Wednesday, 28 February 2024

News

For generations, they've waited. Unclaimed, forgotten, silently occupying the shelves of mortuaries and state hospitals across the United States.


The cremated remains of veterans, many indigent, many more forgotten through loss of family and friends wait for someone to remember them.


Their stories have begun to emerge from the shadows of society's forgetfulness, thanks to a group of veterans and dedicated civilians who want to see them honored and given a final resting place.


Today, the Missing in America Project – called MIAP for short – is seeking out what the group believes will be tens of thousands of unburied veterans who served in wars throughout the past century.


Lots of ground to cover


The movement's founder is Vietnam vet Fred Salanti of Grants Pass, Ore., who served as a major in the U.S. Army's I-Corps in northern Vietnam from March 1968 to December 1969.


Salanti also is a member of the Patriot Guard Riders. That group formed in 2005 to protect the families of fallen Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers from religious zealots who were disrupting the soldier's funerals.


While working as a regional facilitator for the Patriot Guard Riders, Salanti became involved with conducting monthly services at regional and state cemeteries for veterans with no family and no money.


It was then that he stumbled across the unrecognized need to bury indigent and forgotten veterans, an issue that he said “has just been ignored.”


He took the cause back to the Patriot Guard, who supported starting the MIAP, which has since become a separate organization.


The MIAP's guidelines call for assisting funeral homes with researching all cremains in their possession to find veterans, submitting the cremain's records to the Veterans Administration Cemetery System for screening for eligibility for burial and notifying funeral homes of cremains eligible for burial.


The funeral homes must then follow requirements for submitting the cremains to a VA cemetery. From there, MIAP will coordinate a full military service with the cemetery involved.


The massive, ongoing effort is open to everyone who wants to help, said Salanti. “We've got a lot of ground to cover.”


The group officially got started on Nov. 9, 2006, when the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery held its first ceremony, complete with full military honors, to inter the cremains of forgotten veterans.


Since then, the effort has rapidly gained steam, said Salanti.


On Feb. 12, MIAP officially incorporated, he said. A week later, on Feb. 19, the cremains of 21 veterans and veterans' family members – for whom MIAP also provides burials necessary – were interred at the Northern California Veterans Cemetery in Igo.


An overwhelming need


The finds of cremains have started happening at a rapid pace, said Salanti.


In a piece that won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing, The Oregonian told the story of 3,500 cremains, many of people who had been patients in the state hospital, which were put in copper, quart-sized cans and stacked on shelves in a basement storage room.


One thousand of those forgotten souls are expected to be veterans, said Salanti. The findings span the years from 1890 to 1971, an era that begins with the Spanish American War and ends with Vietnam. Salanti said he expects even to find the cremains of Civil War veterans as well.


While Oregon is the most glaring case, the discoveries are taking place around the country, said Salanti.


In Michigan, they're working to identify 350 sets of cremains recently discovered, he said. In Reno, 34 unburied vets recently were discovered. Idaho alone has found and interred 91 vets.


And they haven't even scratched the surface, he believes. So far, the larger urban areas of the Bay Area and Southern California haven't been addressed. Thousands of funeral homes across the country that have yet to be approached could contain thousands more.


“Everybody that looks at what we're doing estimates we're going to have 10,000 to 15,000 veterans that we find on the shelves,” said Salanti.


He believes that number is low, and adds the number of vets that could be found “is pretty limitless.”


Salanti said MIAP is establishing a nationwide network of individuals who will help conduct research and complete the voluminous paperwork needed to gain the cremains' release for burial.


They're getting support from groups such as the American Legion, and hes advocating with the California Department of Veterans Affairs, the Oregon State Hospital Board and Oregon Veterans Affairs for support.


Approaching the funeral homes


Many of the difficulties MIAP faces aren't so much about finding the veterans but cutting through voluminous red tape.


“Sometimes the easy part is getting in to find the cremains and writing the names down,” Salanti said.


The cremains are often found in funeral homes. Sometimes the family abandons them at a funeral home, said Salanti, or there is no family left to see to final arrangements.


