Tuesday, 23 July 2024

News

CLEARLAKE – Lake County Animal Care and Control is investigating a Wednesday incident in which a dog bit a volunteer Meals on Wheels driver, who required nearly 100 stitches.


Deputy Animal Care and Control Director Bill Davidson said the dog, taken into custody on Thursday morning, is currently in quarantine at the Lakeport shelter.


The dog, said to be a pitbull mix, attacked the female driver as she was delivering a meal to a client at a location in downtown Clearlake off of Lakeshore Drive, according to Linda Blackstone, program coordinator at the Highlands Senior Center.


“It was not our client's dog, it was her neighbor's dog,” said Blackstone.


The dog first bit the driver on the hip, said Blackstone. The woman turned and as she did so the dog let go of her hip and clamped onto her arm. She was then able to pull away, but in doing so a lot of flesh was stripped from her arm.


Blackstone said the dog's owner took the Meals on Wheels driver to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake, where the injured woman received about 98 stitches. It took two and a half hours to complete the stitching procedure, but surgery wasn't necessary.


The driver is now at home recovering, said Blackstone.


Davidson said the dog will stay at the shelter for at least 10 days, the length of the normal quarantine period. He said shelter staff were able to confirm that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies.


He said Animal Care and Control's investigation is continuing.


“The owners have been completely cooperative with our efforts,” said Davidson.


Whether the dog becomes the focus of a vicious animal abatement it yet to be determined, said Davidson, and will depend on the circumstances.


Blackstone said she reminded her Meals on Wheels drivers to be very careful of dogs in the wake of the Wednesday attack.


The situation also puts into focus a problem for Meals on Wheels drivers: Blackstone said this was the fourth dog bite incident the center's drivers have dealt with in two years.


“It's getting to be too much,” she said.


That's led them to start looking for pepper spray for protection, said Blackstone. The center also plans to send out letters to its clients asking them to contain any dogs they may have.


“We don't want to have to deny anyone services,” said Blackstone.


People who have elderly neighbors who receive Meals on Wheels services also are asked to please keep their animals secured. In doing so, they'll protect drivers and make sure the critical nutritional services to seniors aren't interrupted.


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


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LAKEPORT – The organizers of a business expo planned for this weekend say the response from the business community has been overwhelming, with spaces filling up ahead of the Friday deadline.


Karen Long and Kendra Runyon of Big Diva Promotions have organized the inaugural Around the Lake Business Expo, which takes place in the theater building at the Lake County Fairgrounds, 401 Martin St., this Sunday, March 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Long and Runyon reported Wednesday that spaces have filled up, and now they're hoping that the community will come out and show support for local businesses.


They say that visitors will have a chance to win several great prizes, from a free dinner to a hotel stay and other great gifts. Come out and spin the Twin Pine Casino wheel, get goodies from Radio Shack or buy your season pass and apparel from the Lakeport Speedway at the expo.


Several businesses and individuals – including Twin Pine Casino, Lakeport Speedway, Konocti Vista Casino, Darling's Vitamin Connection, Dallas Shaul and Curves – have donated prizes, the event organizers reported.


Admission for the public is free.


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


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Cole Lusby ran businesses both here in Lake County, in Las Vegas, Nev., and Klamath Falls, Ore., before his December arrest. Photo from his MySpace page.

 

 

LAKE COUNTY – A young man who was raised in Lake County and formerly operated a business here before moving to Oregon has been arrested on a battery of charges including rape and using the Internet to lure young girls to have sex with him, with additional bad check cases awaiting him in Nevada and here in Lake County.


Cole Richard Lusby, 23, was arrested in December in Klamath Falls, Ore. He lived with his family for a time in Upper Lake, where he is reported to have graduated from high school in 2002.


Sharon Forster, a Klamath County deputy district attorney handling Lusby's prosecution, said he was arrested on two counts of rape in the first degree, one count of burglary in the first degree, two counts of custodial interference in the first degree (which means interfering with the lawful custodian or parent of a child), online sexual corruption of a child in the first degree, one count of misdemeanor custodial interference in the second degree and two misdemeanor counts of third degree sexual abuse.


He's also facing misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and escape because he allegedly escaped from authorities after his initial Dec. 5 arrest, said Forster.


Two days after his escape, Lusby was discovered at the home of his mother, Terry Lee Lusby, 56, who also was arrested for harboring him.


Forster said there are also some other cases pending against Lusby for allegedly ripping off people through online sales of items.


Cole Lusby remains in the Klamath County Jail on $500,000 in bail, said Forster. He's set to go to trial on March 25.


If he's found guilty of the rape charges, he could receive eight and a half years in Oregon state prison, Forster said.


Lusby's attorney in Klamath Falls, Steve Hedland, did not return calls seeking comment.


Forster said Lusby is set to go on trial in Oregon on March 25.

 

Terry Lusby died Feb. 16.


A trail of legal issues


The legal problems for Lusby and his mother aren't limited to Klamath County. Officials say he's facing legal prosecution in Lake County and Las Vegas as well.


Lusby, a former Upper Lake resident, had made a name for himself as a promising young businessman, operating a company called Techos LLC and Techos Business Center, based in Lucerne, that specialized in Web site design.


He had made pitches to local organizations, including the Clear Lake Riviera Community Association, to build their Web sites. The Riviera association said they didn't end up using Lusby's services.


