Thursday, 30 May 2024

News

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH NEWS NUMBERS REGARDING THE TOTAL PLANTS ERADICATED.

 

LAKE COUNTY – On Tuesday local and federal law enforcement officials eradicated a massive illegal marijuana garden in the Mendocino National Forest, encountering armed suspects in the process.


The Lake County Sheriff's SWAT Team and detectives from the US Forest Service seized approximately 130,000 plants and five firearms – including a Tec 9 assault weapon with a makeshift silencer – according to sheriff's Capt. Rob Howe.


Howe said the raid took place at 7 a.m. Tuesday in the Lower Nye/Copper Butte area of the National Forest in Lake County.


Law enforcement personnel surrounded a tent located in the garden and began giving verbal commands, directing any occupants to exit the tent, Howe said.


Three suspects, identified as Hispanic male adults, immediately opened the tent and fled downhill, while one suspect, also described as a Hispanic male adult, remained in the tent and was taken into custody, according to Howe's report.


Deputies and agents found a 9 millimeter semi automatic handgun in a tent, Howe said.


At about 9:30 a.m., as they were walking the suspect out, Howe said detectives encountered two more suspects, described as Hispanic male adults, actively working in the garden, with one of the men holding a gun in his hand.


Howe said that as detectives approached the suspects the one holding the gun dropped it. Both then fled and the team wasn't able to capture them.


While it's early in the marijuana eradication season, Howe said this is the third marijuana cultivation operation so far this year in which sheriff's deputies have encountered armed suspects.


Howe noted, “We are very grateful these suspects have not pointed their weapons or fired at our personnel.”


Concerns over dangers about illegal marijuana growing operations on public and private lands led Sheriff Rod Mitchell to post a public safety message late last week on his Web site. The video presentation can be found in its entirety here: http://lakesheriff.com/weed_warning.asp .


The video explains that violence in connection with marijuana growing is increasing.


Last September, the county saw the first murder associated with a growing operation. In that case, the body of a Santa Rosa man was found in an illegal grow on Socrates Mine Road, where he had been shot to death, as Lake County News has reported.


The sheriff's office reported that 2009 is “already surpassing last year in seizures and violence.”


While eradicating a grow on Socrates Mine Road in June, deputies encountered two armed suspects who fled and evaded capture, according to the report.


In addition to locating firearms and armed growers, deputies have discovered booby traps, such as a rat trip outfitted with a shotgun shell, which they recreated and shot through a human-shaped target.


They've also found rat and mouse poison, litter and other environmental concerns in the grows.


Nearly all of the illegal grows are discovered and eradicated through the use of helicopters, which the county rents from private companies and pays for through a $275,000 Drug Enforcement Administration Grant.


Tuesday's raid brings this year's total for eradications to more than 285,000 plants and 15 arrests, based on various sheriff's reports.


That puts Lake County – which in recent years has led all of California's 58 counties in eradications of illegal marijuana – close to Mendocino County, which so far this year has netted close to 280,000 plants, made close to 60 arrests and seized around 50 firearms at more than 90 sites.


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

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Two people suffered major injuries and a third person was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol as the result of a Saturday collision between a car and a motorcycle.


Lynda Walker, 53, and Thomas Sperry, 50, both of Stockton, were hospitalized after the crash, which occurred on Highway 20 at Harvey Street in Clearlake Oaks at approximately 6:14 p.m. Saturday, as Lake County News has reported.


Alexandra Meagan Drew, 21, of Santa Rosa was driving her 2005 Honda Civic westbound on Highway 20 at 40 miles per hour, according to the California Highway Patrol.


Drew, who the CHP alleges was intoxicated at the time, let her vehicle drift onto the roadway's right shoulder, overcorrected and traveled across both traffic lanes while rotating counter clockwise.


Sperry and Walker were coming the opposite direction on Highway 20, riding a 2004 Harley Davidson motorcycle at 40 miles per hour, the CHP report stated.


Sperry, who was driving the motorcycle, hit the passenger side door of Drew's vehicle as it spun in front of him, according to the CHP report.


Both Sperry and Walker were ejected from the motorcycle. The CHP said Sperry suffered a compound fracture to his lower leg and Walker suffered major internal injuries.


CHP Officer Kory Reynolds arrested Drew at the scene about 45 minutes after the crash on a felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. Her booking sheet also showed a misdemeanor charge DUI charge, with bail set at $10,000. She posted bail later that day and was released.


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

NORTH COAST – A local credit union has received $2 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which will allow it to expand key lending services on the North Coast.