Those unclaimed or abandoned cremains are then stored, said Salanti. “It's easy to put them on a shelf. They're out of sight, out of mind.”


But Salanti emphasizes that MIAP isn't out to point fingers at anyone, from funeral homes to families. “Our project isn't out to say one word of accusation.”


Once legal time limits for holding the cremains pass, said Salanti, it's up to the funeral home to decide what to do.


In California, there is a $30 fee to transfer the bodies from the funeral homes for burial. Of that, $10 goes to the county and $20 to the state, Salanti explained. Efforts are under way to get the state to waive those fees.


But Salanti believes that it isn't the issue of money that keeps the cremains in storage, but rather the hope that family will come forward and take the responsibility.


Because of concerns for liability, “Nobody wants to act too fast,” said Salanti.


MIAP is working to build credibility, said Salanti, which is essential to getting funeral homes to open their doors to the group.


While focused on the vets, Salanti's voice breaks when he talks about the difficulty of leaving behind the thousands of other unburied and unclaimed people, for whom no one is advocating.


Needed: Dedicated volunteers


One of MIAP's greatest needs is dedicated volunteers, said Salanti.


“We need help and people from throughout the country who are just concerned that this is a problem,” said Salanti. Through the efforts of such people, he said, MIAP “eventually will cover the whole nation.”


“It takes volunteers like Slick,” said Salanti.


Slick is Earl “Slick” Hultquist of Scotts Valley.


If you didn't know any better, you'd swear Hultquist was a career military man. At 68, he's trim, he wears his hair short and he has an air of precision. The home he shares with wife Sandy is complete with a white picket fence and American flag waving from the porch.


Hultquist, who retired after 35 years with Pacific Bell, did a five-year stint in the Army Reserves. He's never fought in a war himself, but his older brother is a World War II vet. In addition, one of his uncles died in World War II, and he lost relatives in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. One of his two grown sons just retired after 20 years in the Air Force.


As such, the needs of veterans strike a chord with Hultquist, a motorcycle enthusiast who joined the Patriot Guard and helped escort the body of a fallen Ukiah soldier to his funeral last year.


Working with the Patriot Guard led Hultquist to the MIAP. Both groups' efforts on behalf of vets “is all about respect,” said Hultquist.


Hultquist is now being trained in the intricate research and paperwork necessary to help handle cremains, look for family members and train new volunteers. “My head is practically spinning from all the information.”


He'll work with the 11 mortuaries in Lake and Mendocino counties – such as Chapel of the Lakes Mortuary in Lakeport, one of the first he contacted – to look for unclaimed vets.


Talking of the nationwide effort to recover vets, Hultquist said, “The more we get into this, the deeper it gets.”


He added, “We open our arms” to volunteer help.


So far, the MIAP has 95 volunteers like Hultquist nationwide, but they need more, Salanti said. Their plans includes formulating their own database of names and genealogy research.


Locally, indigent vets have a place prepared for their final rest. Called Veterans Circle, the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team created the space at Hartley Cemetery last year.


So far, no vets have been laid to rest there, according to Rich Feiro, the honors team's firing party commander.


Getting the government's attention


Salanti wants to see laws created to address veterans' burials.


That effort already is under way, with Idaho Sen. Larry Craig introducing S 1266 in the wake of his state finding and finally interring the cremains of 91 veterans.


Craig's legislation would increase the VA burial plot allowance from $300 to $400. The plot allowances, according to Craig's legislation, were created in 1973 to keep veterans from ending up in paupers' graves.


S 1266 also would change current law, which says state cemeteries may be reimbursed for interring eligible veterans by plot allowance revenue only if the internment takes place within two years of cremation.


“Just as our system of benefits does not abandon or give up on veterans who are homeless or chronically ill, so too should our burial benefits system be designed not to abandon or give up on veterans whose remains are unclaimed,” Craig told Congress.