But the Northshore Business Association did, and got burned, said President Kenny Parlet.


“He pretty much left us hanging,” said Parlet.


Parlet said Lusby had built a Web site for his Lakeview Market in Lucerne, and also had done work for the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce and other well-known local business people.


Parlet said Lusby offered to do the work for the association, but nothing ever came of it. The association's Web site went inactive for a time as a result.


In the mean time, Parlet said he began steering people away from Lusby, who he said had had a juvenile record for using other people's credit cards to make online purchases, and had done juvenile time.


“He really burned some big, serious bridges,” said Parlet.


Lusby allegedly went beyond just letting down local businesses and groups.


Tina Dawn-Rubin, co-owner of the Mystic Barrel gift shop in Nice, lost money to Lusby.


She told Lake County News that Lusby approached her in 2007 with a proposal to take part in a local advertising brochure he said he was creating for local businesses.


Dawn-Rubin said she gave him $285 for the product, which she said he never produced.


She said she later confronted him, and said Lusby told her he didn't mean to scam her. But he also didn't give back her money.


Lusby's activities allegedly took a more serious bent, impacting a local nonprofit.


Andy Weiss, founder and station manager of KPFZ 88.1 FM, said the station hired Lusby in 2007 to develop the community radio station's computer system.


“Contracts were signed, and money was exchanged,” said Weiss. “However, Mr. Lusby failed to fulfill his part of the agreement.”


Weiss said Lusby never provided the computer equipment nor installation provided for in the contract.


“Many attempts were made to contact Mr. Lusby over a several month period – and his responses were confusing and unsatisfactory, and ultimately KPFZ was burdened with a $6,000 loss due to this situation – the equipment never provided, the work never done,” Weiss said.

 

In October of 2007, Lusby posted an online message to his customers that informed them that Techos Business Center closed its doors at the end of the previous August.


“We have not however, shut down the operations of our business all together. We have simply moved back to a more home-based business. During this transition, we have fallen behind in contact with many of our customers and for this I apologize,” he wrote. He encouraged anyone with questions to e-mail him “and I will do my best to resolve any issues that I can.”


His message continued, “We are currently going through many changes and currently many of our business operations are being focused out of Las Vegas, NV with new services and industry focuses. As soon as more information is available, Techos Customers will be mailed information about all that Techos is becoming. If you would like to be a part of this mailing, please send me an email as well,” Lusby wrote.


In Las Vegas, according to his MySpace page, he enjoyed visiting the casinos. One picture he posted showed him with a large wad of cash in one hand.


His MySpace page, which the Klamath County District Attorney's Office is alleging he used to lure young teenage girls to meet him, stated that is occupation is “ruling the world,” with his income listed between $75,000 and $100,000.


He also listed a quote from “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone: “Sometimes what's right isn't as important as what's profitable.”

 

 

 

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Cole Lusby showing off some of the money he said he had won at a casino in Las Vegas, Nev. Photo from his MySpace page.
 

 

 


Numerous allegations involve bad checks


While he was in Las Vegas, he is alleged to have passed checks with insufficient funds. The Clark County, Nev., District Attorney's Office told Lake County News that it has two active cases against Lusby, both of which are scheduled to appear in court in May.


The first case, a misdemeanor for $325 in checks, was filed against Lusby in April of 2008, according to the office's records. The second case, a felony, was filed in July of 2008, and is for $6,265 in checks Lusby allegedly passed with insufficient funds.


From Las Vegas, he moved to Klamath Falls. There he opened a business titled Fat Cat Technology, specializing in Web design. The company was listed as a member of the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce.


But the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce told Lake County News that Lusby's business – which came in suddenly, was up and running and then disappeared – ceased being an active member in February of 2008 after Lusby made a $70 payment toward a $150 membership.


The chamber also began receiving complaints about Fat Cat Technology, which was failing to fulfill work orders and keeping computers that customers were paying to have fixed.


Case alleges use of MySpace page


In August of 2008, Lusby was on the agenda for the Klamath Falls Parks and Cemeteries Advisory Board, where he was to have offered a proposal to place security cameras in the city's parks.


Forster said that the case against Lusby alleges that, during this time, from Aug. 1 to Nov. 26, he was using his MySpace pages to lure young females into having sex with him. Those alleged actions gave rise to the online sexual corruption charges against him.


“It hadn't been a real long, ongoing thing,” she said.


From Aug. 1 through Sept. 30, the alleged actions that led to the two counts of first degree rape were taking place, said Forster.


During this time, he appears to have become involved with a young woman who also had lived in Lake County before moving to Oregon.


Seventeen-year-old Jennifer Ussery was blonde, blue-eyed and fresh-faced, and from Lusby's own account, the love of his life.


Pictures of the two of them together were featured in the online photo gallery on his MySpace page.


The situation in Klamath Falls appears to have begun to started unraveling for Lusby in October of 2008.


Forster said Lusby was arrested on Oct. 11, 2008, for aggravated theft in the first degree. He is alleged to have opened up bank accounts at Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union and US Bank and deposited checks into the newly opened accounts without funds to cover them. He also was arrested on a fugitive complaint from Nevada, where the other bad checks cases are outstanding.


Jennifer Ussery's 20-year-old brother, Aaron, was believed to have been involved in the check scam, but he offered evidence and no charges were filed against Aaron Ussery, Forster said.


