2006: A year of endings and beginnings | SierraSun.com

2006: A year of endings and beginnings

The Torino winter Olympics were looking pretty dire for a much-hyped U.S. Ski Team last March. That is, until Squaw Valley local Julia Mancuso blistered a giant slalom run on a snowy, foggy race course on the last weekend of the Olympics ” handily winning a gold medal and sending faithful Tahoe supporters into a craze.

Mancuso grew up on the challenging terrain of Squaw Valley trying to keep up with older sister, April, and fellow current U.S. Ski Team member Marco Sullivan.

Mancuso’s medal was the second for the Americans in Alpine skiing, both gold. Ted Ligety won the men’s combined.

“She’s been getting ready to do this since she was 3 years old on the ‘Mighty Mites’ ski team in Squaw Valley,” said her mother Andrea Mancuso. “Just watch her. You can see she loves to ski.”

Timothy Brooks was convicted of second-degree murder in April after a trial detailing a road-rage confrontation that led to the lethal stabbing.

Brooks stabbed Robert Ash in the abdomen in downtown Tahoe City after Ash passed him on Highway 89 and ran him off onto the shoulder, according to court testimony.

Brooks is jailed in Solano County, awaiting the outcome of an appeal of the conviction and sentence of a minimum of 16 years in prison.

Homewood Mountain Resort, a monument to a simpler time in Tahoe skiing, sold in June to a Bay Area commercial development group.

But much of the hubbub over the sale was not about the ski resort changing hands, but fear that the largest chunk of private property at Lake Tahoe could turn from a ski resort into an exclusive subdivision.

The U.S. Forest Service was talking to the owners about buying the property using federal funds, but Congressman John Doolittle squashed the deal with a legislative blockade in the forthcoming Forest Service spending bill.

Meanwhile new owners JMA Ventures began planning for a village at the base of the mountain.

Negotiations between the resort owners, the Forest Service and local and federal officials continue, with officials indicating they will support a plan for federal purchase of a portion of the property if it opens up a lake to the public.

One of California’s most contentious and high-profile land disputes ended in September.

The Martis Valley ” a battleground between conservationists, land developers and Placer County ” finally found peace as lawsuits over development plans were dropped following a series of compromises between conservationists and developers.

The valley will see luxury home and golf development, but not at the scale of the 6,000 dwellings and widespread commercial development allowed under Placer County’s Martis Valley Community Plan.

Instead, two golf courses were eliminated, subdivision plans were downsized and nearly $100 million will be raised over the coming decades for an ongoing effort to buy acreage to the east of Highway 267 for habitat protection.

Squaw Valley’s founder and the ski pioneer who brought the winter Olympics to Tahoe by a combination of will power, charm and guts, died of pneumonia Aug. 19 at the age of 92.

“Even though it’s called Squaw Valley, it’s Alex Cushing,” said Jimmy King, Squaw’s mountain manager and longtime Cushing friend. “That will hold for eternity.”

The 1960 winter Olympics were the first in the Western United States and the first to be televised. The event shone the international spotlight on the Tahoe Basin.

Cushing was remembered by hundreds of spectators at a Squaw Valley memorial service in November.

“We are certainly going to miss him,” said Squaw Valley USA General Manager Ernst Hager. “You cannot replace Alex Cushing.”

The debate over a 50-year coal-fueled power contract caught the attention of Truckee residents and national media outlets. Even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger weighed in on this issue.

In December, the Truckee Donner Public Utility board faced a yay or nay vote on whether to approve a contract with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems that would have gone into effect in 2012 ” at wholesale prices.

The decision came down to the wire, especially with a new piece of legislation. The law, effective today, prohibits publicly owned electric utilities in the state from entering into long-term commitments with power suppliers that don’t meet emissions standards.

The utility district board voted against the contract, including a surprise vote opposing the contract from board President Ron Hemig.

Only time will tell if the new $20.4 million agricultural inspection station will ever inspect private vehicles, but that’s another story.

In 2006, Truckee residents said so-long to the building affectionately called the “Bug Station,” which was demolished after the completion of a new station at Airport Flat. The Bug Station served as a private and commercial vehicle inspection station for most of its 40-some-odd years, but then in 2003 the state of California pulled funding from the station, making the drive-thru a mere speed bump on the interstate for private vehicles.

One thing that won’t move to the new station is chain control and traffic-holding during winter storms, said Juanita Holley, communications center manager with Caltrans.

“We won’t have the advantage of the bug station any more,” Holley said. “We could use the station to funnel folks in and take it down to one or two lanes. Now we will have to do it with cones.”

After four years of discussion, revision and more discussion, Truckee has an updated General Plan that will lead the town’s growth decisions until 2025.

Adoption of the updated plan involved a four-part approval process, including council’s approval of the new plan itself, its review of the environmental impact of the plan, direction for a program for implementation of the plan and acceptance of guidelines for processing applications for land use and development.

“We understood there would be cumulative impacts because Truckee isn’t isolated ” there is a lot of growth in the area,” said Town Planner Duane Hall. “So we decided in Truckee to manage growth as best possible and make sure what happens in town is of the highest quality possible.”

An argument that erupted outside a Wednesday night concert at Truckee River Regional Park forever changed the lives of both men involved.

A dispute between Truckee resident Keith Stewart and Scott Lindner, of Ross Calif., went sour when Lindner hit Stewart with his Chevy Tahoe and fled the scene, according to witness reports. Stewart was later pronounced dead at Tahoe Forest Hospital.

Police officers later found Lindner and arrested him on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run. Later in the investigation, officers said they discovered that Lindner may have had sexual relations with a 17-year-old Truckee girl and a 13-year-old girl.

In December, Lindner changed his September plea of innocent to no contest. On Jan. 9 he will be sentenced on charges of one count of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, one count of felony sexual intercourse with a minor, and one count of misdemeanor sexual intercourse with a minor.

Truckee Fire Protection District took Donner Summit’s fire department under its wing in June.

The Truckee department is now responsible for eight fire stations and more than 130 square miles of territory from Nyack to the state line on Interstate 80.

Talks to transfer administration and management to Truckee fire began more than two years ago when the Summit’s small fire department, which is operated by the Donner Summit Public Utility District, began struggling with personnel turnover, thin financial margins and the fact that the department did not have a full-time chief, according to utility district officials.

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