western region and the nation at large.” Among these, Martell said, was that the train would “provide an efficient new transportation option in a corridor with a growing population, now served by highly congested highways and airspace” and that the project would “create approximately 80,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase in a region with unemployment rates significantly above the national average” and “upon completion, provide approximately 2,100 long-term permanent operational jobs, with an estimated economic output of $7.8 billion in the region.”
Marnell, a contractor whose large-scale projects include the Bellagio and Wynn hotel-casinos in Las Vegas, further touted XpressWest as a venture that will “launch a new generation of U.S. rail travel in a region desperate for alternative forms of transportation” as well as “lay the groundwork for future connectivity to other high-speed rail networks in the Pacific and Mountain West.”
A further benefit, Marnell said, would be that the system will “reduce the number of automobile trips and cut carbon emissions, thus reducing air pollution problems.”
Marnell said that pulling the plug on the project was a shortsighted move that would delay or eliminate crucial progress.
“The XpressWest project is perhaps the nation’s best current example of a public-private partnership,” Marnell said. “The rail will be financed through a combination of private capital and Railroad Infrastructure Financing funding. Under the terms of the Railroad Infrastructure Financing program, the XpressWest plan of finance demonstrates that the loan will be repaid in full over 35 years, including payment of interest. Our ridership study, conducted by the premier analysts in that industry, clearly supports our financing structure and the viability of the project. It is time to approve a viable project that has met every federal permitting requirement and stands ready to begin construction immediately upon financial approval. XpressWest is the only high-speed rail project in the United States positioned to jump-start a new industry that will have lasting public benefits and produce tangible near-term benefits that satisfy and achieve the government’s goals and priorities. There is no more worthy rail transportation infrastructure project in the United States.”

Foster, Quincey’s Shadow Manager In Hesperia & Upland, Departs Colton

(March 15) COLTON–Rod Foster, who held key administrative positions with four cities in San Bernardino County, including a just-concluded three year stint as city manager in Colton, has departed to become city manager in the Orange County municipality of Laguna Niguel.
Foster, who worked for the city of Chino early in his career in a mid-level management position, served as the de-facto city manager with the cities of Hesperia and Upland, though he was not officially elevated to that position, instead being designated at the assistant city manager in both the City of Progress and the City of Gracious Living, as Hesperia and Upland are known.
As deputy city manager in Hesperia, Foster was temporarily elevated to  interim city manager in 2001 following the departure of David Berger as city manager there. At that time, Robb Quincey, representing Western Water, had sought to convince the Hesperia City Council to sell off its water division to that company. The council declined to make that sale, but was so impressed with Quincey’s presentation that its members hired him to serve as city manager, despite Quincey having no previous municipal management experience.
For four years, Foster mentored Quincey, his boss, in how to run a city. When Upland, led by its then-mayor John Pomierski, equally impressed by Quincey’s outward appearance, lured him away from Hesperia to become city manager, Quincey insisted upon Upland hiring Foster as his next-in-command. A week after Quincey’s arrival in Upland, Foster signed on with Upland, where, for the next four years, he essentially ran that city. In November 2009, Colton hired Foster as city manager.
Foster’s value as a public administrator was starkly illustrated by his absence from Upland. After he departed, the Upland ship of state foundered and in 2011, Pomierski was indicted, and then pleaded guilty to bribery charges in 2012. Quincey followed Pomierski into infamy, being unceremoniously shown the door by the Upland City Council two months after Pomierski’s indictment. He has since been criminally charged by the district attorney’s office with  several felonies, including unlawful misappropriation of public money, gaining personal benefit from an official contract, and giving false testimony under oath. The case against him is still being pursued.
Foster, on the other hand, has been given accolades for his performance as a public administrator.
Though Colton ranks 13th in population among San Bernardino County’s 24 cities with 52,154 residents, it boasts the seventh largest overall budget of the county’s municipalities, taking in during 2012-13 $130,256,698 through all of its funds and spending $132,088,336 through those funds, including $34,021,995 in revenues into the general fund and $33,640,484 in expenditures from the general fund. Colton is the only city in San Bernardino County with its own electrical utility, and as such, has a more elaborate operation than many of the county’s cities. Though the size of the city’s payroll has decreased in recent years, it still boasts 254 full time employees.
Foster came into Colton at an extremely difficult and challenging time, several months after the departure of former city manager Daryl Parrish, who left Colton to become city manager with the city of Covina, taking with him the city’s finance director, Dilu DeAlwis. Shortly after their departure, the council learned that confident budget projections Parrish and DeAlwis had made previously were in error and that the city in fact had a $5.8 million deficit.
Foster immediately set about imposing several rounds of belt tightening, including substantial layoffs and salary and benefit cuts for remaining employees. This triggered virulent personal attacks on Foster, who with aplomb blunted and deflected those challenges by imposing upon himself an even heftier salary reduction than was being assessed against the rest of city staff.
He energetically pursued state and federal grants, even as the economy was contracting, consolidated city departments, radically reduced spending out of the city’s general fund, and beefed up the city’s general fund reserves from the $50,000 contained therein in 2009 to $2.3 million at present.
He also overcame the disadvantage of having to manage a city that was being ruled by a sharply divided city council, which involved a 4-3 ruling coalition headed by former mayor Kelly Chastain. In 2010, Chastain was defeated by former Colton Community Development Director David Zamora, who had been a casualty of Foster’s staff downsizing.  This put Zamora into political ascendency, but Foster deftly made himself indispensible to Zamora, as the city continued in its effort to turn a corner in stabilizing its finances. When David Zamora died in the summer of 2011 and was succeeded by his wife, Sara, Foster maintained his status as the technocrat leading the city.
That job was taking a toll on Foster, however, who was often working 50 to 56 hours per week to stay abreast of the challenges that continue to dog Colton. It was known that he was looking to find another city manager assignment more than 14 months ago.
“We’re losing a good administrator,” said councilman Frank Gonzales, who returned to the council in 2010, after last having served in 1994. Gonzales was first elected to the council in 1966 and was mayor of Colton in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s been a wonderful journey,” Foster told the city council at his official farewell to the city last week. “Thank you for having faith in me and for the opportunity to serve.” Foster’s last day with Colton was yesterday.
In Laguna Niguel, where there were 65 applicants for the city manager’s post, Foster will be paid an annual salary of $220,000, a 6 percent increase over his self-imposed reduced salary in Colton.

