Monday, 25 September 2023


THE GEYSERS – A 3.7-magnitude earthquake was reported Friday near The Geysers.

The US Geological Survey recorded the quake at 8:09 a.m. at a depth of 1.7 miles.

The temblor was centered one mile north northeast of The Geysers steamfields, four miles west southwest of Cobb and six miles west northwest of Anderson Springs.

Residents of Cobb and Middletown reported feeling the earthquake, with reports also coming from as far away as McKinleyville and Paso Robles.

The last earthquake of note reported in Lake County by the US Geological Survey was a 3.0-magnitude quake on April 3, as Lake County News has reported.

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The grim reaper looks on as Lakeport Fire paramedics pull victims from a mock collison scene on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, at Clear Lake High School in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Editor's note: The following story recounts a reenacted fatal crash scene, with staged rescue and arrests. No students were actually harmed, killed or arrested.

LAKEPORT – Dylan Rose is a bit of a cut up, and used to getting laughs from his fellow students at Clear Lake High School.

But no one was laughing when, during third period class on Wednesday, the grim reaper strode into classroom 119, his sickle looming in his hand, and plucked the 16-year-old junior out of class.

“I usually cover up things with laughter but I felt like crying,” Rose said.

An obituary for the teen was then read, describing his death in a fatal auto collision – along with two other teens – which was caused by alcohol. A red rose was left in his seat.

Rose was among 21 students pulled from classes – symbolic for being taken too early from their lives – and kept segregated from fellow students for the rest of the school day as part of the Every 15 Minutes program. The program takes its name from the statistic that a young person dies every 15 minutes from an alcohol-related incident.

Alexandra Wiggs, 17, a senior and a student coordinator for this year's Every 15 Minutes program at Clear Lake High, helped create the list of student casualties – along with fellow student coordinator Martin Diaz – in her work with the program over the last several months. She saw firsthand the reactions of her fellow students.

“I've gone into a lot of classrooms this morning, and I've seen a lot of disbelief, I've seen a lot of crying,” Wiggs said.

Diaz said they chose students of different backgrounds to serve as the mock casualties. Not all of the obituaries recounted deaths in DUI collisions; one student, said Diaz, was portrayed as having become drunk and drowned in a swimming pool.

Only the students working on the program in various capacities – either as coordinators or “casualties” – knew the Every 15 Minutes program was taking place on the school beginning on Wednesday. So Wiggs said it was a surprise to everyone.




The "living dead" -- students who were pulled out of class every 15 minutes during the school day -- look on during the mock collision on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, at Clear Lake High School. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



The element of surprise is important to the program, which hammers home the message of how quickly, and unexpectedly, young lives can be lost when alcohol and vehicles mix.

The last time the two-day program was held at Clear Lake High was 2005. It's scheduled every four years so that every student experiences the program at least once in their high school career. This year's event was coordinated by Dale Stoebe and Jarvis Leishman, officers with the Lakeport Police Department.

Student casualties continued to be pulled out of classes all day, but the day's main event was held just before the lunch hour – a reenactment of a fatal two-car collision, staged on Hartley Street, which runs behind the high school.

Hundreds of students watched as police and fire department personnel responded to the scene, where three classmates were trapped in the crumpled cars.

The grim reaper hovered nearby, running his hand over the blade of his sickle, as firefighters pulled the teens from the cars, using saws and axes.

Several of the “living dead” – including Rose and fellow students who had been pulled out of class earlier in the day – looked on, their faces painted with heavy white makeup, their eyes ringed in black.

One of the mock collision victims was reported to be dead at the scene. Two others were listed as critical, with one of them suffering an amputated hand in the staged crash.

A fourth student was arrested for driving under the influence, and was taken to the jail and processed as he would be in the case of a real arrest.

A Lake County Sheriff's unit showed up to do coroner duties. Two coroners documented the scene, examining the body of the mock casualty, covered in a bright yellow sheet, while a sheriff's chaplain looked on. Chapel of the Lakes Mortuary later came to transport the body.




The mock collision resulted in three "fatalities." The scene was staged on Hartley Street behind Clear Lake High School in Lakeport on Wednesday, April 15, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



One of the staged collision victims was transported via Lakeport Fire ambulance to Sutter Lakeside Hospital's emergency room, where they were pronounced dead. REACH air ambulance landed at the school's football field and transported another victim to Sutter Lakeside also, where that student became the third “fatal” of the day.

