2009 in Review

By Robert E. Jensen
The Desert Independent

January 1, 2010

BLYTHE, Calif – That was the year that was. As a New Year’s tribute to twelve long months with its ups, downs and fluff-ups, The Desert Independent presents happenings in brief:

January – The Blythe Fitness Center opened next to the All-Star Cinema. The Bluegrass Festival fires up again at the fairgrounds. Fist-fights between race car drivers put an end to Street Stocks; which was replaced by the Factory Four Division at the Blythe Raceways. A new grocery store – Blythe Ranch Market – opens up next to K-Mart. The Blythe Heat returned to play at Alexander Field. Quick reaction by Cpl. Troy Fabanich snagged robbers at Ed’s Smoke Shop. Jacket Wrestlers beat Imperial. Four Ehrenberg firefighters find job security in setting their own fires in the vicinity. Jennifer Wellman leaves as City Planning Director. Lee Holter was chosen as Interim CEO at Healthcare District. PVUSD faces fiscal crisis and Budget Tsarina Richardson suggests closure of BMS – placing grades 6-7-8 at the three elementary schools. Gina Marie Vega was chosen as Appleby Teacher of the Month.

February – Blythe Narcotics Task Force arrests 10 over period of one week. Supt. Alan Jensen contacts Assemblyman Manuel Perez in quest for legislation allowing for a 4-day school week. Nancy Hackney named Appleby Teacher of the Month. Richard Phipps replaces Max Schoenrock on PV Cemetery District Board. BPD captures Alfonso Green, suspected of robbing Rabobank the previous day. Supt. Alan Jensen publicly dismisses a 4-day school week as a “long shot” due to the “complex logistics of such a schedule” while Manuel Perez introduces AB 868. Quentin Hanson derides the City Council for considering a hike in the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). School District ordered to reinstate Eva Guilin – judged to be a retaliatory firing for union activities by the “less than candid” Dr. Yul Whitney. Blythe PD goes to an automated calling system. It is revealed that AHM’s contract was bought out for $150,000 in a contract signed by Pres. Jim Carney.

March – The Quartzsite Chili Cook-Off brings out a record number of local entries. Britt Louriero named Appleby’s Teacher of the Month. Ashley Bennett named as Miss Blythe Outstanding Teen for 2009. Thirty-one teachers are given “pink-slips” in anticipation of layoffs. Only two are enforced. Auditors find that the City’s General Fund is “in the red” by $3.4 million and that it has been operating in the negative for the past 10 years. Citizens on Patrol (COPS) graduated its first class. VFW Post celebrated its 75th anniversary. Maria Luisa Bugtai, a student at BMS, took first place in District Spelling Bee. First Annual Urban Cowboy Dinner/Dance held at Robinson Coolers. PVUSD Board assured parents that Kindergarten will be of the full-day variety at all the elementary schools. Sybil Parker honored for her 50 years of service to Ruth Brown Elementary School. School Board unanimously votes down recommendation to close the Childhood Development Center.

April – Colorado River Fair opens with a “Happy Days” theme. Rio Colorado Townhouses and Apts. have a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Ice Plant burns as a result of arson. Jacob Jensen outlines a Solar Power project for the district. Fair Grand Champions are: Taylor Adcock/Steer, Michael Townsend/Lamb, Brandon Marks/ Poultry, Kelly Rodkey/Swine, and Kacie Riddle/Goat. The “Battle of Blythe” Civil War Re-Enactment sponsored by the PVUSD GATE program and the Chamber of Commerce successfully concludes. The Relay for Life is held on the new all-weather track at the PVHS Football Field. John Ferelli, signed to a 90-day contract as Interim Hospital CEO, resigns abruptly after half that time on the job. PVUSD Board unanimously declines to support Dr. Jensen/Whitney’s desire for more classified layoffs. Large fire in Ehrenberg toasts 65 acres. PVHS English Teacher Matthew Macul Fahey arrested by BPD on suspicion of two counts of child molestation in Orange County. Local resident Sandra Kuanda wins $1,000 and a new Jacuzzi on “The Price is Right”. Stephanie Warren named as Appleby Teacher of the Month.