Forster said Aaron Ussery, along with his sister, allegedly came to bail Lusby out in October of 2008. Aaron Ussery allegedly bailed Lusby out with money that had been used in the check scam. Officials believe Jennifer Ussery was not involved in the fraudulent activities.


Lusby was again scheduled to make an in-person presentation to the Klamath Falls Parks and Cemeteries Advisory Board to land a contract for park cameras on Nov. 6, 2008. Officials also reported waiting for a written proposal from Lusby.


However, he didn't make that meeting. The likely reason: On Nov. 3, 2008, Jennifer Ussery, 18 at the time, was killed in Klamath Falls when her brother Aaron allegedly drove her on her paper route for the Klamath Herald and News, and crashed into an irrigation canal at about 5:30 a.m. that day.


Aaron Ussery, who – according to the Klamath Herald and News allegedly was drunk at the time and unable to get out of his Chevy Blazer to call for help – is facing felony charges “of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, driving under the influence, driving while addicted to a drug and being under the influence of a controlled substance,” the newspaper reported.


On Nov. 15, Lusby posted a goodbye letter to Jennifer Ussery on her memorial MySpace page.


Calling her “my beautiful princess,” Lusby said out of the blue he'd lost “not only lost the love of my life, but also my best friend.”


“You are more than just my better half; you are my entire life. I don't know how to move on without you. Having you in my life has made the last couple years the best and happiest of my life,” he wrote.


His letter said Ussery had told him that she wanted to move to the coast with him and get married in the spring of 2009. “We said we couldn't wait to spend the next 70 years together.”


Within weeks Lusby would be arrested on the long list of charges he's facing in Klamath County.


Fat Cat's number is no longer in service, and its Web site has been taken down.


Within the past month Lusby's MySpace page also was deleted.


Lake County case also pending


Yet another case is awaiting Lusby in Lake County.


Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins confirmed that a case involving bad checks was filed against Lusby with his office. He said he asked the Lake County Sheriff's Office for more information.


Captain James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office confirmed that Lusby has one pending case with the department, a forgery and conspiracy case from August of 2008.


That case finds Lusby and his mother, Terry Lusby, once again implicated together.


Bauman said Terry Lusby allegedly deposited a little over $9,000 in fraudulent checks into her account with Westamerica Bank in Upper lake. Cole Lusby then allegedly cashed several checks, withdrawing a total of $7,200 from the account before it was determined the deposited checks were bogus.


The case, according to Bauman, was filed in December with the Lake County District Attorney's Office. Bauman confirmed that Terry Lusby also was a suspect in the case, which is being reviewed by a Lake County Sheriff's Office investigator.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – The public is invited to attend a series of upcoming meetings on the recently completed draft of the Shoreline Communities Area Plan.


The Lake County Community Development Department will host two town hall meetings this month to introduce the draft plan.


The first town hall meeting is scheduled to take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday, March 23, in the Rose Room at the Lucerne Senior Center, 3985 Country Club Drive, Lucerne.


The second meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, at the Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks.


During these meetings Community Development Department staff, along with members of the Shoreline Communities Area Plan Advisory Committee, will be present to provide the public with information concerning changes in policies, zoning and land use designations that are proposed by the Draft Shoreline Communities Area Plan.


The advisory committee and the Community Development Department developed the draft area plan.


When adopted, the plan will provide a policy framework and plan to guide future growth within the planning area.


The planning area includes the communities of Lucerne, Kono Tayee, Paradise Cove, Glenhaven, Clearlake Oaks, Spring Valley, the unincorporated areas north of the city of Clearlake including portions of Clearlake Park, and all of the outlying rural areas around these communities to the eastern county line.


The Draft Shoreline Communities Area Plan is available for review on the Web at www.co.lake.ca.us.


Copies of the draft area plan are also available at the county libraries, and at the Community Development Department, located on the third floor of the Lake County Courthouse.


For more information, contact Kevin M. Ingram, the project manager, at 263-2221.


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LAKEPORT – This Friday is the last day that many school districts have to hand out pink slips to teachers whose jobs are in jeopardy due to budget cuts, and an event planned for that day will focus attention on the challenges facing education here and across the state. {sidebar id=132}


The “Stand Up for Schools” event will take place from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday, March 13, in the courthouse square on Main Street in downtown Lakeport.


Local California Teachers Association (CTA) members will protest the education funding cuts as part of “Pink Friday.”


Teachers, staff, students, parents, school board trustees and community members from Kelseyville, Lakeport and Upper Lake are expected to appear, clad in pink, to hear presentations by Lake County Superintendent of Schools David Geck and CTA board member Larry Allen of Cobb. The Lakeport protest will feature free pink prizes and pink treats such as cotton candy for anyone wearing pink.


At a March 5 meeting, Lakeport Unified School District Board President Tom Powers promised, “I'm going to be in bright pink, which you may not want to see.”


Powers and fellow school board members voted unanimously to support this Friday's Stand Up for Schools Day.


Lake County News conducted a survey of all local school districts this week, and counted approximately 110.3 classified and certificated positions – both full and part-time – that have received layoff notices so far this year.


Those are among the estimated 17,800 of the state’s 340,000 associated teachers who CTA said have been scheduled to receive “pink slips” this month.


During the event CTA members and educators will explain how California’s $11.6 billion in budget cuts will affect K-12 public education both locally and statewide.