Death notification teams were later dispatched to contact the parents of the students involved in the staged collision.

What followed was a painful 24 hours, in which parents and children, and friends and classmates, were separated.

The students spent the night away from home at the local National Guard armory, where Wiggs said they'll have team building exercises. There also will be the heart-wrenching work of writing goodbye letters to their families.

The separation will end with a Thursday morning assembly, where a mock funeral will be held, and some of those goodbye letters will be shared, both by students and parents. Guest speakers at the event will include Josh and Laura Farris, California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia, Sheriff Rod Mitchell, Clear Lake High Principal Steve Gentry, Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke and Leishman.

Afterward, parents, friends and the “living dead” will be reunited in an emotional gathering. In a sense, it's a second chance for those who have experienced a degree of loss in a temporary, but still traumatic, setting.

Leishman said the Every 15 Minutes presentation at Clear Lake High is the result of eight months of planning. A 15-member committee guided the effort, which was assisted by 30 law enforcement officers and 20 fire personnel.

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A REACH air ambulance landed at Clear Lake High School's football field to transport one of the mock collision victims to Sutter Lakeside Hospital on Wednesday, April 15, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

LAKEPORT – The case of a man accused of stabbing to death a young girl and seriously injuring her sister took an unusual turn on Monday afternoon, when he entered two new pleas – both of them guilty.

As his family looked on, James Roland Pagan, 32, stated “guilty” when Judge Arthur Mann asked him how he would plead to the charges of first-degree murder, with a special allegation of using a knife, and assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm.

He had previously pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, according to statements in court on Monday.

His defense attorney, Ken Roush, did not return calls from Lake County News seeking comment.

Pagan was accused of attacking Tessa Faith Walker, 10, and her sister, Kristen, 14, as the two girls walked through their Hidden Valley Lake neighborhood after getting home from school on March 21, 2008.

Tessa Walker died later the same day of of numerous stab wounds, while Kristen Walker was treated for a moderate stab wound, as Lake County News has reported.

Last September, following a preliminary hearing, Pagan had been ordered to stand trial on five felony counts, including the two he pleaded guilty to on Monday. No trial date had been set.

The other original counts – mayhem, attempted murder and inflicting injury on a child – were dismissed on Monday as part of the agreement reached between Roush and Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

Pagan, was led into the courtroom wearing a red and white jail uniform with his hands secured by handcuffs to his waist.

“Do we have a disposition?” asked Mann, who presided at the preliminary hearing last fall.

Roush said yes, and asked permission to approach the bench, handing Mann a document several pages long.

Hinchcliff told the court that the evidence in the case was “overwhelming.”

“There's no evidence that the defendant wasn't the perpetrator of the crimes that he is admitting to,” said Hinchcliff.

Three doctors evaluated Pagan, Hinchcliff said, with all of them concluding he was sane at the time of the girls' stabbings.

Mann asked Pagan if he had gone over the plea agreement with his attorney. “Yes, sir,” Pagan responded.

The judge the proceeded to ask Pagan for his pleas on the homicide and assault with a deadly weapon counts, receiving guilty pleas to both, with Pagan also admitting to the special allegation of using a knife.

Mann then asked Roush if he was withdrawing the previous pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity. Roush said he was going to submit them.

During the hearing, Pagan also waived his right to have a jury determine his sanity at the time of the alleged stabbings. Roush and Hinchcliff also waived a jury determination on the subject.

Based on the findings of each of the three doctors who evaluated Pagan, Mann found that Pagan was not insane at the time of the offenses. “I'll accept the defendant's pleas,” he said.

Mann added that the court found that the first-degree murder of Tessa Walker was willful and premeditated.

He ordered a probation report to be prepared before the sentencing, which will take place on May 11 at 1:30 p.m.

Hinchcliff said after the brief court session that he and Roush had been working for several months on the plea agreement, but it wasn't until Monday morning that he received word that the defense planned to offer the guilty pleas.

Pagan is looking at a potential maximum of 30 years to life, said Hinchcliff. The best case scenario for Pagan is that he could receive parole in 28 years.

Hinchcliff said it's “very unusual” to have a guilty plea entered in a first-degree murder case.

“This just happened to be a case where the evidence of guilt was overwhelming,” he said, adding there wasn't anywhere for the defense to go with the case.

