Friday, 19 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Following concerns last month that a transit worker strike could occur locally, contract negotiations between the company that operates Lake County's transit services and its union-represented employees came to a successful conclusion this week.

Paratransit Services of Bremerton, Wash., which holds the contract for Lake Transit Authority, and Teamsters Local 624, based in Santa Rosa, reached a tentative agreement for a three-year contract for 35 transit employees on Sept. 1, as Lake County News has reported.

This past Sunday in Lower Lake, that tentative agreement went before a vote of a committee representing the workers, said Ralph Miranda, a union spokesman and negotiator on the contract.

“The offer was unanimously accepted and recommended by the committee,” he said.

Randy Grove, Paratransit Services' director of operations and human resources, confirmed the settlement.

“We are pleased that an agreement could be reached,” Grove said.

Miranda said the contract terms include a 1.5-percent wage increase retroactive to July 1, up from the 1 percent wage increase Paratransit Services had previous proposed.

He said they also will continue with the current health plan offered by Paratransit Services, with an agreement that the company and employees would split the costs of any increases the insurance company implements.

The two sides agreed to reopen negotiations on medical benefits and wages on June 30 of the next two years, he said.

In turn, the union agreed in the contract to Paratransit Services' request to freeze longevity increases, which Miranda previously said include step increases between five and 10 years of service.

“We agreed to freeze the step increases, which was one of the big item that was delaying it,” he said.

Miranda said federal mediator David Weinberg, who has worked with the two sides over the last several weeks, was very helpful in getting a resolution.

“The atmosphere at the bargaining table, I've got to say, really turned cooperative,” said Miranda, noting that everyone wanted to get an agreement.

Though the union had set deadlines for strikes last month, Miranda said they hadn't wanted to interrupt services for the thousands of local residents who depend on local transit.

Paratransit Services officials also had emphasized that they didn't want to see service interruptions.

“Paratransit Services values its employees,” said Grove. “In turn, the employees value their commitment and responsibility to provide safe and efficient transportation services to the residents of Lake County.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Volunteer workers at the Soper-Reese Community Theatre in Lakeport, Calif., include, from left to right, Marc Spillman, Kelseyville Lumber Truss Division;; Jim Plank, Soper-Reese Theatre, facilities; John Ross, Soper-Reese Theatre, theatre manager; Mike Beale, Guido

CLEARLAKE, Calif. – AIDSWALK Lake County invites the community to come out this weekend and help with the work of raising awareness about AIDS and its prevention.

The third annual event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at Austin Park in Clearlake.

Come and walk along with Hospice Services of Lake County, Yuba College Rotaracts, Head Start and many others.

Walk alone for a small donation or with a team of four for only $25.

Although the walk is only three-quarters of a mile, organizers say the walk invokes a warm, community spirit.

Local health and wellness caregivers will have booths, including the Sutter Mobile Health team which will offer free health screenings. Also on hand will be a diverse community of caring, civic groups, including the Stonewall Democratic Club, Lake County PRIDE, Save The Lake, The Sierra Club, CLO/Glenhaven Business Association, the Clearlake Oaks Community Methodist Church, Clearlake United Methodist Church and many more.

Enjoy the arts and crafts and the delicious gourmet food by “Kim Young & Crew,” and join the silent auction of art and things, including a weekend getaway and raffle prizes, all of which will be awarded the same day.


“Without A Net,” a band composed of local educators, will provide the music.

AIDSWALK Lake County is produced by Community Care HIV/AIDS Program and The Drop In Center and the special Lake County communities.


For more information about AIDSWALK Lake County call 707-995-1606.

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LAKEPORT – National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed annually across the nation on the third Friday in September.

This year the commemoration takes place on Sept. 17.

To mark the date and remember those who were or are prisoners of war or missing in action and their families, a gathering will be held at the gazebo in Library Park in Lakeport at 8 p.m.

The program will include a candlelight vigil, speakers Woody Hughes and Dan Christensen, and music by Robert Deppe.

The Military Funeral Honors Team of Lake County will also fire the traditional rifle volleys and play “Taps.” It is a rare opportunity to view a nighttime rifle firing.

More than 1,700 American personnel are still listed as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam conflict. There also are personnel not accounted for from the current conflicts.

Though National POW/MIA Recognition day is not a public holiday it is a national observance.

