Victor Valley Transit Authority Moves Into New $19 Million Headquarters

HESPERIA—Victor Valley Transit Authority employees on Monday began moving into their new headquarters.

The 28,820-square-foot administration and operations building was completed at a cost of $19 million, which is less than half the $42 million price projected for the facility in the engineer’s estimate in 2006.

By relocating the project from Hesperia Road and Ottawa Road to Smoktree Street and E Avenue and availing themselves of the reduction in construction costs made possible by the economic downturn of the last four years, agency officials were able to achieve the $23 million savings.

Located on a 10-acre parcel, the headquarters matches the modernity of the transit authority’s recently completed 15,750 square foot maintenance facility and its compressed natural gas fueling station.

Victor Valley Transit Authority provides local bus service for the communities of Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Victorville, and the unincorporated portion of San Bernardino County in the Victor Valley, serving over 1 million passengers a year.

Barstow Police Chief Burns Still On Leave

BARSTOW—Barstow police chief Dianne Burns remains away from her post at police department headquarters, four months after she took an extended vacation and more than three months after she was placed on administrative leave August 4.

Burns was scheduled to return from a two-week vacation on July 18, but had not returned to her office by that date. City officials have not specified the reason for her extended leave. Previous statements provided by city manager Curt Mitchell indicated Lt. Albert Ramirez is serving as acting police chief in Burns’ absence but Burns has not been relieved of her post as Barstow police chief and she yet retains her title and is receiving her full salary.

It was previously anticipated that negotiations to extend her tenure with the city would begin in the fall. By the terms of her contract, Burns serves entirely at the pleasure of Mitchell, who can terminate her for any reason he alone deems acceptable or for no stated cause whatsoever. The contract provides her with a 90-day severance package upon termination.

More than 90 days have elapsed since she was placed on leave. Mitchell would not comment on unconfirmed reports that Burns’ leave was medical in nature. He would not go beyond saying she remains on leave. “There is no change on the status of chief Burns,” Mitchell said. “That is pretty much it.”

BLM Approves Right-Of-Way For Victorville-To-Vegas Bullet Train

The Federal Bureau of Land Management on November 17 issued a record of decision that approves the right-of-way for the Desert Express, a proposed high-speed rail line linking Las Vegas and Victorville.

Much of the route for the high speed train parallels Interstate I-15, with one significant deviation in the Mountain Pass area, where the grade is too steep to accommodate the track over which the train will pass at roughly 145 miles per hour.

According to DesertXpress Enterprises LLC corporate officers, the 185 mile rail corridor will cover 3,621 acres, of which 2,800 acres are privately held property ad 821 acres are public land. The project proponent will also need to use another 95 acres during the construction phase of the project.

DesertXpress Enterprises LLC, which has already assembled $1.7 billion in financing, is in the process of qualifying for a $4.9 billion federal loan to complete the $6.5 billion project.

The Federal Rail Administration, which approved the project in concept 11 months ago, is the lead agency overseeing the loan application.

If DesertXpress Enterprises LLC lines up that financing, corporate officers have indicated that construction on the project will start by late next year and DesertXpress will begin transporting passengers in 2016.

Feinstein Signaling Opposition To Joshua Tree Indian Casino

Senator Diane Feinstein has gone on record as being opposed to the Twentynine Palms Band of Mission Indians’ proposal to establish a casino in Joshua Tree.

The Twentynine Palms Tribe’s members abandoned previous plans to develop what they hoped to call the Nüwü Casino on 160 acres of tribal land on their reservation south of Baseline Road and west of Adobe Road bordering Joshua Tree National Park in Twentynine Palms in favor of a 130-acre parcel on the north side of Twentynine Palms Highway west of White Feather Road east of downtown Joshua Tree and just east of Desert View Homes’ metal dinosaurs.

Both proposals called or call for a complex with spacious gaming rooms, a buffet, banquet room, shops, bowling lanes, an outdoor amphitheater, RV park, golf course and other resort-oriented improvements.

