Monday, February 25, 2008

Pediatrics news

Good news for parents who have children who become ill. Now Job’s Peak Pediatrics’ office hours will expand to three days a week at Stateline Medical Center beginning April 1. Doctors’ Ehman, Wang and Stevenson will be seeing new and established patients at Stateline Medical Center as well as at their Gardnerville location.

Dr. Jennifer Ehmann will see patients at Stateline on Mondays from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. On Wednesdays, Dr. Rita Wang will be in the Lake Tahoe office from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dr. Kathryn Stevenson will see patients Fridays from noon to 5 p.m.

All three physicians are board certified Pediatricians and are all members of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For appointments with any of Job’s Peak’s Pediatricians at Stateline Medical Center , call (775) 589-8900.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

March 5 EDC Grand Jury info

El Dorado County Grand Jury to Hold Informational Open House

(Placerville, CA)—The 2007-2008 El Dorado Grand Jury will hold an informational Open House on March 5, 2008 between 5 and 7 p.m. at the ground floor atrium of County Building B, 360 Fair Lane Drive. The purpose of the Open House is to present information to county residents interested in the function of the jury, as well as requirements for serving as a member.

Rosemary Mulligan, current foreperson of the Grand Jury, will introduce the18 member grand jury to those in attendance and explain the grand jury selection process, role of the grand jurors, commitment and obligations, as well as the orientation and training provided to assist jury members in the performance of their year-long duties.

The Honorable Judge James Wagoner, the Supervising Judge of the Grand Jury, is expected to attend. A tour of the Grand Jury chambers will follow the briefing.

The County Grand Jury is an investigative body of 19 citizens who are charged and sworn to investigate county matters of civil concern, as well as to inquire into public offenses committed or triable within the county.

As an independent arm of the court, the Grand Jury represents the public’s interests including, but not limited to, concerns regarding such areas as county government, city government, special districts, local school districts, annual inspection of the adult jail and juvenile facilities and inspection of county buildings.

California and Nevada are unique as being the only two states still maintaining County Grand Juries.

Refreshments will be served.

Additional information can be obtained by calling (530) 621-7477.

Kirkwood and business management

02.20.08 Slope Side Seminars from Sierra Executive Institute

New for the 2008 Season, Kirkwood will be providing an exclusive business management program from Robert Mees and the Sierra Executive Institute. Robert Mees is a motivational speaker, writer, executive coach, and a Zig Ziglar certified trainer. Throughout his 30-year professional career, Mees has delivered life changing and performance improving programs in the areas of sales, marketing, customer service, personal and team development, management, presentation skills, and leadership. Best known for "turning networks into net worth", his trademark programs are regular sell-outs.

All programs run from 4:30 PM - 8:00 PM and 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM which allows for two full days on the mountain. Pricing includes breakfast and dinner and lodging packages are available. Seminar only pricing: $250; Seminar and One Night Stay: $385; Seminar and Two Night Stay: $520. Daily lift tickets for attendees and a guest available for only $35 ($69 value). For Reservations call 800-598-8329 or register online at

Schedule of Courses:

* Building Customer Loyalty - Feb 27-28
* Making Rainmakers - March 5-6
* Small Office Management - March 12-13

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Women's ski-board equipment evolves

2/08 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

“The weak link in a woman's skiing is usually her equipment.”
That’s the theory of Jeannie Thoren, the Minnesota woman who has researched women’s ski equipment for the last 30 years. Heidi Ettlinger, Heavenly ski instructor and member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America demo team, credits Thoren ( for getting the ear of manufacturers, which led to a revolution of sorts for women’s skis and boards.
Women’s bodies are shaped differently than men’s. Their center of balance is different. They stand differently. But for years it was a one-size fits all mentality.
Not so anymore. And it’s not just the cool graphics. Substantial changes have been made, from using lighter material, to changing the cut, to moving the binding mount.
K2 was the pioneer in women’s equipment. At first the company introduced all-mountain skis. Finally, they figured out the elite female skier deserved her own ski.
Amy McCormick, who runs Kirkwood’s instructional program and skis for K2’s Regional Alliance Team, is all about getting women onto skis that will make them enjoy the sport more. She said about 95 percent of ski clinic participants ride women’s skis.
“I would never not ski on a women’s ski again,” McCormick said. “The women’s ski changed my skiing style, my aggressiveness.”
The length of the ideal ski has dramatically changed. McCormick was on a 185 about 10 years ago and now skis on a 153.
Ettlinger is quick to point out that boots are equally as important as the ski.
“Visit a boot fitter who will spend some time with you, who knows how women’s balance is different than men’s, and sees how you stand,” she said. “If you are not properly aligned in the boot, you will have a hard time finding your edge or getting off your edge.”
Skiing magazine put out a supplement this season just for women, with a huge section on gear. At the back is a point-counter-point commentary from Thoren touting women’s equipment and Alex Shaffer – she is a national champion in slalom and giant slalom.
Shaffer agrees the changes in equipment – ramp angles for bindings and where they are mounted – are good. But she contends men would also benefit from these alterations.
I don’t own a pair of women’s skis. But I admit I noticed a difference when I spent a couple days demo-ing skis. My sister, Pam, tried out snowboards. She has been on a woman’s board this whole century, though when she switched from skiing to boarding in 1995 there was no such thing as women’s snowboards.
One hard packed Friday last month Pam and I were in and out of Kirkwood’s demo center six times. Brian Froiland, who runs the demo department, has a staff well versed in skis and boards.
I tried a couple of K2 and Nordica, and a pair of Volkl and Rossignol. Pam was on Burton, Sapient and Prior boards.
Three days later we were schussing through freshies and chopped up powder at Sierra. I took out the K2 Lotta Luv and Nordica Olympia Firefox to see how they did in these conditions compared to hard pack. I give the K2 higher marks both days.
At Sierra, Pam was on a different Burton, the G Twin, which is good for freestyle maneuvers – something she doesn’t do. The other was a Forum.
Even though she is partial to Burton, the two-day experiment had her pondering the purchase of the Prior Sister. The boards are handmade in Whistler.
We barely scratched the surface on what’s out there for women in our respective sports. Area ski shops and resorts have a slew of demos. Just make sure the worker knows if the carbon is from tip to tail, the type of wood, the importance of the side-cut, what materials are used for absorption to cut down on the chatter, the foam, and mounting options. Listen when the expert tells you to try something shorter.
And don’t forget the women’s clinics. Sierra, Kirkwood and Heavenly offer several sessions over the next couple months.

Choir instructor loses case to district

2/08 tahoe mt. news:

By Kathryn Reed

No one denies John Houghton did the work. But the Douglas County School District still won't pay.
Houghton is the music and choir instructor for the Lake schools in the DCSD. As such, he is entitled to stipends for work that goes above and beyond the normal daily classroom instruction.
With his duties expanding last school year, he was unaware he should have received the nearly $2,000 choral stipend from Kingsbury Middle School. Principal Dan Wold, who is in charge of dispensing the money, didn't think about it either.
It wasn't until August 2007, just before the start of this school year, that the oversight was brought to light. Then it was too late. The stipend had been paid to two teachers who put on a talent show.
Houghton pleaded his case in the allocated three minutes before the school board last fall. He took the district to small claims court in Minden on Jan. 15. He lost.
The acting judge who heard the case, Mike Rowe, works for Rowe & Hales LLP. This law firm once worked for DCSD and lists the district as clients on its website. Rowe dismissed the case with prejudice, which means Houghton has no further recourse.
In court, Houghton took a friend's advice to let Rowe preside over the case after Rowe disclosed his affiliation with the school district.
"That judge should have recused himself from hearing the case. It reeks of prejudice," said Susan Lacey, president of the teachers' union. "That whole thing isn't right. Often with the district it's not about doing the right thing, it's about winning."
Superintendent Carol Lark said, "I don't discuss personnel issues." Assistant Superintendent Rich Alexander, who represented the district in court, did not return phone calls. Wold deferred comments to Alexander and the district office.
"Everyone admitted I did the job. They said 'we're sorry we didn't pay you, but we'll take care of you this year, ' " Houghton told the Tahoe Mountain News.
What confounds Houghton is why the district didn't rectify an honest mistake. He doesn't believe the original incident was malicious or intentional.
Houghton said months ago, Wold offered him a fraction of the stipend.
"They came to me with a settlement, with a compromise, but it was a lot less than what I was supposed to get," Houghton said. "In my eyes, whatever is negotiated in the contract, that's what we have to be paid. I told Dan I can't take more or less than what's in the contract. The fact that they offered me less admits they owe me money."
A Jan. 16 email Houghton wrote to Alexander and copied to Lark, Wold, union President Susan Lacey and Whittell Principal Sue Shannon says in part, "If the 'judge' had ruled in my favor, I would have been given a check. Was it really impossible for someone along the way to actually solve this problem? I would guess that if you added up all the valuable time Rich, Dan and I spent preparing, it would come close to equaling the stipend. Not sure if Rich had to discuss this with lawyers, but if he did surely the District gained nothing financially. Is it a moral victory to win in court and not pay a teacher what everyone acknowledges he did?"

