Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sierra snowpack water content diminishing

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Department of Water Resources’ Second Snow Survey of the Season

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today issued the following statement after the Department of Water Resources (DWR) conducted its second snow survey of the 2008-2009 season, which showed statewide Sierra snowpack water content at only 61 percent of normal:

“California is entering a third straight year of drought, and today’s snow survey is just one more piece of evidence that we urgently need comprehensive water reform to protect our economy, our jobs, our communities and our quality of life. California is headed toward one of the worst water crises in its history, underscoring the need to upgrade our water infrastructure by increasing water storage, improving conveyance, protecting the Delta’s ecosystem and promoting greater water conservation.”

California’s snowpack water content is particularly significant this year because the state has endured two years of drought and our reservoirs are low. Because less-than-normal water supply conditions exist, the initial State Water Project allocation for 2009 was placed at only 15 percent of water contractors’ requested amounts. The results of this survey could impact future allocations. Precipitation to date is at only 70 percent of normal statewide, threatening another dry year, while unseasonably warm and dry conditions are rapidly eroding the snowpack. Furthermore, regardless of snowpack conditions, it is clear water deliveries through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will remain in jeopardy because of recent and pending regulatory uncertainty.

In preparation for another dry year, DWR is facilitating what water transfers may be available through the state’s Drought Water Bank Program and working with local water agencies to update their Urban Water Management Plans. Many providers have already enacted mandatory or voluntary water rationing, and it is likely more agencies will require some form of rationing if dry conditions persist.

Last July, the Governor and Senator Dianne Feinstein proposed a compromise plan to the Legislature to update California’s water system that would put the state on the path toward restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, expanding water supplies and promoting conservation efforts that will ensure a clean, reliable water supply for California.

Last June, the Governor issued an executive order declaring a statewide drought, which directed his state agencies and departments to take immediate action to address the serious drought conditions and water delivery reductions that exist in California. He also proclaimed a state of emergency in nine Central Valley counties to address urgent water needs: Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Kern.

For more information on DWR’s snow survey, go to

February prescribed burns in Tahoe

Date Sent: Thursday, Jan 29, 2009

Prescribed Fire Operations in Kingsbury Grade Begin Today

Forest Service fuels management crews will be conducting prescribed fire operations in Kingsbury Grade beginning today and continuing through next week, weather permitting.

Residents and travelers can expect to see smoke from prescribed fire project areas.

This and other prescribed fire projects are designed to reduce wildfire risks to communities and critical resources. Smoke management is part of every prescribed fire burn plan, and efforts will be taken to reduce actual or potential smoke impacts on community areas.

To learn more about the efforts to reduce catastrophic wildfire risks in the Tahoe Basin, visit:

To view maps that described current prescribed fire project locations, visit:

Take a few moments to visit an excellent web site and learn
about Prescribed Fire vs. Wildfire at:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

EDC winery ordinance changing

unedited 12/08 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

After more than 80 meetings and reviewing about 75 versions of the county’s wine ordinance, John Smith hopes the matter is essentially put to rest Dec. 11.
That is when El Dorado County planning commissioners are expected to OK the much discussed document that governs what wineries and grape growers can do. The Board of Supervisors should take the matter up in January or February.
Smith, who founded and owns Oakstone Winery, has been working on the ordinance for seven years.
“The one in effect in 2001 had gaping holes in the regulation,” Smith said.
The wine industry convened a slew of meetings to iron out its needs and desires, including redefining what a winery is. The Agricultural Commission has been an integral player. The Economic Development Advisory Committee and Planning Commission have been involved. A Winery Industry Subcommittee was formed.
Last year the ordinance came to the supervisors, with some wanting an environmental impact report to be done. Supervisor Norma Santiago was one of the voices saying no to that idea.
“There was a dispute in terms of what traffic was generated because of wine events,” Santiago said.
It was agreed that the interested parties would go back to the table to see if a compromise could be worked out that so a mitigated negative declaration could be issued – meaning no EIR was needed, but environmental concerns like traffic, noise and air quality would be addressed. California Environmental Quality Act regulations were met.
One way to meet the concerns is winery folks agreed to cut the previously allowed 88 events a year to 48. Instead of events lasting three days, they can go on for two. If a vintner wants to have more events, a conditional use permit is possible.
Some wineries have special days for club members, some host weddings, most participate in shindigs put on by organizations they belong to such as the Jan. 24-25 barrel tasting which is an El Dorado Winery Association event.
The 21 members of the El Dorado Winery Association and 21 in the Fair Play Winery Association unanimously endorsed the version of the winery ordinance up for a vote this month.
“Because this has dragged out over such a long period of time, we have been able to listen to and incorporate concerns of the grape growers and smaller wineries not in the associations,” Smith said.
Even though events are a way to draw people to wineries, especially in these economic times, Smith said his industry is holding its own.
“The last thing people give up in a recession is their drinks. That has been proven over the years. But they do become more selective,” Smith said.

Recyclable market falling

12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Even though selling recyclables is a losing proposition for South Tahoe Refuse, the garbage company bumped up the start date of its recycling program to be able to snare all the goods discarded after the holidays.
Dec. 29 is the first day blue bags will be picked up. Portions of El Dorado and Douglas counties and South Lake Tahoe are part of the pilot program. All jurisdictions serviced by STR in those localities will be onboard around Earth Day in April.
The $177,489 cost of the blue bag program for 2009 is being picked up by the South Lake Tahoe Basin Waste Management Authority. The expense is likely to be passed onto customers for 2010 and beyond.
That expense is just for the bags, not added labor, the cost of storing goods and does not account for revenue possibly generated down the road.
STR used to be able to sell whatever recyclables it took off its Eloise Avenue conveyor belt.
“The economic downturn hit the recycling scrap market pretty severely,” Jeanne Lear of STR told the board in November. “The price of fiber was $150 million a ton in the summer. Our fiber is at zero (today).”
For now STR is storing paper products in hopes the price goes up. But Lear said forecasts are for a dismal 2009, which could linger into 2010.
Because the refuse company isn’t making money off selling recyclables like paper, glass and aluminum it is predicting a $700,000 shortfall for this fiscal year.
Ratepayers are already about to endure a recently passed garbage fee increase in both counties and the city. Future hikes are probable because of the recycling program and STR not being able to turn recyclables into cash.
The Waste Management board expects regular updates from STR about the recycling program. STR plans to report back on the number of bags it distributes as well as the pounds of material collected, plus any changes in the market.
It is expecting a 50 percent participation rate in the blue bag program because of the high number of second homeowners and vacation rentals.

Biomass boiler idea scraped at STHS

12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

A biomass boiler at South Tahoe High School has been scrapped.
After years of discussions, it finally came down to money. Equipment needed to comply with county and state air quality regulations makes the project cost prohibitive, according to El Dorado County and Lake Tahoe Unified officials.
“Because it was at a school it became problematic,” EDC Supervisor Norma Santiago said. “The way the plume would move it would affect the neighborhood.”
Devices can be inserted into a biomass broiler to reduce the particulate matter from the burned wood that is released into the air, but that equipment makes the project financially not doable.
The ancient, creaky boiler will be replaced with natural gas next summer. Cost estimates are in the half million dollar range. Money will come from Measure G.
“The project has not been developed conceptually, so these costs may change during design,” said Steve Morales, LTUSD facilities director.
Officials said technology keeps changing and that the various parties did not always reach consensus on what type of biomass boiler could be used at STHS.
Sierra Nevada Legacy was awarded a $243,000 grant for the project in 2006. Santiago said she is working with the environmental agency to find another place in El Dorado County to develop a biomass facility.

