Wednesday, 12 June 2024

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Firefighters at the scene of a crash along Highway 20 near Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on the morning of Saturday, March 20, 2010. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.
 

 

 

 

CLEARLAKE OAKS – A fiery crash along Highway 20 Saturday morning that closed the highway for a short time reportedly resulted in minor injuries for several people.


The two-car collision occurred shortly after 11:30 a.m. just west of Hillside Lane about a mile west of Clearlake Oaks and just past the 11700 block of Highway 20, according to the California Highway Patrol and witnesses at the scene.


A large full-size pickup collided with what appeared to be a GMC Jimmy or a Chevy Blazer. That second vehicle burst into flames and sent up a huge plume of thick black smoke.


Clearlake Oaks resident Jim O'Brien, who witnessed the scene, said the two vehicles came to rest about two-tenths of a mile apart.


O'Brien estimated the highway was closed in both directions for about an hour.


Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Pat Brown said five people were injured, with two transported to area hospitals. He said the injuries that resulted were minor.


Brown said Northshore Fire responded with two engines, a rescue unit, two medics, with he and another battalion chief also at the scene.


Tow companies were called to the scene to remove the vehicles, the CHP reported.


There was a lot of gasoline spilled from the crash, and firefighters used foam to extinguish the car fire, Brown said.


As a result, “We just put precautionary booms in the lake,” he said.


The Lake County Sheriff's Marine Patrol assisted with placing the booms in the water.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

 

 

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Highway 20 outside of Clearlake Oaks, Calif., was closed for close to an hour on the morning of Saturday, March 20, 2010, due to a two-vehicle collision.. Photo by Jim O'Brien.
 

 

 

 

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After putting out the fire officials put booms into the lake in case any gasoline or foam went into the water. Photo by Miguel Lanigan.
 

 

 

 

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The crash scene along Highway 20 outside of Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on Saturday, March 20, 2010. Photo by Bill Stone.
 

 

 

 

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A closeup of the flames coming from one of the vehicles involved in the crash along Highway 20 outside of Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on Saturday, March 20, 2010. Photo by Bill Stone.
 

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Finalists for the title of Lake County Poet Laureate included, from left, Michelle Berger of Spring Valley, and Russell Gonzaga and Elaine Watt, both of Middletown. Gonzaga was chosen as poet laureate on Sunday, March 14, 2010. Photo by Tera DeVroede.


 

 


LAKE COUNTY – Lake County’s current poet laureate, Mary McMillan, was happy to “pass the baton” on to her successor, Russell Gonzaga, at the “Select and Celebrate Program” held last Sunday, March 14.


The event, hosted by Lake County Arts Council and Main Street Gallery in Lakeport, was also broadcast live on the community radio station, KPFZ 88.1 FM.


Gonzaga, who lives at Harbin Hot Springs near Middletown, won the vote among two other candidates, Michelle Berger of Spring Valley and Elaine Watt, who also is from Harbin Hot Springs.


“Harbin Hot Springs has become a community of artists,” said Gonzaga after being handed a bouquet of flowers and being encouraged to give a speech. “I’m proud to be a part of a community of creative individuals.”


All three poets were contenders, and each had a very unique presence. Before presentations, McMillan did admit that it would be a difficult decision to make – especially after everyone read their poetry.


Gonzaga was first up at the podium after several past poets laureate treated the audience of about 30 people to some of their work. He began with a performance poem which showed his character and energy.


His pieces were mixed with large body motions, Islamic chants and hip-hop raps – he is an Islamic Dervish as well as a part-time teacher. He dedicated one poem to his students, another to his son.


Watts answered Gonzaga’s energy and emphasis with modesty and reverence. Her voice was clear but soft, and so the audience was very quiet to listen more closely.


Berger brought the audience back to life, addressing them directly – asking everyone how they were doing. She garnered a few laughs before she began. Then, she gave the audience a disclaimer – she liked to find new ways to formulate what she writes about.


One piece was a result of flipping over two Tarot cards and writing on the images of them both. Her meter and flow were nursery rhyme-like but the words and stories within her poetry were mostly comical.


After all three candidates performed, three previous poets laureate – McMillan, Carolyn Wing Greenlee and Sandra Wade – had to select one of them.

