Failure To Address Jail Inmate Drugging Haunts Thomas’s HS Takeover

CaSonya Thomas

CaSonya Thomas

By Mark Gutglueck
Even before CaSonya Thomas is set to assume the position of San Bernardino County’s director of human services next month, she and the county find themselves immersed in controversy over charges she lacks a sufficient technical knowledge and understanding of the myriad disciplines she will be called upon to oversee. Accompanying that question is concern as to whether she possesses the strength of character to buck the county’s current bottom line-oriented managerial philosophy to insist that the county’s various social service divisions be headed by leaders possessing in-depth knowledge and expertise regarding the service each specific department provides.
In the recent past, San Bernardino County has found itself repeatedly reproached when the intricacies of some departmental operations have eluded the expertise of managerial staff. Indeed, Thomas, who is currently the head of one of the county divisions that falls under the authority of the larger human services division, the behavioral health department, has become the object of scrutiny and accusations that the service her current department is supposed to supply to county residents fell short because of her inability to exercise sufficient oversight on account of her lack of licensure and knowledge with regard to the psychological and psychiatric fields the behavioral health department is involved in.
Now, Thomas is poised to step up to overseeing the entirety of the human services division, which includes aging and adult services, animal care and control, behavioral health, child support services, children and family services, the so-called Children’s Network, environmental health services, homeless services, preschool services, public health, transitional assistance and veterans affairs.
Four of those divisions – behavioral health, children and family services, child support services and homeless services – are facing challenges at present. At least a portion of those challenges consist, observers have noted, of what underlings in those divisions consider to be unrealistic constraints, policies and performance criteria being imposed, or inadequate technical support being provided, by department management.
The county’s current administrative and managerial culture is a major function of the managerial and administrative philosophy and approach of the county’s top dog, county chief executive officer Greg Devereaux. Devereaux’s approach is to appoint what one member of the board of supervisors refers to as “bean counters” to head the county’s various departments. Merriam-Webster defines the term bean counter as “a person who helps to run a business and who only cares about money” and “a person involved in corporate or government financial decisions and especially one reluctant to spend money.” The sense of the supervisor’s statement was that county department heads are not steeped in the discipline or technical minutiae their particular departments are involved in but are there to conform the department’s operation to the financial parameters dictated by the board of supervisors, Devereaux and the county’s economic reality.
Devereaux’s reputation proceeded him before he was chosen to serve as the county’s chief executive officer in 2010. In Southern California he had made his first major mark when he stepped in to become Fontana’s director of redevelopment and housing in 1992. He quickly was handed further responsibility as the director of that city’s community development department. Fontana at that time was scandal-plagued and broke, teetering over an abyss of bankruptcy as a consequence of the bribery-tainted giveaways orchestrated by one of Fontana’s previous city managers, Jack Ratelle, in the 1970s and 1980s and its previous redevelopment/development director, Neil Stone, in the 1980s. Under Devereaux’s skillful guidance as housing, redevelopment and development director, Fontana began to rebuild itself. In July, 1993, the city council elevated Devereaux to the position of city manager and in that billet he righted Fontana’s listing financial ship, returning the city to solvency and laying a foundation that to this day serves as the bedrock by which Fontana has grown to become, well after his departure, what is the county’s second largest city population-wise.
So successful was Devereaux in Fontana that in September 1997, the City of Ontario poached him, persuading him with a $30,000 increase in salary to jump westward to become city manager there. Over the next dozen years, Devereaux used his seemingly innate ability to run a large organization and his nearly encyclopedic knowledge of how governmental entities articulate with one another, the applications and advantages of agency-to-agency privilege and courtesy and his mastery of the arcane world of tax law and the ins-and-outs of governmental revenue to transform Ontario into the county’s most expansive municipal governmental entity. For example, Devereuax used his realization of how governmental rules apply to sales tax revenue generation to embark on a concerted effort to persuade large corporations, through the use of incentives and other inducements, to establish their corporate headquarters within Ontario’s city limits. In this way, Devereaux made Ontario the “point of sale” for all transactions involving those companies, generating for Ontario tens of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue every other city in the county was missing out on. Under Devereaux, Ontario grew to become the single largest government operation – measured by revenues in and expenditures out – of all 24 of San Bernardino County’s cities, at its apex boasting a budget approaching $670 million dollars annually – two thirds of a billion dollars running through all of the city’s various funds. Ontario’s budget was more than three times its closest competitor within the county and more than the budgets of the county’s second, third, fourth and fifth next largest cities, combined.
Devereaux, whose governmental financial acumen was unparallelled locally, bestrode Ontario and indeed San Bernardino County and Southern California as a municipal managerial colossus, and Ontario was the object of envy by nearly every other city in the region over its fortune in having harnessed Devereaux’s genius for its betterment.
In late 2009, when relations between three of San Bernardino County’s supervisors and its then-county administrative officer Mark Uffer soured and Uffer was shown the door, supervisor Gary Ovitt, who had been Ontario mayor before his election to the board and had been a member of the Ontario City Council that lured Devereaux away from Fontana, inspired his colleagues to turn to Devereaux as Uffer’s replacement. In making that coup, however, the county board of supervisors made a raft of precedent-setting concessions. First, Devereaux was given the title of county chief executive officer, an uprating from county administrative officer that was both symbolic and real. Second, he was provided with a so-called superbonus, that is, a heretofore unheard of level of job security, specified in his employment contract as protection against his being terminated on a simple majority, i.e., 3 to 2, vote of the board. Rather, to effectuate his firing, the board must do so by either a 4 to 1 or 5 to 0 vote. Accompanying that was a two-year severance package, guaranteeing him 24 months of pay if he is terminated. Even more significant, however was that part of the contract that effectively puts him in charge of running the county unfettered by the board. While technically the board of supervisors remains as the county’s ultimate authority and Devereaux’s boss, in the most practical sense it is Devereaux who is in charge of virtually everything in the county. Traditionally, it was the board that provided the commanding vision of the county’s direction and set what the county policy was to be, and the county administrative officer would then execute on that vision and policy. In the Devereaux era it is Devereaux, based in some measure on the input he is given by the county’s department heads, who formulates what the county policy is. He presents that policy to the board, which then essentially ratifies, for the record, his policy. In only the rarest of circumstances over the last half dozen years has the board of supervisors exercised its authority in questioning or second-guessing Devereaux’s guidance of the county. Rarer still are the occasions where the board used its authority to countermand his decisions.
For the slightly more than half dozen years of Devereaux’s tenure as county CEO, the county has barreled ahead, overcoming the fiscal challenges that had stymied it previously. To be sure, on occasion the county has been buffeted by scandal or a problematic development; nevertheless, with Devereaux’s steady hand on the tiller, it has emerged intact, if not entirely unscathed. Devereaux, with aplomb, has insulated and protected the board from any, or at least most, untoward publicity that has resulted from the county’s operational faux pas.