South Shore sports commission

unedited 12/08 tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

With startup money from South Lake Tahoe, South Shore recreation enthusiasts have formed a local sports commission whose purpose is to bring athletes to town.
Economics is at the root of the plan – getting people to stay a few nights, eat out, have sore muscles massaged, buy souvenirs and spend money wherever they can. In return for dropping greenbacks, visitors will become one with this outdoor playground.
Although the possibilities seem limitless, the initial focus is on the community track at South Tahoe Middle School. It is underused, the newest venue in the region, and offers something for various ages and ability levels.
“We tried to focus on what we can do this (next) year with the money we have. What do we have that is really cool that no one else has? It got back to the track,” said Mike Frye, sales and events manager with Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
Frye envisions it being more than just the oval. Music, food and other vendor booths could be part of the mix.
“There isn’t anything that isn’t a possibility at this time,” said Frye, who was a sports science major in college. “It promotes Lake Tahoe and our brand as an outdoor adventure capital.”
LTVA is using $5,000 from the city to get the sports commission off the ground. In November, Frye convened representatives from Lake Tahoe Unified, South Lake Tahoe Recreation Department, Douglas County Recreation Department and a couple other sports nuts. Monthly meetings are planned. December’s already took place.
“Our direction is to be out of the event producing business and be in the finding producers and helping then promote an event,” Frye said of LTVA’s philosophy.
Right now commissioners are evaluating what venues the South Shore has for potential events, what events they would like to see take place, what should be done first and what the future could hold.
Besides track and field events, bringing softball-baseball-soccer tournaments to town for youths and adults is being bandied about. Frye knows local fields are packed in the summer. Removing locals for the sake of making a few bucks is not the plan.
Transportation issues are being discussed. But Frye likes the idea of introducing participants to fields at Zephyr Cove and at Lake Tahoe Community College so they see more of the area. With BlueGo revamping its bus operation, it may be called into service.
Scott Morgan from Douglas County brought up the idea of disc golf tournaments. Diverse, breathtaking courses exist between Zephyr Cove and Kirkwood.
Promoting Tahoe’s rugged mountain biking terrain was mentioned. Kirkwood has the only bike park on the South Shore. Liability issues are a concern – a reason Mammoth doesn’t have races anymore.
BMX is another possibility.
Bringing back a triathlon is possible. In the 1980s people came to swim-bike-run.
“If we could get an Iron Man … what that would mean to our community,” Frye speculated.
Hockey and skating events could be staged at the city’s indoor rink.
Zephyr Cove used to host a well regarded tennis tournament. When it was Caesars, professional matches were played there. This could all be resurrected.
Frye’s background is in skiing, so the commission is likely to tap his expertise.
In the near future the commission will have a page on LTVA’s website touting what it’s all about, how to be involved and what’s coming up.

Retail discord in Tahoe

12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

“It extremely pisses me off,” said Robert Cosmi, who runs the South Lake Tahoe institution known as Scotty’s Hardware.
Do it Center is moving into the South Shore Motors building just down the street from Scotty’s.
“They aren’t going to help create jobs because they will take jobs away from someone else. And they aren’t bringing more tax dollars because they will just take it from somewhere else,” Cosmi said. “It has to be pure arrogance that he thinks he’s better.”
No one from Do it Center returned calls as of press time. Most of the company’s eight other locations are in Southern California, though one is in Mammoth.
An investment company out of Reno closed escrow on the 18,500-square-foot facility the first week of December. They are leasing it to the hardware-building supply company.
On this stretch of Lake Tahoe Boulevard is also an Ace Hardware store. Nearby are plumbing wholesalers, paint stores and two Meeks are just a few miles away.
Cosmi hopes the loyalty of his customers will continue to keep him afloat.
City planning officials have their hands tied when it comes to approving the same sort of business on the same street. As long as the use is allowed, the city can’t say no.
Peggy Eichhorn with Coldwell Banker McKinney & Associates said it’s possible her clients will tear out the upstairs, which could add 6,000 square feet of retail space. Once the remodel is complete, the Do it Center is expected to open in spring 2009.
In other South Lake business news, employees at Pier 1 say the store is staying open despite rumors saying otherwise. Corporate officials did not return calls.

Skier safety

unedited 12/08 tahoe mt. news

Even though it doesn’t snow in Sacramento, lawmakers are keeping an eye on what’s happening at ski resorts in the state.
Information was gathered Nov. 12 by the Assembly Judiciary Committee to see if lawmakers should do more about skier safety. Ski-snowboard safety advocates, medical experts, snow sport victims and family members, and members of California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization testified.
“My sister, Olga, was an average skier, not reckless at all,” Julia Kozberg said in a statement about her sister who died. “Olga was skiing down a hill at Heavenly Ski Resort earlier this year when she picked up a little too much speed because the run proved to be a little slick and steep. She tried to steer off to the side, but where the run split, instead were heaps of snow, trees and boulders that were not visible at all from the run. There were no signs warning her and no netting or padding cordoning off the tree well with rocks.”
A White Paper was presented to the committee by the SnowSport Safety Foundation, an arm of CSSSO. It mentioned how warning signs and devices vary from resort to resort; the lack of industry standards about when and where to use warning signs and devices; more congestion on the slopes results in more collisions; and resort guidelines for safety typically are only on the skier’s code of responsibility on lift tickets.
For more information, visit

South Shore ski foundations

12/08 tahoe mt. news unedited

By Kathryn Reed

A training alliance for youths who ski at Heavenly, Sierra and Kirkwood is in the works. From there, some envision forming a team called the Lake Tahoe Ski Alliance.
Part of this is the brainchild of Jim Plake, president of Heavenly Ski & Snowboard Foundation. Almost immediately upon joining the nonprofit – which is separate from the mountain – he was voted in as its leader.
After he met with Kirkwood officials on Nov. 18 to talk about the alliance, he said the three are onboard to form a coalition of sorts. The reason to work cooperatively is that each resort has only a few teenagers who are competitive skiers-boarders.
“If you are still in at 15-, 16-years-old, you are not in the foundation for recreational purposes,” Plake said.
His initial idea is to have this group train at the three mountains together.
“If that goes well, we may create a team. They can still identify with an individual resort so you don’t lose your home area identification. That concept is long overdue,” Plake said. “A lot of times you get that good and you have to leave the mountain because the training is not available. This keeps the kids local and that is pretty cool.”
Each resort has a ski foundation. Naturally, each is run a little differently. The main purpose is the same – get youths interested in riding, training and competing.

Heavenly Ski & Snowboard Foundation

The foundation was formed in the mid-1980s with the help of then resort owner Bill Killebrew and others. The group has a building near the tram for its participants.
The annual budget is about $230,000 a year. About $180,000 of that comes from tuition. The rest comes from fundraisers. The ski swap is a big one. The Winter Welcome was resurrected Dec. 5 after being on hiatus for a couple years.
Tuition is about $2,000 per child – it depends on the level and amount of travel involved. Heavenly’s foundation doled out $18,000 in scholarships for this season.
“Our focus still is to maintain a program for kids to race, but also it’s designed to bring kids from the community in,” Plake said. “It’s really incumbent upon us, the foundation, to really strive to give every kid in our community an opportunity to try.”
Tuition pays for training and coaches to travel. Beyond tuition, parents must pay for competition-travel at other mountains, overnight expenses and a season pass, though the resort gives foundation kids a discount.
Plake expects about the same number of kids to participate this year as last season – just more than 100.
The foundation doesn’t take beginners, but it works with the Development Team run by the mountain which has learn-to-ski programs.
The mission statement on the website ( says, “The Heavenly Ski Foundation’s goal is to make it possible for every interested young athlete in the local and surrounding communities to take advantage of the programs offered by its competitive ski and snowboard teams. It will provide a supportive and healthy environment to all levels of athlete regardless of economic background. The Foundation strives to assist these young athletes to advance not only athletically, but socially and educationally as well. It encourages athletes to gain mental and physical self-esteem, respect for others and good sportsmanship. It will provide for all levels of participation which allows for personal development beyond athletics. Athletes are assisted to prepare for participation in Far West races, Junior Olympic events and U.S. Nationals and Nor-Am events.”
For more information, call (530) 541-7354.

Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation

“The Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation promotes a healthy lifestyle, instills a spirit and a love of mountain snow sports through professional athletic skill development,” according to its website,
Jim Reilly, who lives in Aptos and has a second home in Kirkwood, just took over the presidency of the foundation.
“We want kids to compete, but we do experience a lot of kids and families who want to race and train, but don’t care if they travel,” Reilly said. “Speaking as a parent, I have a daughter in the program. If she went to one or two races in a year, that’s fine. But I want her in the racing program because it makes a better skier out of her and it gives her more confidence in life.”
The cost to participate is between $1,900 and $2,600 a year. It’s based on the amount of travel and coaches’ time. Prices include a season pass. No scholarships or discounts are offered.
The annual fee is based on the coaches’ salaries and travel expenses, divided by the number of athletes. A little more than 20 riders participate each year. The coaching staff has six people.
Reilly says one thing that sets Kirkwood’s program apart is how few athletes work with one coach.
The foundation also offers a masters’ program.
“We’re slower and fatter,” Reilly said with a laugh. He said most don’t travel, though it’s an option. Instead, these mid-lifers want to improve, race and run gates.
Chip Seamans, general manager of the mountain, said the nonprofit foundation is an integral component of the resort.
“Many of the racers are part of families that are homeowners,” Seamans said. “The foundation owns a lot of the gates and equipment that they generously share with Kirkwood.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe Education Foundation

Sierra’s foundation started a little more than a handful of years ago as a way for parents to better communicate with one another and to create a more cohesive atmosphere, according to Sue Perpall, secretary of the foundation.
The nonprofit is looking for a president and is working on a website.
More fund-raisers have been planned to help deflect some of the cost of the participants – which tops $1,000 per rider. That fee includes coaching and a season pass, but not travel.
“Last year the foundation helped with kids who went to nationals with some traveling money and paid the entry fee for other kids. We try to help coaches with expenses,” Perpall said.

Angora: Monica rebuilds

12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news

By Kathryn Reed

Sitting calmly at her long dining table, Monica Johnson is much calmer today than she was a year ago. This time last year she was way stressed.
“I was overwhelmed by the entire situation … of doing it myself,” Johnson said.
Two years after closing escrow on her Mule Deer Circle home, it was engulfed by the Angora Fire. She owed too much to do anything but rebuild. Being single and sole owner meant making all the decisions about how big to build, what colors to use, the contractor, subcontractors, floor plan, appliances, window coverings, fixtures. The list goes on.
Pre-Angora she had thought about remodeling the 1960s-era ranch house, but building a dream home was never in her plans.
That changed after the fire. Her rebuilt house is 1,300 square feet larger that her old one. On June 15 she threw a house warming party to celebrate her new abode.
Despite being thrilled about her home, she wishes she had taken it a little slower. She has issues with a couple windows as well as regrets about not putting electrical outlets in the floor.
The house has settled a bit. Some work has been re-done on the drywall that will require touch-ups on the paint. A leak from the master bathtub dripped into the garage. A portion of the granite countertops needs to be resealed.
Still, she’s happy.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s completely worth it,” Johnson said.
She sings the praise of Brian Kuelper of Kuelper Construction. This is one of a dozen houses he is responsible for in the burn area.
“He was awesome. Any questions I had he was there for me,” Johnson said. “He was always on time.”
Kuelper said it’s been interesting working in the burn area.
“They have some funny rules like putting up fencing to protect vegetation that isn’t there,” Kuelper said. He also said it’s “cutthroat out there” because out of town contractors are underbidding projects. “Then it snows and you don’t see them for two weeks.” He is accustomed to working through the winter.
Most of the subcontractors at Johnson’s place are people Kuelper works with regularly. Jose Castillo put in the foundation, Randy Wood did the excavating, and the roof was the work of Black Diamond Roofing.
Much of the building supplies came from Meeks.
Joe Gooch was the painter – another local Johnson thinks the world of. He did the exterior and interior walls as well as staining the wood.
Van Hee Woodworks created the cabinets, Rob Morris completed the BMP work, Color Tile was responsible for the hardwood floors and carpets.
The three gas fireplaces came from South Y Fireplace, with Kemper Masonry doing all the rock work.
Johnson’s focus was on the kitchen and master bedroom. She liked the tweaks to the layout of the kitchen that Kuelper suggested. The kitchen opens up into the great room, where one of the fireplaces is.
The second upstairs fireplace is in her bedroom.
She eliminated an originally planned fourth bedroom to make the master bath and walk-in closet more to her liking. A deck off her room allows her dog Sequoia to sun himself.
Johnson also liked Kuelper’s suggestions about changing some of the windows from the original set of plans. With so few trees, an abundance of sunlight naturally illuminates her home.
Downstairs is where the third fireplace is located. This is also where the two other bedrooms are. A couple roommates are living there. An efficiency kitchen provides the guys with all the amenities they might need.
Much of the furniture throughout the house came from Reno. It was financed.
Johnson opted to use her payout from AAA for construction costs – this includes putting much of the money she got for her contents into the structure.
Like many of the people who lost their home, she buys what she needs and nothing more. She has no knickknacks and is perfectly fine with that. Artwork for the walls we be acquired down the road when she finds just the right piece.
“I wanted a nice house. I love being here,” Johnson. “For the most part, I have everything I need.”

