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2010: Year in Review

Politics push year in Loomis
By: Martha Garcia, Loomis News Editor
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Politics played a major role in Loomis during 2010. By the end of the year, voters had passed Measure A, limiting terms on the town council. But they also re-elected two councilmen who have each served more at least three terms, sending the issue to court for clarification. Lawsuits filed by Loomis against Rocklin over developments on the town’s border were finally resolved, with some satisfaction. The economic downturn reached Loomis schools, resulting in headed negotiations between teachers and administrators. In the end, jobs were saved. There were also academic and athletic milestones in the schools, including a division championship by the Del Oro High School football team. Loomis said goodbye to some of its notable citizens, and young lives were lost in accidents. The Loomis News reviews some of the year’s highlights here. JANUARY Donations sought after theft: Thieves stole thousands of dollars of equipment, belonging to the Loomis Basin Dolphin swim team, that was stored at the Del Oro High School pool. Electronic, sound and starting equipment were taken when unknown suspects broke into the custodian’s building in the warehouse behind the pool at Del Oro during winter break. Power outage closes schools: An early morning power outage on Jan. 19 forced the closure of three Loomis schools and left 2,400 homes temporarily without power. Franklin Elementary, Loomis Basin Charter and Placer Elementary closed for the day, giving more than 1,000 students the day off. A tree fell across power lines on Auburn Folsom Road, near King Road, affecting customers from King to Horseshoe Bar roads, and from Auburn Folsom to Val Verde roads. Town buys defunct subdivision: The Town of Loomis purchased the proposed Heritage Park II subdivision, located at the end of South Walnut Street and directly behind the already completed Heritage Park I subdivision. In December, the town acquired the 10-acre parcel that includes a pond, small stream and wetlands for $352, 710 with funds from the town’s reserves. Term limits election in November: The Loomis Town Council voted Jan. 11 to put the term limits measure on the November ballot, after the county clerk noted an unintentional omission from the proponents’ petition. Supporters had wanted the measure to be included in the June ballot, but the face of the petition did not include “a request that the ordinance be immediately submitted to a vote of the people at a special election,” as required. Standoff ends with force: A 29-year-old man barred himself inside a Margaret Drive home for five hours on Jan. 22. Clinton Culpepper was held on $120,000 bail after being arrested for a domestic violence charge and outstanding warrants. During the standoff, the Special Enforcement Team members shot rounds of tear gas into the home but Culpepper remained in the home for almost an hour before the deputies stormed into the locked home. Remi Barry’s odyssey: Del Oro High senior and French native Remi Barry and the Hendricks family with which he lived in Loomis filed an appeal in January to the California Interscholastic Federation ruling that he is ineligible to play basketball. In February, a judge upheld the CIF ruling. Community icon dies: Adelina “Ann” Lenzi Rippey died Jan. 23 at the age of 93. Like many Loomis Basin residents, Rippey worked at the fruit packing sheds. She also worked behind the counter at Main Drug Store for almost 40 years. FEBRUARY Madsen acquitted: Caleb Madsen, 28, was acquitted Feb. 1 of murder in the first degree. Madsen had been accused of the July 2005 fatal stabbing of his acquaintance, Christopher Worth. It was the third trial for Madsen, a Del Oro High School graduate, who was finally released from custody on Feb. 8 after almost five years in custody. Pink slips: The Loomis Union School District announced on Feb. 24 it would issue pink slips to 21 Loomis teachers, including all of those in music and physical education, in an effort to cut $1.7 million from its 2010-11 budget. Paul Johnson, district superintendent, called it the “worst-case scenario.” MARCH School gets shorter: Loomis Union School District board of trustees on March 4 approved a calendar that gives students a week off in February. In an effort to deal with its funding shortfall, the district had considered starting the school year after Labor Day but feared student absences if the district calendar and Del Oro High School don’t closely align. Cities to fight Caltrans: Loomis and Rocklin joined forces to fight Caltrans over closing Horseshoe Bar Road for two to three months while it raises the bridge over Interstate 80, as well as plans to eliminate the Taylor Road on and off ramps at Interstate 80 when the Highway 65 interchange is improved. APRIL Retiring teachers save jobs: In April, five veteran teachers accepted a retirement incentive package from the Loomis Union School District. The retirement of Debbie Newton, Murray Mulvaney, Kathy Gosch, Lou Ferguson and Peggy Stare saved