Saturday, 15 June 2024

News

SANTA ROSA – On Tuesday, a former Chico resident was sentenced to life in prison for shooting his elderly grandfather in the back of the head as he sat in his rocking chair.


Sonoma County Judge Kenneth Gnoss sentenced Sean Patrick Mooney, 22, to spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of his grandfather, Robert Deming, on May 20, 2008, according to Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua.


“Justice was finally served today for a senseless act upon a vulnerable victim, 78-year-old Robert Deming,” Passalacqua said in a written statement. “The jury agreed that the defendant executed his grandfather as he sat at rest in a rocking chair for the selfish expectation of financial gain.”


On July 24, 2009, a Sonoma County jury convicted Mooney of first degree murder with a special circumstance of committing murder for financial gain, use of a firearm, elder abuse charges and receiving stolen property, the 12-gauge shotgun that was used in the murder.


The evidence revealed that Mooney had shot his grandfather in the back of the head, at near contact, as Deming sat peacefully in his rocking chair at his Sonoma home.


Shortly following the jury’s verdict, Mooney hired new counsel to present a motion for new trial, claiming among other things that his trial counsel was ineffective at trial and there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict.


After several days in evidentiary hearing in February, Gnoss denied the motion for new trial and set the case for sentencing.


In addition to his sentence of life without the possibility of parole, Mooney also must serve two years for possessing a stolen shotgun and another 25 years to life for using a firearm during the murder.


Deputy District Attorneys Traci Carrillo and Rosanne Darling led the prosecution of the case. Detective Chris Vivian from the Sonoma County’s Sheriff’s Office led the investigation. District Attorney Investigator Les Vanderpool also assisted during the trial and subsequent court hearings.


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

LAKE COUNTY – While foreclosure activity appears to be decreasing around the United States in recent months, the number of people in danger of losing their homes in Lake County is growing.


The most recent reports from Irvine-based RealtyTrac show that in January foreclosure filings — default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — were reported on 315,716 U.S. properties, a decrease of nearly 10 percent from the previous month but still 15 percent above the level reported in January 2009.


RealtyTrac reported that one in every 409 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing in January.


In Lake County, total foreclosure filings in January numbered 303, up 55 percent from the 195 filings reported in December 2009 and up 124 percent from the 135 filings in January 2009, the company reported.


The county's foreclosure statistics for the fourth quarter of 2009 show 476 total filings, down slightly from the third quarter of 2009, when 666 such filings were made, records show. The fourth quarter of 2008 had 393 total foreclosure filings in Lake County.


Nationwide, the January foreclosure numbers are holding to a similar pattern from a year ago, according to James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, who noted a double-digit percentage jump in December foreclosure activity followed by a 10 percent drop in January.


“If history repeats itself we will see a surge in the numbers over the next few months as lenders foreclose on delinquent loans where neither the existing loan modification programs or the new short sale and deed-in-lieu of foreclosure alternatives works,” he said in a written statement.


RealtyTrac reported that REOs, or bank foreclosures, were down 5 percent nationwide in January from the previous month, although they were 31 percent higher than January 2009 numbers.


REOs in Lake County numbered 101 in January, 83 in December 2009 and 39 in January 2009, based on RealtyTrace statistics.


January default notices were down 12 percent nationwide from the previous month but still up 4 percent from January 2009, and scheduled foreclosure auctions were down 11 percent from the previous month but still up 15 percent from January 2009.


Lake County's January default notices totaled 107, compared to 47 in December, and 69 in January 2009, the company reported.


The county's number of notices of trustee sales rose to 95 in January, up from 65 the previous month. They numbered 27 in January 2009.


Across California, in January foreclosure activity decreased by double-digit percentages from December, the company reported.


California, Florida and Arizona posted the three highest state totals in terms of properties receiving foreclosure filings in January. RealtyTrac's report showed that together those three states accounted for more than 44 percent of the national total.


Six California cities registered foreclosure rates among the top 10 cities nationwide, according to the report: Modesto, No. 3; Stockton, No. 4; Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, No. 5; Merced, No. 6; Vallejo-Fairfield, No. 7; and Bakersfield, No. 8.


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

LAKEPORT – The Lake County Local Foods Forum will take place in Lakeport on Monday, March 15.


The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Little Theater at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St.


The forum is intended to be a means to launch a grant award from the California Department of Food and Agriculture designed to benefit Lake County residents and farmers.


The grant was awarded to Lake County Public Health on behalf of the Health Leadership Network who is coordinating the event.


A special invitation is extended to all specialty crop farmers, restaurant owners, and other establishments/institutions that serve or buy food, as well as grocery store produce managers.


A.G. Kawamura, California’s Secretary of Agriculture, will give the opening remarks.


The Local Foods Forum will kick-off the work plan the Health Leadership Network will undertake for this grant.


Components of the grant include marketing and education to showcase the nutritional benefits of vegetables, fruit and tree nuts; expanding farm-to-school/institution efforts; coordination to connect the “eat local” efforts within a more formal food delivery system; and expanding market opportunities for farmers, including the creation of an online ordering system.


Local growers and buyers are invited to participate in a day that will focus on learning more about benefits of local food systems from state and local experts, as well as providing opportunities to discuss local food dynamics and making connections among local growers and buyers designed to increase consumption of locally grown specialty crops within our community.


A special buffet lunch is included free of charge. Chef Julie Hoskins of Chic le Chef will create a beautiful and delicious lunch featuring fresh Lake County produce.


This event is free and promises to be an exciting day of education and networking, while catching an inspired vision for the future!


Registration is required. For information and to register, contact Jackie Armstrong at the Health Leadership Network, 707-274-2459 or visit www.lakehln.org .


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 .