Angora--Lambdins rebuild

12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news story

By Kathryn Reed

Enough is the same that friends and family do a double-take. But it’s just enough different to misplace shoes and make late-night bathroom trips potentially disastrous.
“I think about where things should be and they’re not,” Larry Lambdin said. “I catch myself in déjà vu moments. I was the last one in the house before it burned. The fire was right across that lot.”
“That lot” is across the street from the Lambdins’ rebuilt home on Mount Olympia Circle. Kate Lambdin was the first to move in. Contractor John Dalton had promised she’d be home before she graduated from South Tahoe High School in June.
Her parents, Paula and Larry, joined her when the school year ended. Elder daughter Anna arrived when Oregon Tech let out. The four spent a quiet Thanksgiving in their new abode last month.
The girls have different ideas about where the Christmas tree should go. The woodstove is gone and a wall is in its place. That area is one idea. Next to the much larger television (they had a 15-inch screen pre-Angora) presented another possibility.
Despite having coverage to be able to build much bigger, the Lambdins opted to keep their modest footprint. They are a little underinsured, but aren’t complaining.
Issues with State Farm are not finalized and don’t expect to be soon. Conversations about whether they really had three stashes of nails and the value of opened laundry detergent continue. Reams of paperwork relating to the claim from the June 24, 2007, disaster are in the upstairs office.
When the Lambdins bought the original house in 1995 this area was a nursery. The rebuild allowed them to expand it into an open office by taking space away from the girls’ rooms.
Not much hesitation filled the Lambdins when it came time to decide what to do once they found out their home was a total loss. The community outpouring sealed the deal to stay and start new.
Dalton, who owns John P. Dalton Construction in South Lake, was hired to do the job. He is building five houses in the burn area. Four had been destroyed, one just had a foundation before the fire.
His approach is to make it as easy as possible for Angora survivors because they were starting from scratch because they had to, not because it was a dream to do so.
Dalton traditionally uses local subcontractors – something that appealed to the Lambdins.
“My plumber and a guy who did the granite on one of these jobs both lost their homes,” Dalton said.
DJ Plumbing put in a tankless hot water heater. It’s one of the decisions the Lambdins went back and forth on. But with their plumber living across the street, it makes them rest easier with their choice.
The couple is buying as much from locals as possible. Lamps from Bijou Furniture still have plastic on the shades. Some furniture was bought off the hill. Kitchen appliances came from a dealer Dalton works with in Placerville. A seven-speed hand mixer could not be found at the Lake, so it was bought in Carson City.
They have a typed register of locals businesses which have contributed to their home. A partial list includes Champion Carpet, Mountain High Cabinets, Roofs by Wood, Tahoe Outdoor Living, Tahoe Paving Stones, Don Lance Heating and South Shore Glass.
“It feels like friends helped build your house,” Paula Lambdin said. “I think people take ownership when they are local.”
Michelle Langlois with Blinds and Designs spent ample time at the house to figure out what would be best for the Lambdins. The honeycomb insulated will keep out the cold, cut down on sunlight and muffle the wind.
“They are going to have a lot of UV exposure from the sun that would definitely fade anything from wall paints to fabric,” Langlois said. “They are going to have a lot of wind out there because it’s barren.”
The garage door is local. Hardware purchases were made at Meeks. Larry Lambdin is fired up to use his Nel’s snowblower that has hand warmers.
Their BMPs are in, but not all the landscaping. Some trees came from Aspen Hollow, seedlings from the U.S. Forest Service and California Tahoe Conservancy.
Paula Lambdin was resistant to granite countertops. She’s learning to like them. The kitchen is a bit bigger. The skylights are gone, but by rearranging windows and altering their sizes the natural light is not diminished. And with fewer trees outside, more light is naturally flowing indoors.
The garage has less storage. The furnace is there, which put another closet inside where shoes can get lost.
The master bath’s door is not where it was before – making reminders necessary when walking in the dark.
Ceiling fans are new. Cement siding was used. Fire resistant decking in front and back was installed.
They have a box of manuals for how to use everything. Nothing is the same.
Most walls are empty. A few snapshots decorate the living area. Some have been taken post-Angora, some are reprints from family members of photos that were lost.
Even though the county excavated and Tahoe Sand and Gravel delivered mounds of dirt, items continue to be found. Old pans are part of a memorial of sorts out back. A piece of glass likely from the fish tank was just discovered.
Something they are all getting used to is being able to see neighbors. The loss of their forest within the neighborhood makes other houses seem a little bit closer.
All four agree that shopping has lost its allure. It’s not about what they want, it’s about what they need.
Looking around, it looks like they just need a few more neighbors to make it a complete neighborhood.

Angora--Bakers rebuild

12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news story

By Kathryn Reed

Everything Susan and John Baker didn’t like about their old house was burned and everything they wanted in a dream house was incorporated into the home they moved into Thanksgiving week.
They never talked about not rebuilding on Granite Mountain Road after the Angora Fire wiped out the home they’d lived in since 1991. They’ve been in town since 1974, raised their two daughters here and are eager to watch their 6-month-old grandson grow up in Tahoe.
Ten of the 12 houses on their street were destroyed. Many are in various stages of being rebuilt. A couple lots are vacant.
Across the street are friends Renee and Mark Gorevin, whose home survived the firestorm. Showing a sense of humor, they brought the Bakers a welcome back to the neighborhood gift with a fire theme – smoked Gouda, Burning River pale ale, Firefly wine and other assorted goodies.
The house is so new that the port-a-potty is still out front.
John Baker needs to complete the office area for his electrical engineering business and build a work bench before he can say the garage is complete.
A sun room is off the back of the garage, which leads to an area where a hot tub could go. They had one before, but money is keeping them from shopping for a new one.
They have good things to say about Liberty Mutual. They weren’t nickel and dimed about contents. Their case is settled. However, they were drastically underinsured. A loan from the Small Business Administration helped.
Finances are what made the Bakers choose to be owner-builders on the project. John Baker’s contacts in the construction business were invaluable. However, the stress, money and unforeseen obstacles of building a house may make them actually think twice if they are ever again faced with the rebuilding question.
This house is about 500 square feet larger than what they had.
“The space is used more effectively,” Susan Baker said. Their room is on the same floor as the main living area – something new for them. This house has three bedrooms; the other had four.
“I still don’t know where all the light switches are,” she said as she started a tour of the home.
Building plans are from a house in Florida that relatives through marriage had built. It was tweaked to fit their needs and desires. Architect Blaise D’Angelo worked with the plans and suggested how best to situate the house on the lot.
Most of the views are away from the rawest of the burn area which look up to Forest Mountain Road and beyond. Pre-Angora, houses on that street weren’t visible from the Bakers’.
The wrap around porch allows them to take in sunrises and sunsets. The lack of trees plays a part in seeing those colors.
When it came to interior desires, Susan Baker focused on the kitchen. Window casings and doors are made out of knotty alder. They mix will with the granite countertops. Enough granite was left over to use on the gas fireplace in the living area.
Upstairs are two guestrooms – already in use as the family filled the house for Turkey Day weekend.
A large family room like the old one is upstairs. Through French doors is an enclosed deck that looks onto Forest Service property. Vehicles on Tahoe Mountain Road can be seen – something that wasn’t possible before June 24, 2007. Despite the charred tree trunks, the Bakers hope the greenery at the top is a sign these pines will survive.
Using local businesses was an automatic for both. They wanted to support area businesses as much as a possible. A few things were purchased off the hill – partly because a particular item couldn’t be found here or was too pricey here.
They went to J.E. Higgins Lumber in Reno because the company had the laminate wood flooring they wanted to cover the hydronic heating.
John Baker estimates Meeks Lumber got about $100,000 from them.
Kirk Morris with Mountain High Cabinets did all the cabinets in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room. The latter is a room they didn’t have before.
“It’s hard when you ask them where they’ll put certain dishes and they say they don’t know because they have go out and buy them,” Morris said of his half dozen clients in the burn area. “It’s a very emotional thing when you go out there.”
Hickory is what he used at the Baker house.
Some of the other area businesses the Bakers used include Rudy’s Heating for fireplaces, South Shore Fire Sprinklers, Tahoe Paving Stones, Truckee Overhead Door, Sierra Window and Doors, Tahoe Valley Electric, and Insulation Solutions.
Some businesses like Rudy’s, Bijou Furniture and Tile Outlet offered discounts knowing they were fire survivors.
Susan Baker laughs as she points to inexpensive Kmart blinds covering the front windows, noting their measurements were off by a couple inches. Her friend Sheri Schimmel, who owns Mary’s Draperies, is likely to be called into service down the road when money allows for better window coverings.
With the 30 or so trees on the lot gone, sunlight is definitely more abundant.
Landscaping will wait until the spring – it will be drought resistant. No more lawn and sprinklers for the Bakers. Manzanita is already sprouting.
Cement siding and fire resistant decking were used.
“If fire comes again, it will have a helluva hard time burning this down,” Susan Baker said.