Sprinkler issue in Douglas County

2/08 tahoe

By Kathryn Reed

Doing what they thought was right for the public’s safety is burning Douglas County commissioners in the court of public opinion.
Weeks after the Angora Fire ripped through California, the Nevada gang passed a sprinkler ordinance mandating anyone who wanted to change their dwelling – even adding a deck – would have to add interior sprinklers.
Two hearings were conducted in the summer with little notice. Then people started applying for permits and the floodgates of anger spilled forth. No one was happy at the January commissioner’s meeting. The public thought the regulation too restrictive. The fire department thought the elected body was dismissing public safety.
The commissioners meet in Stateline on Feb. 21 where the issue is expected to be brought up again. Commissioner Nancy McDermid, who represents the Lake, has a slew of questions for staff that she expects to be answered.
Backflow valves are of concern. She’s heard they can’t be on the street where freezing is an issue. She wonders who’s liable if it malfunctions in a garage or home.
She wants to know if a building ordinance similar to what went into effect in California on Jan. 1 would be more logical. It’s like health care – prevent the problem, don’t just treat it. Using fire resistance building material may be the solution.
She wants to know what other jurisdictions in the basin are doing.
She wants to know if sprinklers helped anyone in the Angora burn area.
She questions whether the multitude of water districts can even meet the water demand for sprinklers.
She wonders if concentrating on defensible would be more beneficial.
She worries about all the residents in Douglas County when it comes to home fires. Tahoe isn’t the only area with a wildland urban interface. But it is the only area of the county which must comply with the ordinance in question.
“I think the concern I have is if you institute something that has all these unanswered questions and it’s so restrictive, you will have people doing stuff who don’t get permits,” McDermid said. “That doesn’t help anybody.”
Tom Dirkes didn’t find out about the ordinance until he was all set to go with a remodel. After two years of going back and for with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency he thought he was good to go. Come to find out the ordinance was passed a week before he filed papers with the county.
He got three bids for sprinklers -- the lowest was $82,000. Now he’s fighting the system to make it fair the average person to build an addition or remodel.
“People want to improve their houses and they can’t,” the Stateline resident said.
Before the commissioners passed the ordinance, only newly built houses of more than 5,000-square-feet needed sprinklers.
Cost is a concern to McDermid, too. It’s one of the reasons she and her husband don’t have sprinklers in their Carson Valley house. They didn’t think they would recoup the cost of the system. They know the ordeal of adding sprinklers from having installed them when they owned the Holiday Inn Express in South Lake Tahoe.
Most of all she is concerned about public safety when it comes to fire – but she wants to make a decision based on more information than she had six months ago.

Tahoe Meadows paving

2/08 tahoe

When the dirt roads of the historic Tahoe Meadows were paved in fall 2006 they didn’t exactly match the easements that were on file. This created some coverage issues and concerns for the homeowners.
“The roads that ended up being paved didn’t match the public right of way easement,” explained Dennis Oliver, TRPA spokesman. “We had to change the maps so everything fits. The focus is really making sure everybody has the base allowable coverage that they started with.”
It took a few hours for the 10 or so people in attendance at the Jan. 31 hearing at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Stateline office to settle everything.
The problem was innocent enough. The contractor paved the dirt roads. But through time some of the roads in the 84-year-old, 100-acre gated subdivision went off course, so to speak, so they no longer followed the easements on file.
The whole project was a necessity for the beachfront neighborhood off Highway 50 to conform to TRPA and Lahontan Water Board rules when it comes to best management practices and keeping fine particles from clouding the lake.
A $180,000 federal Clean Water Act grant helped fund the project.

Radon in South Shore schools

2/08 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Vials smaller than the average prescription pill container are often free for the taking at Douglas County School District meetings when radon is on the agenda. The device is for parents to test their homes for the naturally occurring radioactive gas.
Radon discussions have been part of nearly every DCSD meeting this school year. On Feb. 12 the board is expected to decide if active soil depressurization is the next step.
Parents are alarmed with radon levels at Zephyr Cove Elementary School to the point they want the site closed and Kingsbury Middle School to remain open in the fall.
District officials believe the steps they’ve taken have quashed the problem. Results from the high efficiency particulate (HEPA) air filters say so.
“Neither we nor EPA standards suggest any further mitigation. However, we are recommending that radon progeny be retested every one to two years to make sure nothing changes,” Dirk Roper, school district consult, wrote the Tahoe Mountain News.
Roper, general manager for Fallon Heating & Air Conditioning in Carson City, is one of two certified radon mitigation specialists in Nevada.
“The HEPA filters have worked. I would feel comfortable putting my child up there,” said Holly Luna, DCSD director of business services. “No matter what we do to remediate, you can’t get to zero. The results indicate there is no need for further mitigation.”
Luna said the EPA mandates retesting in two years. She expects the district to test periodically during the next two years.

What’s all the fuss?

Radon is often found in areas like Lake Tahoe that have decomposed granite. It’s in the soil and usually enters a building through cracks in the foundation.
Long-term exposure can lead to lung cancer. At one board meeting it was revealed that teachers would likely be the ones to contract cancer because of prolonged exposure. No former student or employee has been diagnosed with lung cancer related to radon, according to the district.
“We have good human studies that show people exposed to higher levels of radon have higher (incidences) of lung cancer,” said Adrian Howe, radiation physicist with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. “You can’t point to one cause. Risk estimates are based on lifetime exposure.”
It is also impossible to pinpoint radon as the cause of a person’s lung cancer.
Dee Robinson, 55, taught at Zephyr Cove for about 25 years, having retired in 2005. In the late 1980s she wrote a letter to the district about the various health issues with staff at that time – no lung cancer – and never got a response. She admits parents have been contacting her in hopes of drawing a link from radon to various illnesses. But science negates their wishful thinking.
“Lung cancer is the only known effect on human health from exposure to radon in air. Thus far, there is no evidence that children are at greater risk of lung cancer than are adults,” the Environmental Protection Agency’s website says.

Radon and its progeny

A major disagreement between some parents and the district is what to test for and what to mitigate for – radon or radon progeny.
“Radon progeny is the more important, specifically polonium-218 and polonium-214. These two ions are believed to cause nearly all of the health effects associated with radon,” Roper said.
It’s the progeny that can be inhaled, which in turn can pose health risks. The progeny is what radon gas decays into.
The state made no recommendations to the district about mitigation measures. Howe said active soil depressurization is the primary tool because it has been proven to reduce radon and therefore progeny. This procedure deals with addressing the radon gas before it enters a building, while HEPA filters work on ridding a room of the progeny.
However, Howe went onto say the “real concern is radon progeny.”
Howe is a bit skeptical of how effective HEPA filters work. He said research is more theoretical than concrete.
Nonetheless, the continued use of HEPA filters at the Lake schools of Douglas County are reducing the progeny levels to what is call “acceptable.”
The words “safe” and “acceptable” have at times been interchanged in discussions, when in reality the EPA says exposure to any radon is unsafe. The problem is that radon occurs naturally – is outdoors and indoors – and therefore unavoidable.
At the Feb. 12 meeting the board will get the rundown on how active soil depressurization works. Essentially the concrete slab is penetrated and the radon is sucked out through the roof while a fan is continuously running. Howe said it’s a low wattage unit that won’t severely cause utility bills to spike.
Roper will not have a cost-estimate on the potential project ready for Feb. 12.
To date the district has spent about $10,000 on radon issues since November 2006, according to Luna. It comes out of the capital improvement fund and cannot be covered by insurance. She said it’s up to the board to figure out how active soil depressurization would be paid for if that is the chosen route.
Parent Greg Felton said he and others don’t understand why the active soil depressurization wasn’t done to begin with. He uses the leaky roof analogy – that using HEPA filters is like using buckets to catch the water from the leak, whereas active soil depressurization would be like fixing the leaky roof.
Luna said the district chose HEPA filters as the first course because of the consultant’s recommendation.
“At the time of our initial involvement we were up against TRPA’s winter moratorium for disturbing soil. Even though our preliminary test of progeny indicated no need for mitigation, parents were demanding action and DCSD wanted to make sure they were taking the maximum appropriate action, not the minimum,” Roper said as to why HEPA filters went in. “Air circulation in general, and HEPA filtration in specific, has been shown to be very effective at removing progeny from the air, although it does not change radon levels. We felt that an immediate impact could be made on progeny levels while further testing was done to determine if traditional mitigation was indicated.”

Parental involvement

Kelly Krolicki and a team of parents meet every Monday night to discuss the long-term issues. Krolicki did not return phone calls. It is not known if she will engage her husband, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, in the local radon fight.
“They are addressing this through the legislative process and politicians,” said Greg Felton, a parent in the thick of the radon battle. “I’m more involved in pushing locally for board of trustees of the district to know that we are not happy with the safety levels they are accepting and the representation we are getting.”
He is so frustrated that he is taking his cause to the Douglas County Grand Jury. As of early February, he had a lengthy rough draft detailing his criticisms of DCSD that he would like the grand jury to address.
Felton admits that collectively the parents have not come to a determination as to what level of radon or radon progeny at Zephyr Cove would be acceptable. He said he knows of one parent who is considering some sort of lawsuit against the district.
Denese Dunt has pulled her son out of Zephyr Cove. He is at a private school in the Carson Valley.
“I don’t have confidence in the school district,” Dunt said. “I also don’t feel my son was being educated well at Zephyr Cove.”
She said she’s in a carpool with six children from the Lake, adding that the other five were pulled from Zephyr Cove before the school year started.


The elephant in the room when radon is being discussed is the issue of consolidation. At the start of the next school year Zephyr Cove is slated to be a K-6, Whittell a 7-12 and Kingsbury shuttered.
Information is murky about whether Zephyr Cove’s deed allows it to be sold. When the Whittell estate gave the property to the school district, initial restrictions prohibited the sale. Some say enough time has lapsed for those strings to no longer exist.
The district says the deed’s language is convoluted and deferred comments to their attorney. He was out of town until Feb. 11 – past deadline.
Some parents have proposed a K-12 site at Whittell. Some would like Kingsbury Middle School to be used for a couple years while Zephyr Cove is cleaned up, or demolished and rebuilt.
Money and location are the reasons Superintendent Carol Lark has given to reconfigure the schools as stated above.
Parent Brian Swoger has a website -- -- where he details what should be done in the district.

