Serving the communities of Valley Springs, Burson and Wallace
Firefighters of the Foothill Fire Protection District are, front row, from left, John Rouff, Brad Hillious, Spencer Lewis, Raymond Correia; back row, from left, Justin Neufeld, Bryan Gamma, Brett Dickenson, Mike Vitro, John Coutts, Stuart Sant, Brian Hannameyer, Ron Gebo, Jacob Brower, Battalion Chief Ken Dallinger and Fire Chief Michael Siligo. Not pictured: Jacquelyn Galliazzo.
Foothill Fire volunteers finish
intense training program
The Foothill Fire Protection District had a barbecue celebration Oct. 16 at Station 1 in Burson for the recent and previous graduates of the Firefighter I Program.
Some of the district’s personnel had already completed the program through other agencies or through independent college courses. The district began the program last October for the remaining individuals that had not.
Classes were held three times a month, consisting of classroom instruction and live hands-on training. The one-year program used International Fire Service Training Association curriculum approved by the California State Fire Marshal. Training consisted of many disciplines including fire behavior, how to conduct fire safety inspections, vehicle extrication, ladders, hose streams, etc.“This certification is a giant step forward for anyone considering a professional position with any fire agency regardless of its location,” said Fire Chief Michael Siligo. “It also provides each student with an abundance of practical skills and knowledge necessary to provide a high level of fire protection to the community. I could not be more proud of these men and women for their commitment and persistence in completing this yearlong program. They put their skills to work on a daily basis for anyone that may have an emergency. For the people in this community that do not know; Foothill Fire is a ‘volunteer’ agency. With the exception of a few paid staff, every individual that responds to your emergencies on a 24/7 basis are volunteering their time. If you have the opportunity, please acknowledge them and thank them fo
Durand family, from left, Mimi, Edward, sister Alyssa and Lance Cpl. Joe
in front of the family home on Priscilla Court at the beginning of
Joe’s “Welcome Home” party.
Marine returns home after seven months at front
A gathering of family and friends Monday afternoon in Valley
Springs marked the return of Joe Durand from the deserts of Afghanistan.
The 20-year-old Marine has been in Afghanistan for the past seven
months. He is a lance corporal with the 7th Engineer Support
Battalion stationed at Camp Pendleton.
Durand’s address in Afghanistan has been Camp Dwyer in the
Helmand Province, which has been a Taliban stronghold and center for
Lance Cpl. Durand is a heavy equipment mechanic. His duties
included repairing roads, building Forward Operation Bases and repairing
construction equipment such as the tractors used to complete those
“I’m proud of our support for the infantry units and
security,” he said about his time in Afghanistan.
Durand, the son of Edward and Mimi Durand of Valley Springs, has
been a Marine for two years. He attended Calaveras High School his
senior year and worked at Mar-Val before joining the Corps.
It was while working at Mar-Val that he met his girlfriend,
Dad was also a Marine.
“I’m following in his footsteps, but I’m making my own at
the same time,” the younger Durand said.
Durand will be returning to Camp Pendleton and begin training for
his next deployment, possibly a year from now back in Afghanistan.
The lance corporal would like to make the Marines a career, but
he's keeping his options open and could return into the private sector
in heavy equipment operation, mechanics and maintenance with the
possibility of working for John Deere where he has an internship
Durand, who spent his 20th birthday “sitting in the
middle of the desert waiting around,” said family and friends take
good care of him with care packages and the public is doing pretty good
with providing the service people with random care packages.
He’s also glad to see friend and fellow Afghanistan veteran Matthew Maddox recovering from injuries he sustained earlier this year and doing his duty as well.
Ten of the remaining 37 Navajo
Code Talkers received Quilts of Honor in a special ceremony Oct. 16.
honors Navajo Code Talkers
The few remaining Navajo Code Talkers, made famous in the 2002
Nicholas Cage movie “Windtalkers,” were honored Oct. 16 when the
Valley Springs-based Quilts of Honor presented them with patriotic,
handmade quilts for their service and sacrifice to the country.