Geck told Lake County News in a recent interview that he estimates local school districts will see a total of about $5.7 million in cuts for the rest of this budget year and into the 2009-10 fiscal year.


Pam Klier, president of the Lakeport CTA chapter, said the concern is the impact the cuts ultimately will have on education.


“These are not cuts that anybody's making willingly,” she said. “They're deep, drastic cuts that are really going to change, in some cases, the way we are able to do our jobs.”


It's not just teachers facing loss of their jobs or resources to teach their students. Klier said supporting classified staff also is getting hit hard.


She said the goal is to educate all of the community about what's happening to education, and how important it is to contact state legislators to let them know that education needs to be a priority.

 

The call to put the pressure on Sacramento has been a uniting message for teachers, school board members and administrators.


Last week, Konocti Unified School District Board Clerk Anita Gordon told a meeting filled with concerned parents and community members that the district was facing $1.2 million in budget cuts and challenges, in part, due to decisions made in Sacramento.


Also last week, Lakeport Unified Superintendent Erin Smith-Hagberg told those attending a meeting on Lakeport's efforts to meet a total of $800,000 in lost revenue, “We just need you to speak up on behalf of your schools,” asking that they call or write legislators.


Lakeport Unified School District Board member Bob Weiss also called on the community to come out and support teachers and education at the March 13 event. He pointed to Sacramento as the root of local education's struggles.


He said everyone in the community needs to support education. “We're in this together.”


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


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LAKE COUNTY – With World Tuberculosis Day set to be observed later this month, local health officials are sharing information about the disease and its prevention.


World Tuberculosis Day will take place on March 24.


Lake County Health Services is joining in the efforts of the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and California Department of Public Health to promote partnerships for tuberculosis elimination.


Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease that can be spread when people are sick with TB in their lungs.


A global health problem, it is estimated that 1.6 million people died from TB in 2005, according to a Monday report from Lake County Health Services. Although the greatest number of cases occur overseas in areas such as Africa and Southeast Asia, tuberculosis is also present in the United States.


Nationally, there has been a reduction in TB cases from a total of 84,304 in 1953 to a total of 13,299 in 2007.


In California, there were 2,725 cases, with the highest rates per population occurring in San Francisco, Imperial and Santa Clara counties.


Even though California has successfully reduced its number of cases of active tuberculosis disease in recent years, the trend toward further reductions has slowed.


Global travel, the presence of debilitating health conditions, and the development antibiotic resistance are all challenges to the control of tuberculosis.


Approximately three quarters of the TB cases in California are in foreign-born persons from countries where tuberculosis is more common.


Health conditions that break down the immune system, such as HIV/AIDS or treatment with immune-suppressing drugs, can lead to activation of disease. Development of antibiotic resistant strains of TB makes treatment more difficult.


Overall, 11 percent of California TB infections were resistant to the most commonly used anti-tuberculosis drug in 2007. Smaller percentages, generally around 1 percent, were resistant to other drugs commonly used in the treatment of TB.


Other challenges to controlling tuberculosis center on the need to treat it with multiple antibiotics (as many as four to six, depending on circumstances) for many months (six months minimum and sometimes more than 24 to 36 months). Preventive treatment of latent TB usually only requires one antibiotic drug, but it must still be taken for six to nine months.


Lake County had only one active case in 2007, ranking 34 out of a list of 45 of California’s reporting jurisdictions, Lake County Health Services reported.


Local health officials said Lake County’s low numbers should not lead to complacency. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes to prevent active tuberculosis.


Many people who come into contact with tuberculosis in the course of their lives develop a latent form of infection – they are neither sick nor infectious to others. However, over time or if their general health status deteriorates, the latent infection can turn into an active and contagious infection.


Keeping tuberculosis out of the community involves screening people who might be at risk for it, and treatment with anti-tuberculosis medication to reduce the chance of it causing illness in the future.


When an active case does occur, vigorous tracking down of contacts and appropriate treatment of them is essential. In the treatment of active tuberculosis disease, Public Health professionals often administer and observe patients taking each dose of treatment to assure that the full course of treatment is completed.


Throughout the year, Lake County’s Public Health Department works with local health professionals and other partners to assure that this important work is done.


If you would like more information about tuberculosis, please visit www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/tb/Pages/ResourcesPublicTBCB.aspx or www.cdc.gov/tb/faqs/default.htm.


For assistance with tuberculosis questions in Lake County, call Lake County Health Services at 263-1090.


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LOWER LAKE – Many people – from board members to teachers to parents – had predicted that no one would be entirely happy with the decision the Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees ultimately would make to meet address a $1.2 million budget cut in the coming fiscal year.


Those predictions proved true Wednesday night, when the board – in a 3-2 vote – directed Superintendent Dr. Bill MacDougall to close Oak Hill Middle School.


Board members Hank Montgomery and Herb Gura were the dissenting voices in the vote, which came at the end of a special four-hour meeting held in the Lower Lake High School gym, with about 100 people in attendance.


The meeting ended shortly after the vote, with board members sitting in a strained, grim-faced silence as people – some of them unhappy Oak Hill staffers and parents – filtered out of the gymnasium. Some called out angry comments to the board.


The district board has hosted nine meetings on possible consolidation measures to close the budget gap. Most of those meetings had focused on public comment, but Wednesday night was the board's first opportunity to discuss it as a body.