If there is a legitimate criticism of Devereaux as a public administrator, it is one that rises out of his very strength: He is heavily bottom-line oriented. His focus falls more along the lines of keeping the institution solvent and up-and-running and capable of sustaining itself. When a conflict between adhering to the structure of budgetary limitation and departmental staff’s commitment to maintain the quality or comprehensiveness of a particular department’s real or philosophical goals emerges, decisions are generally made in favor of remaining with the spelled-out financial parameters. That is not to say Devereaux is not capable of slipping into micromanaging mode in which he will devote energy and time to nuts and bolts issues; staff at both the county and with cities where he previously worked have recounted incidents where he has on occasion at least temporarily proven himself almost obsessively dictatorial with regard to issues or projects that loomed large before the public or the governing boards he answers to. But because of the sheer enormity and span of his responsibility, his management ethos, nonetheless, is one that calls for installing managers atop each department that are loyal to him and on board with his goal of running all aspects of the operation in accordance with and within strict budgetary guidelines.
Devereaux’s aptitude and affinity for adherence to budgetary regimentation when he came to San Bernardino County was magnified as a consequence of the economic climate under which he was hired: As 2010 began, San Bernardino County was, as indeed were California and the entire nation, in the throes of a lingering recession, accompanied by dwindling revenues to governments in general and particular, which necessitated an extreme round of belt-tightening and forced economies. In that milieu and the years since the recession abated in 2013, the board of supervisors has been highly indulgent of Devereaux’s managerial and administrative approach, providing him with virtual carte blanche to choose county department heads and employ them in accordance with his overarching philosophy.
That policy has not been without its downside.
For years, in the county’s children and family services division, an unhealthy situation had been brewing. Workers within the division who had encountered during the normal course of their function what they considered to be circumstances in which children were in danger or being subjected to mistreatment or maltreatment, made little headway in reporting those circumstances up the chain of command and achieving what they hoped would be a salutary resolution. In some cases, the ultimate decision maker, the children and family services department head, failed to heed the reports or allowed the workers who made the reports to be disciplined for pursuing action that might complicate the department’s function, untrack previous decisions, strain department resources or result in greater expense. In one case, a worker who persisted in making the reports of child abuse lost his job when the department failed to retain him past his one-year probationary term as a county employee. The circumstance manifested into a full blown scandal last year when the deaths of two of the children at the hands of their parents or foster guardians were publicly revealed in a nationwide television report by Fox News. Earlier this year, the California Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation into the deaths and other circumstances in which San Bernardino County Children and Family Services failed to protect the children under their supervision in the face of indications they were living in abusive circumstances. Lawyers have taken up the cases of more than fifty children under the supervision of the children and family services division. Pending and contemplated lawsuits involving these children against the county represent a potential liability in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Another prickly issue is one involving CaSonya Thomas both directly and indirectly. Former inmates in the county’s jails report that the sheriff’s department routinely makes use of anti-psychotic drugs, tranquilizers and sedatives to render a significant portion of the inmates housed in the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department more manageable. These drugs in many cases have been dispensed against the will of the inmates, who report they are forced to take the drugs under pressure from their jailors, who often use other members of the inmate population to threaten those inmates with physical retribution if they do not ingest the pills they are given. Inmates who have spoken with the Sentinel estimated that as many as a third of the jailed inmates are being medicated. Neither the sheriff’s department nor the county has responded to Sentinel inquiries as to how many inmates or what percentage of the inmate population are being provided with anti-psychotics, tranquilizers or sedatives.
Into this mix is the consideration that Liberty Healthcare has dual contracts with the county/sheriff’s department, one for the provision of psychiatric care of inmates and one for providing so-called return-to-competency therapy for inmates previously declared by a court to lack the mental competency to face trial, therapy which is intended to be completed upon Liberty’s certification that the inmates are now capable of participating in their own defense and are ready to stand trial.
By law, drugs such as anti-psychotic agents, tranquilizers or sedatives cannot be dispensed to an individual without an order or prescription originating from a licensed psychiatrist. The clear inference is that psychiatrists employed by Liberty signed off on prescribing the drugs to the inmates. Neither Liberty nor the sheriff’s department has responded to inquiries concerning the protocol for prescribing and dispensing that medication to inmates. There have been suggestions that the dual contracts Liberty has for psychiatric care of inmates and for the return-to-competency services is a legal and professional conflict that is endangering the psychiatric and general welfare of the inmates upon whom the drugs are being foisted. It has been suggested that in order to keep its lucrative contract for providing the return-to competency service, Liberty has acquiesced in having its psychiatrists prescribe anti-psychotic drugs, tranquilizers and sedatives to inmates who do not, in fact, need them.
As the director of the county’s behavioral health department, Thomas authored or co-authored reports to the board of supervisors in which she recommended that Liberty be accepted as the contractor to provide both the psychiatric services and return-to-competency therapy and certification to inmates. In one of those reports, Thomas acknowledged that her department, the department of behavioral health, would be responsible for the continuing provision of medication to the inmates being medicated during their incarceration after their incarceration ended.
As public attention toward the circumstance involving the drugging of jail inmates has burgeoned, Thomas, in conjunction with higher and lower county officials, have sought to distance her from the controversy. At issue is the very core of Devereaux’s management approach. The question has become whether Thomas knew about the widespread chemical tranquilizing of jail inmates and whether, if she knew of it, she was able to appreciate the seriousness of the situation. Because she is not herself a psychiatrist or even a psychologist, Thomas may not have been sensitive to the consideration that such overuse of behavior altering substances was uncalled for and improper.
Had Thomas been a psychiatrist herself, she might have moved to countermand the profligate use of drugs in the jails. It has further been suggested that Thomas, in keeping with the ethos of Devereaux’s bottom-line oriented approach, simply went ahead with the policy of using drugs as a inmate population behavioral management tool because it met the imperative of limiting costs. While one county official, in an off-the-record statement, said that such an interpretation was not likely correct because of the cost of the medication involved, others have suggested that the county would be able to limit such costs because of the sheer volume of drugs being purchased and the economies of scale to be achieved with such bulk purchases.
A further suggestion is that Thomas is being rewarded at this point with the promotion to the head of human services because of her willingness to go along with a policy she knew was wrong and which other county higher-ups recognized as one that is highly questionable on a functional level, but in keeping with the county’s budgetary constraints.