 

 

 

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Past poet laureates, from left, Mary McMillan, Sandra Wade and Carolyn Wing Greenlee discuss selection of the new poet laureate at the

LAKE COUNTY – With a vote on Congress' health care reform package expected this weekend, those on both sides of the issue are making their best arguments regarding the legislation, which is expected to reshape the country's health care landscape.


HR 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the related budget reconciliation legislation, HR 4872, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, are the subject of the anticipated vote, which Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) told reporters on Friday that he expects to happen this weekend.


Congress' Republican leadership strongly opposes the legislation, arguing that Republicans “are on the side of the American people,” and that the American people oppose government-run health care.


On Friday Thompson said he was planning to vote for the bill.


“I think this is an important measure that has finally come to fruition,” he said.


However, Thompson – who said that health care reform has been one of the major planks in his platform since he first ran for elected office – said of the legislation, “It's not everything that I wanted.”


He said he ideal legislation “would look a lot different,” but this is a step in the right direction.


Thompson said the legislation would extend health care coverage to 95 percent of all Americans, including 65,000 people in his First Congressional District – which stretches from Del Norte County south to include Humboldt, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, lake and Yolo counties – who currently don't have it.


By giving those 65,000 people health care, it would reduce uncompensated care costs by nearly $70 million annually, he said, citing a study from Congress' Energy and Commerce Committee.


Those costs, he said, have to be absorbed by health care providers, who in turn pass them on to other patients.


On Thursday the Congressional Budget Office released a report that stated the legislation is supposed to reduce federal deficits by $138 billion from 2010 to 2019, but that number has come under fire from critics who say it underestimates the bill's true costs.


Thompson said his Washington office and four district offices have been receiving a lot of calls, letters and e-mails from constituents all over the spectrum on the legislation.


He said they've received reactions ranging from people who don't want “Obamacare” to those who want a 100-percent government-run, single-payer health care system.


“It's running overwhelmingly pro-health care reform from the contacts in the district,” he said.


He said that's because health care costs are going through the roof, with premium costs in some cases increasing by 40 percent. “The system is not sustainable.”


Thompson also is getting calls from out of state, all of which are against health care reform.


Reacting to concerns over the bill's impacts for small business, Thompson – who is a member of the House's Ways and Means Committee, and helped write the House version of the bill – said it has “a small business perspective” in that it exempts out employers with fewer than 50 employees.


Instead, it would allow those smaller businesses to go into an exchange and pool their buying power to get better coverage at a lower cost, he explained.


Other provisions in the bill include prescription drug reforms to deal with the “doughnut hole” for seniors in the Medicare Part D plan, a ban on denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions and a temporary provision to allow adults with such conditions to buy into a high risk pool until further preexisting provisions go into effect.


Thompson, who said he supports preventive health care, said the bill increases training programs for primary care physicians, nurse practitioners and other public health officials. It also will test certain types of health care delivery and, if they work, expand their usage.


Doctors, he added, will be paid for the quality of the health care they provide, not the quantity.


Although he had voted for the bill in committee and on the floor of the House, Thompson said he remained uncommitted until Friday, when he found out everything that was in it, what it would cost and what it would save. The bill, he said, is paid for.


He also thinks the necessary votes are in place.


“I think people are anxious to get this vote behind us so we can start delivering some of these benefits to the American people,” he said. “We're making some major changes.”


Student loan reform is bundled into the legislation through the reconciliation process because it also saves money, said Thompson.


That legislation will no longer require the federal government to take the risk in guaranteeing loans while the private sector benefits, and put more dollars back into higher education and opportunity for students, he said.


Thompson said the public option is not in the health care legislation, but he added, “I don't think the idea of a public option is dead and buried, I think it's something that is very much alive and there will be efforts to revisit that.”


Different sides of the issue


Lake County News called local groups for input on the legislation.


Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lori Peters did not return a call, and Lake County Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton forwarded requests for comment to the chamber's board members, none of whom responded to Lake County News.


Fulton said that last October the chamber board and legislative committee met with Thompson specifically to discuss health care reform, but they have taken no official position on the current legislation.


She said she's sent out a survey to members, the results of which she expects to have next week.


The US Chamber of Commerce said it strongly opposes the legislation, which it called “fundamentally flawed.” The group said the bill would hurt businesses through increased taxes and new entitlements while cutting Medicare, increasing some costs and ultimately doing “little to control the long term spiraling” of health care costs.