They came to the table having heard MacDougall's proposal – which included closing Oak Hill Middle School – at a meeting held March 4.


The board heard presentations from business manager Laurie Altic and Dana Moore, the district's director of maintenance and operations. Moore gave an in-depth description of the logistical aspects of moving students to new school facilities and how to improve schools to take on additional students.


Closing Oak Hill and moving its 473 students to other schools was part of two separate recommendations.


In the first, schools (not including the high school) would be converted to K-8, for a savings of $1,025,680, with a $265,980 cost to shift students for a net savings of $759,700. Facilities costs would amount to $475,500, but Moore said those funds are specifically for building projects, and can't be used in classrooms.


The second recommendation called for closing the school, converting Pomo Elementary to grades fourth through eighth, while Burns Valley becomes K-3, and Lower Lake and East Lake are K-8. That also would save the district $1,025,680, with $170,376 to shift students for a net savings of $855,304. Facility costs would be $510,500.


The board also voted to support continuing class size reduction measures, which MacDougall estimated would save the jobs of 13 to 15 teachers.


Board members give their perspectives


When it came time to discuss the choices – whether to close the school and realign some grades or choose another route – Montgomery was clear that he opposed Oak Hill's closure.


The proposal to close the school, he said, “has become more a referendum on Oak Hill and what it does rather than is this the best way to save money.”


Montgomery credits his children's success in college and beyond to their time at Oak Hill. “They had a tremendous experience.”


So he was troubled to hear Oak Hill become the focus of so much negative comment at the public meetings, which he said made him sad “to the very core of my existence.”


He said he's tried to think he way through closing the school, but he can't justify it. “It seems to me that closing Oak Hill is not the solution.”


Board member Carolynn Jarrett said that, based on the public hearings, she believed the relationship between school staff and parents isn't there, despite the teachers' hard work to improve the school.


Jarrett, who taught elementary school in Konocti Unified for 18 years, said for her it was a financial decision. She favored closing Oak Hill and transitioning to K-8 schools, and using the knowledge of elementary and middle school teachers to benefit students.


Said Gura, “It's such a complex decision, and anything we do affects so many other things.”


If the district didn't have its financial issues, Gura said he wouldn't even be considering closing a school. Gura said he had three children who have successfully gone through Oak Hill, with a fourth who was looking forward to the school.


He said he still many questions about the logistics of the move, and wanted to hear what the rest of the board had to say.


Board Clerk Anita Gordon, who has been on the board 10 and a half years, called the district's budget challenge “the most difficult subject matter I've ever faced sitting here in this chair.”


Gordon worked at Oak Hill for two years, and said she admired and respected the school's staff. “Teachers there are doing amazing things.”


Like Montgomery, she was saddened to hear so many negative comments made about the school in public meetings, because she knows the work the teachers and administrators are putting into the school.


But Gordon said she was thinking about the money, adding that there isn't a district in the state not having the same discussion.


The choices before the board, Gordon said, were both gut-wrenching and horrible. “They're not anything we wish to do.”


If Oak Hill was left open, that wouldn't address the looming cuts, said Gordon. They also could face the loss of students whose parents don't want them to attend Oak Hill.


Closing the school, added, Gordon, made the most sense monetarily.


Board President Mary Silva, whose four children attended Oak Hill, said it hurt to have to close the school.


“I don't know what else to do,” she said. “I don't know where else that money is going to come from.”


She said she couldn't see spending money from the district's reserves because of concerns about what the next fiscal year might bring.


“This board really has to look at all the options and make sure we're making the best choices for all the children, not just particular sites,” Silva said.


Gura asked Montgomery for his ideas – he noted he usually had good ones – on other options for how to trim the budget.


Montgomery said he had a few ideas, but none of them were big ticket items. He said they could revisit staffing ratios and take a line-by-line, surgical approach to the budget.


He said closing Oak Hill will delay the district's budget problems, not solve them. Montgomery said they needed to anticipate unintended consequences, otherwise, “We're going to wander off into the darkness.”


Montgomery asked the board to take more time to go over the budget and give the decision the time it deserved. The extra work, he said, would be nothing when compared to what it will do to the district to close one of its schools.


Silva said the district already has given out 52 pink slips to teachers, and said they'll be able to rehire teachers if the school is closed. “We're a tough district. We'll make it.”


Jarrett, referring to information Altic had provided earlier in the meeting, noted that the middle school model is expensive, more so than elementary schools. “We need to get lean.”


She said she was cautiously trying to urge the process along. “I don't think we have a lot of time for this.”


Other solutions offered


The board heard from 10 speakers, many of them speaking against closing Oak Hill.


Carle High School teacher Angela Siegel offered several options for getting through the budget crisis, agreeing with Montgomery's idea of going through the budget “surgically.”


Her suggestions included drawing small amounts from the district's reserves, saving an estimated $350,000 by not filling some positions, dropping some expensive software programs and not requiring a techie to be called every time a minor computer issue arose.


She suggested that, in the long run, it would cost more money to make the changes the district proposed.


Parent Liberty Perry said the situation was affecting a lot of lives and, whatever the decision, it was going to be hard, and no one would be completely happy with it.


“I just ask that you make this in a timely manner so these teachers that were given pink slips know what to do with their lives and their kids,” she said.


Burns Valley teacher Katherine Mullin said the process has produced a lot of anxiety for teachers and is affecting the staff at her school.