Mendo Lake Credit Union was one of 59 community development financial institutions (CDFIs) across the country that was awarded almost $90 million in funding through a competitive grant process, according to Congressman Mike Thompson's office.


“In this tough economy, ensuring that families and small businesses have access to the capital they need to stay afloat is extremely important,” said Thompson. “Credit unions provide important services to the underserved in our community, and this funding will allow the Mendo Lake Credit Union to continue their important work.”


Mendo Lake was one of only two credit unions in California, and nine across the United States, considered for the funds, said Richard Cooper, Mendo Lake Credit Union's president and chief executive officer.


The grant is “very exciting for us,” said Cooper, who explained that ARRA doubled funding for the US Treasury's CDFI program from $50 million to $98 million.


The CDFI fund's mission is to expand financial services to underserved populations in the United States and promote economic revitalization and community development through investment in and assistance to CDFIs, according to its Web site, www.cdfifund.gov . The fund was created in 1994.


This year marks the 50th anniversary of Mendo Lake Credit Union's chartering.


The nonprofit financial institution is insured by the federal National Credit Union Administration, and is owned and controlled by members. It serves more than 13,000 community members in Lake and Mendocino counties. Mendo Lake has 33 employees in three offices – six in Lakeport, five Fort Bragg and 12 in Ukiah.


Cooper said the funds will provide an important boost. He explained that Mendo Lake Credit Union is the No. 1 auto loan lender in Lake County. It also works with many small businesses – including many “mom and pops” – and offers free checking services to businesses and individuals.


The funding will allow the credit union to expand its operations back into real estate lending, he said, explaining that the credit union has had first-time homebuyer and manufactured housing loan programs for many years, and has been successful in getting people into their own homes.


“We had actually been out of the real estate market for a good 12 or 14 months due to the current situation,” he said.


Cooper said Mendo Lake does a lot of financial literacy and community work, and reaches out to people who don't trust traditional banks and have used high-interest check cashing and payday lending programs instead– including immigrants, tribal communities and some low-income residents. The goal is to bring them into the mainstream.


Unlike a for-profit bank, credit unions do not generate gains for shareholders. “We have to grow our capital as we grow our organization,” said Cooper. “It would take us years and years to save $2 million out of current earnings.”


This is the second time Mendo Lake Credit Union has received a sizable federal grant.


In 2005 the institution was awarded $1.3 million, said Cooper. That funding helped provide the credit union with the capital needed to grow from $50 million in holdings in 2005 to $75 million in 2007-08.


As a size comparison, he pointed out that Savings Bank of Mendocino – which he said shares a good relationship with the credit union – has $800 million in assets.


The 2008 funding cycle was the first time that Mendo Lake could reapply for more funds. Cooper said it's a “pretty arduous process,” with a six-inch notebook worth of paper as part of the federal application and reporting requirements.


He said the government was looking at organizations and institutions, like Mendo Lake, that offer core services to underserved, urban and rural poor populations.


The current economy has created challenges for the people Mendo Lake serves, particularly with auto loans, said Cooper. Delinquency was once very low and part of a strongly performing portfolio.


Now, delinquency has increased 100 percent, with it becoming a common occurrence to see people coming into the credit union with their car keys and a sad look on their face, Cooper said.


Cooper said the credit union has listened to peoples' needs and tried to work with them. That includes negotiating interest rates and modifying payment plans with a couple hundred of its car loan customers in order to help keep them in cars so they can search for jobs or keep the employment they already have.


“We have worked very hard and I'm so proud of the loyalty and the good intentions of so many of our credit union members,” he said.


In addition to its regular business functions, Cooper said Mendo Lake seeks to be a good corporate citizen through community involvement and support of nonprofits and education.


Their work locally includes offering scholarships for local at-risk students at Mendocino College. Cooper sits on the Mendocino College Foundation's board.


Cooper said Mendo Lake can do a lot with the federal funding.


“It provides that little extra that we need to maintain a really small bottom line,” he said.


For more information visit Mendo Lake Credit Union online, www.mlcu.org/ .


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

LAKEPORT – A special assessment to increase funding to support Lake County Vector Control's services and equipment upgrades has passed.


The results of the countywide balloting were announced Wednesday afternoon at a meeting of the Vector Control Board of Trustees, held at the district's headquarters in Lakeport.


The annual assessment is expected to bring in about $500,000 a year to the district, which currently has an annual budget of about $1.3 million.


Single family homes equivalents in Zone A – making up most of the county – will pay an average annual amount of $13.96, while single family homes in Zone B, located in more remote areas and including Bureau of Land Management and Mendocino National Forest lands, will be assessed $6.98 annually.