The Mendocino-Lake County Medical Society also did return several messages left Friday.


The California Medical Association released a statement this week explaining that it was lobbying Congress for changes to the bills.


The group said that while the legislation represents a step forward in many regards, “it comes up short in ways that could ultimately hamper patients' ability to see a doctor in a timely manner.”


Changes the group was seeking included the “Sustainable Growth Rate” formula that could cut Medicare funding by 40 percent in coming years, having Congress retain full authority over Medicare rather than delegating it to an advisory board, increasing Medicaid's low reimbursement rates, boosting Medicare payments in 14 high-cost California counties where many physicians are opting out of the program and seniors are having trouble accessing doctors, and improving quality reporting requirements to track Medicare treatment so they don't mislead patients.


Another group offering support with some specific reservations is the California Hospital Association


Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the association, said that group's board of trustees met Friday morning and decided to support the bills.


“With that, we do have one concern that goes along with that support,” she said.


Emerson explained that they are concerned about a proposal still under discussion that would address the geographic variation in costs.


Medicare payments to hospitals vary somewhat by geographic regions of the country, Emerson said. Because the cost of living in states like California is higher, the payments are correspondingly.


Emerson said there has been an effort by smaller states to have those payment disparities addressed, which would be done by taking funds from California and other large state.


“We remain concerned that that is included in the health reform proposals,” she said. “We have long made our concerns known to our congressional delegation and continue to do so.”


Thompson, who called himself an “eternal optimist,” said he hoped after the bill passed that Congress could move on. “The American people didn't send us up here to fight,” but to work, he said.


He was clear, however, that the legislation was far from a complete solution.


“You never cast a vote that solves a problem,” he said. Rather, bills address problems.


“You're making it better but you're still working on whatever that may be, and this will be no different,” he said, adding that, before the ink is dry on the bill, they'll be working on new aspects of health care.


“It's a very fluid process,” he said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program have designated March 21-27 as Tsunami Awareness Week.


This designation comes in the wake of last month’s tsunami in Chile and less than six months after a tsunami hit American Samoa, both events resulting in loss of life and property.


As part of tsunami awareness week, NOAA’s National Weather Service will host open houses at its tsunami warning centers in Alaska and Hawaii, and many coastal states will host community tsunami awareness activities.


California will launch a statewide tsunami awareness campaign including a new classroom lesson plan, two municipalities in Puerto Rico will complete requirements to become National Weather Service-designated TsunamiReady communities and Hawaii’s Lt. Governor, Duke Aiona, will host a tsunami awareness event at a school within a tsunami inundation zone on Oahu.


“NOAA continues to improve our ability to detect, forecast and warn for tsunamis,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “But warnings are only part of the equation. To survive a tsunami, coastal residents and visitors need to know how to recognize a tsunami threat and how to get to safety quickly.”


Lubchenco noted that the U.S. coast is vulnerable to near-and onshore earthquakes, similar to recent tragedies in American Samoa and Chile. Those earthquakes generated fast-moving tsunamis that struck within 20 minutes with little or no warning.


A powerful earthquake can be nature’s warning of a tsunami,” she said. “That’s when you need to grab your family and head to higher ground.”


In conjunction with Tsunami Awareness Week, on March 24 the National Weather Service and several state emergency management organizations will conduct exercises to test and practice tsunami response plans along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific coasts, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Alaska and Hawaii.


These exercises, called LANTEX10 and PACIFEX10, provide an opportunity for coastal emergency management organizations to test and update emergency response plans for tsunamis – a critical component to maintaining readiness for a tsunami emergency.


Coastal emergency management organizations will participate in the tests at varying levels, ranging from table top exercises to full-scale drills and beach-front evacuations.


“It’s important that families in coastal areas take steps to prepare for a potential tsunami or other emergency,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “These steps include developing a family communications plan, putting an emergency kit together, and following the instructions of state and local officials in the event of an emergency. I encourage everyone to become informed of the risks where they live in order to better protect their homes and families.”


In the state of Alaska and the Northern California counties of Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino, an Emergency Alert System communications test will be conducted in conjunction with the exercise.


Residents in these areas may hear community sirens, see an Emergency Alert System tsunami alert scroll across their television screens and hear a test message being broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.


