Sunday, 21 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Pacific Gas & Electric reported that it's planning an outage for some of its Lake County customers on Sunday, and the company is requesting a conservation effort the previous day in preparation.

Over the weekend PG&E crews will be working to improve reliability at its Konocti Substation in Lake County, according to a report from spokesperson Brandi Ehlers.

Areas affected by the planned outage will include Kelseyville, Middletown, Soda Springs Anderson Springs, Hidden Valley, Hidden Valley Lake and surrounding areas, Ehlers said.

Approximately 3,300 customers will be de-energized from midnight to 7 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 1, to allow for reliability work at the substation as well as some line work to be completed. Ehlers said all customers affected by the early morning planned outage have been notified through the mail.

In an effort to help with this planned work, PG&E is requesting customers in Lake County to conserve energy on Saturday, July 31, from 7 a.m. to midnight, prior to the planned outage.

Conservation tips including setting the air-conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees or higher, health permitting; avoiding the usage of large appliances Saturday including dish washers, washing machines, electric driers or the vacuum cleaner; and turning off unnecessary lights and appliances during the day and overnight until the power is restored.

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KELSEYVILLE – Sheriff's officials are asking community members for information about a series of vandalisms to Kelseyville businesses that occurred last week.

On the morning of July 18, sheriff’s deputies responded to the area of downtown Kelseyville to investigate multiple acts of vandalism to businesses in the area, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

He said several businesses and other locations were spray painted with suspected gang related graffiti the previous night.

When deputies arrived in the area, they were contacted by several business owners and throughout the morning they found graffiti sprayed in silver paint at the Kelseyville Senior Center, Studebakers Grocery and Deli, the Earmite, Curves for Women, Rosa D’Oro Winery, the Nail Nook, a US Postal box and the bathrooms at Pioneer Park, Bauman said.

Several Hispanic males were reportedly seen spray painting businesses in the early morning hours and Bauman reported that deputies were able to develop some leads on at least two suspects. One of the subjects was wearing all white and another was seen wearing a blue LA Dodgers jacket.

The case is pending further investigation into the identities of those suspects and anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact the Lake County Gang Task Force at 707-262-4200.

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MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – A 24-year-old transient was shot and killed by Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies on Tuesday after he allegedly confronted them at the scene of several illicit marijuana grows in the Mendocino National Forest.

Sheriff's Capt. Kurt Smallcomb identified the man who was fatally shot as Angel Hernandez Farias.

The shooting occurred at 6:45 a.m. Tuesday on the Boardman Ridge area of the Mendocino National Forest near Covelo, Smallcomb reported.

Deputies were in the area investigating a large marijuana growing operation on forest lands when they encountered Farias, Smallcomb said.

Smallcomb said Farias was pronounced dead at the scene and the cause of death is pending completion of the autopsy and toxicology investigation.

Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies assisted by the state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) were called in and eradicated 11,635 marijuana plants from the three gardens at the scene, he reported.

Investigators with the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, with assistance from the California Department of Justice, are continuing the investigation, Smallcomb said.

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LAKEPORT – The Lakeport Senior Center is preparing a day of fun for the whole family and an opportunity to help continue the Meals on Wheels program that currently provides 150 meals per day to homebound seniors in the community.

The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, July 31, at the Lakeport Senior Center, 527 Konocti Ave.

There will be a massive rummage, with many great items already donated and more still being accepted.

In addition, the barbecue grill will be fired up with top quality hot dogs for sale.

The day will include fun and games for all age, including face painting for children; an appearance by McGruff the Crime Dog and the California Highway Patrol; Francis Ford, an advocate for senior aging in place will speak; and Shari Koch and the Lake County Line Dancers will perform.

The Lake County Veterans Service Office will be on hand to share information, identification kits for children will be available, and there will be information booths on health and safety.

Other events will include a drawing of the winners of the 50/50 progressive raffle that has been running for two months. The first place prize currently is more than $1,400 and will continue to grow until the winner is drawn at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

With continuing budget cuts and increasing expenses the program can only be continued through the generous donations and involvement from the many volunteers that faithfully support it, as well as fundraisers like this.

This event is only possible by the countless hours of help from volunteers and the generous support of local businesses.

Sentry Market recently contributed to the Meals on Wheels program with an industrial meat slicer that gets daily use in preparation of the home delivered meals.

Safeway and Bruno’s Market continue their faithful support in donations and discounts making a huge impact on the centers ability to continue its services.

Come out Saturday, have fun for the whole family, and help make a difference in your community.