Gail Belmont, Quilts of Honor director and founder, said 10 of
the remaining 37 Navajo Code Talkers were present for Saturday’s
ceremony. Quilts of Honor members made 40 quilts in all for distribution
to the Navajo Code Talkers and one of the quilts was donated to the
Navajo Code Talkers Museum for permanent display.
The Navajo Code Talkers, through the transmission of secret, tactical
radio messages based on their native language during World War II, were
credited for saving thousands of servicemen’s lives. Up until 1968,
they were prohibited from telling their stories due to national security
interests, Belmont said.
Although the few remaining Code Talkers are getting up in age and
many were in wheelchairs, she shook their hands during the presentations
and those handshakes “were the strongest I’ve felt in my life.”
Another highlight of the trip was a guided tour of the Navajo
Nation’s Sacred Canyon, Belmont said.
Belmont, herself a veteran from the Vietnam era, credited the
members of Quilts of Honor for the tremendous effort.
The nonprofit organization received its status in March and has
already exceeded its goal of providing 200 quilts this year to service
men and women who have received Purple Hearts, or have sustained
post-traumatic stress or brain injuries, she said.
Many of the service men and women returning from just one tour in
Afghanistan or Iraq are experiencing post-traumatic stress, she added.
Quilt of Honor volunteers have “unbelievable patriotism,” she
said, as it takes nearly two weeks of steady work just to make one
Prior to starting Quilts of Honor, Belmont was involved with
Quilts of Valor. While in the service, one of her duties was to play
taps at the burial of those service people who died in Vietnam.
“It’s easy for me to do this,” she said of her efforts
first with Quilts of Valor and now with Quilts of Honor. “As a
veteran, I have a passion and I feel for them.”
Fundraising is a constant activity for Quilts of Honor. Belmont
estimates it costs $250 to $300 to prepare each quilt.
To continue the work, Stitchers For Hope is holding a Halloween
Bunco Tournament at 6 p.m. Oct. 30 in the Veterans Memorial Hall.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling 772-2686. In addition,
there is a Nov. 6 motorcycle run from Lathrop to Valley Springs. The
cost is $15. There will be a pre-Veterans Day ceremony at the end of the
ride at noontime at Hawg Dawgs in the Valley Oaks Center. For more
information, call 772-2686.
Valley Springs Elementary band students finish an arrangement with some flair.
Band numbers swell despite tough times
The band room at Valley Springs Elementary School is busting out
at the seams when all 60 members arrive for class.
Band teacher Robert Wise has an interesting dilemma this school
year. He has his largest group of beginning band members in his 10 years
of teaching in the Calaveras Unified School District and the trend is
not limited to Valley Springs Elementary. Every elementary school in the
district has seen an influx of new band students.
Jenny Lind’s band numbers have tripled from 15 to 45 in one
year, all of the fifth- and sixth-graders at Rail Road Flat are in band,
26 out of 30 students at Mokelumne Hill are band members and West Point
has a band enrollment of 25 children.
“We’re seeing the instrumental band program getting bigger
and bigger,” Wise said. “I don’t know for sure why it’s
happening. It’s a mystery.”
Wise’s role in the district has been to build up the band
programs at the elementary level, which is the feeder system to the
middle and high school band programs, and there have been measurable
Calaveras High School went from a low of about 20 band members to
about 60 and now has a marching band, he said.
“It all starts in the elementary schools,” Wise said. “The
district made good choices in not cutting programs that keep kids
looking forward to coming to school.”
Parents also play a major role in helping the band program, he
“Despite these difficult economic times, parents are making whatever sacrifices are necessary for their children’s happiness,” he said. “I commend that.”
Sam Welch of Valley Springs has logged one million miles of safe driving without an accident for Con-way Freight.
Valley Springs man reaches 1 million safe miles mark
Every industry has certain unique career milestones that set apart an individual as especially skilled and accomplished in their profession. For a professional truck driver, one million miles of safe driving without an accident is the ultimate measure of excellence. It is an elite club that now counts Valley Springs resident Sam Welch as a member.