The tests also provide coastal residents and businesses an opportunity to review and practice tsunami response plans.


The National Weather Service operates a tsunami warning system for the United States, U.S. territories and western Canada through two tsunami warning centers, in Palmer, Alaska, and Ewa Beach, Hawaii.


The centers, staffed 24/7, issue tsunami warning, advisory, watch and information messages as early as five to fifteen minutes after an earthquake. Upon receipt of tsunami messages, state and local emergency management agencies determine the appropriate response including whether or not to evacuate people from the warned area.


Following the deadly 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Congress provided NOAA with more than $90 million to expand the nation’s tsunami detection and warning capabilities, and an additional $135 million for research, integrated observing systems, hazard mitigation and for a global tsunami warning and education network. As a result of this investment, the nation and the world are better prepared for the next tsunami.


To date 74 coastal communities in the U.S. have earned the National Weather Service TsunamiReady designation, up from only 11 in 2004.


Thanks to this program, emergency managers in these communities are now better prepared to warn their citizens about tsunamis. NOAA also has completed a network of 39 buoy stations, up from only six experimental buoys in 2004.


Warning signs of a tsunami


  • A strong earthquake, or one that persists for 20 seconds or longer.

  • The ocean withdraws, exposing the sea floor.

  • A loud, roaring sound (like an airplane or a train) coming from the ocean.

  • Tsunami warnings broadcast over television and radio, by beach lifeguards, community sirens, text message alerts, National Weather Service tsunami warning center Web sites and on NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards


What you should do if you see these signs


  • Remain call.

  • Move inland to higher ground.

  • Continue to monitor media sources for information.

  • Stay away from the beach until officials issue an “all clear" – remember that a tsunami may be a series of waves over a period of several hours.


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

MARYSVILLE – The Yuba Community College District (YCCD) has complied in all material respects with the performance requirements set by Proposition 39 and Measure J through the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2009, according to a performance audit report conducted by the Certified Public Accounting Firm Matson and Isom.


Measure J contains strict financial safeguards, including a requirement that independent audits be

conducted annually to ensure that bond funds are spent only on the classroom and facility improvements as identified in the original ballot language.


Roxie Azparren, auditor for Matson and Isom, presented the annual YCCD Proposition 39 and Measure J General Obligation Bonds Performance Audit to the Measure J Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) at its quarterly meeting on Feb. 2, college officials reported last week.


The performance audit verified that Measure J bond revenues were expended only for the construction, acquisition, furnishing, and equipping of the district projects approved by the voters and that no funds were used for salaries of school administrators or other operating expenses of the district.


In addition, the audit found that the District properly accounted for the proceeds and expenditures of Proposition 39 and Measure J General Obligation Bonds. As such, the CBOC approved the audit report.


Eleanor Mackensen, chair of the Measure J CBOC, presented the 2008-09 Proposition 39 and Measure J General Obligation Bonds Performance Audit to the YCCD Board of Trustees at their regular meeting earlier this month.


The Board of Trustees unanimously accepted the report.


The auditing firm also found that the bond fund financial statements presented fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the Measure J Bond Program as of June 30, 2009, and the changes in financial position and cash flows thereof for the year then ended in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the United State of America.


No material weaknesses were found and auditing tests disclosed no instances of noncompliance.


“I would like to congratulate the entire Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, our program management firm AECOM, and the YCCD staff who work on the Measure J bond construction program on a daily basis for doing a magnificent job,” said Dr. Nicki Harrington, YCCD Chancellor.


“Their oversight, management and hands on hard work has paid off with yet another clean audit,” Harrington said. “This audit and financial statements serve as overwhelming proof that the district and the CBOC are serving as financial stewards for our local taxpayers, ensuring that the facilities master plan as embodied in Measure J comes to fruition for the benefit of our students and the communities we serve.”


Measure J was passed by voters in the eight counties served by YCCD in November 2006 to repair, renovate, and add facilities for community college services.


The Bond Construction Program, scheduled to complete in 2014, is at its half-way mark, with projects progressing on time and on budget.


Our Program Managing (PM) partner, AECOM, architectural and construction firms, and the over 100 local businesses and subcontractors employed by the Measure J program are doing an outstanding job, providing jobs for our community, and contributing positively to the local economy.


