Saturday, 20 July 2024

News

COBB, Calif. – A crash earlier this month resulted in major injuries for a Cobb man, who is on the mend, according to his family.


Mark Calegari, 44, suffered a broken neck and back – along with severe facial lacerations and broken bones – in the crash, which happened at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, according to his mother, Cobb resident and businesswoman Barbara Flynn.


The California Highway Patrol reported that Calegari was riding as a passenger in a 1983 Toyota pickup truck driven by 25-year-old Nate Fletcher. Flynn said the two men are friends.


Fletcher was heading westbound on Highway 175 west of Estates Drive when, as he was going into a lefthand curve, he allowed his vehicle to veer to the right and began to drive up a dirt embankment, according to the CHP report.


The front of Fletcher's Toyota struck a large rock which caused the truck to roll over to the left. The CHP said the pickup came to rest upside down blocking the westbound lane of traffic.


Flynn said her son had to be cut out of the vehicle. The CHP said Calegari was transported by REACH air ambulance to UC Davis Medical Center.


Fletcher sustained minor injuries, according to the CHP.


He was arrested about 40 minutes after the crash by CHP Officer Ryan Erickson, who the agency reported is the crash's investigating officer.


Fletcher was booked into the Lake County Jail on a felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, with bail set at $10,000. Jail records indicated he is set to make a court appearance on Dec. 3.


Flynn said her son is now home from the hospital and on the mend.


She said he will have to wear a neck brace for his broken neck for at least three months.


The breaks in his lower back don't affect his spinal cord, so she said they should heal without surgery. However, those injuries appear to be giving Calegari the most pain.


However, as a mom, she's seeing signs of improvement.


“He is starting to look like himself and is getting ornery so he is definitely better,” she said.


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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Autumn is deer mating season – which means deer are on the move and less cautious about darting out into the road.


Caltrans is urging drivers to be careful at this time of year, when collisions between deer and vehicles can multiply.


Drivers should be extra vigilant this time of year and follow these tips for driving in deer country, courtesy of the National Park Service:


  • Be particularly attentive between sunset and midnight, during the hours shortly before and after sunrise, and in foggy conditions. Most deer-vehicle collisions occur during those times.

  • Drive carefully in areas known to have high deer populations. Places where roads divide agricultural fields or streams from forestland are particularly dangerous.

  • If you see a deer, slow down. Others are probably nearby.

  • Use high-beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams can reflect off their eyes and warn you of their presence.

  • If a deer is in your lane, brake firmly but stay in the lane. The most serious crashes occur when drivers swerve.

  • Don't rely on deer whistles, deer fences, or reflectors to deter deer.

  • Wear seat belts.

  • If your car strikes a deer, don't touch the animal. If the deer is blocking the highway, call 911.


“Please use extra caution when driving and make the end of the day a good one,” said Caltrans District 1 Director Charlie Fielder.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

NORTH LAKEPORT, Calif. – A Lakeport woman was seriously injured Friday when she was pinned between two vehicles.


The 32-year-old woman, whose name was not released by the California Highway Patrol, sustained major injuries in the accident, which occurred at 10:20 a.m. in the 7600 block of Bridge Arbor Road in the north Lakeport area.


According to the CHP, the woman's 37-year-old husband was loading a 1997 Land Rover onto an automobile tow-dolly which was attached to a Chevy Suburban.


The woman was standing at the back of the Suburban – and may have been straddling the hitch – signaling for the man to drive forward, the report said.


The CHP said the man didn't bring the vehicle to a stop on the tow-dolly and the woman was trapped between the two vehicles.


The woman was flown by air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, according to the report.


CHP Officer Nick Powell is the incident's investigator.


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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

SAN FRANCISCO – California has joined a coalition of 49 attorneys general and dozens of state banking regulators in a multi-state effort to demand that lenders find solutions to serious and potentially widespread problems in the foreclosure process across the country.


Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced the action on Wednesday.