“This ongoing conversation is taking its toll. Our aides are scared to death. We have almost none left,” she said.


The sooner they know what's going to happen the better all of them can cope, said Mullin. She said her husband, who teaches in another district, also received a layoff notice.


Mullin said that every bit of energy she spends on the issue “is one little piece of me that the children of this district don't get, and they need every bit that I can offer them and they deserve it.”


The longer the district waits, she said, the less quality teachers it will be able to access, pointing out that two of the best young teachers she's seen have given their resignations and plan to leave the district.


Glen Goodman suggested the district's proposals were an expensive way to save money. Meanwhile, they still didn't know how much federal stimulus money they might receive that could help the situation. The district also could lose students and, along with them, attendance-related funding.


“It just seems to me that there's go to be a better way,” he said, urging the board not to hurry but to take the time to make the right decision.


Oak Hill Middle School teacher Tracy Lahr defended the school, and said the students haven't been asked what they want.


Oak Hill is a community, Lahr said. Closing the school isn't a win-win situation.


Another Oak Hill teacher, Paul Leiferman, said the school and its teachers take a lot of vitriol from the community. “There are those of us who are really tired of it,” he said.


Leiferman, who has taught at the school for 10 years, recalled one of his young students, a girl whose home was filled with abuse, but who – with the help of teachers – improved her grades and got onto the volleyball team.


One day she'd served some aces and went home looking forward to telling her story to a family member, only to find the man had hung himself.


“Those are the kinds of things we work through over there,” Leiferman said.


He said he wished more people knew about such stories.


Not a pleasant decision


MacDougall told the board that district staff already has gone through the budget line by line – as Montgomery had suggested they do – in order to find other cuts. If there had been a panacea, they would have used it already.


“It is not a pleasant situation whatsoever,” MacDougall said.


He said the board could direct him to go back through the budget, line by line, but he guaranteed they would arrive at the same conclusions.


Jarrett moved to direct MacDougall to close Oak Hill, with Gordon seconding. Silva joined the two in voting for the proposal, with Gura and Montgomery voting no.


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


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LOWER LAKE – The Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees will have a tough decision before it when it sits down to a special Wednesday meeting to discuss what action to take in the face of a $1.2 million budget cut in the coming fiscal year.


The board will meet at 6:15 p.m. in the Lower Lake High School gym, 9430-A Lake St., Lower Lake.


During the past month board members Mary Silva, Anita Gordon, Herb Gura, Carolynn Jarrett and Hank Montgomery have hosted meetings around the district to take public input on ways to remedy the budget shortfall.


A March 4 meeting, also held at the new Lower Lake gym, featured the last of several public hearings on the matters before the district.


At that time, the board also approved giving out layoff notices to 52 teachers and notifying six administrators that they may be released at the end of the year. District officials said they hope to keep all the administrators and to hire back most of the teachers.


On Wednesday, it will be the board's turn to finally discuss the matter amongst themselves, which Superintendent Dr. Bill MacDougall said at the March 4 meeting that they've been unable to do so far because of the requirements of the Brown Act.


At the March 4 meeting, MacDougall also gave the board his proposal for how to move forward, which includes closing Oak Hill Middle School, a move estimated to save the district anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million if curriculum realignment measures also took place at other schools.


He asked the board to keep class size reduction measures in place, which will benefit students and save the jobs of 15 teachers.


School board members are scheduled to discuss both the consolidation and class size reduction proposals on Wednesday.


The meeting agenda is available online at the district's Web site, www.konoctiusd.lake.k12.ca.us.


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


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SACRAMENTO – Top education, legislative and law enforcement leaders and others joined today to announce this year’s launch of Impact Teen Drivers, an exciting statewide awareness program designed to save the lives of beginning teen drivers by using a variety of engaging and dynamic educational tools.


The statistics prove that more action is needed to prevent teen deaths.


In addition to the high rate of teen drivers who are involved in a collision in their first year of driving, nationally the fatal crash risk per mile driven by 16-year-olds is twice that of 18- to 19-year-olds and about seven times the risk for drivers ages 30-59.


The Impact Teen Drivers program will coincide with Teen Driving Safety Week, which began Monday.


During Teen Driving Safety Week, California school teachers are being asked to share the materials that were delivered to every public high school in the state with students who are either just learning to drive or who have just received their driver’s license.


“The Legislature, by adopting resolutions authored by Sen. Allen Lowenthal (D- Long Beach), and Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park), saw the importance of bringing attention to the imperative need of reducing teen auto collisions – the No. 1 killer of our beginning drivers,” said Jon Hamm, president of Impact Teen Drivers and chief executive officer of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, one of the founding sponsors of Impact Teen Drivers.


Impact Teen Drivers has also launched a Website (www.impactteendrivers.org) with resources for teachers, interactive elements, fast facts for parents and teens and an interactive wall for people to create their own memorials to remember friends lost in collisions. MySpace and Facebook pages have also been developed.


Commissioner Joe Farrow of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), added, “Our officers tell us one of the most stressful parts of their job is when they have to tell the parents of a teen that their child was killed in an automobile crash. We are proud to play a role in this educational program that could reduce collisions, save motorists from injury or death and keep a parent or family member from receiving heartbreaking news.”