The Sentinel persistently sought to reach Thomas for her input and response to such questions and to engage her in a dialogue involving these issues. The questions were diverted to her spokeswoman within the department of behavioral health, Aimara Freeman, who initially promised responses to questions if they were put in writing so Thomas could consider them in a contemplative setting. After the Sentinel submitted 22 such questions, Freeman responded with a two sentence response: “The department of behavioral health has no authority over the provision of jail mental health services or the contract with Liberty. Please direct your questions to the sheriff’s department.”
Captain Sam Fisk, who is the sheriff’s department’s administrative liaison with the board of supervisors, told the Sentinel that “we [the sheriff’s department] work with behavioral health in providing mental health care in the jails.” Fisk said the sheriff’s department coordinated with the department of behavioral health to ensure that inmates released from the jails continue to have access to the medication they were provided while incarcerated, adding it was “up to them,” i.e., the former inmates as to whether they wanted to continue with the medication once they were no longer in custody.
Freeman was unwilling to resolve the discrepancy between her insistence that Thomas had no oversight role over the provision of jail mental health services and Fisk’s statement. Nor was Freeman willing to square her statement that Thomas exercised no authority over the county/sheriff’s department contracts with Liberty Healthcare and Thomas’s co-authorship of the report relating to Liberty’s provision of the psychiatric care to inmates and its arrangement to provide competency restoration services to inmates, which the board of supervisors relied upon to approve those contracts.
Thomas spurned a question as to whether she would, as the director of human services, initiate a policy of requiring that all human service division department heads have licensure or a degree relating to the discipline that particular department involves.
Nor was she willing to provide information with regard to how many county residents formerly incarcerated in the county’s jails who had been provided with anti-psychotic drugs, tranquilizers or sedatives were subsequently provided with the same medications by her department following those inmates’ release from custody.
David Wert, the county’s official spokesman, said the Sentinel was “misinterpreting things. I have the distinct impression you believe the department of behavioral health has some degree of oversight over the provision of mental health services throughout the county or is some kind of regulating agency over the provision of mental health services generally throughout the county. That is not the role of the department of behavioral health. The department of behavioral health is a safety net organization. Its mission is to provide mental health services to individuals who otherwise cannot obtain mental health services on their own.”
Wert continued, “One doesn’t have to be a mental health practitioner to be director of the department of behavioral health. State law sets forth the qualifications for a department of behavioral health director, not county policy. CaSonya actually does possess academic healthcare certifications in addition to degrees in public administration and business. And to use the term ‘bean counter’ to describe an administrator indicates you don’t know what the term ‘bean counter’ means. You should look it up. She has to be able to manage a very complex department and in that department there is more to it than just what is on the mental health side. She must manage its budget, its contracts, its personnel. The department exists to provide mental health services to residents of the county who cannot afford them. It does not have oversight over hospitals, private practitioners and it doesn’t have oversight over the provision of mental health services in the jails.”
With regard to Thomas having coauthored the reports relating to Liberty’s contracts for providing mental health services in the jails, Wert said, “That may have been because CaSonya may have provided some input into determining who would get the contract. It is the sheriff’s responsibility to provide mental health care at the jails. The department of behavioral health does not have any oversight over operations at the jails. Nor does the board of supervisors have any oversight responsibility for mental health services at the jails, which are facilities operated by an independently elected official. It would be a horrible conflict of interest to have the board insert its will into something the voters have entrusted to another person. I don’t know why CaSonya’s name was on that agenda item. One possibility is that the department of behavioral health staff assisted the sheriff’s department in seeking out a qualified contractor, which turned out to be Liberty, but I don’t know that for sure. What I do know is that county departments of behavioral health, which under state law are under the authority of boards of supervisors, have zero oversight authority over the provision of mental health services in county jails, which under state law are under the jurisdiction of sheriffs who, under state law, are independently elected.”
With regard to the sheriff’s department’s practice of dispensing anti-psychotic agents, tranquilizers and sedatives to render the jail population more manageable, Wert said, “First, it seems to me that you haven’t established that what you say ‘appears’ to be happening is actually happening. I don’t think accusations by anonymous people who might have something to gain by claiming it’s happening is enough to make the leap you’re trying to make. It’s not right to accuse people of wrongdoing for allowing or not stopping something you haven’t established is happening. Have you even filed a California Public Records Act request for documents that might give weight to any of your claims? Feel free to come back when you have some documented proof, someone who is willing to identify themselves and state exactly what happened to them, or produce some documentation or doctor’s testimony that they were mistreated, or are willing to file a lawsuit and prove that something happened to them.”
The sheriff’s department has not responded to the Sentinel’s California Public Records Act request pertaining to its protocol for dispensing anti-psychotic drugs and tranquilizers, how many inmates were dispensed such drugs, what percentage of the jail population is on such a medication regime, and whether sheriff John McMahon has considered whether having the same vendor, Liberty Healthcare, providing both psychiatric care for the jails’ inmates and return-to-competency therapy and evaluations constitutes a conflict of interest.
Thomas is scheduled to assume the post of director of human services from the current director, Linda Haugan, in mid-October. Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a post-graduate degree in public administration, both from California State University San Bernardino. She also holds a certificate in health care compliance.
Thomas began her career with the county in 1991, in the entry-level position of eligibility worker in what is now known as the transitional assistance department. She has held a number of positions within human services over the course of her 25-year county career, including director of behavioral health, and executive and management positions within human services.
At the time of her selection by the board of supervisors in July, the county put out a statement that in part said, her career and promotion was an illustration of “the county’s successful efforts – mandated by the board of supervisors – to identify and develop talent from within the county organization, and ensure the county maintains a bench of qualified managers and executives to promote when vacancies occur. This practice will allow a nearly three-month transition for Thomas to work closely with Haugan before assuming her new role.”
Now, however, with her takeover date approaching and the scandals involving the abuse and deaths of children entrusted to the oversight of the children and family services division, the failure of the behavioral health division to stay atop the questionable and perhaps even illegal dispensing of anti-psychotic drugs and tranquilizers to inmates in the county jails and lesser but still serious problems in the child support and homeless services divisions, the board of supervisors is faced with questions about Thomas’s strength of character and ability to deal forthrightly with matters that if left unresolved have the potential of costing the county and its taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in court judgments.

