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Summer over, thousands return to school

C.T. Ratliff, 10 (left) and Harry Bergman, 7, get a welcome back hug from the Jamestown Elementary School panther. Maggie Beck / Union Democrat, Copyright 2014.
About 10,000 students were in class as of Wednesday — the first day of school for most Mother Lode schools — and Sonora Elementary upper-grade teachers enjoyed their newly renovated classrooms.

All of Tuolumne County’s state-funded public schools started Wednesday and so did eastern Calaveras County students, following western Calaveras Unified School District’s opening in late July. 




Lack of water brings early fall

Fall has arrived about a month earlier than usual because of the 2014 drought and the Mother Lode area is spotted with colors as trees go dormant to survive. 

Tuolumne and Calaveras counties experienced an all-around “shift in the seasons,” according to Martin MacKenzie, forest pathologist for Stanislaus National Forest.

Calaveras delays vote on cutbacks

The Calaveras Unified School District Board of Trustees did not choose Tuesday to close schools or eliminate sports and music districtwide, but those drastic cuts are still on the table when the board votes again Saturday. 

More than 300 people attended the board meeting of Calaveras County’s largest school district, many speaking passionately about the need for sports and music and some threatening to transfer their students if the cuts go through.

TUD wrestles with shortfall

The Tuolumne Utilities District Finance Committee would like to cover a projected revenue shortfall using money originally set aside to pay back the district’s Sewer Fund.

Finance Committee members Mike Sarno and Delbert Rotelli, who both serve on the TUD board, directed district staff at a meeting Tuesday to determine whether some of the lost revenue could be made up using a portion of about $1.6 million for sewer labor during the current fiscal year that lasts through June 30, 2015.


Columbia’s Penwell remembers trip of a lifetime

Carleton Penwell, of Columbia, talks about a trip he took in 1969 when he and a friend traveled to all of the U.S. capitals in 80 days. Jesse Jones / Union Democrat, Copyright 2014.
Forty-five years ago today, Carleton Penwell, of Columbia, was making his way cross-country in the trip of a lifetime, “Around the states in 80 days.”

This summer Penwell is taking a trip down memory lane that spanned 50 states, meetings with 35 governors and a lifetime of lessons learned. 

Climber dies in Yosemite

A 36-year-old rock climber died Saturday after falling roughly 300 feet from a climbing route in Yosemite National Park, according to park spokeswoman Kari Cobb.

Brad Parker, of Sebastopol, was free soloing the Matthes Crest Traverse in the Tuolumne Meadows area of the park, Cobb said. Witnesses saw him fall at approximately 5:45 p.m.

Sonora fire chief hiring discussed

Sonora leaders are concerned that the city’s next fire chief will not be required to live in or immediately near the city limits. But there’s not much they can do about it.

The Sonora City Council on Monday approved changes to the official job description for the chief, which included removing the residency clause that required the chief to live within 15 minutes of normal driving time to the city fire department. The job description will be used to recruit a new, permanent chief to replace Mike Barrows who retired earlier this year.

Worst of Mono Way work done

Though most of the work on the Mono Way widening project in Sonora has yet to come, the city’s chief engineer said the work that most impacted drivers is done.

City Engineer Gerard Fuccillo said that, as of Monday, the project is about one-third complete. However, Fuccillo described the remaining work as a “gentle slope” with the culvert replacement that closed a short stretch of the busy road completed.


Yosemite plan may target backcountry camps

The National Park Service is developing a plan to manage the wilderness areas within Yosemite National Park that could affect the five popular High Sierra Camps, according to park officials.

The NPS will seek input sometime this year on the tentatively titled “Yosemite Wilderness Stewardship Plan,” according to park planning documents. Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said the process is currently in its “infancy stages” and she wasn’t sure what effect it would have on the park’s High Sierra Camps.

Grass fire in Sonora

A small grass fire burned a half-acre Tuesday near the Tuolumne County Department of Social Services building on Cedar Road North in Sonora.

The fire was reported at 12:21 p.m. and was contained by 1:30 p.m., according Cal Fire spokesman Mike Spear.

Resources dispatched to the area included two Tuolumne County Fire Department engines, three Cal Fire engines, one Sonora City Fire Department engine, two Cal Fire hand crews and two air tankers as a precautionary measure.

The fire’s cause is under investigation. No injuries or structure damage was reported.

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