“While California continues its own vigorous efforts to ensure that homeowners facing foreclosure are treated fairly and lawfully, we are now working together with other attorneys general and regulators to seek solutions that reach across state lines to protect all borrowers at risk of losing their homes in this foreclosure crisis,” said Brown.


On Oct. 8, Brown called on all lenders in California to halt foreclosing on California homes until they can demonstrate that they are complying with state law.


Earlier, Brown sent letters to Ally Financial and J.P. Morgan Chase directing them either to prove they are in compliance with state law or else halt foreclosures.


His office also has been in discussions with other lenders, including Wells Fargo, One West and Bank of America. Brown's office will continue its independent efforts to protect homeowners facing foreclosure.


Bank of America announced last Friday that it was temporarily halting foreclosures nationwide.


The multi-state group will review how lenders verify foreclosure documents nationally. The group was formed after several lenders and loan services admitted that officials, dubbed “robo-signers,” had vouched for the accuracy and completeness of foreclosure documents without reviewing them. Such sham verifications may constitute a deceptive and unfair practice or otherwise violate state laws.


Regulators in the states involved, including California, have already started examining whether mortgage servicers have submitted improper affidavits or other foreclosure documents.


Although each state has its own foreclosure laws, all attorneys general and financial regulators have a common goal of making certain that every lender and servicer conduct a good faith review of foreclosure documents, only foreclose on homeowners after confirming all requirements have been met, and obey all state laws.


California law prohibits lenders from recording notices of default on mortgages made between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2007, unless – with certain exceptions – the lender contacts or tries diligently to contact the borrower to determine eligibility for loan modification. A notice of default must include a declaration of compliance with California law.


California homeowners who experience problems with foreclosures, or other consumer issues, can file a complaint online with the Attorney General's office at: www.ag.ca.gov/consumers/general.php.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

 

MARTINEZ, Calif. – The California Attorney General's Office on Wednesday filed criminal charges against three men who stole more than $150,000 from about 200 people by creating fake credit and debit cards from banking information they skimmed from ATM and credit cards through devices placed inside gas station pumps in Northern California.


“These thieves broke into gas station pumps and installed devices that collected customers' debit and credit card numbers and ATM PINs,” Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said, “and later they used that stolen information to create fraudulent cards, make purchases and withdraw thousands of dollars from victims' accounts.”


David Karapetyan, 32, Zhirayr Zamanyan, 30, and Edwin Hamazaspyan, 31, all of Los Angeles, were scheduled to appear on Wednesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court to face charges. The complaint against them includes 42 counts of felony identity theft and one count of conspiracy.


If convicted on all charges, the three could each face up to 31 years in prison.


In March, the Attorney General's office took over prosecution of the case from the Contra Costa District Attorney's office because the crimes occurred in multiple jurisdictions throughout Northern California. An amended complaint was filed today.


In their high-tech crime spree, the three traveled to gas stations and banks across the Bay Area in a rented Cadillac Escalade. From November 2009 to February 2010, they are believed to have stolen $158,800 from 196 people.


They acquired keys to unlock various kinds of gas station pumps. Once they opened the pumps, they were able to connect two cables inside to their two-inch electronic device, which looked like a circuit board encased in electrical tape, and recorded ATM and credit card data as well as victims' PINs. No tampering was visible on the outside of the pumps.


The trio would later return to retrieve the skimmers, which took less than 20 seconds.


The investigation began in February when police in Solano and Contra Costa counties reported an increase in identity theft and a 7-11 Store employee in Martinez noticed a skimming device inside a gas pump.


Police removed the device, replaced it with a mock device and conducted 24-hour surveillance. Karapetyan and Zamanyan were arrested when they arrived to remove the device. In total, seven devices were found inside gas pumps in Martinez, Benicia, Livermore, Hayward, Oakland, San Mateo and Sacramento.


Banks have reimbursed the victims.


The Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force, a partnership of 17 local, state and federal agencies, led the investigation with assistance from the U.S. Secret Service, Martinez Police Department and the Glendale Police Department.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

NAPA, Calif. – Congressman Mike Thompson and President Bill Clinton will host a special event this weekend in Napa.


