Serving the communities of Valley Springs, Burson and Wallace
Sewer rate hike proposed for Valley Springs customers
By Nick Baptista
Valley Springs Public Utility District customers will receive
some good and some bad news in the mail this week.
The good news is water rates will be adjusted little if any. On
the other hand, wastewater rates are expected to go up by more than 80
According to Douglas R. Dove of Bartle Wells Associates, the
company that prepared the rate plan for the utility district, the
overall monthly bill for the average utility district customer will
increase approximately 34 percent.
The typical monthly bill for water and sewer service at this time
is $64 and it will increase to $90 a month under the new rate proposal.
A notice of the proposed rate increase is scheduled to go out in
this week’s mail and a public workshop session on the proposed changes
is scheduled for March 22. In addition, written protests can also be
submitted for consideration. Those letters can be sent to the district
at P.O. Box 284, Valley Springs, CA 95252.
The board will hold a public hearing on the rate hike at 6:30
p.m. April 26 in the district office at 150 Sequoia Ave. The rate
increase could become effective that day if the board approves the
Bartle Wells found the sewer-operating fund is operating in the
red by about $78,000. In addition, the sewer capital fund will use most
of its revenues for future projects and to meet compliance requirements
set forth by the state’s Water Quality Control Board.
Water capital fund expenses include the drilling of a second
well, much of which could be paid for by a state grant, and a third well
in future years. The two new wells combined could cost about $475,000.
The board increased the proposed rates by $4 a month for water
and sewer infrastructure fees. The board has a surcharge of $3 a month
each for the water and sewer capital funds and would like to have the
surcharge increased to $5 a
month for each. A portion of the money would be used to replace aging
Bartle Wells also suggested that the district should phase out
its tiered water pricing over the next years. The consulting firm also
suggested the district should immediately build its reserves to cover 45
days of expenses. That would be a reserve of $20,000 for the water fund
and $32,000 for the sewer fund.
Eventually, Bartle Wells said the district should build reserves
to cover six months of operations and maintenance. That would be $84,000
for water and $135,000 for sewer.
Casey Gleason, left, and Spencer Fusselman are looking for community support as they begin efforts to produce an independent film.
Valley Springs area has pair of aspiring film producers
By Nick Baptista
Two Calaveras High School students have undertaken an ambitious
project. Seniors Spencer Fusselman and Casey Gleason want to film an
independent movie and would like to see it make the grade as an entry in
the Sundance Film Festival.
To reach their goal, Fusselman and Gleason are working to
raise $20,000 for cameras, other equipment and all the necessities
needed for the low-budget production, including a reproduction of a
The pair plans to keep the film close to home with scenes likely
in at Camanche, La Contenta and behind the Valley Oaks Shopping Center.
In an effort to gain support and hype for the proposed film,
Fusselman and Gleason are approaching locals businesses for donations
and they have plans for a spaghetti dinner where they will present their
dream to potential investors. They hope to have their star attraction
– the Lamborghini at the special event.
The two wrote the script, which centers on a car thief by the
name of Phoenix and the man who is tracking him down, an undercover cop
by the name of John. Gleason will play the part of Phoenix and Fusselman
has the title role of John.
Fusselman, who lives in Wallace, has had a passion for filming
since he was 3 years old and wants to become a film producer. Gleason,
who lives in Valley Springs, said he wants to help his friend realize
Both have taken classes and courses in filming and video
Fusselman prepared the budget for the production and Gleason will
work on the details of getting the necessary permits and release forms.
Several other CHS students will have roles in the production, which
Fusselman said might be 42 minutes to an hour long.
Those interested in the project can contact Fusselman at (209)
915-8174 or email him at email@example.com.
Foothill Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Steffan Sommer releases a pesky possum back to the wild.
Sleepy possum ignites a first for Foothill Fire
By Nick Baptista
being labeled as a first in Foothill Fire Protection District history
occurred shortly before noontime Friday in front of Long Drug Store in
approximately 11:30 p.m., units from the district responded to a report
of a fire in the engine compartment of a truck parked in front of the
Foothill Battalion Chief Steffan Sommer and Capt. Clint Gleason lifted
the hood and began extinguishing the blaze, they found a little surprise
– one with four paws and a pointed snout. It was a possum that had
nested in the pick-up truck belonging to Willard Miller of Valley
possum had taken refuge in the engine compartment and it was the nest
that had gone up in flames. The possum was singed, but had escaped being
told the firefighters the possum has been a regular visitor in his
truck, which sits idle most of the time. Miller has cleared the nest in
the past, but he didn’t check the compartment on Friday before taking
his vehicle out for a spin.
and Gleason attempted to remove the possum from the engine compartment
and transplant it in the fields behind the shopping center. However, the
little critter didn’t cooperate and briefly escaped the long arms of
about three minutes of freedom, the possum was captured in a box and
Sommer took the animal behind the new Starbucks for release near the
Valley Springs Public Utility District pond.
truck didn’t fare as well. It would not start following the fire.