One of the MIAP's most significant hurdles is convincing the Veterans Administration to formally acknowledge the issue of unburied veterans, Salanti said. The VA published a 2003 study that addressed the issue, so they know the problem exists, he added.


MIAP also is advocating to get the Veterans Administration to give them access to a database of military personnel so they can double-check names of veterans and their spouses and children. In some cases, where records are so old they haven't been computerized, it may take giving volunteers access to actual file boxes at the VA headquarters.


Checking those military records, said Salanti, is the bottleneck in the process.


Respect and honor is due


Salanti said it's important to remember that, despite their best efforts, MIAP likely won't be able to recover some veterans, who in some cases may already have been interred in unmarked graves.


Those they can find, however, have honor and respect due to them, he said.


“Now that we know that they're there, let's go get them,” he said.


How you can help


If you would like to become involved with the local MIAP effort, contact Slick Hultquist at 263-8105. In addition, Salanti can be contacted via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Monetary donations are also requested, as Salanti said MIAP will need donations to pay for fees in states where burial and transfer fees aren't waived. MIAP is a nonprofit, so donations are tax-deductible.


For more information about MIAP and Patriot Guard, visit them online at www.miap.us, or wwwpatriotguard.org.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKEPORT – A Clearlake Oaks man accused of criminal threats, battery and elder abuse was acquitted of all charges this week.


On Wednesday, a Lakeport Superior Court jury returned not guilty verdicts on the charges against Joel Paulle, according to his defense attorney, Doug Rhoades of Lakeport.


Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson prosecuted Paulle's case. Abelson did not return a call seeking comment on the case.


Paulle was accused of a felony criminal threat against his neighbors, a charge of battery against a neighbor’s son, and two counts of elder abuse against his 82-year-old mother as a result of an April 2006 incident.


The neighbor and her son both testified against Paulle, but no charges were sustained, Rhoades reported.


Paulle’s mother had passed away while the trial was pending, which Rhoades said was due to health problems not related to the charges in the case.


The trial lasted only two days, Rhoades reported. After deliberating less than one hour, the jury returned not guilty verdicts on all charges against Paulle.


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ST. HELENA – A 3.3 magnitude earthquake hit five miles south of St. Helena on Thursday morning,


The earthquake was recorded at 9:01 a.m. at a depth of 6.2 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.


There were 100 reports of the quake to the US Geological Survey from as far away as Tracy and San Francisco from people who felt the quake.


However, the quake doesn't appear to have been noticed in the Middletown area, according to the US Geological Survey reports.


When contacted to see if they felt the quake, the offices of Realtor David Neft said they hadn't.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Don Woodson of UCOP shares UC Berkeley materials with Clear Lake Students. Courtesy photo.



LAKE COUNTY – This month saw an unprecedented in event in Lake County, with 19 institutions of higher education coming together to visit students at local schools.


Higher Education Week events that took place May 14-15 were sponsored by the Lake County College Going Initiative.


The initiative – a partnership between the Lake County Office of Education, University of California Office of the President, and University of California San Francisco – describes an effort to promote a college-going culture in Lake County.


The three-year strong partnership continues to gain momentum as more colleges and programs combine efforts to support Lake County students.


The 19 schools involved in this year’s Higher Education Week were: Mendocino College, Yuba College, CSU East Bay, Chico State, Humboldt State, Sonoma State, DeVry University, Pacific Union College, St. Mary’s College, University of the Pacific and Dominican University.


Eight of the 10 UC institutions also were present: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Cruz, San Diego and San Francisco.


Ruben Lubers of UC Davis stated in his presentation that “everyone who wants to attend college has the opportunity to do so. Financial aide and scholarships are available to all students.”


Lubers, once homeless, shared his inspirational story of becoming a college graduate, and encouraged Lake County students to follow their dreams no matter what obstacle crosses their path.


UCOP offered a tremendous amount of support in the organization of the event. Angel Max Guerrero, coordinator of Regional Academic Collaboratives at UCOP, was pleased that the number of participating colleges has more than doubled in size since the first Lake County Higher Ed Week in 2006.