The maximum annual assessment is to be adjusted no more than 3 percent annually based on the Consumer Price Index for the San Francisco Bay Area.


Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley, who tabulated the ballots, issued a report stating that 14,494 ballots were received out of 42,784 mailed to county residents. That represents a ballot return rate of 33.8 percent.


In all, 14,193 valid ballots were processed, according to Fridley. The assessment value of all of those processed ballots is $186,074.75.


Of those, there were 8,956 valid “yes” votes, for a return rate of 63.10 percent unweighted, or 57.74 percent weighted by assessment.


There were 5,237 valid “No” votes, for an unweighted return rate of 36.8 percent or 42.3 percent weighted by assessment, according to Fridley. The assessed value of those no votes was $78,628.23.


The Vector Control board held a public hearing at the courthouse on June 30 as part of the Proposition 218 process, which covers assessment and rate hikes. The district took comment at that time from several area residents who questioned the need for the assessment and how the balloting was being conducted.


At the end of that meeting, the balloting – which had begun early in May – officially closed.


The public hearing was continued to Tuesday, but no community members were present to make statements or ask questions.


Trustee Chuck Leonard told District Manager Dr. Jamesina Scott that the district did a good job in presenting the assessment to the community.


Leonard said he hadn't expected the assessment to pass, which is why he had voted against spending the money on it.


Scott previously reported that the district had paid about $126,000 in consulting, printing and mailing fees in order to take the assessment to the community.


Following the report on the balloting results, the board unanimously approved a resolution confirming the engineer's report on the assessment and ordering levy of the assessment for the 2009-10 fiscal year.


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

LAKE COUNTY – The state's budget impasse is impacting state agencies that operate at the local level.


Late last month, with no state budget in sight, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger directed all state agencies to add a third furlough day each month for all state employees beginning July 1.


In December, Schwarzenegger had ordered two furlough days per month for employees as he tried to conserve the state's dwindling cash. Those furloughs started in February.


In response to the latest furlough order, Caltrans reported that their offices will be closed three Fridays per month. That went into effect on July 10.


Caltrans spokesman Phil Frisbie reported that highway construction projects will continue on furlough days and will not be impacted, but Caltrans highway maintenance staff will be furloughed on

these days.


Similar to weekends and holidays, staff will be on call to respond to emergency situations, he added.


“The furlough days are decreasing the number of hours our highway maintenance staff can work each month, which will reduce the amount of work they can accomplish,” he told Lake County News. “They will continue to prioritize their work load to ensure that the most important work is completed.”


State legislators' offices also are feeling the pinch.


David Miller, spokesman for Sen. Pat Wiggins, said that, effective July 1, all Senate staff had their vision and dental benefits reduced. In addition, all Senate staff earning $50,000 or more also had their pay reduced 5 percent via one furlough day per month.


How those furlough days might affect Senate staffs' workload isn't known yet; Miller said they won't being taking the furloughs until after the budget agreement is signed.


Miller said Wiggins already cut her own pay 5 percent, cut her per diem by 18 percent and gave up her car allowance.


He said Wiggins' offices are getting a steady volume of constituent visits and calls advocating one budget approach or another – for example, more cuts or more taxes. They're also getting requests for assistance. Many people also have called to thank Wiggins for giving up some of her financial benefits.


Miller said he expects few people will be happy with the budget agreement that eventually is passed and signed, so they'll likely have more calls then, too.


Andrew Bird, spokesman for Assemblyman Wes Chesbro's office, said the Assembly has approached the budget issues different than the Senate.


“The Assembly is not doing furlough days at this time,” Bird said.


The reason, he explained, is that, several months ago, the Assembly slashed its budget 10 percent.


Also maintaining regular working hours is the California Highway Patrol.


Jaime Coffee, a spokesperson for the CHP's Sacramento office, said that, due to the agency's “mission of public safety and the critical nature of every CHP employee,” it will maintain normal working hours, and that means remaining open during the furloughs on the first, second and third Friday of every month.


Uniform personnel are exempt from the state's furlough program, said Coffee, and there will be no reduction in patrol services or response time to public calls for service.


The CHP, Coffee added, is funded by the Motor Vehicle Account, not the state's general fund.


Still, nonuniform employees will adhere to the furlough directive, but schedules will be arranged so that it doesn't affect opening hours, Coffee said.


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

THE US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY HAS DOWNGRADED THE QUAKE ORIGINALLY REPORTED AS A 3.0 TO A 2.9. THE ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED TO REFLECT THAT.

 

THE GEYSERS – The Geysers and Cobb area experienced two more earthquakes close to or above 3.0 magnitude on Sunday.