Lukins water company problems

12/08 unedited tahoe mt. news story

By Kathryn Reed

Lukins Brothers Water Company is beginning to be a familiar name at the California Public Utilities Commission office in San Francisco. On Dec. 4 the PUC approved a surcharge for infrastructure improvements, at the end of the month South Lake Tahoe’s complaint against the water company should be addressed and a proposed rate increase will be heard on a yet to be determined date.
When the idea to raise rates by 71.4 percent first surfaced in the summer, the city was up in arms because the money was slated for operating costs and not infrastructure.
At the Aug. 22 public hearing in South Lake Tahoe conducted by the CPUC, the city brought up its concerns about the lack of fire protection for Lukins’ customers and how the rate increase was not intended to address that issue.
Danny Lukins, who runs the company his father started, said the increase is so high because it’s the first one he’s asked for in eight years.
He said the commission reviews his books and operating costs and then makes a decision. He said it was the city’s complaint which focuses on his company’s inadequate firefighting capabilities that brought the surcharge issue to light before the rate increase.
At the hearing the first Thursday of December, the commission agreed $169,840 needs to be raised by the water company for engineering work. The draft resolution says this money is “to do preliminary design of overall system rehabilitation and detail design of 12th St. water main replacement …. The preliminary design of total system rehabilitation will assume that construction work will be done in separate phases over several years.”
The state PUC wants this money in a separate account. Lukins is fine with that.
Lukins customers pay $293 a year now for water. The surcharge would add $143.17 to a single family dwelling. The PUC will decide when the surcharge goes into affect.
“There is a 20-year plan we are going to put together. It’s a lot of work. This is just the first phase to get this off the ground,” Lukins said after the hearing.
He wants to upgrade the system but doesn’t have the cash to do it. As a private company, he must go through the city to obtain any available state or federal dollars.
City Manager Dave Jinkens plans to apply for a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in January that could help with Lukins’ issues. He also wants the Lukins’ service area to be part of future redevelopment projects at the Y so money could go specifically to its infrastructure.
“Our primary concern is safety,” Jinkens said.
When South Lake Tahoe incorporated in 1965, public safety was one of the overriding reasons to do so – this included fire protection.

Company details

Lukins has 946 flat rate connections and 16 metered residential customers all in the city limits near Highway 89. The problem is the aging system is inadequate by today’s standards.
When the company started in the 1940s it had two wells that transferred water through 2- and 4-inch mains. The system still has 400 feet of 2-inch main. It also has 4-, 6- and 8-inch mains. Six inch is the minimum that can be put in the ground these days.
“Some parts of the system cannot carry enough water for adequate fire flow because the mains are too small Also, there are too few hydrants in the service area to meet current fire code standards,” a CPUC report says.
Lukins has seven hydrants.
Lack of water in fire hydrants during the Yorba Linda fire last month was to blame for a handful of houses being reduced to rubble.
South Lake Tahoe, Lukins and fire officials are all aware that had the spot fires during the Angora Fire that crossed Highway 89 become full blown, the resources were not and are still not in place to handle such an inferno.
Much of Lukins can handle 300 gallons of water per minute, while state Fire Code says 1,500 gpm are necessary.
“We are not in the firefighting business. Laws have changed throughout the years since this company was built,” Lukins said. From the get-go it was considered a domestic water system. “In a wildfire domestic water is a good asset to have, but it’s not always going to be good to put a fire out.”
Way back when, fire departments relied on water tenders to fight fires.
When it comes to fire ratings, Lukins is a class 9, with 10 being the worst.
When South Tahoe Public Utility District looked at buying Lukins Bros. in 2006 the cost to upgrade the smaller system was $18.4 million. Lukins believes he could overhaul his system for between $12 million and $18 million. He believes it would take 20 years to make the necessary upgrades.
Lukins is not alone in this quagmire. The Environmental Protection Agency says of the country’s 52,000 water systems it would take $277 billion to fix them all.

The complaint

Jinkens doesn’t believe Lukins is working fast enough and that’s one reason why the city filed a complaint against the company with the CPUC on Nov. 12.
Lukins said he thought everyone was working well together until the complaint was filed.
“I think the city doesn’t understand how complex the problem is of getting something put through. They say, ‘Let’s do this, let’s do this’,” Lukins said. “The commission governs every segment of our operation. That includes borrowing money, starting projects. They ensure the public is protected.”
South Lake Tahoe has a 50-year franchise agreement with Lukins that expires in 2016. Lukins gives the city 2 percent of its annual gross. This equated to $6,740 for fiscal year 2007-08 and $6,779 in 2006-07.
The six-page complaint contends Lukins is violating the state Fire Code by not upgrading its system and that by doing so it has “created a severe hazard to life, property, and the public safety.”
The city also maintains that Lukins has not provided the city with a plan to make the needed upgrades.
“I really can’t comment on the complaint. The simple fact is the commission has rules and regulations which will govern their response,” Lukins said.
Jinkens told the Tahoe Mountain News that the city should have done things differently years ago to make sure Lukins’ system was adequate.
“Whether we are late to the game or not, we are in the game,” Jinkens said. “We have a duty to make sure the system is in place. For us to ignore it now would be negligent.”
Bert Cherry, who was the city’s fire chief from 1981-92 had recommended Lukins’ system be upgraded. The powers that be – elected and otherwise – ignored those recommendations and helped create the system that exists today.
Still, that does not let the water company off the hook for not doing its due diligence in providing its customers with a system that meets minimum state standards.

LTCC fire academy

12/08 tahoe mt. news unedited

By Kathryn Reed

Lake Tahoe Community College’s Fire Academy has received provisional accreditation from the state as a regional training program.
With a few tweaks, the college expects to have the conditional certification replaced with full accreditation in a year. Full accreditation is good for five years.
The fire academy has graduated 40 cadets in two years. Many have been hired on by agencies in the basin. This fall began the third year of the program.
Leona Allen, coordinator for the academy, submitted a 118-page application to the state in June. Initial word was that officials would not be able to visit the school until next year. That changed. A team of three arrived in South Lake on Nov. 20.
The trio attended the Fire Science Advisory board meeting at the college, inspected all of the files, went out to the various training sites, and assessed the equipment and classrooms. After dinner the team met with cadets behind closed doors without college personnel.
“They came out and they announced we are conditionally approved as an accredited regional training program with the State Fire Training System,” Allen said.
The state fire marshal just has to sign off on the recommendation.
Allen said state officials were impressed the college does more than the basics to certify a cadet reaches firefighter one level. Ice, swift water and high angle rescues are part of the curriculum, as are interview skills and sexual harassment training.
Some of what the college needs to address is ensuring all the fire science classes are inline with state requirements, testing procedures may need to be changed and officials must create a system to process certificates locally.
A few of the benefits of the state recognition include certificates of completion saying LTCC’s fire academy is accredited, ability to tap state resources, greater ability to qualify for grants and networking with other academies.

LT Golf Course issues

unedited 12/08 tahoe mt. news story

By Kathryn Reed

Progress is being made on what to do about restoring the Upper Truckee River through Washoe Meadow State Park, but not enough to alter the 2009 season at Lake Tahoe Golf Course.
The concessionaire contract that expires March 31, 2009, will change to a month-to-month lease at that time. These contracts are usually for 20 years, so it doesn’t make sense to sign a long-term deal without knowing what the future may hold.
“We are leasing out to American Golf for the golf season and we will revisit that after we get a little farther in the EIR process,” said Cindy Walck, with the state park.
Holly McCulloch, event sales manager with Lake Tahoe Golf Course, said weddings are already booked for next summer.
The environmental document is expected to be released in the spring, at which time the public will have time to comment on it. If the state decides to restore the river, altering the golf course is a strong possibility.
Money is an overriding concern – in terms of costs to do the project and the money generated from the 18-hole course in Meyers.
One alternative is to do nothing. Another is to not change the links. Another is to keep it 18 holes, but reconfigure it. Other options are making it nine holes.
An economic feasibility study was done to see how the numbers play out if the golf course were to change. Three of the four nine-hole options would lose money. Right now the 18-hole course is one of California State Parks’ biggest sources of revenue.
The study said if the golf course were decommissioned, it would equate to annual loss of $881,000 to State Parks. Loss to the local economy would be $2 million a year.
Walck stresses that no decision has been made and that her department is doing everything it can to maintain the course, while also keeping trails in the park open.
For more information, go to