Tessa Walker's family has been invited to give victim impact statements at Pagan's sentencing next month, but Hinchcliff said he doesn't know if they'll attend. The Walker family issued a statement after the attacks last year, offering their forgiveness to Pagan.

Pagan, a student who had lived with his parents in Hidden Valley Lake near to the Walker family, had no previous local criminal cases except a May 2007 traffic ticket, as Lake County News has reported.

Hinchcliff said Pagan has never stated why he stabbed the two young girls. He added that Pagan was not found to be on drugs or alcohol at the time of his arrest.

Asked about a theory for the motivation behind the stabbings, Hinchcliff said he had his own ideas, based on his experience as a prosecutor.

“My theory would be that he did it to get attention,” Hinchcliff said.

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A graveyard depicting the names of students who took part in this year's Every 15 Minutes program was set up on the lawn outside of the Clear Lake High School administrative offices on Thursday, April 16, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKEPORT – A Thursday morning assembly brought an emotional lesson in choices to an end for Clear Lake High School students and parents.

Day two of the school's Every 15 Minutes program concluded Thursday with a mock funeral to commemorate two dozen students who participated as casualties in this year's program.

High school students had watched the previous day as 21 of their classmates were whisked out of class by the grim reaper, with police and Every 15 Minutes student coordinators reading fictional obituaries.

Then, just before lunchtime, they watched as four students were involved in a staged collision behind the school, with three of the students becoming fatalities and the fourth being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. One student watching the reenactment fainted.

If the presentation is grim, it's one that's carrying an important message that young people are hearing, because officials reported that now, instead of a young person dying every 15 minutes from an alcohol-related collision or incident, deaths now occur about every 32 minutes.

Seniors Alexandra Wiggs, 17, and Martin Diaz, 18, chose to do the Every 15 Minutes program as their senior project in an effort to help – and to warn – as many people as possible about the dangers of alcohol and drug use.




Bagpiper Duayne Emis, a deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office, led the mock funeral procession into the Clear Lake High School gym on Thursday, April 16, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



“This can happen to anyone,” Diaz told the gym filled with students, parents, teachers and law enforcement. “You don't realize what you had until you lost it.”

Nearby was a casket that had been brought by Chapel of the Lakes Mortuary in a horse-drawn hearse, to represent lost lives.

Wiggs said her brother took part in the program four years ago when it last visited the school, and it had a powerful impact on her family.

She said the student participants in this year's program – who stayed overnight together at the National Guard armory – bonded in what was an emotional experience.

Participating parents and students also wrote each other emotional letters, confronting the nightmare of losing each other.

A tearful Tammi Silva described in a letter to her son, Daniel, how she was pulled by a coworker into a meeting on Wednesday with law enforcement officers who came to deliver the teen's death notice. Even though she had agreed to take part and thought she was ready, she said the staged notification caught her unprepared.

“In a flash, I thought of the things I was unable to say to you,” she said, reading her letter.

“Do you know how much I love you?” She asked her son.

She added, “This is the nightmare that haunts parents.”

While it was a traumatic time, Silva said there also was joy in knowing her son is truly alive after the exercise is over.

“Live it, learn from it, share the message,” she told him, adding that the situation was an “intensely real” one for all of the parents.

A video of high school activities, students and the crash reenactment figured prominently in the presentation. It followed the crash scene victims to the hospitals and then to the morgues, where parents went through the exercise of body identifications. The student arrested for DUI also was followed through the booking process.




Law enforcement and mortuary officials led an empty casket into the Every 15 Minutes program at Clear Lake High School on Thursday, April 16, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




In her letter to parents, student Alissa Iaccino said she was sorry for the fights she'd had with them. She told them, “I couldn't ask for better parents.”

California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia explained that, in a close knit community like this one, tragedies like the one staged Wednesday affect everyone.

He urged students not to roll the dice with their lives or the lives of others. The impact on families of such choices can't be measured.

“Don't waste this second chance,” he said. “It could be your last.”

Sheriff Rod Mitchell thanked parents for their courage in taking part, and thanked students for being willing to show their vulnerability by participating.

The entire effort, he said, constitutes a large commitment of local agencies and the school district, which he said clearly loved its students to put on the program.

As veteran law enforcement officer who has witnessed many tragic scenes where lives have been lost, Mitchell shared the agony he's seen people experience.

“The program is what happens today, the process is what happens next,” he said, explaining that young and old alike need to keep the promise to make the right choices.

