Saturday, 25 March 2023




LAKEPORT The effort to build a new county animal shelter came one step closer to reality Monday, with officials gathering to break ground on the long-awaited project.

More than 20 people showed up for the Monday morning ceremony, held at the new shelter location on Hill Road.

County Supervisors Denise Rushing, Ed Robey, Anthony Farrington and Jeff Smith, along with Animal Care & Control Director Denise Johnson and County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, took up shovels to turn the ground in anticipation of the project's first phase.

Behind the group a piece of heavy equipment waited quietly to begin preparing the ground for the site of the new 6,800-square-foot shelter.

During the ceremony, County Public Works Director Gerald Shaul described the genesis of the project. {enclose Groundbreaking_Animal_control.mp3}

The shelter effort is about about saving lives, said Johnson. "Our only goal is to save lives and promote adoption.”

The current shelter was built in the 1940s, and is both outdated and too small. The new $2 million shelter will ultimately have twice the current capacity for dogs with a total of 72 kennels, and have 30 to 40 more cages for cats, Johnson said.


The new facility will have the space to quarantine sick animals and protect healthy animals from disease, Johnson said.

"In our facility we didn't have any way to separate them," she said, "so a lot of lives were lost.

"Here we won't be so overcrowded, especially in the cat area,” she added. “We've had some serious overcrowding in the cat room. The building is just not big enough. This new building will have a lot of space."



The two-phase project will include preparing the ground for the facility by removing several trees, flattening out a hill and installing sewer, water and power lines. Phase one is estimated to be completed in 30 days.



The shelter's phase two will include the construction of a 3,400-square-foot building that will house Animal Care & Control's office and indoor kennels, Shaul said, as well as a detached, 3,400-square-foot kennel building.



After the ceremony concluded with a dog digging up a bone on the site of the groundbreaking, Johnson stressed that much credit was due to the assistance of Shaul.

"It's been really nice to have his support and his guidance," she said.

If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to the shelter fund, donations may be mailed either to Lake County Animal Care & Control, 887 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport CA 95453 (write "shelter donation" on your check), or Lake County Animal Services Shelter Fund, P.O. Box 662, Lakeport, CA 95453.

For more information about helping animals locally, including adopting pets or education, visit the following Web sites: Lake County Animal Care & Control,; or Lake County Animal Services,

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


Skeet Reese shows off two of his big bass Saturday. Reese currently is in third place in the Golden State Shootout Pro bass tournament. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

LAKEPORT – The ESPN Bassmasters Golden State Shootout Pro entered its third day Saturday.

The tournament, which began on Thursday with 108 anglers, was down to 50 by day three.

After the weigh-in, it was Greg Gutierrez of Red Bluff who led the field, with more 91 pounds, 14 ounces, catching bass totaling 25 pounds on Saturday, according to the ESPN Bassmasters standings.

In second place was Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., with 90 pounds, 4 ounces. On Saturday alone he caught more than 40 pounds of Clear Lake bass, standings reported.

Skeet Reese of Auburn, one of six participants from California, had a good third day, bringing in 35 pounds of bass for a three-day total of 89 pounds, 12 ounces.

Another Californian, Jared Linter from Arroyo Grande, came in at fourth place, with 28 pounds of bass caught Saturday and a three-day total of 79 pounds, 13 ounces.

The action will conclude later today.

For the full standings, visit


Fifty fishermen competed in day three of the tournament on Saturday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY – Authorities were searching the area of Lake Pillsbury and Hull Mountain on Thursday on the report of a man who had died near there.

California Highway Patrol incident logs from Wednesday evening reported a possible fatality near Lake Pillsbury.

A Spanish-speaking male told authorities his son had died in the area that morning and he had been walking all day in order to reach help.

Chief Deputy Russ Perdock of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Thursday that agency was investigating the case.

“We a report there could be a person who passed away in the Hull Mountain area,”
Perdock said.

“We have been up there all day and so far have been unable to locate a person,” Perdock added.”

Perdock said LCSO was using a helicopter to search the area, which would require the search to be suspended after dark.

The investigation is scheduled to continue, he said.