You are encouraged to take time to remember and honor our American POW/MIA service members.

Everyone is welcome. Please bring a candle to light.

For more information, please call 707-349-2838.

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The Anderson Family of Grass Valley mesmerized the crowd at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake, Calif., on Saturday, September 11, 2010, for the fifth annual Old Time Bluegrass Festival. The group includes Mark and Christy Anderson and their four children, Paige, Aimee, Ethan (Bo) and Daisy. Photo by Terre Logsdon.



LOWER LAKE, Calif. – Nationally known musicians once again graced the stages at the annual Old Time Bluegrass Festival held at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park on Saturday.

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park is well-known to Lake County residents as a preserved slice of the American West, with the property donated by the Anderson family, several of whom were in attendance on Saturday.

The park is now home to the annual Old Time Bluegrass Festival, now in its fifth year.




Jenny Ranger, a 9-year-old fiddler with the Konocti Fiddle Club, performs at the Old Time Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, September 11, 2010, in Lower Lake, Calif. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.



Several local favorites – including the Cobb Stompers, Clear Lake Clikkers and the Konocti Fiddle Club – kicked off the event, which was simulcast on KPFZ 88.1 FM, Lake County Community Radio.

“It's such a pleasure to work with everyone to put this magnificent event on,” said Gae Henry, a member of the steering committee and a driving force behind the event.

Henry spoke passionately to the event-goers about supporting Proposition 21, a state initiative which would create a designated funding source for California State Parks separate from general fund allocations.




Trevor Cleir of Clearlake, Calif., was the volunteer for the lemonade stand for his second grade booth at the Old Time Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, September 11, 2010, in Lower Lake, Calif. It was his first visit to the festival. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.



There also was a special presentation to the Lake County Volunteer Firefighters to thank local first responders on the ninth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

“As always,” Henry said, “we've been given tremendous support form the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Children's museum of Art and Science to put on this event.”

She said they also received help from Carlé Continuation High School and Lower Lake High School.




KPFZ 88.1 FM members doing the all-day remote live broadcast of the Old Time Bluegrass Festival at the Anderson Marsh State Historical Park in Lower Lake, Calif., on Saturday, September 11, 2010. From left to right, Buck Bouker, MC of

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Vehicle thefts dropped statewide but rose locally in 2009, according to a new California Highway Patrol report.

The CHP said that statewide vehicle thefts are down for the fourth consecutive year.

“Vehicle theft prevention efforts by law enforcement agencies and the public are paying off,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Since 2005, California has realized a 35-percent reduction in stolen vehicles.”

The agency attributes the decrease in thefts to enforcement, education and technology – all three of which have contributed to the largest decrease in decades of the number of vehicle thefts in California.

The CHP reported that 169,058 vehicles were stolen in 2009, which represents a 15.4-percent decrease from 2008, when 199,766 vehicles were stolen.

“Even with the decrease, on average, a vehicle is stolen every three minutes in California,” said Farrow.

In Lake County, the trend appears to be the reverse.

For 2009, 156 vehicles were stolen, up 16.4 percent from the 134 vehicles stolen the previous year, according to CHP statistics.

Lake County had approximately 84,941 registered vehicles in 2009, with the 156 stolen vehicles representing 0.27 percent of that number, and 0.09 percent of the statewide thefts, statistics showed.

In Lake's neighboring counties, thefts were mostly down last year. In Yolo, thefts dropped by 14.9 percent, 9.4 percent in Colusa, 9.1 percent in Glenn, 4.2 percent in Mendocino and 1.9 percent in Napa. In Sonoma, there was a 0.6 percent increase in thefts in 2009.

The CHP said that of the vehicles reported stolen in 2009, more than 88 percent were recovered. However, the economic loss to Californians exceeded $1 billion.

Statewide, the number of recoveries actually dropped by 13.5 percent from 2008, when 173,328 vehicles were recovered, to 149,884 vehicles recovered in 2009

Lake County showed an increase in stolen vehicle recoveries. In 2008, 125 stolen vehicles were recovered, a number which increased 5.6 percent to the next year, when 132 were found.

Lake's recovery statistics were far better than those of its neighbors, which registered the following numbers: Colusa, -8.6 percent; Glenn, -37 percent; Mendocino, -21 percent; Napa, -8.8 percent; Sonoma, 1 percent; Yolo, -12.8 percent.