Joint Caltrans Barstow Project To Replace 83-Year-Old First Street Bridge

(March 15)  BARSTOW—Deemed barely adequate by current standards following a California Department of Transportation inspection, the 83-year-old First Avenue Bridge will be entirely replaced within the next six years.
Federal funding for the replacement, which is being administered through the state, has now been made available, city officials announced last week. The replacement project will begin by 2017 at the latest. The decision to make a wholesale replacement of the wooden-braced cement and steel truss bridge comes after a series of stopgap repairs on the structure were made between September and November last year.
Problems with the bridge, precipitated by an earthquake or trucks bearing excessive loads, were first recognized in 2003, triggering a directive from Caltrans that refurbishing and shoring up of the bridge be immediately undertaken. The bridge, built in 1930, is a key route of ingress  and egress at Barstow’s rail yard, the largest in the world.  Despite the Caltrans directive, no repairs were made and in 2010, the city of Barstow and Caltrans instituted weight limits on vehicles using the bridge, with the maximum load for a four-axle vehicle being 15 tons, well under the normal 40 ton legal  limit for most bridges.
In essence, traffic across the bridge was restricted to non-commercial vehicles such as cars, pickups, and SUVs, and small load commercial vehicles such as four-wheel stakebeds and the like. Larger vehicles such as 18-wheel tractor-trailers could not use the bridge. Moreover, large public transportation vehicles including busses and public safety vehicles like fire engines had to be routed around the bridge. In the case of fire emergencies in north Barstow, this represented a potential safety hazard, as fire battalions were delayed in their responses.
The work done on the bridge last year, which included repairs to a structural column and support bracing, has theoretically returned it to the 40-ton carrying capacity. The clearance for it to be redesignated to allow passage of 18-wheelers, busses, fire engines and the like is anticipated later this month. Nevertheless, in a Caltrans inspection completed after the repairs were made, the bridge was given a sufficiency rating of 3 out of 100.
Caltrans has put a priority on replacing the bridge, which will entail an overall project cost of  $44.5 million. Caltrans said it would make $39,382,500, or 88.5 percent of the cost of the project available, utilizing Caltrans Highway Bridge Program funds, most of which originate with U.S. Department of Transportation. Barstow will be counted upon to provide the remaining 11.5 percent, or $5,177,500.
The city last week selected Simon Wong Engineering to do the bridge design.