SACRAMENTO – Unemployment in California edged up slightly as the new year got under way, according to a Friday report, with state labor officials also noting an increase in non-farm payroll jobs.


The California Employment Development Department's (EDD) latest report looked at statewide unemployment numbers. Reports on Lake and the other 57 counties in California is due out Wednesday.


The EDD reported that non-farm payroll jobs increased by 32,500 in January, with eight of 11 industry sectors showing gains, according to data from two separate surveys.


California's January unemployment rate was 12.5 percent, following an annual revision of monthly employment estimates.


In December, the state’s unemployment rate was a revised 12.3 percent, and in January 2009, the unemployment rate was 9.7 percent. The unemployment rate is derived from a federal survey of 5,500 California households.


The U.S. unemployment rate decreased in January, to 9.7 percent.


Nonfarm jobs in California totaled 13,842,100 in January, an increase of 32,500 over the month, according to a survey of businesses that is larger and less variable statistically. The survey of 42,000 California businesses measures jobs in the economy.


The year-over-year change (January 2009 to January 2010) shows a decrease of 701,700 jobs – down 4.8 percent.


The federal survey of households, done with a smaller sample than the survey of employers, shows a decrease in the number of employed people. It estimates the number of Californians holding jobs in January was 15,850,000, a decrease of 18,000 from December, and down 735,000 from the employment total in January of last year.


The number of people unemployed in California was 2,266,000 – up by 32,000 over the month, and up by 488,000 compared with January of last year.


EDD’s report on payroll employment (wage and salary jobs) in the nonfarm industries of California totaled 13,842,100 in January, a net gain of 32,500 jobs since the December survey. This followed a loss of 41,200 jobs (as revised) in December.


Eight categories (mining and logging; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; educational and health services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government) added jobs over the month, gaining 45,900 jobs.


Construction posted the largest increase over the month, adding 16,200 jobs.


Three categories (information; financial activities; and professional and business services) reported job declines this month, down 13,400 jobs. Information posted the largest decline over the month, down

by 12,100 jobs.


In a year-over-year comparison (January 2009 to January 2010), nonfarm payroll employment in California decreased by 701,700 jobs (down 4.8 percent).


One industry division, educational and health services, posted job gains over the year, adding 12,400 jobs (a 0.7 percent increase).


Ten categories (mining and logging; construction; manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; leisure and hospitality; other services; and government) posted job declines over the year, down 714,100 jobs.


Trade, transportation and utilities employment showed the largest decline on a numerical basis, down by 148,900 jobs (a decline of 5.5 percent).


Construction posted the largest decline on a percentage basis, down by 18.0 percent (a decrease of 128,700 jobs).


In related data, the EDD reported that there were 717,070 people receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits during the January survey week. This compares with 792,764 last month and 717,525 last year.


At the same time, new claims for unemployment insurance were 92,738 in January 2010, compared with 80,873 in December and 75,514 in January of last year.


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 .

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA – Recent readings of California's snowpack shows that it's up nearly 30 percent from this time last year while, at the same time, Lake County's water bodies are showing major improvement thanks to recent rains.


In Lake County, on Sunday a US Geological Survey gage of Clear Lake showed that the lake has risen to 6.23 feet Rumsey, the specific measurement used for the lake. A full lake is 7.56 feet Rumsey.


The picture at Indian Valley Reservoir also continues to improve. The reservoir's storage measured 65,335 acre feet as of Friday, up more than 25,000 acre feet from the same time last year, according to Yolo County Flood control & Water Conservation District, which built the reservoir and also holds the water rights to Clear Lake.


Last week, the California Department of Water Resources conducted the third of its five monthly snow surveys in the Sierras, measuring a snowpack 107 percent of normal for the state, up from 80 percent the same time last year.


The most recent sensor readings show that the snowpack has edged up again, to 110 percent.


Department of Water Resources Director Mark Cowin said the readings give the agency hope that they'll be able to increase the State Water Project allocation by this spring to deliver more water to cities and farms.


“But we must remember that even a wet winter will not fully offset three consecutive dry years or pumping restrictions to protect Delta fish so we must continue to conserve and protect our water resources,” said Cowin.


Lake Oroville, the State Water Project’s principal storage reservoir, is recovering slowly after three dry years, officials reported. Despite recent storms, its storage level today is only 55 percent average for this time of year.


It is also expected that dry soil conditions will absorb much of the snowpack’s water content that otherwise would help to replenish streams and reservoirs during the spring and early summer melt.


Electronic sensor readings are posted at http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/snow/DLYSWEQ .


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


Image


 


Huh?! What! Angel and co? What kind of wine is that?


How about it I put it this way. To continue my comparison of wines to celebrities … Karen David is an Aglianico (Ah-lee-AH-nee-koh). Still not helping huh? Well that’s kind of my point. Aglianico is an Italian red wine that most people have never heard of, just as many people don’t recognize the name Karen David.


Karen David is the female lead of “Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior” for American readers, and one of the new stars of the series “Waterloo Road” on BBC for the Brits.


She also co-starred with Steven Seagal in “Flight of Fury,” and you’ve probably seen her in one of many smaller parts like in “Batman Begins” and “Couples Retreat.”


When you see her you will most likely make an inescapable exclamation of “WOW!” That’s true of Aglianico also, it has “WOW!” It is described as a charismatic, full flavored, beautiful wine. It’s not a meek wine.


Aglianico isn’t native to Italy as the name may imply, it comes from Greece. The Greeks brought the Aglianico vines to Italy over 2,000 years ago (some say seventh century BCE) and the vines loved the climate and the volcanic soil. Aglianico thrived and became adored in Italy.


Its Latin name “Vitus Hellenico” means “Grape of the Greeks.” The word Aglianico is said to be a corruption of “Hellenicos” (Greek). The vine was called “Hellenicos” up until the 15th century when the current name became popular.