In 2009, the top automobile for theft was the 1991 Honda Accord, followed by several other Honda Accord and Civic models from the 1990s. The CHP said the top personal trucks for theft included 1986, 1987 and 1988 model Toyota pickups, while 2007 Suzuki and Yamahas topped the motorcycle theft list, followed by 2006 through 2008 model year Hondas.

Southern California is a hot spot for vehicle theft, the CHP reported.

Approximately 53.4 percent of all thefts in 2009 occurred in the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, according to CHP numbers.

“In order to put thieves out of business and keep from becoming a victim, we must remain vigilant in our efforts,” Farrow said.

Law enforcement is aided by the strategic deployment of bait cars, license plate recognition systems, joint task force operations, vehicle theft training and district attorney cooperation to help drive the vehicle theft numbers down year after year, according to CHP officials.

“Vehicle theft is a crime of opportunity,” added Farrow. “Citizens are on the front lines when it comes to prevention.”

The CHP encourages the public to safeguard vehicles by parking in a secure or highly visible location, always locking the vehicle’s doors, using an alarm system and never leaving a vehicle running unattended.

The agency also urged citizens to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Shane Hutchins has been on the run from Mendocino County law enforcement for three months. Photo courtesy of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.




MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. – The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office is attempting to locate a wanted parolee who has been on the run for three months.

Shane Hutchins, a 32-year-old transient from the area, is being sought on a variety of charges, including evading and resisting arrest and being a wanted parolee, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.

Smallcomb said Hutchins has been evading law enforcement for the past three months in incidents that took place in Potter Valley, Redwood Valley and Ukiah.

During that time, Hutchins has allegedly been involved in three vehicle pursuits, where at least one deputy injured himself in an accident involving the pursuit, said Smallcomb.

Hutchins also has allegedly been involved in two foot pursuits with law enforcement officers who were attempting to apprehend him for the listed charges, Smallcomb said.

In addition, Smallcomb said Hutchins is wanted for a California State Parole violation.

According to witness statements, Hutchins has been known to be in possession of either handguns or knives during these incidents. Smallcomb said Hutchins has further stated he was “not going back to prison.”

Anyone with information on Hutchins' possible whereabouts is asked to contact the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office at 707-463-4086. Callers can remain anonymous.

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UPPER LAKE, Calif. – The identity of the victim of a hit-and-run vehicle collision last week has been released by local officials.

Merlin James Pruitt, 73, of Ukiah was identified as the crash victim, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Pruitt left Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino at about 2:30 a.m. Sept. 9 and was traveling northbound in his wheelchair on the westbound shoulder of Highway 20, as Lake County News has reported.

A half-hour after Pruitt left the casino, 30-year-old Manuel Herrera of Nice is alleged to have hit Pruitt with his vehicle while traveling at around 70 to 80 miles per hour, according to the California Highway Patrol report.

The CHP reported that a Caltrans crew found the debris from Pruitt's wheelchair along the roadside before discovering his body in an area off the roadway.

Later that day, the CHP arrested Herrera on charges of felony hit and run resulting in death and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license, officials reported. He later was released after posting $10,000 bail.

Bauman said an autopsy on Pruitt is scheduled for Tuesday morning at the Napa County Coroner’s Office.

The CHP is continuing the investigation on the hit-and-run case.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

Alex Hadgis of Kelseyville, Calif., runs the Solar System Slalom. Photo courtesy of Nancy Brier.



LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A lucky handful of Lake County elementary students ended summer with a blast this year at Camp Walla Walla Hoo Ha, a hands-on science exploration camp where science and art collide.

Fifteen young campers were greeted with puzzling questions: If the sun were the size of a front door, how big would earth be? If the sun were the size of a grapefruit, how far away would Pluto be?

Campers explored these questions and dozens more of their own in a fast-paced, action-packed week of science, crafts, physical fitness and performing arts.

On day one, campers built a model of the solar system. It was massive, the huge globular sun dangling from a sturdy tree limb, and it stayed on display at camp all week to serve as a fun artistic centerpiece and an excellent point of reference for space related questions.

An 8-foot sphere, the sun glowed red, yellow and orange with flickers of purples and blues. Planets were built to scale, with Jupiter being about the size of a basketball and Saturn stealing all the glory with its magnificent rings.