USFS Tahoe plan proposals

unedited dec 08 tahoe mt. news story

By Kathryn Reed

People are clearly passionate about the forest they play in.
Balancing motorized and non-motorized recreation, dispersing users, enforcing rules, education, managing access points, parking, signage – these are the key issues according to the 75 people discussing what the Lake Tahoe Basin forest should like.
This was the third and final public meeting before the U.S. Forest Service begins writing the revised Forest Plan that will be the blueprint for the area for the next 20 years. Once that document is released in the spring, the public will have another opportunity to comment. The final plan is expected to be signed by this time next year.
Bob King, who is heading the Forest Plan revision team, gave an over Dec. 1 at Sierra Nevada College in Incline about what current uses look like. About 50 percent of the people playing in the local forest come from California, Nevada or Oregon.
“We are almost at capacity,” King said. “The concentration of use is the highest of any national forest because we are a destination.”
With that said, he expects the use to continue.
It was noted that the Forest Service has nothing to do with the Lake itself. It does own 17 miles of the 35 miles of public access to the water.
Environmental activist Laurel Ames wanted to know if there is actually room for more people and what is being done to protect the natural resources when they come.
Jennifer Quashnick of Sierra Forest Legacy wanted data on specific areas, not just generalities about how the forest is used in the basin.
Justin Broglio with Sierra Avalanche Center was perturbed with having to go through the same motions he went through two years ago during the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s place based meetings where he and others outlined what needed to change in the woods to make it better.
The attendees were divided into five groups. Each was full of lively discussion that centered on what is working, what isn’t and what can be done to fix the latter.
Some people mentioned how snowmobilers and cross country skiers access an area from the same point, which creates problems from the get-go. Having different starting points was mentioned repeatedly.
Buffer zones between conflicting recreational uses – whether motorized or mountain bikers v. hikers – was an idea.
Creating a route for dirt bikes and snowmobiles to get into the backcountry and away from non-motorized users faster so they aren’t co-mingled was an idea.
Lack of enforcement was a theme in each group. Forest Service personnel readily admit funding is the problem. Even though millions of dollars come to the local office through the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, it’s all for environmental projects. Not one dime of it goes for recreation.
One man suggested creating user groups so policing by peers would take hold. He mentioned how this works for 4-wheelers using the Rubicon Trail.
A woman suggested cutting off the number of people to an area like some ski resorts do. There was mention of charging a use fee.
Education about mixed use, connector trails and general forest information via brochures or signs and putting verbiage in Spanish were all mentioned.
The second meeting regarding the Forest Plan revision was Nov. 12 in South Lake. The focus of that meeting was to discuss balancing forest health with water, soil and air quality. Nearly 30 attended that meeting.
Lake clarity was the overriding theme of the night.
Concerns about climate change were expressed at all meetings.
For more information, go to

EDC budget

unedited tahoe mt. news story

By Kathryn Reed

“I don’t think scary even begins to describe it,” El Dorado County Supervisor Norma Santiago said of possible cuts coming from Sacramento that will impact a county budget that is $20 million in the red.
The day before the Board of Supervisors eliminated 90 more positions, one of Santiago’s concerns was staffing the Building Department’s Tahoe office. Earlier cuts mean veteran staff from Placerville will be sent to South Lake. These people don’t have to deal with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency on the West Slope.
When it came to a vote Nov. 18, Santiago and Supervisor Ron Briggs said nay to cutting 47 people from the payroll and taking 42 vacancies off the books. They were in the minority of the 3-2 vote.
“My argument was that while I appreciated the information provided to the board by (Chief Administrative Officer Gayle Erbe-Hamlin) and it was what we had requested, there were many questions in my mind regarding the operational impacts of these layoffs. Our budget should reflect our policy and some of the layoffs were going to negatively impact the county's ability to move forward on some policy issues that we have identified as being important,” Santiago told the Tahoe Mountain News after the vote. “Given this, I was concerned that we would make these cuts only to find out that operationally it was so detrimental that we would be asking employees to come back. With all the stress our county employees are already going through, I just couldn't support even the remotest possibility of that.”
The cuts equate to a savings of $3.1 million for the remainder of this fiscal year that ends June 30. Annually it will save the county $6.5 million.
“I tell people we have moved the ball down the field 50 yards and the next 50 will be tougher,” Mike Applegarth, the county’s senior administrative analyst, said.
The county may follow the state’s lead by implementing mandatory furloughs. For now, the county welcomes staff to take voluntary unpaid time-off. Applegarth said the county could save $1.3 million through June 30 if a 10-day mandatory furlough is implemented in January.
Officials are toying with the idea of cutting $2 million from the Transportation Department’s capital improvement fund. This means roads. Another $1.3 million could be saved if the county cuts its allocation to fire districts.
“Basically, it’s just a gift to fire protection districts,” Applegarth said. He admits departments like Meeks Bay and Fallen Leaf don’t see it that way.
The $20 million figure stems from sales and property taxes being much below original forecasts, as well less interest accruing. In the first quarter of this fiscal year, the number of building permits issued was half of what was projected, Applegarth said. People are asking for property taxes to be recalculated as a parcel’s value declines, which results in the county taking in less.
What all California counties, cities and education venues are worried about is how Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislators are going to deal with a state deficit that could top $24 billion in two years. It’s at $11.2 billion two months after the overdue document was signed.
Santiago said the state owes the county $3 million for mental health programs. She fears other state mandated programs will either not be funded or will be delayed.
“It puts us in a precarious cash flow situation,” Santiago said.
Supervisors will revisit the county budget in February.
The state may raise the sales tax to add cash to the coffers, as well as make previously excluded items taxable. Veterinary care is one of those services that is targeted to be taxed – this at a time when people are abandoning pets and unable to feed Fido.
Applegarth warns that lawmakers have mentioned taking the $3 million the county receives in gas taxes. That fuels the county Transportation Department.
The state can take up to 8 percent of the county’s property tax dollars.
“It would be a multimillion hit to the general fund that we would have a hard time absorbing,” Applegarth said. “The total damage (from the state) could be in the tens of millions of dollars range. We just are not able to absorb that without severely compromising the services we provide to the public.”
Despite lean times, at the same meeting supervisors unanimously agreed to dole out more than a half million dollars for “funding of Programs and/or Services to Promote the County of El Dorado's Arts, Culture and Tourism Resources.” The Nevada-based chamber received $90,000.

County courthouse issues

dec. 08 unedited tahoe mt. news story
By Kathryn Reed

If only the city had done with the Johnson Boulevard property what the land owners had wanted, then the current bickering between government officials in South Lake Tahoe and Placerville would be a mute point.
The Johnson-Springmeyer clan gave land to the city several decades ago with the understanding a city hall would be built there. It never happened. Marjorie Springmeyer, who now resides in the Carson Valley, unsuccessfully sued the city for allowing the county to build a courthouse and jail there.
What was supposed to be a happy gathering spot for locals, turned into a housing facility for society’s degenerates – not exactly what the land givers intended.
Fast forward to 2009. The state is about to own the courthouse building. This is to comply with the 2002 Trial Court Facilities Act that mandates all California courthouses owned by counties become state property. The land becomes the state’s as well if the county owns it.
In the Johnson Boulevard case, the deed for the land remains in the hands of the city of South Lake Tahoe. The portion of the building used as a courthouse will go to the state.
On Nov. 18, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to turn its court related properties over to the state by the end of the year. At issue is whether El Dorado County has the right to give California the courthouse building at 1354 Johnson Blvd.
An agreement between the city and county dated April 4, 1972, says in part, “This Agreement shall be binding upon and shall inure to the benefit of the successors of the parties. Except to the extent expressly provided for herein, neither party may assign any right or obligation hereunder without the written consent of the other.”
Ed Knapp, who works in the county counsel office, said, “First of all, the agreement says we can’t assign it. We are not assigning it. Assignment would be a voluntary act on our part. The statute says transfer. This is an involuntary act.”
City Manager Dave Jinkens and City Attorney Cathy DiCamillo are of the belief that the agreement the city has with county is a contract that trumps state law.
Jinkens is upset that he has been corresponding with the county since November 2007 about this issue, but that no one will meet with him. He didn’t know about the supervisors’ decision until the Tahoe Mountain News told him.
“It’s not like we are a subunit of the county,” Jinkens said. “Neither the state, nor county, nor city can violate a contract and I would think they would not want to. I think we have to go the next step if they are not going to ask for permission.”
While the city figures out what that next step is, the county is ignoring the city and doing what the state wants.
Because counties are deemed sub-entities of the state, unlike cities which are independent jurisdictions, the state has the power to take the courthouses. The state is not paying the counties for the buildings that were paid for county taxpayers. In fact, the county must pay $346,465 a year in maintenance fees to the state.