Call the Lakeport Senior Center at 707-263-4218 to get involved or for more information.

Jonathan Crooks is the assistant director at the Lakeport Senior Center.

LAKEPORT – Following months of trading allegations, one of two unions involved in an election that had been scheduled to take place this week for Sutter Lakeside Hospital employees abruptly pulled out on Tuesday.

Between 130 and 140 Sutter Lakeside Hospital employees in a variety of categories – including lab technicians, certified nursing assistants, pharmacy, housekeeping, supply, and medical, surgical and acute care – were expected to cast their ballots Wednesday to either stay with Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West or go with the newly formed National Union of Healthcare Workers.

“We are looking forward to our employees having a choice and expressing their will as a group,” Sutter Lakeside Hospital Chief Executive Officer Siri Nelson said on Monday.

But on Tuesday morning NUHW abruptly called off the election. NUHW accused Sutter Lakeside of teaming with SEIU-UHW “to get rid of the strong union that management has been fighting with for years.”

“There's no election. It's over,” said Amanda Cooper, a spokesperson for SEIU-UHW, noting the outcome was a victory for the workers.

While the Sutter Lakeside election was off, elections for more than 500 other employees at three facilities – Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa and two Daly City nursing homes – were continuing as scheduled, according to NUHW spokesperson Sadie Crabtree.

The Daly City polls closed Tuesday evening and Santa Rosa's election is set for Aug. 2, Crabtree said.

NUHW is led by Sal Rosselli, former president of SEIU-UHW, and other former officials of that union who allege that they were ousted from the group.

Cooper said the group of ousted officials “really wreaked some havoc in the organization” on their way out, leaving many contracts open, with SEIU-UHW needing time to get back on its feet.

Sutter Lakeside's employees – represented by SEIU-UHW for more than a decade – ratified their contract this past Feb. 24, said Cooper, with new negotiations set to start in 2012.

“If they go to a new union right now, they would need to renegotiate with management for a new contract,” Cooper said, noting the union worked hard to get the employees a great contract and that putting them back into negotiations would have been a terrible thing to do to the workers.

Even with the election canceled, the accusations between the two groups continued.

Cooper alleged that NUHW has withdrawn “dozens of times” from elections at the last minute. “They only run elections they think they can win,” she said.

Of the 77,000 SEIU-UHW members, 72,000 have elected to stay with the union rather than going with NUHW, said Cooper. “There's a trend here and they're on the losing side of it.”

For its part, NUHW blasted Sutter, calling it “one of the most anti-worker health care employers in the state,” and accusing the nonprofit organization of partnering with SEIU-UHW, which it called “one of the most anti-worker unions.”

“For years, workers have protected patient care at Sutter Lakeside by using pickets and job actions to hold Sutter accountable and stop management's race to the bottom,” NUHW said in a statement issued to Lake County News.

NUHW alleged that when SEIU-UHW took over the union last year, they actually helped Sutter managers fire the most vocal caregivers – which it said was documented in rulings by the National Labor Relations Board but did not involve the Sutter Lakeside facility – and settled a contract with significant takeaways.

“The National Labor Relations Board has said Sutter's preference for SEIU is clear,” NUHW's statement explained.

This spring NUHW – which claimed a series of “landslide” victories in union elections in January – had accused SEIU of blocking elections in 58 nursing home and 19 hospitals – including Sutter Lakeside.

In response, Cooper said that after the ouster of SEIU's former leaders, the National Labor Relations Board agreed that it wasn't a good time to do elections because the union wasn't stable. Now, however, with SEIU stabilized it's pushing forward with elections.

With the Sutter Lakeside election done for now, and with the rhetoric still going back and forth, Cooper suggested, “It's time for this divisiveness to go.”

NUHW reported that it's continuing to pursue elections affecting thousands of workers, including 44,000 in the Kaiser health care system.

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 .

A boat owned by the county of Lake, on loan to the city of Clearlake, Calif., was used on Monday, July 26, 2010, at Redbud Park in an attempt to break up matting algae around the boat ramps and docks. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



CLEARLAKE – State and local officials met on Monday to begin brainstorming about ways to address the returning problem of algae mats on Clear Lake.

Over the last three weeks area residents have reported that thick algae mats similar to those that plagued the lake and the community last summer are showing up again.

That resulted in a visit from Assemblyman Wes Chesbro – who had reportedly received numerous calls from unhappy county residents. He met with county and city leaders and then took a tour of the lake Monday morning.

