California Highway Patrol
California Highway Patrol

On September 4, 2008 at approximately 10:40 a.m., a fatal traffic collision involving two vehicles and three freeway maintenance workers occurred on SR-126 westbound, just east of the Edwards Ranch Road over crossing.

Steven R. Higgins, 49 years of age from Ojai, was driving a flatbed truck with a pull trailer, westbound on SR-126 in the right lane, just east of the Edwards Ranch Road over crossing. For unknown reasons, the vehicle swerved from the right lane and onto the right shoulder where it traveled over a raised asphalt curb. Higgins attempted to regain control and overcorrected his vehicle. The truck then swerved to the left and traveled back toward the fast lane where it struck a Mercedes Benz, driven by Marvin Chandler, 42 years of age, from Las Vegas, Nevada. The impact caused Chandler’s vehicle to travel out of control into the right traffic lane. The truck and trailer combination traveled out of control toward the center median where a maintenance crew, under the supervision of Cal-Trans, was actively working. Higgins was unable to stop as the truck and trailer combination struck three of the workers who were in the median. After striking the workers, both the truck and trailer flipped onto their right sides and came to rest, blocking both the center median and the left traffic lane.

Emergency personnel from the Ventura County Fire Department and the California Highway Patrol arrived on scene shortly after. One of the maintenance workers, whose name was not yet releasable, was pronounced deceased at the scene. A second worker, identified as Felipe Reyes, 29 years of age, suffered critical injuries including a severed leg. He was later airlifted to the Ventura County Medical Center. The third worker, identified as Matt Turnquist, 23 years of age, suffered minor to moderate injuries. The remaining workers, identified as Brock Dozier and Chris Stalsworth, were able to avoid the collision and were uninjured. Both Mr. Higgins and Mr. Chandler were transported to local hospitals and suffered only minor injuries.

SR- 126 westbound was closed between Briggs Road and Edwards Ranch Road for several hours while a Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) from the California Highway Patrol conducted an evaluation of the collision scene. The cause of the collision is still under investigation at this point in time.

Regional news about the accident on Thursday, September 4th.

 


 
PiruFest 2008.
PiruFest 2008.
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PiruFest 2008.
PiruFest 2008.
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PiruFest 2008.
PiruFest 2008.
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PiruFest 2008.
PiruFest 2008.
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PiruFest 2008.
PiruFest 2008.
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Hundreds of friends, families and visitors joined together in downtown Piru this Labor Day Weekend to celebrate Piru at the end of summer annual event. Held at the Piru Depot and Gazebo Plaza Park in the historic downtown district and stretching along a pedestrian trail toward Warring Park, this year’s festival featured a wide range of activities for all ages and interests. Seen enjoying the day’s offerings were Julian and Margaret Rangel, lifelong Piru residents, who at age 90 took the walk down the pedestrian trail to join in the fun. During the day, we spotted the prematurely born infant daughter in the arms of one of the members of the Friends of Piru School, helping mom promote the groups fundraiser for class field trips as she celebrated her seven month birthday.

Early in the morning, vendors and participating exhibitors set up colorful displays in the grassy parkland and along the plaza. This included backing in a fishing boat and kayaks for the Lark Piru Recreation Area display, where festival goers purchased their raffle tickets for a chance to win one of two half-day pontoon boat rentals donated by Recreation Resource Management. Nearby, organizers for the horseshoe tournament were busy setting up the horseshoe pits and signing up the two dozen competitors. Just down the trail, artist Carlos Callejo organized his youth volunteers and painting materials as they launched a community art mural on a wall that had become a target of graffiti. This project will transform this wall into a beautiful representation of historic and unique Piru images.

The event kicked off at noon with a Native American elder offering blessings for the day and all present. She was followed by elders and descendants performing traditional dances and drummers filling the plaza air. As they were wrapping up, professional skateboarder Steve Badillo and friends from Skatelab set up ramps and jumps to please the crowds. The highlight of their performance was a series of jumps over the van that brought them and their equipment to the Center Street stage area.

Even more colorful activities unfolded as the gazebo plaza was graced by the music and dancing of Inlakech Cultural Center. Their mariachi music and folkloric dancing was exceptional for these young talented artists. As the evening cooled, following a hot day in the sun, Dan Torres and the Piru River Band lit up the Gazebo Stage with their always popular tunes of yesterday and today.

