Thursday, April 28, 2016

Desert Trail Column, April 28, 2016

The special meeting concerning the Local Agency Formation Commission was very interesting. How to dissolve our fire protection district and how to form a Community Service District were discussed, along with pros and cons of doing so. One eye-opening fact we found out was that it would cost $17,000 in LAFCO fees to form a CSD. Also, that there is really no advantage to dissolving our fire protection district if we plan on staying with San Bernardino County Fire. Along with LAFCO’s Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, SBCF Division Chief John Chamberlin was there to answer questions from the audience.

The Dale Basin Well Owner’s Association meeting will be held on Sunday, May 1 at our community center, 80526 ½ Amboy Road at Blower Road, at 4 pm. There will be a review of the by-laws, plus questions from the audience will be answered.

Darlene’s Commentary: Sadly, Carol Rogers, a 35-year resident of Wonder Valley, has passed away. Carol was a friend of mine, and everyone knew her as a gentle, easy-going, very kind person with a heart of gold. She leaves three children, Penny Root, Curtis Johnson and Vickie Buckley, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I will miss her, as will many people here in Wonder Valley and beyond. A memorial service will be held, but no date has been set yet.

Karen’s Commentary: I believe it was Melody Marks who told our Slice of Life group several years ago about receiving postcards from all over the world. She gave us a website address which I wrote down, but put in a “do later” file. Well, later finally came for that slip of paper, I checked out the website and was immediately hooked! Before I go any further, the website is It is SO neat! It’s all free, so check it out yourself. So far I’ve received postcards from Finland (my very first one), Romania, Holland, Belarus, Germany and the Netherlands.
Postcard Folder of Mojave Desert Art Print
Reach Out Morongo Basin will pick you up at The Palms on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am to take you to the Twentynine Palms Nutrition Site for lunch. You will then be returned to The Palms at 2 pm. If you have a transportation problem, you can even be picked up and dropped off at your residence. Call 760-361-1410 for further information.

Handy Hint: Next time you peel a banana, start at the opposite end, not the stem. You’ll find few or none of those sticky, bothersome strings – they stay inside the banana peel.

Thought for Today:  In 1648, the first volunteer fire department was established in New York by Peter Stuyvesant.

Until next time . . . remember to take time to enjoy the WONDERs all around us.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Notes and action items from the April 23, 2016 meeting with LAFCO and County Fire

Everyone commented that they took a lot away from this final informational meeting on the Fire Issue. County Fire has recommended that the Board of Supervisors continue to subsidize Fire Station 45 in Wonder Valley for the fiscal year of 2016/17. We'll know more in May when they've voted.

In the meantime we'll be working on the following items listed below agreed to by the Volunteer Fire Committee. We'll begin having meetings after the Board of Supervisors votes to decide what we want to do as a community.

If you weren't able to attend all or any of the meetings, the agendas and notes, and the supplementary materials are all listed under the [Fire] tab. I suggest watching the first video and then work your way through the rest of the materials.

If you feel that you aren't getting the meeting notices, please sign up, or call Teresa Sitz at 760-865-9550 to be added to a phone tree.


Teresa Sitz
MAC Volunteer

Download the notes from the April 23, 2016 meeting:

These actions came out of the Fire Committee meeting that met directly after the LAFCO Meeting, on April 23, 2016, about 12:15 p.m.

Division Chief John Chamberlin; Teresa Sitz, MAC Delegate; Karen Meyers; James Copeland; and James Brakebill


  • Contact Mark Lundquist to find out how community mandates are determined for possible ballot measures or requests for actions.


  • Take Darlene Parris’ suggestion for an incremental increase of $50 a year over 7 years back to County Fire for consideration.
  • Provide the community of Wonder Valley with requirements for Paid Call Firefighters, including disqualifying criminal charges.
  • Investigate forming a JPA - joint powers authority that would transfer the Water Tender to the Parks or Roads department. Will need to coordinate with Special Districts.
  • Order a porta-tank so the water tender can draw from tanks and pools.

Posted April 25, 2016

Monthly Community Meeting | May 9, 2016

Everyone is invited and welcome to attend and participate in the Wonder Valley Monthly Community Meeting

9:00 a.m., May 9, 2016
Wonder Valley Community Center
80526-1/2 Amboy Road, Wonder Valley CA 92277

We won't have a speaker at the monthly meeting. Instead we'll talk about how members of the community can take part in starting special projects and programs. I'll bring a sample proposal and we'll talk about things we might do in the year ahead. Bring your ideas!

We'll be reviewing the Brown Act - California's "sunshine law," a law requiring certain proceedings of government agencies to be open or available to the public.

We'll also be talking about how to propose a project or a program at the Community Center, and/or in Wonder Valley.