While the algae situation is not yet to the extent it was this time last year – county Water Resources officials said earlier this month that the numbers of troublesome blue-green algae cells per liter are far less now than they were at this point in 2009 – the problem is leading to mounting public concern.

The city of Clearlake appears to be getting hit hard due to a mere fact of nature – Water Resources reported that the county's winds blow the algae down into the southern reaches of the lake, where it tends to collect against seawalls and beaches.

That phenomenon was in evidence on Monday at the city's swim beach at Austin Park, which was socked in by several yards of thick, unpleasant-smelling green algae mats. There, Chesbro and the local officials talked with local residents and heard their complaints.

Just down the road, at Redbud Park, a city water truck was washing down one of the boat ramps, which was clogged and coated with algae.

At the same time a city staffer in the old Kelseyville Fire boat, purchased last year by the county, was running the boat's engine to try to break up the mats, which were thick enough to support birds and stray soda cans. County Supervisor Jeff Smith said the boat is on loan to the city for algae duty.

Before making their way out to Austin Park, Chesbro and his field representative Ruth Valenzuela had an hour-long, closed-door meeting with Smith, Clearlake Mayor Judy Thein, Supervisor Denise Rushing, County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, county Water Resources Director Scott DeLeon and Greg Giusti, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor and chair of the county's Fish and Wildlife Advisory Committee and Invasive Species Council.

“We talked about the condition of the algae,” said Thein.

They considered long-term and short-term solutions, such as installing floating islands like Clearlake Oaks is doing, reintroducing the Clear Lake Hitch and looking at Klamath Lake, which reportedly has algae issues, Thein said.

Clarity, light and nutrients were discussed as possible contributing factors, she explained.

“It was educational for all of us,” she said.

She added, however, that nothing was decided.

“We're just throwing ideas out there right now,” Thein said.

Thein said Chesbro told them he had received numerous calls about the problem, and pledged to look for funds to help the community.

Last year the county received a $100,000 state cleanup and abatement grant to work on algae mitigation, and $38,000 was spent on a new air boat, said Smith. The new boat was to have arrived by Monday.

Smith said he took Chesbro out for about an hour on a county air boat, showing him areas of heavy matting near Sunset Resort and places where new algae is drifting in. Along the way, they came upon a large mass out in the lake that Smith hadn't seen before.

Besides the algae, there also are weeds this year, Smith said.




Thick algae mats have drifted into the Austin Park swim beach in Clearlake, Calif., where local officials surveyed the situation on Monday, July 26, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




“It's a real mess with the weeds and the algae,” he added.

Last Thursday Smith said he helped pull six to eight loads of the algae away from Clearlake beaches, using booms to drag it out behind the air boat, which can get into places that other boats can't. He said he took it into the middle of the lake where he and others ran over it with boats so it would sink.

Chesbro noted that it was “a real eye opener” for him, Smith said.

Smith said he doesn't see the “bubbling up” with this blue green algae that he saw with the lyngbya variety of blue green algae last year, so he doesn't believe it's the same stuff.

Neither does Dennis Krentz of the Clearlake Keys Property Owners Association, which is doing battle with blue green algae once again this year.

Krentz said it appears to be a different variety of blue green algae that's slightly easier to deal with than lyngbya, but presents a problem because there's so much of it.

He said they saw the first onslaught about three weeks ago, later than last year's problems began. This year, differing wind patterns are causing problems in different areas of the Keys.

The association is applying for county permits in order to allow for a trial testing of low impact chemicals that a company is going to try on the harder hit areas, he said.

Their spray boats are having little impact because of the mats' thickness, Krentz explained, so they're planning to run a weed harvester through the areas where the algae is most dense in an attempt to break it up and sink it.

Noting the association is a volunteer organization, Krentz said, “The volunteers are stepping up pretty good.”

They have five boats in action, but Krentz added, “We don't know how successful we are going to be given the magnitude of the problem.”

After receiving a call from Lake County News, Clear Lake expert Dr. Harry Lyons took a water sample in Jago Bay on Monday evening and was able to confirm that, at least in that area, lyngbya was the predominant algae.

He said he also found other blue greens like microcystis and gloetrichia mixed in to lesser degrees.

Lyons said he's not yet seen the caking like he saw last year, but added, “give it time.”

As he had noted in a presentation on the lake earlier this month, Lyons urged people to think about global solutions, and to approach the algae problem from a strategic point of view.

However, he warned, taking the strategic approach won't be quick, but likely will be a 40-year process with lots of bumps – with each bump being a regime change.