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


Steve Kennedy signs autographs after winning his first bass tournament Sunday. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKEPORT – About 900 spectators in Library Park watched as bass fishing history was made Sunday on the final day of the ESPN Bassmaster Golden State Shootout.

Clear Lake became home to a new tournament record, surpassing the old record set last year by nearly 7 pounds and raising bass fishing to a new level.

Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., won the four-day tournament, bringing in a tournament record of 122 pounds, 14 ounces of bass, a feat which sends him home with a $110,000 check.

The previous tournament record – 115 pounds, 15 ounces – was set last year on Santee Cooper Reservoir in South Carolina by Preston Clark, ESPN reported.

This is Kennedy's first-place win, according to ESPN's Bassmaster statistics. In 2006, Kennedy was BASS Rookie of the Year, ESPN reported. The Golden State Shootout is his 27th tournament, and brings his career winnings to $420,107.

In second place was Skeet Reese of Auburn, who came in with 117 pounds, 6 ounces for his four-day total, which also surpassed Clark's tournament record from last year. Reese earned $30,000.

Red Bluff's Greg Gutierrez placed third and won $27,500 for bagging 108 pounds, 1 ounce of bass on Clear Lake.

The lake was clearly a favorite of the fishermen who competed this past week, as well as the sponsors, such as Triton Boats.

Melissa Fulton of the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce said she was pleased with the event, and she reported event officials were as well.

The event wouldn't have been complete without bass fishing fans, who were out in force to ask their favorite fishermen for autographs.

The weigh-in was shown live on on Sunday, and will air next Saturday at 6 a.m. on ESPN2.


For full tournament coverage, visit 


For more photos of the tournament, click on the "Gallery" button at the top of the page, and go to the ESPN Bassmasters Tournament album.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.




UPPER LAKE – Upper Lake’s community members got the chance Thursday to let county officials know the issues that matter the most to them, and also to hear the status of several town projects.

Supervisor Denise Rushing hosted the third in a series of town hall meetings in her district on Thursday at the Upper Lake High School cafeteria. Previous meetings took place in Clearlake Oaks in January and Lucerne in February.

Between 50 and 60 people attended the hour-and-a-half-long meeting, which included updates from county officials and an open forum where community members asked questions and, in many cases, got answers.

Deputy Redevelopment Eric Seely gave those gathered a report on the $2 million Main Street Gateway Project. Based on private investment made in Upper Lake’s downtown, the county decided to invest in the project, Seely explained, which is the “single largest project the Redevelopment Agency has taken on,” he said.

The plan will include an archway in downtown, extending and upgrading sidewalks, improving drainage, and installing light poles, trees and bulbouts. Bulbouts help narrow the street at intersections and slow traffic, said Seely.

Before the project can begin, said Seely, utilities lines must be placed underground. Pacific Gas & Electric has told the county that they will start that process in late fall, so the downtown project is scheduled to begin next spring.

County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox, who followed Seely at the microphone, said the county believes strongly enough in Upper Lake and preserving its unique character that it dedicated $2 million in county funds – not grant monies – to the downtown project.

Cox said there are many other redevelopment projects under way around the county, but that the county is dedicated to doing this major project first, all at once.

In other county projects, Cox reported that the Old Justice Court building recently got a face lift from county workers, and the building is being used by Senior Support Services. The old county road yard, he said, is now occupied by the County Parks Division, which is renovating it to look similar to the historic downtown livery stable. The county plans to have the Upper Lake Library building re-stuccoed, he said, and a new sign installed.

The county is pursuing a downtown revitalization grant, Cox said, and has hired a consultant who will identify the town’s critical historical components, recommend initial improvements to improve and preserve the town’s look, and create preliminary designs and cost estimates.

Cox said the county is looking into installing a town clock, similar to one that is reported to have once existed near the town’s bank.

He commended Rushing for having the town halls, which Cox said have helped the county gather a lot of good community feedback. He said he’s enjoying working with her. “She’s definitely representing your interests,” he added.

A major point of concern for citizens at the meeting is flooding. It was a topic of numerous questions during the open forum, and Pam Francis, deputy director of the county's Water Resources Division, attended the meeting to discuss those concerns and and some of the county’s efforts to reduce flooding.

Upper Lake, said Francis, sits in a hydrological bowl. “Flooding has been a historical problem here,” she said.