Another belief is that the name came from “Apulianicum” which is an ancient Roman term for the southern part of Italy. Oddly enough, after its introduction from Greece to Italy, Aglianico disappeared from Greece.


Karen David was born in Shillong, Meghalaya, India, grew up in Toronto, and went to school in England, so like the Aglianico vines she hasn’t remained in her country of origin either; she does however continue to be involved in Indian-related productions. Although Karen David speaks North American English, the astute listener will be able to pick up slight traces of a London accent.


Karen David’s father is from the Madras (Chinnai) area of India, and her mother is half Chinese, half Khasi (North East Indian). Aglianico is one on Italy’s three noble grapes (Sangiovese and Nebbiolo being the other two). Aglianico is sometimes called “The Barolo of the South,” not because of similarities of the taste but due to the stature of both of the wines in their respective regions.


Aglianico is frequently said to be “full bodied with firm tannins and silky texture,” and if I say anything about Karen David right now in comparison I will only get in trouble. You can make your own conclusions later, let’s just move on.


In all seriousness, although Aglianico isn’t heavily planted in California most experts agree that, with the number of Italian winemakers in California, Aglianico is going to rise greatly in popularity and planting in the near future. Karen David, being an accomplished singer, songwriter, model and actress, is bound to have the same path of increasing popularity.


Flavor descriptors of Aglianico can be anise, butterscotch, cassis (currants), cherries, chocolate, coffee, cola (some wine tasters will even give specific cola brands), earth, figs, leather, minerals, pepper, prunes, raspberries and weeds.


While it can be drunk young, Aglianico improves with age. It may be released for sale at three years aged (called veccio, two of which years must be aged in wood), or five years (riserva, two years must be aged in wood) or maybe even 10 years, which will improve it.


This is a wine that you can enjoy today or want to watch for the next several years; just like Karen David, who is great now but something to watch for the next few years. Conversely, although Karen David was born in 1979 she appears to have stopped aging in 1999. Talk about improving with age!


Aglianico is popular and grown heavily in the Basilicata Aglianico del Vulture region of Italy. Livia Kurtz of Rosa de’Oro Winery so elegantly pronounces it “Ah-lee-AH-nee-koh del vool-TOOR-ay,” far more poetic than the carrion eating buzzard pronunciation that I would have said. I probably would butcher Karen David’s middle name Shenaz as well. Aglianico is also popular in Campania’s Taurasi DOC (Italy’s version of a AVA, American Viticultural Area).


Karen David describes her music as “exotic pop,” so if you want to experience a cherry cola bombshell like Karen David, try a bottle of Aglianico; both of them will becoming household names soon.


Lake County Aglianico


Rosa d’Oro Winery



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 .

FORT BRAGG – A Ukiah man has been arrested for allegedly taking part in the beating last Saturday of a Fort Bragg taxi cab driver.


Norman White, 29, was taken into custody by Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies late Friday not long after the alleged attack, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb.


Smallcomb said deputies responded to the 31000 block of Simpson Lane in Fort Bragg shortly after 10:30 p.m. Saturday on the report of an assault and battery.


When they arrived on scene the deputies spoke to 51-year-old Dan Goekler, owner and operator of a local taxi cab company, who said two unknown males had assaulted and battered him after he picked them up, Smallcomb said.


Goekler told deputies that he had picked up the two subjects from a party on Mitchell Creek Drive, and as he was driving them into the city one of the men – later identified as White – struck him in the head with both hands simultaneously, according to Smallcomb.


After the attack began Goekler stopped and got out of the vehicle and pulled White out, at which point White and the other suspect attacked and physically assaulted Goekler repeatedly with their hands and feet while Goekler was on the ground, Smallcomb said. White allegedly kicked Goekler in the head repeatedly.


Smallcomb said Goekler sustained serious bodily injury as a result of the assault.


Deputies searched the area and located White concealed in the brush near the location of the assault. Smallcomb said Goekler identified White as one of the two suspects who had physically assaulted him and White was arrested.


Deputies continued to search the area but were unable to locate the second suspect, Smallcomb said. That suspect has not yet been positively identified.


White was transported to the Mendocino County Jail where he was booked on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and assault and battery, with bail set at $30,000.00, Smallcomb said.


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

Image
The Pacific brant is one bird that a recent study found appears to be changing its winter migration patterns. Photo by Mike Yip.
 

 

 


As the days get warmer, many of us start migrating from our homes to our backyards and other outdoor areas. Migrating birds are also on the move – like us, spurred to change their behavior by warmer temperatures.


Birds that overwinter in the Central Valley and other areas in California, like the tundra swan and sandhill crane, will soon be flying north for the summer to their breeding grounds in Canada, Alaska and the northern United States.


One species that won’t be making its usual trip north for summer is the Pacific brant. This black and white sea goose is slightly smaller than a Canada goose. Normally, right about now, the population wintering in Mexico would be getting ready to migrate to its summer breeding grounds in Alaska.


Recently, however, US Geological Survey-led study found an increasing number of Pacific brants are opting to stay put in Alaska year-round.


In the past, nearly the entire population – 90 percent – migrated from Alaska to Mexico for the winter, with the rest scattered along the Pacific coast, but last year, as many as 30 percent of the population spent its winter in Alaska.


In actual numbers, fewer than 3,000 Pacific brants were detected wintering in Alaska before 1977. Now, as many as 40,000 are wintering there.


Authors of the USGS study point to climate change as the primary reason for Alaska’s growing winter population of brants. They conclude that climate change is affecting Pacific brants in at least two significant ways: higher air and water temperatures have decreased coastal sea ice, giving the birds year-round access to eelgrass, which is their primary food.