Marilynn Hillabush, left, Elaine Alves, Carolyn Edwards and Steve Kearney display the Fireworks Quilt donated by Loose Threads Quilt Guild to help finance the annual fireworks show over New Hogan Reservoir.
gear up for fireworks
By Nick Baptista
Efforts to finance the annual fireworks show over New Hogan
Reservoir have begun.
The Valley Springs Boosters have set March 11 for their annual
Spring Wine and Cheese Reception and the Loose Threads Quilt Guild has
donated their 2006 Fireworks Quilt to the cause.
The quilt will be unveiled to the public at the wine and cheese
reception. This is the fourth quilt the guild has donated to the
fireworks show, said Boosters President Steve Kearney, and ticket sales
for an opportunity to win the quilt through a drawing generate $3,000 to
$5,000 a year.
Tickets for the quilt will be one for $1 or six for $5. Tickets
for the wine and cheese reception are $10 per person and can be
purchased from Valley Springs Boosters or call Kearney at Longs Drug
Store at 772-9711.
The reception, hosted by French Hill Winery out of Mokelumne
Hill, begins at 6:30 p.m. at Jenny Lind Fire Station No. 1, 6501 Jenny
Lind Road. Wines from French Hill and other Calaveras County wineries
will be served. French
Hill is a boutique winery featuring Zinfandel, Barbera, Syrah, Merlot,
Sangiovese, Chardonnay, and Port.
Tickets are limited to 144.
Kearney accepted the one-of-kind Fireworks Quilt from the guild
during the group’s monthly meeting on Tuesday.
“You’re a pretty powerful group,” Kearney said at the
meeting. “You’re more generous than the community realizes.”
He estimated that when ticket sales for the fourth quilt are
completed, the four quilts would have generated more than $12,000 the
past four years for the Boosters’ fireworks efforts.
“You helped put the Boosters on the map,” he added.
With the help of the Loose Threads Quilt Guild, Valley Springs
Boosters have donated money back to the group for the Quilts of Valor
program to assist service people wounded in the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq, grants to local schools and the donation of 50 bicycles to
children in the community, he said.
“You should all be proud of yourselves,” Kearney said. “I
don’t know of any group that has done so much for so very little
credit. It’s crucial for the community to know what everyone does in
this room. We couldn’t pay you back for what you have done for our
All Together Family Quilting and the Belmont family were also
acknowledged for their contributions.
In addition to the wine tasting, the quilt will be on display at
the Valley Oaks Shopping Center and at the Powwow. The winning ticket
will be drawn prior to the fireworks show, set for June 24.
Linda Mellin, left, Pat Urbanus and Robert Leer rehearse a scene from "Murder at the Bed & Breakfast."
"Murder at the B&B" hits the stage
If you’re looking for a whodunit mystery, the Valley Springs
Friends of the Library annual stage production has opened and tickets
are still available.
This year’s production, “Murder at the Bed &
Breakfast,” is an original murder mystery written by Don Urbanus. It
is the fifth production Urbanus has written for the Friends of the
Mary Peterson returns to direct the play, the third time she has
directed a Friends of the Library production.
“Don did such a great job,” Peterson said, “and we have a
The setting for Urbanus’ play is in “little Valley Springs”
where a “murder most foul is committed at the local bed and breakfast.
Fortunately, the famous Inspector Clueslow just happens to be staying at
the inn. He quickly finds that everyone is a suspect, even the equally
famous Dr. Rora, the advice columnist.”
dinner-theater featuring pork loin dinners will be served the next two
weekends. The cost is $18 and doors open at 6 p.m. Feb. 24, 25, March 3
and 4 at the Jenny Lind Veterans Memorial
Hall at the corner of Daphne and Pine streets in Valley Springs.
Dinner will be served at 7. The meals will include baked potatoes, salad
Tickets can be purchased at the Health Habit or call Lois Johnson
at 772-3677 or Tillie Soyland at 772-0740 for more information.
Proceeds from the event will be used to furnish a new building
for the Valley Springs branch of the county library. In addition, the
event will include a drawing for door prizes.
The stage manager this year is Megan Mellin and lights and
sound are by Jason Simons and Family.
Jennie Cline and grandson Jon Manuel Byron V are gearing up to participate in the 2006 Relay For Life.
Relay For Life a moving experience for one family
The Byron family of Valley Springs will be out in force to
support the 2006 Relay For Life of Calaveras.