Blas Guerrero, UCOP Director of Regional Academic Collaboratives, stated: “Higher Ed Week highlights a collaborative approach to student and family outreach by UC, CSU, community colleges, and private schools. It is an effort to increase the number of students that pursue higher education. I would like to personally thank the high school counselors and administrators, Dave Geck (LCOE Superintendent), and Jamey Gill (LCOE Coordinator for the College Going Initiative), for their support in the implementation of this event.”


AVID students at Clear Lake High school welcomed the traveling team of college reps with posters. Students at Oak Hill Middle School made a point of thanking the college reps, stating that, “they had never had a presentation like this before.”


Daniel Gildea, a junior at Clear Lake High School, has had his eye on attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, with the goal of becoming a civil engineer.


After talking to UC Berkeley, Chico State and University of the Pacific representatives during the week, he said, “It is good to discover how many options I have.” He said he's excited now about investigating a program at University of the Pacific that will allow him to get hands-on experience working in the field with a civil engineer while attending college.


Higher Education Week is only one of the many activities offered to Lake County students by the partners of the Lake County College Going Initiative.


Many of the students attending this event have also participated in the UC Summer Algebra Academies, and many have attended a variety of student and parent workshops focused on college readiness skills and financial aide.


Last month, 57 of the 109 Lake County seniors accepted to four-year colleges attended the University Admit Reception.


“The hard work of all the partners, especially the high school counselors and administrators, has contributed to the success of this initiative,” said Dave Geck, superintendent of Lake County Schools. “Making a vision of helping all students gain access to higher education a reality requires the willingness to try new approaches and new strategies. ‘New’ means ‘change’, and ‘change’ means ‘hard work’. So I commend our high school counselors and administrators for their commitment to the future of our students.”


For more information please contact Jamey Gill, Curriculum Specialist and Coordinator for the Lake County College Going Initiative at the Lake County Office of Education, by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone, 928-5969.

 

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Students wait for the events to begin. Courtesy photo.


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WASHINGTON, D.C. An emergency supplemental spending bill which will put another $120 billion toward the Iraq war is on the way to the president for his signature.


The bill split the state's Democratic senators, and drew a no vote from North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson.


The U.S. Senate on Thursday night approved HR 2206 in an 80-14 vote, according to GovTrack.


The Senate vote came the same day as the House voted 280-142 to approve the bill.


HR 2206 did not contain a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, as did HR 1591, an emergency supplemental that Congress approved last month but which President Bush vetoed on May 2.


Sen. Barbara Boxer voted against the bill. She cited her concerns that the supplemental maintains the “status quo,” which so far this year has meant higher casualties amongst US troops. Boxer reminded fellow senators of the more than 3,400 US troops killed and more than 25,000 wounded.


At the same time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voted for the supplemental.


On the House side, Thompson, who has been a consistent critic of the war in Iraq, voted against HR 2206 on Thursday, saying he did so because it lacked the timeline or benchmarks needed to end the war.


“I voted against the Iraq supplemental because it only furthers the president's open-ended war in Iraq,” Thompson said in a statement.


Thompson had previously supported HR 1591, but has maintained that war funding should go through the regular budgeting process. “If the administration doesn't know after four years how to fund the war, we're in more trouble than we may think.”


He stated his belief that the Iraqi government “needs to take responsibility for securing their country so we can bring our troops home as safely and quickly as possible.” Benchmarks are needed, he said, to know whether or not the Iraqi government is making progress.


The supplemental only continues what Thompson said has been a lack of accountability in the war spending, said Thompson, with $400 billion spent so far.


“I can't support a war funding bill that doesn't make our troops and veterans the top priority,” Thompson said.


President Bush is expected to sign the bill over the Memorial Day weekend.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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From left, National Guardsmen Mark Matthews, Bryon Martinez, Dave Hodgson and Vincent Torres. Photo by Ginny Craven.


 

LUCERNE – Four young National Guardsmen who are scheduled to ship out next week in preparation for a mission to Iraq were honored at an afternoon get-together Wednesday.


