The first hour of the nearly three-hour long meeting of the Yucca Valley Town Council was a presentation by County Fire Chief Dan Munsey, who warned the council that if voters repeal the FP-5 fire fee in November, the South Desert region of the county could lose three of its six fire stations. He asked the council and residents to separate their emotions from how the fire fee was passed from the issue. He added that the fire department is making changes to reduce its costs. Then the council approved Measure Y partnership funding for 11 agencies, and agreed to add the BMX track as a recipient. However, agencies that didn’t send a representative to the meeting won’t get their funding until they send someone to a meeting so the council can ask them questions. Managing editor Tami Roleff says the council then moved on to the summer concerts and Fourth of July fireworks…

County Fire Chief Dan Munsey (second from right, top row) addressed the Yucca Valley Town Council about the impact of repealing FP-5 on Yucca Valley and the Morongo Basin. Video screenshot

With great reluctance, the Yucca Valley Town Council agreed to cancel two of its final three summer concerts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The council also agreed to postpone the Fourth of July fireworks to the Saturday of Labor Day weekend (September 5), and to include one of the summer concerts with the fireworks. A town survey (completed by 291 residents) found that more than 92 percent still wanted the town to offer a summer swim program, so, if county regulations will allow it, the town plans to offer a six-week program of swim lessons (instead of eight weeks). And finally, the council learned that the new library renovation is complete; the town and the county are discussing how and when it will open.

The council also learned that the town’s response is just a little bit better than the state’s response in responding to the 2020 census; 61.9 percent of Yucca Valley residents have filled out their census forms, compared to 61.6 percent of state residents.


The Twentynine Palms Planning Commission held its regular meeting last night, approving new farmers market hours. Reporter Cassidy Zimarik has the recap…

Attendees of the Twentynine Palms Farmers Market can now avoid the midday heat as the planning commission unanimously approved nighttime market hours last night in its regular meeting. The Twentynine Palms Farmers Market will begin operating Saturdays from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. on June 13.

Roger Thomas. owner of the Twentynine Palms Farmers Market, addressed the Twentynine Palms Planning commission about changing the hours of the market to the evening on Saturdays. Video screenshot.

In addition to approving the new hours for the farmers market, the planning commission received an update for Project Phoenix and held a study session regarding changing the way the city analyzes transportation impacts.

You can view last night’s meeting on demand by visiting www.29palms.org and clicking on the meetings tab.


The walk-up testing site for COVID-19 at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree is expected to continue for about three more weeks. Morongo Basin residents do not need to exhibit symptoms in order to be tested; anyone who wants to get tested can get tested, although appointments are required by going to sbcovid19.com or calling 909-387-3911.

Yucca Valley residents who want to get tested but who don’t have transportation to the test site can make an appointment for a free ride from the Morongo Basin Transit Authority to and from the test site. But in order to get the free ride, residents must have an appointment for a test. Call 760-366-2395 to set up a ride with MBTA.


The Morongo Unified School District Board of Trustees held its regular meeting last night, which included a continuation of the budget report for the 2020-2021 school year. According to the report, the school district expects to receive several million dollars in grant funding from the state of California to help offset losses from COVID-19. As of now, the district will be able to meet its financial obligations, but will revisit the budget as state funding is received. Reporter Andrew Dieleman has the rest of the meeting topics…

At last night’s meeting, the MUSD Board of Trustees voted unanimously to appoint former assistant superintendent Doug Weller as the acting Superintendent for the school district. Current Superintendent Tom Baumgarten is taking a temporary leave of absence for unspecified reasons. Weller has a long history with the school district that includes positions in teaching and as a school site principal. The board also recognized more than 100 district staff and faculty members for their years of service, and those retiring. Lastly, Assistant Superintendent Amy Woods discussed the district’s current progress in creating plans to reopen MUSD schools safely for the upcoming school year, including addressing concerns from parents and teachers, reviewing in-person and remote learning options, and maintaining student safety through social distancing.

The MUSD Board of Trustees. From left to right: Trustee John Cole, Assistant Superintendent Sharon Flores, Acting Superintendent Doug Weller, President Hillary Slotta, Trustee Chris Proudfoot, and Assistant Superintendent Amy Woods. Trustees Kerri Condley and Karalee Hargrove attended the meeting virtually.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Ghelber read the names of more than 100 District employees recognized for their years of service and retirement.


After more than two months of being closed, the Joshua Tree courthouse is re-opening for business. Quite a backlog of cases has accumulated while the court was closed, and to ease the burden, an additional judge will be brought in temporarily. Managing editor Tami Roleff met with Judge Rodney Cortez, who said the court is making several changes in order to accommodate social distancing requirements…

Judge Rodney Cortez

Criminal, family, traffic, and civil cases will be all heard in the Joshua Tree courthouse’s four courtrooms starting Monday. Judge Rodney Cortez said because the social-distancing capacity of the courtrooms, lobby, and hallway outside the courtrooms will be about a quarter of what they were before the pandemic, additional court sessions will be added, and the start times for each court will be staggered by 15 minutes.

Shade structures will be placed outside the courthouse so people can be out of the sun while they wait to enter the courthouse. Litigants and defendants may—or may not, depending on crowd size—be able to bring one support person into the court with them.

Only two clerk windows will be open inside the courthouse, and will accept cash only. Residents are encouraged to phone, send an email, or use the drop box outside the courthouse to make credit card payments, ask questions, or deliver paperwork.

No jury trials will be held until at least July. When jury trials restart, only three jurors will be seated in the juror box due to social distancing guidelines; the others will be seated in the audience area, reducing the number of spectators even further.

All traffic citation court dates have automatically been extended 75 days.

The Joshua Tree courthouse is the only courthouse in the county that doesn’t have video capabilities, although some defendants accused of felonies have used video from the jails for their arraignments and pre-preliminary hearings.

In-custody arraignments will start July 1.

Courthouse personnel were on paid administrative leave from March until the court reopened; since then, Cortez said they have been working hard to reduce the backlog of warrants, and other court paperwork. He hopes that clerks will be caught up on the paperwork backlog when the court re-opens to the public June 8.

Make a payment:
Call Center 909-3871470 (credit card, M-F 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
Mail/dropbox (no cash)
Contact 760-974-3048
Request an extension
Request a hearing
Email: JoshuaTree@sb-court.org
Fine Reduction
Ability to pay form online (financial hardship) (SB-16351)
Submit by mail or court dropbox

Trial by Declaration
Form TR-205 online at sb-court.org page.
Submit by mail or court dropbox
Use “Infraction Request Form” (SB-16350) to request:

Extensions to:
Complete traffic school
Complete community service
Submit proof of correction
Modify a previous sentence:
Allow traffic school
Allow monthly payments
Change the day of the month payment is due

Call: 760-974-3047
Fax filing: 760-974-3033
Email: JoshuaTree@sb-court.org

Turbo court: sb-court.org – online form preparation and e-filing
Dropbox: No ex-parte motions

Call: 909-708-8606
Email: smallclaims@sb-court.org