Charter Cable on the South Shore

unedited dec. 08 tahoe mt. news story

By Kathryn Reed

A firestorm is brewing in South Lake and El Dorado County regarding Charter Communications’ desire to toss California channels and replace them with Nevada ones.
Charter officials will be back before the City Council on Jan. 6. City Councilwoman Kathay Lovell, who has worked in the business, is the city’s liaison as negotiations take place this month to devise a compromise.
At issue is whether Charter subscribers on the California side of the South Shore will have access to KCRA, the NBC affiliate in Sacramento, and KGO, the ABC channel from San Francisco.
Vocal locals want California news, not just Reno. Reno stations don’t delve into issues like California’s scary budget debacle, Southern California wildfires and potential mudslides, or if Dungeness crab will be available for holiday dinners.
When it comes to road closures, Reno stations focus on Interstate 80, not Highway 50 – the South Shore’s lifeline.
During the Angora Fire of 2007, TV news stations in California had more continuous coverage than their Reno counterparts.

A bit of history

“If the state and federal government would stay out of our business and quit listing to the paid AT&T lobbyists, we would get what we needed,” City Manager Dave Jinkens said.
Part of the problem is the Federal Communications Commission has sided with advertisers. The South Shore belongs to Reno, according to the FCC. That’s why Reno stations are the norm here with cable and satellite providers.
Another part of the problem is California changed the law a couple years ago to open cable service to telephone companies. South Lake Tahoe officials along with the League of California Cities unsuccessfully fought the legislation.
Cable franchises used to be handled by the city or county the customer resides in. South Lake Tahoe’s franchise agreement with Charter expires in 2010. Charter’s fees in fiscal year 2007-08 were $318,811 and $304,825 in 2006-07. When the agreement expires, the state Public Utilities Commission takes over and the city’s coffers will be hit and customers could have even less of a say about programming and service.
The state handles the county agreement with Charter. El Dorado gets a 5 percent franchise fee or about $90,000 a year. The FCC sets the fee, not the state or county.
The county is fighting the KCRA-KGO issue by taking it to the state as a safety issue. County Supervisor Norma Santiago said she is working with the state controller’s office as well as the Office of Emergency Services.

Current conditions

Although Charter officials say they have received only a handful of calls and letters from irate customers, they were handed a petition Nov. 18 with hundreds of signatures from people wanting to keep the status quo.
It was standing room as Charter’s John Figueroa and George Jostlin, local operations manager and direct of government affairs, respectively, spoke to the council.
A KCRA camera guy was filming the proceeding. Stefan Hadl, KCRA’s director of engineering, briefly spoke.
“Technically they don’t have to change the system,” Hadl told the council. “I don’t want to throw anyone under the bus. I think we all need to work together.”
Elliott Troshinsky, president and general manager of KCRA, wrote a letter to former Mayor Judy Brown in response to an inquiry from her that was submitted into the record. In part it says, “We also believe that their reason to discontinue carriage is disingenuous at best, since they have been receiving an adequate signal from us for many years and have had the ability and desire to broadcast our signal to you and other Charter customers in your area.”
The masses were heard, at least temporarily. The Dec. 2 blackout date for KCRA and KGO was extended until Charter addresses the council next month.
“My hope is that we will have worked together with KCRA to find a way to maintain providing their 5.5 hours of news programming a day that they produce,” Jostlin told the Tahoe Mountain News.
He and Charter’s general manager met Dec. 1 with KCRA officials.
Even though it may be possible to keep KCRA online for news broadcasts, Jostlin wouldn’t commit to the station being accessible in an emergency unless the emergency alert system is tripped. It never was during the Angora Fire and it’s not guaranteed to be if a major earthquake hits San Francisco or a mudslide closes Highway 50.
He is working with only KCRA because he said more people talk about the need for the Sacramento station. This is the tactic even though only a fraction of Charter’s nearly 12,000 customers on the east side of El Dorado County, which includes the city, have voiced an opinion.
The city’s website -- -- has information about who can be contacted about this issue.

Tahoe charities hurting

unedited dec 08 tahoe mt. news story

By Kathryn Reed

It was easier to move around.
That was the only good thing about the noticeable drop in attendance at November’s wine tasting put on by Soroptimists International of South Lake Tahoe. Bidding on silent auction items is competitive. Goods have multiple bids early on. Ticket sales are robust. None of theses statements was true this year.
Before the last penny was counted, wine tasting chairwoman Valerie Conners estimated her group took in upward of $6,000 less from the silent auction compared to 2007. About 100 fewer of the $65 tickets were sold.
“I can tell the economy has made a huge dent in our life here,” Conners said. “We had a lot of donors who normally donate that didn’t donate at all.”
Fewer wineries and restaurants participated. Some dropped out at the last minute. Some brought less food and libations than years past.
“They have to be a little more choosey in what they bring,” Conners said, noting that fundraising and giving is changing on all fronts on the South Shore.
Tahoe is not unique in this phenomenon of donations to charitable groups being less and the need being greater. Still, in a small community like this, the effects of layoffs in sectors as diverse as gaming-banking-housing-government takes a greater toll when tourism, the lifeline, has been clobbered for consecutive seasons.
Going into this month, Christmas Cheer was on target to set a record for the last quarter of 2008 – not for donations collected, but for the number of people the organization has helped.
In October, 1,433 people were fed – that equates to 530 families. It was a record. Just before Thanksgiving, November was on track to be a record month, too.
“People’s hours have been cut or they’ve been laid off and now have no visible means of support,” said Joanne Shope of Christmas Cheer. Her group is run by volunteers and community donations.
Its name is a bit of a misnomer. Though it does bring cheer to people this time of year, bags of food are doled out year-round to people who have been referred to the nonprofit. Clothes and other goods are also available.
Like most years, bins are scattered about town to collect food. Christmas Cheer (2085 Eloise Ave., South Lake) takes donations year-round – including cash.
Freshies hosted its annual fundraiser for the group Dec. 9. Besides diners being asked to make a $10 minimum donation for the cause, owners Melodie and Erik Ulman donated all proceeds from the event to Christmas Cheer.

Hours of hard work

Even though the myriad fundraisers sponsored by service clubs are not hitting their marks of previous years, the effort to put them on doesn’t change. Some wonder if asking people to write a check might be easier than spending a year to plan an event.
“No” is the answer heard over and over again.
“We see results. We have an impact on our community,” said Kathy Suthern of Soroptimists International of Tahoe Sierra.
She and five others in the group descended upon Lisa Huard’s home Nov. 24 to discuss their fundraiser – Elegant Evening, which will be April 4. Planning started a month after the 2007 event was over.
President Pat Papp knows more than 1,000 woman hours are put into the event – which is probably the same for the crab feeds, salmon festivals and other community fundraisers. It goes beyond committee meetings. It’s talking with the printer, checking with the florist, collecting silent auction items and other minutia party-goers don’t see.
This planning meeting had a full agenda. The budget and financial projections topped the list. Expenses are going up; projected revenue going down. Attendance was down this year and is expected to keep going in that direction.
Seven committee reports were on the agenda ranging from entertainment to tickets to donations to decorations.
Music choices took up part of the discussion.
Shope, who is in this group, talked about being able to get raffle tickets, tape and baskets again this year.
Huard talked about sending save the date cards this month in hopes people might buy a few $50 tickets for holiday gifts.
Each year things are tweaked. Wendy David wants to emphasize “elegant” for the ’09 goodie bags.
Huard and others said the work involved is about creating a sense of community – to bring people together. They said they gladly take cash donations, but they believe merely soliciting checks would not have the warmth associated with creating an event.
“If you just write a check, you miss the human connection,” Papp said.