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Desert Trail, April 21, 2016

Mesquite tree greening up.
The regular Wonder Valley Monthly Meeting held on April 11 was very interesting. Kristine Scott from SoCal Gas spoke about the gas pipeline that runs the length of our valley, and Brad Dunning spoke of his proposal to restore the neon on the Wonder Valley sign in front of the community center. Teresa Sitz announced that our watering system on the fire station/community center property has been completely replaced by San Bernardino County, and that some of the neglected trees and bushes are already looking greener.

The fire extinguisher training and the Emergency Medical Responder training information session scheduled for April 16 were both cancelled due to the high winds. A new date and time will be announced.

The meeting to be held on Saturday, April 23 at our Wonder Valley Community Center, 80526 ½ Amboy Road at Blower Road, from 10 to noon will feature a representative from the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). Division Chief John Chamberlin will discuss the consequences of dissolving our fire protection district FP-4, and LAFCO will explain the steps involved. LAFCO will also answer questions about forming a Community Services District (CSD). This is a very important meeting for our community. Call Teresa Sitz at 760-865-9550 for further information.

Donna and Pappy Parsons will celebrate their anniversary this week. Congratulations, Pappy and Donna!

Karen’s Commentary: Okay. Here is my long-awaited casino winnings update, and I’m afraid the word “winnings” doesn’t apply! As of today, I am $58 in the red! Well, so much for my system. On a better note, I have recently been told that the County Health Department will test your well water at no charge. Call them at 800-782-4264.

Darlene’s Commentary: I am so pleased to see our community center filled with folks that want to be informed about the issues and options that can affect property owners here in Wonder Valley. Our County representative Teresa Sitz has been doing an excellent job of organizing and managing the meetings, and makes sure everyone has an opportunity to speak.

The Wonder Valley Community Church, located at 82575 Amboy Road at Kuhns Road, holds church services on Sundays, plus Bible Studies on Sundays and Wednesdays. They also hold a potluck following the Sunday service on the second Sunday of each month. Call Pastor Garry Brooks at 760-367-0279 for further information.

Handy Hint: To make large uniform cookies, use an ice cream scoop; for small cookies-, use a melon baller.

Thought for Today: “You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job and not be paid for it.” – Oprah Winfrey

Until next time . . . remember to take time to enjoy the WONDERs all around us.

The sun during a recent Wonder Valley sand storm.

Deserted at the Palms, Music Festival

The desert beckons for a weekend of music, camping and sweating over coconuts at the best (and only) saloon oasis in Wonder Valley, California.

DESERTED AT THE PALMS feels like a party at the end of the world. A relaxed atmosphere, the full moon, the endless sky, cheap, delicious drinks and food, a few refreshing kiddie pools for soaking with friends and downright spectacular music.

Featuring The Garden, mild high club, Death Valley Girls, Haunted Summer, Pearl Charles, Isaac Rother & The Phantoms, Sex Stains, Bloody Death Skull, Paul Bergmann AND MORE that we can't wait to announce...but have to wait a few more days...

All Ages welcome.
Tickets: $30

Presented by FEVER, L.A. Record, BuzzbandsLA, and Lo-Pie

Poster by Teira Johnson

Why Protest SBC Fire Takeover, By Ed Vallerand

[This is a public opinion piece printed in the Desert Trail. The opinions below do not necessarily represent the views of the editor of this website or the people of Wonder Valley. The piece is about what is happening in Twentynine Palms.]

Why Protest SBC Fire Takeover, By Ed Vallerand

I urge registered voters and property owners in Twentynine Palms to protest the transfer of our locally controlled fire department to County Fire. The Board rushed to select County Fire without investigating alternatives. Let’s protest this decision and force the Board to do their job and practice due diligence, before we lose local control.

I am asking you to fill out and mail (fax + e-mail is not acceptable) in the LAFCO protest form to LAFCO, 215 North D Street, STE. 204, San Bernardino, Ca 92415-0490 (it must get there by 25 April), for the following reasons.

NOTE: Forms are available at The bottom right column of the page contains the protest forms. Select either/ or both the “Registered Voter Protest Petition Form and/or the “Landowner Protest Petition Form”. The 29 Palms Water District Office also has copies of the forms.

1. For the safety of fire victims and firefighters
The first and highest priority of firefighters is to rescue people. (firemen’s RECEO code). The Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, (CFR1910.134(g)(4)) requires four firefighters on site before any of them enter a building to search for people. This is to ensure the safety of the firefighters. County Fire Division Chief Chamberlin claims that firefighters can ignore the OSHA requirement and enter a burning building to rescue people if they know someone is inside. With lengthy response times, however, someone inside may be overcome with smoke and unable to make their presence known. (Think the Mesquite Springs trailer fire of several years ago where 2 people’s bodies were found in the burnt out trailer during clean-up. That area was and still is SBC Fire’s responsibility). County Fire’s is proposing to have only three firefighters on duty (for $2.2+ million) which would prevent some searches and rescues. Do we want a Fire Department that does not check inside structures to save lives?