Welch is a driver sales representative for Con-way Freight, a
less-than-truckload freight carrier and subsidiary of Con-way Inc. He
safely drove the one million miles starting in November 1983. The
company plans to recognize his achievement in a ceremony at its Stockton
service center, where Welch is based.
"Sam's impressive accomplishment highlights the personal and
professional commitment to safety of those of our employees who go
behind the wheel of a truck every day, and who make it their business to
demonstrate superior safety performance on the highways, in our service
centers and at our customers' facilities," said Douglas W. Stotlar,
president and CEO, Con-way Inc. "Safety is one of our core values,
and we congratulate Sam for his extraordinary achievement."
Welch has worked for Con-way Freight since 1983 and has been a
professional truck driver for 27 years. The company has also recognized
him for five, 10 and 15 years of safe driving. Welch typically drives
approximately 150 miles per shift, and his route takes him from Stockton
to Livermore and Tracy. He has been married for 12 years to his wife,
Toni, and has two sons: Jim and Tim; and four grandchildren: James,
Connor, Jillian and Cadience. His hobbies include backpacking with his
wife, scuba diving and scouting. Welch is a member of the Boy Scouts of
Over the company's 27-year history, more than 1,500 Con-way
Freight driver sales representatives have reached the one-million-mile
safe driving milestone, while more than 100 have driven two million
Brian Gross being arrested.
License board arrests local contractor
former licensed contractor whose state license was taken away this
spring has been arrested and now faces several felony and misdemeanor
charges associated with contracting with a revoked license and failure
to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
Investigators from the Contractors State License Board’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team and the Amador County District Attorney’s Office arrested Brian Gross, 47, of Valley Springs on Oct. 1.
The license board revoked Gross’ General Building
contractor license on June 1 for failure to pay two separate
administrative citations that total more than $4,000. His license
actually expired on Dec. 31, 2009.
Building officials in Jackson reportedly tipped fraud team
investigators to Gross’ attempt to get a local business license using
his revoked contractor license number. The license board and
Amador County investigators made the arrest when they found Gross and
three employees roofing at a home in Jackson.
Gross now faces a felony count of fraudulent use of a
contractor license number and misdemeanor counts for contracting without
a license - which carries enhanced penalties if connected to a revoked
license, illegal advertising, displaying a revoked license, failure to
carry workers’ compensation insurance, and soliciting an excessive
Gross will be arraigned 1 p.m. Friday at the Amador County
Superior Court in Jackson.
past administrative citations were for filing false exemptions to avoid
paying for workers’ compensation insurance, failure to secure building
permits, charging excessive down payments, working outside of his
license classification, illegal advertising, and illegal contracts. Even
though his license was revoked for failure to pay these fines, the
license board says Gross continued to contract and advertise in
violation of state law.
“CSLB values its partnerships with prosecutors and building
officials that enable us to help root out these unlicensed
individuals,” said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. “This is a
perfect example of how those who refuse to follow the state’s
contracting laws put consumers, their employees, and legitimate
contractors at risk.”
California law requires that any home improvement job valued at
$500 or more for labor and materials be done by a licensed contractor.
Licensees must carry workers’ compensation coverage for all employees
so that homeowners are not financially liable if a worker is injured on
their property. Roofing contractors must purchase workers’
compensation coverage for themselves in addition to any employees.
CSLB urges consumers to follow these helpful tips before hiring
anybody to do work on their home or property:
Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see their license and a
photo ID to ensure they are who they say they are.
Don’t hire the first contractor who comes along.
Don’t rush into repairs, no matter how badly they’re needed.
Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as
a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees
who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are
noted on CSLB’s website.
Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let payments get ahead of the
Get at least three bids, check references, and get a written
The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella
of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. More information and
publications about hiring contractors are available on the CSLB website
or by calling 800-321-CSLB (2752). You can also sign up for CSLB
e-mail alerts at www.cslb.ca.gov. CSLB licenses and
regulates California's more than 300,000 contractors, and is regarded as
one of the leading consumer protection agencies in the United States. In
fiscal year 2009-10, CSLB helped recover nearly $42 million in ordered
restitution for consumers.
