Year in Review

By Staff Reports
Posted Dec. 27, 2014 @ 4:31 pm

It certainly was a year to remember, and for some maybe one to forget. There was nothing boring about 2014, though.

From the fiscal crisis confronting Adelanto to major construction on Interstate 15 to arrests in two high-profile murder investigations, the Victor Valley had no shortage of news in 2014.

But it all started with Adelanto, which found its very existence threatened by a $2.6 million budget deficit. The city thought it had a plan to address that shortfall, but voters in November sent Adelanto leaders back to the drawing board. Then they turned to a familiar source of revenue: prisons.

Here’s a look at the stories judged to be the biggest of the year:

1. Adelanto fiscal crisis

Close to a year after Adelanto city officials first declared a fiscal emergency in June 2013 with a $2.6 million revenue shortfall, the City Council approved a contract with municipal consultants Urban Futures Inc., in what one official called a “proactive” step to avoiding a bankruptcy filing.

UFI has worked with the city of San Bernardino during their bankruptcy issues and Finance Director Onyx Jones said they would help create a long range 5- to 10-year fiscal plan for the city, including some suggestions officials “had not yet thought about.”

After the city made aggressive $2.5 million in cuts to city staff and services, a ballot initiative that would recoup needed tax revenues failed in the Statewide General Election on Nov. 4. Sixty-three percent of voters said no to Measure O, a nearly 8 percent utility-user tax that would be added to all utilities.

City officials said if it failed, they would explore bringing the measure back for another vote in 2015 during a special election.

Meanwhile, the city found a glimmer of financial hope in a major inter-agency prison plan that would host a 3,260 bed-jail to ease overcrowding from Los Angeles County jails. While several residents spoke out against the deal, a newly seated council voted 4-1 to approve the development plans. The $324 million facility could begin construction as soon as March or April and is expected to bring 3,769 construction jobs and 1,250 permanent jobs.

2. Ranchero Interchange Bridge fire

Wind carried a spark from a worker’s blowtorch into the wooden falsework for the Interstate 15 freeway overpass bridge on May 5, igniting it and ultimately destroying the bridge and bringing traffic to a standstill.

About 60 firefighters battled the blaze with about 50,000 gallons of water for more than 24 hours. Interstate 15 was closed in Hesperia for 27 hours and 45 minutes, creating a commuter nightmare that left some drivers and passengers stuck in their cars for hours.

The fire caused $5 million to $6 million damage and delayed completion of the $59 million project.

3. Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan unveiled

Public comment hearings began in October and November after the September release of the draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan by the four state and federal agencies comprising the so-called Renewable Energy Action Team.

Public comment is being accepted through Jan. 9 on the plan, which was five years in the making. As drafted, it will affect 11.9 million acres in San Bernardino County and 22.6 million acres throughout Southern California desert lands.

The goal of the DRECP is to designate areas in the desert for streamlined renewable energy permitting for massive solar, wind and geothermal projects. Estimates are that area would total 177,000 acres out of a possible 2 million acres. Equally important, proponents say, is that residents provide guidance on what areas to preserve in their natural state, with no renewable energy projects allowed.

4. Apple Valley shootout

On the evening of June 25, a quiet, summer day in Apple Valley turned into a scene reminiscent of the Wild West when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies opened fire on and killed a 29-year-old felon and murder suspect.

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