In 1959, the state, county and the Army Corps of Engineers built the area’s 14.4 miles of levees to keep flooding at bay, Francis said.

So, why did Upper Lake flood on Dec. 31, 2005? “We had an extraordinary flood event,” Francis explained.

County officials estimate that the December 2005 flood was a “250-year event,” Francis said, which means that each year there is a 2.5 percent chance of such a flood occurring.

Did the levees work? Francis believes they did, because the last flood in the town before 2005 was in 1958.

Francis said there is no way to completely control flooding. However, the county is continuing its efforts to keep flooding at a minimum, including cleaning out the creeks and levees.

In that process, she said, the community has been very helpful, with the county getting 100-percent compliance from every property owner when it came to getting access for cleanups.

A county project is under way that includes removing gravel and brush from the creeks, she said. Another phase of that project will continue this summer.

“I think we’re doing everything we can to mitigate flooding. We’ll never be able to prevent it,” she said.

The county is working on a new long-term permit through the Department of Fish and Game, which Francis said will allow them to conduct levee and creek maintenance more quickly.

During the open question and answer session, Francis also gave a brief update on the Middle Creek Restoration Project, saying it's moving forward and that the county is pursuing funding. They county doesn't have the engineering data to back it up, but Francis believes that project will help reduce flooding as well.

Other issues residents wanted the county to look at included the speed limit along certain roads in and around town and suggestions that the town needs a swimming pool.

Asked about the casino proposed by the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, Cox said the county is working with the tribe on dealing with the casino's potential impacts, and they've formed a memorandum of understanding.

“I feel very positive about this agreement,” said Cox, saying the tribe has been very up-front with the county.

Sherry Bridges, a tribal official who attended the meeting, said the tribe plans to hold similar town hall meetings to discuss their plans and progress.

A town hall is planned for the Blue Lakes community in the future, Rushing said.

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


LAKE COUNTY – A new report from the state Department of Education on the base Academic Performance Index (API) for the state's schools shows an overall rise in scores statewide.

For Lake County schools, the report shows growth in scores among a majority of schools.

Last week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released the 2006 Base Academic Performance Index (API) report for 9,400 California schools that were given targets for improvement.

The API was established in 1999 to track schools' academic performance and progress on statewide assessments. The Department of Education also reports that API results are used for federal Adequate Yearly Progress requirements.

The annual report once again reflects the consistent rise in median API scores since the API, a numeric index from 200 to 1000, began in 1999.

"I am proud of our students, parents, and educators in California whose continued work toward academic excellence is reflected in the steady academic progress in our schools’ API scores," O’Connell said. "The API is a powerful, comprehensive tool that holds our schools publicly accountable for progress made by all of our students. It supports California’s rigorous standards and ambitious definition of what constitutes ‘proficiency.’"

The 2006 median Base API for elementary schools is 758, up 8 points from 2005. Middle school and high school median scores show similar gains of 10 points and 7 points respectively.

Also, the percentage of elementary schools at or above 800, the statewide performance target adopted by the State Board of Education, is 34.6 percent, up from 31.8 percent in 2005; middle schools is 23.9 percent, up from 20.6 percent; and high schools is 13.6 percent, up from 11.9 percent.

In Lake County, several schools have API targets near 800, including Kelseyville Elementary, Riviera Elementary, Lakeport Elementary, Lakeport Alternative and Coyote Valley Elementary.

Of the 38 local schools assigned 2006 base scores, 20 showed improvements during last year's testing.

Local schools that have recorded schoolwide and comparable improvement – the latter meaning that all numerically significant subgroups at the school met their API subgroup targets -- are Kelseyville Elementary, Mountain Vista Middle School, Burns Elementary School, Lower Lake Elementary, Cobb Mountain Elementary, Coyote Valley Elementary, Middletown Middle and Upper Lake High.

The featured chart for Lake County's schools includes 2007 API targets, 2006 statewide ranks, 2006 growth and base scores, 2005-06 growth and base, along with met growth targets. The chart also includes explanations of the rankings.

While the 2006 API results reflect solid academic gains over the last eight years, they also highlight what O’Connell considers the overriding issue facing California education today – the achievement gap that exists between traditionally higher- and lower-scoring subgroups of students.