2. To protect people’s homes
The next four priorities for firefighters are: limit the exposure to surrounding areas, contain the fire, extinguish the fire, and finally, put out any sparks and assist people with the fire damage.  Let’s look at County Fire’s performance on two recent house fires in Wonder Valley. County Fire had two firefighters on duty at the West WV Fire Station. Neither was qualified to drive the full-size fire engine. Instead County Fire responded with the brush control vehicle which holds a mere 100 gallons of water (the amount of water in a large 4’ home fish tank). The Marine Base also responded, and Yucca Mesa sent a water tanker to assist in saving the slab. A second fire erupted nearby but trucks had to speed past the fire as they went to refill their tanks in Twentynine Palms. Both homes were a total loss.

What’s really tragic is that a tanker filled with 2,800 gallons of water sat unused in the closed East WV station. After the following WV monthly meeting County Fire and a Wonder Valley citizen checked the East Fire Station. The power was turned off, the 10,000 gallon water tank was empty, and County Fire Headquarters needed to be called to get the combination to unlock the building. Next the water tanks at the West WV Fire Station were checked. One tank was empty and the other was only partially filled, containing about 3,000 gallons. In addition, the water tanker does not have a pump on it, so it needs to fill at a fire hydrant or have an engine pump the water out of these ground level tanks into the truck. The old Wonder Valley Volunteer FD had a 1975 tanker with a pump on it and a map of all the local pools and tanks to access when needed.

This is recent verifiable SBC Fire performance history, so do we want this type of performance?

3. To keep our firefighters available to fight our fires
Property owners in Wonder Valley currently pay a fire assessment of $34.10. County Fire has proposed an increase of $321 for a 2-man crew or $489 for a 3-man crew. It's unlikely that residents will accept either proposal. On average firefighters in Wonder Valley respond to 28 calls a year with 9 being east of their borders. County Fire has said their long term plan is to build a new fire station (I heard for about $5 million) in the Adobe/Amboy Road area to better serve both communities. If County Fire closes Wonder Valley's fire department then our firefighters will regularly be serving Wonder Valley, and beyond, as far east as Essex. Who will cover 29 Palms? How long will it take to shift a crew to29 Palms from say Yucca Valley? We long will be without coverage?

4. To ensure the best emergency medical care
Morongo Basin Ambulance has the charter to provide medical aid and transport. MBA treats all people and only charges those that they transport. Their ambulance has all the ALS equipment that County Fire has, and it’s in a vehicle that is less likely to get stuck on our sandy roads and washes. MBA has two 4-wheel drive vehicles to transport people to the ambulances when the terrain is too rough for the ambulance to get through. (MBA provided on site medical support at the off-road vehicle festivals King of the Hammers and Hilltoppers with these 4 wheel drive vehicles and ambulances.) County Fire Division Chief Chamberlin’s presentation includes a proposal for an Advanced Life Support vehicle costing $893,000, plus tax, and $85,000 for equipment. SBC Fire will only have one fire/paramedic crew in 29 Palms. SBC Fire will only have one fire/paramedic crew in 29 Palms so how can they handle causalities at a fire and fight the fire? MBA has 2 ambulances stationed in 29 Palms dedicated to medical care only. Why spend more money for a less mobile equally qualified service?

5. To maintain reasonable costs
County Fire is proposing a tax increase of more than 85% along with an automatic 3% per year cost of living adjustment. (When did you last get a cost of living adjustment?) County Fire will schedule three firefighters at the Adobe Station (instead of the five we now have) at an increase of over a MILLION dollars (to $2,269.913 using 2016/17 rate).

Jim Harris called Z107.7’s Up Close show on March 25th stating that Cal Fire can provide coverage for $1.4 million.  At last August’s special Twentynine Palms Fire Board meeting, Morongo Valley’s Fire Chief tried to speak but was shut down by the board.

Note: Morongo Valley has four people on duty 24/7 including a paramedic. Their cost is $913,850 which covers labor, utilities, facilities, etc., and they set aside $67,610 towards the cost of a replacement fire truck. County Fire wants to increase the tax in Morongo Valley to $893 per parcel, whereas the Morongo Valley local government can provide the same coverage for $350 per parcel using qualified local people being paid desert rates (not the expensive Redland rates.)

Note:  County Fire Engineers received a cost of living adjustment between 10.91% and 14.68% in October 2015. County Fire Captains received a cost of living adjustment between 9.17% and 12.33%.%. And if they weren’t at step 13 and got a satisfactory performance report then they got an additional raise – an annual step raise - that varying from 1.99% and 2.5%. How does the 3% per year tax increase cover this?

We’ve lost local control so can the County revise the Fire Protection with a vote of the people in the District?

Don’t we owe it to ourselves to look at other possible cheaper providers and or maybe restructure of the existing department paying local rates and employing local people?

6. Because the public should have a voice in the matter
Several years ago voters in Twentynine Palms were asked to consider Prop “H”, a 50% increase in the assessment that would have kept both fire stations open, increased the size of the Fire Department by a third (from a Chief and six paid firefighters to a Chief and eight paid firefighters), and added a brush truck and crew. The cost was 1.8 million and the fire department would have remained under local control. The public didn’t believe we needed a larger FD and the majority voted against the proposition. The Board reacted by talking about getting out of the fire business and turning it over to the county.