During the day, several food, craft and information booths dotted the plaza and Center Street area. Poncho’s Restaurant and Juarez Catering offered just some of the tasty treats. Information and crafts booths included Lake Piru, Rancho Camulos, healthy dental tips and information from Dr. Mark Pratt, American Red Cross resources, Piru Cemetery District’s Measure M handouts, Piru Jewelry by Ramona, Mina’s Discount Center clothing and music offerings, and Celebrate Recovery resources, among others.

Special acknowledgements to the Piru Neighborhood Council for sponsoring this annual event. This 2008 PiruFest also received support from the Piru Petroleum Club, Fillmore-Piru Citrus Association, Ventura County Redevelopment Agency, Lake Piru, Laverne Nursery, Rancho Temescal, Diamond Street Cleaning, plus others.

 


 

It is not locally well publicized yet, however as reported by Timm Herdt on June 26, 2008 in the Ventura County Star, Fillmore is involved in Sales Tax Revenue Sharing Agreements, and at least two California cities, are up in arms.

We all know the definition of Sales Tax; the 7.25% paid above the purchase price on everything except food, medicines and most services. Question: Who collects those millions of sales tax dollars generated by businesses and providers? Answer: The State Board of Equalization (BOE). Question: What happens to those funds? Answer: Generally, the State of California retains all except 1%, returning that portion to the city of origin. So one asks, what’s the problem?

As per City Manager, Tom Ristau, two Illinois firms, specializing in sales and use tax consulting and services, approached City staff in early 2003 with proposals that could benefit Fillmore with increased revenues through the Sales Tax. In January and again in May 2003, agreements with both firms were brought before the City Council and adopted by unanimous vote. Inspired Development and MTS Consulting commenced to bring “newly formed” purchasing and/or sales companies to Fillmore, in exchange for a percentage of the City’s 1% share of sales tax revenues, generated by those businesses only. The agreed upon split of that 1% is, 85% to the consulting firms, who in turn share it with their contracted businesses, and 15% to the City.

Both Inspired Development and MTS Consulting, LLC retain offices downtown. Several “new” enterprises, which the City declined to identify, operate at the consulting firms’ local addresses. Nevertheless, the City concurs that MTS contracted Richmond VA based Owens and Minor, a Fortune 500 company founded in 1882 (the nation’s leading distributor of name brand medical and surgical supplies to hospitals and integrated health care systems), to open a sales office in Fillmore last fall, where according to Ristau, traveling sales personnel often come and go. Previously, four distribution centers located throughout California, handled sales and sales tax collection, with 1% of the generated sales tax rebated to the cities of origin, thus bringing substantial dollars to those cities. At least two of those cities, Livermore, estimating loses of $6.2 million in the next three years, and City of Industry, have filed a complaint with the BOE sparking investigation of sales tax revenue sharing practices in our town. In VC Star interviews, John Marchand, Livermore Councilman, said that the 165,000 sq. foot distribution center in his city has 120 employees. “It’s a big operation. Trucks are going in and out of there all day. It even has a heliport.” James Gross, an attorney for Owens and Minor and Fillmore officials claim that the creation of a central sales office was part of the company’s business plan to increase California sales and efficiency, not to steal sales taxes. (The previously reported estimated annual split is $800,000 to Fillmore and $4.5 million to MTS Consulting to split with Owens and Minor.) A spokesperson for the BOE confirmed the ongoing investigation, declaring that sales tax revenues through 2007 were distributed according to the formula favoring Fillmore; however, future allocations will be withheld until completion of the investigation. Mayor Conaway said the deal was vetted through attorneys, is a way to increase our tax base, and help our citizens. City officials have appealed. CONTINUED »

 


 
Fillmore Unified School District Board Meeting held September 2nd, 2008.
Fillmore Unified School District Board Meeting held September 2nd, 2008.
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Ruth Ricards, Director of Child Nutrition, and Joe Ricards, Agriculture Teacher at Fillmore High School, both were honored with
Ruth Ricards, Director of Child Nutrition, and Joe Ricards, Agriculture Teacher at Fillmore High School, both were honored with "Be The Change" awards for their hard work.

Fillmore Unified School District (FUSD) Board held the open session of its regular meeting September 2, 2008, at 6:00 p.m. in the Board Room at the District Office. The Board approved a new fee-based after school program to replace Stone Soup at Mountain Vista Elementary School, and honored Joe and Ruth Ricards.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Bush reported that the Stone Soup After School Program has ended. When the District notified Stone Soup administrators that the program would be discontinued at the end of September, the administrators refused to provide services for the rest of the month. At most schools, students who had been in the Stone Soup program can participate in the free Bridges program instead. At Mountain Vista, that was not possible because the Bridges program there is full. There are approximately 80 students in Bridges at Mountain Vista, and there are almost 30 students on the waiting list. After School Program Coordinator Carol Barringer researched fee-based after school programs, developed policies and procedures, and will implement the new program, Journeys, on Monday, September 8th.