But the proximity of the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base and its 8,400 plus service members and dependents, which tribal officials considered a factor that would favor the casino’s success, incited strong resistance from the Department of Defense. When the National Park Service and Twentynine Palms residents registered their opposition, the tribe, led by Darrel Mike, substituted the Joshua Tree site, which is roughly 23 miles away from the reservation.

The 130-acres in Joshua Tree does not lie on what is recognized as the tribe’s ancestral land. To establish an Indian gaming facility there would require filing an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to place the land in a public trust. In getting that blessing, the tribe will need to transfer its right from its tribal property to the new site and make a case that the tribe had ancestral roots in the Joshua Tree area, where it had an historical relationship to the property in question by virtue of aboriginal activity, which included hunting, foraging and trading, in particular. This will likely entail an anthropological study to demonstrate the tribe’s ancestors ranged into Joshua Tree.

But even before that filing has been made, the Joshua Tree proposal has met local opposition. Far more Joshua Tree residents oppose the proposal than favor it. Among those opponents is Mark Butler, the superintendent at Joshua Tree National Park, and David Fick, a member of the Joshua Tree Municipal Advisory Council who is a member of the Morongo Basin Conservation Association and a political ally of San Bernardino County Third District Supervisor Neil Derry. Derry to is opposed to the casino locating in Joshua Tree.

That array of opponents was joined this month by the senior senator from California.

On November 10 Feinstein penned a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar registering her opposition to a proposed casino in Joshua Tree. “Placing a casino less than a mile from the (Joshua Tree National) park’s visitor center and park wilderness will forever change the nature of the desert treasure,” she told Salazar in the letter. Feinstein noted Butler’s opposition to the proposed casino being sited so close to the park. She said park officials had expressed concern a high intensity use such as a casino at that location “would impair the Park Service’s ability to preserve natural resources, cause significant noise and light pollution, obstruct scenic viewsheds and adversely impact the desert tortoise population within the park.”

Moreover, Feinstein in the letter to Salazar cited the overwhelming opposition to the casino by Joshua Tree residents, and she said their consensus included a “wide array of concerns about the impacts on regional tourism, crime, poverty, alcoholism and gambling addiction.”

Meanwhile, tribal leader Mike and the band’s chief financial officer, Steve Gralla, insist their proposal makes sense not just to the tribe but to the community as well.

They said local opposition will transform into support once the populace is given to understand the casino will bring in needed economic development to the area, improve and modernize infrastructure near downtown and provide the town with an attraction that will enhance its ambience. Moreover, they point out, the property is near other citified uses and developments and is not hamstrung by the presence of endangered species or flora, such as the desert tortoise.

Mike, Gralla and the tribe are promoting the proposed resort as having, “all the excitement of Las Vegas only minutes away.”

Church Of The Woods Plan Jars Residents

Many residents of the Twin Peaks community expressed wariness over the proposed sports and worship complex to be built by the Church of the Woods along Highway 18 in Rimforest.

Church of the Woods is proposing to clear forest land on the east side of Rim Forest west of Daley Canyon and to fill in the marsh that exists at the headwaters of Little Bear Creek to accommodate the development.

Some local residents and members of the Save our Forest Association object to the plan to remove 350,000 cubic yards of dirt from the area and to cover with soil the wetlands and natural spring, which feeds the blue line creek flowing into Lake Arrowhead.

A preview of the project, which is to be considered by the county planning commission next month, was provided to interested Twin Peaks and Rim Forest residents recently as the public input deadline for the environmental impact review of the project approaches.

Of concern is that the grading and leveling that will be done for the project, which includes filling in a natural depression in the forest will result in potential landslides and increased run-off downstream, together with erosion, flooding and debris saturation into Agua Fria and Blue Jay during rainstorms.

Historically, there has been difficulty with unstable slopes in Rimforest. Less than a quarter mile from the sports and worship complex site, a large scale landslide took out homes in 1993. One issue embraced by opponents of the project was inadequate focus on the impact to endangered species, such as the Southern Rubber Boa, in the environmental impact study. The environmental impact report calls for those matters to “be dealt with later.”