Student subgroups are defined by ethnicity, socio-economic, and disability status as well as whether or not a student is an English learner.

Since the API system originated in 1999, schools have been expected not only to meet schoolwide academic growth targets but also student subgroup targets. However, this year the API will focus schools more intensely on narrowing achievement gaps.

The recent reports also reflect the addition of results from new 2006 science assessments, O'Connell reported.

For more reports and data on school districts, visit

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




  API       Met Growth Target

  2007 API Target 2006 Statewide Rank 2006 Growth 2006 Base 2005-06 Growth 2005 Base   School-wide Comparable Improvement (CI) Both Schoolwide and CI          
KELSEYVILLE UNIFIED D D 724 725 28 696*                  
Elementary Schools                              
  Kelseyville Elementary 794 7 790 789 61 729   Yes Yes Yes          
  Riviera Elementary 787 6 784 782 -24 808   No No No          
Middle Schools                              
  Mountain Vista Middle 694 4 690 688 36 654   Yes Yes Yes          
High Schools                              
  Intermountain High                              
  Kelseyville High 711 6 699 706 16 683   Yes No No          
ASAM Schools                              
  Donaldson (ED) Education Center                              
  Kelseyville Community Day                              
KONOCTI UNIFIED D D 658 659 14 644                  
Elementary Schools                              
  Burns Valley Elementary 680 2 682 680 29 653   Yes Yes Yes          
  Lower Lake Elementary 719 4 721 719 38 683   Yes Yes Yes          
  Pomo Elementary 673 2 674 673 2 672   No No No          
Middle Schools                              
  Oak Hill Middle 629 2 622 620 12 610   Yes No No          
High Schools                              
  Lower Lake High 666 4 657 659 0 657   No No No          
Small Schools                              
  East Lake Elementary 704 3* 701* 699* -2 703   No No No          
  Lewis (Richard H.) Alternative 686 4* 644* 680* -52 696*   No Yes No          
ASAM Schools                              
  Blue Heron D D 396* 417* -24 420*   No Yes No          
  Carle (William C.) High (Continuation) D D 697* 691* 135 562*       N/A          
  Genesis High D                            
LAKE COUNTY OFFICE OF EDUCATION D D 507 507 18 489                  
Small Schools                              
  Clearlake Community 469 1* 445* 452* B         N/A          
ASAM Schools                              
  Redbud Community D D 503* 497* 28 475*       N/A          
  Renaissance Court D                            
LAKEPORT UNIFIED D D 726 730 -5 731                  
Elementary Schools                              
  Lakeport Elementary 796 7 793 791 2 791   Yes No No          
Middle Schools                              
  Terrace Elementary 726 5 720 721 -6 726   No No No          
High Schools                              
  Clear Lake High 734 7 718 729 -5 723   No No No          
Small Schools                              
  Lakeport Alternative 800 9* 778* 799* B         N/A          
ASAM Schools                              
  Natural High (Continuation) D D 503* 525* 120 383*       N/A          
LUCERNE ELEMENTARY D D 714 711 4 710                  
Elementary Schools                              
  Lucerne Elementary 716 3 714 711 4 710   No No No          
MIDDLETOWN UNIFIED D D 752 752 15 737                  
Elementary Schools                              
  Cannon (Minnie) Elementary 697 3 694 692 1 693   No Yes No          
  Cobb Mountain Elementary A 9 865 863 8 857   Yes Yes Yes          
  Coyote Valley Elementary 800 7 800 798 10 790   Yes Yes Yes          
Middle Schools                              
  Middletown Middle 774 7 764 769 40 724   Yes Yes Yes          
High Schools                              
  Middletown High 706 6 699 701 3 696   No No No          
Small Schools                              
  Lake County International Charter 720 4* 715* 715* B         N/A          
ASAM Schools                              
  Loconoma Valley High                              
  Middletown Community Day                              
  Middletown Elem Community Day                              
UPPER LAKE UNION ELEMENTARY D D 667 665 -11 678                  
Elementary Schools                              
  Upper Lake Elementary 688 2 684 682 5 679   No Yes No          
Middle Schools                              
  Upper Lake Middle 656 2 648 648 -32 680   No No No          
ASAM Schools                              
  The Grove                              
UPPER LAKE UNION HIGH D D 659 656 68 591                  
High Schools                              
  Upper Lake High 669 4 667 662 64 603   Yes Yes Yes          
ASAM Schools                              
  Clover Valley High (Continuation)                              
  Upper Lake Community Day                              
In order to meet federal requirements of No Child Left Behind, a 2006 API Growth is posted even if a school or LEA had no 2005 API Base or if a school had significant population changes from 2005 to 2006. However, the presentation of growth targets and actual growth would not be appropriate and, therefore, are omitted.            
Legend for “Target Growth” notations:          
" * " means this API is calculated for a small school or LEA, defined as having between 11 and 99 valid Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program test scores included in the API. The API is asterisked if the school or LEA was small in either 2005 or 2006. APIs based on small numbers of students are less reliable and therefore should be carefully interpreted. "A"means the school scored at or above the statewide performance target of 800 in 2005. "B" means the school did not have a valid 2005 API Base and will not have any growth or target information. “C” means the school had significant demographic changes and will not have any growth or target information.          
“D” means this is either an LEA or an Alternative Schools Accountability Model (ASAM) school. Target information is not applicable to LEAs or to ASAM schools. “E” indicates this was an ASAM school in the 2005 API Base Report and has no target information even though the school is no longer an ASAM school. 2006 Statewide Rank: On the API base reports, schools are ranked in 10 categories of equal size, called deciles, from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest). A school's statewide rank compares that school to other schools of the same type in the entire state. The school types are elementary, middle and high. Each decile contains 10 percent of all schools of that type. A school's statewide rank is the decile where that school's API Base falls compared with the Base APIs of the other schools statewide of the same school type. Special education schools and schools in the ASAM do not receive statewide ranks.          
Targets Met - In the "Met Growth Target" columns, the growth targets reflect state accountability requirements and do not match the federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements. The AYP requirement for the API is a 2006 API Growth of 590, or a one-point increase from the 2005 API Base to 2006 API Growth for a school or LEA.        