Additionally, a changing wind regime has made it harder for them to migrate out of Alaska. The northerly winds they rely upon to aid their 3,000 mile-long journey to Mexico are becoming rarer. Researchers found that the increase in the number of brants wintering in Alaska was clearly linked to fewer days with favorable southward wind flow.


Although not having to migrate may seem like a benefit, this change leaves an increasing proportion of the Pacific brant population at risk.


Mild winters in Alaska may suddenly become bitterly cold for a period of time, a scenario that may become more common if, as some climatologists predict, climate change will cause more extreme and unpredictable weather.


“Alaska now has the greatest concentration of Pacific brant outside of Mexico. Because of this, threats to the Alaska wintering population can affect the entire Pacific Flyway population,” said David Ward, lead author of the study.


In other words, even though they are adapting to new climate conditions, Pacific brants are still at risk, and their new migration pattern – or lack thereof – could end up killing them.


Pacific brants aren’t the only birds that are modifying long-established ranges. Last year, scientists at the National Audubon Society analyzed 40 years of data collected by citizens participating in the annual Christmas Bird Count. They found that nearly 60 percent of the 305 species counted are shifting their ranges northward by an average of 35 miles, and that more than 60 species moved in excess of 100 miles north.


In its report Audubon asserted that the findings provide new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a serious impact on natural systems.


Audubon California, a division of the National Audubon Society, issued its own report detailing the impact of climate change on native California bird species.


In it, the authors pointed out that while birds are well equipped to adapt to new conditions, they may be unable to respond to environmental changes of the magnitude they are likely to experience in the coming decades.


The researchers predicted that up to 110 of California’s 310 native birds may disappear from at least 25 percent of their current ranges within the next 90 years.


The authors cite two main causes for the possible declines.


First, since wildlife habitat in the state has been reduced in area and fragmented, it may not adequately buffer species, communities and whole ecosystems against climate change.


Second, the unprecedented rate at which climate variables are changing puts even more pressure on all species, and even birds may not be able to keep up.


This is bad news for birds, but even worse news for less-mobile species.


Let’s put a face on this phenomenon. A familiar, yellow-billed face.

 

 

 

Image
The yellow-billed magpie could lost as much as 75 percent of its range if greenhouse gas emissions aren't addressed, according to an Audubon California study. Photo by Chuq Von Rospach, www.chuqui.com .
 

 

 


Yellow-billed magpies are iconic birds of the Central Valley. Although they are a common sight around here, they are actually relatively rare in California and do not occur elsewhere.


Audubon California researchers found that this Central Valley resident could lose as much as 75 percent of its range, and could be pushed over the brink of extinction in the next 100 years if we do nothing to address global greenhouse gases.


However, if we aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yellow-billed magpies could lose as little as 9 percent of their range. Yet another reason to reduce your carbon footprint.

 

Katharine Moore is a resident of Davis. Tuleyome is a local nonprofit working to protect both our wild heritage and our agricultural heritage for future generations. Past “Tuleyome Tales” articles are available in the library section of their Web site, www.tuleyome.org .


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 .

LUCERNE – Faced with a proposed series of water rate hikes totaling over 68 percent for the coming three years, close to 100 Lucerne residents attended a public hearing on Thursday where they voiced opposition to the plans.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hosted the meeting, which lasted nearly two and a half hours, at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center.

California Water Service Co., which owns Lucerne's water system, is seeking rate increases of 54.9 percent in 2011, 7 percent in 2012 and 6.6 percent in 2013, based on its application.

Many of the Lucerne residents who came to speak against the increases pointed to the county's high unemployment. The most recent unemployment figures for Lake County made available by the state, which are for the month of December, show an overall unemployment rate of 18.5 percent, with Lucerne's specific rate at 19.3 percent.

As well, many argued that the seniors and disabled who make up a larger portion of the Lucerne area's more than 3,000 residents – based on the most recent US Census figures – are on fixed incomes and aren't receiving any cost of living adjustments.

Other complaints during the meeting included questions about the three surcharges on water bills, unreadable meters, people having their water shut off even when they're paid up, and still others facing poverty and having to decide between water and food.

Still others would point to Cal Water's “windfall” profit and stockholder returns, which they said are coming on the backs of ratepayers who already are struggling to pay their bills.

The San Jose-based company, which bills itself as the “largest investor-owned American water utility west of the Mississippi River and the third largest in the country,” has more than 460,000 customers throughout California.

The company reported Feb. 24 that its 2009 revenues increased 10 percent, or $39 million, to $449 million.

Cal Water is proposing the rate increases to make new distribution system upgrades – including installing new water pipeline – and to add new jobs.

Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey O'Donnell led the hearing, which was taped and will be transcribed by a court reporter who attended to take notes.

O'Donnell explained the rates that the company was seeking – to which some people yelled out “Violation!”

He said the CPUC was holding the meeting because it wanted to hear from the community. The CPUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA)n and Cal Water representatives were there to answer questions.

“I fully understand you're not in love with the idea of this rate increase that's proposed,” said O'Donnell.

“I fully understand that you're really pissed off,” he told the audience. “And, frankly, if I was sitting out there instead of here, I would be, too.”

O'Donnell said his job was to be a neutral party in the decision making process.

Explaining the rate hike process, O'Donnell said a utility company files an application and provides documents to support their rate increase request.

For the current Cal Water rate increase request, just the company's first round of reports constituted about five file boxes, O'Donnell said.

In turn, the DRA – which advocates for ratepayers as a whole – has investigated the company's documents and put forth their own reports, he explained.

An evidentiary hearing is set for about two weeks from Lucerne's meeting, said O'Donnell, and after that there will be a month-long pause during which the DRA and other intervenors will submit briefs.