Flow of Little Bear Creek is subject to regulation by the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service.

Judge Allows Prem Reddy To Move Toward VVCH Acquisition

VICTORVILLE—Victorville Superior Court Judge Steve Malone this week turned back California Attorney General Kamala Harris’s effort to prevent Dr. Prem Reddy and his for-profit corporation, Prime Healthcare Services, from moving into a position that will facilitate an eventual takeover of the non-profit and now bankrupt Victor Valley Community Hospital.

For reasons that have not been entirely publicly specified, Harris has taken a stand against Reddy in his effort to acquire Victor Valley Community. Reddy’s Prime Healtcare Services Corporation is the largest operator of for-profit hospitals in Southern California.

Victor Valley Community has been on the financial rocks for some time and last year, staggering under more than $20 million in debt, the institution filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In the same time frame, the 101-bed hospital was put on the auction block, attracting two bidders: KPC Global Care and Reddy’s Prime Healthcare, which runs 14 acute care hospitals in California. KPC Global outbid Prime Healthcare in November 2010 with a $37 million offer at an auction. KPC obtained the state attorney general’s approval for the takeover, but then failed to finalize the acquisition and that deal fell apart. Subsequently, a federal bankruptcy court judge approved an agreement allowing the non-profit arm of Reddy’s for-profit venture, known as Prime Healthcare Service Foundation, to purchase the hospital for $35 million.

On September 20, however, the state attorney general’s office intervened, blocking Reddy, who is the owner and chairman of the board of Prime Healthcare, from absorbing Victor Valley Community into his portfolio. A major consideration was that Victor Valley Community was founded and set up as a non-profit institution. The attorney general’s office had moved to ensure that the High Desert preserve at least one non-profit hospital in an area with a multiplicity of for-profit medical centers, including one already owned by Reddy, Desert Valley Hospital.

“We have concluded that this proposed sale is not in the public interest and will likely create a significant effect on the availability or accessibility of health care services to the affected community,” acting chief deputy attorney general Michael Troncoso said in September.

Victor Valley Community Hospital’s status as a non-profit had seemingly doomed it to insolvency. Its financial outlook was damaged by excessive amounts of uncompensated care to uninsured and low income patients in recent years. According to the hospital’s recently departed CEO, Catherine Pelley, 70 percent of the hospital’s patients are on Medi-Cal, Medicare or charity care.

With Victor Valley Community teetering on the brink of financial collapse, Reddy on October 14, 2011 proffered $6 million in the form of loans and a consulting arrangement to prevent the hospital from having to close its doors. That assistance was codified in the form of what was called a “post-petition revolving credit and security agreement between Victor Valley Community Hospital as borrower and Prime Healthcare Management, Inc. as lender.”

Hospital officials have said Prime Healthcare’s offer is the only way Victor Valley Community Hospital [VVCH] can continue to operate.

Under the terms of the deal, both Reddy and Prime Healthcare are to provide what was referred to as “temporary” financing to keep the hospital up and running. That plan was given backing by a few federal healthcare regulatory agencies. And On October 20, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Bauer tentatively signed off on the arrangement.

A day earlier, on October 19, a letter was sent by the state attorney general’s office to Victor Valley Community Hospital’s legal counsel stating that the credit, security and consulting agreement was subject to approval by the attorney general’s office under California Corporations Code Section 5194 et sequitur. On October 19, the hospital’s legal counsel responded that the attorney general’s approval is not required.

According to a complaint for injunctive relief filed by the attorney general on October 28, “The consulting agreement transfers control of a material amount of the operations of VVCH to Prime Healthcare management. The loan agreement conveys and transfers a material amount of VVCH’s assets to Prime, Inc. Accordingly, both agreements are subject to approval by the attorney general. Defendants violated the Corporations Code sections 5914 and 5915 by failing to submit written notice and failing to get written consent of the attorney general prior to entering into this agreement. By entering into this loan agreement without the attorney general’s consent, VVCH will incur additional administrative costs by $6 million, thereby increasing the amount of cash necessary for other potential buyers to purchase VVCH. By increasing VVCH’s debt, the parties will be manipulating the market value of the hospital. The loan agreement also subjects VVCH to default. The loan agreement provides that if VVCH subsequently defaults on the loan agreement, all of Prime Inc.’s loan must be paid in full, in cash immediately.”

