A Morongo Valley man was killed in a motorcycle crash Tuesday on the Morongo Grade. About 5:05 p.m., the California Highway Patrol responded to a crash on Highway 62 at the County Line and found that Gary Berlino II, 30, had crashed his 2003 Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle as he was riding down the grade at a high rate of speed. Berlino lost control of his bike and was thrown into the side of the mountain. The motorcycle ended up 75 feet down into the ravine on the west side of the highway. Captain Robert Marquez of the Morongo Valley Fire Department said the debris field from the crash was 300 to 400 yards long. The CHP said Berlino was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, but it was not properly fastened and he sustained major head and upper body trauma. Berlino was declared dead at the scene. The westbound lanes of Highway 62 were closed for about two hours. Speed is believed to be a factor in the crash.


One of two suspects in a 2010 Yucca Valley murder pleaded guilty in a Joshua Tree Superior Court yesterday. Heidi McDermott, 32, of Twentynine Palms, accepted a plea bargain of voluntary manslaughter in the December 2010 murder of Lauren McLane, 22, of Yucca Valley. Also charged in the murder is Diana Jordan, 38, of Yucca Valley. McLane was reported missing after she didn’t come home from work at the Dollar Tree in Yucca Valley. Her body was later found in a plastic container in Jordan’s garage. McLane’s father told Z107.7 News that the murder was the result of a love triangle, as both McLane and Jordan were pregnant by the same man. Heidi McDermott also pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon, being an accessory to murder, burglary, mayhem, intent to commit mayhem, grand theft, and possession of a controlled substance. Her sentencing is set for December 6. Jury selection for Diana Jordan’s trial is this week.


Five Twentynine Palms residents were injured in a roll-over crash on Amboy Road Monday night. According to CHP Officer Ryan Swanson, Erik Bryant, 23, was driving a 2010 Dodge Avenger southbound on Amboy Road, north of Bell King Road, when he lost control on a curve about 11:40 p.m. The car left the road and overturned in the desert west of Amboy Road. Scott King, 21, who was in the right front seat, was not wearing his seatbelt and was thrown from the vehicle. He was flown by helicopter to Loma Linda Medical Center with moderate injuries. Alyssa Canales, 23, and Alissa Myers, 25, were both in the back seat and were flown via helicopter to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs. Bryant and Joshua Bowling, 21, who was also in the back seat, both suffered minor injuries and were taken by ambulance to Desert Hospital. Officer Swanson reminds motorists to slow down, and to resist the urge to quickly jerk the steering wheel back toward the pavement if the car drifts off the pavement. Instead, slowly steer the vehicle back onto the pavement.


The Yucca Valley Town Council met last night. Council members heard from some unhappy residents. Managing Editor Tami Roleff was there and files this report…


David Bradley, owner of Cowboy Corral in Yucca Valley, asks the Yucca Valley Town Council to reconsider its plans for medians on Highway 62 in Old Town.

The Yucca Valley Town Council learned at its meeting last night that the Affordable Health Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare,” will have little to no effect on the Town. The Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance by January 1; the Town only has 34.5 full-time equivalent employees, and already offers a health plan to eligible employees. The Council was advised though, that in three to five years the Health Care Act may have a fiscal impact on the Town.

In public comments, two people spoke against the mandatory spay neuter ordinance for pit bulls, but it was too little, too late, and the ordinance passed its second reading unanimously. The Council also heard public comment against its highway improvement projects that would install medians on the highway in Old Town. Speakers blasted the Town for a lack of communication with businesses that will be affected by the medians that will block access to their driveways.

During staff reports, the Council was advised that the Town is working to keep Antelope Trail open by the Town Hall and the future senior housing project.