the jobs of four pink-slipped teachers but 16 other teachers were still awaiting their fate. Eagles sweep field: Del Oro High School athletes placed first in every division when they hosted the 42nd Annual Del Oro Invitational track meet on April 16. Hall of Fame: Del Oro High School inducted its first class of athletes, coaches and boosters from the 1960s and ’70s at the inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 25. Honorees included Jun Takuma, Paul Yokote, Randy Hansen, Ed Bonner, Rob Bonner, Kurt Richter, Butch Enkoji, and members of the 1966 boys basketball and 1969 boys track teams. MAY More staff cuts: Classroom aides and a maintenance worker were added to the list of 18 teachers to receive termination notices as the Loomis Union School District struggled on May 6 to balance its budget. The school board approved the cuts for the 2010-11 school year, but tabled the finalization of teacher cuts until after the last mediation session with the teachers union, scheduled in May. Agreement reached: The Loomis Union School District approved a labor agreement in May that cut pay but brought back all terminated teachers and programs. Teachers and administrators took a five-percent cut in pay in the form of furlough days. Robin Parmley, Loomis Teachers’ Association president, said teachers agreed to take three additional days in the 2009-10 school year and a total of 10 furlough days for the 2010-11 term. Paul Johnson, district superintendent, said administrators and district staff would match the teachers cuts and also take additional furlough days that equate to five percent of their pay. War hero dies: Alfred Nitta, who fought with the highly decorated 442nd Regional Combat Team during World War II, died May 31. Nitta, 87, was honored during Memorial Day ceremonies at Del Oro High School on the morning of his death. JUNE Del Oro goodbye: Del Oro High School instructors Al Newton, Jack Pchelkin and Marilyn Rickabaugh retired in June, and Kathy Meyers left Del Oro to work permanently at the Placer Union High School District office. Jeff Tooker, assistant district superintendent, called the four “exemplary in what they do,” and said they are “leaving a legacy of excellence.” Class of 2010: The 350-plus students in the Del Oro High School of 2010 were “determined and motivated,” according to their principal, Dan Gayaldo. Commencement exercises were held June 5 on Golden Eagle Field. Burglary suspects nabbed: Placer County Sheriff’s detectives arrested two suspects July 8, just hours after a burglary at a Berg Lane home. William Howard Wright, of Auburn, and David Michael Young, an Auburn-area transient, were suspected of taking two motorcycles, electronics, two handguns and personal property, which were all recovered. Town design is a go: The Town of Loomis in July approved the elements and parking lot design for the new depot park as well as design components for the Loomis Town Center Implementation Plan. The state will fund $200,000 of the park through the Bond Act of 2000 and the town will pay $200,000. JULY Landmark shuttered: Former employees and locals recounted memories about the Valencia Club in Penryn. The landmark shut down on Memorial Day, the first time in living memory that the rural Placer County community’s only bar closed for an extended period of time. The club’s distinctive neon sign was turned off in July. Before the closure, the Valencia Club was popular with bikers and fans of live music. Pet burned: Placer County Animal Services was investigating an attack in early July on Betsy, a 23-year-old burro that suffered chemical burns. Its owners believed someone came up to the fence along their 5-acre property in Penryn during the night and sprayed acid on the burro. The owners said it would cost over $1,000 to treat the family pet and it would take over a year for her to recover. Town to write proposals: The Loomis town council’s decision to write the arguments against the term limits measure for the November ballot was called “a conflict of interest” by term limits proponent Sonja Cupler. Not so, said Dave Larsen, town attorney. “Based on the elections code the council has to submit an argument as a group. Council can choose to endorse it or not,” Larsen said. Penryn man drowns: Pliny Murphy, of Loomis, drowned at Camp Far West Lake in Sheridan after he jumped off some rocks in to the water July 25 and never resurfaced. Authorities later ruled drowning as the cause of death for the 20-year-old and oldest of six brothers. AUGUST Filing deadline: Loomis town councilmen Walt Scherer and Miguel Ucovich had taken out papers to seek re-election in the November election. Before the Aug. 6 deadline for incumbents to file, Russ Kelley, the third councilman whose term was to expire at the end of the year, announced he would not seek a second term. The passage of the term limits measure, which would limit councilmembers from serving only two terms then must remain off the council for eight years, could bar incumbents from serving if they win. Scherer was serving his fifth term on the council, although he took a 4-year break in the 1990s. Ucovich was serving his third