LAKEPORT – Officials have confirmed that two women arrested this week in connection with the death of a Nice man have been released from custody.

Sheriff Rod Mitchell said Jamie Martin, 20, of Lucerne and Terri Kenney, 48, of Nice were released from the Lake County Jail Thursday, a day after the two women were arrested for the murder of Michael Eugene Fausnaugh, 38.

Still remaining in jail is Shamus Maroney, 27, who was arrested March 23 for a felony probation violation before being booked for murder along with Martin and Kenney on Wednesday.

All three had originally been scheduled for a court appearance Thursday.

Fausnaugh's body was found dumped along the west side of Highway 29 near north Lakeport on March 22.

The day before, witnesses told Lake County Sheriff's investigators that they had seen Fausnaugh – who was suffering from a “significant” head injury – along with Martin, Kenney and Maroney at Upper Lake's Middle Creek Campground.

“The case is definitely not completed,” said Mitchell, adding that his investigators are still actively working the case, which has not been submitted to the District Attorney's Office.

On Friday, Maroney's booking sheet still listed the murder charge. However, Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said Friday that no suspects have actually been formally charged in the case.

Hinchcliff said he's been in close contact with LCSO investigators but they have not yet submitted a report to his office.

“It was mutually agreed upon that the investigation should continue before anything is sent over to us to make a charging decision,” Hinchcliff added.

Mitchell wouldn't elaborate on the reasons the two women were released, nor would he speculate on other possible arrests in the case.

LCSO Lt. Cecil Brown said of the case, “We've been putting a lot of investigative hours into it.”

Those with information on the case, particularly those who were at the Middle Creek Campground March 21, are urged to contact Det. Brian Kenner at the LCSO Detective Bureau, 262-4200.

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


From left, Jamie Martin, Terri Kenney and Shamus Maroney are in custody for murder in the death of Michael Fausnaugh. Lake County Jail photos.


LUCERNE – The Lake County Sheriff's Office has arrested three people on first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of a Nice man.

LCSO reported Wednesday that two women and one man had been charged with murder for the death of Michael Eugene Fausnaugh, 38.