Declining enrollments and more public comment on AB 1266 highlighted the Morongo Unified School District Board of Education meeting last night. Dan Stork was there and cites the numbers and the concerns…
The enrollment for the first month of the school year in the Morongo Unified School District reached a 26-year low at 8,515 students. The peak enrollment of 9,745 was just five years ago. Assistant Superintendent Dave Price said that the five-year drop of 1,230 students translates to a loss in state-provided revenue of over $9 million per year. The net drop in the past year was 82 students, despite an increase in west end schools, Black Rock High School, and Independent Continuing Education (ICE) enrollments. The drop for east end schools was 108. Declines driven by the loss of personnel at the Marine Base are expected to continue.
Public comment against AB 1266, officially called the School Success and Opportunity Act, but termed the “same sex bathroom law” by opponents, continued for a third meeting. Board member Ed Will, who is the legislative representative for the Board, apologized for an erroneous attribution of a pro-AB 1266 article he cited at the last meeting. He also read some Recommended Guidance from the California School Board Association on implementation of the law, which advises case-by-case consideration of specific requests for compliance with the law.
Completing a set of recognitions begun at the previous meeting, eight students were recognized for their achievements and positive attitudes, as part of National Disabilities Awareness Month. They were:
Landers Elementary School: Ryan Miller
Morongo Valley Elementary School: Hillary Robinson
Oasis Elementary School: Krystal Perez
Onaga Elementary School: Michael Lenz
Twentynine Palms Elementary School: Heylia Donham
Yucca Mesa Elementary School: Fernando Sanchez
La Contenta Middle School: Sara Albert
Yucca Valley High School: Jordan Wheeler
Action Agenda items—declaration of the week of October 21-25 as “Red Ribbon Week”, a completion notice for relocatable classrooms at Joshua Tree Elementary School, and Fitnessgram waivers for 13 students—were passed unanimously without discussion.


The Morongo Unified School District will be holding the first District Advisory Committee for this school year tomorrow at 5:15pm in the Educational Services Conference Room at the District Office in Twentynine Palms. All parents and community members are welcome to attend and provide their input to the numerous academic and curricular areas that impact their children’s education. Take a few moments Thursday afternoon to find out about recent changes and provide input in critical system changes that impact our schools. Please make your thoughts and opinions known. Please contact Tom Baumgarten, Assistant Superintendent at (760) 367-9191 extension 4224 if you have any questions.


The Morongo Valley Community Services District Board will review fire service fees among other items tonight. Reporter Mike Lipsitz has more…
At tonight’s regular 7 p.m. meeting of the Morongo Valley Community Services District, the board will convene a public hearing in connection with a revised Fire Department schedule of fees for fire marshal services and cost recovery. Also tonight, the board will consider the final fiscal year-end audit statements. And finally, directors will likely reconsider last month’s decision to seek additional bids for a roof repair project. Those actions and others follow regular reports and items on the consent agenda. Tonight’s meeting is in the Covington Park Multi-Purpose Room. As always, the public is invited to attend.


The 7th Marine Regiment will hold a Change of Command ceremony Tomorrow at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field aboard the Twentynine Palms Combat Center. Colonel Austin Renforth will relinquish command of the regiment to Colonel Jay Bargeron, who most recently served at Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Headquarters Marine Corps. Renforth’s next assignment will be director of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College. The guest speaker for this event will be Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, the commanding general of First Marine Expeditionary Force. The 7th Marine Regiment is one of three infantry regimental headquarters assigned to 1st Marine Division, the ground combat element of the First Marine Expeditionary Force. As Regimental Combat Team-7, its most recent deployment was to Afghanistan, returning in August 2013.


The Hi-Desert Water District board will honor a retiring Twentynine Palms Water Board member tonight. Managing Editor Tami Roleff checks the full agenda…
Among items of interest on the agenda for tonight’s meeting of the Hi-Desert Water District Board of Directors is a resolution of appreciation for Phil Cisneros, for his 24 years as a director on the Twentynine Palms Water District’s board. The Board will be asked to approve a travel request for one or more directors to go to a Special District Leadership Academy Conference in Napa. Next, the board will also be asked to update the employee handbook; receive a presentation on the benefits of homeowner installation of a hot water re-circulating system; authorize the general manager to provide the National Geographic Society with educational materials; and receive a presentation on the operation and location of the water district’s seismic valve controller equipment. The meeting will be held at 6:00 tonight in the district offices at Inca and the Highway in Yucca Valley.