Impact Teen Drivers is excited to announce this year a new “Create Real Impact” classroom grant program. Many grants will be awarded to California high schools who find innovative and creative ways to use the Impact Teen Drivers program or materials. From a PSA put together by a video production class to a teacher-led school service project, Impact Teen Drivers will reward original and inventive ways schools use their program to reach teen drivers and help them make good decisions behind the wheel.


“This is an extremely smart approach,” Farrow noted. “Impact Teen Drivers is using teams to get this critically important message through to their peers. This is a win-win; the teen or classroom developing the messaging wins a grant and his or her classmates win by hearing a message that will change their driving behavior.”


“I want to applaud the groundbreaking work that all those involved with the Impact Teen Drivers program have accomplished. It is important to remember that there is much work to be done. The driver fatality rate for 16-year-old drivers is simply unacceptable. I look forward to working with law enforcement, educators and parents to ensure that we are doing everything we can to encourage safe teen driving and prevent these unnecessary tragedies,” said Assemblyman Mike Eng.


Impact Teen Drivers, prepared to meet the challenge, is also sponsored by the California Teachers Association and California Casualty Insurance.


The list of supporters also includes the CHP, California State Firefighters Association, the Peace Officers Research Association of California, and the Association of California Schools Administrators.


The program has a vast number of volunteers, including students who served as advisors in developing the program materials, teachers and parents of teens killed in crashes.


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UPPER LAKE – On Thursday morning the Upper Lake High School Academic Decathlon team will set out for the 30th California Academic Decathlon, to be held this weekend in Sacramento. {sidebar id=133}


It's become a regular trip for the dedicated group of students – who have won the state small school championship in previous years.


They're led this year by teacher Anna Sabalone, herself a former member of the team who is in her first year coaching.


The team won the county Academic Decathlon title in February. After a little time off to rest and recover from various bouts of colds and flu, the team members are now in final preparations and getting excited for the weekend competition, Sabalone said.


“It's the culmination of nearly a year's worth of work,” Sabalone said.


Upper Lake's team members will be among 60 teams and more than 500 students from 39 counties and regions across the state, including public and private high schools, that will participate in this year’s competition, according to a California Academic Decathlon statement. “Latin America” is this year's study topic.


Once the Upper Lake team gets to Sacramento, they'll have two days of studying before the competition begins on Saturday morning, Sabalone said.


Sabalone said the Saturday competition, which will take place at California State University, Sacramento, will include all the testing, to be followed on Sunday by speech and interview, also at Sacramento State.


The Super Quiz, which is open to the public, will be held on Sunday at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium. Sabalone said awards will be given during a Monday ceremony. The team will come home later that day.


But the emphasis for her is on the experience and the competition itself, which she said sticks with the students long after the pencils are set down.


Upper Lake is in Division 3, the small schools category; middle-sized schools fall into Division 2 and large schools into Division 1.


Upper Lake's February score, 34,736, ranks it eighth out of 20 Division 3 schools.


In years past, Lower Lake High School, who has battled Upper Lake for the top local spot over the years, also has been invited as an at large school. But, unfortunately, that's not the case this year.


That's the result of a change in the state competition's method of inviting at large schools, said Ken Scarberry, California Academic Decathlon director.


Scarberry said the state's 39 Academic Decathlon coordinators, who meet regularly, have been negotiating for years to change the process of making invitations based on county enrollment, which is how the competition originally was set up.


What that meant is that counties with many teams – in Southern and Central California there are areas with as many as 60 teams competing – were able to send only a few teams. At the same time, some smaller Northern California areas, with fewer teams, were getting to send a larger proportion of their competitors.


This year, for the first time, they're going an a score basis, said Scarberry.


The winning team of each region is guaranteed to advance to the state competition, and any open spots go to the next-highest scoring teams. He said all of this year's invited, at-large teams have scored more than 40,000 points.


“We have the best of the best represented across the state on that level,” said Scarberry.


For Lower Lake, he said, the incentive is to shoot for the 40,000 range.


Smaller schools can score in that range, he said, pointing to a small Central California school that's scored more than 40,000 points yet has a student body of less than 600.


He said there are a handful of states across the country that are actually looking at this concept. Scarberry added that many states don't use scores as a basis to invite teams to the statewide competition.


Upper Lake's entire team has been nominated for a Stars of Lake County Award in the student of the year category; individual team members Benjamin Mullin, Stephanie Tregea and Thonyoon Chao were nominated individually, as was Emmalena Illia, a Lower Lake academic decathlete.


Sabalone said her students already are excited about starting work on next year's study theme – the French Revolution.


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


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Image
John Gray (center) and his attorney, Kevin Ikuma (right) during Monday's court appearance. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

LAKEPORT – A Kelseyville man arrested late last month on a murder charge was back in court on Monday.

John Robert Gray, 43, was in Superior Court Judge Richard Martin's courtroom for arraignment on allegations that he murdered his roommate, 37-year-old Eric James Joaquin.

The District Attorney's Office also has filed special allegations against Gray for allegedly inflicting great bodily injury in a violent felony and use of a deadly weapon.

Joaquin's body was found on Feb. 28 at the home that he had shared with Gray and some other roommates in the Clear Lake Riviera, as Lake County News has reported. Gray was arrested later that day at his girlfriend's Kelseyville home.

The preliminary cause of Joaquin's death, based on an autopsy conducted last week, is that he died of multiple blunt force trauma.

Gray initially had been arraigned March 3 but the hearing was continued and he did not enter a plea to the charges.