Spc. Bryon Martinez, 23, of Corning; Spc. Vincent Torres, 20, of Red Bluff; Spc. Mark Matthews, 22, of Santa Monica; and Sgt. David Hodgson of Red Bluff are members of the 160th Infantry Unit which will leave for Mississippi May 29.


From there, they'll be sent to Iraq, although Martinez said they're not sure when they'll ship out for their 12-month deployment.


Veterans and community members gathered at Firehouse Pizza, which Martinez opened in February. The business had barely gotten off the ground before Martinez found out he was slated for deployment to Iraq.


Martinez invited his three friends over for some pizza and beer, and when local veterans found out, they joined the group for a going away party.


The four soldiers just completed two months of training in Mississippi. Hodgson said they studied convoy security, explosive device identification and removal, and risk assessments.


“Right now our main mission is protecting convoys,” said Martinez.


When necessary, he said, they'll also do “route clearance,” which means getting rid of explosive devices planted along roadsides. Hodgson said they'll drive humvees to protect the convoys.


Vietnam veteran Dean Gotham, who came to wish the young men well, said in his day their assignment was called “rough rider” duty.


Torres, who joined the National Guard two years ago for adventure, money for school and because he “wanted a challenge,” said he volunteered to go to Iraq. “I'd rather go when I'm prepared than go when I'm not.”


Hodgson – who at age 20 has nearly four years of time in the Guard, the most of the group – also got into the Guard to help build a career.


Matthews has a wife and 5-month-old son and has been in the Guard two years. Joining the military, he said, “was something I always wanted to do since I was a kid.”


Martinez and his wife, Sabrina, welcomed a new son, Zakary, on May 19. They also have a 5-year-old son, Kameron.


Gotham said he gave the young men some advice to keep them safe.


First, keep an ear cocked on the distance, Gotham said. Stay low, don't stand around in groups.


And keep your mouth open; that helps avoid serious concussion in case a bomb goes off nearby, he advised.


Gotham said he learned that lesson the hard way, while laying in a trench in Vietnam. A bomb hit the lip of the trench, he said, and because his jaw was clenched shut, it made the effects of the concussion just that much worse. As a result, he lost the hearing in his left ear.


Since March, when Martinez left for training, his longtime friends, Thomas, Cisco and Andreas Bobadilla, have been running the pizza parlor.


Business has been good, said Martinez. The Bobadillas have agreed to continue managing the business while he's away.


Martinez said he and his fellow soldiers expect to be home by August 2008.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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UKIAH At their May meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Mendocino-Lake Community College District awarded the first contract for facilities renovation under Measure W, the $67.5 million construction bond passed by voters in November.

 

 

The $967,476 contract for the re-roof of seven buildings at the Mendocino College Ukiah campus was awarded to Solano County Roofing Inc., the successful bidder out of five companies.

 

 

“We are very excited about beginning our first and much needed construction project under Measure W,” said Superintendent/President Kathy Lehner. “We are very busy in the planning and selection phase for several other projects, but this is the first construction project released.”

 

 

Re-roofing work will begin in June. The buildings to be re-roofed include the Child Care Center, Vocational Technical building, Physical Education complex and gymnasium, Fine Arts building, Agricultural Headhouse and Potting Shed.

 

 

For several years the current cement tile roofs have been leaking when it rains. The new roofs will be standing seam metal roofs that are expected to last 50 years.

 

 

“We are scheduling these projects to cause the least disruption to students and classes,” said Mike Adams, director of Facilities Planning. “However, several of these projects are large and will be in progress while summer classes are in session. For safety reasons, several areas will be fenced off. We ask that students and the public respect these boundaries.”

 

 

Other bond projects in the planning or selection phase include a new Integrated Information System (computer software), new Library/Learning Resource Center on the Ukiah campus, site selection for permanent centers in Willits and Lakeport, and a new Maintenance/Warehouse on the Ukiah campus.

 

 

In April, the College issued the first $30 million in bonds to fund projects and established the Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee.


