Tuesday, 23 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Super Bowl Sunday is another opportunity to get together and celebrate with friends and family. However, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) wants to make sure your game plan includes designating a non-drinking driver before the big game.

On Super Bowl Sunday 2008, 12 people were killed in alcohol-involved collisions – three times the daily average in California, the agency reported.

These deaths, CHP said, were in addition to the 167 people injured in alcohol-related crashes throughout the state.

“We're not discouraging the celebration,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “We're asking fans to make the right call, so they won't find themselves benched in a jail cell.”

CHP officers statewide arrested 403 motorists for driving under the influence (DUI) on Super Bowl Sunday last year.

This year the CHP, along with police and sheriff's departments, will be deploying special DUI patrols through the Avoid Campaign across the state to lower alcohol-involved deaths and injuries.

Law enforcement invites the public to help by calling 911 to report a suspected drunk driver. Callers should be prepared to provide dispatchers with a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.

“A DUI is no 5-yard penalty,” Farrow warned. “It's something that will follow you around for years to come.“

In addition to designating a driver, the CHP encourages motorists to wear a seat belt and comply with the speed limit.


LAKEPORT – On Tuesday, a Clearlake man was convicted for the second time of first-degree murder for the December 2004 shooting death of his girlfriend. {sidebar id=118}

David Garlow Deason, 69, was found guilty of shooting 48-year-old Marie Claire Parlet to death at their Lower Lake home on Dec. 6, 2004. He also was found guilty of a special allegation of using a firearm in committing the murder.

Marie Parlet's daughter, Charline, and son, Donald, were in the courtroom Tuesday for closing arguments and the jury's verdict.

“It was intense,” said Charline Parlet on Wednesday, adding that she was shocked that he received the first-degree murder verdict again.

She said she called her younger brother, James Clarkson, in Texas to give him the news. “He was very excited.”

Defense attorney Doug Rhoades said Deason didn't take the stand in the trial. “He did not want to confront the charges.”

Rhoades said that Deason felt he could defend himself against the charges based on his level of intoxication at the time of the shootings.

“Mr. Deason had no history of violence prior to this act,” said Rhoades, adding that Deason's only previous criminal record involved some driving under the influence convictions many years earlier.

Rhoades said he had been seeking a voluntary manslaughter charge, and noted that Deason would have pleaded guilty to that if it had been offered.

“How is justice served when a life sentence would be the result regardless of a plea or a conviction?” Rhoades asked.

He added, “I thought it was a waste of resources to put him through this, to put the family through this, when the net result would have been the same.”

Alexandria Firth, 26, sat on Deason's second jury, which began Jan. 6.

She characterized the jury's deliberations as “pretty quick,” estimating that they only took about an hour and a half on Tuesday.

“The only real sticking point was deciding whether or not he premeditated,” Firth said.

She said the jurors went point by point through the jury instructions to look more closely at what constituted first-degree murder, which was their ultimate conclusion.

Jury discounts alcohol as a factor

Deason had been convicted by a jury in February 2006 of first degree murder and personal use of a firearm in an earlier trial for Marie Parlet's killing. Judge Richard Martin subsequently sentenced Deason to a mandatory 50-years-to-life sentence in prison.

However, in December 2007 the First Appellate Court threw out the conviction, saying that the court should have allowed information about Deason's level of intoxication to be admitted.

The District Attorney's Office stated that, in the first trial, the prosecution successfully argued in a pre-trial motion that, since no evidence of the defendant's drinking pattern prior to the shooting was going to be presented by the defense, the defendant's blood alcohol level should be excluded from evidence.

During that hearing, the prosecution contended that since Deason had access to “10 to 15 large 1.75 liter bottles of hard liquor” alcohol for at least 20 minutes, and possibly as long as one hour, after the shots were fired, any drinking Deason did after he fired the shots was irrelevant to his mental state at the time the shots were fired, and the blood alcohol level was misleading.