Eventually, all of that work will lead to O'Donnell's decision, which he said the CPUC can accept or, alternately, give its own.

O'Donnell said his job is to make the best recommendation he can based on the evidence in the record. He assured the audience that he has read all of the letters and e-mails the CPUC has received from the community about the rate increase proposal.

Before public comment began, O'Donnell invited Cal Water and DRA representatives up to the microphone to give brief presentations.

Darin Duncan, Cal Water's rates manager, pledged to the audience that he would take all of their comments from the meeting back to the corporate offices in San Jose.

He said Cal Water filed general rate increases for all of its 24 operating districts on July 2, 2009. Duncan said the state now requires multidistrict utilities like Cal Water to file all rate cases at the same time.

“This was a pretty big undertaking,” he said, explaining the company gave the DRA 25 to 30 file boxes of documents.

Lucerne, he said, is a standalone part of the Redwood Valley District, which also covers parts of Guerneville and Dillon Beach. Rate increase meetings have been held in other parts of the district.

In Lucerne, the company is seeking a $682,000 increase for 2011, or 54.9 percent, Duncan said.

Companywide, Cal Water is requesting $70.6 million across 24 districts, or a 16.75-percent systemwide increase in 2011, Duncan said. A Cal Water mailer for the meeting noted that it's also seeking $24.7 million, or 5.04 percent, in 2012 and $24.7 million, or 4.79-percent, in 2013.

Lucerne's proposed rate increase for 2011 is three times the companywide average.

“I realize people are struggling int his economy. It's not our No. 1 thing to do, to go out and ask for a 54-percent increase,” Duncan said.

One man yelled from the audience, “Come on man, you're a corporation!”

Duncan added that the company has low income ratepayer support funds.

DRA engineer Patrick Hoglund said they have engineers, attorneys and accountants who have reviewed Cal Water's recommendations, and looked at the company's Lucerne' facilities.

Hoglund said the DRA's job is to make recommendations to the commission that they believe are reasonable, and will allow Cal Water to continue to provide reliable service.

Public criticizes company service; residents say water rates already too high

First to the microphone during public comment was District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, who also sits on several county-run water districts.

When Cal Water purchased the system, “I am certain that they got a little more than they bargained for in terms of the system condition,” she said.

Systems around Lake County are requiring “a substantial amount of investment,” Rushing said.

That creates a challenge at a time when Rushing said the county is facing depression-era unemployment levels.

Rushing – who also has previous experience in the utility industry – said Cal Water purchased the Lucerne system for a reason, and because of the rules under which they operate, they figured they could invest and then get a return on it through cost recovery.

“But in this day and age it might be time to question those rules,” she said.

While Cal Water is proposing to use its rate increases to add employees, Rushing said the county is finding ways to do more with less with its systems.

The high rate increase for Lucerne will degrade the county's efforts to turn the local economy around, and when it comes to disadvantaged communities like Lucerne, Rushing said the investor model needs to be questioned.

“Sometimes you just have to spend what you can afford and not what you're allowed to spend,” she said, receiving a round of applause as she returned to her seat.

County Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely followed Rushing to the microphone, explaining that the agency is charged with trying to bring jobs to communities like Lucerne.

That's a task made more challenging by the uncertainty of current and future Cal Water rate hikes, Seely said. The redevelopment agency is concerned about the increases as it works with business owners to show them Lucerne is a good place to locate.

At the same time, Seely said the county is a Cal Water customer, utilizing water for facilities like county-owned parks, one of which currently is being expanded with a new pier.

Craig Bach of the Lucerne Community Water Organization (LCWO) handed O'Donnell a petition with 275 signatures against the rate hikes.

“We just don't have the money,” he said.

Bach said the community has been overcharged for its new water plant, which required three designs and $7 million to complete. “We'd like to pay for the plant we actually got,” and not the two previous designs, Back said.

Referring to 25 new job positions that the company wants to add for about $17 million over a five-year period, Bach said Cal Water asked for new positions in two previous rate hikes, but failed to hire those jobs, to the tune of $4 million.

Between that $4 million and the proposed $17 million, Bach suggested, “I think we can get a break, folks.”

Frank Parker asked why the company was asking for $1.5 million for upgrades to its new plant, or for increased benefits for employees based on inflation. Parker said he recently received a letter from Social Security telling him he would not receive an increase.

The county government is facing layoffs, and in Lucerne there are vacant houses that can't be sold due to the already high water rates, Parker said.

He said the plant's cost overruns were unreasonable, and alleged that the company made unsubstantiated management decisions about what technologies to adopt. Then they did three plant designs and only used one.

“Why should we pay for their mistakes?” he asked.

Citing the company's millions of dollars in profit for last year, Parker asked when the company was going to start using profits to operate, rather than keep raising the rates. “We need some relief.”

Charles Moton said Cal Water seems oblivious to the current tough economic times.

Besides the troubles nationwide, in Lucerne people are leaving to seek work and opportunities elsewhere, he said. “The utilities always make money, regardless of economic conditions.”

But water is needed to live, and Cal Water has captive consumers. While the stock market and indexes were down the previous day, Moton noted that Cal Water's stock numbers were up.

Asking for money at this time is “grasping, avaricious and just plain greedy,” he said.

Gary Barrious asked if the company could charge all customers across the state 25 cents per bill to help cover the costs of Lucerne's improvements.

“The simple answer is, that is already happening,” said Duncan, with every Cal Water customer paying less than a penny a unit, which goes into the rate support fund.

O'Donnell asked Duncan to respond to the issues of the three plant designs. “What gives?” he asked.

When Cal Water took over the plant and system, both were in disrepair and dilapidated, said Duncan. The company first focused on upgrading the treatment plant.