Sheriff-elect Gary Kuntz
Kuntz vows to re-open Valley Springs substation
Sheriff-elect Gary Kuntz will assume office in less than three
months and one of his top priorities is to re-open a Valley Springs area
The previous substation was in the Valley Oaks Center and now is
the location for the newly opened Paws & Claws canine and feline
Sheriff Dennis Downum closed the Valley Springs substation in
July 2008 citing budgetary reasons.
“My ultimate goal is to eventually have a fully functional
office in the Valley Springs area,” Kuntz said in an interview with
The Valley Springs News.
Valley Springs is the only area in the department’s patrol
districts without a substation and re-establishment of one is a key
component in Kuntz’s plan to re-instate community policing and a
resident deputy program.
“I’ll swing it one way or another and get it open as soon as
possible,” Kuntz said, especially since the Valley Springs area is the
most populous of the department’s patrol zones and has the most crime.
Opening such a substation under Kuntz’s resident deputy program
would eliminate the necessity for deputies to report to and work out of
the department’s office in San Andreas.
Under the resident deputy team concept, a deputy would be based
in Valley Springs and that would reduce a number of trips going back and
forth to and from San Andreas, he added, and give deputies more time to
spend out in the field and in the community.
“My big thing is to get our deputies connected back with the
community,” he said. That would include deputies interacting more with
students, schools and the business community.
“Being preventive is the whole answer,” he said. “I want
the kids, the public and businesses to know we’re here to help you.
That worked well with me and other officers before and it is very
important we maintain that bond.”
Re-opening of the substation would also call for expansion of the
sheriff volunteer program to help with staffing the facility. Kuntz said
he thought there is a good pool of potential volunteers in the community
to help with law enforcement duties that can be handled by non-sworn
As for a location, Kuntz said he liked the old site, but since it
is impossible to return there, he is open to suggestions and any
donation of an office “would be great.”
Another priority and campaign platform is to hire a fiscal person
to put together the department’s budget, with knowledge in auditing
“Most cops are not fiscal people,” Kuntz said. “Such a
fiscal person would be less expensive than a captain or lieutenant
especially when you consider public safety retirement.”
They would pay for themselves in the short run and work to add
more deputies to the department, he said.
In another move to keep more deputies, Kuntz said he would have a
lean administration with only himself, two captains and a lieutenant.
“That’s more than enough administration for now,” he added.
Junior Redskin players and cheerleaders applaud their efforts to get the word out to family, friends and the community that it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Junior Redskins turn town pink as they tackle cancer
Valley Springs ushered in Breast Cancer Awareness Month with an
enthusiastic rally Thursday evening at The Terrace featuring the boys
and girls from the Calaveras Junior Redskins football teams and cheer
The Calaveras Junior Redskins Football and Cheer Association has
joined Mark Twain St. Joseph’s Hospital to spread the word about
Breast Cancer Awareness and the importance of early detection during
In addition to The Terrace, many businesses in the community have
joined in the campaign by displaying pink lights that Calaveras Junior
Redskins parents delivered prior to Thursday’s Pink in the Night
Lighting Ceremony in front of Common Grounds.
Denise Meyer, president of the Junior Redskins Football and Cheer
Association and administrative assistant at Mark Twain St. Joseph’s
Hospital, shared the story behind how the youth program got involved
with spreading the word about breast cancer awareness where early and
accurate diagnosis is the best tool for fighting the disease.
She attributed the Junior Redskins’ involvement to 11-year-old
Trevor Ramirez who last year noticed NFL teams were sporting pink in
their uniforms and after learning the reason the pros were wearing the
pink, he wanted to see his team and his league follow their lead.
She told those in attendance, mostly Junior Redskin players,
cheerleaders and their parents, that they should be very proud of
themselves for getting the word out about breast cancer awareness and
The Junior Redskins will continue the month-long information
campaign by wearing pink ribbons on their helmets.
Thursday’s ceremony also included love and support for those
who are fighting cancer and those who have lost loved ones to the
disease as they lighted candles to mark the occasion.
The ceremony ended with the pink lights around The Terrace being
turned on, which Nicki Stevens, development associate at Mark Twain St.
Joseph’s Hospital, said is a symbol of hope.