Other radon info

Howe and Roper are in complete agreement that exposure to radon is more likely in one’s home and that’s where people should focus first. People often spend more time in a bedroom than any other room in a 24-hour period.
“I hope I have made it clear that I believe that DCSD had taken even more than the recommended steps in dealing with radon at Zephyr Cove Elementary School,” Roper said. “I consider ZCES to be very safe. It has progeny levels lower than my own home. I would send my children and my grandchildren there without hesitation or reservation.”
In Lake Tahoe Unified, radon test results show a need for retesting in some areas.
“We tested every classroom and every occupied space in all our buildings with the exception of rest rooms and corridors,” said Steve Morales, LTUSD facilities director. “We did the test with the placement of charcoal activate filters that absorb the radon gas that is present in the ambient air.”
However, he would not disclose which schools or rooms would be retested. He isn’t making it public until he addresses the school board this month.
Websites worth checking out:

LTCC artist Phyllis Shafer

2/08 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Border patrol hovering overhead and cattle stampeding nearby – it’s all part of the scenery for Phyllis Shafer.
The desert has captivated her artistic streak much like the Sierra Nevada does. She and a friend are spending a couple months in the Sonoran Desert -- due south of Tucson, 30 miles north of Mexico. The two artists immerse themselves in the landscape every day from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Lake Tahoe Community College art instructor is wrapping up a six-month sabbatical before she returns to the classroom spring quarter.
“I’m so motivated by the landscape. That’s why I paint … why I paint outdoors. I don’t think it would work for me to take a picture and go into the studio,” Shafer said while taking a break. “When I go outside I absorb what my feeling of the place is.”
On a rare day with cell phone reception, the enthusiasm she exudes for her craft seems tangible and lively – like the spirited artwork that flows from her brush to canvas.
“She communicates the feeling of nature,” said Turkey Stremmel, director of the Stremmel Gallery in Reno. Shafer’s desert pieces will be in a show at the gallery in March 2009. “Across the room you know it’s a Shafer. Technically it is interesting, not straight forward.”
Shafer admits traditional landscape painting is not what she’s about – and viewing her work it would be hard to disagree. (
The Autry National Center’s Yosemite exhibit started with Ansel Adams and ended with a Shafer. Her piece was part of the traveling show that stopped at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno last fall. Shafer has a piece in the NMA’s permanent collection.
The point of the sabbatical was to rejuvenate her – personally and professionally. The college pays for three month sabbaticals every six years. In return, she has been working on material for a new class at LTCC called Narrative and Symbolism.
Through one’s imagination and symbolism of visual images, Shafer says students will learn to create original pieces in this class.
In all her work, Shafer uses what she calls her “fanciful imagination combined with observation.” In the desert she describes a cholla cactus looking like a mop head.
The sun, wind and bugs – not to mention backing into a cactus or two – are constant reminders of her locale. While Shafer is painting, her friend Linda Ruckdeschel of Oakland is doing the same or photographing.
The day cattle ran on either side of them, Ruckdeschel was so startled she forgot to take the lens cap off. Shafer figures the feds have plenty of footage of the duo – helicopters and planes are a constant reminder the border is just down the road.
Maybe the added attention will draw even more attention to this local artist. However, selling her work is becoming more common as people discover the South Lake Tahoe painter. She had two solo shows at the Stremmel Gallery which were sell-outs.
“I’ve reached a point that after I die I want my paintings left to tell a story and stay beyond me,” Shafer said.

Urban trailhead in middle of South Lake Tahoe

2/08 tahoe

By Kathryn Reed

An urban trailhead may seem like any oxymoron, but for many people it really is the first step to the great outdoors.
Explore Tahoe, a collaborative effort between South Lake Tahoe, California Tahoe Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service and Tahoe Heritage Foundation, is bringing locals and tourists in touch with everything this area is really about.
“I was in here the other day to look around. Before, I came in to look for general information about Tahoe. I was interested in bike riding,” said Esther Price of Australia. In mid-December, a bike ride was still feasible. The problem was her daughter broke her arm skiing so those plans got derailed.
Nonetheless, Price was back at Explore Tahoe a couple days later using one of the two computers to book air travel. Computers are available for free to search the Internet and all things Tahoe.
A snowshoe program began last month. Summer treks are in the planning stages. Hiking and biking info is abundant. It’s the one-stop recreation outlet this area has been lacking for so long.
A $168,500 grant OK’d by the CTC in December will enhance the 7-month-old facility with interactive displays – something visitors have asked for. Hands-on activities may include items about orienteering, wildlife, ecosystems and lake clarity. They are expected to be in place by summer.
Some displays are slated to go in the front of the building which is a bit sparse.
“Goals for enhancement include: Extending interactive experiences into the facility beyond the Kid’s Area, and targeting a broader age range with the content; using the new interactives to answer some common questions such as ‘Which mountains are which?’ and ‘Where are we in relationship to the lake?’” project manager Deb Vreeland wrote the Tahoe Mountain News.
Brooks Hill, a recreation leader who works at Explore Tahoe, says the bulk of the questions she answers are related to transit. This is logical because out the side door is where all the buses stop – casino and ski shuttles, BlueGo, Amtrak. She and other employees are a one-stop resource for answers about how to get places with or without a personal vehicle and what to do when you get there.
On this particular Friday she was working on a display that will be used in “Wildlife Uncovered” – a program being coordinated with Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care targeting all South Shore kids in first through fourth grades.
“It’s a hands-on tactile program that promotes good forest stewardship,” said Tim Rains, recreation coordinator for Explore Tahoe.
Hill was putting the final touches on a mule deer display. Pelts, scat, prints, skulls and migration habits are part of the lesson. Teachers are encouraged to book a trip on a Wednesday or Friday.
Strolling through the center is one big lesson in Tahoe history. An hour-long video with images of years gone by and current day scenarios plays continuously. Walls are decorated with facts like how the Sears Tower at 1,450 feet and Empire State Building at 1,250 feet would be submerged if dropped into Lake Tahoe, which has a depth of 1,645 feet.
Walls are decorated with words and pictures about wilderness, walks – urban and in the forest.
A butterfly exhibit contains 35 caterpillars waiting to evolve. A children’s art gallery shows off kokanee from last fall’s festival. These displays will rotate so the site never seems stagnant.
The gift shop is run by Tahoe Heritage Foundation. They don’t pay rent and the city gets a share of the proceeds. Periodicals about Tahoe, fire, trees, ones for kids and outdoor adventure guides are for sale. Stuffed animals, satchels of Douglas fir, calendars and other items can be bought.
Rains is looking for about 500 people a day to pass through the urban trailhead, with 2,000 per day the goal in the coming years. He reported to the CTC board the day the grant was awarded that 283 people came by the first day of December when there was no snow on the ground and no events in town.
It took about 2.5 years of planning before Explore Tahoe opened in July 2007. The Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and now defunct South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce were invited to participate, but declined.
The Conservancy has come up with the bulk of the funding. In addition to last month’s grant, the CTC awarded a $97,000 planning grant and $1.56 million for design and construction. The Forest Service allocated $150,000, TRPA $30,000 and STPUD $5,000 – all for design and construction.
According to Councilwoman Kathay Lovell, who with then-Councilman John Upton spearheaded the project for the city, the goal is to have the facility pay for itself.
“If we end up making money someday, terrific,” Lovell said. Rent runs about $140,000 – a cost the city was paying even when the site was empty. “It’s the only place you can go to get the educational component combined with the visitor information in one place.”
Lovell says it’s a must-see.
She’s right.

Key facts:

Location: Between Marriott Timber Lodge and Cecil’s Market
Cost: Free
Hours: Seven days a week, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Telephone: (530) 542-2908

DCSD contract negotiations

2/08 tahoe

By Kathryn Reed

Nevada’s budget crisis has prompted the Douglas County School Board to stall ratification of tentative contract agreements with the classified staff and administrators. Talks with teachers stalled months ago. Outcome of this month’s arbitration meetings was unknown because of printing deadlines.
Gov. Jim Gibbons wants to slash the K-12 budget by 4.5 percent. In a press release last month his office said, “Recent revenue projections estimate that Nevada’s budget shortfall has grown to nearly $517 million. The combination of higher unemployment, higher gas prices, higher costs for food and other necessities has slowed consumer spending in Nevada as it has across the country.”
Despite the woes in the Silver State, not everyone in DCSD thinks that should be the deciding factor in not going forward with negotiations.
“The district has plenty of money to absorb those budget cuts. Kingsbury Middle School is going to close next year. That will be a huge savings as well. The district is not hurting financially,” said Susan Lacey, president of the Douglas County Professional Education Association.
The teachers declared impasse last summer after 13 meetings and more than 50 hours of discussions with the district. In the fall they opted to go to arbitration, with the first meetings being earlier this month.
Lacey said teachers thought about going back to the table after the classified union did following its declaration of impasse, but chose not to when the board refused to ratify that contract. The classified contract was on the Jan. 8 agenda. It included a 4 percent raise for this school year and 3 percent for 2008-09.
“What the board did was in concept agreed with the tentative agreement that was reached,” Superintendent Carol Lark said. “My heart goes out to our employees. It would be irresponsible to recommend settlement of salaries when we don’t know what the budget is going to be. I think they feel they are being held hostage when I feel the same thing.”
She said until the state tells her exactly how much is going to be cut she is not in a position to go forward with contract settlements.
Lark said instead of the 4.5 percent reduction, it could be 1.2 percent if the other school districts in the state slash what she calls “one-shot monies.” The problem is it would affect larger districts like Clark and Washoe counties, which account for 74 percent of the state’s students, harder than rural districts like Douglas.
Before the budget crisis came to light, the district had offered teachers a 2 percent salary hike for the current school year and 3 percent for next.
“We are not trying to get a Cadillac, we’re just trying to get the same Chevy the rest of the state has,” Lacey said. She said what the administrators negotiated is more along the lines of what her union would like.
The admin contract was on the Dec. 11 school board agenda, but not ratified because of the budget scenario. The agreement at that time was to eliminate the entry level step which would automatically give all administrators a 2.5 percent raise. On top of that they would get another 2.5 percent for this year and 4 percent for 2008-09.
As with most contracts, a slew of other items are included besides raises.
Health care was removed from the contact a few years ago. A 10-person committee of teachers, classified, bus drivers and administrators figure out what’s best. The district, as is the norm throughout the state, picks up 100 percent of those costs.
The one contract that was ratified before the budget bugaboo was announced is with the bus drivers. They received a 2.5 percent raise this school year and will get 4 percent more in 2008-09.