He said Clear Lake, because of its algae and water quality issues, is “very difficult to treat.” Cal Water couldn't get permits for an initial treatment plant design that they abandoned.

Ultimately, the design they went with is a “state of the art” plant that uses advanced oxidation and an ultraviolet light process to purify the water. “It's the best water quality that you can get,” Duncan said.

Most of the rate increases the company now is seeking are for improvements to the aging pipeline, which is mostly made of 2-inch galvanized pipe put in place in the 1940s and 1950s, Duncan said. Cal Water's 2009 budget included 3,250 feet of pipeline upgrade, a little over 1,000 feet is included in the 2010 budget and another 1,000 feet or so is scheduled for replacement in 2012.

The company can hold off a little while on those pipe replacements, but Duncan said they must do it at some point, as it makes no sense to build a new plant and have old pipes.

Company engineer Maurice Francis explained that Cal Water had challenges during the construction phase because the initial plans were inadequate. The company couldn't use the first two design plans – which he said came from two of the nation's top consultants – because the costs were “overwhelming.”

So the company decided to go back to the drawing board and hire another consultant to create the design that ultimately was built. Francis said the plant was completed last September.

John Foth, Cal Water's rate case project manager for whom the Lucerne plant is a temporary assignment, said the new plant was funded by a no-interest loan from the state revolving loan fund. Customers pay a monthly surcharge to help pay back that loan.

He said the loan was for $7.1 million, but the plant's total cost exceeded that by about $900,000. The company is earning returns on that additional $900,000.

Lucerne's rates higher than other areas

Dr. Wilson Goddard, an environmental engineer and a Lucerne resident for more than 20 years, said the system worked well under the previous ownership of Bob and Nadine Strauss, who he said had repairs made quickly and efficiently.

He compared Lucerne's rates to those in Cal Water's San Mateo district. In San Mateo, Goddard said Cal Water customers pay an $8.75 meter charge. “Our meter charge is $32.58,” Goddard said.

Along with those meter charges, Lucerne's customers are paying other fees for a total base charge of $53.70. Goddard said San Mateo's charge for one “ccf” – or 100 cubic feet – of water is $3.03; for the same amount of water, Lucerne customers pay $5.45.

San Mateo's median income, based on the 2000 US Census, is $95,750, versus Lucerne's $25,345, Goddard said. The number of people in San Mateo considered to be at the poverty level total 7.1 percent, compared to 15.8 percent in Lucerne. Goddard added that 26.1 percent of Lucerne's families are at the poverty level.

Christine Goddard asked how inflation factors are calculated for the company's rates. O'Donnell asked Hoglund to explain. Hoglund said DRA has within it a separate group of staff that develops rates, using data similar to that used by the federal government.

In his turn, Charles Behne – a member of Lucerne Friends of Locally Owned Water – said in 2005 the CPUC gave Cal Water a 111-percent rate increase, but a DRA audit in 2008 showed that the company didn't hire the people or buy the equipment it planned to, resulting in a $2.5 million windfall for the company.

The DRA's evaluation of the latest rate increase shows that Cal Water is asking for similar increases, Behne said. “I think it's time for the CPUC to give the ratepayers a significant windfall.”

O'Donnell asked company representatives about what happens when customers can't pay their bills. Duncan said service usually is turned off within a few months if customers don't pay, although Gay Guidotti, manager for the Redwood Valley district, say they entertain all requests for payment arrangements.

Responding to Goddard's comparisons between Cal Water's Lucerne and San Mateo districts, Duncan said the company buys water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission water that's already treated for $1.68 a unit. They then put on a markup to cover service costs.

San Mateo has a customer base of more than 35,000, said Duncan. “Those costs are spread over a larger base of customers.”

In his explanation, Duncan did not offer comparable costs for water purchase or the customer base for Lucerne. Lake County News has requested those numbers for a followup article.

Resident Greg Larson brought with him a 2002 Cal Water bill, which had one service charge for $25.80 and a $1.17 charge per cubic foot of water. His latest bill had a per-cubic-foot charge of $5.44, a service charge of $65.16 plus two additional service charges totaling around $30.

“We need some protection from these people,” Larson said, telling the CPUC and DRA representatives, “You gotta help us.”

Company representatives later in the meeting would explain that the additional surcharges were to pay back state-issued, zero-interest loans for the treatment plant.

Lucerne residents also questioned the water quality. Ted Shimizu said he had found bad-smelling green and orange “stuff” growing in his sink.

Later in the meeting, Sam Silva, a Cal Water water quality expert, said they have to adjust treatment to the lake's conditions, and they rely on reports from customers.

Rushing suggested that in a small community like Lucerne, where income levels are dropping and vacancy rates are rising, the ratemaking structure doesn't work.

“This is not the ideal community for this kind of rate system,” she said, because the community can't afford it.

Daniel Mohle, a disabled Lucerne resident who once was a business owner, said that when he made adjustments to his business it came out of his own pocket.

“You want to build a $7 million plant, you build it, not us,” he said. “You want to modify something? You pay for it, not us.”

Moton, who returned to the microphone briefly, said that after hearing about the company going through three plant designs before getting it right, “I feel like I'm living in a 'Dilbert' cartoon.”

He asked if the CPUC checks to make sure the rates Cal Water applies for are fair and in keeping with other industries. Hoglund said yes, they do look at “normal, reasonable costs.”

As the meeting drew to a close, O'Donnell told meeting attendees that DRA, CPUC and Cal Water representatives would stay afterward until 10 p.m. to answer questions one-on-one.

As to the final decision, “I can't tel you what the results are going to be” he said, adding that he has five file boxes of papers to read.

“We will be considering what you've had to say today,” O'Donnell said.

Comments can still be sent to O'Donnell about the rate hike.