May – Karina de la Pena named as Appleby Teacher of the Month. More than 200 Vets on motorcycles thunder through town for the 21st anniversary of the “Run for the Wall” tribute to Vietnam Vets. Frank Kelly named “Citizen of the Year” by Chamber of Commerce. Stuart Wahlberg passes away. The new $2.3 million pool at PVHS will not be open for Summer Swim due to city budget cuts. The Healthcare District hires Peter Klune as new CEO. Barbara Stiener named as PVUSD Teacher of the Year. Site teachers are: Marty Northrup, LaVonne Halby, Britt Louriero, Crystal Lester and Alex Dvorak. Students Adam Kehl and Allan Black selected for Boy’s State in Sacramento. Limits are placed on the number of tickets grads can dole out to family members. John Lemay-Humble accuses the Healthcare Board of “cutting backroom deals.” Long-time watering hole, The Water Hole, is demolished. Recreation Center due to be slashed in upcoming budget cuts. Bryce Jeppson begins 2-year LDS mission to Spain. Alice Dean and Eugenia Guilin implore the PV Board not to drop the GATE program next year.

June – PVCC budget cuts shut down the Spring Street Campus for the summer months. Marrio Walker, former VP in Elk Grove (NOT Elk River) USD named as new PVHS Principal. Robert Sayre arrested for – of all things – breaking into the Blythe Food Pantry. Graduation attendance is limited to 10 family members but goes off without a hitch. Summer School cancelled except for Juniors, Seniors and Special Ed. students. A Surgical Services Manager files a wrongful termination suit against the Healthcare District. BPD arrested BPD Officer Kieth Walnoha for spousal battery. PVUSD lays off 6 full-time and 1 part-time aides from Early Childhood Development. Dr. Jensen reports that the District will not seek a 4-day school week (on June 19) yet has four Board members sign Letter of Support a week later. Sgt. Jose De La O receives Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Iraq. Rudolfo Talamante passes away. CSEA Rep Dale Wissman and Dr. Yul Whitney publicly spar in separate radio interviews on KJMB. PVCC begins installing solar panels. Lynette Phillips and Bob Standage, representing two groups protesting the proposed Wal-Mart, reach a settlement with the City. A bit too late for Wal-Mart, however. City Council declares State of Fiscal Emergency and places the TOT tax on the November ballot. Manuel Perez kills AB 868. Rec Center kept open with CIF grant. Kristi Johnson named Appleby Teacher of the Month.

July – Groundbreaking took place for a new $15.7 million Fine and Performing Arts Center at PVCC. Dr. Alan Jensen announces that the new Appleby Elementary School will not be ready for occupancy in August, rather, after Thanksgiving. Jacob Jensen approved by Santa Barbara School Board as new Sp. Ed. Director. Supt. Alan Jensen takes on new job in Val Verde. PVUSD Board votes 4-1 to immediately install Dr. Yul Whitney as new Supt. Pat Howard, retired USAF Colonel, took over as First female VFW Post Commander. Healthcare District earns Critical Access Accreditation; prompting Tim Maley to call for “fireworks and a parade”. City of Blythe lays off five more employees for a total of 30 since the beginning of the year.

August – Hospital hit by power outage due to blown transformer. Optimus Prime shows up at the All-Star Cinema. Dr. Whitney’s Welcome Reception held at District Office. Michael Feemster opens the Blythe Math Academy. County Supervisor Roy Wilson resigns from office only to pass away days later. Monica Ortiz dies as a result of a tragic accident in the early hours of the morning on the streets of Ehrenberg. The Horny Toad Saloon victim of drunk driver as operator of a pickup mistakes entrance for nearby street. Coach Dagnino kicks off Football season with “Midnight Madness” on Aug. 3. Dr. Dorothea Thompson, former Director of Curriculum for PVUSD, passes away in Lancaster. Eight candidates file for City Council seats, six for PVUSD Board. PVCC signs with DACE to develop Regional Hazmat Training Center at the college. PVUSD Board approves upgrades in administrative classifications and adding a new position, “saving” the district $158,000. Mark Bollinger resigns from Healthcare Board.