Crime stats in Douglas County

2/08 tahoe mt. news:

By Kathryn Reed

Just when it looked liked the last quarter of 2007 would mark a drop in the number of sale and possession for sale of methamphetamine cases in Douglas County, deputies arrested three people in late December and confiscated 9 pounds of meth.
“That blew away the previous trend of declination,” Sgt. Jim Halsey of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office told the Tahoe Mountain News.
A report released last month by the department details what the Street Enforcement Team has been up to. Four years ago DCSO assembled a group to focus on crimes related to illegal drug activity occurring in the county and nearby towns.
Patrol officers make drug related arrests as well, but those figures are not contained in the report.
At the Lake last year, the Street Team investigated six cases which resulted in the seizure of:
• 83.7 grams (2.93 ounces) of cocaine
• 499.4 grams (17.52 ounces) of meth
• 506 ecstasy tablets
• 3 vehicles
• 2 handguns
• 1 assault rifle.
Eleven people were arrested. The street value of the drugs seized was $68,430.
The sizable meth bust in December was in the valley. Down there, deputies had 50 investigations that resulted in 71 arrests. In addition to same types of things seized at the Lake, in the valley deputies confiscated heroin, marijuana, houses, vehicles and cash.

Emerald Bay driving dangers

2/08 tahoe

By Kathryn Reed

Plunging 300 feet of a cliff would seem like a sure death sentence.
All of the occupants of two vehicles which did this in a matter of 10 minutes of each other on Jan.22 lived to tell about it.
Caltrans has no plans to install guardrails on Highway 89 at the hairpin turns near Emerald Bay where the cars careened off.
“If we had guardrails there, they would have been catapulted further and it would have made it worse,” explained Rochelle Jenkins, spokeswoman with the state Department of Transportation. “It’s not safe or logical to put a guardrail there.”
The angle at which a vehicle would hit the rail is the problem. Caltrans’ statistics from July 2002 to July 2007 (the most recent available) show “no major incidents in that hairpin corridor,” Jenkins said. This means no injury accidents.
The California Highway Patrol has taken three reports of vehicles going over the side since August. This accounts for only one of the Jan. 22 incidents because one driver had yet to make a report because she only sustained a scratch to her hand.
Emerald Bay Towing, often the company to fetch the twisted metal from boulders and trees, said it pulls about a dozen vehicles from that section of roadway each year.
“As soon as the first snow (arrives), that baby is rocking and rolling in there,” manager Chris Lytther said of the Emerald Bay area. They pull up cars year-round. “The ones that went off (Jan. 22) had a chance to start to turn, but just went straight.”
The first Subaru to tumble over the edge had five guys in it. A couple complained of small lacerations and abrasions, according to CHP Officer Jeff Gartner. This was at about 6:20 p.m. on a slick road.
Caltrans dictates when a road will be closed because of snow. CHP does it if an accident blocks the road.
About 10 minutes later, a Subaru driven by Sarah Lynn Howard, 30, of Christmas Valley went over near the same location. Howard said she was creeping along at an incredibly slow speed when suddenly she was unable to make the turn.
“I landed nose down between a tree and huge boulder with the front of my car in a snow pile,” said Howard, who was wearing her seatbelt. “None of my air bags deployed. I hit a big enough boulder that sent me into a spiral tumble. I tumbled at least five times. I thought ‘If I hit my head, I’m going to die.’”
She let go of the steering wheel, balled herself up to protect her from the windows what she could hear shattering. One of the guys from the other vehicle asked if she was OK. They couldn’t hear her scream in the cold, dark blizzard. The light from her cell indicated she was alive so one of them climbed down to help her out.
“Some action needs to be taken. If they can’t put guardrails in, they should put in boulders,” Howard said. “I don’t think I’m asking too much.”
She’s thankful for the guys who helped her up to the road and to Emerald Bay Towing for the 4.5 hours it took to retrieve her totaled Outback. She even praises Caltrans for their work, but questions their safety practices.
“I’m still alive. I feel my priorities have change,” Howard said. “Whoever is responsible, I wish their priorities would change. It doesn’t have to take a life to encourage a safety measure.”

Fores Service proposals need input

The local Forest Service office wants input on two projects.
The first is the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board’s joint environmental impact statement/environmental impact report for the South Shore Fuels Reduction and Healthy Forest Restoration Project. This project can be viewed at:
During the initial scoping for this project last summer, it was determined that the project could have significant effects on the human environment. This project will reduce the risks to communities, resources and water quality from catastrophic wildfire, and improve forest health and sustainability, according to a press release.
The project was developed in collaboration with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, South Lake Tahoe Fire Department, Lake Valley Fire Protection District, Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, Fallen Leaf Fire Department, Lahontan, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Sierra Forest Legacy and League to Save Lake Tahoe.
Those who previously submitted comments need not resubmit them. Those who wish to submit comments on the project should do so by Feb. 15.
More information is available by calling Duncan Leao at (530) 543-2660, or email or Sue Rodman, (phone 530-621-5298, email
Additional opportunities to comment will occur upon completion of the joint
draft EIS/EIR which is expected in April and the final EIS/EIR expected in August.
The second issue is the proposed action for Phase 3 of the Blackwood Creek Stream and Floodplain Restoration Project. This is the final phase and will address excessive bank erosion and channel incision, improve the capacity of Blackwood Creek to take up and retain nutrients before reaching Lake Tahoe.
The approach involves installation of physical structures made of boulders and logs, re-contouring of existing floodplain surfaces and channel, plug- and- fill of the existing gully channel, and new channel construction. Streamzone vegetation transplants will occur where needed.
To review the proposed action and map, go to For information, call Craig Oehrli at (530) 543-2681, or email Comments will be accepted until Feb. 24.

USFS needs committee members

The application deadline to be on the 2008-10 Lake Tahoe Basin Federal Advisory Committee is Feb. 29.
The secretary of Agriculture will select two at-large and one from each of the following sectors: gaming, environmental, national environmental, ski resorts, North Shore economic/recreation, South Shore economic/recreation, resorts associations, education, property rights advocates, science and research, California local government, Washoe Tribe, California, Nevada, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, labor, transportation, and Nevada local government.
Information is at or call Arla Hains at (530) 543-2773, or send an email request to

Bachelor's degree in skiing

Finally, a four-year degree that might satisfy parents who think their children just want to be ski bums.
Sierra Nevada College in Incline is starting the Ski Business & Resort Management program – the first four-year school to offer such a bachelor’s degree.
Study will focus on all facets of the ski resort and related industries, including operations, general management, profit centers, marketing and sales, real estate development, and resort master planning. The college is partnering with area resorts.
“… as more of today’s resort executives and managers are heading into their 50s and 60s and beginning to think about retirement, the industry will be actively looking for top talent in the next decade,” the college said in a press release.
Program Director Tim Cohee, a 34-year ski industry veteran, in a prepared statement, said, “We’re convinced there is a huge market of high school graduates who are passionate about skiing or snowboarding and have dreamed about a career in the ski business, but don’t know there’s an opportunity to pursue their passion by enrolling in our ski business and resort management program while at the same time enjoying life in Lake Tahoe. Our partnerships with Tahoe’s leading resorts give our graduates a head start when it comes to landing the top entry-level management jobs in our industry.”
For more information, call (775) 831-1314 or go to

March parenting class

Choices for Children is offering a hands-on class for parents and teachers to learn about activities that are geared toward kids.
“This class is filled with great ideas for learning and fun and includes the opportunity for lots of make-and-take activities. Prepare to get messy and plan to utilize our resource materials and lending library, too,” Choices for Children says in a flyer.
The one-day session is March 8 from 9-11:50 a.m. To sign-up and get all the particulars, call (530) 541-5848. The agency is at 1029 Takela Drive, Ste. 1, South Lake.
Lake Tahoe Community College offers credit for the course. It’s listed as ECE 170L in the catalog.

EDC Grand Jury summons

The 2008-09 El Dorado County Grand Jury is seeking people willing to serve a one-year term.
The Grand Jury acts as an investigative body that ensures county, special districts and city government are effectively run. It generally meets weekly. Members frequently meet in committee meetings to study particular concerns and problems. Jurors are also called upon to confer with government officials and other citizens in order to gain information and insight as to the matters that are under investigation.
Meetings pay a maximum rate of $15 per day, plus mileage.
Applicants must be United States citizens, at least 18, have resided in the county for at least one year and cannot hold an elected office.
Applications are available at the Superior Court, 495 Main St. in Placerville and online at or call (530) 621-6451. The deadline is May 4, with appointments made in June.

EDC Housing Authority applications

For the first time in six years, the El Dorado County Housing Authority is accepting Wait List applications for the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8) from Feb. 11-25.
The Housing Choice Voucher program provides rental assistance to low income individuals and families. The family pays approximately 30 percent of their income in rent to the landlord, and the Housing Authority pays the rest, up to a certain limit, directly to the landlord. Eligibility is determined by family size and income.
Beginning Feb. 12, applications will be available at the El Dorado County Housing Authority offices at 3368 Lake Tahoe Blvd., Suite 202 in South Lake Tahoe. They are also available at To receive an application by mail, call t (530) 642-7150.
All applications must be received or postmarked by 5 p.m. Feb. 25 to be considered.
Once on the list, it is not unusual to remain on the waiting list for several years. When a family’s name reaches the top of the waiting list, applicants’ information is verified to determine eligibility. The waiting list was last opened in 2002 when more than 1,000 names were added.

Comment on Caples Lake

2/09 tahoe mt. news:

Comments on the revised draft environment impact report for the Caples Lake boat launch and access road project are being accepted until Feb. 21.
The El Dorado Irrigation District wants to increase the number of parking spaces, change the launch, add rest rooms and picnic tables, and other facilities to the resort on Highway 88 near Kirkwood.
The district’s board of directors will conduct a public hearing March 10 at 10 a.m. at 2890 Mosquito Road, Placerville.
Copies of the draft EIR are available at, the Alpine County Library in Markleeville and at the El Dorado County Library in South Lake Tahoe.