The Joshua Basin Water District will consider hiring a firm to search for a new general manager. Reporter Mike Lipsitz checks the agenda…
At tonight’s regular 7 p.m. meeting of the Joshua Basin Water District, Directors are expected to approve an agreement with an as yet unnamed executive recruiting firm to assist with the hiring of a general manager. That action will be preceded by a report from Conservation Coordinator Debra Bollinger and followed by an acknowledgement to Steven Whitman for his years of service on the Citizens Advisory Committee. It all happens at District offices on Chollita Road in Joshua Tree.


During the summer, the County Board of Supervisors placed a moratorium on commercial solar development, while planning staff prepared guidelines for such projects. A draft county ordinance regulating commercial solar energy goes before the San Bernardino County Planning Commission tomorrow. Reporter Dan Stork previews the rules…
San Bernardino County staff has finished its assignment to draft an ordinance that amends the County code on renewable energy generation facilities, and will present it to the County Planning Commission on October 17. A list of over 30 “findings” required for a commercial solar energy project to go forward addresses: views, floodways, dust, residential proximity, cultural and historic resources, groundwater, plants and animals, grading, and more. The ordinance also establishes buffer zones around national parks and preserves, and along major approaches to the parks. Rules established by cities can be extended to their spheres of influence in unincorporated areas.
The Planning Commission will consider the ordinance at 11 a.m., at the County Government Center, Covington Chambers, 385 N. Arrowhead Avenue, First Floor, San Bernardino. It can also be accessed remotely and interactively at the video conferencing facility at the County Government Center in Joshua Tree.


The Twentynine Palms Library book sale starts tomorrow. Reporter Taylor Thacker has the details…..
The Friends of the Twentynine Palms Library will be holding its bi-annual book sale on October 17 and 19 at the Twentynine Palms Library. On Thursday, October 17, from 3 to 5 p.m., members of the library will have first choice of the selection. Membership can be purchased at the door individually for $5, $8 for a family, and $20 for a business. Saturday, October 19, the book sale will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Items for sale include adult, young adult and children’s books, magazines, books on CD, videos and DVDs. All funds raised go directly back into resources for the library. For more information call 760-367-9519.


The Yucca Valley High School Lady Trojans volleyball team hosted the Ladycats from Twentynine Palms yesterday. It took five sets to decide the outcome of the varsity match. The teams would go point by point, back and forth with Twentynine Palms pulling ahead in the fifth set to take the match. Leading the Lady Trojans were Chelsea Mondary, 17 for 17 serving and 31 assists; Michaela Milone, 20 for 20 serving and 19 digs; Chelsea LeBoutilier, 18 kills; Ashley Priest, 12 kills, three blocks; and Daylin Anderson, 12 digs.

The Ladycats were led by seniors Cherokee Turner with 13 kills, one ace serve and two blocks; and Tusia Brown with 11 kills, two ace serves and three blocks. They were followed by sophomore Latasia Benevente with six kills, junior Hanna Beard and freshman Tatiyanna Mackall with five kills each. Tatiana also had three blocks. Junior Koko Cabrera had 27 assists for the night.

The Yucca Valley High School junior varsity team also lost to Twentynine Palms


Coming up in high school sports tomorrow, the Twentynine Palms High School Ladycat volleyball and tennis teams will host the Desert Hot Springs Golden Eagles at home. Tennis starts at 3:15; volleyball at 4:30. Yucca Valley High School volleyball will travel to Phoenix, Arizona, to compete in the Nike Invitational Volleyball tournament on Friday and Saturday, October 18-19. The Joshua Springs Christian School volleyball team travels away tomorrow to Desert Christian Academy. First serve is at 5 p.m. And the Twentynine Palms High School Wildcat cross-country team will travel away to Desert Mirage tomorrow. The first event starts at 3:15.