Supervisors’ Approval Of Raves At Amphitheater Triggers Objection

(March 15) The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has authorized Live Nation Entertainment to hold four rave events per year at the San Manuel Amphitheater beginning in April.
In granting the permission, the board amended the 25-year contract with the theater to allow it to stay open until 2 a.m. Live Nation will pay the county $1,500 per event, for a total of four raves per 12 months.
Valerie Henry, the president of the Devore Rural Protection Association, was highly critical of the county’s action, saying there had been inadequate noticing of the hearing at which the board made its vote as part of the consent calendar, which is reserved for what are considered to be noncontroversial issues.
“I never got notification of this issue being considered,’ she said. “This is a huge impact for Devore and the surrounding areas. Apparently the only concern was the infusion of cash into county coffers. I find it very difficult to understand the county being willing to subject the residents to such impacts for a mere $6,000.”
Henry said the county clearly realized raves created problems in the community, saying raves held at the Orange Show in San Bernardino last year generated complaints from residents in San Bernardino, Loma Linda and Grand Terrace. “Is that why the venue was relocated to Devore?” she asked, stating that the Devore residents were being “throw[n] to the wolves. Does the county have the resources to protect these same residents from the drug use, drug sales and the crime that will inundate the area? I am totally opposed to these type events.”

Spencer Uses Corporate Shells To Insinuate Himself Back Into Airport

(March 8) Nearly five months after a federal judge ordered what was widely hailed as Scot Spencer’s departure from San Bernardino International Airport, he appears to have insinuated himself once again into operations at the aerodrome.
Upon the shuttering of Norton Air Force Base in 1994, local officials in their civilian reuse strategy for the property sought to transform it into an international airport. After more than a decade, no success toward that goal was achieved, and in 2007, the board for the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, composed of representatives from the county of San Bernardino and the cities of Colton, Highland, Loma Linda and San Bernardino, hired Spencer, largely on the strength of his status as an airline industry insider, to serve as the contract developer of the base. Spencer was given that assignment despite his 1994 conviction for fraud that ensued after he and financier Jeffrey Chodorow sought to utilize the remaining assets from Braniff International Airways, which went bankrupt in 1982, to create Dallas-based Braniff International Airlines, Inc. Spencer and Chodorow were both convicted of fraud for absconding with $14 million of the company’s funds and Spencer served a four-year prison term from 1995 until 1999 as a result of that conviction.
Spencer had come to the airport authority’s attention when in 2005 he leased from the San Bernardino International Airport Authority the lion’s share of property at the airport, where several companies he was an owner or investor in set up shop.
Under Spencer’s guidance as contract developer, however, the airport fared no better than before in attracting major airlines, despite mammoth increases in taxpayer money spent in that effort. After four years of this hemorrhaging of red ink, the San Bernardino County Grand Jury in 2011 delivered a scathing report concerning Spencer’s mismanagement of the airport. This was followed by an FBI investigation into fraud and embezzlement, which involved a September 2011 raid by the FBI in which agents served search warrants at SBIAA headquarters and the offices of companies controlled by Spencer at the airport as well as his Riverside residence, the Loma Linda home and office of T. Milford Harrison and at the home and business office of Spencer’s father in Florida, seeking evidence of  bribery, conspiracy, money laundering and fraudulent use of federal funds.
Spencer and several of his business associates as well as local officials remain targets of interest in the Justice Department’s examination of the matter.
As the airport’s contract developer between 2007 and 2012, Spencer oversaw the expenditure of hundreds of millions of tax dollars applied to transform the one-time base into a thriving civilian airport.  Spencer’s management of what was supposed to be a $38 million renovation of the airport’s passenger terminal and a $7 million development of its concourse was dogged by cost overruns, boosting the combined cost of the passenger terminal and the concourse to $142 million. No commercial airlines have yet flown out of the airport, despite the completion of those improvements. Instead, Spencer exploited his position at the airport, showing favoritism toward companies he owned or controlled and set up at San Bernardino International Airport, including SBD Aircraft Services, Norton Aviation Maintenance Services, Unique Aviation, San Bernardino Airport Management, SBD Properties LLC, KCP Leasing and Services, SBAM Technics, and SBD Aircraft Services, to the detriment of other aviation-related companies located there. Spencer’s action resulted in decisions by Aeros Aeronautical Systems Corp. and BaySys West, both of which were making substantial lease payments for hangar space at the airport, to leave San Bernardino. Spencer also became a franchisee of the corporate jet-servicing company, Million Air, which was based at San Bernardino International Airport. Million Air terminated its relationship with Spencer last year after the company claimed Spencer had failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars he owed it.
Spencer also formed at least three business partnerships with T. Milford Harrison, who had formerly served as the executive director of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority and its sister agency, the Inland Valley Development Authority (IVDA), which is dedicated to the development of the property surrounding the airport.