Angora -- February update

written for but didn't run in feb. tahoe mt. news:

By Kathryn Reed

Keeping the area safe from another fire that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and suppression will be the focus for months and years to come.
Money from the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (proceeds from the sale of federal land around Las Vegas are doled out in the form of grants) is funding millions of dollars worth of defensible space projects throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin. Grants from California are also being sought.
The Nevada Fire Safe Council is opening an office in the Tahoe Keys this month. Despite its name, the nonprofit council works on both sides of the state line.
Lake Valley is the next region to undergo a major push to develop neighborhood fire safe chapters. Tahoe-Douglas has more than a dozen and Incline Village has several.
“What we are looking to do is to encourage and inform people about what they can do to get defensible space done in their neighborhood and get neighbors involved,” explained Jessica Moore-Mahnken of the fire safe council.
Meetings on March 3, 4 and 8 at the Lake Valley Fire Department’s Meyers’ station are designed to inform people about fire safe chapters, and get them up and running. The weekday meetings begin at 6 p.m. and the Saturday event is at 10 a.m. Each will be about an hour depending on the number of questions.
The Nevada Council also plans to join with Tahoe Resource Conservation District (the agency which oversees residential best management practices on the California side) to demonstrate defensible space. They will likely be Saturdays once the snow melts.
The point of defensible space is to clear flammable debris from property. It’s also a state law. Some counties in California have abatement laws where if the property owner doesn’t do the work, the county will. The homeowner is billed. If it’s not paid, a lien can be put on the house. This is not a route Moore-Mahnken said the council wants to pursue.
The rules are that between zero and 5 feet from a house nothing combustible can be there – including wood piles and pine needles. Area fire agencies and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency are still discussing the pine needle-wood chip issue because TRPA likes to use them for erosion control purposes.
“The whole premise behind defensible space is if I were to walk around your property with a lit match, what would happen?” Moore-Mahnken said. “We saw in Angora embers were laying down in neighbor’s yard – softball size. If this ball of fire hit my property, what would it do? What is it landing on? Irrigated flower beds where it would fizzle out? Cedar siding or noncombustible siding? Pine needs in the gutters?”
Between 5 and 30 feet, it’s important to rid property of ladder fuels. That could a bush that leads to a low hanging branch, thus producing a ladder of fire. Vertical and horizontal thinning is necessary.
From 30 to 100 feet from the house, dead vegetation needs to be removed. A 6-foot clearance from tree limbs to the ground should exist.
Moore-Mahnken admits wood piles and decks can present difficult situations. She says to cover wood piles with fire resistant tarps, keep only the wood you need during the winter close by so when it warms up and the outdoor fire season begins the pile is gone.
Decks should not have pine needles under them or other flammable material.
“A lot of defensible space is general landscaping,” Moore-Mahnken said.
The council is taking a look at the U.S. Forest Service’s 10-year plan for fuels reduction in terms of high-threat areas. From there, the council wants to work with neighbors who will work together.
For more information, go to

Investigation still alive

Investigators are not giving up hope of finding the person or persons responsible for inadequately dousing the illegal campfire that hours later became the catastrophe known as the Angora Fire.
Even though Feb. 24 will mark eight months since the blaze ripped through the middle class neighborhood off Lake Tahoe Boulevard on the outskirts of the city limits and took with it 256 homes and charred 3,100 acres, no one has been arrested.
Donna Deaton, special agent with the U.S. Forest Service, is working jointly with the El Dorado County District Attorneys Office to track down the culprit.
“It’s still an open investigation,” Deaton said. “Generally with investigations we follow-up all leads and if a determination can’t be made of the person or persons responsible, we may close the case. But if in the future we get additional information, we would reopen the case.”
Beyond that she was mum. She wouldn’t say what, if any, new leads have surfaced since last summer. Nor does she have a time line as to when investigators would consider the case closed even without a suspect in custody.

Burn area reopens

The Angora burn area is open to the public. But it may be short-lived.
The January storms brought enough snow to protect the area for now. When the spring melt begins, the Forest Service will revisit the issue to determine if limiting access for erosion concerns will be necessary.
The agency asks people to not tread on bare soil. When in the backcountry or steep areas of the burn area, be aware of avalanche conditions.

County assessing needs

For the fifth time on Feb. 5, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors discussed the idea of creating the Angora Reconstruction/Reconstruction Center (ARRC). In what Supervisor Norma Santiago considers a birthday gift, they approved it.
“Plans include a ‘project manager’ who will be acting as a liaison between the property owner or his/her agent (architect, contractor, etc) and the various agencies involved in the construction of a home (STPUD, TRPA, Fire Department, etc.) as well as additional staff dedicated only to working on this project,” Santiago wrote the Tahoe Mountain News before the meeting. “Having the ARRC would help with customer service, streamline processes, alleviate stress for all sides, and gives us an opportunity to test efficient operational concepts that could be utilized throughout the county.”
It’s possible “Norma’s ARRC” would be located in the El Dorado County center. Funding could come via the California Disaster Assistance Act.
At the end of 2007, 153 residents were in various stages of rebuilding. Santiago said more than 90 percent are building more than what was lost – from adding decks to adding another story.

State fines bad guys

A Southern California company found out the hard way that messing with victims of the Angora Fire would burn them. Three men have been fined for posing as insurance adjusters.
Public insurance adjusters are hired by the homeowner to negotiate directly with the insurance company in exchange for a percentage of the settlement. They must be licensed by the state.
State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner last month levied a $200,000 fine against Paramount Disaster Recovery Inc. CEO Steve Slepcevic, 39, of Palos Verdes, Matthew Todd, 48, of Redondo Beach, and Charlie R. Rose (aka Reed Lostman), 43, also of Redondo Beach. They must also pay the state $75,000 for attorney fees and not operate as unlicensed insurance claims adjusters in California.
Paramount, Slepcevic, Todd and Rose on Aug. 2 received a cease-and-desist order. The state agency said Todd and Rose, on behalf of Paramount, were securing insurance jobs from Angora Fire survivors.
“I am pleased that we could take these unscrupulous characters out of the post-disaster marketplace,” Poizner said in a press release. “Working as an unlicensed public insurance adjuster victimizes fire survivors twice and is, frankly, unfair to reputable public insurance adjusters.”

Fire commission news

The bi-state fire commission that is looking into what the basin should do about fuel reduction and other fire related issues is running out of time to offer recommendations to both governors by the March 21 deadline.
The schedule of meetings can be found at:

Angora -- John in February

1/08 tahoe mt. news:

By Kathryn Reed

Editor's note: This is a monthly article following one of the hundreds of people who lost their homes in the Angora Fire in summer 2007.
Snow is so high that address markers are not clearly readable in the burn area. It doesn’t matter. John Mauriello knows his lot. He snowshoed by it earlier this month.
The emotional heartache of visiting the place doesn’t resonate like it did immediately after the June 24 Angora Fire.
“I miss the place. It was a nice chalet,” he said Feb. 4 with a hint of nostalgia in his voice.
All the construction going on in the burn area has not swayed him to definitively rebuild. Contractors’ trucks crowd streets that are down to a single lane. A blue, green or tan porta-potty is at the base of nearly every driveway where building is going on.
“I’m glad I didn’t start right away,” Mauriello said. “I’m not doing anything within the next 60 to 90 days.”
If and when he goes forward with building, he’ll find out for sure if he needs interior sprinklers. Neighbors are saying it looks like he might not have to put them in.
Rebuilding your life when it has been swept away by a blaze caused by people who started an illegal campfire near Seneca Pond comes one triumph at a time.
It’s relearning Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” – something he was perfecting on his piano before the fire erupted.
It’s getting the pizza recipe just right – through trial and error. The measurements went with the fire.
“I tried it a couple times and it tasted like crap,” he said of the initial attempts at the dough. “I was putting in too much flour.”
When it comes to his health, Mauriello only talks about losing weight and the fun he’s having in the college’s cross country ski class.
“First of all, you don’t want to fall. The energy it takes to get up …,” he said of trying to perfect the free heel glide.
In late January he was sending out more thank you cards. Sierra-at-Tahoe sent him a $50 Raley’s certificate around the holidays. Rotary sent another two checks.
“It’s uplifting,” Mauriello said. “People are still thinking of you.”
On the last day of January he was writing checks – one for $24,603.09. This was to El Dorado County for debris removal. With it he sent a copy of Ed Cook’s bill for tree removal to prove why it was “shorting” the county by $3,200.
He’s just doing what county Supervisor Norma Santiago said to do. It’s how the people who paid for tree removal get reimbursed.
His plan was to show up at the airport to vote in the California primary. It had been his precinct before, but voting material hadn’t arrived before Super Tuesday.
Next month inventory is on his to-do list. The insurance company’s guy will be back at the Lake to settle up.
Mauriello buys what he needs. If it costs more than what the insurance company will reimburse him for, so be it. He doesn’t want junk in his life. He doesn’t dwell on what isn’t there.
“I don’t want to put myself in the situation where I say ‘I wish’. Yes, I will miss things. But I’m not going to buy wrenches to remind me of my father,” the 60-year-old said.
The crucifix that was on his mother’s coffin can’t be replaced. It is what it is. And life goes on – come sentiments of Mauriello’s.
“What are you going to do? Pout the rest of your life. I’ve done enough pouting,” Mauriello said.

Super computer arrives at STHS

1/08 tahoe

By Kathryn Reed

Pieces of what was once the world’s third largest computer are waiting to be assembled at South Tahoe High so students there and throughout the district can enter the realm of life beyond Microsoft and Apple.
“Initially we are considering a programming class to get it up and then use it for visual arts because it is a high-speed machine,” said Jerry Carter, STHS physics teacher and technology representative. “We could do some graphic animations on the level you see on TV and in the movies like ‘Lord of the Rings.’ As far as networking at the school, that would have to be off in the future.”
Dave Norton brought the beast to town last month from Lawrence Livermore Lab where it had been used in the nuclear laboratory since 2003. Norton, who does consulting work through his company High Performance Fortran Associates, was involved with developing this computer.
With kids in Lake Tahoe Unified, Norton wants them and their peers to have the opportunity to get their hands on technology that students in the Silicon Valley have access to and to realize a computer is more than a keyboard, screen and tower.
“I wanted to get the system so students and faculty could be exposed to scientific computing. The idea is to teach people that computers run operating systems besides Windows. This is a Linux based system,” Norton said.
The original computer had about 1,500 nodes that are essentially small servers. The district now owns 128 of them. Once assembled, they will be stored on a handful of racks that are 19 inches wide and 2 feet deep.
Most likely the machine will be ready for next school year. Part of the components are at the high school, part in a district warehouse. It needs 220 volts to run on as well as adequate cooling and ventilation.
It cost the district nothing. Maintenance will be an issue, but Norton foresees that being part of the learning process for kids and not a duty of district staff.
Curriculum involving the computer will depend on ability and desire of staff, Carter said.
Carter spent nine years in the computer business on mainframes. Cliff Smith, who is a second-year math teacher at STHS, used to work at Intel. Dave Mason teaches digital technology and Bob Grant is a Mac expert.
“We’re still in the discussion stage as to what exactly we are going to do with it and who is going to have access to it,” Carter said.
He predicts the science department will use it to solve problems related to vibration of sound, electromagnetic waves and nuclear radiation.
“A lot of it would be programming for kids to use as opposed to teacher or staff on the machines,” Carter said.
South Tahoe High hasn’t had a computer programming class since 1984 when Doug Sprague retired.
Norton has ties to people who predict the weather and believes the computer could be used for such calculations.
“Will they be better than what you get on Probably not, but that’s not the point,” Norton said. “It would be really nice if the weather output would come for some of the kids at Sierra House to incorporate into their weather reports (on KRLT).”