The attorney general’s office petitioned the court for “temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief enjoining VVCH, its board members, officers, employees, agents, servants, representatives, successors, and assigns, any and all persons acting in concert or participation with it, and all other persons, corporations, or other entities acting, under, by, through or on its behalf from executing or otherwise entering into the postpetition revolving credit and security agreement between VVCH as borrower and Prime Healthcare Management, Inc., as lender, dated as of October 14, 2011; performing any acts under the postpetition revolving credit and security agreement, including, but not limited to, incurring any debt under that agreement; [and] executing or otherwise entering into the consulting services agreement between VVCH and Prime Healthcare Management, as consultant.”

Harris maintained that in representing Prime Healthcare as a consultant, both entities – Prime Healthcare and Victor Valley Community – were engaging in a ruse to avoid the oversight of the state attorney general’s office in a ploy that would ultimately result in the transference of control and ownership of the hospital to Prime Healthcare.

On November 23, Malone dismissed the attorney general’s assertions, ruling that Victor Valley Community had the autonomy to enlist Prime Healthcare as an independent contractor and that Victor Valley Community is still governed by an independent board of directors, which will have decision-making power over the future of the hospital.

The attorney general’s office has been less than fully explicit in explaining the reasons for opposing Prime Healthcare’s takeover bid for Victor Valley Community, asserting only that Reddy’s ownership of the hospital is “not in the public interest.” Harris has suggested without directly stating that Reddy has a monopolistic motive in seeking to acquire Victor Valley Community since he already controls Desert Valley Hospital. In conferences with her office’s attorneys, Harris has stated that Reddy’s domination of a given region’s medical facilities could deprive the indigent of health care options. In a brief, the attorney general noted Prime Healthcare’s propensity for canceling HMO contracts.

There has been some suggestion that Harris’s opposition to Reddy’s takeover effort is tainted by political considerations. Reddy’s for-profit corporation has had a bruising set of battles with nurses and other health care professionals over wage and benefit concessions. Harris was endorsed by a labor union that represents nurses in her election last year.

Among the contingent of lawyers from the state attorney general’s office was a lawyer for the Services Employees International Union (SEIU), which has represented health care workers in labor disputes with Prime Healthcare and which opposes Reddy’s takeover of Victor Valley Community. When that lawyer sought to go on the record to endorse the attorney general’s call for an injunction against Reddy and Prime Healthcare, Malone denied the request, ruling that the union does not have standing.

While Malone allowed Prime Healthcare to remain involved in the current operation of Victor Valley Community as a consultant and lender, the long term ownership of the facility remains an unresolved issue. KPC Global has now tendered an offer to purchase the hospital, reduced from $37 million to $31.1 million. Victor Valley Community has lodged a suit, asking the court to reduce the attorney general’s barrier to Prime Healthcare’s purchase offer of $35 million.

Malone scheduled the hospital’s lawyers and the representatives from the attorney general’s office to return to his courtroom on December 15 for further briefing of both sides’ positions.

California Style Fun Rings

This weekend I visited Las Vegas. I couldn’t help noticing all the women wearing fun rings. There’s something really nifty about them. They are a fun accessory. I knew I had to have one. Upon my return to California, I found a unique cocktail ring that fit my personality. The cocktail ring is an oversized affair that covers up to four of your fingers but is only worn on one. They have been around for about seventy years.

Stunning cocktail rings are big this year and make the perfect holiday accessory. They are a gorgeous number for any occasion. Some are embellished with diamonds, colorful stones, and some come in shapes of animals. The fun ring can add tons of pop to any ensemble. You can find cocktail rings just about anywhere (Nordstrom, H&M, JCrew, Macys, Target, etc…). Prices vary from as low as $4 up well into the $100 range. Some fun/cocktail rings are topped with large single stones or other patterns. These rings add boldness and sparkle to any outfit.