The “Get-Out-The-Vote Rally” will take place on Sunday, Oct. 17, at Napa's Uptown Theatre, 1350 Third St.


Residents of the First Congressional District are invited to come to the event and stand up for the future of the district and the nation.


Doors open at 1 p.m. with the rally set to begin at 2 p.m.


Seating is offered on a first-come, first-served basis at the theater, which has 860 seats, according to its Web site, www.uptowntheatrenapa.com.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

Image
From left, Lake County Health Services Department and Veterans Service Officer Jim Brown, Congressman Mike Thompson and Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, cut the ribbon on the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 

 




CLEARLAKE, Calif. – As dozens of community members and local officials looked on, Congressman Mike Thompson took a large pair of ceremonial scissors and sliced through a blue ribbon strung across the front of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake on Wednesday afternoon.


It was a moment, according to Thompson and local leaders, that was more than a decade in the making.


The new clinic, located at at 15145 Lakeshore Drive, Clearlake, will officially open for patient care on Nov. 1.


An estimated 10 percent of all Lake County residents are veterans from one branch of the military of the other, with every U.S. action and war since World War II represented. It's reported to be one of the largest per-capita veteran populations in the state.


Even so, it took years of lobbying by local veterans and leaders, and Thompson himself, to make the clinic a reality, a fact acknowledged in his opening remarks Wednesday by Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, which will oversee the Clearlake clinic's operations.

 

 

 

Image
Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, speaks during the dedication ceremony for the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 


The clinic's importance becomes even clearer when considering, as Carroll shared, that 40 percent of U.S. Veterans live in rural areas.


“The planning for this clinic has been a long time coming,” said Carroll, who thanked county Jim Brown, the county's Health Services Department director and veterans service officer, for his lobbying efforts.


The work of Brown and many others was necessary “to get us to this day,” said Carroll, who also thanked Thompson for his longtime support, noting that without it they wouldn't be standing there, opening the new clinic.


Carroll said the VA looked forward to serving local veterans with the dignity and honor they deserved.


District 1 Supervisor Jim Comstock, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, said watching the colors be presented at the start of the ceremony reminded him of his induction into the military 40 years previously.


He had dropped a college class which resulted in him becoming eligible for the draft. He recalled going into the induction center and having one side of the room be designated as Marines and the other Navy.

 

 

 

Image
Dr. Mike Novak, left, introduces his children to Congressman Mike Thompson at the dedication ceremony for the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 


“I remember that day,” another veteran, standing in the nearby crowd, said to this reporter.


Comstock thanked the veterans who served the country. “You are what this is all about,” he said.


He also thanked Brown, who he said helped get him into the VA health system 10 years ago. Comstock said the VA takes “fabulous care of us vets,” and he is looking forward to being able to go to the Clearlake clinic rather than having to go to Santa Rosa.


Comstock thanked Thompson and the VA staff, a sentiment that District 2 Supervisor Jeff Smith echoed in his comments.


Smith recalled talking to former Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Frank Cammarata and the late Bernie Edwards 12 years ago about getting a VA clinic in the community.


He called the clinic's opening the single greatest thing to happen in his district during his board tenure.


“We finally got what we've been fighting for for years,” Smith said.


Thompson, himself a Vietnam veteran wounded in combat, said the clinic was important for veterans.


“It's not so much they deserved it, they earned it,” he said.


He thanked the community of veterans and their families, a group whose importance he acknowledged. Like the others before him at the podium, he thanked Brown for his work.


Thompson also thanked the VA, who he said he appreciated despite occasionally having to shout and pound his fist on the desk to get things going.


He went on to recognize the efforts of local veterans in getting themselves a clinic. Thompson said 9,000 veterans signed petitions to let the VA know how important it was to have the facility.

 

 

 

Image
The front desk of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 

 


He said both the veterans community and the larger Lake County community are “wonderful.”


Thompson was then joined by Comstock, Smith, Jim Brown and Supervisor Rob Brown in cutting the ribbon.


Both before and after the ceremony, visitors toured the building, which the VA has on a 10-year lease, officials reported.