By the summer of 2011, Spencer owed the county of San Bernardino more than $604,000 in unpaid taxes on property and equipment at the airport since 2005 and was in arrears on interest and principal payments on $1.2 million in loans to him through the airport authority.
Don Rogers, a certified public accountant and the founder of one of the Inland Empire’s most prestigious accounting firms, had been the executive director of the airport authority durng most of Spencer’s tenure there. Rogers found himself under fire for his tolerance of Spencer’s depredations. To replace Rogers, board members hired A.J. Wilson, who had previously served as the chief administrative officer of St. Louis, the city manager of Portland, Maine, Santa Ana, Pomona and Norco, as well as the executive director of the St. Louis County Municipal League, the Pomona Valley Educational Foundation, the Western Riverside Council of Governments, and the International Association of Arson Investigators.
Wilson was effective in prying the airport and its operations from Spencer’s grip. Largely on the strength of that accomplishment, the board in November extended Wilson’s contract at least through November of this year, increasing his original annual contract from $315,000 to $351,000.
Under Wilson, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA) reassessed its relationship with Spencer and the airport authority board moved to terminate nearly all of its contracts with Spencer. Simultaneously, the airport authority has placed the effort to woo airlines on a back burner and is now undertaking to market the facility to developers, entrepreneurs, aeronautics and aerospace companies and logistics and transportation service providers.
Spencer maneuvered to resist Wilson, declaring bankruptcy and dragging his feet with regard to vacating the premises he occupied, relying upon the convolutions contained in his leasing arrangements. Wilson utilized close to $500,000 to engage lawyers on the authority’s behalf, succeeding in the legal battle to dislodge him, or so it seemed, when on October 19, Federal Bankruptcy Judge Deborah Saltzman ruled that Spencer and his companies that remained at the airport had to depart in the face of revelations that two Spencer-owned and managed companies are no longer insuring their operations and indemnifying SBIAA. Spencer was forced to surrender his keys to the premises.
Spencer made an outward show of complying with Saltzman’s order, steadily shuttering his company’s operations at the airport until the only vestige of his presence there was repair work on a Boeing 767, owned by EL Management, being carried out by one of his companies, SBAM Technics, at bay 3 in the Hangar 763 complex. Spencer was able to keep SBAM Technics in place by sleight-of-hand. After naming SBAM Technics as the “successor in interest” to two other Spencer-owned concerns, Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services and Southern California Precision Aircraft, he substituted himself out as president of the corporation, and installed Jim Thompson, one of his associates, as president and CEO.
Recently, after FAA inspectors made their rounds at bay 3, SBAM Technics was determined to be deficient with regard to its licensure and was forced to surrender its certificate. The Boeing 767, however, remains on jacks at bay 3.
Into the void stepped Pulsar Aviation Services, Inc., which lacks FAA certification. Despite that lack of certification, the company has been accepted as a tenant at the airport. Pulsar Aviation Services, Inc., was a “shell” company, founded in 2003 by Spencer and Harrison, with Harrison designated the chief corporate officer. In October, Pulsar, which had lain dormant for more than six years with its only point of contact being a perpetually unanswered phone number, became active again as what its operators claimed was a “certified 145 Repair Station.”
Another Spencer corporate entity, Montana-based Aerospace Technologies, Inc., was brought into the mix. Aerospace Technologies, Inc., as another “successor in interest” to SBAM Technics, was sued by EL Management because of SBAM Technics failure to complete the work on the 767, despite the payment of $1.8 million for that work.
While airport authority officials are under the impression that Pulsar Aviation Services is being operated by David Reed, Ted Reed and Tim Reed, the company is actually owned by Spencer and Harrison. Moreover, Pulsar Aviation Services is using the same address, location, tooling and aircraft equipment in its operations that was formerly utilized by SBAM Technics, which is identical in nearly every respect to  Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services before it and Southern California Precision Aircraft before it.
Thus, it appears, Spencer remains active at San Bernardino International Airport.
Mike Harding, an aviation professional with interests at the airport, is the publisher of Airport Watch: SBD, which monthly reports on developments at San Bernardino International Airport.  Harding told the Sentinel that the shell game involving Southern California Precision Aircraft, Norton Aircraft Maintenance Services, SBAM Technics, Pulsar and Aerospace Technologies “is further evidence of Spencer’s and Harrison’s continued corruption of airport activities. It would appear that Scot Spencer, instead of skulking his way out the back door of San Bernardino Airport has instead retained the services of yet another willing front man to move yet another of his corporations in the front door.”
Harding said Spencer was doing his best to get “lost in the corporate shuffle” involving shell corporations he had created with Harrison.
Word this week was that Wilson is currently preparing to seize the Boeing 767 being serviced at bay 3 of Hangar 763 in lieu of the payments to the airport authority which Spencer is in arrears on. Efforts to obtain comment from Wilson were unsuccessful.