The Yuba Community College District spans eight counties and nearly 4,200 square miles of territory in rural, north-central California. It has colleges in Marysville and Woodland, an educational center in Clearlake, and will be adding outreach facilities in Sutter and Colusa Counties as part of the Measure J facilities bond.


For more information on the Measure J bond construction program, including the CBOC and the

aforementioned audit, please visit the Measure J Web site at www.yccd.edu/measurej .


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

LAKEPORT – It's too early to tell yet what the impacts of recent lawsuits and foreclosure actions will have on a lumber company with roots in Lake County, according to a company spokesman.


Piedmont Lumber & Mill Co. – which has sites in Lakeport, Calpella, Santa Rosa, Tracy and Pittsburg, and a quarry – is facing several serious legal and financial matters.


On March 1 Umpqua Bank filed a lawsuit seeking judicial foreclosure against the company. The same day, a federal lawsuit was filed against the company over its alleged failure to pay benefits to its union-represented employees, as Lake County News has reported.


Also on March 1, Umpqua Bank filed notices of default against the Lakeport store at 2465 S. Main St., which is a securing property on two loans totaling more than $14.5 million, according to county documents.


All of that bad news was topped off by a fire that burned Piedmont Lumber's Walnut Creek store on March 13. Contra Costa County Fire Protection District investigators completed their examination of the property this week but have not made a determination about the fire's cause, and also continue looking at the cause of a previous fire at the company's Pittsburg location last August.


Piedmont Lumber spokesman James Simmons told Lake County News on Friday that he is assisting the company with responding to inquiries about the Walnut Creek fire primarily.


“That's what we're focused on right now, is how to emerge from the Walnut Creek fire,” he said. “That's where all the attention has been.”


He said the company's managers have been given information about the fire situation which they're free to distribute to staff.


Regarding whether or not the company will rebuild and reopen the Walnut Creek location, “It's way too early to know,” he said, pointing out that the company only took back control of the premises earlier this week.


Simmons didn't have information on the company's plans for addressing the foreclosure actions and lawsuits, also noting it's too early. He also didn't know if the company was talking to its employees about its financial situation or whether store closures could result.


The company currently has about 180 employees across all of its sites, and 45 at its Lakeport store, Simmons said.


There have been recent staffing changes across the company but Simmons didn't have specifics.


Regarding concerns about the future of the Lakeport store, Simmons said that's understandable. “It's a nice store, it's a nice town.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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ESPN Bassmaster Golden State Shootout champion Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, shows off his trophy on the concluding day of the competition on Sunday, March 21, 2010. Photo by Eric Cox.



 

 

 



CLEAR LAKE – Another successful bass tournament wrapped up on Clear Lake on Sunday, as the final weigh-in was completed in the ESPN Bassmaster Golden State Shootout.


Fishing in the tournament began last Thursday, as Lake County News has reported.


The tournament winner was Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, who reeled in 98 pounds, 6 ounces of bass during the competition.


Velvick walked away from the tournament with $100,000 in cash, according to the final standings.


ESPN reported that 93 anglers caught 1,128 fish with a total weight of more than 4,033 pounds in the four days of fishing. Cash winnings totaled $603,000.


Taking second was Bill Lowen of North Bend, Ohio, with 92 pounds, 9 ounces of fish and $25,000 in cash winnings, followed by Guy Eaker of Cherryville, North Carolina, with 90 pounds, 11 ounces and $20,000 in earnings.


Rounding out the top five were Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., in fourth place with 86 pounds, 2 ounces of bass and $15,000, and former Lake County resident Skeet Reese, now living in Auburn, who caught 85 pounds, 3 ounces of fish and won $15,000 to place fifth.

 

 

 

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Anglers were on Clear Lake before sunrise on Thursday, March 18, 2010, the first day of the ESPN Bassmaster Golden State Shootout in Lake County, Calif. Photo by Eric Cox.
 

 


The competition was dominated by competitors from the South. Besides Reese, only 10th place finisher Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande and Ishama Monroe of Hughson, who placed 75th, hailed from California and the West Coast.


Full results can be found at http://proxy.espn.go.com/outdoors/bassmaster/media/tournament?tournamentId=1309 .


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

 

 

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Bass anglers prepare to take off on Friday, March 19, 2010. Photo by Eric Cox.
 

 

 

 

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Bass boats have their lights on during the early morning takeoff on Friday, March 19, 2010. Photo by Eric Cox.
 