Renovations on the building – which formerly housed Lake County Mental Health and, before that, a bank – began earlier this year.


The newly outfitted clinic features earth tones in its spacious 8,600-square-foot interior.


A large waiting area leads down halls with numerous new examination rooms, conference rooms with large flat panel televisions for telemedicine, a laboratory and room for administrative offices.


Dr. Mike Novak, a doctor who has been in private practice in Clearlake for 10 years, brought his young family to see what will be his new professional home.


Novak has been hired as the clinic's medical director, and has closed his private practice to make the transition.


“I have a lot of vets in my private practice already,” he said, and many of them will be making the move with him.


He called the new facility “amazing.”

 

 

 

Image
Visitor pass through the hallways of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

 

 


As he was touring the clinic's halls, Thompson – who was peering into what will be the laboratory – was approached by an elderly couple, who thanked him for his help. They reminded Thompson that when their son, a veteran, was fighting throat cancer, he had helped them get their son's VA benefits going.


Thompson's district representative, Brad Onorato, also recalled when the clinic building had housed a bank many years ago. It had a conference room where – ironically – Thompson and local leaders had met to discuss bringing a VA clinic to Clearlake, he said.


Veterans can register at www.va.gov or www.sanfrancisco.va.gov or contact the VAMC Eligibility Office at 415-750-2015.


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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

 

 

 

Image
A conference room at the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif. Doctors plan to use telemedicine to assist with treatments at the newly renovated facility. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.
 

CLEARLAKE, Calif. – The case against a local businessman alleging that he had raped his developmentally disabled stepdaughter has been dropped.


Prosecutor Ed Borg's decision to dismiss the case against 82-year-old Eugene Schwartz came at the end of a preliminary hearing held Oct. 7.


Schwartz had been charged with three counts – rape of a victim unable to give consent because of medical condition, forcible rape and abuse of a dependent adult – for one act alleged to have taken place in August 2009, Borg said.


Borg told Lake County News that although the 48-year-old alleged victim did well on the stand and showed “a lot of courage,” he said there were enough issues with her testimony that he determined that it was unlikely the case could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.


Schwartz, a business owner and resident in Clearlake since 1965, said he was relieved the ordeal was over.


“The only thing I can tell you about the case is, none of the things – and I mean none – are true,” he said.


Schwartz was arrested April 13, about seven months after his stepdaughter – who he's cared for for 40 years and who has an IQ of about 40 – first made the allegations of rape.


Borg said the offense was alleged to have occurred on Aug. 18, 2009, with Schwartz's stepdaughter making the first report about a month later to a mandated reporter at a program she attended.


Mitchell Hauptman, Schwartz's attorney, said the accusations started a few weeks after Schwartz's wife died.


Schwartz said his stepdaughter always complained about not having friends, and he believed she made the allegation in retaliation for his refusal to let her take part in some social activities.


Last summer, she left one day to go to People Services and didn't come back that night. Schwartz said he began calling around to try to find her. The police called him back and told him they had his stepdaughter in an undisclosed location.


The first Schwartz knew there was a case was when he was arrested April 13, he said.


This wasn't the first time his stepdaughter had made allegations of abuse. Schwartz said she had done so before out of retaliation for not getting her way – once claiming he had beaten her – and that the allegations and been found to be false.


“This last one was the third time that she had told stories,” he said.


Borg said Clearlake Police had interviewed Schwartz's stepdaughter a couple of times and she gave “consistent and credible accounts of what happened, and based on the recorded interviews the case was filed.”


Hauptman said he found it curious – although not uncommon – that it took so long to file the case. During the seven months between the allegation and Schwartz's arrest, “While there was an interview or two that occurred with the victim, nothing else appears to have happened.”


He said remarkably little was disclosed along with the interviews. “We don't know how the original complaint generated based on any of the information that we have, which is unusual.”


There also were not witnesses, Hauptman said, as well as no physical evidence.


Borg said the stepdaughter's testimony was the only evidence, which is why they did a live preliminary hearing, having her go on the stand instead of having the investigating Clearlake Police officer testify about interviewed with her.