On Tuesday evening, following interviews with the suspects, Det. Brian Kenner arrested Jamie Christine Martin, 20, of Lucerne, for first-degree murder while shooting from a vehicle; and Terri Lee Kenney, 48, of Nice, for murder.

The third suspect charged with murder, Shamus Terrence Maroney, 27, of Nice, was already in jail, having been taken into custody March 23 on a felony parole violation.

Eyewitness accounts reportedly helped detectives connect the three Northshore residents to Fausnaugh.

Witnesses told investigators of seeing Fausnaugh in the company of Martin, Kenney and Maroney at the Middle Creek Campground on Elk Mountain Road in Upper Lake during the evening of March 21, according to an LCSO report.

The witnesses told investigators that Fausnaugh had what appeared to be “significant” head injuries, according to the LCSO report. The three suspects were seen placing the injured Fausnaugh into their vehicle and driving away from the scene, reportedly to seek medical attention.

His body was found the following day along the west side of Highway 29 near north Lakeport.

Detectives would later go to the campground and recover evidence that was consistent with the version of events reported by the witnesses, according to LCSO.

In addition, authorities reported that the vehicle involved has been located and impounded, and a forensic examination is pending.

All three suspects are being held in the Lake County Jail. Bail has been set for $500,000 each for Martin and Kenney, with Maroney being held on a no-bail parole violation.

They are all scheduled to appear in Lake County Superior Court today.

Officials say the investigation into Fausnaugh's death is continuing, with detectives looking to identify others who were at the Middle Creek Campground on March 21.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Det. Brian Kenner at the LCSO Detective Bureau, 262-4200.

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


This is the second installment in Lake County News' ongoing series, Feeding Awareness: Food Insecurity in Lake County.

LAKE COUNTY "Do you live in Lake County?" and "Are you hungry?" If the answer to both questions is yes, Rural Food Project is here to help.

"We don't put people through a lot of hoops to get food," says Hedy Montoya, who heads the program in Lake County.

Part of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Rural Food Project is a program that distributes food to the hungry throughout Lake and Sonoma counties. There are currently two sites in Lake County where food is distributed once a month.

The Rural Food Project distributes every third Wednesday of the month at St. Joseph's Church in Middletown and every fourth Monday at St. Peter's Church at Kelseyville. Both distributions are held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and people typically begin lining up at 4 p.m.

During the distribution, volunteers hand out boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables and nonperishable foods. Each box of food lasts approximately ten days for a family of four.

The program began in Middletown in July 2002, and in September 2006, it opened in Kelseyville.

The Rural Food Project purchases food for 18 cents per pound at the Redwood Empire Bank in Santa Rosa. The approximate cost per month to feed people is $1,800, and this is slowly increasing.

According to Montoya, the food primarily goes to the working poor. She finds that around the end of the month, these people are choosing to use what's left of their money to pay bills rather than eat. The other major recipients are seniors who end up prioritizing utility bills and prescriptions over food.

The registration process is minimal and doesn't include much more than a few questions.

Since July 2006, 1,075 individuals have received donated food at least once approximately 150 families. In Middletown in March, 89 boxes of food were given to 247 people. In Kelseyville, 55 boxes of food were given out to 239 people.

Montoya is the only paid staff member of the Rural Food Project. Everyone else who contributes is a volunteer. Montoya says there are around 20 people she knows she can always ask to volunteer. Among the many generous volunteers, a few especially stand out in her mind as they have been there to help on an ongoing basis since the program's beginning five years ago. This includes Judy Knight, Julie Sears, Bettye McKinstry, Merna Scott, Carolyn and Bill Tobin Jr., and Bill Tobin Sr., who is 99 years old this year.

In 2006, Montoya won the Stars Marla Ruzicka Humanitarian Award for her efforts in feeding the hungry. She credits the volunteers of the program: "The volunteers have made it all possible. I stand on their shoulders. They do such incredible work," she says.

Montoya doesn't want anybody getting burned out, however, so she is always looking for new volunteers to organize, pack food, distribute, and drive loads of food to and from St. Joseph's pantry.

St. Joseph's Church in Middletown is the only Rural Food Project site with a pantry, so emergency food is available. People may call (707) 987-8139 to arrange pick-up or delivery.

