Serving the communities of Valley Springs, Burson and Wallace
Calaveras Unified School District Superintendent Mark Campbell outlines this district’s financial plight due to state budget cuts during a meeting Wednesday evening.
district officials, parents begin to press state leaders
By Nick Baptista
Nearly 80 parents and concerned citizens joined Calaveras Unified School District officials Wednesday evening to launch a letter-writing campaign to caution state officials against further reductions in educational spending.
CUSD Superintendent Mark Campbell told those assembled in the Jenny Lind Elementary School cafeteria that the state already has reduced spending in the district by $1,100 per child and is looking at cutting another $200 in the next budget cycle.
Salaries compose 86 percent of the school district’s budget, he said, and the district has had to lay off personnel and more layoffs are expected.
“We’re losing good people,” he added.
It’s easy to be cynical a letter-writing campaign will be effective, Campbell said, but “with a collective voice I believe we will be heard.”
CUSD Trustee Sherri Reusche started the letter-writing campaign. She said parents and concerned citizens can write letters to lawmakers and drop them off in school offices between now and Feb. 3. She plans to collect the letters at that time and present them to state officials in Sacramento.
Sample letters and addresses for the elected representatives were distributed at Wednesday’s meeting.
To bridge a $2.8 million budget shortfall, the school board is looking at a variety of ways to trim expenses and increase revenues. One way to reduce expenses is to closed Rail Road Flat Elementary School and the board is expected to consider that move at its meeting on Tuesday.
In addition, the district is
looking at cutting sports, music, 17 teachers, academic intervention
programs, assistant principals, and class-size reduction, or charging
fees for transportation and for students to participate in athletics.
David K. Singer
Rancho man seeks to unseat Thomas in District 5
Another challenger has pulled election papers for a potential run
at the District 5 Board of Supervisors seat held by Russ Thomas.
Darren Spellman has joined Thomas and David K. Singer in the
District 5 race by obtaining “petition-in-lieu” of papers from the
county election office. The election is set for Tuesday, June 8.
The “in-lieu” papers permit the candidates to begin gathering
signatures from registered voters to offset filing fees. District 5 on
the Board of Supervisors represents the communities of Copperopolis,
Salt Spring Valley, Milton, Jenny Lind, and Rancho Calaveras.
Singer, 50, of Rancho Calaveras, is scheduled to gather
signatures from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday at The Villa Bakery in The Terrace
Plaza at Vista Del Lago and State Route 26.
Promising to provide more outreach to constituents, Singer was
interviewed Monday by The Valley Springs News.
A Calaveras County resident for nearly three years, Singer said
he has never received a questionnaire, newsletter or survey from
Supervisor Thomas asking for the public opinion on an issue and he found
that disturbing and prompted his interest in running for office.
“The supervisor has forgotten about the people who elected him,”
Singer said. “He follows his own agenda instead of the will of the
He pointed to the controversy surrounding the inclusion of Rancho
Calaveras into the Valley Springs Community Plan as an example.
“Thomas has already voiced the position he wants Rancho in the
Valley Springs Community Plan without consulting with any of his
constituents,” said Singer, who practices law in San Andreas.
Singer passed the state bar exam in 2005 and began looking to
relocate from Apple Valley in San Bernardino to Northern California.
He interviewed in several foothill communities and “fell in
love” with Calaveras County during one of those trips.
His work experience has been in an advocacy role for the public,
Prior to beginning his law career, Singer worked nearly nine
years in county government. He was a child support officer for nearly
two years with the County of San Bernardino and worked more than seven
years as an employment services specialist for the county.
As a supervisor, Singer said he will be an educator, listener and
By being an educator, Singer said he would provide constituents
with as much information as possible to make informed decisions on the
issues impacting them.
As a listener, he will engage constituents in discussion and
include them in the decision-making process in an effort to reach a
consensus on issues.
As an advocate, he will be the voice of the people and abide by
their consensus on all matters.
He hopes to have his website at www.calaverasdistrict5.com
by Feb. 1. If elected he will keep the website in operation to continue
interacting with constituents.
His email address will be email@example.com.
A new candidate has also emerged in the District 3 board race. Bill McManus has joined incumbent Merita Callaway and Mary E. Boblet in the race to represent the communities of Brice Station, Forest Meadows, Hathaway Pines, Avery, Arnold, White Pines, Dorrington, Camp Connell, Cottage Springs, Skyhigh, Tamarack and Sherman Acres.
As of Tuesday morning, the other candidates who have taken out
papers were acting incumbent Leslie Davis and Joseph C. Kelly for
assessor, Gary Kuntz for sheriff, Kathy Ann Northington for county
Superintendent of Schools, Barbara Sullivan for treasurer-tax collector
and George C. Fry for 25th District Assembly.
Nobody had pulled papers to run for auditor-controller,
clerk-recorder, or the Democratic, Republican and Green Central
Committees as of Tuesday morning.
Prospective candidates can take out in-lieu papers until Feb. 25.
The timeframe for nomination and declaration of candidacy papers is from
Feb. 16 to March 12, with an extension period to March 17 if an
incumbent does not file for re-election.