The Relay For Life is the signature event of the American Cancer
Society and its largest fundraiser. The Calaveras event is from 10 a.m.
Saturday, April 29, to 10 a.m. Sunday, April 30, at the Bret Harte High
School track and it is anticipated that 65 teams will participate in the
Members of the team take turns running or walking around the
track. In the opening ceremony, the community’s cancer survivors are
celebrated and honored. In addition, there is a Luminaria Ceremony at
night when those who lost to the disease are remembered.
The Byron family has experienced the ups and downs of life. Jon
Manuel Byron V, a fifth-grader at Jenny Lind Elementary School, just
before his second birthday had surgery to remove a brain tumor and his
maternal grandmother, Jennie Cline, is a breast and lung cancer
Along with Jon’s mom, Shirley Byron, they will participate in the Relay For Life with the Stitchers For Hope. Jon drew an affinity with the Relay when he met a girl at the event who also had a brain tumor and went through a similar ordeal.
“The whole spirit of the event is amazing,” said Cline.
“It’s overwhelming love.”
Jon has recovered from his surgery to lead a normal boy’s life.
He plays baseball, basketball and soccer. His hobbies include Legos,
riding a dirt bike and he just got a dune buggy.
In school he does well in spelling and English, but math can be
difficult at times because he has some scar tissue on the area of the
brain used for math. He receives extra reinforcement for math at home
and intervention at school.
The family is getting a slower than normal start on their
fund-raising activities because Shirley recently was hospitalized.
“You can’t understand until you’ve been at the relay and
get sucked into that feeling of love,” said Cline. “It’s almost
The second annual Stitchers for Hope Golf Tournament, a Relay For
Life team event, is scheduled for Saturday, April 8, at La Contenta
The cost to participate in the four-person scramble event is $100
For sponsorship information or to register for the tournament,
contact Stitchers for Hope, in care of All Together Family Quilting, at
(209) 772-2686, or email Debbie Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The deadline is March 25.
County Planner Shaelyn Strattan, right, points out
features of the proposed Trinitas project.
Residents voice concern
about Trinitas proposal
Gauging by public sentiment at A Feb. 2 initial planning meeting
on the proposal to build a golf resort off Ospital Road, it will be an
unwelcome addition to the area if it gets past environmental review and
Mike Nemee, chairman of Trinitas Olive Oil Co., has proposed subdividing 280 acres off Ospital Road between Warren and Southworth roads into 14 parcels, 13 of which will be single-family residential lots, each approximately two acres in size. The remaining 244-acre parcel would include what is now a personal 18-hole golf course with a driving range, clubhouse and lodge with overnight accommodations. The two-story, 18,000-square-foot clubhouse facility would include a tasting room for olive oil products produced on the property, retail space, a restaurant and banquet facilities.
However, Nemee’s neighbors who attended Thursday’s “public scooping session” at the Burson Firehouse voiced concerned the development will deplete the area’s limited groundwater supply, significantly increase traffic, wear and tear on the area’s roads and create a market for other golf community-type projects in their agricultural area.
Highway 26 and Ospital Road are “too dangerous as it is today,” said Lynette Ospital. She said the roads are too narrow and have too many blind areas. They both need to be widened and improved before such a project is considered.
She added the county needs to preserve the area’s natural beauty and take into consideration what impact the proposal will have on the area’s water supply.
Although the Nemees have several sources of surface water for the golf course, area resident Kent Shelton asked what assurances would be made that groundwater would not be used to water the holes when surface water is depleted.
“Will he let his golf course go brown?” Shelton asked.
Ospital Road resident Beverly Durr expressed her dissatisfaction with the way the Nemees apparently circumvented the county’s planning process by installing what was first called a personal golf course that did not need a permit and now it is the cornerstone of their proposed development.
At the beginning of the meeting, Calaveras County land-use planner Shaelyn Strattan said that because the golf course was already in place, its construction would not be subjected to study in the EIR. However, its operation would be part of the EIR review.
Some residents said it appears work is continuing on the golf course and it should be halted now that the Nemees what to turn it from a personal to a private facility.
Durr also expressed her fears that the golf course and associated olive orchard would deplete the area’s water table. In addition, she said olive processing creates tons of highly toxic waste and asked which government entity would oversee the processing operation.
Mike Milne, staff biologist for the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, said the center was upset that work on the golf course may have already disturbed wetlands. He added history shows similar destination golf course-type projects fuel suburban growth around them. He said the upcoming Environmental Impact Report should contain an analysis of the proposed project’s cumulative impacts on water quality, future residential growth, traffic and wildlife.
Area Realtor and resident Paula Davis said the county should also look at traffic impacts on several nearby roads, such as Southworth and Pettinger, which will feed off Highway 12 to the proposed golf facility.