Send comments referencing Application No. 09-07-001 to the CPUC Public Advisor's Office, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102; e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The office also may be contacted via phone at 866-849-8390 or 415-703-2074.

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

LAKEPORT – The Lake County Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit has identified a person of interest in the suspicious deaths of a man and woman whose bodies were discovered outside of Lower Lake last Thursday, officials reported Monday.

Robby Alan Beasley, 29, of Maine was taken into custody on Saturday on an out-of-state warrant, according to Capt. James Bauman.

Beasley is being investigated in connection with the suspicious deaths of Frank Maddox, 32, and Yvette Maddox, 40, both of Maine, whose bodies were found along Morgan Valley Road last week, Bauman said.

Autopsies for the couple are scheduled for Wednesday morning at the Napa County Coroner’s Office to determine the cause and manner of their deaths, according to Bauman.

Two Sonoma County men traveling through Lake County on Morgan Valley Road had discovered the two bodies when they stopped on the side of the road for a break about six miles east of Lower Lake on the afternoon of March 4, as Lake County News has reported.

The two men reported their discovery from the Lower Lake Fire Station and then led deputies to the scene where the bodies of the couple were found at the bottom of an embankment, according to Bauman's report.

Bauman said the bodies appeared to have been there for several weeks. Sheriff’s detectives processed the scene and investigated leads into the identities of the bodies and the manner of their deaths, non-stop, from Thursday afternoon into the weekend.

Subsequently, the bodies were identified as the Maddoxes, who had apparently been staying in Clearlake for several months, Bauman said.

He explained that Yvette Maddox was reported as a missing person to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department by a relative from Maine on Jan. 28. Frank Maddox also had been reported as a missing person to the Clearlake Police Department on Feb. 11.

Bauman said the investigation into the couple’s activities prior to their being reported as missing led to Beasley, who reportedly hired the Maddoxes and brought them to Lake County to help him with a marijuana operation.

Detectives also learned that some time during the last week of January, Beasley had reportedly convinced the Maddoxes to give him a ride to the Sacramento airport, Bauman said. The couple was said to have agreed, despite unverified information that Beasley had previously threatened one of them with a gun.

While determining Beasley’s whereabouts during the weekend, detectives learned he had an outstanding arrest warrant from the state of Maine for a probation violation relating to criminal threats and assault charges, Bauman said.

Detectives conducted surveillance all day Saturday on two locations where Beasley was known to reside – one in Clearlake and the other in Lower Lake. Bauman said that at about 7 p.m. Saturday Beasley was observed leaving the Clearlake residence in a vehicle, and was stopped and arrested for the warrant without incident.

As Beasley was being arrested, two search warrants were secured for both locations and executed that night, Bauman said. When the search warrants were executed, a large marijuana grow consisting of 96 plants was located at the Lower Lake location and about $5,000 in currency was seized at the Clearlake location. Beasley also had a large amount of currency on him at the time of his arrest.

Beasley was booked at the Lake County Jail for the no-bail fugitive warrant out of Maine and remains a person of interest in the couple's deaths pending further investigation, Bauman said.

A vehicle belonging to Frank Maddox is unaccounted for and is believed to possibly be linked with the two deaths. Bauman said that the vehicle is described as a 1982 Toyota pickup truck, either tan, beige or pale yellow in color, with a black camper shell.

Anyone with information on the possible whereabouts of that truck is asked to immediately contact the Sheriff’s Major Crimes Unit at 707-262-4200.

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

LAKE COUNTY – Countless lives have been positively impacted – and some lives saved – thanks to the efforts of Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake county fire departments and citizens alike.


Blood Bank of the Redwoods garnered 1,471 blood donors during their fourth annual Bucket Brigade competition, which lasted from last November through February.


Lakeport Fire Protection District came in third place, with 119 donors, in their first year taking part in the competition.


South Lake County Fire Protection District recruited 41 donors, bringing Lake County’s total number of donors during the Bucket Brigade to 160.


Geyserville Fire Department, last year’s champions, had to hand the Bucket Brigade Trophy over to Windsor Fire Department, which beat Geyserville’s 130 donors by recruiting 175 donors.


In all, 1,471 units of blood were donated – one unit per donor – which then made its way back to the blood bank in Santa Rosa, where it will be put through 14 different tests and separated into its components, according to the Blood Bank of the Redwoods.


The blood bank's biologic laboratory is one of only five in California.


“Your blood will be tested for laboratory evidence of infectious agents capable of transmission through blood transfusion,” said Kent Corley, Blood Bank of the Redwoods spokesman.


Then, Blood Bank of the Redwoods delivers the blood to the hospitals for use in treatments for a variety of needs – from leukemia to gunshot wounds. In 2007, they put their one millionth pint of blood into the collective bloodstream since they opened in 1949.


Lake County uses 30 to 35 units of blood each month. But, Lake County usually gives more than it receives. Corley reported that, last year alone, over 1,000 units of blood came from Lake County.


One example of how important a blood donation is found in the story of Captain Bob Ray and Leo Teissere.


At Lakeport Fire's Bucket Brigade Blood Drive, blood bank account coordinator Liz Grube saw Teissere and asked if he was donating or whether he was a member of the fire department.


He answered neither and explained that he was there to support the people who meant so much to him – especially since he had been a blood recipient in the past.


He pointed out Ray and called him a hero, as Teissere admitted that he would not be alive if it weren’t for Ray.


Ray saved Teissere's life at a church a few blocks up the street from the fire station in Lakeport. He suffered a heart attack and Ray resuscitated him at the scene. He was OK but, three days after leaving the hospital, he had another big attack.


The second attack led to open-heart surgery, and that is when he received several units of life-saving blood. Those events happened over 16 years ago.


But, blood is needed year round – not just during the Bucket Brigade. Lake, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa and Marin county hospitals are all partnered with the blood bank and always need blood.