Judge Martin denied the request of then-defense attorney J. David Markham to present the blood alcohol level evidence. Court records said Markham also had asked to have a toxicologist give testimony on the subject.

“We decided the alcohol wasn't really a factor,” said Firth. “It was clear that he intended to kill her.”

During the trial, Deputy District Attorney John Langan presented evidence by forensic pathologist Dr. Kelly Arthur that Parlet had been shot twice with a .38-caliber pistol.

The first shot struck Parlet in the back and severed her aorta, according to Langan's case. After that first shot, Langan alleged that Parlet raised her arm up in a defensive posture, and then the second shot struck, piercing her left breast and perforating her spleen, with the bullet grazing the underside of her left forearm.

The precise times of the two gunshots was unable to be determined, according to the District Attorney's Office. Deason was taken into custody at 8:01 p.m. the night of the shooting.

The District Attorney's Office alleged that, upon being arrested, Deason stated, “It took you long enough to get here, deputy,” and added, “Yes, I'm the one that did it.”

Deason also told deputies that Parlet had been down for 45 minutes to an hour.

At 9:36 p.m. – two hours after the 911 call was made by a next-door neighbor – a sample of Deason's blood was taken, with his blood alcohol content found to be 0.27. After the blood sample was taken, Deason stated, “I know what I did. I had a reason.”

Firth said the focus for the jury was Deason's actions. “He had to pull the hammer back and pull the trigger, and he had time to think about.”

Seeking closure again

Charline Parlet said she had just started to get closure over her mother's death when Deason's conviction was overturned late in 2007.

“My mom was killed twice to me,” she said, describing her mother as her best friend.

On Jan. 14, while giving testimony in Deason's trial, Charline Parlet had broken down on the stand as she recounted her mother coming to pick her up from a Santa Rosa treatment center on Dec. 6, 2004, the day she died.

Charline Parlet said Deason and her mother had been together for a few years, but she only saw him at their home a few times. The rest of the time she said she saw him at the bar where her mother worked, saying he usually was drunk.

“I do feel for the man,” she said.

Parlet described her mother as a hardworking person who was a member of the PTA and coached baseball. “She was an ultimate person.”

She said her mother always told her to never depend on another person, and “never let a man bring you down, never let a man hurt you.”

That made it all the more shocking that Marie Parlet should die the way she did, her daughter said. “She was just starting to live her life, too.”

Now, with Deason's second conviction, Charline Parlet said she's got to try to get closure all over again, which is a challenge for her and her 10-year-old daughter, who misses her grandma.

Judge Arthur Mann will sentence Deason on Feb. 27.

The District Attorney's Office said Deason faces mandatory sentences of 25 years to life for the first degree murder conviction, plus an additional and consecutive sentence of 25 years to life for the special allegation of personal discharge of the firearm, for a total aggregate sentence of 50 years to life.

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LAKEPORT – The Lake County Sheriff's Office is searching for the suspect in a violent assault that left a local man with serious head and facial injuries.

Sheriff's Capt. James Bauman said that 49-year-old Dale Andrew Pirlo of Cobb was assaulted in an incident that was reported shortly before 12:30 a.m. Jan. 23 outside of the Jack in the Box on Soda Bay Road.

"Our deputies got on scene and found him with multiple lacerations, contusions, about his face and head," said Bauman. "He was pretty delirious although he was conscious."

Pirlo, a part-time Jack in the Box employee, initially was unable to describe the attack, said Bauman. However, when Lakeport Fire Protection District staff put him in the ambulance to transport him to Sutter Lakeside Hospital, Pirlo began to recount what occurred.

Bauman said Pirlo stated that a white male adult with short black hair who was riding a bicycle approached him as he was leaving the fast food restaurant following his shift. The suspect reportedly asked Pirlo to hold open the locked door so he could go inside and use the restroom.

When Pirlo refused, the suspect attacked him, said Bauman.