The June 8 ballot will also consist of the primary races for the
statewide offices including governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of
state, controller, treasurer and attorney general.
Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum discusses the assistance his department is receiving from other law enforcement agencies Behind him are CHP Lt. Tim Port and FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Todd M. Irinaga.
Attention shifts back to first vehicle ID'ed in shootings
The multiple law enforcement agencies investigating the series of
shootings terrorizing the Valley Springs area have shifted their focus
back to the initial suspect vehicle.
Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum held a media conference
last Tuesday in the Jenny Lind Veterans Memorial Hall in Valley Springs
to discuss the case and said the white pickup truck identified in a Jan.
7 incident on Watertown Road no longer is considered a suspect vehicle.
“We are going to go back to the first suspect vehicle
description,” Downum said. It was a white or light-colored sedan with
square taillights seen by one of the motorists whose vehicle was shot
Investigators now believe the driver of the white pickup with
multicolored doors involved in the Watertown Road incident is a
potential witness and the sheriff urged the driver to contact his
Downum added that the sheriff's department couldn’t confirm a
shooting occurred on Watertown Road. The initial report of the Jan. 7
incident had a motorist being forced off the road by the white truck,
which was weaving in and out of its lane and flashing high beams. The
next morning the motorist found a bullet hole in his rear side fender.
Although a suspect had not been identified as of Tuesday, the
sheriff said he wanted to assure the public his department is doing
everything it can to solve the case and reached out to the resources of
the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and
the California Highway Patrol “to assist us in resolving this issue.”
The additional manpower and technical assistance from the other
agencies have been helpful, Downum added.
The random shooting spree began Dec. 16 when a house was shot
with a small-caliber gun and the total number of confirmed shootings as
of Tuesday was 15 – nine cars and six houses struck by bullets under
the cover of darkness.
Although the suspect is still at large, the sheriff said some
people have been eliminated as suspects and he viewed that as making
progress in the case.
The sheriff would not comment on the caliber of bullet used in
the shootings or whether the shootings were related to gang activity.
The sheriff department has received numerous tips on the case and
encourages the public not to hesitate to call the office's tip line at
754-6030 or the main number at 754-6500, Downum said.
In addition, ATF continues to offer a $10,000 reward for
information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or
persons responsible for the shootings.
The sheriff's department plans to hold a weekly briefing every
Tuesday on the case.
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has increased its reward for information regarding the random shootings in Valley Springs during the recent weeks from $5,000 to $10,000.
Reward increased as shootings continue
The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction
of the person or persons involved in a rash of shootings in the Valley
Springs area has been increased to $10,000, while the number of
incidents has reached 15.
The most recent victim was driving Thursday evening along
Watertown Road near Campo Seco Road. In addition, the Calaveras County
Sheriff’s Department received 16 separate reports of shots being fired
during a three-hour time span Saturday evening.
Thursday’s incident occurred when the victim was returning home
from Amador County. He reported he was forced off Watertown Road by an
approaching vehicle. The driver of the approaching vehicle was driving
in and out of the traffic lanes and failed to dim the vehicle’s
The incident occurred at 6:15 p.m. The victim did not hear any
gunshots and drove home. The victim discovered a bullet hole in the rear
driver’s side fender the following morning.
The victim described the other vehicle as a full-sized pick-up
truck painted white with silver and beige. He also said the doors of the
truck were painted differently from the body of the truck.
Investigators are looking into where the shooting occurred and
discount the possibility the victim’s vehicle was shot while parked at
Investigators say the full-sized pick-up truck is now a vehicle
Saturday night’s rash of shootings began at 5:44 p.m. in the
vicinity of State Route 26 and Vista Del Lago. The last report came in
at 9:06 p.m. on Jenny Lind Road. As of Tuesday morning, there were no
reports of damage or injuries stemming from Saturday’s shootings.
Sgt. Dave Seawell of the sheriff’s department believes the 16
separate reports may have come from three or four shots fired in the
Investigators believe the Saturday night shootings are inked to the current shooting investigation. Investigators are asking residents of the area to inspect their homes and vehicles for damage and call the sheriff’s department at (209) 772-6500 if they find any.
The series of shootings began Dec. 16 and the Federal Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has increased its reward for
information from $5,000 to $10,000. Anyone with information is asked to
call the sheriff’s department tip line at (209) 754-6030, or the
department’s direct line at 754-6500.
No injuries have been reported in any of the incidents.
In addition to ATF, the FBI and CHP are assisting the sheriff’s
department in the investigation.
Lind Veterans Memorial District Maintenance Supervisor Don Copeland,
left, and General Manager Hugo Scotto at the recently completed walkway
constructed to improve accessibility to the park’s ball fields.
New walkway improves access to park's fields
A suggestion by a disabled veteran was all the impetuous the Jenny Lind Veterans Memorial District needed to complete its latest improvement at the park it oversees behind Valley Springs Elementary School.