Why not take a simple survey in the paper asking the public if they

  1. want to go back to the old (pre-Thompson) scheme with the Lear station being a totally volunteer station for “X” dollars, or
  2. continue the previous six-man scheme for “Y” dollars, or
  3. Chief Thompson’s increase for $1.8 million, or
  4. accept County Fire’s one station proposal for $2.2 million plus, or 
  5. going to a CalFire one station scheme for 1.4 million? 
Let the public weigh in.

7. The Lear Fire Station was a (gift?) from the people
LAFCO plans to turn the Lear Fire Station over to County Fire, and they promise to initially continue the rental agreement with Copper Mountain College’s Fire/EMT program. The Lear Station will not be a manned fire station. What happens when the initial period ends? Will County sell it off, or increase the rent to CMC? The people of Desert Heights and Indian Cove paid for this station and turned it over to the Water District to administer as a volunteer fire station. Closing the station was a breach of promise. Perhaps the people who donated it should talk to an attorney about getting it returned.

Do we want to give up the Lear Station?

8. We need LOCAL disaster response
Neither Twentynine Palms Fire, nor probably even County Fire, have or will have local firefighters or paramedics staffing the station here. Where I come from firefighters and police must reside in the city where they work so they are readily available and can quickly report for duty when emergencies occur. We live in the heart of earthquake country. The Yucca Grade ices up each year. These and frequent highway closures can make it difficult for firefighters living down the hill to get to Twentynine Palms. We would all be safer if future Fire Department hires lived east of the top of the Yucca grade.

We need local control to put this into future hiring practices.

9. Our economy cannot support big city salaries
The latest state-published salary information is out for 2014 at Once at that page select “San Bernardino,” and then select “Governing Board,” to review County Fire salaries.

a. Eleven Battalion Chiefs, forty-five Captains, three Engineers, and one firefighter made more than the Twentynine Palms City Manager.
In 2014, Twentynine Palms hired a new City Manager, Joe G. Our local LAFCO Representative, Jim B., thought the salary was too high and objected at the Council meeting to a salary of $184,000 with no medical benefits and no vehicle allowance. (The previous City Manager, Warne, had medical and $600/month vehicle Allowance).  Deducting Joe’s benefits saving from his salary effectively equated to a $170,000 salary with full benefits. Note: The CalPERS retirement and benefits for firefighters is significantly greater than for City employees, so the Fire Personnel made considerable more when benefits are included.

b. The Twentynine Palms fire captains made $92,675 and $82,282 plus benefits in 2014.

They received a 2.5% cost of living increase for 2015. Those salaries will qualify them for a $500,000 and $450,000 home loan at today’s low interest rates. When County Fire takes over these captains will be busted down to an engineer level, at the same pay rate. They will then be able to get step raises and get a promotional raise back to Captain and more step raises.

Twentynine Palms can afford a larger locally controlled fire department if we pay salaries commensurate with the standard of living here.

I urge everyone to file an official protest, and if the protest succeeds we’ll have time to interview other possible providers and consider restructuring the existing fire department, paying local rates and employing local people. Chief Thompson’s contract states he will retire at the end of January 2017, so let’s exclude him as we look to create the fire department of the future, under our local control. An option of returning to two open stations, with six paid firefighters earning desert salaries, augmented with local volunteers needs to be budgeted and presented to the public.

Contracting with CalFire and privatization are other options that have not been properly vetted. If, after exploring all options, we decide that County Fire is the best choice, then the fire department can be turned over to them at that time.

No harm. No foul.

Please protest the County Fire takeover and let's keep our local control.


If you agree with the above then please fill out and mail (fax + e-mail is not acceptable) in the LAFCO protest form to LAFCO, 215 North D Street, STE. 204, San Bernardino, Ca 92415-0490 (it must get there by 25 April).

NOTE: Forms are available at The bottom right column of the page contains the protest forms.

Select either/ or both the “Registered Voter Protest Petition Form and/or the “Landowner Protest Petition Form” and fill them out and mail them in. The 29 Palms Water District Office also has copies of the forms.

Ed Vallerand

Landowner Protest Petition

Registered Voter Protest Petition

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Summer's Eve II at the Palms

Summer's Eve 2
Saturday, May 14, 2016 from 5 p.m. - 2 a.m.
The Second Annual Summer's Eve Music Festival with:

  • Ali Beletic
  • A'RK
  • The Renderers
  • BATT
  • CB Brand
  • The Sibleys
  • C'est Claire
  • Umberto
  • Mal Pais
  • College Hotel
  • MC Tom Blood

At The Palms Restaurant and Bar
83131 Amboy Road, Wonder Valley, CA 92277

$10 at the door (free camping)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SoCal Gas release on April 20 & 21

A note from Kristine Scott from SoCal Gas.