Additional information on Measure W activities is available online at www.mendocino.edu/bond.


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LAKE COUNTY – In an effort to make the roads safer during the Memorial Day weekend, the California Highway Patrol is increasing enforcement and planning a local checkpoint to look for drivers who may be drunk or high behind the wheel.


Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of summer and the end of the school year, with people enjoying outdoor activities and events.


The holiday weekend also is a Maximum Enforcement Period for the CHP. All available officers will be on duty from 6 p.m. on Friday, May 25 through midnight on Monday, May 28, the CHP reported Thursday.


CHP, the State Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), Caltrans, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and local law enforcement agencies are asking that drivers plan ahead before heading out for fun – which includes having a designated driver, wearing your seat belt and not speeding.


“Once the barbecue is over, you still have to get home safely,” CHP Commissioner Mike Brown said in a statement.


Brown reported that 80-percent of CHP's officers statewide will be out looking for people driving while drunk or not complying with other rules of the road.


Locally, that will include one DUI checkpoint on May 26, according to Lt. Dane Hayward, the Clear Lake CHP office commander.


Hayward said the checkpoint will be staffed by CHP officers trained in detecting drivers who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.


CHP Drug Recognition Experts, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, also will be on site to provide on the spot assessments of drivers suspected of drug use, according to Hayward. Officers will be equipped with state of the art hand-held breath devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers.


Traffic permitting, said Hayward, all vehicles will be checked, and any driver suspected of DUI can expect to be arrested.


“Our objective is to send a clear message to those considering mixing alcohol and/or drugs with driving during summer vacation the CHP will be keeping a watchful eye out for you,” he said.


Hayward said the checkpoints are an effective tool in reducing the high frequency of drunk driving on the roads during the holidays.


Officer Josh Dye of the Clearlake CHP office said DUI checkpoints are conducted at regular times throughout the year, such as Memorial Day.


Last year CHP officers statewide arrested 1,639 drivers for DUI during the Memorial Day weekend, the CHP reported. That is a 6.5-percent increase over the previous year.


Memorial Day DUI statistics for past years weren't available for Lake County. However, DUI remains a year-round problem in Lake County.


As Lake County News previously reported, there was an increase in DUI arrests in Lake County from 2005 to 2006, rising from 360 to a reported 411, or about a 14-percent increase, according to CHP records. However, from 2001 to 2005 there was a steady decline in local DUI arrests.


CHP works to reduce fatalities


Last Memorial Day weekend, 20 people were killed on roadways within CHP jurisdiction, statewide, Brown reported. While that number was down significantly from the previous year’s total of 33, Brown said, “We can still do better.”


As part of that effort to reduce fatalities, OTS is coordinating California law enforcement’s 2007 “Click It or Ticket” campaign.


“We have funded overtime to put extra police and CHP officers on the road to look for people not wearing their seat belt during this campaign,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy.


Fifty percent of the people killed on the roadways during Memorial Day weekend were not wearing their seat belts, Murphy reported.


Caltrans Director Will Kempton said they're also joining the effort, and asking the public to help keep impaired drivers off the road.


Signs at Caltrans statewide network of public rest stops urge people to report drunk drivers by calling 9-1-1, Kempton reported. When calling to report someone suspected of driving under the influence, try to provide as much of the following information as possible: description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.


Because a lot of teens are driving at this time of year, extra ABC agents will be working over the weekend to prevent the sale of alcohol to underage or intoxicated people, said ABC Director Steve Hardy.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Students get to inspect the REACH helicopter. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

LOWER LAKE The early morning air was quiet and cool only moments before the distinctive sound of the 830 horsepower turbine engine could be detected.


Flying into the Lower Lake High School football and track field was REACH Air Ambulance's familiar Red Bell 407 helicopter, which circled the field before gently touching down in front of the home team seats.


Twenty-two students from Doug DeSoto’s Public Safety Program recently were treated to an up-close look at one element of what are known as “First Responders” in the Public Safety and Law Enforcement community.