The Journeys program is not free, but offers more flexible schedule arrangements than Bridges and is expected to be less expensive than private child care. Some families have already indicated interest. According to the Journeys Parent Handbook, registration is on a "first come, first serve" basis with enrollment limited by the number of staff available. Registration Forms will be available at Mountain Vista. Child care fees will be due in advance. Monthly rates will be $135 per month for the first child and $210 per family. Daily rates are $15 for the first child and $10 per additional child. Hourly rates are $5 per child per hour. Journeys will run only on school days from whenever school lets out until 6 p.m. The program will pay for itself if at least eight students participate. The staff to student ratio will be at least 1 to 12. Journeys include educational activities, recreational activities, social activities, and snacks. It is available only at Mountain Vista.

In keeping with this year's theme, "Be the Change," the Board honored Teacher Joe Ricards for his work with students and agriculture, and his wife Director of Child Nutrition Ruth Ricards for her work improving school food. Ms. Ricards is excited about developing plans for Piru's school cafeteria to "go green". If the program prospers, other schools in the district could follow. She was surprised and pleased to be honored. Mr. Ricards is the Advisor for Fillmore High School Future Farmers of America (FFA), and his FFA students won many awards at this year's Ventura County Fair, as usual. Mr. Ricards said that he appreciates the support of the Board, school, parents, booster club, and especially his wife. Regular Thursday evening showmanship practices contribute to the students' successes. Mr. Ricards mentioned that the FFA students are also accomplished in FFA student government, and have held regional and county offices. CONTINUED »

 


 
Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

Location: City of Industry / Piru Area (Ventura County)
Date & Time: August 28, 2008 @ approximately 7:30 AM

(S)uspects, (V)ictims, (W)itnesses City of residence Age
(S) Luis Felipe Martin (deceased) La Puente 24
(V) Female (name withheld) La Puente 20

On this date, at approximately 7:30 am, Luis Felipe Martin kidnapped his ex-girlfriend at gunpoint from her place of employment, Reuland Electric in the City of Industry. He fled the area in a black Chevrolet Silverado truck and traveled into Ventura County. Martin then raped the victim in the Piru area of Ventura County.

After the rape, the victim was able to make phone calls with her cell phone, which were transferred to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Communications Center from the California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department at approximately 10:17 am.

As the search for the vehicle was underway, Martin stopped on the side of the road on Main Street and Sacramento Street in Piru and shot himself in the head while still inside the vehicle. The victim was present when this occurred. Martin was transferred to the Ventura County Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at approximately 11:35 am.

The victim did not suffer any physical injuries requiring hospitalization.

The incident is still under investigation by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

 
Lake Rangers and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Dive Team searching for drowning victim Anatoly Smolyansky at Lake Piru.
Lake Rangers and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Dive Team searching for drowning victim Anatoly Smolyansky at Lake Piru.
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Ventura County Sheriff's Department
Ventura County Sheriff's Department

On Monday, September 1st, 2008, at about 11:30 A.M., Piru Lake Rangers and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Dive Team located the body of drowning victim, Anatoly Smolyansky, in the water at Lake Piru. Anatoly Smolyansky drowned on the evening of August 25th after he tragically disappeared under the water at Lake Piru
At the time of the original accident, Mr. Smolyansky never resurfaced after jumping into the lake to rescue his five-year-old daughter who had fallen overboard. She was later rescued by her 9 year-old brother.

After the drowning accident, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department immediately deployed Search and Rescue resources to the lake, which included a Sheriff’s helicopter, a rescue swimmer, and Search and Rescue Dive Team. The search turned into a large scale, six-day operation involving approximately ten government agencies. The search was conducted in an area on the lake called the “Narrows and Diablo Cove.”

Rescue divers searched over 600 dive hours and were assisted by fifteen divers from Oxnard Police and Fire, Los Angeles County Sheriff and Los Angeles County Lifeguard Divers.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Department used helicopters, remote R.O.V Min-Subs, Sonar and Side-Scanning Tow vehicles to search the lake. Lake Piru. Rangers and approximately one hundred volunteers from the Hatzolah Organization of Los Angeles searched day after day for Mr. Smolyansky’s body. Daily search operations were conducted from 7:00 A.M to 8:00 P.M.