Good afternoon,

Last month the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas®) began maintenance work on one of our natural gas pipelines. This work is part of our system-wide plan to further enhance the safety of our pipelines throughout the communities we serve.

What to expect
During this maintenance work, you will see SoCalGas and its contractor’s trucks and heavy equipment. Crews will be working Monday through Saturday from approximately 6:00am-8:00pm.

On Wednesday, April 20th, and Thursday, April 21st of this week, there will be noise coming from our pipeline as we complete different phases of the maintenance work.  The noise should last approximately 15 minutes each day. In addition to the noise, you might notice a rotten-egg like odor of natural gas. Natural gas is non-toxic, odorless and colorless. For this reason, we add a minute amount of a pungent odorant to natural gas to help detect leaks. The odorant is safe but its smell has been compared to the smell of rotten eggs.

We are sorry for any inconvenience or annoyance this may have caused our neighbors and area residents. We appreciate your patience and cooperation.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Regional Public Affairs Manager, Kristine Scott at or 909-809-0317.

Thank you.


Kristine D. Scott
Public Affairs Manager
155 S. G Street, San Bernardino, CA 92410

Saturday, April 16, 2016

FYI: Wonder Valley on the BOS Agenda

The April 19, 2016 Board of Supervisors agenda has two mentions of Wonder Valley:

Acting as the governing body of the Board Governed County Service Areas and Zones, adopt the following Resolutions continuing special taxes, which were previously approved by the voters, for 2016-17 and direct the Auditor-Controller/Treasurer/Tax Collector to place the special taxes on the 2016-17 tax roll:

Resolution setting a special tax for County Service Area 70, Zone TV-4 (Wonder Valley Television), at $5 per parcel, per Attachment C (no increase from previous year). 

Resolution setting a special tax for Zone A of County Service Area 70, Zone M (Wonder Valley), at $30.00 per parcel, per Attachment Q (includes the electorate-approved decrease for second year of special tax). 

(Presenter: Jeffrey O. Rigney, Director, 387-5967)

Participate via videoconferencing at Bob Burke Government Center, 63665 Twentynine Palms Highway.

Friday, April 15, 2016

San Bernardino County Tax-Defaulted Property Auction

The San Bernardino County Tax-Defaulted Property Auction is scheduled for May 14-20, 2016. Grant Street Group will host the 2016 online auction at There are over 4,000 parcels, including Timeshares.

A refundable $5,000 deposit, plus a $35 non-refundable bid deposit processing fee, is required to participate in this auction. Only one deposit per bidder is required. As a reminder, all deposits must be submitted on the auction site via an electronic debit (ACH debit) and must be made a minimum of five (5) business days before the sale begins. ACH deposits will be allowed, starting Monday, April 18, 2016. All bid deposits must be received by Grant Street Group no later than 5:00 p.m., Pacific Time, on Friday, May 6, 2016.

Be sure to get your deposit in on time, read the terms and conditions of the sale, and research all properties thoroughly before placing a bid. For more information on how to participate in the sale, please see the Tax Deed Sale Instructions available on the auction site:

SBCounty.MyTaxSale Administrator

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Desert Trail, April 14, 2016

On Saturday, April 16, two things will take place at our Wonder Valley Community Center, 80526 ½ Amboy Road. Fire extinguisher training will be held from 10 to 2. You must RSVP for this training. Contact Teresa Sitz at or call 760-865-9550. Then the Emergency Medical Responder training information session will be held from 2 to 4. Actual training will take place from June 13 through July 13.

The USDA Food Distribution will take place on Monday, April 18 at our community center from 10:30 to 12:30. The He Provides Ministry will also be there with free clothing and household items for anyone needing them.

We send out Rainbows-of-Diamonds-and-Sweet-Peas to Diane Brooks, Penny Root and Lonnie Casper who celebrate their special days this week. Happy birthday to all of you!

And speaking of special days, this week brings our fourth anniversary of writing this column!  We are two of three daughters of Louise Borquez who wrote this column for 18 years, so we are just following in her footsteps. Our baby sister Donna, who used to be a Wonder Valleyite but now lives in Yucca Valley, gets a special preview of our column every week. We hope all of you enjoy reading our column as much as we enjoy writing it.

Darlene’s Commentary: Have you ever had a vehicle problem, been stuck in the sand or become lost on sandy desert roads? Summer and triple-digits are unforgiving, and being prepared for the unexpected could save your life! Place these seven items in your trunk:  Two gallons of water, a wide-brimmed hat, cellphone with car-charger, a shovel, two pieces of old carpeting, a bright-colored blanket or tarp and a flashlight with extra batteries.

Karen’s Commentary: Many thanks to Jan Peek for stamps, coupons and cards, and to Rebecca Ardelino and Sue Kizer for cards. I just sent coupons to US military bases in Weisbaden, Ansbach, Bamburg, Grafenwaehr and Illesheim, Germany; Okinawa, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Yokota, Atsugi and Ikego, Japan; Alconbury, UK; Brussels, Belgium; and Gaeta, Italy. If you’d like to do this, go to Postage is the same as sending local.