At the hospital, Pirlo was determined to have not just contusions and lacerations to his head and face but also multiple facial fractures, said Bauman. Sutter Lakeside discharged Pirlo at about 4 a.m. that same morning.

Pirlo told Lake County News Tuesday night that doctors told him that his nose and sinuses are broken, his jaw is out of alignment and he has suffered a concussion.

While Pirlo was on his way to the hospital, a man believed to be the suspect in Pirlo's assault was spotted across town, said Bauman.

At about 1:10 a.m. a Lakeport Police officer called in a male subject who fled from him on foot behind Bruno's Shop Smart on Lakeport Boulevard, Bauman said.

Sheriff's deputies responded to the area, said Bauman, with the California Highway Patrol also later sending backup.

During the search for the suspect, sheriff's deputies located an overturned dumpster behind the UPS store in the Bruno's shopping center, Bauman said. The dumpster appeared to have been used to get over a nearby fence and into the Shoreline Self Storage on Kimberly Lane.

Police, deputies and CHP officers spent the next hour looking for the man, but were unable to locate him, said Bauman. The suspect was described as wearing gray sweats and a black hooded sweatshirt.

Bauman called the two incidents "more than likely connected."

He said that there are other good leads in the case helping to match the assault suspect with the man who fled police across town, but he did not want to offer details at this time, as the case is actively being investigated.

Frances Pirlo of Kelseyville, Dale Pirlo's mother, said he was "beaten to a pulp."

"I certainly hope they get him," she said of the suspect. "He's a very dangerous person."

Dale Pirlo said that investigators told him the incident may have been an attempted robbery.

"He thought he'd killed me and left me for dead," Pirlo suggested in discussing the suspect.

Pirlo, a single father of two who has been working three jobs, said he remembers only the initial confrontation with the suspect, who approached him as he was leaving work and called out to him to hold the door.

The restaurant was closed, said Pirlo, who works a swing shift at Jack in the Box four nights a week. Pirlo said he refused to hold open the door and continued walking, carrying a milkshake and egg rolls in his hands, as he ended his shift for the night.

The suspect, who Pirlo said he'd never seen before, began cursing him. The last thing Pirlo remembered was seeing a body in front of him.

He said he doesn't know how long he was lying on the pavement. "Eventually, something woke me up. I was in a pool of blood."

Pirlo got up and pounded on the doors of the restaurant, as some of his coworkers were still inside. They then called for help.

He's making a round of local doctors to have the damage to his face surveyed. A Wednesday trip to a local doctor will determine if surgery to reconstruct his sinuses is necessary.

"I have challenges to overcome," Pirlo said.

Anyone with information on the incident or the alleged suspect should call the Lake County Sheriff's Office at 262-4200.

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The cost of taking care of pets and livestock could go up if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to tax veterinary care goes through. On Tuesday, January 27, 2009, a cat rested in a cage at Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic in Lakeport. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKE COUNTY – Taking care of all creatures great and small could become a lot more expensive if the state Legislature approves a proposal by the governor.


In an effort to find additional revenue sources for California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to broaden the state's sales tax to include veterinary services.


The plan first arose late last year during special budget sessions, in which state legislators strongly opposed it. Now, Schwarzenegger has included it in his draft state budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year.


Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor, told Lake County News that Schwarzenegger released his latest budget – and the seventh proposal of the year – on New Year's Eve.


He said it takes a “balanced approach” of seeking new revenue by adding veterinary care to taxed services.


The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that so far only three states – Hawaii, New Mexico and South Dakota – collect taxes on veterinary medical services, which include routine exams and vaccinations.


The new tax would be a nearly 10-percent additional cost to pet and animal owners, which is raising concerns for animal advocates and others fearing that the number of abandoned and neglected animals – already believed to be growing due to the economic climate – could get much worse.


The exact amount of sales tax added would vary from one area to the next, depending on local sales tax measures. In the unincorporated areas of the county, sales tax currently is 7.25 percent, while in Clearlake and Lakeport – where voter-approved sales tax measures support police and road projects, respectively – sales tax currently is 7.75 percent, according to city and county officials.