 

 

 

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The bass boats tie up along Library Park in Lakeport, Calif., on Saturday, March 20, 2010. Photo by Eric Cox.
 

 

 

 

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Onlookers check out the scene over the weekend during the ESPN Bassmaster Golden State Shootout. Photo by Bill Stone.
 

 

 

 

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Former Lake County resident Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., shows off his fish during the weigh-in for the Bassmaster Golden State Shootout on Sunday, March 21, 2010. Reese placed fifth in the competition. Photo by Eric Cox.
 

Biggs 155 Diner

155 Park St.

Lakeport, CA. 95453

Phone: 707-262-0155

Fax: 707-262-0150

Phone and Fax orders are welcome

Open every day, call for lunch/dinner times


Question: How do you kill a restaurant reviewer without leaving pesky evidence behind? Answer: Cause his brain to implode.


You can do this in several ways. First, have a restaurant name that doesn't seem to match either the food or the facility. Second, have a decor that is elegant yet doesn't sound like it when described. Third, don't warn your patrons about the portions.


A good restaurant reviewer will be able to make the reader feel like they are sharing the experience and then be tempted to go and have their own personal experience.


I don't know if I have the eloquence to portray my experience because of the aforementioned conditions. My brain is throbbing in the attempt to write this.


I encountered all of these circumstances, not just one, when I went to Biggs 155 Diner. Let's go back to the beginning, before this clandestine attempt on my life.


I took a seafood class at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake recently, not because I wanted to learn about seafood but because I wanted to learn about the chef teaching the class, Chef Jeff Andre. He is the owner and leads the kitchen at Biggs 155 Diner.


He has over 20 years experience in the cooking profession, from cooking in the Coast Guard to landlubber restaurants. He's also a true chef, being classically trained at the Culinary Institute of America. He is very focused on regional seafood which shows in his dishes.


Since I met Chef Jeff Andre at the seafood class, I knew I would have to slink into his restaurant quickly so as not tip him off that I was there. I entered and made a beeline to a corner booth so I wouldn't be seen. I then got a chance to look around the place.


The decor: The interior looks like a barn, but in a nice way. Imagine if you had Martha Stewart decorate your barn. The wood paneled walls are a nice olive green and one wall is corrugated tin or steel. Barn lights line the walls above the unrefined bench seating, and there are also plenty of chairs.


My mind is twisting and turning trying to adequately describe an "upscale, comfortable, elegant barn." The large windows on the front of the dining room allow just about everyone a beautiful view of Library Park and the lake.


The seating indoors will accommodate about 25 people, there is more seating upstairs on the deck for another 20 or so, and half a dozen more outside on the main sidewalk.


Lunch time is crunch time at Biggs 155 Diner, and the place was packed full of government employees, attorneys and other neck-tied, business-suited people. A local radio station is playing in the background at an appropriate volume level, where I can hear it and enjoy it while the couple next to me are having a comfortable conversation.


Diner food. I say the words and even you have just formed an impression in your head about what that is going to consist of. At Biggs 155 Diner it's not what you just thought of at all.


While the menu is dotted with some recognizable "diner fare" like burgers, hot dogs, fries and buffalo wings, it also includes a large variety of sophisticated food.


There are items like "Salmon on an Asian Vacation," "Marinated Veggie Stack Sandwich" and "Grilled NY Strip Steak." So now I'm confused about why it is called a diner and why it's not called “fine dining.” My brain is going to burst because of this conundrum.


The food. I was quite hungry so I ordered the crispy calamari and shrimp salad and the RBBLT – roast beef, bacon, lettuce and tomato. I figured that would be enough food to sate me. When the salad arrived I let out an audible "Uff Da!" at the sight of it (“Uff Da” is a Norwegian exclamation that is best translated as a verbal exclamation point).


The salad was a meal in itself – mixed greens, green onions, purple onions, a couple types of cabbage, with an Asian inspired soy-based dressing all topped with a generous amount of squid and shrimp.


My waitress, Alana, responded to my exclamation with, "Yeah, but at least you ordered some of the best things on the menu."


If you are squeamish about squid I will warn you that there are clusters of arms and tentacles included in the salad, not just "rings," but I think they are the best tasting part of a squid. (Quick nonsequitir: Squid have eight arms and two tentacles while octopus have eight arms and no tentacles.)