Calaveras County Supervisor Bill Claudino and Interim Planning Director Bob Sellman were in attendance and fielded questions about the county’s oversight of the project to date.
Sellman said the land is zoned agriculture at this time and that permits many uses without permits, such as constructing a personal golf course.
Residents said the county should keep a close eye on what is being done on the property and make sure it is in compliance with the law and county regulations.
Strattan encouraged the audience to sign in and provide their addresses so the county can appraise them as the project moves forward through the necessary studies, comment periods and possible hearings.
Burson Postmaster Wendi Sherman displays pink and red hearts that will grace the post office lobby this month.
Valentine's heart tradition returns to Burson Post Office
By Nick Baptista
Burson Post Office the past 13 years has marked the month of February
and Valentine’s Day with a heartfelt twist and this year there will be
an added feature, according to Postmaster Wendi Sherman.
past 13 years, red hearts have been posted in the post office lobby when
a postal customer sends a letter to a loved one. The heart includes the
name of the postal customer. In years past, the number of red hearts has
exceeded 300 in the lobby.
going to add something special this year, and make breast cancer
awareness a part of the decorating,” Sherman has informed her postal
addition to red hearts, pink ones will be posted on the wall when a
customer purchases a Breast Cancer Stamp during the month. The stamp
costs 45 cents and 6 cents goes toward breast cancer research.
Since the stamp was released in 1998, more than 650.5 million
breast cancer research stamps have sold and the effort has raised $44
million for research.
special bonus, the first 25 people who purchase a full sheet of breast
cancer research stamps will receive a special gift, Sherman said.
year, it is estimated that 211,240 new cases of invasive breast cancer
were diagnosed in women in the United States. More than a tenth of those
women live in California and Sherman is being treated for breast cancer.
estimated that 40,000 women and 470 men died from breast cancer in 2005.
detected in the early stages, the survival rate is more than 95 percent
and there are 2 million breast cancer survivors living in the U.S.
said her case was diagnosed early and she is looking forward to a post
office full of red and pink hearts this month.
see how many ‘love’ letters will be mailed from Burson,
Dan MacHugh of Valley Springs is the one on the right of the Studebaker
Blues Band’s new “Pedal to the Metal” CD cover.
Dan MacHugh of Valley Springs is the one on the right of the Studebaker Blues Band’s new “Pedal to the Metal” CD cover.
Valley Springs man manager by day, blues band member by night
By Nick Baptista
So what does one Valley Springs man - who by day is a sales manager for a large sales company - do to have fun? For Dan MacHugh it’s singing the blues at night.
MacHugh is a member of the Studebaker Blues Band, which recently released a CD, and this week the band will perform in Calaveras County at the Murphys Historic Hotel. The band has its gig Friday and Saturday at the hotel located at 457 Main St.
The band was started in 1996 by Bob Duffy in Modesto, MacHugh said.
“Bob would get a gig and call his buddies,” MacHugh said. “We’d play. It was pretty informal, but we started to get a following.”
Duffy called the band the Studebaker Blues Band after his old bullet-noised 1949 Studebaker coupe. When Duffy moved to San Luis Obispo, MacHugh asked him if he could keep the band going.
MacHugh and drummer Mike “Stewie” Stewart have been together in the band since 2001. Guitarist Jim Hartley joined the band in 2003 and Rick Duncan at the bass, joined the group last August. The band recorded their recent CD at Duncan’s Nacnud Sound studio in Lodi and Duncan was the engineer for the CD.
Duncan is an awesome talent who has formal music training and also performs with the Stockton Symphony, MacHugh said.
Duncan and Hartley resided in Lodi, while Stewart lives in Escalon.
The new CD titled “Pedal to the Metal” is the band’s third CD, but the first with the present line-up, and MacHugh’s lyrics are in nine of the album’s 12 original songs.
“This is by far are slickest production,” MacHugh said.
In addition to Duncan engineering the CD, Stewart, a graphic artist by day, designed the CD cover.
Also appearing on the recording are Mic Gillette and Skip Mesquite, founding members of Tower of Power.
“It was pretty exciting to get them in for a couple of the songs,” MacHugh added.
The CD is available for $15 at the band’s engagements. In addition, it can be purchased on-line at www.studebakerblues.com for $20, which includes shipping.
A native of Oakland, MacHugh and his wife Pam moved to Valley Springs from Concord in 1991.
He said the band is like family. There is no jealousy or rivalry and they like each other’s company on and off the stage.
“We have a great time,” he said. “There are no egos.”
In addition to Murphys, the band will perform Feb. 11 at the Sutter Street Café in Stockton, Feb. 17 at the Elk Grove Brewery and on Feb. 25 they will have a CD release party at Arroyo’s Café in Stockton.