“That's what I fear we're witnessing” – a regime change, said Lyons, with lyngbya becoming the dominant regime.

He said he's unwilling to offer predictions, noting, “The lake is very unpredictable.”

Strategy is slow, and tactics are limited by funds, which he noted is frustrating “because our efforts are puny and the lake is so big.”

He added, “This is not something that lends itself to a quick solution. It's a big, long, difficult problem.”

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 .

THE GEYSERS – A 3.3-magnitude earthquake was reported near The Geysers geothermal steamfields on Wednesday afternoon.

The earthquake was reported at 3:37 p.m. Wednesday, according to the US Geological Survey.

Its epicenter was one mile north northeast of The Geysers, 15 miles southwest of Clearlake and 25 miles miles north of Santa Rosa, with the quake recorded at a depth of 2.1 miles, the survey reported.



The US Geological Survey received seven shake reports from six zip codes, ranging from Middletown, Geyserville, Santa Rosa and Calistoga, to Sacramento and even Eureka, the latter being 248 miles away from the epicenter.

A 3.4-magnitude quake was reported near Lake Pillsbury on Tuesday, as Lake County News has reported.

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LAKE PILLSBURY – A 3.4-magnitude earthquake was reported in the Lake Pillsbury area on Tuesday afternoon.

The quake, which occurred at 2:21 p.m., was centered 11 miles northwest of Lake Pillsbury, 25 miles north of Ukiah, 35 miles east of Fort Bragg and 45 miles northwest of Clearlake, the US Geological Survey reported.

Survey instruments measured the quake at a depth of three miles.

The US Geological Survey received 11 shake reports from four zip codes – Potter Valley, Willits, Redwood Valley and Ukiah.

Three more quakes centered in the same area – and ranging between magnitude 1.5 and 2.5 – followed over a two-hour period, survey records showed.

The last time a quake measuring magnitude 3 or above was reported near Lake Pillsbury was last December, when a 3.0-magnitude quake was reported 17 miles north northeast of the lake, as Lake County News has reported.

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 .

LAKEPORT – On Sunday night, longtime Piedmont Lumber & Mill Co. employee Karen Spillman got the call.

She and other employees of the Lakeport store were informed that they needed to show up to work on Monday morning, and that there was a meeting they were to attend.

When they arrived Monday morning, the employees were told that the facility was being sold to Mendo Mill and Lumber, and that they were laid off as of the end of work on Tuesday.

“It was a hard meeting to be at,” Spillman said later on Monday.

The morning meeting was both short and somber, Spillman said. She said Piedmont's owner, Bill Myer, was there.

“He was very emotional. Extremely emotional. It really hit him hard,” said Spillman.

“I know he tried everything he could to really save it and keep us working,” she added.

There was the immediate opportunity to work on getting hired with the new company, so Spillman said they all filled out applications.

Later, employees returned for an afternoon meeting with Mike Mayfield, Mendo Mill's president and chief executive officer.

Spillman said the situation was new to everyone – employees and new owners – but she said of Mendo Mill, “They seem very concerned and very genuine.”

She added, “We just want to get the store back going and open, which is good for the community.”

Piedmont Lumber has been a longtime fixture in the business community. Spillman has worked for Piedmont Lumber for more than 10 years, and is the head of the nursery department.

She said her sons have worked at the store as summer employees, just like other employees' children have. “It is a family,” she said.

Her husband, Marc, worked for the company's Calpella truss plant for close to 20 years before the facility abruptly closed this past March 31. He's now working for Kelseyville Lumber's truss plant.

Spillman said she's enjoyed working with Piedmont, and the core group of employees, many of them having been with the company for more than a decade.

She also enjoyed getting to know the customers, and concern for them, she said, is another hard part of the uncertainty.

Spillman can trace the problems for the company back about two to three years, and said the situation developed slowly, but recently events started to move faster.

Orders were fewer or smaller. In recent months closeout sales became more common, and a few weeks ago “Victoria's Corner,” the part of the store that had been devoted to expensive decorations and housewares, was priced down and items sold off for a closeout.

“That really wasn't a shocker,” Spillman said. “You kind of knew that was coming.”

When the management was asked about the company's situation, “They just said they were working on keeping the store and that's basically all we had to go by.”

Still, the sale announcement and the actions on Monday hit employees like Spillman hard.

Now, she's in a waiting period, like other Lakeport Piedmont employees. She took part in a short interview with Mendo Mill on Monday, and said the company was trying to get the transition rolling as quickly as possible.