Skier-boarder safety

1/08 tahoe mt. news:

By Kathryn Reed

Ten years ago this month, Sonny Bono was skiing through the trees next to Orion’s run at Heavenly Mountain Resort. The 62-year-old congressman and former singer died from injuries related to striking a tree with his head.
“Every accident has its unique set of circumstances. Believe it or not, no two accidents are the same from the causes, even though they may have the same results, particularly where a single skier is involved,” said John Wagnon, vice president of marketing and sales for Heavenly.
Wagnon was working at the resort when the fatality occurred. Bono, a Republican from Palm Springs, frequented Heavenly several times a season.
“It has always been our approach to treat celebrities as any other customer. All our customers are celebrities in our mind,” Wagnon said. “Very rarely do they ask for special treatment.”
Some get preferential consideration, like when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger shows up or Chelsea Clinton and her Secret Service entourage are in tow.
But the truth is famous people can die just as easily skiing as the average person. In fact, days before Bono’s Jan. 5, 1998, death, Michael Kennedy, son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, died New Year’s Eve on the slopes of Aspen.
What about helmets?
Officials say a helmet would not have saved Bono’s life. Nonetheless, the trend in the ensuing decade has been to cover ones head with protective gear other than a beanie.
“Helmet use is going up. Unfortunately, there is no indication that it is reducing fatalities,” Wagnon said.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, about 40 percent of riders donned a helmet in the 2006-07 season, up from 38 percent from the previous year.
“There has been no significant reduction in fatalities over the past nine seasons even as the use of helmets overall has increased to more than 33 percent, and to as much as 40 percent within the population at greatest risk – experienced young adult male skiers and snowboarders,” the NSAA website says. “Most fatalities are due to multiple causes or injures. In incidents leading to death, it appears that the severity of the incident simply overwhelms the ability of the helmet to prevent death.”
Ski resorts don’t anticipate helmets becoming mandatory – even for kids. Enforcing it would be a nightmare. It’s not like the California bicycle helmet law where police officers can cite a person for violating the rules. Officers don’t patrol the slopes.
On average, about 37 people die each year on the slopes. Last year 22 deaths were reported, two of them at Heavenly. This equates to 0.40 deaths for every million skier-boarder visits.
Serious injuries, including paralysis, occur about 44 times a year or 0.73 times per million skier visits, according to the NSAA.
Father fights back
Dan Gregorie doesn’t want other parents to go through what his family has experienced. He said his 24-year-old snowboarding daughter, Jessica, died Super Bowl Sunday 2006 at Alpine Meadows as she carried her board across a traverse, slipped on icy conditions and fell over a cliff.
In November, he started the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization ( He’s assembled an impressive board of directors. South Lake Tahoe orthopedic surgeon Terry Orr (who was unavailable for comment) is on it. He is joined by San Francisco Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who hasn’t walked since a skiing accident at Heavenly in 1981 when she was 13. Rep. Mary Bono, Sonny Bono’s widow who just remarried last month, is an advisor to the board.
“My real focus is No. 1 to help the public better understand the realities of ski resorts,” Gregorie told the Tahoe Mountain News. “There are no standards of safety, no oversight really in California, no ski safety statutes. There is no way to know which resort is safer than another. We are committed to work collaboratively with the ski industry.”
In the nearly two years he has had to gather information on the industry, Gregorie said he is surprised signage about dangerous conditions, obstacles and other issues is not universal among resorts. He questions the coding of runs. Most resorts use a green circle, blue square and black diamond meaning beginner, intermediate or advanced. But what one resort says is blue another may say is black.
“There is tremendous need for traffic management procedures,” Gregorie said. “We will never prevent all ski deaths and injuries. That is impossible. We can substantially reduce the number of serious accidents and deaths if we don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.”
South Shore policies
Heavenly requires those under age 13 in ski school to wear a helmet.
“If a parent refuses a helmet, they have to sign a waiver that they are refusing a helmet,” said Russ Pecoraro, resort spokesman.
Neither Kirkwood nor Sierra-at-Tahoe has such a rule. All three resorts will rent or sell a helmet to anyone who wants one.
“Overall, the biggest change in the industry is how much education the resorts put in front of skiers,” said Kirstin Cattell, spokeswoman at Sierra.
Each year during National Safety Awareness Week (Jan. 19-25), each South Shore resort focuses on the issue. But they also all say safety is an integral component each ski day. And all tout the Skier Responsibility Code that is printed on the back of most lift tickets and staggered on some poles that riders can read while on a lift.
Kirkwood embraces the various NSAA programs like lids on kids and sun safety.
“All the programs are really making a difference in educating people to be smart,” resort spokesman Allon Cohne said.
When Vail Resorts took over Heavenly six years ago, restraining bars were put on all the lifts. It’s optional to use them. The resort has a mountain safety division that is separate from ski patrol.
“They are out there every day making sure people are following the code, skiing appropriately for their surroundings and their ability and having fun and staying safe,” Pecoraro said.
Sierra has increased safety signage – like reminding people to lower the restraining bar. The mellow yellows program started at sister resort Northstar and has been implemented at Sierra this season. They are slow zones so people feel comfortable.
“Say a 12-year-old skier goes bombing by. Mountain safety will catch up with them. We are actually going to clock them with a radar gun,” Cattell said.

Neighbors Bookstore no more

1/08 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

With the average sale being $23.50, the cash register needs to cha-ching on a regular basis to keep the financial ledger in the black.
“Instead of moderate growth, we’ve seen moderate losses,” said Michael Stroschein, who with a silent partner opened Neighbors Bookstore on Dec. 22, 2003. The last sale will be Jan. 19. The 4 to 7 percent annual losses are forcing the lone new bookstore on the South Shore to write its final chapter. “We haven’t had a better than average month since August 2006.”
Stroschein estimates the Angora Fire cost him $50,000 in sales. The anticipated release of the seventh and final Harry Potter book on July 21 was supposed to save the summer. The $45,000 in sales wasn’t enough to even save the month.
The 40-year-old businessman attributes the store’s inability to make money to four factors: declining local population, fewer tourists in town, online book sales and discount bookstores.
The nearly 4,400-squre-feet of prime retail space along Highway 50 in the Village Center will not be vacant long. Terry Hackett, managing general partner for the center, expects to ink a deal with a new tenant this month. The finalists are an existing locally owned business and a national chain.
“It will not be a book use. If Michael can’t make it, I don’t think anyone can in the industry,” Hackett said, even though he had been in talks with Borders Bookstore before Stroschein signed a lease four years ago.
The center is largely local operators – something Hackett said he would like to stick with if everything pans out.
Stroschein said Hackett tried to make it work for him – even offered him a smaller venue. The bookseller is not sure a rent-free facility would have covered the overhead and gotten him out of debt.
Book selling comes with a thin margin. Pricing can’t be above what’s printed on the jacket. Music markups are even less. The big guys can purchase stock from publishers for less than independents like Neighbors. Costco was selling the last Harry Potter for less than what Stroschein bought it for directly from the publisher.
“There’s no room for error like a fire, bad winter, or slow off-season,” Stroschein said.
If he had to do it all over, he would have skipped the book business – despite a strong passion that is still evident.
“It’s a dying industry. It’s collapsing on itself,” Stroschein said. He worries what will be published in the future, or not published, because of the consolidation of publishing houses.
With a six-figure debt to payoff, Stroschein envisions returning to the Bay Area to obtain a corporate job – maybe as a district manager in retail. Years ago he worked for Barnes & Noble. In Tahoe, he has been an executive chef at Kirkwood and Heavenly. He’s also a minister – having presided over weddings, baptisms and funerals.
“Tahoe is so much different than when I came here in 1989. We are creating an elitist society in Tahoe,” Stroschein said. “We are restricting our customer base.”
Big bucks are being spent on hotel rooms in the redevelopment area – where he is located – but fewer people are coming to town. He points to skier visits dropping and lift ticket prices rising. He wonders if more people would come to the South Shore if it didn’t cost so much to sleep and play.
What the bookseller has found is the amount people spend on books is the same no matter what one pays for a room night – so the more affluent destination traveler isn’t necessarily spending more in the Village Center than someone staying across town at Motel 6.
“The real problem is we’ve changed the demographics, but not the business model,” Stroschein said. He points to the proliferation of Indian casinos in California, but doesn’t understand why the Stateline gaming outlets are sticking with the status quo – which monthly revenue numbers prove isn’t profitable.
He has lots of advice for the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority – who it should market to (the Bay Area-Sacramento drive-up market) and how (create midweek activities, erect thank you billboards on the way out of town, signage in Sac-SF saying midweek is how to avoid the seven-hour traffic snarl).
“Why did we throw away Tahoe for the generic word blue?” he asks.
Stroschein looked around, saw thousands more square feet of retail space being built across the street in the convention center complex, couldn’t miss the commercial vacancy signs in the area or his store’s abysmal numbers. He knew it was better to leave while he has the strength to rebuild his life.
“I’m very disappointed the store didn’t make it. We have great customers,” Stroschein said, his voice trailing off as though he is sadder for their loss than his.
He loved selling books, children’s story time and his half dozen employees. Look for Stroschein and his gang in the bookstore Thursday-Monday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until the big goodbye party on Jan. 19 to which the entire community is invited.