The Food for Life Ministry is still looking for a home, and we’re hoping it will be our community center! In the meantime, they are serving free hot meals at Luckie Park from noon to 2 every
Saturday, and delivering meals to shut-ins. Call 760-361-1410.

Handy Hint: Use a vegetable peeler to shave long, thin slices of cheese from a block, or to slice cold, hard butter into thin strips.

Thought for Today: Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.

Until next time . . . remember to take time to enjoy the WONDERs all around us.

Sun as seen through a recent sandstorm in Wonder Valley

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Rumors and stories

Stories about me, your MAC volunteer, digging a community swimming pool, making Wonder Valley a city, or using road tax funds to bring in the recent rainbows, are simply not based in reality.

I do not take any actions in Wonder Valley without the consent of the community.

I do not even read my monthly report on Wonder Valley at the Big MAC meeting in Joshua Tree before the community has heard it, edited it, and approved it at our monthly meeting.

So, if you have not read it on an agenda, heard it in a meeting, or asked me about it in person, any stories you’ve heard are unverified. I know gossip can be fun, but it can also be a big time waster and a distraction at a time when Wonder Valley is facing important, and real issues that deserve our full attention - like keeping our fire service.

If you want to know the truth about what I’m doing, ask me. I am ridiculously easy to reach.

Teresa Sitz
MAC Volunteer
(760) 865-9550

Monday, April 11, 2016

Changes at the Wonder Valley Community Center

County Fire replaced the old blinds with new metal mini-blinds. What an improvement! Many thanks, Tom Marshall!

That palm tree to the right looks like it needs some help, though.
On March 26 Special Districts replaced the old drip system with a new irrigation system better suited to our desert climate. The plants are greening up nicely! Many thanks to John Bradford and Reese Troublefield, who saw this project through.

At today's monthly meeting the community approved a new neon sign. Brad Dunning will oversee the project at no cost to the community though people are welcome to contribute. The community also approved sharing our kitchen with the local group Food for Life. Wally Currie gave an informative presentation.

Thanks everyone for attending and participating!

It's really great to see the Wonder Valley Community Center being spruced up. We have a wonderful community and the Community Center is reflecting it.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Possible Benefits of a Wonder Valley Paid Call Fire Department

If you've attended the meetings on the fire issue you're probably well aware of the benefits of having Wonder Valley having its own fire department. If you haven't, you can catch up by clicking the [FIRE] tab above and reviewing the meetings and resources. I reviewed our first meeting this week and learned a lot - and I was AT that meeting.

Anyway, here are possible benefits for re-creating (because we had one once) a Paid Call Fire Department.

The Possible Benefits of a Paid Call / Volunteer Fire Department
  1. We know our roads and know how to drive our roads. We can make sure roads and driveways are wide enough, intersections are marked, and roads are accessible.
  2. We know our people, and can plan for the health of our people through nutrition and exercise programs at the community center.
  3. We can prepare fire pre-plans to help our neighbors prepare for emergencies and inform firefighters who are going to a property.
  4. We can build a water shuttle to act as an alternative to fire hydrants, providing continuous fire flow and possibly lowering our insurance rating and premiums.
  5. As firefighters work to learn the roads they will be eyes on the neighborhoods and provide greater security.
  6. We will write grants to provide smoke alarms and fire extinguishers to people who cannot afford them.
  7. We will have emergency services on hand in our community. Highway 62 was closed several times in the last couple of months. These closures would not affect firefighters living in Wonder Valley. If our FD was on a call we would be able to call in additional squads to serve as backup.
  8. We would be able to review, and to some extent, control costs. We would have monthly FD reports and could practice a greater degree of transparency and accountability.
  9. A PCF/Volunteer program would be the heart of our community. We would have direct contact with our firefighters. We would know them by name. We would see them training and maintaining the equipment.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Desert Trail Column, April 6, 2016

The special meeting about County Service Districts was very interesting and informative. A CSD is best described as falling somewhere in between an incorporated city (such as Twentynine Palms) and an unincorporated area (such as Wonder Valley). Morongo Valley’s General Manager Donna Munoz and Board President Gayl Swarat were kind enough to give us an overview of their area’s experiences over the years as a CSD. They presented pros and cons, plus how they’re currently dealing with a financial shortfall for their fire department. A CSD may be a solution to our fire service dilemma. has generously offered to provide free wifi at our Wonder Valley Community Center, along with free installation of equipment. The money to purchase the equipment has been donated by Wonder Valley residents, and we thank them along with so very much.

On Saturday, April 9, The Palms, 83131 Amboy Road, will be presenting Wonder Valley Experimental 8, a music festival featuring 20 bands. Music starts at 5 pm, and free onsite tent or car camping will be available festival night. Call 760-361-2810 or go to for further information.