The US Geological Survey reported that a 3.0-magnitude quake occurred at 4:31 a.m. It was centered two miles north of The Geysers, five miles west of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs.That quake was later downgraded to 2.9.


The quake occurred at a depth of 1.7 miles, and was reportedly felt nearly 700 miles away in Claremont, according to the US Geological Survey's shake reports.


That quake was followed 18 minutes later by a 3.1-magnitude quake.


Occurring at 4:49 a.m., the second quake was measured at a depth of two miles, the US Geological Survey reported.


Its epicenter appeared to be in the same spot as the first quakes – two miles north of The Geysers, five miles west of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, based on monitoring reports.


Shake reports on the second quake came from Middletown, Concord and San Francisco.


Over the last several weeks The Geysers area has seen a spike in quakes measuring 3.0 and above, as Lake County News has reported.


Two earthquakes occurred July 6, measuring 3.7 and 3.8 on the Richter Scale, which followed two quakes above 3.0 the previous week.


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

MENDOCINO COUNTY – Several suspects wanted in connection with an alleged December 2008 armed robbery involving marijuana have been arrested.


The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that James Boissiere, 37, of San Leandro; Joseph Lee Harrold, 33, of Ukiah; Deloran Reed Lawson, 19, of Hayward; and Elliott Merrill Marshall, 30, of Oakland, all have been taken into custody.


The four are alleged to have been involved in an armed robbery and kidnapping on Dec. 4, 2008.


A 45-year-old Talmage woman reported at the time that the suspects forced their way into her home at gunpoint, where two of the suspects demanded her marijuana, the sheriff's office reported.


The victim reportedly led them to a room where she gave them approximately one in a half pounds of processed marijuana. She then attempted to take the gun from the younger suspect, at which time a physical altercation took place and the suspect struck her on the head with the pistol frame. The suspect further struck the victim in the face which caused her facial cuts and lacerations.


The suspects then fled from the location on foot prior to the victim calling 911, according to the sheriff's report.


Mendocino County Sheriffs deputies, along with detectives and Ukiah Police officers, checked the area for the suspect with negative results.


A neighbor in the area did obtain a possible license plate number from the suspect vehicle, described as a Greenish Blue Mercedes Benz with a California License Plate of 5MWJ477.


The victim was transported via ambulance to Ukiah Valley Medical Center for treatment.


Based on their investigation, and with the help of the Oakland Police Department, Mendocino County Sheriff's office detectives identified the suspect.


On June 6, they arrested Harrold and booked him into the Mendocino County Jail where he is being held in lieu of $335,000 bail.


Boissiere was arrested on June 10 by Oakland Police Department. He's being held in a Bay Area jail pending transportation to the Mendocino County Jail.


Oakland Police also located and arrested Marshall on June 23. He was later was transferred to the Mendocino County Jail where he is currently being held in lieu of $335,000 bail.


The last of the group, Lawson, was arrested on July 8 by San Francisco Police for an unrelated case and booked into the San Francisco County Jail. He's also due to be transported to Mendocino County Jail upon the conclusion of the case in San Francisco.

MENDOCINO COUNTY – Authorities in Mendocino County are continuing to investigate the discovery of a body in a state park this weekend.


The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that a body was discovered early Saturday morning at Hendy Woods State Park in Boonville.


The body has been identified as that of Salvadore Alfonso Aguilar, 20, of Fort Bragg.


On Saturday, the same day as Aguilar's body was discovered, Mendocino Sheriff's Dispatch received a phone call from one of his relatives, who stated that she had been contacted by another family member who told her that the victim had shot himself and friends took him to a park and dropped him off.


Detectives contacted the family member in Fort Bragg and learned the victim had been dropped off in the park by his girlfriend and two others.


The detectives were able to contact the girlfriend and the two males. After interviews detectives were able to determine that Aguilar had been working in a marijuana garden in a remote part of Fishrock Road, Yorkville.


Aguilar was said to be despondent over a breakup with his girlfriend. He had walked off when the other four subjects heard a gunshot and found him dead.


They carried the victim up to Fishrock Road where they were met and transported Aguilar to the area where he was found.


Detectives are attempting to identify the location of the marijuana garden crime scene and recover a firearm.


The case remains under investigation the victim's family has been notified.


The cause of death will be determined by autopsy.

Image
Cal Fire firefighters look on as a helicopter drops water on a grass fire in the north Lakeport area on Saturday, July 11, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


 

 

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED.


LAKEPORT – Firefighters quickly contained a fire Saturday evening in the north Lakeport area.


The fire was reported shortly before 6 p.m.