Fresh Ketch fire

1/08 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

A lingering smoky smell is the only thing diners might notice from the fire that shutdown the Fresh Ketch restaurant during Christmas week.
General Manager George West got a wake-up call at 2:30 Christmas morning from the fire alarm company. The South Lake Tahoe restaurant was on fire, though no flames were visible.
The floor in the upstairs kitchen and ceiling of the seafood bar sustained about $60,000 in damage. One of the upstairs stoves, the floor joist, ceiling panels and carpet have been replaced.
“The way the ovens are set up it was a long-term exposure of heat from the ovens on the wood below. It kept drying out the wood,” West said. “Firefighters said it could have been burning for days.”
He estimates the restaurant lost $80,000 in sales before it was able to open again on New Year’s Eve.
“The toughest part was the staff. They were counting on a big week,” West said. He said the 25 servers-bar staff might have lost out on $16,000 in tips.
2007 wasn’t kind to the company that owns the Ketch as well as the Beacon restaurant at Camp Richardson. The Beacon was closed during what is usually one of its busiest times because of the Angora Fire.

Freedom Writer in Tahoe

1/08 tahoe

By Kathryn Reed

Gangs. Racism. Intolerance. Packaged together and they make for a pretty intense learning environment.
Watching “Freedom Writers” was like putting a mirror in front of many South Tahoe Middle School students. Not everyone liked what they saw. And they weren’t about to let the status quo rule.
“It changed the relationship in the classroom. They went through the school year hating each other and by the end they wanted to hang out,” said seventh-grader Dakota Cronin. “(The movie) really changed the way I looked at racism.”
The film has had a lingering affect. Students say self-segregation is no longer the norm at school.
“Nobody wanted to interact with anyone but their own race,” student Isabella Castillo said of life before seeing the movie. “There are still groups, but they’re mixed.”
Cronin, Castillo and Shane Whitt along with many of their classmates were skeptical last school year when their teachers took them to see “Freedom Writers”, a movie about a Long Beach school barely surviving -- because of the teachers and students – and how one teacher made a difference.
So inspired were these three students by what they saw on the big screen, that they are helping teacher Cindy Cowen bring one of the real life Freedom Writers to campus Jan. 24.
“I want to recharge the class from last year. What that class taught me last year is don’t give up,” said Cowen of why she is having Manuel V. Scott speak to the school. “There is a huge message of hope in that movie.”
A grant from the El Dorado Community Foundation is paying for the student assembly. Lake Tahoe Education Foundation is paying for Scott to speak at South Tahoe High School on Jan. 25.
The community is invited to hear him the night of Jan. 24 at STMS. (Time was not available when we printed this.) Lake Tahoe Community College and Lake Tahoe Collaborative are covering the costs that evening, though donations will be accepted.
Scott travels the world inspiring others to turn their lives around. His was a rocky road. He dropped out of school at 14. Drugs, alcohol and crime were part of his daily routine.
“I was once dismissed as ‘unreachable’ and ‘unteachable,’ and classified as an ‘English as a Second Language’ student,” Scott says on his website, “but something special happened, and I love sharing that message with others.”
He did not return phone calls.
All students at South Tahoe Middle School will have seen “Freedom Writers” before Scott arrives.
Anne Frank, Southern California gang bangers, STMS. They aren’t as different as one might think. Journaling is one of the positives they share. In the movie the kids, most who didn’t know much about Frank or the Holocaust, were enlightened by going to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.
And then they started writing in journals much like Frank did with her diary.
Seeing how putting personal thoughts onto paper made a difference for the kids in the movie, South Tahoe students asked if they could do the same. They weren’t graded. It was more of a cathartic exercise for themselves and a chance for teachers to gain insight into where they were coming from.
“Since I started writing in the journal my life isn’t as stressful, as depressed,” Whitt said. He still writes.

Enrollment on the South Shore

1/08 tahoe mt. news:

By Kathryn Reed

Officials at school sites throughout the South Shore monitor enrollment on a daily basis because how many students show up affects the budget.
The best news is at Lake Tahoe Community College, where numbers from fall quarter were about 10 percent higher than fall 2006. Last school year the college saw about a 7 percent overall increase, while the previous three academic years enrollment declined.
Lori Gaskin, vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Services, isn’t ready to proclaim the upturn as a trend, but she is encouraged by the numbers. She says various factors play into the increase. Part has to do with the state reducing fees in January 2007. Part is online classes growing popularity -- 600 people signed up for one last quarter.
“We have made a very aggressive effort to outreach, market and recruit. We’ve done that by going to college fairs around the state and revamping our website,” Gaskin said.
When people inquire online about the college they receive an email response and handwritten note from Gaskin.
The goal is to reach the 18- to 24-year-olds who are likely to be full-time students. Ads play on radio stations in Sacramento geared toward that age group. The college is reaching out to South Tahoe and Whittell high schools, too.
“Thirty percent of the population in this community is Hispanic. We want to reflect that on the campus. One way is to reach out to younger kids and recent high school graduates to show them that college is a viable option,” Gaskin said.
Vocational education programs are growing as well. Gaskin said a strong partnership with South Tahoe High is important in this regard.
“We want them to focus on fire science. We are hoping they put some more resources and effort to build that effort up,” Gaskin said. The college is in its second year of offering a fire academy, while the high school has a limited program.
Lake Tahoe Unified is continuing to lose students, but not at the alarming rate of recent years. The difference from October 2006 to October 2007 was 120 fewer students. However, the district ended last school year with 4,186 kids and had 4,206 last month.
“I think it’s going to be fairly flat this year,” said Superintendent Jim Tarwater of the enrollment change. “Right now we are above where we ended, which is positive.”
But he knows all too well that many families leave when it gets cold or don’t come back after the winter holidays. That reality was known as of deadline.
The district was nervous the Angora Fire would affect attendance, but only a handful of the 55 students who lost their homes have left.
One thing LTUSD and Douglas County School District have in common is a kindergarten class that surpasses last years. LTUSD has 324 kindergartners, whereas most of the first- through fifth-grade classes are in the 275 range. Neither district has a definitive reason for the increase except to point to birth rates increasing.
In Douglas County, Zephyr Cove has 31 kindergartners. That’s only nine more than a year ago, but percentage-wise it’s huge.
The Lake schools for Douglas had a projected enrollment of 528 students, but the three total 516 this school year. Zephyr Cove went from 192 last year to 180 this year, Kingsbury from 145 to 132 and Whittell from 221 to 204.
“I just think people are not able to live up there,” said Sue Estes, budget manager for DCSD. “It’s been a steady decline. I can’t tell you what would make it change.”
To reduce expenses, the district is closing Kingsbury Middle School and turning Zephyr Cove into a K-6 beginning next fall and Whittell will be 7-12.

DCSD consolidation

01/08 tahoe mt. news:

By Kathryn Reed

Parents seemed shocked the district was not budging.
Administrators never intended to.
Kingsbury Middle School will close at the end of this school year. It’s final. And it’s been final since June 2006 when the school board unanimously voted to do so. Zephyr Cove will be a K-6 in the fall, while Whittell High becomes a 7-12.
During a nearly three-hour meeting at Whittell on Dec. 10 about 200 people listened to Superintendent Carol Lark defend the decision she inherited when she took over the helm of the district.
Board member Cindy Trigg, who is the lone Lake representative on the seven-person board, at times seemed like she was campaigning to keep her seat. Her term expires at the end of the year. An ironic twist to the evening was having Lawrence Howell moderate the event. He lost to Trigg in the November 2004 election.
Trigg, Tom Moore and Keith Roman represented the board that night. Not one of them was taking notes.
More than 90 minutes into the discussion someone finally asked Lark to give a two-sentence answer to why Kingsbury is closing instead of Zephyr Cove. Proximity to the high school and economics are her reasons.
The elementary and high schools are on the same street. Sharing teachers will be easier, as will custodial staff and busing issues.
“If we can’t sell Zephyr Cove, it would be a financial disaster,” Lark said. Earlier that night she had indicated the Whittell Estate put a deed restriction on the Zephyr Cove site when it was donated to the school district. It essentially ties the district’s hands when it comes to having choices with what to do with the parcel.
Lark said Zephyr Cove could fetch $4.5 million if allowed to be sold and Kingsbury could garner $9.5 million. To date, Lark said no one has expressed interest in leasing or buying KMS.
In the past 10 years, Douglas County’s Lake schools have declined in enrollment by about 42 percent. No one is arguing to keep all the schools open – just which ones. With Kingsbury being the newest of the three and not having the radon levels of Zephyr Cove, the outspoken parents believe the board’s decision needs to be revisited.
Lark does not anticipate arranging another meeting like last month’s. The three board members said they would not ask their colleagues to reconsider closing Kingsbury.
Parents did gain a few things. Trigg agreed to have the board look into the district’s field trip policy that prevents parents from raising money for travel. The district’s thinking is keeping things equal for all schools is better – so schools with more affluent parents are not providing more than schools with lower income households.
But the district somewhat violates its own policy by spending $9,631 per student at the Lake and $7,278 on valley kids. Lark said the difference is because “you have special needs.”
The elimination of Spanish at the elementary level was brought up. Lark, who is bilingual, appreciated that concern but does not foresee it being reinstituted soon.
As for the radon issue, through that evening’s discussions, it was agreed to investigate more rigorous mitigation measures at the Jan. 8 board meeting – which we did not have time to cover before deadline.

USFS parking regs

1/08 tahoe mt. news:

Parking restrictions will be in effect through May 10 in the Spring Creek Cabin Tract. The purpose is to improve resource protection by reducing soil damage, erosion and roadside drainage run-off.
Posted parking signs designate the parking zones. Violators are subject to citation. The ban is for a one-year trial.
The Forest Service recommends backcountry users park in the Taylor Creek Sno-Park, about one mile south of the Spring Creek Road. Anyone parking in the Sno-Park must display a current 2007-08 Sno-Park permit issued by the California Department of Parks and Recreation at various locations throughout the basin or by going to

Higher natural gas rates?