Hauptman questioned why no search warrant was served at Schwartz's home, and no physical evidence – like sheets from the stepdaughter's bed – was taken for testing. Hauptman said he tried for months to get the sheets tested to see if there was any signs of DNA.


The reason for not pursuing that testing, said Borg, was that since the woman was removed from Schwartz's home, it was reasonable to infer that he knew she had made a report and he had access to the room in which the crime is alleged to have occurred.


“So even assuming that the sheets had not been changed in a month, by the time the police became involved the value of searching the room and seizing evidence was minimal,” Borg said.


Aside from serving a search warrant, Borg said he wasn't certain what else in the case could have been done that wasn't.


Schwartz was prepared to do a lie detector test, which Hauptman said isn't a practice he favors. He also called the mechanics of an alleged rape by an 80-year-old man on a 48-year-old woman “beyond improbable.”


Borg said the live preliminary hearing was meant to help evaluate if the case could be proven at trial. Hauptman credited Borg with trying to check the veracity of the case before pushing forward.


Borg in turn said Hauptman did a very good cross-examination, which Hauptman said focused on the woman's social problems that would have given her a reason to make the accusation.


He repeatedly asked her open-ended questions about her fear of returning to her stepfather's house. Hauptman said she should have said something about being afraid of being hurt or touched, but instead she said she felt trapped in the house and deprived of making phone calls and having a social life of some kind.


Hauptman said he felt her responses highlighted issues other than sexual misconduct. “Her concern appeared to be the unhappy changes following the death of her mother.”


The hour-and-a-half-long preliminary hearing took place in the Lake County Superior Court's Clearlake division before Judge Stephen Hedstrom, who Hauptman said also had concerns about the prosecution's ability to go forward.


Borg said that, in the end, the appropriate thing to do was dismiss the case. The woman's “substantial disability” really limited the scope of what was possible in the case, he added.


He said he spoke with the stepdaughter before dismissing the case and she agreed to the course of action.


Hauptman said the stepdaughter is both a vulnerable and appealing person who “simply incites a desire to help her,” which likely aided the case in its initial stages.


Schwartz, who maintains he has been an advocate for the developmentally disabled for decades – including serving with local nonprofits dedicated to that cause – said a protective order had been placed against him to keep him away from his stepdaughter. That order was dropped at the end of the preliminary hearing.


She won't be returning to live with him, he said.


“I think she is better in another home with more people that are in her level,” he said.


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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

A fundamental duty of a trustee is to review the trust’s asset composition to determine which assets are economically productive and should be kept and what assets should be sold and reinvested. This is in order to make trust economically productive.


Generally speaking, unless the trust allows for unproductive assets to be held the trustee must sell or distribute unproductive assets and reinvest in productive ones.


Let us examine how this rule plays out in a trust administration.


First, if the trust is being settled after the death of the settlor – in which case the trustee pays the deceased settlor’s debts and taxes, pays trust administration expenses, and distributes the remaining assets to the death beneficiaries – then any assets that are specifically gifted are kept for distribution to the beneficiary even if economically unproductive.


But, if these unproductive assets are costly to maintain then they should be distributed sooner to reduce expenses.


Vehicles, especially, should be sold or distributed expeditiously to avoid unnecessary expenses and potential liabilities.


Existing stocks and bonds, moreover, should be periodically evaluated by a certified financial planner, knowledgeable in the portfolio theory of investments and trust administration, and either kept or sold as appropriate.


The portfolio theory of investments says that the performance of the portfolio as a whole, and not any single stock’s or bond’s performance alone, determines whether the trustee has invested prudently.


Lastly, cash not needed to pay debts, taxes and administration expenses should be prudently invested, in consultation with a competent financial advisor.


Second, if the trust is not being settled, but is being administered long term for a beneficiary – such as when a successor trustee replaces an incapacitated settlor as trustee – then the personal residence may be kept (even though it doesn’t produce rents) to provide a home for the beneficiary.


Otherwise, the trustee should periodically review the trust’s assets to determine which should be kept and which should be sold and reinvested.