The wheelchair-bound veteran said he was having difficulties
getting to the ball fields to watch the games and the district’s Board
of Directors authorized completion of a walkway from the disabled
parking area to an area along the first and third base lines between
both ball fields.
“It’s an asset to the park and assists not only those who are
disabled, but older people and those who have trouble walking,” said
Hugo Scotto, the district’s general manager and a member of the Board
Cardenas Construction completed the 263-foot walkway and pad
between both fields for $9,600.
The district had a choice between an asphalt or concrete walkway
and decided to go with the thicker, but more expensive concrete
alternative because it should be longer lasting, Scotto said.
A major addition to the district could be accomplished in
2010 with the anticipated construction of a new community hall.
Scotto said the project is close to going out for bid.
“We hope to have it out to bid this month, but no later than
next month,” he added.
The district has $400,000 set aside for the 11,000-square-foot
hall, which will be constructed in the vacant lot behind the existing
hall and next to Valley Springs Elementary School.
The new building will be three times the size of the existing hall, which was constructed in 1963, and solve handicap-access, heating and air-conditioning issues associated with the old structure.
Pete’s Café, now Good Friends Chinese Restaurant, has been a landmark in Valley Springs’ historic and sometimes colorful past.
study overlooks one of town's landmarks
The historical significance of one of Valley Springs’ most
famous – or infamous – buildings was overlooked in a preliminary
investigation as a study gets under way to address traffic woes at the
downtown intersection of State Routes 12 and 26.
At a Dec. 21 town hall meeting hosted by District 1 Supervisor
Gary Tofanelli and District 5 Supervisor Russ Thomas, a county staff
member outlining the traffic mitigation study said the preservation of
historical landmarks will be considered throughout the process, but Pete’s
Café, now Good Friends Chinese Restaurant, had not been identified as
Sal Manna, founder and president of the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History, vehemently disagreed.
1933 brochure announcing the grand re-opening of Pete’s Café.
Courtesy the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History.
“I would hope that when they do their research that they would
consult the area’s only significant reserve for historical
information, the Society for the Preservation of West Calaveras History,”
Manna said. “I’m disappointed they have not done that in any of the
this process to date.”
The history of the northeast corner of the intersection goes back
to the beginning of Valley Springs. The site probably was the location
of the Pattee Brothers Meat Market and the first post office in Valley
Springs, Manna said, which had been established in the market by 1885.
The Pattee family owned most of the property on that side of the
block and in 1900 built a concrete structure at the corner for the
Pattee General Merchandise Store.
Pete Ormes moved to Valley Springs in 1925 and established “Pete’s
Cafe” down the block from the market. Several years later his café
was located in the original market.
Ormes rebuilt the café in 1933 after it was destroyed by fire.
In addition to the café, it was a site for gambling and slot
machines and legend has it the establishment served as a house of
prostitution, Manna said. Up until Prohibition ended in 1933, Ormes was
known for serving illegal alcohol.
Ormes was murdered Aug. 28, 1972, in his café and the case
“The building is 77 years old and a building over 50
years old can be considered historical,” Manna said.
Jonathan Mitchell, senior engineer and project manager in
Calaveras County’s public works department, said his statement at the
town hall meeting was based on preliminary information he had been
provided by the engineering firm conducting the traffic mitigation
“It’s in the investigative stage and not yet complete,”
Mitchell said about the historical analysis. “They told me they will
be contacting him (Manna) shortly.”
“It seemed out of place at the time,” Tofanelli said about
the information Pete’s Café was not being considered historical. “I
will look into it some more.”
The feds have joined in the search for the person or persons terrorizing the Valley Springs area with random acts of shooting at vehicles and homes.
Federal bureau offers reward as Valley Springs shooting spree continues
By Nick Baptista
The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and
conviction of those responsible for a rash of shootings the past two
weeks in the greater Valley Springs area.
The announcement was made Wednesday as the Calaveras County
Sheriff’s Department received a report about a shooting into a home.
The report of the shooting into a residence came in at 6:20 a.m.
Wednesday and the sheriff’s department is investigating to see whether
it is connect with the earlier shootings.
There has been at least 10 reported shootings into vehicles and
homes in the Valley Springs and Burson areas since Dec. 17. Six of those
shootings were at motorists before dawn and after sunset on Dec. 22. No
one has been injured or wounded during the shooting spree.
“AFT is committed to working with the Calaveras County Sheriff’s
Department to find the person or persons responsible for these senseless
shootings,” said ATF Special Agent Stephen C. Herkins in announcing
the $5,000 reward. “The shootings are crimes of violence that will not
Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the sheriff’s
department tip line at (209) 754-6030, or the department’s main line
at (209) 754-6500.
The sheriff’s department is also asking the public to refrain
from celebrating the new year by firing shots into the air so as not to
create false leads for investigators to handle.
Investigators recovered bullets from the Dec. 22 roadway
shootings and confirmed all of the bullets were similar and came from a
small-caliber weapon. The shootings that day came from the side of the
road as well as from vehicles approaching in the opposite lane. In
addition, there has been one description that the suspect vehicle might
be a light-colored late model sedan.