On board the REACH copter is a host of cutting-edge technologies. Literally anything that is found in a hospital emergency room is crammed into the $3 million aircraft. Also on board were Nurse Anna Blair, paramedic and crew chief Terry Gowen and pilot Dennis Smith.


The three crew members each spoke of their respective duties as well as their educational backgrounds. Students were invited to sit in the pilot’s seat and otherwise examine the workings in fine detail.


The 40-minute visit was, fortunately, uninterrupted by more serious matters and the group was treated to a take-off and fly-around that showed off the pilot's considerable skill.


The REACH Air Ambulance services have transported thousands of patients and celebrates its 20 anniversary on Thursday, May 24 at Lampson Field, 4615 Highland Springs Road. The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The public is invited.

 

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REACH nurse Anna Blair talks to students about her job. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 


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KELSEYVILLE The US Department of Labor has settled a two-and-a-half-year old civil suit against the owners of Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa.


According to court documents obtained by Lake County News, the suit which was filed in November 2004 was resolved in a May 15 settlement conference presided over by Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman.


As Lake County News previously reported, the U.S. Department of Labor sued current and former trustees, the plan administrator and Local 38 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Journeymen for diverting more than $36 million in assets of five employee benefit plans to renovate and operate Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa.


The employee benefit plans in question were UA Local 38's Pension Trust Fund, Scholarship Trust Fund, Health & Welfare Trust Fund, Apprentice & Journeyman Training Trust Fund and Vacation & Holiday Trust Fund.


Local 38 controls the UA Local Convalescent Fund, which has owned Konocti Harbor since 1959, according to court records.


The lawsuit alleged that the fund's trustees, including Lawrence J. Mazzola Sr., business manager and financial secretary-treasurer of Local 38, violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by diverting the funds.


ERISA is a 1974 federal law that establishes protection to individuals covered by private industry health and pension plans.


Mazzola, son of labor leader Joe Mazzola – and namesake of Konocti Harbor's resort's indoor showroom – was named personally in the suit, as was his son, Lawrence Mazzola Jr.


In addition to the Mazzolas, about one dozen other men who had fiduciary responsibility as members of the joint board of trustees that governed Local 38's ERISA plans were named in the lawsuit.


James Baker, attorney for Mazzola and Local 38 in the case, confirmed this week that the case had been settled.


However, Baker declined to discuss the tentative settlement, preferring to wait until the details are finalized next month.


As part of the agreement, the Department of Labor will receive a $3.5 million payment, which will be covered by Local 38's insurance company, ULICO Casualty Co.


Judge Zimmerman noted in the settlement conference that a sale of Konocti Harbor is expected to be completed soon, with the funds from that sale going to reimburse Local 38 and the pension fund. (For the full story of the Konocti Harbor sale, see the related story, “Konocti Harbor sale in the works.”)


Other terms of the settlement include the Mazzola and the other named defendants' resignation from the joint board of trustees and installation of new trustees by Dec. 31, according to court documents.


Two of the named defendants, Lawrence Mazzola Jr. and Robert Buckley Jr., were not required to resign, court documents state; however, they have “agreed to complete a course of training in fiduciary duties as a condition of remaining on the board,” Zimmerman stated.


Mazzola Sr. also has agreed to resign from his position with the Plumbers Union's International Training Fund within the next two years, court documents reported.


The Department of Labor stipulated that those defendants who were required to resign from the joint board “be permanently barred from again being fiduciaries of any ERISA-covered plans or service providers.”


Other settlement terms include appointing an independent plan administrator to develop a system of controls over the ERISA plan's cash flows for a term of six years.


“This is an important moment for you,” Zimmerman told the defendants. “You will be closing, hopefully, a chapter, a long chapter in your life.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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KELSEYVILLE – Two drivers escaped major injuries Thursday after a truck carrying a load of Coca Cola collided with a small auto.


The accident was reported at about 6:27 a.m. on southbound Highway 29 more than two miles south of Highway 175/Cobb, according to the California Highway Patrol.


CHP Officer Josh Dye reported that the truck, which was driving southbound, was hit by a small Honda that was traveling north.