Lastly, if the trustee fails to keep the trust productive, or takes unnecessary risks (such as making speculative investments), then the beneficiary can petition the court for instructions to the trustee.


The beneficiary can also ask the court to impose financial penalties on the trustee and/or to reduce or to eliminate the trustee’s fees


Clearly, then a trustee must be proactive and diligent in meeting his or her duty to keep the trust productive. Competent financial advisors should be consulted to help the trustee make appropriate investment decisions.


Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 First St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf.

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – State transportation officials got an unequivocal message from south county residents at a Tuesday meeting: Two area road projects simply aren't acceptable.


District 1 Supervisor Jim Comstock organized the two-hour meeting, which was attended by several officials from Caltrans, including District 1 Director Charlie Fielder and his staff who came down from Eureka to meet with residents to discuss two rubberized chip seal projects.


The projects, completed at a total cost of about $2.1 million by International Surfacing Systems of West Sacramento, stretch along 12 miles of Highway 29 from the Lake/Napa County lines to the Coyote Creek Bridge and 8.5 miles on Highway 175 from Cobb to Middletown. The projects used a larger, half-inch aggregate that officials said was recently approved for use.


Mark Suchanek, Caltrans deputy director for District 1, told the audience at one point that the road projects were completed with “the best of intentions.”


In turn, the group of about 70 area residents went on to share what to them were hellish consequences of the paving projects, from vehicles with thousands of dollars of damage due to flying rocks, to a road surface they insisted is dangerous and pulls vehicles toward the center lane, along with absent striping, uneven surfaces and loud road noise that affects not just drivers but residents of homes near the highway.


One woman summed it up by telling Caltrans that the roads were ugly, bad and noisy.


For an area that relies on tourism, the roads look and feel bad and are likely to discourage visitors, residents told Caltrans.


It grew heated enough at some points that Middletown Area Town Hall Chairman Joe Sullivan said he would shut down the questions if people couldn't calm down.


The concerns about the roads were such that in the audience were several local and state government officials, including Lake County Public Works Director Brent Siemer, Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart, CHP Area Commander Lt. Mark Loveless, Dave Miinch of South Lake County Fire and Ruth Valenzuela, district representative for Assemblyman Wes Chesbro.


At the meeting's start, Comstock told the group, “This is about our community.”


Then, true to his word, Comstock handed over to Caltrans two sets of petitions, one from Middletown residents and one from Hidden Valley Lake, with 1,176 and 53 signatures, respectively.


“I hear you. I understand that you're not happy with the work that was done out there,” said Fielder, who had toured the local chip seal projects with Comstock in the weeks leading up to the meeting.


Fielder said the work was not what he expected, calling the large aggregate chip seal an “aggressive type of treatment” seen more often in mountainous areas for its traction.


During the course of the meeting the south county residents in attendance bristled when Fielder and his staff stated that the chip seal was a good product that met state specifications, and there was louder grumbling when state officials guaranteed that the roads were safe.


Fielder emphasized that a followup project on Highway 29 and Highway 175 would take place, and it would be the same kind of smooth treatment recently completed on Highway 29 near Lakeport.


He said he and his staff went to Sacramento two weeks ago and made the case to get the funding for the followup paving project.


However, that work likely won't be done before next June or July, due to a variety of steps necessary beforehand – including engineering and design – in addition to the fact that the road construction season is nearly at an end.


It's also a “programmed” project, which Fielder said means the work must get the approval of the state's transportation commission. He said he expects a March vote, and hoped to see the time frame for starting the work moved forward to at least May.


“It takes time to develop a project, especially when you're talking a couple million dollars,” said Fielder.


Over the next hour and a half the Caltrans team fielded numerous questions from community members on nearly every aspect of the project.


Middletown resident Fletcher Thornton said he was concerned about the crosswalks. Good crosswalks had recently been done, but the project went over them, leaving only dull white marks.


Noting that drivers respond to visual slowdown signals like crosswalks, Thornton said, “Those big white crosswalks are not there.”