Needles Grass Options: Co-ops And Grow-ops

Tona Belt, a Republican, is distinguishing herself as the Needles City Council candidate who opposes the growing cannabis industry in Needles, or so the rumor goes. Belt has not replied to an inquiry from the Sentinel to verify that report. Jerry Telles, another candidate vying for one of the three seats on the council, in contrast has expressed his strong support of the industry. Telles, in fact, is a part of the industry, being co-owner in a multi-state operation known as Paradise Wellness.
“I want to get elected to make sure that all the work that we have done in this city to provide a pathway for this important agricultural industry in our community does not get undone,” he messaged in an interview at the local “Desert Bones Democratic Club” meeting.
Under California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, groups can get a state license to grow, sell, manufacture, distribute or test the product. According to John Pinkney, the City of Needles’ legal council, “If you are a tester, you cannot engage in any of the other four acts, otherwise, you can operate in two of the other four areas in the range of permitted activities, that is, if the community you are operating in allows for it.”
Telles asserted, “This is an agricultural commodity and there is now a legitimate permit and application process set up in our community which is part of the entire regulatory process involving environmental review and taxation, Our city is now and will benefit from the 10% tax on gross revenues and the sale of electric and water utilities to the farms. The city can use this money to make improvements, pave streets, enhance our points of entry and rebuild the community. I don’t want the opportunity that we have to go away which could happen if someone is elected that doesn’t support the industry.”
It appears that Telles doesn’t really have that much to worry about with regard to the industry being threatened with dissolution by a new council. Former councilwoman Linda Kidd and the two incumbents who are rerunning, Tom Darcy and Shawn Gudmundsen, all Republicans, are all on the record as having voted for at least some of the ordinances that provide the groundwork for the current regulatory system in Needles. The Sentinel has attempted to contact three other candidates running for office – Tim Terrel, Clayton Hazlewood and John Wagner. The phone numbers for all three were disconnected or went continuously unanswered.
Ruth Musser-Lopez, who was also interviewed at the Desert Bones meeting along with Telles, stated that she does not oppose the medical marijuana industry and agreed with Telles that the potential benefit of the new agricultural industry in the community could change the complexion of the town. She added that “while I see the potential economic benefit and support it and the current regulatory process the city has put in place, it is still a fledgling process and there are bound to be some details that need to be worked out.” She added that, “being detached from the industry, I would be in a place to bring fairness and equity with regard to the decisions being made on the council level. There would not be a conflict for me to vote on issues that might arise involving operations.”
To the issue of potential conflict of interest, both Jerry Telles and his company’s attorney who accompanied him at the meeting vociferated that it would not be a conflict for the owner of one of the cooperatives, such as himself, to vote on matters that affected the industry in general as long as the matter did not specifically impact his own business.
Telles’ attorney is Sara Presler, the twice elected former myor of Flagstaff, Arizona. During her tenure as Flagstaff mayor, that city’s police department had a relatively aggressive enforcement policy, which included making a fair number of marijuana trafficking and possession arrests. Presler lives on Arizona side of the Colorado River.
Needles City Officials, in contrast to many or most other municipal officials in California, have embraced marijuana legalization and accessibility as a boon to the local economy. aNeedles City Manager Rick Daniels, earlier reported other benefits on top of what Telles expressed.
Needles owns and operates its own water and electrical utilities. Thus, Daniels suggested, the 24/7 use of electricity and water at the grow-ops year round will represent an influx of cash into the city. Such operations, he said, would employ twenty to 25 workers. He said the industry could be modulated to provide a relatively even cash flow, with harvesting occurring on a continual basis with planting scheduled on a coordinated schedule so that crops mature continuously.
The city has built into its licensing requirements for such facilities that it gets 10% tax on gross revenues.
Daniels believes it can serve as a magnet for grow operations in a way that other cities cannot, based on its existing licensing processes and its ability to offer growers lower rates on electricity – ten cents a kilowatt – and water than are available through other suppliers.
An incentive, according to Telles, is that medical marijuana cannot be imported from out of state, as this would be a violation of interstate commerce laws. With federal laws requiring that the product be grown in California, Telles said that Needles, with its inexpensive land and a cooperative government is the perfect location – paradise, he called it – for marijuana farmers. “Few cities provide the pathway that we do,” he crowed.
Telles characterized those against marijuana liberalization as “special interests.”
Marijuana is a panacea, he insisted. “Before people needing this drug were in the shadows. Under the compassionate use act, it become legit. “
He said the operations will generate jobs.
The Teamsters Union, which represents county workers, is positioning itself to represent marijuana industry employees. Union officials will push to make union membership for marijuana cultivation and sales workers mandatory and require that they receive hourly wages of not less than $20 and full medical, dental, and retirement benefits.

Lovingood Vs. Valles First District Race Features Stark Differences For Voters

Robert Lovingood

Robert Lovingood

There are stark differences between the two finalists in this year’s race for First District Supervisor. The incumbent, Robert Lovingood, after four years in office, is a fixture in the county’s political establishment.