"It's obvious that 10 percent onto fees for people that are lower income is going to be devastating for them," said Dr. Debra Sally of Clearlake Veterinary Clinic.


"There's a potential that a lot more animals are going to go without care," Sally added, suggesting many more animals could end up in the pound, which itself is an expense for government.


Jennifer Fearing, chief economist for the Humane Society of the United States, said the organization is referring to the tax proposal as the "Fido fine," although it also will affect large animal and livestock care as well.


“We are absolutely opposed,” she said.


Fearing said animal shelters already are grappling with higher costs and more animals, and making it more expensive to care for animals may just mean more animals in the pound. “This is really just adding insult to injury,” said Fearing, who called the proposal “reckless on the governor's part.”


Because it also will impact livestock, said said it will raise the cost of doing business for farmers and ranchers.


Then there are impacts on government, said Fearing. Because local government agencies aren't immune from paying sales tax, animal shelters that contract for vet services would have to pay the tax along with everyone else.


An example, Fearing said Los Angeles County, which spends $2.5 million a year on contracted services, would have to pay $250,000 in taxes, funds which otherwise would go to animal care.


Fearing said the most absurd and strange aspect of the proposed tax is how it's lumped in with several completely unrelated services.


The budget proposal suggests that, beginning March 1, the sales tax would be extended to appliance and furniture repair, vehicle repair and veterinarian services. Then, on April 1, the sales and use tax rate

would be applied to amusement parks, sporting events and golf.


“Selection of these services was based on ease of implementation as these services are generally provided by entities that already have a relationship with the Board of Equalization,” the budget states.


The new taxes are estimated to generate $272 million in state general fund in 2008-09 and $1.154 billion in 2009-10.


"Ethically I don't see how you can put animals lives in the same category as car repair," Sally said.




Callie Dailey of Boonville comforts her dog, Beau Duke, on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, after he underwent surgery for a shattered leg due to being hit by a car. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Pet owners could see big rises in costs


Dr. Susan Cannon of Wasson Memorial Veterinary Clinic in Lakeport said the big issue is the prospect of greater expenses for clinics and their patients.


"Obviously, most clinics are not going to afford to be able to absorb those costs," she said.


Cannon said pet owners can expect an increase in fees to compensate for the tax. "A lot of people are having a hard enough time as it is affording vet care," she said, adding that the proposal is "all very vague."


The tax seems very large, said Cannon, and most pet owners don't have insurance or other assistance in paying for care.


"Obviously the state's in trouble and they're trying to come up with as many ways as they can to make money," Cannon said.


On Tuesday, Callie Dailey of Boonville was at Wasson Memorial with her 1-year-old black lab mix, Beau Duke, who she adopted from a Lake County rescue group.


Beau had been hit by a car, and suffered a shattered left hind leg and a hip out of socket, said Dailey.


After being told by other vets that they could only amputate Beau's leg, Dailey connected with Dr. Chris Holmes of Wasson. On Tuesday Holmes operated on Beau in an effort to save his leg.


Dailey said the surgery is expensive enough without having to pay hundreds of dollars more in tax.


She said cost could force heartbreaking choices.


“I'm sure for some people it would mean the difference between saving their dog and having to put it to sleep,” said Dailey.


Vets group speaks out against tax


The California Veterinary Medical Association, which represents 6,000 veterinarians statewide, has come out against the proposal.


The association's president, Dr. William Grant II, told Lake County News that it's hard to say if the tax will become a law.


The association has good support from both Democrats and Republicans who agree it isn't a good tax, Grant said.


Grant said it's not fair to segregate one fraction of the health care profession and target it with this level of taxation. He had no idea why veterinarians were singled out.


"It's already difficult in today's economy for a lot of people to take care of their pets," he said.


Grant said the tax will get passed on from vets to pet owners, and essentially will result in penalizing people for doing the right thing by taking care of their pets.