The point is to find one you can have fun with and wear it with your favorite dress, jeans, suit, etc… Cocktail rings are fabulous because you can actually find them for less than five bucks. The trend never goes out of style, they’re versatile, they add the sparkle that another accessory can’t replace, and they’re plain fun. If you don’t have your fabulously fun unique cocktail ring yet, it’s time you go out and seek the one for you. Off we go!

“A ring is a halo on your finger.” -Doug Coupland

Abengoa Gets Approval For Electricty Purchase Arrangement With PG&E

The California Public Utilities Commission on November 10 approved Abengoa Solar’s power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric for the electricity to be produced at Abengoa’s Mojave Solar Project near Hinkley.

The Mojave Solar Project is a 280 megawatt gross parabolic trough plant. Construction on the project has begun and the solar field, near Harper Dry Lake, will come online in 2014. Abengoa received a conditional $1.2 billion federal loan from the Department of Energy in June,

The project had obtained all of its required construction and operating permits previously and ratifying the power purchase agreement was the final milestone the company, which is based in Spain, needed to achieve full financing to complete the project. The 1,765 acre project will provide power sufficient for as many as 80,000 households once it is completed.

Ontario Elevates Assistant Chief/Fire Marshall Clark To Fire Chief

ONTARIO – Ontario has elevated assistant fire chief/city fire marshall Floyd E. Clark to fire chief.

Clark, 53, reached the department’s top spot after 25 years with the department. On November 15, the city council officially signed off on his replacing Dave Carrier as chief. Carrier, who has filled the department’s top slot since February 2010, is retiring on December 23.

Clark was selected for the position by city manager Chris Hughes, who was himself fire chief before he was promoted to city manager when Greg Devereaux was hired by the county as its chief executive officer 22 months ago.

Clark will be the city’s first African American fire chief.

He has been a career firefighter, having started in the profession when he was 20 years old. He has served in every position within the department during the quarter of a century he has worked in Ontario.

Councilman Jim Bowman, himself a former Ontario fire chief, hailed Clark’s selection as a wise one that “will do the city well.”

Bowman said Clark is “well respected, knowledgeable and someone who can get the job done.”

Around The County: Updates On Recent Public Developments

Governor Jerry Brown appointed San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael A. Ramos to the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, a fifteen member group of city, state, educational and law enforcement officials who oversee law enforcement training guidelines.


The board of trustees for the San Bernardino City Unified School District this week postponed until December 6 determining what protocol will be used in the hiring of a new superintendent. Former superintendent Arturo Delgado abruptly departed from the district in June to take up the position of superintendent of schools for Los Angeles County. Since then, he has been replaced on an interim basis by associate superintendent Mel Albiso, followed by journeyman school administrator Richard Bray and, since October, Yolanda Ortega, SBUSD’s assistant superintendent of employee relations.

On November 8, the district picked up three new board members and the current board, which has already had an unsuccessful go-round in trying to select a new superintendent, deferred a decision on the means of selecting a top district administrator until the three new board members, Mike Gallo, Sharon Perong and Margaret Hill, are in place.


The county of San Bernardino and its department of agriculture have entered into an agreement with the State of California, Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to utilize pass-through federal funds to maintain two dog teams for pest infestation detection and prevention.

According to John G. Gardner, the county’s agricultural commissioner, the county will use $371,300 in federal money to be applied retroactively to July 1, 2011 for the continuation of services and funding first authorized in 2006, which, he said “consist of two dog teams to conduct surveillance inspections at parcel sectional centers to detect the presence of any unwanted pests found in unmarked parcels entering the State of California, a violation of law. Once a pest or plant is located within a package, the plants are inspected and if pests or disease symptoms are observed, the samples/specimens are submitted to the CDFA Plant Pest Diagnostic Laboratory for identification. So far, canines have been utilized with great success to detect plant materials from within unmarked agricultural parcels.”