Angela Valles

Angela Valles

The challenger, a former office holder, has garnered a reputation as a political outsider perennially cast, it seems, as a dissident challenging the status quo. Lovingood, despite his incumbency and status as a pillar of the government as it is currently composed, is a creature of the private sector, the owner of a successful employment agency. Valles’ professional associations are heavily identified with the public sector in that the most significant positions she has held were with public agencies or entities functioning under the aegis of a governmental contract. She began her professional career as a correctional officer in 1997 at the Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility, a privately-owned facility which had a contract with the California Department of Corrections. In time she would advance to become the warden at the prison. She is currently, and has been for most of the last eleven years an employee with the Victor Valley Waste Water Reclamation Authority, a joint powers agency which conjoins five governmental entities, including the Oro Grande and Spring Valley Lake San Bernardino County Service Areas, the City of Hesperia, the Town of Apple Valley and City of Victorville. Valles is married to Rick Roelle, a former Apple Valley mayor and councilman who is also a retired sheriff’s lieutenant and recipient of a $98,312.37 per year pension. As such, Valles has been endorsed by the union representing the county’s nearly 18,000 employees, Teamsters Local 1932.
This union endorsement of Valles, a challenger, is a rarity in San Bernardino politics, as the public employees unions reflexively support incumbent politicians, a safe ploy, as incumbent members of the board of supervisors since 1980 have won more than 78 percent of the contests they have participated in.
So, it would seem, Valles can count on getting solid support from government employees and their families, those who see it in their personal interest to provide public employees with job security and generous wages and benefits. And those public employee unions, including the Teamsters, stand ready to spend considerable money to promote Valles and her candidacy. Those political contributions will translate into her ability to purchase advertising – newspaper, radio and television spots – touting her ability to lead. And her political war chest, swelling with union and public employee provided funds, will be able to pay for slick and glossy mailers to be sent to the voters in the First District who in the past have most often showed up to vote either at the polls or by absentee ballot. Those mailers will almost assuredly depict Valles standing next to a sheriff’s car, talking to a deputy, in one photo; either in front of a fire station or next to a firetruck conversing with some firefighters in another photo; listening intently to some elderly people at one of the High Desert’s senior citizens centers; and in another photo speaking with a young mother pushing a stroller near a tot lot at a local park images that will appeal to the lowest common denominator among citizens who yet have faith in government. The upshot of the mailer will be that Valles is attuned to and attentive of the various needs of the community. That mailer will convince many people who have no strong feelings one way or the other to vote for her.
Conversely, Lovingood finds himself in the position of having to celebrate himself as the candidate who is not in step with public employees in general and the county’s public employees in particular. Unable to rely on funding from the government employees and their unions, Lovingood’s game plan consists of using his business credentials to provide him not only with entré to monetary donors but to also make credible and legitimate his claim to being in a position to “run the county like a business.”
Thus, Lovingood’s primary constituency in this year’s race are the many First District’s residents fed up with government intrusion into their lives through overregulation and taxation, the many citizens who see government as ineffective, and the significant number of voters who have come to resent county employees represented by a powerful public employees union that has extorted from the county’s political leadership salaries and wages two to three times the rate of what is paid in the private sector for comparable work augmented by pensions that dwarf their own. In this way, the race can be seen in terms of a contest between common citizens and governmental employees, with the former putting their faith in Lovingood, hoping he will carry forth proposals to take the public unions down a notch or two or maybe even three, resist demands that overpaid county workers be paid ever more, terminate unproductive members of county staff and reduce the burden on taxpayers generally.
Well before Valles declared her candidacy for supervisor, she threw down the gauntlet with Lovingood, charging that almost from the time he became supervisor nearly four years ago, there was an inherent conflict between his status as an aggressive businessman and his holding of public office.
By 2013, Valles had developed a theory that Lovingood, as supervisor and as the owner of ICR Staffing Services, was entangled in a conflict of interest that puts him at odds with the district’s residents. Valles maintains that ICR’s contract with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority has pushed Lovingood into the area of illegality, since one of the constituents of the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority is San Bernardino County and, by the terms of its charter, one of its board members is the First District Supervisor. Valles documented that ICR has received at least $560,000 in fees from the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority.
Lovingood, however, has refuted Valles’ claim, asserting that the conflict is a manufactured one. He points out that ICR’s contract with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority predated his election as supervisor and that he prudently avoided being seated as the authority’s board member, conscientiously and fastidiously remaining above such a conflict. Instead, Lovingood pointed out, James Ramos, one of his colleagues on the board of supervisors, has served in his stead on the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Board. Valles has retorted that this arrangement, in which the First District supervisor has not represented the Victor Valley’s residents but rather left them to be represented by someone who neither lives in the area nor was elected by them, violates the Victor Valley Wastewater Authority’s charter.
Lovingood’s forces have turned the tables on Valles, pointing out that she is employed by the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, such that she is now striving to become her own boss.
Lovingood’s strongest suit is that he embodies the ethos of the private sector. Unlike Valles, Lovingood has made his way in the world as a businessman, one who must meet a payroll every week, one who has provided gainful employment for his employees, one who pays taxes and feels the lash and burden of governmental regulation and taxation on his daily function. He proudly contrasts his resumé with that of Valles, who has worked much of her life in the public sector. Lovingood, as a taxpayer, can assert that he represents the common man in a way that Valles, who is supported by the taxpayers, simply cannot.
The incumbent, representing the lion’s share of the county’s desert residents, has put his strongest foot forward by championing aggressive construction and economic development in the desert.
Still others are concerned that Lovingood is too close to and too indulgent of the corporate world.
A case in point consists of his support of Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc.’s project to extract billions of gallons of ancient and pristine water lying in the aquifers of the East Mojave Desert, which it could then sell for use in urban Orange County, Los Angeles County and Riverside counties.
The loss of that water availability will, his opponents claim, limit the desert’s ability to achieve its own development potential, now and well into the future.
Cadiz, Inc. achieved permission to proceed with what it refers to as Cadiz Valley Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, which would sink 34 wells into the desert on property owned by the company to tap into water from the aquifers beneath both the Cadiz and Fenner valleys. The water will then be conveyed through a 44-mile long pipeline to be constructed along a railroad right-of-way until it meets up with the aqueduct that carries Colorado River water to the Los Angeles and Orange County metropolitan areas, Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County seved as the lead public agency overseeing the environmental assessment of and permitting of the project. The Santa Margarita Water District, the second-largest water agency in Orange County which is located more than 200 miles from where the 50,000 acre-feet of water is to be drawn on an annual basis, is one of the scheduled purchasers of the water, along with Three Valleys Water District, which provides water to the Pomona Valley, Walnut Valley, and Eastern San Gabriel Valley; the Golden State Water Company, which serves several communities in Southern California, including Claremont; Suburban Water Systems, which serves Covina, West Covina and La Mirada; and the Jurupa Community Services District, which serves Mira Loma in Riverside County.
There are significant numbers of desert residents who believe it was absolutely inappropriate for the ater agency from Orange County, in particular one which stood to benefit from the outcome, to have been allowed to oversee the California Environmental Quality Act review process for the project, given that the members of the Santa Margarita Water District Board do not represent the Mojave Desert and are not answerable to the Mojave Desert’s voters.
Moreover, the removal of that water from the region severely complicates, limits or obliterates the prospect that development will be able to take place in the region, as water availability is a requisite to such activity.
Four years ago, during Lovingood’s initial run for the board, the Cadiz Water Project was a roiling topic. Since then it has been delayed by legal, procedural and environmental challenges. Lovingood said at that time, “There is a storied history to the use of water in California and we wouldn’t have some of the urban areas we have if water was not taken from one place to be used in another,” Lovingood said. “Inherently, water rights come with property. I am in favor of property rights. If you own property, then there is ownership of the water. Much of this issue would be controlled by the environmental impact report.”
Valles said, “I am not taking large contributions from a company that is diverting our water in large amounts. I am not going to vote away our precious water resource, even if I am overruled by the other members of the board. We need our supervisors to protect our residents. I think it is shameful the way they have given away our water while we are in a drought.”
In the primary election held on June 7, with five candidates in the race – Lovingood, Valles, Valles’ husband Rick Roelle, Hesperia Councilman Bill Holland and and Hesperia Councilman Paul Russ, Lovingood polled 20,772 votes, or 36.55 percent. Valles captured 14,809 votes or 26.06 percent.
Different handicappers of the race interpret the June results more or less favorably for either of the candidates. Undeniably, Lovingood and Valles are in a footrace for the votes that three months ago went to Roelle, Holland and Russ. Some see in this an advantage to Lovingood, who outpolled Valles by more than ten percent and who now needs to pick up only a little more than a third of the 37.39 percent of the votes that went to the three also-rans in the June primary, while Valles in the general election will need to nearly double her showing in that race to win. Others, however, point out that as an incumbent, Lovingood was able to poll just slightly more than a third of the overall vote, meaning approaching two-thirds of the district’s voters were indisposed to retaining him in office.
Lovingood has the advantage of the support of his board colleagues, all of whom have endorsed him. Yet in the First District, the county’s largest supervisorial district geographically, voters are not enamored of or particularly respectful toward politicians from elsewhere in the county. That is a circumstance of geography. Much of the First District is remote and isolated from the rest of the districts. The Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth districts are located in a relatively compact area in comparison to the First District and share much common infrastructure which is not shared with the First District. Thus, historically, the First District has become something of an ill-treated stepsister compared to the remainder of the county. First District residents are highly conscious of that and are distrustful, disrespectful and dismissive of their supervisors who are too chummy with their San Bernardino colleagues. No First District supervisor since Arthur Doran, who was appointed by Governor C.C. Young on December 2, 1928 to succeed C.S. Crain as First District San Bernardino County Supervisor after Crain’s death and then served as supervisor until 1948, has managed to remain in office for more than two four-year terms. A political hazard that comes with the First District job is that good relations with one’s colleagues at the county seat seems to translate into disfavor with the voters in the district.