The seafood was flawless! I don't usually order shrimp because so often cooks seem to have a penchant for overcooking shrimp, especially fried shrimp. You end up with shrimp-flavored rubber balls. If you want to experience perfectly cooked shrimp then try Biggs' shrimp. It was juicy and tender, yes, actually juicy and tender shrimp with a crispy coating.


The RBBLT is a good-sized sandwich. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to even touch it after the mountainous salad so as it arrived I said, "I'll need that to-go."


I would have preferred the dish to be taken back to the kitchen and boxed up but Alana just brought a box to the table and left it for me to package, but that's just a minor point. The sandwich has a pleasant horseradish sting to it and just the right combination of beef and bacon.


Passing through Lakeport again a few days later, I swing by Biggs 155 Diner and get a shrimp po'boy to go. The shrimp po'boy is also better than I expected. Again the shrimp is perfectly cooked, and the soft yet rustic bread is the perfect texture and flavor for the sandwich. The lettuce is a high quality red tipped leaf lettuce, not cheap iceberg, and the tomato is ripe and flavorful. The French fries that accompany the sandwich have a crispy exterior but a creamy interior.


On a third visit I ordered the "blue plate special" consisting of a creamy potato/bacon soup followed by corned beef and cabbage. Once again I couldn't find anything wrong with anything. Alana was again charming.


The soup is balanced with just the right combination of potato and bacon, neither overpowers the other and you can taste both of them. The corned beef was firm but tender enough to be cut with a table knife. The cabbage was in a light broth with red potatoes and carrots that were fully cooked but al dente, just the way they should be.


The staff. Almost every time I've been to Biggs 155 Diner it has been busy, so busy to the point where the waitresses don't have time to chat. They have always been rushed but still very professional. They are always friendly even through the most crowded dining room.


I always like to add as much information about my meals as I can, even the mistakes that I find, so I don't look like I'm completely shilling the restaurant. Unfortunately (or rather, fortunately) in all of my visits I could find no real faults besides the aneurysm-inducing dichotomy of describing everything.


Prices are higher than what you would expect from "diner food," but are a bargain given the quality and quantity of food you receive. Biggs 155 has several yelp.com reviews, and all of them rate it above average.


So despite the oxymoron's I've had to develop for this restaurant of "elegant barn" and "flawless diner food," Chef Jeff Andre is redefining what the word "diner" means even if it is going to kill me.


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. Follow him on Twitter, http://twitter.com/Foodiefreak .


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

LAKEPORT – The final list of nominees for this year's Stars of Lake County Community Awards has been finalized.


The Lake County Chamber of Commerce released the list, which is included below, on Friday.


The Stars Selection Committee is receiving their books of nominations this weekend and will meet on Thursday, March 25, to discuss and vote on their selections, according to chamber Chief Executive Officer Melissa Fulton.


The results of that meeting will become known on Saturday, April 10, at the 13th annual Stars of Lake County Awards Program.


This year Stars is being held in the concert showroom at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice.


Nominees, community members and sponsors will gather for a special evening of recognition for the people who make Lake County a special place to live, work and play.

 

David Neft will once again entertain everyone during the reception, which begins at 5 p.m.


Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. with the presentation of Awards at 7:15 p.m.


Following the presentation of awards, there will be DJ music for those who wish to dance, presented by Tony Barthel of the Featherbed Railroad B&B.

 

Fulton said the Lake County Chamber wishes to thank all who took time to write nominations; their sponsors, including Cliff and Nancy Ruzicka, Westamerica Bank, Barry Parkinson, McDonald's Lakeport, Polestar Computers, Strong Financial Network, Lake County Land Trust, Foods Etc., Bruno's Shop Smart, Congressman Mike Thompson, Shannon Ridge Winery & Vineyards, John Tomkins, North Lake Medical Pharmacy and the Lake County Record-Bee.

 

Tickets for Stars are on sale at the Lake County Chamber office at 875 Lakeport Blvd., Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Nominees tickets are $50 per person, while general public tickets are $60 person person.


Please contact the Chamber at 707-263-5092 with any questions.