Building this giant system helped put the incomprehensible nature of space into a more down to earth realm, and it made the campers hungry.

After a fortifying snack and a spirited round of rocket relay races, campers created individual 3-D solar system models of their own to take home.

“I want to live at space camp,” said 6-year-old Aiden Hall, a particularly ardent fan of science.

Camp Walla Walla Hoo Ha, whose mission is to bring science to life and inspire school age children to improve skills in science, technology, engineering, and math, debuted this summer in Lake County. Plans to expand the program are under way.

“Six months ago, I heard a Silicon Valley executive literally pleading for more science education in California,” said camp founder Nancy Brier, a Lake County entrepreneur with a strong interest in education.

According to STEM, a Silicon Valley foundation that encourages education in science and technology, California ranks second to the bottom nationally in science education among eighth graders, but Brier said she believes that small steps can turn these numbers around.

“I’d like to see Lake County take a leadership role in the shift,” she said.




Space camp instructor Nancy Brier demonstrates a model of the inner planets at Camp Walla Walla Hoo Ha. Photo courtesy of Nancy Brier.



By day two, campers were ready to explore in depth the inner planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars and the asteroid belt.

They learned that the inner planets are mostly made up of rock, that they are relatively close to the sun and that they orbit faster than the outer planets.

Each camper made his own replica of the inner planets, and their replicas actually revolve on their own orbital paths, an artistic keepsake and a scientifically accurate representative of the day’s theme at camp.

“It was so much fun,” said an exuberant Michael Wiser of Kelseyville, just as day two ended.

His mother, Meredith Wiser, said she couldn’t believe how much Michael was learning. “It's all he talks about, and the knowledge he’s acquiring is amazing,” she said.

On day two, each camper also selected a role to play in a performance called “The Living Solar System,” presented by the Milky Way Players at week’s end. Campers made their own costumes and rehearsed all week to portray their best interpretation of the planets, the asteroid belt, space explorers and other roles which reinforced the core learning of the week.

The third day of camp offered a closeup look at the sun, the moon and the earth. Campers split up and visited stations all over the campground to discuss specifics and conduct experiments.

At the moon station, campers studied NASA photos of craters on the surface of the moon. Campers then recreated the moon surface, and using various sized “asteroids” projected at differing angles and speeds, made their own craters and discussed them.

They also looked at photos showing shadows cast on the earth by the moon and learned about the how our view of the moon changes during its various phases. Many campers were shocked to learn that the earth is actually larger than the moon.

At the earth station, campers learned about polar ice caps, the earth’s axis and equator, and how the earth moves relative to the sun.

At the last station, campers visited the sun itself, where a 3-D poster showed in amazing detail what the surface of the sun actually looks like.

They compared that poster to the flame of a candle and discussed the impact of heat on earth and other planets.

Campers tossed pebbles into a plastic container decorated with the sun’s image. If those pebbles represent earth, it would take a million to fill the sun.

That afternoon, campers recreated the view of earth from space with a 3-D craft that included topographical land masses, the equator and the earth’s axis.

For 5-year-old Audrey Dierssen of Kelseyville, the earth project was a favorite. “I liked making the land and mixing them with paint, and I loved getting the earth tattoo from NASA.”

Contributions and consultations from professionals at Jet Propulsion Labs in Los Angeles helped furnish the camp with educational materials, cool tattoos and stickers.

Day four shifted the focus to the outer planets, which are mostly gas.

“Making our own gas planet was cool,” reported Miles Mattina of Lakeport.

Campers discussed how the outer planets, other than Pluto, are generally large, made of gas and orbit slowly. At craft time, they replicated Saturn in a craft that mimics Saturn’s glamorous rings of ice and dust.

Lots of physical activity punctuated the science activities at camp. Six-year-old Lauren Trippeer especially liked the Solar System Slalom, an obstacle course in which campers made timed runs around the planets in order.

Starting at the sun, each camper had to make a complete orbit around each planet and race back to the finish line while another camper documented the score. “It was awesome,” Lauren exclaimed, panting and red faced.

By Friday, campers were eager to show off their knowledge, and parents and family members were invited to join the fun.