The Wonder Valley Monthly Meeting will take place on Monday, April 11 at our community center, 80526 ½ Amboy Road, from 9 to 11 am. Kristine Scott from SoCal Gas will speak about the gas pipeline that runs through our area, and Brad Dunning will speak about his desire to restore the neon on our WV Community Center sign. Call Teresa Sitz at 760-865-9550 for further information.

On Monday, April 11, the Basinwide Municipal Advisory Council meeting will take place at the Joshua Tree Community Center at 6171 Sunburst in Joshua Tree from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Our MAC representative Teresa Sitz will be there to discuss items relative to Wonder Valley.

Happy birthday, Miss Charlotte!!!
We send out Rainbows-of-Diamonds-and-Sweet-Peas to Charlotte Williams who turns 83 this week. Happy birthday, Charlotte!

We are so saddened to hear that our fellow columnist, Mary Reeves, has passed away. Mary wrote the Desert Heights News, and her columns were always filled with goings-on at the Eagles Aerie, CERT training, Connie Chaffin’s Feathers ‘N’ Fur and so many other causes, always to help others. She will be missed by many, but always remembered.

The Animal Action League, located on Highway 62 just west of the dinosaurs in Joshua Tree, provides low-cost spay and neuter services, vaccinations and microchips for dogs and cats. Nail trimming for dogs costs only $5. Call 760-366-1100 for information.

Handy Hint: Reinforce knees of new pants by putting iron-on patches on the insides.

Thought for Today: “Wisdom begins with wonder.” – Socrates

Wonder Valley sunset
Until next time . . . remember to take time to enjoy the WONDERs all around us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Monthly Community Meeting | April 11, 2016

Everyone is invited and welcome to attend and participate in our monthly community meeting on

Monday, April 11, 2016, from 9 - 11 a.m. 
Wonder Valley Community Center
80526-1/2 Amboy Road, Wonder Valley, CA 92277

We have two guest presenters:

  1. Kristine Scott, of SoCal Gas, who will talk with the community about methane releases from natural gas pipeline in February and March.
  2. Brad Dunning, a Wonder Valley resident, is interested in restoring the neon on our Community Center sign and will present his proposal to the community for approval.
For more information, go to

Originally posted March 15, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Creating a Paid Call Firefighter program - examples from others

If Wonder Valley re-created a Paid Call Fire Department it would exist under the auspices of County Fire. If we decided we wanted local control we could create a Wonder Valley Community Services District (CSD) and apply to have the Wonder Valley PCF detached from County Fire and annexed to the Wonder Valley CSD. This would take time and money, and require a lot of community involvement.

The original Wonder Valley Volunteer Fire Department
The Baldwin Lake Volunteer Fire Department in San Bernardino County was annexed to the Big Bear City CSD. They formed their Volunteer Fire Department in 2007. They later applied to detach from County Fire and join with the Big Bear City CSD. Their certificate of completion was recorded on August 11, 2014.

This is an interesting history to read through and would prepare people to ask relevant questions of LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) at the Saturday, April 23 Community Meeting.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Wonder Valley Agricultural Inspection Station on Amboy

The California Department of Agriculture responded to our request to send historical information regarding the Agricultural Inspection Station on Amboy that now serves as our Firehouse. They sent the series of photos below.

Before the building was built the inspection station was nothing more than a stop on the side of the road.

The building was built about 1960. It's assume the station was closed in 1967 when the Needles Inspection Station was opened. The building now serves as our fire house. (Click on the photos to embiggen.)

Lessons from Morongo Valley

Morongo Valley is facing increases in their fire assessments quite similar to our. Wonder Valley can learn from their research, experiences, and choices.  Donald Krouse of Morongo Valley wrote the Guest Soapbox below for the Desert Trail.

Morongo Valley has its own Paid Call Fire Department and the tax increase would fund a shortfall in their budget. Currently they have four people on staff at all times. County Fire's proposal would reduce them to a 2- or 3- person firehouse for a much higher increase.

Costs of rejecting tax proposal will be too high, January 7, 2016
Your View: Guest Soapbox, By Donald Krouse, Morongo Valley

Some additional information and persuasion may be useful for Morongo Valley voters about “Morongo Valley to vote on $350 fire tax” (Dec. 17).

The net increase for the fire tax, after eliminating the existing fire assessment, will be approximately $200 for improved properties (55 cents more per day). The increase for unimproved properties is a big jump (93 cents per day) if now paying $10 per year.

Unimproved parcel owners may not like it today, but if people purchase parcels while calculating a future profit, they generally weigh costs and benefits. Future values are easily threatened by lack of fire and paramedic services. Smart buyers negotiate for lower prices when unprotected risks exist. A “high fire risk” area surrounds Morongo Valley.

If you someday want to sell your home, you will see downward pricing pressures if potential buyers cannot get mortgages because insurance companies decline to insure the high risk. That is called an undesirable market.

Five miles from a locally staffed fire station is a first consideration in fire insurance risk assessment. Without local fire services, existing homeowners’ insurance premiums increase by amounts that dwarf the cost of the fire tax.

