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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Dialogue continues as decision on Westwind Barn management looms


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The future of programs at Westwind Community Barn in Los Altos Hills remains uncertain as councilmembers consider their options.

It’s been an unsettling few months for equestrians and boarders at Westwind Community Barn, who anxiously await the Los Altos Hills City Council’s decision on the future of the barn’s management.

After the resignation of the barn’s Year-Round Riding Program director in June, the facility needs new leadership and a more sustainable operations plan. The council conducted a four-hour study session Oct. 24 and was scheduled to render a decision on the future direction of Westwind at Tuesday’s council meeting, after the Town Crier’s press deadline.

The council last summer issued a call for proposals from independent concessionaires interested in assuming control of the barn from the town. By the application deadline, only two concessionaires submitted proposals, both of which required subsidies to operate – $68,550 in the first year of operations from one applicant and $178,300 from the other.

The prospect of contracting with either concessionaire made some councilmembers uneasy and prompted town staff to recommend a model that would end horse-boarding operations but continue community programs via a vendor that would provide services and horses for the Year-Round Riding Program and the Pacific Ridge Pony Club.

“The town did a fabulous job with the restoration. However, they’ve done a fairly poor job managing the barn,” said Val Metcalfe, a member of the West- wind Barn Task Force.

For the 2012-2013 budget year, the town subsidized Westwind to the tune of $154,000, 54 percent more than the $100,000 budget cap recommended by the Finance and Investment Committee.

“We like the idea of parks and recreation programming, and nobody wants to see (Westwind Barn) go away, but nobody wants to spend $200,000 as well,” Mayor Gary Waldeck told the Town Crier after the study session.

Recommendations

So the challenge remains: How does Los Altos Hills maintain the Westwind Community Barn programs it deems important, such as 4-H Riding for the Handicapped and the Pacific Ridge Pony Club, while reducing public funds needed to meet operating expenses?

The council discussed three possible solutions during the study session: (1) a model that continues operations as is, (2) a community equestrian facility model that eliminates boarding or (3) a concessionaire model that requires a $100,000 to $200,000 subsidy.

Because of its lower short- and long-term financial risk, town staff recommended adopting option (2), the community equestrian facility model.

Metcalfe objected to the plan, claiming that no longer boarding horses at the barn would be “disastrous,” draining not only “synergy and good will,” but also hampering a viable pathway for eventual barn recovery.

Instead, Metcalfe encouraged councilmembers to reconsider option (3), the subsidized concessionaire model. With cost-cutting measures, she said, vendors might work cooperatively with the town to reduce subsidies.

Mixed opinions

Opinions remain mixed about the best approach for ensuring the barn’s future.

“This is a lot like a Rubik’s Cube, but with 10 sides,” Waldeck said. “By the time you get all these ‘buts’ in here, you don’t have a bucket, you have a tubful.”

A town ordinance requiring full-time supervision at any commercial stable in Los Altos Hills adds extra expense to options (1) and (3). Waldeck noted that the council would review the proposals on the table as well as others that could mitigate the town’s financial burden.

Rather than allocating approximately $140,000 annually for two paid attendants, for example, Waldeck said the town could install security cameras and other cost-cutting technology.

Metcalfe added that there are ways to slash expenses so that a concessionaire model is viable. Buying hay and feed in bulk during off-peak seasons and storing it in the barn’s attic, for example, could enable vendors to reduce subsidies.

Waldeck said the council is employing a “thorough” and “thoughtful” process in making a management decision for the barn. Even so, he allowed, some stakeholders may not be satisfied with the outcome.

“Not everybody agrees,” he said. “If everybody agrees, it’s probably not the right response.”

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