Most of the blood is used locally, but when there is excess inventory, Blood Bank of the Redwoods helps other blood centers across the country when they are in need, said Corley.


“Thanks to programs like the Bucket Brigade, our current inventory is adequate,” he said. “But, because we cannot stockpile blood products, we can never let up.”


Blood Bank of the Redwoods partnered with St. Helena Hospital Clearlake as of Jan. 15. St. Helena Hospital serves Middletown, Hidden Valley, Cobb, Lower Lake, Kelseyville, Clearlake and Clearlake Oaks. Their previous blood supplier was Blood Centers of the Pacific.


For an extensive list of drives in the weeks to follow and drives in surrounding counties, visit http://donate.bbr.org/blooddrives/find .


Blood Bank of the Redwoods has been saving lives since 1949 with the help of the community members that it serves. For more general information visit the blood bank's Web site, http://bbr.org/ .

 

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

Image
Kelseyville Unified's declining revenue picture. Courtesy of Kelseyville Unified School District.

 


KELSEYVILLE – Unhappy faces filled Kelseyville High School’s Student Center during a special board meeting held this week to discuss California’s budget crisis and its ill effects on Kelseyville Unified School District.


Students, parents, teachers and other Kelseyville Unified staff came to make a statement to the board – that they refuse to settle for anything less than excellence.


About 200 chairs were assembled to accommodate the crowd of concerned citizens expected at the meeting Tuesday evening, but the chairs were half-filled.


For the board and the community members who came to the meeting, the budget crisis was the main concern.


District officials had plenty of bad news to share – from potential job cuts to the fact that the district is now on a state monitoring list.


Board President Rick Winer said the board wasn't planning any action Tuesday.


After a brief introduction, Superintendent David McQueen took the floor and began a slide show presentation. The audience followed along with copies that were offered in the form of a thick packet.


The very first slide was a collage of news bits about various California schools districts’ woes. The slide noted that class prep was being cut at Ukiah Unified, where they are getting five furlough days and coaches stipends are being eliminated. In the Willits Unified School District, they're giving notice to more than 100 teachers, eliminating class size reduction as well as music and art. And the list went on.


“It is amazing – the amount of districts facing these issues,” said McQueen. “There have been a lot of school closures.”


Aside from the well-known elimination of programs, such as the cost of living fund, another factor contributing to the struggle the education system endures that was discussed was how people and businesses are leaving the state, straining California’s economy to the breaking point.


“The state has reduced instructional days and allowed schools to go back to a 175-day school year,” McQueen said.


“Since the recession began, school districts have been cut approximately $400 per student per year in revenue limit funding,” he said.


The presentation was filled with easy-to-read graphs to show the true impacts of the budget crisis and how Kelseyville Unified has come to its lowest point on its revenue scale.


McQueen then handed the microphone over to Tiffany Kemp, the district's chief financial officer, who reviewed revenue limit cuts and their effects on the district.


The first item she wanted to clarify was what “ADA” – “average daily attendance” – means.


“It’s actual days of butts in the seats,” said Kemp.


In 2003, 1,872 students were enrolled; now there’s only 1,739. Enrollment numbers are projected to continue to fall, Kemp said.


As a sample ratio, Kemp explained that if a student attends 175 days out of a 180-day school year, that generates 0.972 ADA.


As another example – not using actual figures – if the revenue limit for the school district was $6,000, the district would only get that number divided by the ADA percentage. So they would only qualify to get $5,832 – not what they needed to have to spend.


Kemp said that because the reduction in revenues from the state was simultaneous with the district’s ongoing spending, Kelseyville Unified is facing a $1.9 million ongoing deficit.


“This year and next year, we’re surviving off of one-time government funds and our reserves,” she said. “We can’t continue to function at that level.”


In fiscal year 2008-09, one-time monies reinvigorated the struggling school systems, but the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds are running out.


When McQueen spoke again, he discussed the district's future.


There are cash flow issues on top of less cash flowing, he said.


“In balancing the budget over the 2010-12 school years, we must realize that reductions need to be ongoing,” said McQueen. “The more we can reduce in ongoing expenses up front to attack the $1.9 million deficit in the next two years, the bigger impact we’ll see down the road. But, it is such a huge amount there is no way I see us tackling the whole $1.9 million.”


He further explained how Kelseyville Unified is now on a state monitoring list and may be at risk for negative certification. They may be assigned a fiscal advisor and even need county intervention if these trends do not improve.


McQueen also made it clear that Kelseyville Unified has nearly exhausted its reserve funds. One idea the district considered a total cut of transportation, but it was quickly dismissed since it would directly affect ADA.


Other methods of generating revenue are in the works. Fees will most likely be implemented for sports if sports programs are to continue. Transportation is another possible source of revenue using fees.


“The reality is, for 2010-11 we are looking at possibly laying off 11 to 13 certificated positions and 11 to 14 classified positions,” McQueen said.


Shortly after that note, the floor was opened up to the audience, who were invited to step up to the podium with a question or statement for the board.

 

 

 

Image
Finley resident Philip Murphy suggested the district make

Upcoming Calendar

15Jun
06.15.2024 6:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Middletown Art Center exhibit opening
16Jun
06.16.2024
Father's Day
16Jun
06.16.2024 8:00 am - 9:00 pm
Middletown Days
16Jun
06.16.2024 9:00 am - 11:30 am
Moose Lodge Father’s Day breakfast
18Jun
06.18.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
19Jun
06.19.2024
Juneteenth
19Jun
06.19.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
22Jun
06.22.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
22Jun
06.22.2024 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Love of the Land Dinner
25Jun
06.25.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

Mini Calendar

loader

LCNews

Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 

 

Newsletter

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

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