Three New Auditors Needed To Deal With Treasurer/Auditor’s Finance Tracking System

The Auditor-Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector’s office has hired three new accountants to assist in the office’s function, now that it is transitioning to a new auditing system.
Earlier this month, auditor-controller-treasurer-tax collector Oscar Valdez sought and received from the county board of supervisors permission to hire Raul Marquez and Charlene Huang as what are designated accountant IIIs, each at a total annual cost of $77,572, including $54,246 in salary with benefits of $23,326. Valdez further sought to hire Michael Sveinson, designated as an accountant II, for a total annual cost of $66,954, which includes a salary of $46,821 and benefits of $20,133. The board acceded to Valdez’s request.
Marquez, Huang and Sveinson are to stay in place from September 17, 2016 through December 30, 2018. The board also authorized Valdez to, at such time he deems appropriate, execute amendments to the contracts to extend the contract term for a maximum of three successive one-year periods on behalf of the county, subject to review by county counsel. County counsel is the county’s top in-house attorney.
The accountants are to work within the auditor-controller-tax collector’s controller and disbursements divisions.
Marquez, Huang and Sveinson were hired because of their presumed ability to wield the digitized accounting systems manufactured by SAP Public Services, Inc. and Labyringh Solutions, Inc.
On April 19, 2016, the board of supervisors approved contracts with SAP Public Services, Inc., for financial software license, maintenance and support services, and with Labyrinth Solutions, Inc., for Enterprise Financial Management System (EFMS) implementation consulting services, respectively. The EFMS Project is now replacing the county’s current Financial Accounting System (FAS).
The county’s EFMS team consists of the auditor-controller/treasurer/tax collector, county administrative office, finance and administration, human resources, and the information services department.
The accountant II and III positions in the management services section of the controller division have primary responsibilities of preparing, analyzing, and interpreting a variety of complex fiscal and financial reports; processing and monitoring budgets and certain claims, which require the application of cost accounting; establishing and evaluating accounting procedures and controls; and reviewing legislation for fiscal impact to the county.

Feds To Pay $3.914 M Toward $4.35 M Chino Airport Repair

James Jenkins

James Jenkins

The Federal Aviation Administration is going to pick up ninety percent of the estimated $4.349 million cost of upgrades at Chino Airport.
According to James Jenkins, San Bernardino County’s director of airports, the county is intent on making repairs and rehabilitation to Chino Airport’s northwest apron and its taxi-lanes, along with fixing what he calls “hot spots” there.
An airport apron is the area of an airport where aircraft are parked, unloaded or loaded, refueled, or boarded.
A taxiway is a path for aircraft at an airport connecting runways with aprons, hangars, terminals and other facilities.
A hot spot is defined as a location on an airport movement area with a history of potential risk of collision or runway incursion, and where heightened attention by pilots and drivers is necessary.
In a report dated September 13, Jenkins told the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, “The construction improvements to Chino Airport’s northwest apron, hot spots and taxi-lanes rehabilitation project will repair surface deformations and deficiencies including oxidation/weathering, longitudinal/transverse cracking, depressions, and rutting. Pavement rehabilitation methods may include treatments such as slurry sealing or milling existing surfaces and applying a new asphalt overlay. The use of FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and state grant funding to assist the department of airports with the project allows the department to operate in a fiscally-responsible and business-like manner and provides for the safety, health and social service needs of county residents.”
It is likely county taxpayers will pay for less than six percent of the project, Jenkins told the board.
“On January 28, 2016 the department of airports received authorization from the county’s chief executive officer to submit a grant application to the FAA for the project,” Jenkins said. “The FAA notified the department of the grant award on August 26, 2016. The recommended submission of an application for a state matching grant of up to 5 percent of the FAA grant award from the California Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics (Caltrans Aeronautics), subject to fund availability, would provide additional funding for the project. Caltrans Aeronautics requires a resolution be adopted by the board of supervisors documenting the individuals authorized to file the applications for funding; accept the allocation of funds for the project; execute the grant agreement; and naming the person authorized to sign any documents required to apply for and accept the funds on behalf of the county. Per county policy, the department will return to the board for authorization to execute the grant agreement and to accept the grant funds should the state matching grant application be successful.”
Jenkins said, “The total estimated cost of this project is $4,349,000. With approval of this item, 90 percent of the project costs ($3,914,100) will be covered by the FAA grant award and the anticipated state matching grant will further offset the county’s costs by 4.5 percent ($195,705). The county will be responsible for the remaining costs of $239,195, or 5.5 percent of the total costs associated with the completion of this project.”
The board approved accepting the federal grant and seeking the state grant.