term. Football star faces felonies: Chad Richard Mowry, 26, of Rocklin, was arrested July 29 and later arraigned on charges of burglary, extortion by force or fear, attempted extortion, attempted grand theft, impersonation of a police officer. He pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to his attorney. Chowry is a former Del Oro High School and Sierra College star football player. Five campaigning: A field of five people was vying for three Loomis town council seats. The candidates who filed by the Aug. 11 deadline were Jo-Carol Arisman, Sandra Calvert, Vic Markey and incumbents Walt Scherer and Miguel Ucovich. Scherer and Ucovich were also combating a term limits initiative that would limit the number of terms they could serve. Town provides cash: The Loomis town council voted during their Aug. 10 meeting to contribute $7,500 to Peer Court, which educates local youth on the workings of court and enables young people who have committed offenses to be tried in a court of teen jurors, lawyers and clerks. Pension paydays: An Aug. 26 story revealed that Alfred “Bud” Nobili, retired Placer County Superintendent of Schools and former principal of Del Oro High School receives an annual pension of $170, 785 through the California State Teachers Retirement System. Gigg Powers, former superintendent of the Loomis Union School District, received $113,310 a year. Opponents want measure removed: The term limits measure was called “fatally flawed” by Loomis council candidate Sandra Calvert and Measure A opponents. They asked the initiative’s authors to remove it from the Nov. 2 ballot or disavow it. The measure would be retroactive to Aug. 1, 2010, a provision which Dave Larsen, the town attorney, said violates a state law prohibiting retroactive term limits. Sonja Cupler, a Term Limits for Loomis committee member, said the only thing about the measure in question was the effective date. “We will not back down, and we will not disavow Measure A until the 1,300-plus registered voters who signed this petition to be placed on the June 2010 ballot tell us to do otherwise,” Cupler said. SEPTEMBER Students shine: Forty-four students in the Loomis Union School District earned perfect scores on portions of their STAR tests. STAR is an acronym for Standardized Testing and Reporting. The tests are conducted statewide every year to determine students’ level of mastery of various subjects. Children in grades second through eighth are tested in math and English and language arts. Older students, depending on their grade, are also tested in science, history and social science. All students in Ophir Elementary School’s second-grade class achieved advanced or proficient in math for the second year in a row. Highest API: The Loomis Union School District advanced 13 points to an overall Academic Performance Index score (API) of 895, the highest district score in Placer County. Loomis Basin Charter School, one of the district’s schools, earned an API score of 930 out of a possible 1,000, which was the third highest elementary school score in Placer County. Scores soaring: For the second year in a row, Del Oro High School increased its Academic Performance Index (API) and advanced another 12 points to score 842. The school’s students also increased their STAR test scores, which helped boost the API. Students were tested in math, language arts, science and history. Fundraiser saves P.E.: The community rallied alongside the Loomis Basin Education Foundation to save the physical education program in the Loomis Union School District. The district qualified for a state grant, but that grant was cut by one third due to state budget cutbacks. Parents were asked to donate $23 per student to save P.E. and they, and community members, donated over $27,000. In September the Education Foundation matched the funds, bringing the total to $52,400. Lawsuits end: A Sacramento judge ruled on the last of the motions filed by Don Mooney, special counsel for the Town of Loomis, in two controversial lawsuits, dating back to 2008, between Rocklin and Loomis over the Rocklin Lowe’s project. The home improvement store would have been located on the Loomis border at Sierra College Boulevard and Interstate 80. Lowe’s pulled out of the project in 2008, citing the economy. Loomis was granted $830 for road improvements and the judge ruled there was no basis for Loomis to recover requested attorney fees of $80,000. Town settles: In late September, Loomis settled its lawsuit with the Rocklin Crossing developers for $231,491. Town manager Perry Beck said the monies would be used for road impact improvements at Sierra College Boulevard and Taylor Road, where Rocklin Crossing is located at Interstate 80. Plans are to include a Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Attack on dog: The Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills offered a $3,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person or people who caused injuries to a Loomis family’s Labrador retriever. Chloe underwent surgery to remove skin after suffering third-degree chemical burns. The family believes the dog was injured when someone came onto their