The biggest issue, though, explains Montoya, is trying to figure out ways to create money to feed the poor. United Way and FEMA used to provide grants to the Rural Food Project, but these are no longer a guarantee. "We're looking at any other feasible way of doing it," she says.

"Government funding is down immensely. Grants are no longer as available as they were, so we're looking to the private sector and business to help. We used to get a lot of help from the government in terms of providing food, but everything is being slashed.

"Most people don't know that we're here and we're doing this work," she adds.

The Rural Food Project is currently looking for assistance to buy a covered trailer that can haul food from Middletown to Kelseyville. Over the past couple months, it has rained on Kelseyville's distribution night and much of the food got wet in the open beds of the trucks that are currently being used.

The next Rural Food Project distribution in Middletown will be held Wednesday, April 18. The next distribution in Kelseyville will be held Monday, April 23. In May, due to Memorial Day weekend, Middletown's Kelseyville's distribution will be held on the third Monday, May 21, rather than the fourth.

Monetary donations may be mailed to the following address. All donations to this address will go toward Lake County's program:

Catholic Charities

18713 Spyglass Road

Hidden Valley Lake 95467

Memo: RFP Lake

St. Joseph's Church is located on the corners of Bush and Highway 175 in Middletown. St. Peter's Church is located on Main Street in Kelseyville. To learn more about the Rural Food Project, including information on donating or becoming a volunteer, call (707) 987-8139.

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



LAKEPORT – A woman accused of what Animal Care & Control officials say is one of the worst dog neglect cases they've even seen has been sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in reimbursement for the animal's care.

Donna Mae Heath of Lakeport was sentenced Thursday on a charge of felony animal abuse in the case of her family's German shepherd, George, who later received the nickname “Hero.”

Heath pleaded no contest to the charge Feb. 2.

On Thursday Judge Richard Martin sentenced Heath to three years of formal probation, the terms of which include 180 days in county jail and 100 hours of community service, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

In addition, Martin ordered Heath to pay $1,399.84 to Lake County Animal Care & Control, and $2,653 to Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic. Martin ruled if Animal Care & Control and Wasson had already been reimbursed by donations, that the money would go to a fund set up at Animal Care & Control for the care of other abused animals.

As part of Heath's sentence, she will not be allowed to possess any animal for three years, Hinchcliff reported.

Hinchcliff said Animal Control Officer Nehemiah White and DA Investigator Von Morshed investigated the case.

White, who responded to the home to conduct a welfare check on June 21, 2006, said Hero's case was reported by a concerned neighbor.

When he asked Heath about the dog, he said she told him she had just run out of dog food, that it was her son's dog and she hadn't seen the dog for days.

Heath called to the dog, said White, which came limping up from the backyard on bleeding feet filled with foxtails. The dog was extremely thin, with his ribs and hip bones protruding, and his spine clearly visible. White said the dog also was missing patches of hair.

Heath's defense attorney, Stephen Carter, said when Heath saw the dog at that point, she was shocked, because she hadn't seen him for some time.

Carter said Heath was responsible for a household including her son and granddaughter, and that she also was suffering from a number of medical conditions, including carpal tunnel, which prevents her from lifting bags of dog food.

He said Heath had told her son that she couldn't take care of the dog any more because of her health and other responsibilities. “She was basically taking care of the whole house,” Carter said.

Carter added, “It was a very sad case all around.”

White said he immediately took the frightened dog from the home and transported him to Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic.

When Morshed later went back to Heath's home, she was unable to find any dog food or feeding bowls for food or water, Hinchcliff reported. Heath then told Morshed that she was planning on putting George down because he had stopped eating.

When Hero arrived at Wasson, he weighed 61 pounds, said White. Over the next month, through care and compassion, the dog gained weight and underwent several surgeries to remove the foxtails, White reported.

Dr. Chris Holmes of Wasson told investigators that Hero's case was one of the worst – if not the worst – cases of neglect and abuse he had ever seen. Holmes said Hero's condition could have been prevented with food and water, and basic preventative care.

Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson handled the case's sentencing phase for the DA's Office.

Carter argued against prison time, and said Martin followed the Probation report, which suggested 180 days in jail, rather than prison. Carter said Heath will actually serve four months in jail.