The recovery operation resumed this morning, Monday, September 01, 2008, at approximately 7:00 AM. A Sheriff’s helicopter and search and rescue marine resources, including Park Rangers and a Sheriff’s Dive Team were used. In addition, about thirty volunteers from Hatzolah were involved in today’s search.

At about 11:30 A.M, the Sheriff’s Dive Team and Park Rangers were working on the lake in an area North of Diablo Cove when they located Mr. Smolyansky’s body floating in the water. The body was recovered and released to the Ventura County Medical Examiner. The family has been notified.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department would like to thank the Lake Piru Rangers, Hatzolah Rescue Organization and all the assisting government organizations that have lent their support to this operation.

 
The suspect pulled over near Sacramento and Main streets in Piru.
The suspect pulled over near Sacramento and Main streets in Piru.
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Crime scene investigation in Piru.
Crime scene investigation in Piru.
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A 20-year-old woman was kidnapped at gunpoint from her job in the City of Industry this morning by her alleged boyfriend, and driven to Piru where he is alleged to have sexually assaulted her, according to reports from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff’s Capt. Ross Bonfiglio stated that the victim was able to escape when the suspect pulled over near Sacramento and Main Streets in Piru, and called the police at that time. Shortly thereafter the suspect shot himself in the head while sitting in the car.

The suspect was taken to the Ventura County Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 11:35 a.m.

 
Anatoly Smolyansky of Los Angeles, CA., 39 years old.
A Sheriff’s helicopter was part of the search for a missing swimmer along with the Sheriff’s Dive team at Lake Piru.
A Sheriff’s helicopter was part of the search for a missing swimmer along with the Sheriff’s Dive team at Lake Piru.
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On the evening of August 25th, Anatoly Smolyansky tragically disappeared under the water at Lake Piru after jumping into the lake to rescue his five-year-old daughter who had fallen overboard. At the time of the accident, the boat was occupied by Mr. Smolyansky and his three children. All of the children were brought ashore safely, but Mr. Smolyansky never resurfaced and is presumed to have drowned.

After the accident, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department immediately deployed resources to the lake, which included a helicopter, a rescue swimmer, and Dive Team. A rescue diver searched under the water for over 40 minutes in lake conditions that allow for only six inches of visibility. In addition to Ventura County Sheriff’s Department resources, the initial search utilized 5 Ventura County Fire Department units (including a swift water team), Lake Piru Park Rangers, and approximately 80 volunteers from the Hatzolah Organization of Los Angeles. Search operations continued until approximately 2:00 AM the next morning, but Mr. Smolyansky was not located.

The recovery operation resumed this morning (August 26, 2008) at approximately 7:00 AM. A Sheriff’s helicopter and marine resources, including a high tech sonar system were brought to the location. A fifteen member Sheriff’s Dive Team, six boats, and approximately 70 volunteers from Hatzolah were involved in the search, which will continue until dusk.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has offered additional resources, which will arrive in an upcoming operational period. These resources are expected to include a boat, divers, and technical resources (including an underwater remote controlled mini submarine known as an ROV).

If necessary, the search will resume at approximately 7:00 AM on August 27th. In addition to the extremely poor visibility, the search conditions are difficult due to the water depths that range from 30 to 100 feet. The overall estimated area where the search is being concentrated is at least 500 yards by 500 yards. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department would like to thank the organizations that have lent their support to this operation.