property during the night of Sept. 27 and poured caustic chemicals on it. OCTOBER Rocklin 60 map rejected: Loomis Mayor Gary Liss was pleased with the Rocklin Planning Commission’s rejection on Oct. 19 of the proposed map for the Rocklin 60 housing project, which borders Loomis, and the cooperation between the two cities. “We’ve tried to talk through the issues and we think they’re listening to us,” Liss said. “We’re not trying to kill the project.” Ag recommendation approved: The Loomis Planning Commission on Oct. 19 recommended the adoption of conditions for new major subdivisions where agriculture is shared between lots. The proposed ordinance would require a conservation plan related to agricultural use in new major residential subdivisions of five or more lots, when two or more lots have shared agricultural usage of five acres or more. Term limits passes: On Nov. 2, voters passed Measure A, which retroactively places term limits on town council members. Voters also re-elected Walt Scherer, who is serving his fifth term on the council. Incumbent Miguel Ucovich, who on Nov. 2 came in fourth place and out of the running behind candidate Vic Markey, was eventually declared the third-place winner by a margin of three votes. The term limits initiative includes a retroactive date of Aug. 1, 2010, which is creating a quandary for the town. Town attorney Dave Larsen said it is “possible to seek clarification from the court without ignoring the people’s desire to have term limits.” If found that the effective date is an integral part of the ordinance, the judge could find the entire ordinance illegal. If found to be separable, he said, then only the effective date could be illegal. Valencia Club opens: The storied Valencia Club has a new lease on life, thanks to new owners Jamie James and Matt Madsen, who reopened the Penryn landmark almost six months after the restaurant and bar’s doors were shuttered. The Taylor Road establishment was initially opened in the 1930s as the Hill Top Café and has always had a place in the hearts of locals and many of the motorists who drive what once Highway 40 and part of the route over the Sierra. NOVEMBER Ruling requested: The Loomis town council voted Nov. 9 to seek clarification from a judge as to the legality of the Aug. 1, 2010 retroactive start date for the council term limits initiative, approved by voters at the Nov. 2 election. In letters submitted to the council, term limit supporter Tom Millward recommended that if a judge determines that the retroactive date is not allowed, then the start date be changed to 30 days after the election. Del Oro wins section: The Del Oro High School girls cross country team captured the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Div. II championship Nov. 13 in Folsom and won a berth at the CIF State Meet in Fresno. The Lady Eagles ended in a 59-50 tie with Sierra Foothill League rival Woodcreek but were given the first-place nod by virtue of having the faster runner, Caitliin Devitt-Payne, in the team’s No. 6 spot. Family mourns victim: A Loomis husband and father died in a car accident on Horseshoe Bar Road. According to a California Highway Patrol spokesman, Robert J. Spillane III, 32, died Nov. 23 in a head-on collision when his Geo Metro crossed into the lane of an oncoming Chevrolet Tahoe, whose driver and passenger sustained moderate injuries. Spillane is survived by his wife, Leigh-Ann, and their 5-year-old son, Robert Joseph Spillane IV. DECEMBER Eagles win title: After starting the year 2-4, Del Oro High beat Oakdale at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento. The Golden Eagles notched a 21-win over the Mustangs in the CIF Section Div. III championship game. The championship was Del Oro’s seventh CIF crown in the school’s history. Project OK’d: Over protests from Loomis Mayor Gary Liss and Loomis Councilman Walt Scherer, the Rocklin City Council approved the Rocklin 60 housing project. The project was approved with a stipulation that the developer determine if staggered setbacks for the home sites are feasible with the terrain. The developer also removed lots along the Loomis border to allow for an open space of oak trees. Three arrested: Placer County Sheriff’s detectives arrested three Loomis residents and found property on the men taken from several Loomis residential and vehicle burglaries. Jacob Delaney, Philip Hodge, and Kevin Johnson are believed responsible for entering unlocked cars, garages and homes. They were charged with burglary, possession of stolen property, and possession of a controlled substance and needles. According to the Sheriff’s Department Crime Analysis Unit, 11 thefts had occurred from vehicles in Loomis since the beginning of November. Of those 11, eight vehicles were unlocked. Council seated: Despite lingering term-limits questions, the Loomis town council seated newly elected members Sandra Calvert, Walt Scherer, and Miguel Ucovich on Dec. 14. According to town attorney Dave Larsen, the term limits initiative contains two retroactive legal issues that must be sorted out by a neutral third party. In the meantime, Ucovich and Scherer can continue to serve.