After East Contra Costa voters lost their fire protection district, fire risk ratings shot up. Before voting “no,” East Contra Costa citizens passionately accused their local board of lying, fear mongering and over-generous spending even after the board documented the facts.
Local property owners now report annual insurance increases of $3,500 to $5,000 over their old premiums. Outsiders might honestly wonder about the intelligence of East Contra Costa voters casting penny-pinching rather than dollar-wise votes.

San Bernardino County Fire could annex Morongo Valley into its fire district, but that comes with even greater cost. They gave us two written proposals. They make no distinction between improved and unimproved land. The proposed parcel cost is 181 percent higher ($635 for the minimal staffing proposal), or 242 percent higher ($853) than the Morongo Valley CSD board’s recommendation to maintain current services. Future tax increases would be determined at the county level, not by Morongo Valley voters.

All fire departments have seen costs escalate since Morongo Valley approved the (to-be eliminated) assessment in 2002. Morongo Valley cost increases are not primarily due to wages, as some mistakenly claim. Ours are among the lowest paid firefighters in California, so why would anyone credibly argue for cutting firefighter staffing or salaries when they put their lives at risk for us, just to save less than $1 per day?

FCC approves adding broadband to LIfeline program

Low income residents in Wonder Valley may soon be able to purchase broadband internet for as low as $9.25 a month.  Users would be able to use Skype (internet telephone), watch movies, pay bills, keep up on local, national and international news, and just generally enjoy the Internet.

The FCC writes,

"Lifeline is the FCC's program to help make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. Currently, Lifeline provides subscribers a discount on monthly telephone service purchased from participating providers in the marketplace. On March 31, 2016, the FCC approved rules to modernize Lifeline so that subscribers can also purchase discounted broadband from participating providers. Discounts will apply to stand-alone broadband, bundled voice-broadband packages - either fixed or mobile - and stand-alone voice service. Watch this page for an announcement of when these new rules take effect. These modernizations will help ensure that low-income consumers can afford 21st-century broadband and the access it provides to jobs, education and opportunities."
For more information see:

What do volunteer firefighters do?

Former assistant fire chief of the Wonder Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Jim Copeland, brought these recent copies of the Inyo Register to show what volunteer firefighters are doing in Inyo County.

Wonder Valley is asking residents to step forward and take the EMR training from June 13 to July 13, and then in the fall take the fire technology training. Both programs have hours that accommodate the schedules of working people.

To be a volunteer or paid call firefighter you must be 18 and have a clean record. Most volunteer firefighters have other jobs. Many are limited in the work they can perform. All must be able to be an emergency medical responder.

If you're interested in becoming a paid call firefighter contact Teresa Sitz at, or attend the information session on Saturday, April 16 at 2:00 p.m.
For more information see:

Keep on truckin'Larry Huffman, a 59-year veteran of the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department, is pictured next to the department's water tender which has been slated to be officially declared surplus during the city of Bishop council meeting Monday evening. A replacement tender is in the process of being prepared to go into service.

Toasted truck
Bishop Fire Department volunteer firefighters off Engine 2 work on getting a hose line in service to attack a vehicle fire just after 10 a.m. Friday in the approximate 2000 block of Dixon Lane. The cab of the truck was fully involved with fire when fire equipment arrived on scene. The truck was reportedly loaded with hay, but the first emergency personnel to arrive at the fire advised the blaze had not spread beyond the cab of the truck. The fire was quickly extinguished with the use of a hand line following the arrival of Engine 2.

Injured child
A Big Pine Volunteer Fire Department captain holds the head of a seven-year-old boy as he is carried to an ambulance by an EMT following a two-vehicle collision on U.S. 395 at Keough Hot Springs Road. Dennis Cleland, public information officer for the California Highway Patrol Bishop office, said that the collision occurred around noon in No. 1 northbound lane of U.S. 395 when a Toyota Highlander driven by Jennifer Bergland of Reno, Nev., ran into the rear of a Lexus ES300 driven by Lauren Burek of Arroyo Grande. Bergland, the seven-year-old boy, and a child in a car seat were all occupants of the Highlander and were transported from the scene by ambulance. Burek appeared to have suffered only minor injury and was treated at the scene.

How to worry less

Public Education Webinar Series | How to Worry Less
with David Carbonell, PhD

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
4:00 pm Pacific Time

A clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders, Dr. David Carbonell is the founder and director of the Anxiety Treatment Center, Ltd., and the "coach" at, a self-help website for people troubled by fears and phobias.

Register here.

David Carbonell, PhD
Anxiety Treatment Center, Ltd.

Sponsored by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Author of The Worry Trick: How Your Brain Tricks You Into Expecting the Worst and What You Can Do About It

Webinar format:
A live 45-minute presentation, followed by a brief Q&A session.
Free: no fees

Clinicians and other mental health professionals are welcome to attend, but this webinar series is intended for the general public.