Giving and receiving

All Soroptimists groups are about giving to women and children. The two local ones are no different. Beneficiaries have included South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, Tahoe Youth & Family Services, Challenge Day and Drug Store Project.
The wine tasting group takes applications in the fall and disperses money in January. What is given out next month is money raised from the 2007 wine event and other fundraisers.
The Elegant Evening women keep cash on hand to give out as needed. A check for $500 helped secure Melba Beals’ speaking engagement at South Tahoe Middle School last month.
Although most of the bigger fundraisers are in a casino convention room, MontBleu is offering up its showroom to nonprofits. Hard costs, like lights and sounds, have to be absorbed by the organization, but the casino is essentially offering the room for free on select nights.
“I’m a big believer in locals. We have to come together,” said Tom Davis, marketing guru at MontBleu and Horizon.
Tom Millham wears the hat of giver and receiver. He is part of Kiwanis Club of Tahoe Sierra, one of three Kiwanis chapters on the South Shore.
September marked the seventh year his club has staged an Oktoberfest. With 2007 being a record year, Kiwanis was happy with just a 10 percent decline in attendance and money raised this year.
Kiwanis worldwide supports youth groups. Affiliated groups of Kiwanis are Key Clubs in high schools, K-Kids for younger students and the Builders Club in Boys & Girls Clubs.
This year Millham’s group is focusing on at-risk kids in the community.
He also raises money for Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, the animal rehabilitation center he runs with his wife, Cheryl, and a gaggle of volunteers.
In 2007, LTWC opted to not have its annual raffle because of the Angora Fire. The thinking was businesses were tapped out with giving, so donations would not be sought. However, LTWC had a non-raffle raffle, meaning people could still give cash but they wouldn’t be in the running for a prize.
“We did 50 percent better than what was normal. It just blew me away,” Millham said. “We decided to do it again this year. It saves us money in printing tickets, collecting prizes and spending time.”
In the first two weeks of the non-raffle, $9,000 had been collected in November. In 2007, $15,000 was raised.
Two LTWC fundraisers that were financially off this year were the Great Gatsby Festival and an event at the Ehrman Mansion. Millham blames part of the decline on other events scheduled the same day and more food booths than just his being allowed in.
However, for the third year he ran out of salmon at the annual fall Kokanee Salmon Festival. This made it the most profitable one to date for LTWC.
It costs big bucks to feed wild animals, especially with seven bears this year. The fame of L’il Smokey helped bring in cash from outside the area. Luckily, the need for bear food diminishes because by mid-December the bruins are hibernating.
“Every year we fight and scrape to take care of the animals. We are fortunate for the people who live here and visit here who support us,” Millham said.
It also helps that the number of local animal organizations to give to pales in comparison to the number of human groups needing money.

Other organizations

Another human group seeing its dollars stretched is the Boys & Girls Club. About 260 kids come every day, with 850 part of the local organization.
“In the span of the three years I’ve been onboard, we have increased our services and needs by 30 percent, yet our resources are not matching that,” Karen Houser, executive director, said. “We are literally caught in the throes of the economy.”
Starting this month the doors are closing 30 minutes earlier – at 6pm now.
The club is open to California and Nevada kids ages 5 to 18. More high school students are becoming junior volunteers.
“We have gone from kids doing sports and recreation to really being that viable entity where they get homework done, get involved in leadership and learn life skills,” Houser said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids ... the difference we make in their lives.”
Her $750,000 annual budget is funded part by fees, part from the government, part from grants and a lot from local support.
This year’s annual fund-raising golf tournament was down by more than 30 percent. Participation was off and the number of silent auction items donated was down.
For the first time the club is having a raffle for a house. Only 1,000 of the 12,000 tickets have been sold. Seven thousand need to be sold for the event to occur next spring.
The winner will get the $650,000 house on South Upper Truckee Road. Raffle tickets are $150 each or two for $200 through the end of the year. Actor-comedian Kevin Nealon has lent his name and voice to the cause in promotional material.
The Boys & Girls Club is not alone in seeing donations drop. All groups accustomed to receiving money from service groups are likely to see less money because they have less to give. Cut backs at the county, state and federal levels are also impacting local groups.
For those who find themselves homeless in El Dorado County this winter – it’s going to be cold. Not a single shelter exists in the county.
Zephyr Cove Elementary School’s emergency clothes closet needs all sizes of gender-neutral T-shirts and sweat-type or pull-on pants.
The reality is people are not looking for extras. They want their basic needs met -- food, clothing and shelter.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Carnival Cabaret

By Kathryn Reed

The face of Carnival Cabaret lives on even though his voice has been silenced.
Hunter – his legal and stage name – did such an incredible rendition of Cher that it was hard to know it wasn’t her, let alone it was a man in those outrageous costumes. Hunter’s image is being used to advertise the current show at the Horizon. He died in 2005 from a head injury after a fall during a rehearsal in Southern California.
“I still don’t think I’ve replaced him,” said Dan Gore, producer of the female impersonation show. “Hunter was a special act, a special person.”
Steven Andrade may not be the permanent Cher.
Carnival Cabaret returned to the Horizon hotel-casino in the fall after going dark in 2004. The initial nearly four-year stint at Stateline made it the longest running show on the South Shore. The casino has extended the current gig through April.
“My goal is to stay as long as possible,” Gore said. “I think we left prematurely.”
Many people also associate this show with Gypsy (aka James Haake) the 76-year-old grandfather who emcees the event. Even if you don’t want to hear the music of Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick or Prince, Gypsy is worth the $26.95.
His routine is part drag queen, part comedy, part interaction with the audience.
Anyone who has seen Cher live will agree Gypsy rivals her in the number of wardrobe changes. His attire is full of Versace gowns and Jimmy Choo shoes. (That’s the same footwear the “Sex and the City” gals wore.) He credits Barbara Parina at Side Street Boutique for keeping him so well attired.
His humor crosses the line a bit, so best to leave the kids at home. Talking about how the seam in nylons hits male body parts is just an example.
Self-deprecation is the norm – such as needing to shop at Home Depot for makeup and saying, “The only reason to dress like this as an old man is for the money.”
Gypsy’s humor is timely, with some Sarah Palin jokes thrown in before the governor went back to Alaska in defeat. In between each of the musical acts Gypsy converses with the audience. Insecure men should not sit near the stage.
The original show had seven performers, this time there are nine.
“There are endless possibilities. We are always working on something else,” Gore said. “We’ll be constantly changing.”
Gore said his contract with the current management at Horizon gives him more control over the show. Last go-around one of the performers was in transition – that’s something Gore won’t allow now that he calls all the shots.
With the diversity of impersonations, the show provides a little bit of something for everyone, as evident by a table of four locals who all had different favorites. Some liked “Parton” strutting in from the back of the room with a buxom out to there, another liked “Midler” – why pay Vegas prices to see her for real?
The finale will make you think twice about gay men dressing as women, but more important, about accepting each others differences.
Original cast members include Patrick Ross as Streisand and Midler, and Tony Celestine as Ross and Warwick. New to Tahoe are Frank Moore as Prince, and Kevin Wiley as McEntire, Parton and Garland. Shows are Tuesday-Sunday at 8pm and 10pm.