On Monday he was represented in court by Bay Area attorney Kevin Ikuma.

During the proceedings, Ikuma told Martin that he was not prepared to enter a plea for Gray due to the fact that he had not yet received any of the police reports or any other discovery information from the Lake County Sheriff's Office and the District Attorney's Office.

Ikuma requested a continuation until April 10 at 1:30 p.m., which District Attorney Jon Hopkins supported, explaining that he, too, has not reviewed all the evidence or the results of the ongoing investigation.

Judge Martin granted the defense request and ordered that Gray remain in custody with bail continued at $500,000.

Hopkins said afterward that he will continue to handle the case.

“I am waiting for all completed forensic evidence reports,” Hopkins said. “I will review these reports and make further determinations based on that information.”

Hopkins would not elaborate about the investigation or whether the case against Gray will allege that he acted alone or with someone else.

He also wouldn't offer additional details relating to Joaquin's cause of death.

“An exact cause and weapon used has not yet been forensically determined at this very early stage of the investigation,” Hopkins said.

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

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SAN JOSE – California Water Service Group has announced net income of $39.8 million, up 28 percent or $8.6 million for the 2008 fiscal year.


Diluted earnings per share were $1.90, up 27 percent or $0.40 per share compared to $1.50 for the same period last year.


The company owns the water district in Lucerne. In 2006 Cal Water received a 121-percent increase in rate for Lucerne after initially seeking a 246-percent increase, as Lake County News has reported. Many area residents were able to receive rate reductions due to being low income.


Cal Water's revenue for 2008 was $410.3 million, increasing 12 percent or $43.2 million over revenue of $367.1 million for 2007.


Revenues for 2008 included an additional $42.0 million from rate increases and $4 million in sales to new customers.


The net effect of the Water Revenue Adjustment Mechanism (WRAM) and Modified Cost Balancing Account (MCBA), that went into effect July 1, 2008, increased revenue by $2.0 million.


Sales to existing customers declined $2.2 million while other decreases accounted for $2.6 million.


Total operating expenses increased 9 percent or $29.9 million to $352.8 million for the year. Of this amount, water production costs increased 6 percent or $7.7 million to $146.6 million.


Other operations expense increased 10 percent or $10.1 million to $110.6 million, due primarily to increases in health and welfare plan expense, professional and other outside services costs, and additional water treatment expenses.


Maintenance expense increased 3 percent or $0.6 million to $19.0 million. Depreciation increased 11 percent or $3.8 million to $37.3 million for the full year.


Net other income decreased $4.6 million for the full year primarily due to no significant property sales during the year and a negative mark to market adjustment of $3.8 million associated with long-term investment assets held by the company.


According to President and Chief Executive Officer Peter C. Nelson, California Water Service Group's greatest achievements in 2008 were those related to implementing the California Public Utilities Commission's Water Action Plan.


“Receiving recovery of reasonably incurred costs was critical to this year's results, as was implementing both a WRAM and an MCBA which allows us to promote water efficiency,” Nelson said. “We also made some key acquisitions, made important and necessary infrastructure upgrades, and continue our focus on improving the way we serve our customers.”


In July 2008, the California Public Utilities Commission approved California Water Service Co.'s 2007 General Rate Case filing, authorizing rate increases of $33.4 million for eight districts, and an additional $13.7 million in 24 districts for general office expenses.


Additionally, the company requested recovery of increases in "offsettable" expenses, including purchased water, power, and pump taxes, and others were made to recover incremental cost increases and certain capital expenses incurred in the districts in between the three-year General Rate Case cycle.


Also in 2008, the CPUC approved the company's request for a WRAM, which effectively decouples water sales from revenues, as well as a tiered rate structure for most California districts.


Having a WRAM effectively removes a major disincentive for the company to pursue and promote water efficiency and conservation.


In the same decision, the CPUC approved an MCBA, which will enable the company to capture changes in costs resulting from utilizing different sources and volumes of supply. Both mechanisms support principals expressed in the CPUC's Water Action Plan, which reflects best practices in water utility regulation.


Pursuant to the CPUC's Rate Case Plan, the company will file a General Rate Case in 2009 for all California districts, including general office, with a scheduled effective date of Jan. 1, 2011; if the decision is delayed, the company will seek interim rates and recovery of lost revenues resulting from any delay. Subsequent General Rate Cases will be filed for all California districts every three years.


The most significant growth in 2008 occurred in Hawaii, beginning with HWS Utility Services' acquisition of multiple water and wastewater operations contracts on the island of Hawaii.


In the second quarter of 2008, Hawaii Water Service Co. received approval from the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to acquire a wastewater system serving approximately 800 customers in the community of Pukalani on the island of Maui.


In the third quarter, Hawaii Water completed its acquisition of Waikoloa Resort Utilities, Waikoloa Water Company Inc.and Waikoloa Sanitary Sewer Company Inc., which together provide water utility services to 1,970 customer accounts and wastewater services to 300 customer accounts on the island of Hawaii.


Finally, in the fourth quarter, Hawaii Water completed its acquisition of a water and wastewater system serving approximately 250 customers in Kukio on the Island of Hawaii.


Additionally, in California, the company agreed to acquire Skyline County Water District, a 465-connection system adjacent to Cal Water's Bear Gulch District, and signed an agreement to purchase the Woodside Mutual Water Co., another adjacent system serving 43 customers.


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