Clear Lake High Principal Steve Gentry said they can see the result of DUI crashes every day, referring to a young professional baseball pitcher who was killed by a drunk driver, and a fatal boat crash in Florida that involved some former Clear Lake High students. He also recounted a fatal DUI crash that claimed the lives of three promising Lower Lake High students 20 years ago.

Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke congratulated students and parents for taking part.

“We really try hard to make this program real,” he said.

Burke recounted the death of a college classmate, killed in a drunk driving crash. “The real thing is much, much worse,” he said, adding that he hopes the program will keep young people and their families from experiencing a real tragedy, because that nightmare never ends.

Burke offered a simple message – the choices people make in the future will either save lives or take them. Good choices involve not getting behind the wheel of a vehicle if you've been using alcohol or drugs, and not letting anyone under the influence drive either. He ended by thanking them for their future good choices.

Lakeport Police Officer Jarvis Leishman, one of the event's coordinators, also emphasized, “Choices change lives.”

He said the community worked together through the Every 15 Minutes program to give its young people second chances, and hoped as a result that the community will be a smart, safer place.

When the assembly ended, it was time for tearful reunions for those students, their parents and families who had been part of the program.

Burke said afterward this was the first time he had seen Every 15 Minutes firsthand.

“It's an extraordinary program,” he said. “I have no doubt it makes an impact.”

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Students and parents who had been separated due to participation in the program were reunited after the assembly on Thursday, April 16, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

District officials cut the ribbon dedicating the new Lower Lake High School gym on Tuesday, April 14, 2009. From left, Lower Lake High School Principal Jeff Dixon; school board member Hank Montgomery; project manager Harriet Rogers; school board members Carolynn Jarrett, Mary Silva, Anita Gordon and Herb Gura; and Lower Lake High School Athletic Director Marty Udy. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.



LOWER LAKE – On Tuesday evening, the Konocti Unified School District hosted a celebration of the new Lower Lake High School gym, a massive state-of-the-art facility that embodies the community's willingness to invest in a vision of better facilities for its children. {sidebar id=139}

The new building – which provides the largest indoor event space in the county – has been open to events since January, but Tuesday marked the gym's official dedication and ribbon-cutting.

District Board President Mary Silva wielded the ceremonial big pair of scissors as other board members held a ribbon in front of the main entrance.

The accomplishment inspired one board member, Carolynn Jarrett, to call Konocti Unified “the little district that could.”

Measure G, an $18 million bond voters passed with 71.6 percent approval in 2004, provided some of the funds for the $9.5 million gym, which officials said came in $750,000 under budget but took a little longer than expected to complete, with about 16 months between groundbreaking and it being open for use.

Cliff Lantz, who retired last year from his post as district assistant superintendent, said the district put together about $40 million in bond funding, modernization funds, developers fees, Clearlake redevelopment funds and state grant funds to carry out districtwide facilities improvements. The bonds were originally supposed to be sold in three rounds but the higher property assessments at the time allows them to sell the bonds in two sales.

Lantz, a member of the management team that helped guide the project in its initial stages, said those funds paid to remodel classrooms and multipurpose rooms at each of the district's school campuses – Lower Lake High didn't get a new multipurpose room because it got the new gym – and build new libraries at each school.

Lower Lake High's gym is the capstone in the series of projects.

Lantz said that $1 million still remains in the form of funds to be reimbursed by the state. When the district eventually receives that money, Lantz said the old Lower Lake High gym will be modernized to include a fitness room, and the school's old auto shop will be renovated and turned into a wrestling room.

During the ceremony, attended by about 250 people, Superintendent Dr. Bill MacDougall said the new gym is a testament to community involvement.




Superintendent Dr. Bill MacDougall said the gym was an example of the community working together. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.



“Last year I asked a group of students what they liked best about Lake County and Clearlake,” he said.

Their answer: “In Clearlake, we help our own.”

MacDougall thanked the district's board members, local dignitaries and leaders, parents and students for their work to make the gym a reality.

Silva told the crowd, “This is such a great day.”

In the five years since the district decided to build the gym, it's faced numerous obstacles, including recent budget cuts, she said.

“Our district and community chose to invest in the future of our schools,” said Silva, noting that it's amazing what can be accomplished when people work together.

Silva said the district's schools exist and thrive out of hope for a brighter future for the community's children.

Former Superintendent Dr. Louise Nan said that dreams, when brought out into the daylight, become visions.