“They don't know how long the transition period will be,” she said.

Uncertainty for customers

Speculation about the future of the company had been growing amongst Lakeport Piedmont customers like John Moorhead for months.

The Lakeport resident said he found there was a diminishing supply of materials and inventory on the store's shelves.

A trip to the store earlier in July revealed no semi-gloss paint – no quarts, gallons or five-gallon containers. He said the staffers didn't know anything about it but tried to be helpful, and were apologetic.

He said he had a yard tag for $100 worth of plywood and construction lumber that store employees told him was out of stock but would be supplied in two weeks. He said he had been told that by the store over and over again for three months.

When he tried recently to find out the status of materials he'd ordered, he became aggravated when he was put off by customer service, which told him to call the following week.

When he called on Monday he got the phone message that “Piedmont is closed,” with the further announcement that the store was set to reopen under the new ownership in August.

He said he dialed “0” and spoke with a woman who said the staff found out that day that the business was closed, that he might get a call back if a manager came in, and then the phone either disconnected or she hung up on him.

“I was nothing less than civil, and told her that she had my sympathies, but that it was also a lousy way for Piedmont's management to treat their customers and their employees,” he said.

He said it became tough to go into the store, where he had done business for many years, comparing it to “watching an old friend who is very sick.”

Still, he said he wanted to spend his money with Piedmont, and didn't want to travel out of the community or the county to get his supplies.

Moorhead pointed out that Piedmont has done a great deal for countless groups over their decades in Lakeport. He also has known several of the staffers there over the years, and appreciated having someone who knew what they were talking about on the floor.

One of his concerns now is who will honor the credits and yard tags “small guys” like him still have, or if they'll get dismissed in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Mendo Mill takes on a new challenge

Mayfield said his negotiations with Piedmont Lumber for the Lakeport store began in the spring.

Around March or April Mendo Mill began helping Piedmont with inventory that it wasn't able to procure, and then the talks progressed into discussions about efforts to keep the store open, Mayfield said.

Sometime around May, the Myer family, which owns Piedmont, indicated that they wished to market the store, and the sales discussion moved from there, Mayfield said.

Mayfield said he had to deal with his own bank, but that negotiations took place directly between him and Bill Myer.

He said he did not deal directly with Umpqua Bank, which filed judicial foreclosure actions against Myer and Piedmont Lumber in March for millions in loans, as Lake County News has reported.

Mayfield said that a requirement of the deal is that the terms and conditions of the Lakeport sale aren't to be disclosed.

Regarding concerns like Moorhead's about honoring credits, Mayfield said Piedmont will take care of any orders or returns that are outstanding.

The Lakeport facility is about 38,000 square feet, larger than Mendo Mill's Clearlake store, which Mayfield said is close to 30,000 square feet. That store underwent an expansion that was completed in 2007.

Mayfield said there are some improvements on the Lakeport store that will need to be finished, but at this point he didn't go into detail.

The yards of Mendo Mill's Clearlake and new Lakeport stores are similar in size, said Mayfield. Tom Fay, Myer's son-in-law, will run the Piedmont rock yard as a separate business, and will use the existing rock yard showroom on the property Mendo Mill has purchased.

He said the purchase is a big move for Mendo Mill, which in addition to a Clearlake store has stores in Willits, Ukiah and Fort Bragg.

“Given the economic climate, expansion is certainly something you don't undertake lightly,” he said.

He continued, “Strategically, we've always felt Lakeport was a logical extension of our market area.”

Lakeport also is an area that Mendo Mill has served out of its Ukiah and Clearlake stores for many years, he said. “It's a place that we've always done business,” just not with a storefront, he explained.

Mayfield said the store is a critical home improvement resource for Lakeport residents.


He said he had an hour-long meeting with Piedmont staff Monday afternoon. At that time they gave out applications and human resources will meet with staff over the next few days as they start the process of background checks and physicals.

A list of employees shows about 47 people were still in Piedmont's employ, he said.

“My goal is to keep the staffing as intact as possible,” he said, with plans to work on a detailed path back to work for the staff.

He said the employees shared with him a letter they wrote about how they felt about Myer, which they all signed. “It was very heartfelt and was a wonderful letter.”

“Mr. Myer is larger than life, he's an icon,” Mayfield said.

Piedmont's Lakeport employees, said Spillman, have a lot to offer Mendo Mill.

“Not only do we know the store, we know the customer base,” she said.

On Monday evening she said, “I will be there tomorrow morning watering the plants.”

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 .

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