He also noted that pet owners can be prosecuted for failing to provide veterinarian care. "We just think it's ridiculous."


Grant, who is a small animal vet in Southern California, has told many of his clients about the proposal, and they've responded by calling legislators.


The Humane Society also sent out an e-mail alert to 120,000 California members about a week and a half ago, Fearing said.


Schwarzenegger's office has a constituent affairs line where people can call in to register their opinions about various issues, said McLear.


To call in, dial 916-445-2841; press 5 to leave an opinion – hit 1 to show support for the sales tax and 2 if you oppose it.


As to response on the tax, McLear said "It's higher than most issues right now."


He added, "That changes daily, depending on what the hot issues of the day are."


Schwarzenegger receives a weekly report on constituent feedback on issues, McLear said.


"Obviously we are being heard," Grant said.




The 2009 California Humane Lobby Day, which will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, February 12, at the California State Capitol, also will offer animal advocates a chance to speak to elected officials and their staff about important legislation. To RSVP to take part in the event, visit https://community.hsus.org/humane/events/lobbyday_SacramentoCA_Feb12/details.tcl?member_key=ine3wie2z7men7k6&.


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MIDDLETOWN – A Loch Lomond man was arrested Wednesday for driving under the influence after an alleged run-in with a local woman that at first appeared like a road rage incident.

The California Highway Patrol arrested 28-year-old Kevin Paul Fleenor shortly before 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, said CHP Officer Adam Garcia.

Katherine Gibbel, 42, of Middletown was driving her Ford Excursion northbound on Highway 29 with Fleenor, in a white Mitsubishi Lancer, driving behind her, said Garcia.

Fleenor allegedly was driving erratically and making hand gestures, said Garcia. Gibbel felt threatened and called 911 to report a road rage incident.

“Our officers responded along with the sheriff's department,” said Garcia.

Gibbel and Fleenor stopped at the construction spot by the Bar X Ranch, Garcia. There, Fleenor got out of his vehicle and allegedly attempted to confront Gibbel.

The construction workers on site – including Caltrans staff – prevented the confrontation from escalating, said Garcia.

Garcia said Fleenor then turned around and headed back toward Middletown, where he was stopped near Wardlaw by CHP Officer Carl Thompson.

Thompson concluded that Fleenor allegedly was under the influence of drugs, the effect of which was making him delusional, said Garcia.

Fleenor, Garcia said, made statements about being followed and being the victim of a conspiracy, of which he thought the construction workers who stopped his near confrontation with Gibbel were a part.

Thompson consequently arrested Fleenor for DUI and being under the influence of controlled substances, said Garcia.

Fleenor was booked into the Lake County Jail, with bail set at $5,000. He was released on bail later in the day, according to jail records.

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LAKE COUNTY – The trial of a Carmichael man accused of felony manslaughter for an April 2006 boating crash has been moved to May.

Bismarck Dinius, 40, was scheduled to go on trial this month for felony vehicle manslaughter involving a boat and boating under the influence.

However, Deputy District Attorney John Langan – who took over prosecuting the case when Deputy District Attorney David McKillop left for a job in Kern County – is currently in the midst of retrying the David Deason murder case, so he requested the case be moved to May.

The move "was requested by Mr. Langan and I didn't oppose it," said Dinius' defense attorney, Victor Haltom of Sacramento.

Dinius was at the tiller of a sailboat owned by Willows resident Mark Weber on the night of April 29, 2006, when the boat was struck by a speedboat driven by Russell Perdock, then a chief deputy in the Lake County Sheriff's Office, as Lake County News has reported. Due to a reclassification of agency rankings, Perdock is now listed as a captain with the sheriff's office.

Weber's fiancée, 51-year-old Lynn Thornton, was fatally injured in the collision and died a few days later.

The District Attorney's Office charged Dinius with manslaughter for reasons including the alleged failure to be under way with the sailboat's running lights on. The case also alleges that Dinius had a blood alcohol level of 0.12, which is above the legal limit of 0.08.