County Rescinds Contract With Brinks For Armored Cash Transport

The relationship between San Bernardino County and the Brink’s armored car company appears to have gone south.
The board of supervisors this month moved to rescind approval of an earlier agreement made on June 28, 2016 with Brink’s, Inc. to provide armored car service to county locations from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2021.
The contract was worth roughly $300,000 per year to Brinks.
According to Laurie Rozko, the director of the county’s purchasing department, “Following a competitive solicitation process, the board of supervisors approved an agreement with Brink’s, Inc. on June 28, 2016 that was still under review by company officials in Texas and had not yet been signed. The board delegated authority to the chief executive officer to approve minor changes to the agreement if necessary. However, in July, as a result of the delay in the review process by Brink’s, the county’s banking vendor was able to extend service on a month-to-month basis through September 30, 2016.”
Rozko gave a somewhat elliptical account of how the county’s once-solid relationship with Brink’s has eroded.
“On December 21, 2015, the purchasing department released a request for proposals for armored car service,” Rozko said. “Proposals were received from two vendors by the submittal deadline: Brink’s, Inc. of Coppell, Texas, and Dunbar Armored, Inc., of Hunt Valley, MD. Proposals were evaluated by the purchasing department based on qualifications and experience, technical and service criteria, references, and cost. Brink’s, Inc. was determined to best meet the overall needs of the county. Brink’s initially indicated acceptance of the county’s standard contract language during the solicitation process, but later objected to numerous provisions of the recommended agreement in late July.”
In her report to the board of supervisors dated September 13, 2016, Rozko recommended that the board “rescind the agreement previously approved with Brink’s. Staff remains engaged in negotiations with Brink’s to finalize and present a revised agreement to the board for approval, but has determined that the county’s best interest will be served by having contracts with multiple vendors. As a result, staff began negotiating with the other qualified vendor who submitted a proposal in response to the request for proposals.”
Rozko then called upon the board of supervisors to “establish an agreement with Dunbar Armored, Inc. as a new county vendor. The county will have ability to add or delete locations at any time without penalty, and each department will be direct billed for its locations. The agreement provides for the county’s right to terminate without penalty with 30-day advance written notice.”
Among bandits, successfully knocking over a Brink’s truck is considered a pretty impressive accomplishment.
Many companies and entities operating armored cars – Purolator, Berkshire, Loomis, Wells Fargo RAM and the U.S. Postal Service among them – have fallen victim to daring and brazen robberies. Nevertheless, several robberies of Brink’s trucks, planes and facilities are the stuff of legend.
On February 18, 2013, eight masked gunmen pulled off what is now known as the 2013 Brussels Airport diamond heist. The perpetrators, in two cars with police markings and armed with Kalashnikov-type assault rifles and dressed as police officers, stole approximately €38 million worth of diamonds being transferred from a Brink’s armored van, which had driven from Antwerp, onto a Fokker 100 twin engine jet Swiss Flight LX789 operated by Helvetic Airways, which was bound for Zurich. The Fokker 100 was on the apron at Brussels Airport, Belgium, just before 20:00 CET. The heist was accomplished without a shot being fired.
On September 30, 2008, in Monroe, Washington, an innovative robber of a Brink’s truck took place. As a Brink’s armored car pulled up to make a delivery to the Bank of America, a landscaper, who was working the grounds and wearing a blue shirt, blue hat, and yellow safety vest, approached the armored car guard, pepper-sprayed him, stole $400,000 in cash, and fled the scene. When police arrived, they found the bank’s parking lot was full of men wearing identical clothing to the mysterious robber’s. All were “hired” by a phony ad, placed on Craigslist by a culprit whose identity was not immediately determined, instructing them to show up at the bank at the same time, wearing a blue shirt, blue hat, and yellow safety vest.
Months later, the FBI received a tip from a very attentive homeless man who had witnessed a “practice run” weeks prior to the robbery. DNA evidence later convicted former college football player Anthony Curcio of the crime.
On January 5, 1993, $7.4 million was stolen from the Brink’s Armored Car Depot in Rochester, New York, the fifth largest robbery in US history. Four men, Sam Millar, Rev. Patrick Moloney, former Rochester Police officer Thomas O’Connor, and Charles McCormick, all of whom had ties to the Provisional Irish Republican Army, were accused of the crime.
On November 26, 1983, there was an armed robbery at a warehouse near London’s Heathrow Airport, operated by Brink’s-Mat, a former joint venture between Brink’s and the London-based company MAT Transport, which specialized in the transportation of valuable goods. Three tons of gold bullion worth £26 million was stolen. Only a small amount of the gold has been recovered.
On April 24, 1980, 29-year-old Brinks guard Larry Roberts and his partner were delivering money to a Toronto Dominion bank inside the Agincourt Mall in Scarborough, Canada. Just before 1:30 PM, they were walking back to the armored truck, and Roberts was wheeling through the mall with three bags, which contained $178,500, the equivalent of US $144,000. Roberts, 29, a married father of a baby boy, was shot in the chest at close range and died at a nearby hospital. The other shot guard, Theodore Montgomery, eventually recovered. A third guard remained in the truck and wasn’t hurt. The two suspects who opened fire on the guards and grabbed the bags of money before fleeing into a nearby library were assisted by a third known accomplice, who fired shots into the ceiling. They exited the library through a rear door and fled in a green car. Two vehicles linked to the murder were later recovered. The blue 1975 Ford Gran Torino and the green 1977 Oldsmobile Delta were both stolen from the Montreal area and their license plates were stolen from the Ottawa area. The perpetrators have never been identified.

The great granddaddy of them all was the Great Brink’s Robbery, an armed robbery of the Brinks Building at the corner of Prince St. and Commercial St. in the North End of Boston, Massachusetts, on the night of January 17, 1950. Led by Boston small-time hood, Tony “Fats” Pino, 11 men broke in and stole $1,218,211.29 in cash, and $1,557,183.83 in checks, money orders, and other securities. At the time, it was the largest robbery in the history of the United States. Skillfully executed with only a bare minimum of clues left at the crime scene, the robbery was billed as “the crime of the century.”
All 11 members of the gang were later arrested, and all were paroled and released by 1971, except for one member, who died in prison. Despite ongoing efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local authorities, only $58,000 of the initial $2.7 million stolen was ever recovered.

