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Posted: Thursday, September 29, 2005 10:00 pm

Casino planner pleads not guilty to fraud

A man who wants to build a casino west of Lodi and was arrested this week after allegedly trying to fraudulently access Indian tribal bank accounts pleaded not guilty Thursday.

William Bills, 46, was charged with attempted grand theft, forgery and identity theft, all felonies, according to San Joaquin County Court records. He also pleaded not guilty to a charge of being a fugitive from justice, in connection with a fraud warrant from Nevada.

A judge set bail at $110,000 and scheduled an Oct. 6 court appearance.

Bills was arrested Tuesday, three days after he allegedly went to Wells Fargo Bank, 120, W. Lodi Ave., and tried to access a Winnemucca Indian Colony account, according to Lodi Police Detective Dale Eubanks. Bills’ status in the tribe is the subject of a federal court case in Nevada: He says he’s the chief, while others dispute it.

Bills, who has addresses in Stockton and Woodbridge, first wrote to the City of Lodi and the county this summer, outlining his plans to build a 20,000-square-foot casino in Flag City, near Highway 12 and Interstate 5. No plans for the Indian casino have been submitted to the county.

Lodi Unified reining-in Measure K spending

Lodi Unified officials are figuring out how to scale back on costly construction projects, like Lincoln School, which are swiftly draining the $109 Measure K general obligation bond.

Part of that may mean consulting with trade contractors to come up with cheaper ways to get the job done.

In a report presented Tuesday at a special meeting, district officials outlined their plans to cut back and re-divert developer fees and state money to make good on promises offered when Measure K went before voters in 2002.

The report revealed that the renovation of historic Lincoln School at Pine Street and Cherokee Lane had risen from about $8 million to $13.4 million.

To further combat rising construction costs, Lodi Unified will change the layout of Lincoln, allowing for four or five more classrooms and more average daily attendance money, said Superintendent Bill Huyett.

History reveals weather patterns not normal

It’s more than a week into the fall season and local temperatures are hovering uncomfortably close to 100 degrees. And, according to News-Sentinel temperature archives, the patterns appear abnormal.

Thursday’s high was X compared to a high of 77 degrees on Sept. 29, 2004. A year earlier, the recorded temperature on the same day was 81; 2002, it was 78 degrees and 2001, 86 degrees (coincidentally the historical 30-year average).

AccuWeather, a private forecasting firm, predicts temperatures should dip this weekend into the 80s, just in time for the Street Faire in downtown Lodi on Sunday. It runs from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

About 35,000 people and 600 vendors of antiques, arts and crafts, and culinary creations are expected to turn out for the twice-a-year event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

Planning commission approves subdivision

The Lodi Planning Commission approved plans for a 17-lot low-density residential project with 12 halfplex and five single-family homes at its meeting Wednesday night.

Community Development Director Randy Hatch said the commission approved plans for the project, which will be located just north of Kettleman Lane on Westgate Drive, by a unanimous vote with one member absent.

The plans now go to the Lodi City Council, which will consider approving a zoning change to allow for the development.

Oktoberfest coming to town on Saturday

Germany will come to Galt Saturday afternoon as the Galt District Chamber of Commerce celebrates Oktoberfest.

Activities will include German food and dancing, arts and crafts, a draft horse display, Volkswagen car show and a costume and beer stein contest.

The event will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Estrellita Ballroom, 415 C St., in Galt’s Oldtown. Activities will also be held on C Street, which will be closed to traffic between Fourth and Fifth streets.

People are invited to come in German costume and bring their own beer steins for a contest at 3 p.m.

The Galt Youth Action Team will attempt to create the largest German chocolate cake in California. Individuals and groups may bring a 13-by-9-inch unfrosted chocolate cake, flipped out of the cake pan, at noon at the Estrellita Ballroom. It will be connected to other cakes brought to the ballroom.

Food will be prepared by board members of the Galt Boys and Girls Club, with proceeds going to the club.

Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors. Admission is free for children 12 and younger. For more information, call the chamber at 745-2529.

Catholic church to hold ‘Carnivale’

Dancing, a talent show, singing, ballet folklorico and gourmet feasts are on tap for the 12th annual fall festival at St. Christopher’s Catholic Church, 950, S. Lincoln Way.

The event kicks off today with a dance in the church plaza from 7 to 10 p.m. The festival, dubbed the Carnivale, will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Highlights include a white elephant sale, bingo, Knights of Columbus beer garden, children’s talent contest and live entertainment.

Special meals include an “island chicken dinner” at 4 p.m. Saturday, festival breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. Sunday and a tri-tip dinner at 4 p.m. Sunday.

There will also be raffle drawings. The church will donate 10 percent of the proceeds to victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Local firefighters respond to SoCal fire

Four Woodbridge firefighters, plus one crew each from Stockton and Manteca, have responded to the Topanga fire in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Woodbridge Fire sent Engineer Robert Geiszler, the crew leader, Engineer Darin Downey and firefighters Brian Bernier and Roger Varwig. They left for Southern California at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Woodbridge Fire Chief Michael Kirkle said. They are assigned to protect structures threatened by the fire.

The three San Joaquin County crews are part of an agreement the three departments have with the California Office of Emergency Services.

Thornton-Franklin Bridge to open today

Politicians from San Joaquin and Sacramento counties, staff members and environmental experts will participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to re-open the bridge connecting Thornton with the Cosumnes River Preserve at 10 a.m. today on the Franklin Boulevard side on Twin Cities Road.

Toni Barry, a Sacramento County environmental analyst, is scheduled to give a talk on the extensive bat colony that inhabits areas underneath the bridge.

“She calls herself Batgirl,” Franke said.

After dignitaries give their speeches, there will probably be a short procession across the bridge and back, Franke said.

The ceremony is open to the public, but access will be limited to the Sacramento side off Twin Cities Road.

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