September – Quartzite City Council members Bill Moore and Carolyn Guthrie removed from office in Recall Election. Danielle Thomas earns Master’s Degree. Census Bureau begins work to improve the tepid response rate of only 53% of local households in 2000. Albert Northrup faces Grand Theft charges for alleged personal use of City credit card. First Solar kicks off a clean-up drive with PVHS Volleyball Team, Boy Scouts, FFA and CERT. Town inundated with dove hunters as the season opens on Sept. 1. Juan and Maria Madariaga apply to City Council regarding a business license for a marijuana dispensary; a decision tabled for further study by Chief Smith. Bizarre homicide in which victim was found immersed in water in a trash container after several weeks occurs on N. Acacia. Case still unsolved. A 1.16 Megawatt Solar Power array is fired up at PVCC, cutting down on the SCE bills. Dale Hackney named Teacher of the Month at Appleby. Chamber of Commerce hosted a Welcome Mixer for new and returning educators. Halby’s sponsored a Skateboard Exhibition on Hobsonway. Thomas Chin, retired anesthesiologist, killed in tragic pedestrian/car/semi accident.

October – Tim Maley resigns as Community Improvement Fund director. Dr. Guith cuts the ribbon at the Grand Opening ceremonies for the $2.3 million High School pool. Justine St. John crowned as the new Miss Blythe. All local telephone calls will now have to include the 760 area code prefix. Mallory Sutterfield writes a successful grant gleaning two Malibu Hybrids for the City of Blythe. A large number of burglaries raised alarm on the South side. PVUSD makes a goal of 100% attendance on Oct. 15, right in the middle of a flu epidemic. Forums were held for the candidates for City Council on Oct. 14 and PVUSD candidates on Oct. 16. An anonymous traveler won $460,588.00 with a CA lottery ticket purchased at Q-Check. Bob Weete retires from Harmony Kitchens; “Ted” Arneson takes over the reigns. Campaign signs spread like weeds on street corners throughout Blythe. South Side burglary ring known as the “Goon Squad” shut down by Blythe Police. Great American Shakeout earthquake drills held at hospital and at schools. 

November – H1N1 comes to Blythe with four patients hospitalized in the local facility. Vicki Alexander is Appleby Teacher of the Month. Joey DeConninck, Sam Patel and Oscar Galvan win seats on City Council. DeConninck chosen as Mayor. Measure H (the TOT Tax) defeated. Dr. Norm Guith and John Ulmer, both openly critical of current administration, elected to PVUSD School Board. Homecoming Parade held on Nov. 6th. Tim Maley begins new career selling cars at Larry Green Ford. Hospital, despite Pres. Carney’s pleas, goes tobacco-free on Nov. 19th. Jackets win 51-35 over El Centro at Homecoming. Greg Snider named as PVCC PE Coordinator. Very successful Fall Festival held on Spring Street. Ehrenberg’s new firehouse opened on Nov. 20. A 16 year old male was arrested for the beating death of a 20-month old child in Ripley. Numerous service groups and clubs came together to maintain the appearance of the cemetery. Felix J. Appleby had a grand opening ceremony sans plaque. Rosalie Carlton replaces Mark Bollinger on Healthcare Board. Shawn Sheble, Blythe native and career aviator, dies in plane accident in Shanghai, China.

December – Robin Wellman chosen School Board President, Jim Carney as Clerk. Sandra Denewiler received Master’s Degree at Colorado State U. Christmas Parade held on a very chilly afternoon. Chamber of Commerce held groundbreaking ceremony for Angie Patel’s new Subway and 3-story Comfort Suites Hotel being built on S. Lovekin. PVUSD Board denies Dr. Whitney’s appeal for class size waivers. The CA Energy Commission made a site visit to the Ford Dry Lake Solar Power Project funded by NextEra and held an informational meeting at City Hall. Project could employ 1100 local laborers. Curtis Neal John achieves the rank of Eagle Scout.

A fellow Minnesotan by the name of Sinclair Lewis wrote a semi-fictional book entitled Main Street; borrowing heavily from the events and persons living in his home town of Little Falls, MN. After witnessing many of the events that have taken place this past year, one could write an updated non-fictional Main Street with many of the colorful characters, politicians and events in town, especially in the School District - but no outside reader would believe it to be anything but fiction.


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