She noted that Tuesday was the 81st anniversary of the dedication of Lower Lake High School.

Nan said the district's board started the project after deciding that the children deserved better than what they had.

“I love you Lower Lake,” she said. “Enjoy what you have.”




From left, Supervisor Jeff Smith, County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox and Supervisor Jim Comstock look on during the Lower Lake High School gym dedication ceremony on Tuesday, April 14, 2009. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.



Marty Udy, the school's athletic director, called the gym “something the kids can take pride in,” and said he's seeing them take care of the building.

It's also a point of pride, said Udy, to have a facility that is the envy of other schools.

Lower Lake High Principal Jeff Dixon – who called himself the luckiest principal on earth – noted the gym's use not just as an athletic facility but also as a great performance space, and the school's drama and music students proved Dixon right with several songs and skits. The school's jazz band even played a composition of Dixon's called “Play Ball,” to celebrate the building's sports use.




Music teacher Cydney Dixon leads the concert choir in one of its performances during the gym dedication ceremonies on Tuesday, April 14, 2009. Photo by Glen R. Erspamer Jr.



Lower Lake Elementary's “Confused Souls” band also rocked the house, with second grader Gabrielle Murray singing a solo and fifth grader and singer Megan Smith, 10, of Lower Lake leading the bad through numbers that included “Twist and Shout,” a song she suggested that “some of you might have heard of.”

After the ceremony, Associated Student Body members offered tours of the facility as the band continued to play on.

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The new plaque that will be featured at the gymnasium, which Emmalena Illia

Lakeport Fire personnel examine Stephan Brooks (behind motorcycle) following his collision with a pickup in Lakeport on Monday, April 13, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – A 69-year-old motorcycle rider from Nice escaped serious injury after being involved in a collision with a pickup truck Monday afternoon in Lakeport.

Stephan M. Brooks was riding his 2001 BMW motorcycle southbound on Main Street just after 3 p.m. Monday, with Mike Maitland, also of Nice, traveling behind him in a 1999 Chevy Silverado pickup.

Maitland told Lakeport Police that Brooks suddenly applied his brakes and stopped just short of the intersection at Main and C Streets, which resulted in the pickup colliding with the back of bike.

Lakeport Police Lieutenant Brad Rasmussen told Lake County News that Brooks believed that he had seen a woman getting ready to cross the street at the west side corner of Main and C streets. Brooks did not see the woman actually step off the curb but he decided to stop to allow her to cross just before the truck struck him.

Traffic was diverted around the scene for 20 minutes while Lakeport Fire medical personnel examined the rider and police officials removed the downed motorcycle.

Brooks was able to stand and with some assistance and walked to the nearby sidewalk where the initial investigation continued.

Both parties were found to be in legal compliance of the law and no citations were issued on scene.

Brooks' bright yellow motorcycle suffered very minor damage, while the pickup had noticeable damage to the front grill and headlights.

Brooks was reluctant at first to accept the medic’s suggestion to have him transported to Sutter Lakeside for closer examination. After he was assured of the security of his newly acquired motorcycle he agreed.

Sutter Lakeside personnel told Lake County News that Brooks had been examined and released but would not release any other information regarding his condition.

Police were still on scene more than an hour later looking for witnesses and hoping to find the woman preparing to cross the street.

Rasmussen said that until all possible witnesses have been contacted and interviewed no immediate determination of fault could be made.

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LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's own Team DUI will be picking up another award this weekend for its efforts to combat underage drinking, and drinking and driving.

On Saturday, members will travel to Sacramento to receive the “Heart of MADD” award, offered by the Mothers Against Drunk Driving, at the Statewide Law Enforcement & Community Recognition Dinner.

Team DUI, founded in 2007, includes numerous local citizens, community leaders and officials who have held student assemblies, shared their stories and worked to educate the community about the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol with driving.

Team members Judy Thein, Clearlake Police Chief Allan McClain, Capt. Russell Perdock of the Lake County Sheriff's Office and California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia will accept the prestigious award. Thein reported that it's the first time a Lake County group has received the award.

In a letter to Thein, MADD State Executive Director Matthias Mendezona reported that nominations for the award were submitted from MADD affiliates and community action sites, law enforcement agencies and other partners around California.

“You were selected to receive this award because of your commitment to MADD's mission and your involvement with the law enforcement community,” Mendezona wrote.