Suchanek said crosswalk restriping is a part of the project that hasn't yet been completed. Representatives from International Surfacing Systems of West Sacramento, said they expect to start the striping Oct. 19 and the work should be completed the following week.


There were asked about the larger aggregate, which Suchanek said is “a newer product for us” and one with which they weren't used to working.


A community member said he understood International Surfacing Systems hadn't gotten the necessary permits. Caltrans Area Construction Engineer Alan Escarda said the contractor had all the necessary construction permits, and the company's project manager, James Wilson, said they had applied for all the permits.


At Comstock's urging, Gearhart corrected those statements, saying the company had permits for their generators but not a portable chip seal plant. They were issued a notice of violation and continued to operate.


Fielder said Caltrans is responsible for making sure permits are in order.


Gearhart added that the company also had failed to get a permit for the plant site from the county Community Development Department. “That was a minor issue compared to our issue.”


Caltrans was asked who made the decision regarding the surfacing. Suchanek said Caltrans staff drives the highways and then works to come up with treatment strategies.


Another resident asked about doing something to deal with safety issues at the intersection of Highway 29 and Hartmann Road. Suchanek said the area's volumes are higher than those at the three-way stop at Highway 53 and Olympic Drive in Clearlake, so a signal wouldn't work well. Caltrans is planning a project that will including placing flashing beacons on either side of Hartmann Road.


Steve Massaro of Hidden Valley Lake said the contrast between the stretch of Highway 29 outside of Lakeport and that near Middletown is obvious to everyone, and he wanted to know the rationale behind the south county projects.


“It's unacceptable,” he said, adding, “Why was that decision made? Who made it?”


Suchanek said it was a decision made within the district leadership, and the chip seal is being used statewide. He said it's a method for stretching limited dollars further.


Michael van der Boon, another Hidden Valley Lake resident and District 1's representative on the Lake County Planning Commission, said a quarter-mile stretch of new asphalt in front of Hidden Valley Lake – which had been “smooth as glass” – was covered over by the rougher chip seal.


Responding to a comment earlier in the meeting that the road work had been done at night so they hadn't seen they were going over the nicer pavement, van der Boon asked, “Are you kidding me?” which got a laugh, even from Fielder.


Suchanek said they had covered those newer portions in an effort to make all surface areas consistent.


Judy Mirbegian of Hidden Valley Lake said the roads weren't safe at the current legal speed limit, and asked Caltrans representatives if they thought they should acknowledge that and lower the speed limit. “Our safety is your responsibility.”


After a pause, Suchanek said he would follow up on the speed limit issue, but said lowering a speed limit requires adherence to statutes and traffic laws. “You can't just arbitrarily lower it because you want people to go slower.”


She asked if speed limits correlated to road conditions. Suchanek said they are based on the free flow of traffic in good driving conditions. Caltrans can put up advisory signs, he said.


Wayne Nelson, Middletown's barber, asked Caltrans officials if one of them would go with him on a motorcycle ride over the roads. He added that if he cut hair like they did roads, he'd be out of business. Escarda agreed to go for the offered ride.


Tom and Linda Darms, who own Tom's Auto Dynamics in Middletown, insisted the road isn't safe. Linda Darms said she test drives vehicles and has noticed that cars of all kinds are thrown around on the roadway. They've also found rocks lodged in brake rotors.


“It's not right. It's serious,” she said. “We're frightened for people in our community.”


Attention in the meeting later shifted to Loveless, who had stood at the back of the room throughout the proceedings. Community members asked him about safety issues on the roads and if the CHP had recorded more crashes.


Loveless, who had anticipated such questions, said he had his staff do two analyses of the area, looking at crash statistics from 2005 through this year and also looking specifically at the August time frame for those five years. He said both evaluations showed that they were “dead on” for the statistical average.


The meeting ended at 7 p.m., with Comstock congratulating Caltrans and the contractor's representatives for being willing to come to “the belly of the beast.”


Many people stayed on afterwards to continue questioning Caltrans and International Surfacing Systems representatives and to get claim forms for vehicle damage from the contractor.