 
(L-r) Capt. Tim Hagel, Sgt. Frank Underlin, Sr. Deputy Peter Frank, Sgt. Joe Devorick, Capt. Randy Pentis, Sgt. Paul Higgason, and Capt. Dave Kenney ran for Ventura County Cops Running for Charity in Iceland, July 2008.
(L-r) Capt. Tim Hagel, Sgt. Frank Underlin, Sr. Deputy Peter Frank, Sgt. Joe Devorick, Capt. Randy Pentis, Sgt. Paul Higgason, and Capt. Dave Kenney ran for Ventura County Cops Running for Charity in Iceland, July 2008.
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Our own Ventura County Cops Running For Charity (CRFC) adventure race took place during July. Seven Ventura County Sheriff Deputies competed as a team to successfully raise $33,000 for local Ventura County medical charities. We traveled to Iceland for an International 55Kilometer ultra-marathon trail race.
We arrived in Iceland to experience a nice, sharp, cold rain. Needless to say, we thought we were prepared. However, where was the snow? After all, the country’s name is not “Rainland.”
Soon, Iceland held up to the name and reputation as we traveled across the countless glacier covered mountains and valleys.
Iceland is the world’s newest landmass and is comprised of a giant series of glaciers, rivers, mountains and volcanoes ringed by beautiful, but cold farmland along the coast. A deep chill engulfed us as we stepped out of our bus to begin the race. We had traveled about 4 hours deep into the wilderness where “Raw” is the best descriptor.
We had about 15 minutes of prep time and the race gun was fired. It was surreal to see the seven of us running in rain and snow gear. Shiver was the word for the day, what a new experience for us. Remember, we practiced in Ventura County with the July trail temperatures that averaged between 95 and 100 degrees.
The race-day temperature varied between 30 to 35 degrees, and it brought on a constant shift between sleet/ice and horizontal rain. The 20 mph wind chill is what really brought on the challenge, driving our core temperatures to hypothermic as we ran through mountains ranges of rugged snow-fields and through (not over) 6 different rivers. CONTINUED »

 
Following a half-hour executive session at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Fillmore City Counsel Ted Schneider, far right, announced the city has purchased a half-acre parcel east of B Street, from the Fillmore-Piru and Saticoy Citrus Assn. for use of the water recycling Project. The land is located north of the railroad tracks. The price was $113,335.
Following a half-hour executive session at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, Fillmore City Counsel Ted Schneider, far right, announced the city has purchased a half-acre parcel east of B Street, from the Fillmore-Piru and Saticoy Citrus Assn. for use of the water recycling Project. The land is located north of the railroad tracks. The price was $113,335.
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Fillmore City Council held its regular monthly meeting August 26, 2008, at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The North Fillmore Initiative Report was presented. The Council approved a Water Softener Buyback program. The Council presented the Soroptimist Club with a proclamation recognizing the World Day of Peace. The formation of Community Facilities District #8 to manage the Fillmore Business Park was postponed, and some city development fees were slightly increased.

The Council approved a Brine Discharging Water Softener Buyback Program. The City will buy back softeners for $500-$750 each until the allotted $50,000 runs out. Right now, only 50 brine discharging water softeners have legal permits in Fillmore. There are an estimated 385 illegal softeners in Fillmore. The penalty for having an illegal softener is a $1000 fine and up to 30 days in prison. The Council voted to grant amnesty to anyone who voluntarily gives up their illegal softener. If the softener owner wants the City to uninstall the softener, a $50 un-installation fee will be deducted from the buyback price. The City is setting up a hotline so people can call in for more information or voluntarily report illegal water softener use.

According to a City memo, "With the construction on Central Avenue beginning to wind down, the merchants have scheduled a grand re-opening event for October 25, 2008." This event is the ArtHarvest, and it will feature not only sidewalk chalk art, but also visual art hung in area businesses, artists, musical entertainment, interactive art, and dramatic performances. An outdoor market, films, and lectures are also being planned.

The Council is supporting ArtHarvest and has approved a temporary use permit so that streets can be closed, but has authorized advertisement for bids for a Central Avenue Federal Pavement Improvements Project. According to another City memo, "The work consists of: cold planing existing pavement, asphalt hot mix overlay and striping from Hwy 126 to Sespe Avenue." The Council plans to award a contract for this work on September 23, and anticipates construction from October 13, 2008, to February 12, 2009. Public Works Director Bert Rapp assured the Gazette that a construction blackout period will be arranged so that the area will be neat and clean for the ArtHarvest Festival. The City's goal is for the street to be re-paved by Thanksgiving, in time for holiday shopping. Unfortunately, there is only one asphalt batch plant in Ventura County, and difficulties in scheduling asphalt deliveries might prevent this from happening. Rapp explained that the plant gives priority to larger CalTrans projects, and that one-day projects such as this one have lower scheduling priority. Brian Sipes suggested that the city use concrete instead of asphalt, and provided information on the advantages of concrete. The Council was receptive, but this particular project had to be approved by both the Federal Highway Association and CalTrans (an 18-month process), and changing materials now would not be timely. The Council instructed Rapp to submit future paving projects with both asphalt and concrete alternatives. The current project was submitted with asphalt and rubberized asphalt alternatives. Rubberized asphalt is more durable and environmentally friendly than regular asphalt. CONTINUED »