Thein told Lake County News that Team DUI's members are honored to have MADD California show their appreciation for the team's work in the good fight against drinking and driving – with the focus on underage drinking.

She said a MADD California official told her that Team DUI is what the Heart of MADD award is all about.

Team DUI has received several accolades for its efforts, including a 2008 County Alcohol and Drug Program Administrators Association of California Prevention Award, and the 2008 Stars of Lake County Award for best idea, as Lake County News has reported. Last October, Congressman Mike Thompson honored the team with special recognition during a visit to Clearlake.

Thein, whose daughter Kellie was the victim of a drunk driving crash, also was honored in January 2008 with the California Friday Night Live Partnership's Super Star Adult Ally awards for her work to reduce drinking and driving.

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Jennifer Swenson has been named St. Helena Hospital Clearlake's new vice president of operations. Courtesy photo.

CLEARLAKE – St. Helena Hospital Clearlake has appointed Jennifer Swenson, who has been part of the hospital’s management team for the past five years, to vice president of operations effective May 2.

Swenson succeeds Linda Gibson who is leaving Adventist Health following a restructuring of the leadership team.

As senior vice president of operations, Gibson has been instrumental in improving quality and patient satisfaction at St. Helena Hospital Clearlake, according to a Tuesday statement. She had made many positive changes, including the addition of a hospitalist program for in-patient care and a new physicians’ group to staff the emergency department.

Swenson, a Hidden Valley Lake resident, has worked for the hospital since 2004 as its chief financial officer and assistant vice president of finance. She joined Adventist Health in 1990 and has worked at four of its California hospitals, including St. Helena Hospital in Napa County.

“I am excited to continue our mission to provide top quality health care to the residents of Lake County. I really believe in that mission and the work we’re doing,” Swenson said.

Swenson was a key manager behind several major accomplishments at the hospital, including the designation as a critical access facility and the construction of projects ranging from the recent front entrance remodeling to the new $1-million Kelseyville Family Health Center that opened last month.

“Jennifer’s wealth of knowledge in managing hospital finances and operations is a tremendous asset to St. Helena Hospital Clearlake. Her commitment to the hospital and the community and to our patients, employees and physicians is inspiring,” said Terry Newmyer, St. Helena Hospital president and chief executive officer. “We appreciate Linda’s many contributions to our hospitals and wish her the very best.”

SANTA ROSA – A Kelseyville teenager will be tried as an adult in a homicide case filed against him in Sonoma County.

Marco Antonio Meza, 17, is facing a murder charge for the April 6 shooting death of 18-year-old Luis Suarez of Santa Rosa, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Spencer Brady of the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office.

It's alleged that Meza shot Suarez in a driveby shooting, Brady said.

Meza was arrested by the Santa Rosa Police Department April 8 after being taken in for questioning with another man, 20-year-old Santa Rosa resident Fernando Mendoza. Mendoza was arrested on a parole violation.

A suspected Sureno gang member, Meza entered no plea during an appearance in Sonoma County Superior Court on Friday, Brady said.

The teenager, who Brady said will continue to be housed at Sonoma County's juvenile detention center despite being tried as an adult, is scheduled to return to court on Friday, April 17.

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LAKE COUNTY – Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) this week announced it made property tax payments totaling more than $116 million to the 49 counties in which it operates, as well as more than $151 million in franchise fees and surcharges to local jurisdictions.

The property tax amounts represent full and timely payment of property taxes due for the period from January 1 to June 30, 2009,the company reported.

Lake County will receive a property tax payment form PG&E in the amount of $465,488.39. Neighboring counties received the following amounts: Colusa, $590,298.91; Glenn, $429,108.75; Mendocino, $760,564.92; Napa, $1,096,917.16; Sonoma, $3,364,088.44; and Yolo County, $1,227,034.25.

San Luis Obispo County received the most property tax money from PG&E of any county, with $12,580,786.14, while Lassen County, with $39,170.52, received the least in payments.

The company’s tax payments to counties for tax year 2008-09 increased by more than $19 million over the tax payments made one year ago. This was a result of an increase in assessments due to PG&E’s infrastructure investments and an overall increase in tax rates.

This week PG&E also paid franchise fees and franchise fee surcharges to the 48 counties and 244 California cities in which it operates.

The 2008 payments total about $62 million for gas and about $89 million for electric service. This represents an increase of more than $11 million above the previous year, including more than $5.2 million to cities and counties in the North Coast region.