2010 STARS OF LAKE COUNTY FINAL NOMINEES


MAN OF THE YEAR


1. Andy Weiss, Lakeport

2. Kyle A. Reams, Lucerne


WOMAN OF THE YEAR


1. Mildred Pickersgill, Lakeport

2. Paula Bryant, Hidden Valley Lake

3. Jennifer Rodgers, Clearlake

4. Maria M. FitzGerald, Hidden Valley Lake

5. Cheri Johnson, Hidden Valley Lake


LARGE BUSINESS OF THE YEAR


1. Mendo Mill Lumber & Home Center, Clearlake

2. Lake County Department of Social Services, Lakeport

3. Lakeport Grocery Outlet, Lakeport


SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR


1. Pogo’s Pizza, Kelseyville

2. A&B Collision, Clearlake

3. Featherbed Railroad B&B, Nice

4. Quail Run Fitness, Lakeport

5. Kelsey Creek Coffee, Lakeport

6. Howard’s Grotto, Clearlake

7. Doug Reams Dental Office, Lucerne

8. Floortown, Clearlake


YOUTH ADVOCATE/VOLUNTEER


1. Peggy Alexander, Clearlake

2. Darren Brookshire, Hidden Valley Lake


YOUTH ADVOCATE/PROFESSIONAL


1. Brian Sumpter, Cloverdale

2. Barbara Clark, Lakeport

3. Jill Hoeffer, Lakeport

4. Lucas Madrzyk, Lower Lake


STUDENT OF THE YEAR, MALE


1. Chance Crail, Lakeport

2. Benjamin Mullin, Lucerne


STUDENT OF THE YEAR, FEMALE


1. Cylinda Neidenbach, Kelseyville

2. Tenae Stewart, Middletown

3. Courtney Havrilla, Upper Lake

4. Laura Wold, Lucerne


AGRICULTURE AWARD


1. Yerba Santa Goat Dairy, Lakeport

2. Renker Farms, Lakeport


ARTS AWARD/AMATEUR


1. Lake County Theatre Co., Lakeport

2. Bert Hutt, Lakeport

3. Vicki Werkley, Lower Lake

4. Richard Seisser, Lakeport


VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR


1. Denise Johnson, Kelseyville

2. Carol Thorn, Lakeport

3. Phil Spooner, Clearlake Oaks

4. Scott and Melody Deleon, Lakeport

5. Alberta Knoll, Lakeport

6. Pete and Carol Germenis


MARLA RUZICKA HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR


1. Richard Birk, Hidden Valley Lake

2. Debra Rodrique, Middletown


SENIOR OF THE YEAR


1. Mrs. Freda Mohr, Lakeport

2. Jean Welch, Lakeport

3. Harry Graves, Clearlake

4. Edward McDonald, Lakeport

5. Rita Doyle, Clearlake

6. Jacque Spiker, Middletown


BEST IDEA OF THE YEAR


1. Paperless Newspaper via Lakeconews.com, Lucerne

2. Cardboard and Duct Tape Regatta by Lakeport Yacht Club, Lakeport

3. Woody’s Café (at Kelseyville Lumber), Kelseyville


ORGANIZATION, VOLUNTEER


1. Lake County Community Radio, Lakeport

2. Soroptimist International of Clear Lake, Clearlake

3. L.E.E.F., Lakeport

4. Mt. Konocti Facilitation, Lakeport

5. Lakeport Rotary Club, Lakeport

6. Lake County AARP tax preparers, Lakeport


ORGANIZATION, NONPROFIT


1. P.A.C.K Arts Academy, Middletown

2. Healing Rooms of Lake County, Clearlake


LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT


1. Audrey Lenore Keithly Murphy, RN, (Posthumously)

2. Thomas Hewlett, DDS, Clearlake

3. Frances Crary (Posthumous)

4. Esther Tarin-Flores, Kelseyville


NEW BUSINESS OF THE YEAR


1. LuLu’s Ice Cream & Desserts, Kelseyville

2. Lyndall’s Sport Stop Grill, Kelseyville

3. Guido’s Pizzeria, Kelseyville

4. Lake County Jazzercise, Middletown


ENVIRONMENTAL AWARD


1. Terry Knight, Lakeport

2. City of Clearlake Planning Commission, Clearlake

3. Bill Stone, Clearlake

4. Marilyn Waits, Kelseyville

5. Roberta Lyons, Lower Lake


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

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13Jun
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Middletown Area Town Hall
14Jun
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