Michael Selmi of Cal Fire's Incident Command Center said the blaze, measuring an acre and a half, was located in the area of Hill Road and Snyder Drive.


An estimated 40 firefighters – from Cal Fire, Lakeport and Northshore Fire – were on scene for the evening blaze, which came close to area homes. In particular, it burned right up next to one home sitting on a small ridge.


Numerous engines – including five from Cal Fire – responded, along with a bulldozer and a hand crew.


A helicopter and three air tankers were dispatched to the fire, with the helicopter making several water drops.


One area resident, Jack Baxter, looked out his kitchen window, saw the fire and went right for his tractor. Baxter took the front loader with a drag box and headed straight up the hill from his house toward the flames.


He drove into the burning grass and used his tractor to cut a fire line on three sides, which may have helped save the nearest home from fire as well as protect other homes in the immediate area.


Neighbors and firefighters credited his fast action for helping stop the fast-moving fire from reaching other homes over the hill toward Walnut and Lakeshore Boulevard.


The fire was contained just before 6:30 p.m., Selmi said.


Selmi said the fire's cause was a bird that flew into a transformer, a cause which he said is pretty common.


Area residents at the scene indicated that, before the fire, they had experienced a power surge at about 5:45 p.m., followed by a brief blackout.


This is the fourth fire this week reported on the north Lakeport area.


Last Wednesday, three fires amounting to about 22 acres burned along the Highway near the Lakeside Heights subdivision, as Lake County News has reported.


Harold LaBonte contributed to this report.


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

 

 

 

Image
Jack Baxter brought out his tractor to help fight the fire. Here he stops to talk to firefighters on Saturday, July 11, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Image
An onlooker watchers as firefighters work to fight a fire in the north Lakeport area on Saturday, July 11, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 

LAKEPORT – Fire officials once again were called to respond to several fires along Highway 29 in the north Lakeport area on Tuesday.


The three small brush fires were reported shortly before 6:30 p.m. on Highway 29 north of 11th Street, according to the California Highway Patrol.


Lakeport Fire Protection District responded and contained the fires, according to reports from the scene. Cal Fire reported that it did not send a response to the scene.


Over the last week several fires have occurred in that area, including three fires that burned 22 acres on July 8 and another fire on July 11, as Lake County News has reported.

LOWER LAKE – A California Highway Patrol sustained major injuries and a Lake County Sheriff's deputy were hurt when they were each hit in separate crashes that occurred early Monday morning.

 

The identities of the two law enforcement officers were not released.


The CHP reported that the first crash occurred at 12:21 a.m. at the entrance of the DNA Rock quarry north of Diener Drive on Highway 29.


Officer Adam Garcia reported that the CHP officer from the Clear Lake area office was conducting a drunk driving evaluation at the quarry's entrance.


At the same time, the deputy was stopped on southbound Highway 29 preparing to make a left turn into the quarry entrance with his rear emergency lights activated, Garcia said.


As the deputy sat along the highway 58-year-old Edward Choroski of Clearlake struck the rear of the sheriff’s patrol vehicle with his white 1997 Volvo, according to Garcia.


Garcia said the collision pushed the patrol vehicle into the highway's northbound traffic lane.


The CHP officer attempted to give medical aid to the deputy who was standing adjacent to the driver’s side door, Garcia said.


At that point, the Sheriff’s patrol vehicle was struck head-on by a 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan driven by 65-year-old Mary Gomez of Lakeport, according to Garcia.


Garcia said the second collision pushed the sheriff’s patrol vehicle into the CHP officer, throwing him off the roadway and into some nearby bushes.


Kelseyville Fire Protection District ambulance transported the deputy to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, where he was treated for minor to moderate injuries, Garcia said.


Garcia said the CHP officer sustained major non-life threatening injuries and was also taken to Sutter Lakeside for treatment.


Gomez and Choroski were not reported as being injured, Garcia said.


CHP Officer Josh Dye is investigating the collisions.


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

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Two people were flown to an area hospital after a collision occurred Saturday evening between a vehicle and a motorcycle.


The California Highway Patrol reported that the crash occurred at Highway 20 and Harvey at about 6:15 p.m.


A Honda Civic and a motorcycle collided, leaving the roadway blocked, according to the CHP.


The CHP, Lake County Sheriff's Office and Northshore Fire responded to the scene. Tow companies also were called for the vehicles.


The motorcyclist and the passenger in the vehicle were both flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, the CHP reported.


Major injuries were reported, but the names of the crash victims and their specific injuries were not available late Saturday.


The roadway was reopened at approximately 7:36 p.m., the CHP reported.


CHP Officer Kory Reynolds is reportedly in charge of the investigation.


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

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