YUCCA VALLEY — The town was busy in 2019, from hosting its first film festival to starting to plan for a new aquatics and recreation center with a $22 million grant.
Town hTosts first
The town hosted its first film festival in November, giving $25,000 to the event.
“The three-day event was well attended and well received by both the local community as well as by many folks from out of the area,” Town Manager Curtis Yakimow said.
“It provided an amazing experience for some filmmakers to visit Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and the national park for the first time.”
The festival was launched by Matt Beurois, a director, producer and scriptwriter, and his business partner and wife, Auregan, a French producer and performer. The couple now call Yucca Valley home.
“We are grateful they trusted us to make this happen. It’s a labor of love,” Beurois said at the opening.
The organizers received 282 submissions originating from more than 30 countries and chose around 30 films to show. The award-winning animated short “Master Moley” made its U.S. debut at the Yucca Valley Film Festival and won best animated short. The festival crowds also loved the “no dress code” red carpet.
Pool and rec center planning gets started
In 2019, the council formed a community advisory group to help identify an ideal facility and an ideal location for a recreation and aquatics center. The town qualified for a $22 million state grant to build the center in 2018 legislation.
In December, the group recommended building the new center east of the soccer fields at Brehm Sports Park on Little League Drive. Proposed features include an indoor recreational pool, a 25-yard outdoor lap pool, a gymnasium, a rehab room and a multipurpose room.
The town will continue to review concept and site recommendations for environmental analysis in early 2020, according to Yakimow.
New public works director hired
The council and staff welcomed new Public Works Director Armando Garcia Baldizzone in September. Baldizzone will oversee engineering, project management, town facilities and parks and street maintenance.
He came to Yucca Valley most recently from working in Blythe.
Gardner and Gonzales are employees of year
Michele Gardner, a human resources and finance technician, was awarded full-time Employee of the Year for 2019. Her supervisor, Debra Breidenbach-Sterling, human resources manager, said Gardner is a stellar employee who “goes out of her way to assist wherever she can.”
Gardner, a Yucca Valley resident who has worked for the local government for nearly a decade, said she loves her job: “I look forward to continuing service for years to come.”
Francisco Gonzales was honored as part-time Employee of the Year for his hard work as a lead in the recreation department.
“Francisco’s knowledge of our recreation department is amazing,” said Community Services Director Sue Earnest.
Gonzales also served on the youth commission while in high school.
Yucca Valley sells
old gas station
The council approved selling an abandoned gas station the town owns to Pioneertown business partners Terry Madden and Jason Taylor on Dec. 2.
The men plan to renovate the building and open a retail shop, coffee house, metal fabrication shop and meeting space. It will also be the headquarters of the Jessi Combs Foundation, dedicated to educating, inspiring and empowering women of all ages.
Combs, a record-breaking race car driver, was Madden’s girlfriend and was killed in August while attempting to break a land speed record.
The council members said they loved Madden and Taylor’s passion for the project along with their vision for transforming the gas station and giving it a second life.
The property is located at 55460 Twentynine Palms Highway. The town purchased it in 2010 to make way for a planned road realignment, but no longer needs it, said Deputy Town Manager Shane Stueckle.
Measure Y sales tax boosts services
In 2019, the town continued spending Measure Y sales tax money on law enforcement, senior services and other projects.
Voters approved this half-cent sales tax increase in 2016 to.
Thanks to the money, the town continued to use the services of a new sheriff’s detective and an additional sheriff’s safety specialist.
Sheriff’s Capt. Trevis Newport said with the help of a detective hired with Measure Y funds, the department was able to solve high-profile crimes in 2019, including homicides, child endangerment and vehicle burglaries.
Measure Y money also allowed the town to maintain gap streets — streets that were near but not part of the sewer project.
Finally, Measure Y paid for longer hours and programs at the senior center.
Improvements made to Paradise Park
In 2019, the town completed its improvement project at Paradise Park. The park now has lighted basketball courts, walking paths and grass.
Town officials celebrated the “new and improved Paradise Park” on May 21 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The town used Community Development Block Grant money and reserve funds from 2015 to 2018 to complete the park, located at 58938 Barron Drive.
Yakimow said the park has been a hit.
“Positive feedback continues to be received as neighborhood kids now have a chance for summer play on the grass, and summer nights at the basketball court, something that has been missing for many years,” he said.