As a warmup to the performance, campers challenged parents to a game of space trivia, a match that put the parents to shame. Campers eagerly raised their hands to each and every space related question, while parents, mostly mystified, could only guess at the answers they may have known long ago.

To answer the opening questions: if the sun were the size of your front door, Earth would be about the size of a nickel. And if the sun were the size of a grapefruit, Pluto would be about a half a mile away.

Camp Walla Walla Hoo Ha culminated just as the school year gets under way.

Perhaps the most promising moment of the action-packed week came at the very end when 6-year-old camper Clara Andre was overheard to say, “This year, I’m going to ask my teacher for more science.”

For more information about the camp, contact Nancy Brier at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Participants in the inaugural Camp Walla Walla Hoo Ha included, back row, left to right

A color composite image of the June 3, 2010, Jupiter impact flash. Credit: Anthony Wesley observing from Broken Hill, Australia.

In a paper published Thursday in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, a group of professional and amateur astronomers announced that Jupiter is getting hit surprisingly often by small asteroids, lighting up the giant planet's atmosphere with frequent fireballs.

"Jupiter is a big gravitational vacuum cleaner," said co-author and JPL astronomer Glenn Orton. "It is clear now that relatively small objects left over from the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago still hit Jupiter frequently."

The impacts are bright enough to see through backyard telescopes on Earth. Indeed, amateur astronomers were the first to detect them, recording two fireballs in 2010 alone – one on June 3 and another on Aug. 20.

Professional astronomers at NASA and elsewhere have followed up on the amateur observations, hoping to learn more about the impacting bodies.

According to Thursday's Letter, first-authored by Ricardo Hueso of the Universidad del País Vasco in Spain, the June 3 fireball was caused by an object some 10 meters in diameter. When it hit Jupiter, the impact released about one thousand million million (10^15) Joules of energy.

For comparison, that's five to 10 times less energy than the "Tunguska event" of 1908, when a meteoroid exploded in Earth's atmosphere and leveled millions of trees in a remote area of Russia. Scientists continue to analyze the Aug. 20 fireball, but think it was comparable in scale to the June 3 event.

Before amateurs spotted these fireballs, scientists were unaware collisions so small could be observed.

The first hint of their easy visibility came in July 2009 when Anthony Wesley, an amateur astronomer from Australia, discovered a dark spot on Jupiter. It was clearly the swirling debris of an impact event that he had only just missed.

Next time, however, his luck would improve. On June 3, 2010, he caught a fireball in action.

"I was watching real-time video from my telescope when I saw a 2.5-second-long flash of light near the edge of Jupiter's disk," said Wesley. "It was clear to me straight away it had to be an event on Jupiter."

Another amateur astronomer, Christopher Go of the Philippines, confirmed that the flash also appeared in his recordings.

Professional astronomers, alerted by email, looked for signs of the impact in images from larger telescopes, including NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile, and Gemini Observatory telescopes in Hawaii and Chile.

Scientists saw no thermal disruptions or typical chemical signatures of debris, which allowed them to put a limit on the size of the object.

The second fireball on Aug. 20 was first detected by Japanese amateur astronomer Masayuki Tachikawa of Kumamoto city and quickly confirmed by another Japanese amateur, Aoki Kazuo of Tokyo. This one flashed for about 1.5 seconds and, like the June 3rd fireball, left no debris observable by large telescopes.

"It is interesting to note that while Earth gets smacked by a 10-meter-sized object about every 10 years on average, it looks as though Jupiter gets hit with the same-sized object [as much as] a few times each month," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL, who was not directly involved in the study.

Learning how often Jupiter is hit can tell astronomers something about the meteoroid population throughout the solar system – a matter of considerable interest right here on Earth.

Just this past week, on Sept. 8, a 10-meter class asteroid named 2010 RF12 flew past our planet without hitting. A somewhat smaller space rock, 2008 TC3, actually burned up in the atmosphere above Sudan two years ago.

"The Jupiter impact rate is still being refined," added Yeomans, "and studies like this one help to do just that."

To learn more about the original research, read "First Earth-based Detection of a Superbolide on Jupiter" by R. Hueso et al, in the Ap J Letters, 2010, 721, L129.

For additional information and videos, visit

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The Aug. 20, 2010, fireball recorded by Aoki Kazuo of Tokyo, Japan.

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