Clois Burns of Lakeport was driving the 2001 silver Honda four-door sedan when, for an unknown reason, she veered across the double yellow lines and into the southbound lane, Dye said.


Dennis Mcclelland of Willits, who was driving a 2003 International tractor trailer carrying the load of soda, attempted to swerve out of the way but Burns' car collided with the tractor trailer's left front.


The tractor trailer continued off of the road and collided with a large oak tree, Dye reported.


Burns was taken to the hospital and released later in the day, having suffered only lacerations and contusions, Dye said. Mcclelland was uninjured.


Both lanes of the road were partially blocked, with officials redirecting northbound traffic onto Red Hills Road while the road was cleared, according to the CHP incident logs. Dye said the road was reopened at 10:16 a.m.


Some diesel fuel was reported on the ground, and a gash was in the truck's tank. Dye said an environmental cleanup company was dispatched to the scene, but he didn't see any hazardous materials or soda spilled.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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LAKE COUNTY – The US Department of Agriculture has designated Lake and 12 other California counties as primary natural disaster areas due to extreme weather conditions.


The USDA reported that the designations were made on May 9.


Lake County Agricultural Commissioner Stave Hajik said Lake has been designated a disaster area both for drought conditions last fall and for freeze conditions earlier this year.


“The only reason we're a freeze-listed county is we're an adjacent county to a county that has freeze damage,” he said.


Two local strawberry growers and one vegetable grower are believed to have had serious affects from the freeze, said Hajik, but the damage was mostly to equipment, like sprinklers, rather than crops.


Hajik said he applied for the disaster designation for the county in March, after Tim Strong, a local veterinarian and president of the county's cattlemen's association, told him about concerns for the county's rangelands due to the dry fall and winter weather.


Hajik said he did a survey of the county after speaking with Strong, and found that the area's rangelands had indeed been damaged by lack of rain during the period of Dec. 11 through Feb. 7.


Although rain did eventually arrive, it was too late to alleviate the rangelands' dry conditions, said Hajik.


He estimated $661,000 in damage to county ranchers because of the dry weather: of that, $151,000 is for rangelands, $340,000 for damage to hay crops and $170,000 for permanent pasture.


The declarations make Lake County farmers and ranchers eligible to receive low-interest emergency loans, said Erica Szlosek, spokesperson for the USDA Farm Services Agency.


Szlosek said those who intend to apply for assistance have eight months from the May 9 declaration to do so. She said applicants must have had a 30-percent loss to their operation to qualify for the 3.75-percent loans.


Hajik said a “major” dry period in the state in 2002 made it possible for farmers to receive free assistance that they weren't required to pay back.


Strong said effects of the drier conditions can be seen around the county.


For cattlemen like him, the biggest issue is lack of grass.


“We had that real cold weather in January and we didn't have very much rain,” he said.


The last few rains helped a little, said Strong, but he added, “the damage was really already done.”


He estimated that more than 50 percent of the county's grasslands were affected.


Cattlemen who put their cattle on winter range usually pull the cows off a little early to leave some feed behind for the fall, said Strong. Less rain meant ranchers were having to pull their cows off the range even earlier, with even less residual feed left behind. Winter range depends on water for seasonal streams and ponds, as well, said Strong.


The end result is that cattlemen are cutting their grazing season much shorter and having to supplement with more hay, which means a bigger cut out of farmers' bottom lines.


Strong said he believes the full effect of the drier weather will become more apparent next fall, when he expects to see less grass.


In addition to Lake, the counties listed as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and freeze conditions last fall and this spring are Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Stanislaus and Tulare.


Counties contiguous to the 13 primary natural disaster areas also are eligible for assistance. Those counties are Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, Glenn, Inyo, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Stanislaus, Solano, Sonoma, Tuolumne, Yolo and Ventura.


Lake County farmers and ranchers can call the Farm Services Agency office in Mendocino County in Ukiah, 468-9223, for more information, or go online for forms and information at www.fsa.usda.gov.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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