Local jurisdictions received the following amounts for electric services: city of Clearlake – $115,869.46; Lakeport – $33,628.97; unincorporated Lake County, $406,132.63.

A franchise fee is a percentage of gross receipts that PG&E pays cities and counties for the right to use public streets to run gas and electric service.

The franchise fee surcharge is a percentage of the transportation and energy costs to customers choosing to buy their energy from third parties. PG&E collects the surcharges and passes them to cities and counties.

“PG&E’s payment of franchise fees and property taxes is a stable source of revenue local governments can count on during tight budgetary times,” said Nancy E. McFadden, PG&E’s senior vice president of public affairs. “In recent weeks PG&E paid more than $267 million in franchise fees and property taxes. These payments support important services including police and fire protection, education, public health and environmental services.”


SACRAMENTO – Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee Chairman Wesley Chesbro (D-First District) said Tuesday that the State Water Resources Control Board is making progress on new septic tank regulations that protect the environment without imposing financial hardship on property owners.

However, the committee he chairs approved legislation intended to continue legislative pressure for a new approach.

“Water Board representatives made it clear they have torn up the onerous regulations proposed late last year and are willing to start over with a clean slate,” Chesbro said after a Committee hearing Tuesday at which the Water Board staff reported on progress made in revising proposed rules to regulate septic systems under AB 885 (2000). “The Water Board is responding to the concerns of constituents whose pocket books will be affected by new regulations.”

Late last year the Water Board sparked controversy when it proposed new regulations under AB 885 (2000) that, among several new requirements, would have made regular inspections of septic systems mandatory.

After encountering severe opposition from septic system owners across the state who criticized the high costs associated with the proposed requirements, the Water Board decided to withdraw its proposals and start over. In Tuesday’s report to the Committee, Water Board representatives said the Board hopes to have the framework of new proposals ready by the end of summer.

“The Water Board staff learned a lesson about involving the public earlier in the process,” Chesbro said. “It’s hard to imagine what its staff was thinking with its earlier proposals in these economic times. The board’s new proposals must protect our water resources without overly burdening septic system owners.”

He added that too often the process takes place behind the scenes. “This time the Water Board needs to make sure the process is more transparent. This committee, on a bipartisan basis, will be monitoring the process. I have asked the Water Board to return late this summer for a progress report.”

The Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee approved AB 580 (Huber), which addresses some of the concerns expressed about AB 885, Tuesday afternoon.

Chesbro said AB 580 will be available if needed if the Water Board’s new proposals aren’t what the committee is expecting.

“We passed this bill with a bipartisan effort and we will move it to the governor’s desk in a bipartisan fashion if we need to,” Chesbro said.

From left, paid call Engineer Bob Cummesky, Fire Marshal Dave Miinch, paid call Firefighter Dave Watkins and Battalion Chief Jim Wright. Courtesy photo.


MIDDLETOWN – The South Lake County Fire Protection District has a new piece of equipment in its arsenal.

On April 8, the district took delivery of a new Office of Emergency Services engine identified as OES-359.

This new engine was provided to the South Lake County Fire Protection District to utilize in response to California’s ever-increasing threat of fire and earthquake related emergencies.

The Office of Emergency Services provides the engine free of charge with the agreed upon understanding that should a catastrophic emergency arise within the State of California the South Lake County Fire Protection District will provide the staffing needed to respond.

The fire district can use the engine to augment its existing apparatus inventory in an effort to quell the threat of fire and other related emergencies locally.

“Our Fire District has been providing this needed staffing since 1971 upon signing our first agreement with Office of Emergency Services,” said Fire Marshal Dave Miinch. “Much appreciation goes out to our paid call fire staff who answer the call of duty when an emergency arises in the state of California. Several times each year this engine will be called upon to respond to emergencies and without the help of our Paid Call Fire Staff that wouldn’t be possible.”

This most recent delivery provided what is known as a Type I Fire Engine and a Type III Urban Search and Rescue Unit.

The new unit has the capability of delivering 1,250 gallons a minute with a tank capacity of 850 gallons of water. It carries specialized equipment, which can be utilized in the search and rescue of victims during earthquake emergencies and other related disasters.

“It’s one of the finest pieces of rescue apparatus I’ve seen in my fire service career of 22 years,” said Miinch. “The California Office of Emergency Services should be commended for providing such a quality piece of fire apparatus to protect the people of California from the threat of fire and other related disasters.”

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