1/08 tahoe mt. news:

Pay attention to those Southwest Gas bills in the coming months because they will contain information about public hearings regarding a proposed average rate increase of 12.5 percent for South Lake Tahoe residential customers.
Customers in El Dorado, Placer and Nevada counties also face hikes to natural gas bills.
The state Public Utilities Commission must approve the increase that would be for what is being called “test year 2009”.
“If this request is approved by the Commission, the proposed rate changes will take effect on January 1, 2009 and thereafter on January 1, 2010 through 2013,” according to published documents.
A copy of the application is available at the Southwest offices in Truckee, Incline Village and Carson City.
Comments may be submitted to or call (415) 703-2074.

Real estate merger

1/08 tahoe mt. news:

After more than 35 years dealing with the daily grind of the real estate business, Dave Kurtzman is shifting gears.
This month Aspen Realty and Re/Max will finalize a merger of the two real estate firms. The new name will be Re/Max Realty Today.
“It is a merger between one of Tahoe's oldest independent companies and one of the largest real estate networks in the world,” Kurtzman wrote the Tahoe Mountain News. “It has been a great 35-year experience and I look forward to the opportunities created by the merger.”
He will stay on as one of the owners of the merged firm. However, Kurtzman will not be part of the daily management team.
Kurtzman and two others opened Aspen Realty on Nov. 1, 1973. He took over sole ownership in 1994.
The merged entity will operate out of the current Aspen offices at 2568 Lake Tahoe Blvd.

LTCC beefs up learning center

1/08 tahoe mt. news

Each quarter hundreds of students seek a little extra academic help at Lake Tahoe Community College. This quarter it won’t mean a trek into the cold.
What used to be the library above the commons area in the main building is now the Tutoring and Learning Center or TLC. It houses all of the college’s learning support components – tutoring, assessment testing, a quiet room to take tests.
Two classrooms are part of the mix, as well as centers devoted to math and writing tutoring.
“It really provides a cohesive location and environment for support services,” said Lori Gaskin, vice president of academic affairs and students services. “We gutted the whole upstairs.”
Tutoring was in portables near the parking lot leading to the demonstration garden. Portables are now classrooms.

Tahoe-ites indicted on fed charges

1/08 tahoe mt. news

A federal grand jury indicted two South Lake residents on drug charges Jan. 3.
Tamara Allen, 43, and Christopher Liller, 34, face charges of conspiracy to manufacture and manufacture of marijuana. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary Grad in press release said the two were growing at least 100 pot plants inside their home.
If found guilty, each could be behind bars for five years and fined $1 million.
Most recently Allen was a teacher at Bijou Community School. Liller’s occupation is unknown.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and South Lake Tahoe El Dorado Narcotic Enforcement Task Force conducted the investigation and made the arrests last month.

Child porn admission

1/08 tahoe mt. news

David Kearby Clements, 50, of South Lake Tahoe pleaded guilty Jan. 8 to four counts of receiving child pornography over the Internet and one count of possession of child pornography.
In a press release Assistant United States Attorney Michelle Rodriguez, who is prosecuting this case, said Clements possessed more than 65 images of child sexual abuse. Clements forfeited all of the computer equipment he used to receive and possess sexually explicit images of minor females.
Clements faces a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years for each receipt of child pornography offense and 10 years imprisonment for possession of child pornography. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 17.

Bus service links Tahoe-Carson Valley

1/8 tahoe mt. news:

BlueGo (that’s the local bus company with the funky name) Kingsbury Express will run between Carson Valley and the Stateline Transit Center seven days a week from 6-9 a.m. and from 3:30-7:30 p.m. beginning Jan. 15.
The service is partly funded by a $1 million donation from former Google executive Ray Sidney and a federal clean fuels grant.
The bus will connect Lampe Park and Gardnerville transit stops to major employers at Stateline. It is operated by Aztec Transportation Services of Carson City.
A round trip on the shuttle will cost $5. Free transfers are available to other BlueGo routes. Ten-ride passes are available for $22, monthly passes for $90, and three-month passes for $260. Kingsbury Express passes are available at the Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department offices in Gardnerville and at Lakeside Inn in Stateline.
Schedule and other information about the service is available at or (775) 883-2100.

New Year's Eve bomb scare

unedited 1/08 Tahoe Mt.News:

By Kathryn Reed

A device similar to a liquid bullet blew away the packaging on a suspected bomb to reveal it was a hoax. That was hours after the man who left it at the Wells Fargo inside the Stateline Raley’s got away with more than $2,000.
Some would say committing armed robbery isn’t the smartest activity on New Year’s Eve because the Stateline area is swarming with law enforcement. The suspect eluded authorities that night, but was arrested four days later at the Midway Inn in South Lake Tahoe where he was living.
Scott Alan Pearson, 48, faces charges of robbery, burglary and using a destructive device to terrorize. As of press time, he had not posted the $250,000 bail to get out of El Dorado County Jail.
Wells Fargo is in the front left corner of Raley’s – a decent distance from the automatic doors -- farther than most tellers are from the front door of a free standing bank. The robber had to scamper past aisles of Lake Tahoe souvenirs on his way out.
Presumably an unintended consequence was more than just the bank got robbed. On what is one of the most profitable retail days of the year, it was the third blow of 2007 to the stores at Village Center. First was the dismal 2006-07 ski season, then the Angora Fire. The robbery, which practically emptied the center, was the clincher.
“This was the busiest day of the year,” said Barbara Parina, who owns Side Street Boutique. “All our customers left.”
It cut that day’s proceeds in half – a six figure loss she didn’t want published.
She stood in the doorway looking disheartened with only two customers in the store. Employees stood by hoping the night might be salvaged. The place had been packed until the sirens and swirling lights from multiple agencies swarmed the area.
Officers stopped people from entering the parking lot shortly after the 3:10 p.m. incident was reported Dec. 31.
“I’m pissed more than scared,” Parina said.
Mark Gant, who owns three stores in the center, didn’t want to talk to the media. Instead, he opened his doors to the city cops and FBI to interview witnesses.
Bank and grocery store workers milling about outside as day became night and temperatures dropped dramatically said they were told not to talk to the press.
Even though Raley’s was evacuated until employees were let back in at 5:45 p.m., the rest of the center remained open. People didn’t mind dining at Blue Dog Pizza, which shares a wall with the grocery store.
The robber left behind a box that necessitated Douglas County Sheriff’s Department’s bomb squad to intervene.
“It had all the appearance of an actual device,” Douglas Sgt. Jim Halsey said. “When they tried to do an X-ray they could not determine if it was a valid device.”
A high pressure water cannon shot liquid at what looked like a standard shipping box. All this was done at Raley’s while people waited outside.
“It’s pretty safe to use because in most cases it won’t cause an explosion,” Halsey said. “Once they blew it apart they could see there was no explosive inside.”

Anorga -- John's story

unedited 1/08 Tahoe Mt. News story:

Editor's note: This is a monthly article following one of the hundreds of people who lost their homes in the Angora Fire in summer 2007.

By Kathryn Reed

Sprinklers. It’s the one word that is preventing John Mauriello from being able to say he will rebuild.
At a meeting last month regarding rebuilding in the burn area he and a couple friends sat with body language that looked like they wanted to hurt the speakers who explained the rules about when sprinklers are needed in single family residences.
“Everyone says you people are not fire victims, you are fire survivors,” Mauriello said in early January. “And they are right. But because of the stupid politicians they make us the victims. You don’t know how livid I am because of those sprinklers.”
He doesn’t understand why Lake Valley Fire Department didn’t grant a reprieve of sorts for Angora re-builders – at least the ones who will have less than 5,000 square feet. At that size state law requires sprinklers. And as of Jan. 1, the state’s codes are as strict as the fire department’s.
Water pressure from fire hydrants plays a significant role along with square footage as to who needs sprinklers.
After Mauriello had time to digest what was said at the Dec. 17 meeting, he was still angry.
On Dec. 22 he said, “Give every property owner a special assessment to update the water system. Give us five years to pay it off with a tax bill or grandfather us in. Why should I have to spend $20,000 (on sprinklers) because of an antiquated water system? Insurance premiums will go up with sprinklers because of water damage.”
Despite his bitterness and caustic vocabulary when it comes to sprinklers, Mauriello filed plans with the county building department on Dec. 28. The place would be about 1,800 square feet – 100 more square feet than what he had on Mount Olympia Circle.
Having the paperwork in by the end of the year means he gets in under the old building codes. Plans are valid for a year. But he’s not sure if the plans will collect dust.

Holiday spirit

Mauriello is finding camaraderie among the 256 homeowners who lost their homes when an illegal campfire set off a 3,100 inferno that ripped through the middle class neighborhood.
He went to the now closed relief center at the old Mikasa building for a party for survivors in early December.
“No one ever talks about the kids. I know how I would be if I was yanked out of my whole environment and not old enough to understand,” he said days after the event.
Later in the month he had a party at his rental, which is walking distance from his vacant lot.
“I’m so rusty it’s ridiculous,” Mauriello said as he stroked the ivory keys of his grand piano to an appreciative crowd that had gathered.
It seemed so appropriate he delved into “White Christmas” because forecasters said that’s what we’d have – and they were right.
The piano is situated such that he can either hide behind the sheet music or look to his right to see Angora Ridge.
In the short time he has resided at the Snow Mountain Drive residence it has the feel of home. Art is on the walls. Furniture invites guests to spend time in front of the fire. Smells wafting from the kitchen are evidence his culinary prowess has not been lost.
Losing everything does put things into perspective. A couple wall hangings and pieces of kitchenware Mauriello had given his friend and now roommate Bob have been reclaimed. They represent the few tangible things he had from his life pre-June 24.
Christmas day was quiet for the retired 69-year-old bachelor. New Year’s Eve was spent with friends at his place.

Life in Tahoe

Mauriello hand wrote a thank you note to the Lake Tahoe Angora Fund board for money they gave him. In part it says, “Feeling alone with no clothing, no money, no spirit and in complete despair, volunteers and organizations like yourself were there not only to offer help, but more important to offer hope.”
Keeping with tradition, he made no New Year’s resolutions. But he knows this month will be full of appointments – doctors and insurance related.
He’s getting back outside to enjoy winter at the Lake. A cross country ski class may be part of his routine this quarter at Lake Tahoe Community College.
“I went snowshoeing the other day. That was fantastic,” Mauriello said. “The gym is paying off. It was not half as difficult as it was a couple years ago.”