He said he was pleased with the sentence because Heath won't go to prison, although he would have preferred no jail time because of Heath's medical and other concerns.

Carter said he believes Heath's son was more culpable for the dog's neglect, but that Heath was charged because she was home when Animal Control arrived.

“As I argued to the judge, we were never contending that the dog had not been neglected miserably,” Carter said.

Hero, said White, “was a very good dog,” who was adopted out in early fall to a Bay Area family who had heard about his case.

The family, who has other dogs and children, have since reported that Hero is doing well, said White. The family reportedly took Hero, who now has a new name, to a dog dermatologist, who helped him grow back his hair.

Carter said Hero's recovery is the happy part of an otherwise very sad story.

White said he often sees neglect cases, but they're not usually this bad.

Animal Care & Control Director Denise Johnson agreed. “This is definitely one of the worst abuse cases we've seen in my career here as far as dog neglect,” she said.

“We've had some livestock cases that have come close,” she added, some of which are still pending in the courts.

Hinchcliff was pleased with Judge Richard Martin's ruling in the case.

The DA's Office, said Hinchcliff, is “gung ho” on animal abuse and neglect prosecutions, although they don't often get the stringent sentences they seek.

This case was different, said Hinchcliff. “It turned out real good as far as we're concerned,” he said.

Things have also apparently turned out well for the dog formerly known as Hero, with his new family and a new life.

“He's happy and healthy and very much loved,” said Johnson.

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


SACRAMENTO – State officials are reporting that the state's critical snowpack is hovering below 50 percent of normal.


The California Department of Water Resources conducted the fourth manual snow survey of the season on Highway 50 near Echo Summit on Wednesday.


State hydrologists monitor snow-water content in order to determine water supply for the year ahead.


Measurements were taken at elevations ranging between 6,500 and 7,600 feet, with average snowpacks between 35 and 55 percent of normal. Snow depths measured between 35 and 52 inches.


Electronic sensor readings posted Wednesday on the California Data Exchange Center's Web site show Northern Sierra snow water equivalents at 52 percent of normal for this date, Central Sierra at 48 percent and Southern Sierra at 38 percent.


Statewide, the snowpack is at 46 percent of normal, DWR officials said. That's down sharply from the 64 percent of normal snowpack reported at the start of March.


Previous statewide averages for the season were 40 percent for February and 59 percent for January.


DWR Snow Survey Section Chief Frank Gehrke said Monday night's storm helped the snowpack by about 2 inches but "instead of seeing an increase of 5 or 6 inches in March, we lost 8 or 9 inches," he said.


"That's a pretty bleak month," he added.


Snowpack information is part of the data used by DWR's State Water Project (SWP) Analysis Office in determining how much water will delivered each year through the SWP. Currently, the SWP is meeting 60 percent of requested amounts, which officials say translate to about 2.5 million acre feet for the year.


DWR officials say those deliveries will be particularly meaningful for the south state this year.


While reservoir storage in California is at or above normal thanks to a wet 2006, much of Southern California is experiencing its driest rainfall year on record.


DWR reported Wednesday that only 2.47 inches of rain have fallen in downtown Los Angeles since July 1. In a normal year, that figure would be more than 13 inches. Los Angeles has received only 18 percent of its normal rainfall for this time of year.


Southern California and other parts of the state also could be facing water shortages due to a recent court decision. That ruling, which came last week, would would shut off the pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in 60 days unless DWR gets the permits necessary for the killing of endangered fish, which die yearly in the Delta's pump system.


The fifth and last snow survey of the season will take place on April 26.


DWR coordinates the snow monitoring program as part of the multi-agency California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program. Surveyors from more than 50 agencies and utilities visit hundreds of snow measurement courses in California's mountains each month to gauge the amount of water in the snowpack.


For real-time snow-water sensor readings, visit .


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

Upcoming Calendar

03.27.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class
03.30.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
03.30.2023 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Character Design~Art Class for Teens
04.01.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
04.01.2023 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Lake County Spring Dance Festival
04.01.2023 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Lake County Spring Dance Festival
04.03.2023 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Courting The Muse~Mixed Media Art Class
04.06.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
04.06.2023 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Character Design~Art Class for Teens
04.08.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

Mini Calendar



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