One Hidden Valley Man man showed officials a round scar on his knee he suffered from a rock hitting him while he was riding his motorcycle, which he said has now become a more dangerous proposition.


On Wednesday, after having time to consider the meeting, Massaro wasn't satisfied with the answers he got from Caltrans, noting that waiting eight to nine months to have the road fixed is “unacceptable.”


He also didn't feel Caltrans had taken responsibility for the projects' failure, noting, “not one iota of admission that a gross error in judgment had taken place was evident.”


Massaro wondered why Caltrans did not make an effort to test and refine the process using coarse 1/2-inch aggregate instead of using the Hidden Valley Lake/Middletown corridor as a test bed.


“Now we are stuck with this crude result of really very poor decision making based on an obvious lack of any critical thought,” he said. “In a word, it was stupid.”


Massaro said he'll be looking very closely at accident statistics on a monthly, not a yearly, basis as area residents wait for the millions more dollars needed “to cover up this fiasco.”


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 http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT, Calif. – A Clearlake Oaks man received a 12-year prison sentence on Tuesday for a number of offenses he was convicted of committing over a four-year period.


Retired Judge Arthur Mann sentenced Guy Robert Archini, 58, to the prison term for 10 felony offenses committed between 2004 and 2008, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.


Hinchcliff said numerous delays caused by defense attorneys leaving the public defender contract or being relieved at Archini’s request, and other issues involving Archini resulted in his trials and sentencing being delayed numerous times.


Over the course of the judicial proceedings Archini was represented by nine different public defenders, Hinchcliff said.


According to evidence presented at trial, on May 28, 2004, Archini discharged a rifle at his residence in Clearlake Oaks on Pine Street in the presence of a deputy sheriff. When confronted by the deputy, Archini threatened to kill the deputy before fleeing the scene.


About a half-hour later Archini confronted an acquaintance, claiming he needed some things to get out of town. When the female acquaintance threatened to call 911, Archini brandished a handgun and threatened to shoot her.


Archini reportedly was found the following day by deputy sheriffs hiding in his residence in a closet under a pile of clothes. Archini bailed out of jail after his arrest.


Then on Oct. 12, 2005, Archini was arrested by sheriff's deputies for falsely reporting that someone had committed a crime. While being transported to jail, Archini threatened the deputy with death, and told the deputy he knew where the deputy’s family lived and that he knew the deputy had children.


Hinchcliff prosecuted Archini in a jury trial for the May 2004 and October 2005 offenses, and on Oct. 8, 2009, a jury found Archini guilty of six felonies, including threatening deputies, threatening a witness and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Archini was represented at trial by defense attorney Jeremy Dzubay.


On Aug. 12, 2008, while Archini was still out on bail and before the trial in the prior cases, Archini was arrested for felony threats and assault with a shotgun, Hinchcliff said.


According to trial testimony, Archini threatened a male and female who had been living at his residence in Clearlake Oaks by brandishing a shotgun and threatening to kill them. During a struggle for control of the gun, the shotgun discharged.


Deputy District Attorney Dan Moffatt prosecuted Archini for the August 2008 incident, and a jury convicted Archini of four felony counts. Archini was represented in that trial by defense attorney William Conwell.


On Tuesday, Archini was represented by defense counsel Jacob Zamora for sentencing, and Hinchcliff argued the case for the District Attorney's Office.


Mann, who was the judge in the October 2009 trial, sentenced Archini to 12 years in prison and ordered Archini to pay a $2,400 restitution fine.


Because one of the felonies was termed a “violent” felony for sentencing purposes, Hinchcliff said Archini will only receive a 15-percent reduction for good behavior, rather than the usual 50-percent credits.


With 791 days already served in the county jail, Archini won’t be eligible for parole until 2018, Hinchcliff said.

 

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

Upcoming Calendar

23Jul
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
24Jul
07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
27Jul
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
30Jul
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
3Aug
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
6Aug
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
10Aug
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
13Aug
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
17Aug
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
20Aug
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar

loader

LCNews

Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 

 

Newsletter

Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.