Forum… Or Against ’em

Count von Olsen

By Count Friedrich von Olsen
Do any of you know who Paul Julius Freiherr von Reuter was? He died something like a couple of decades before I was born – in 1899. Paul Reuter, who was also known as Baron de Reuter, is the sort of guy I might know something about. So, in the spirit that my readers, or at least some of them, want to know what I know, here goes…
He was a German entrepreneur, born on July 21, 1816. He would become a major innovator – a pioneer of the forerunner of today’s media. He was involved in telegraphy and he used it to make a major stride in news reporting. He was both a reporter and and eventual media owner. Look at his name again, dear reader. Yes, he was the founder of Reuters, the Reuters News Agency.
At the time of his birth in Kassel, Germany, he was not known as Paul Julius Friherr von Reuter. His birth name was Israel Josaphat. His father was Samuel Levi Josaphat, a rabbi. His mother was Betty Sanders…
As a young man, he ended up in Göttingen, where he became acquainted with Carl Friedrich Gauss, who was experimenting with the transmission of electrical signals via wire. He did not master this cutting edge technology at that time, but it did make an impression on him. He went to work in a bank, as a teller…
Along the way, he met a Lutheran girl, Ida Maria Elizabeth Clementine Magnus of Berlin. Ida was the daughter of a Lutheran minister. In October of 1845, he sojourned to London, using the name Julius Josaphat. On November 16, 1845, in a ceremony at St. George’s German Lutheran Chapel in London he converted to Christianity and changed his name to Paul Julius Reuter. One week later, in the same chapel, he married Ida…
He returned to Berlin and in 1847 became a partner in Reuter and Stargardt, a Berlin book-publishing firm, one that involved itself in the printing and distribution of radical pamphlets during the 1848 Revolution. His radical ways became a focus of the government and late in 1848 he left for Paris and went to work as a journalist with the Charles-Louis Havas’ news agency, the future Agence France Presse. Telegraphy was evolving and advancing and Reuter returned to Germany, this time to Aachen, utilizing carrier pigeons to convey information between Brussels and Aachen. This linked Berlin to Paris. Pigeons were faster than the trains of that day. Reuter thus had faster access to financial news from the Paris stock exchange than others. He was exposed to those who set up a direct telegraph link, which obviated the need for the pigeons…
After a telegraph line was constructed between Britain and Europe, Reuter moved to England in 1851, where he opened a telegraph office near the London stock exchange. At first his business was confined mostly to commercial telegrams, but, with daily newspapers flourishing, he persuaded several publishers to subscribe to his service. His first spectacular success came in 1859 when he transmitted to London the text of a speech by Napoleon III foreshadowing the Austro-French Piedmontese war in Italy…
On March 17, 1857, Reuter was naturalized as a British subject. On September 7, 1871, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha conferred a barony (Freiherr) on Julius Reuter. The title was later “confirmed by Queen Victoria as conferring the privileges of the nobility in England.”
In 1863 he privately erected a telegraph link to Crookhaven, the farthest southwest point of Ireland. On nearing Crookhaven, ships from America threw canisters containing news into the sea. These were retrieved by Reuters and telegraphed directly to London, arriving long before the ships reached Cork…
With this stroke of genius, away Reuter went…
The spread of undersea cables helped Reuter extend his service to other continents. After several years of competition, Reuter and two rival services, Havas of France and Wolff of Germany, agreed on a geographic division of territory, leaving Havas and Wolff their respective countries, parts of Europe, and South America. The three agencies held a virtual monopoly on world press services for many years…
In 1872, Nasir al-Din Shah, the Shah of Iran, signed an agreement with Reuter, a concession selling him all railroads, canals, most of the mines, all the government’s forests, and all future industries of Iran. George Nathaniel Curzon called it “The most complete and extraordinary surrender of the entire industrial resources of a kingdom into foreign hands that has ever been dreamed of.” The Reuter concession was immediately denounced by all of Persian society, and Reuter had to cancel it…
The Baron retired as managing director of Reuters in 1878…
Reuter had three sons; Herbert, 2nd Baron de Reuter (succeeded by his son Hubert as 3rd Baron), George Reuter and Alfred Reuter. Clementine Maria, one of his daughters, married Count Otto Stenbock, and after Stenbock’s death, Sir Herbert Chermside, a governor of Queensland. George had two sons, Oliver, 4th Baron de Reuter, and Ronald Reuter. The last member of the family, Marguerite, Baroness de Reuter, widow of the 4th Baron and Paul Julius Reuter’s granddaughter-in-law, died in 2009, at the age of 96.
Paul Julius Reuter died in 1899 at Villa Reuter, Nice, France. His final resting place is in West Norwood Cemetery in south London.

Nearly 40 Miles Of Repairs On National Trails Highway To Run $3.6 Million

The San Bernardino County Public Works Department will undertake a $3.6 million project to resurface two substantial segments of National Trails Highway between the communities of Newberry Springs and Ludlow.
The county has already secured 77.77 percent of the funding for the project from the county’s transportation agency.
According to San Bernardino County Public Works Director Gerry Newcombe, “The public works department’s operations division intends to utilize its own forces to apply maintenance overlay on National Trails Highway. The project is located on two segments of National Trails Highway: segment 1, between Fort Cady Road and Lavic Road (18.3 miles) and segment 2, between 4.43 miles west of Amboy Road to 17 miles east of Amboy Road (21.43 miles). The scope of work for segment 1 is a maintenance overlay (just under 1 inch) and for segment 2 is a scrub seal. The project will improve the pavement condition of segment 1 and extend the life of the pavement in segment 2 by approximately 12 to 15 years.”
National Trails Highway is a historic highway of cultural significance that also functions as an important detour route for Interstate 40. However, due to its length – over 120 miles entirely within San Bernardino County that lie east of Barstow – and remote location, the cost of providing proper maintenance has been prohibitive. Many segments of the road have fallen into disrepair. Newcombe said segment 1 was selected for resurfacing because the existing pavement is currently in very poor condition. Segment 2 was selected for resurfacing because of a pending safety improvement project consisting of raised pavement markers that is being done because of the recent award of federal Highway Safety Improvement Project funds. The scrub seal is a proper preparation prior to installing the pavement markers, Newcombe said.
Total cost for the National Trails Highway resurfacing project is estimated to be $3,600,000 of which the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, known by its acronym SANBAG, will provide $2,800,000 in Measure I North Desert Subarea Major Local Highway Program (MLHP) funds as reimbursement for project costs.
The remaining $800,000 will be funded by the county as part of the 2016-17 Pavement Condition Improvement program.
SANBAG is the county’s joint powers transportation agency. Its 29-member board consists of a representative, either a mayor or council member, from each of the county’s 24 cities, and all five members of the board of supervisors. Measure I is a county-wide initiative first passed in 1989 to impose a half cent sales tax throughout the county for the purpose of providing funding for transportation improvements.

Route 66 Footprint Demolition In Needles Controversy Continues

The controversy relating to the destruction of what some consider an historic artifact will be revisited at the Tuesday, September 27 Needles City Council meeting.
That evening the council will take of the proposed demolition of a significant curve and median on the historic Mother Road – Route 66. Some Route 66 affectianados and historians say it is a unique feature. The council will consider a bid and most likely issue a notice of award to the Hal Hays Construction Company of Riverside, California in the “base bid” amount of $2,804,945.38 for the “I-40 Connector Project.”
The project involves widening to four lanes and installing traffic lights at three corners on an existing truck route connecting the Interstate 40 at a the J Street offramp in Needles with the bridge to Arizona 95 toward Bullhead City, Arizona.
Opponents informed the Sentinel that they will protest the award claiming that CalTrans and city officials conspired to avoid using the term “road expansion” and intentionally ignored the existence of historic structures including the curve and median and a multi-level brothel with underground passages to the train depot that would be impacted by the project and in so doing wrongfully represented that the federally funded project is a “categorical exclusion” exempt from the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement for public review of environmental impact disclosure.
A notice to proceed would be pending the company’s proof of a disadvantaged business enterprise certification.