Last summer, following a lengthy preliminary hearing, Judge Richard Martin ordered Dinius to stand trial on the charges.

As he waits for the spring – jury selection is now scheduled to begin on May 19 – Haltom said he has an investigation under way, and is having a blood sample that he said is Perdock's retested.

Haltom said McKillop had offered a deal of misdemeanor manslaughter, which he refused. "We're not willing to accept any resolution that has my client admitting being the cause of Lynn Thornton's death because it's our position that somebody else was the cause of her death.”

However, District Attorney Jon Hopkins was adamant that he never authorized a plea bargain deal.

“I can guarantee you that no offer was ever made,” he said.

Hopkins said he had conversations with McKillop throughout the initial stages of the case up until McKillop left. There are always discussions between attorneys regarding possible case settlement, Hopkins said; however, he said McKillop never asked him to discuss plea bargaining.

Last year, an involved civil lawsuit over the case was settled. Haltom said Perdock's insurance policy paid out the maximum amount – $300,000, according to KGO TV – which he said “would raise the eyebrows of an objective observer.”

Dinius' insurance also paid $300,000, and Weber's $100,000, according to KGO's coverage of the civil lawsuit.

Haltom said Dinius is having to spend “a ridiculous amount of money” to defend himself. He added that the best possible outcome for the case, in his decision, would be to dismiss the charges against Dinius and file charges against Perdock.

While trials are always risky, Haltom said he expects to have a positive outcome for his client, “assuming I have rational jurors.”

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CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Clearlake Oaks man wanted in connection to a November shooting has been arrested.

Patrick Dewin McDaniel, 44, was booked into the Lake County Jail shortly before 2:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Lake County Jail records. A Friday report said he had been apprehended in Nevada and then, because he is a parolee, was transported to San Quentin before returning to Lake County.

McDaniel and his 37-year-old brother, Cecil, of Clearlake Oaks, are alleged to been involved in a confrontation with Clearlake Oaks residents 42-year-old Patrick O'Conner and his 23-year-old son, James, at a neighbor's residence on the evening of Nov. 26, as Lake County News has reported.

The O'Conners heard Patrick McDaniel yelling at a female neighbor and went next door to intervene. Patrick O'Conner and Patrick McDaniel had had a confrontation earlier in the day, according to investigators.

An argument resulted, with Cecil McDaniel reportedly taking a swing at O’Conner and missing. Then Patrick McDaniel allegedly shot O'Conner in the chest.

The brothers – both of whom are convicted felons – are then alleged to have fled the scene, with deputies searching for them for several hours.

Cecil McDaniel was arrested on Dec. 3, and remains in the Lake County Jail on $500,000 bail for being an accessory to the shooting. He went before Judge Richard Martin on Jan. 21, and is scheduled to return to court on March 9 in Department 3.

Patrick McDaniel is charged with attempted murder, with bail set at $500,000, according to jail records.

McDaniel, who sheriff's officials reported had been paroled from prison not long before O'Conner's shooting, also has a felony bench warrant against him, with an additional $50,000 in bail for that charge.

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THE GEYSERS – County residents who spot smoke near The Geysers on Thursday don't need to worry – Cal Fire's Sonoma-Lake-Napa Unit will be conducting a control burn in the area.

The prescribed control burn will be conducted between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and will incorporate sections along John Kincaid Road in northern Sonoma County.

The return of cooler temperatures will enable Cal Fire to implement the wildland vegetation management tool of prescribed burning to bring the benefits of low intensity fire to specific wildland areas, Cal Fire reported.

Prescribed vegetation management burns are carefully planned and controlled burns that must meet strict criteria of ecological benefit, weather parameters, smoke management and fire safety guidelines.

When all conditions (prescriptions) are met, trained wildland firefighters burn while monitoring the set criteria, fire behavior and designated fire control lines.

The benefits of low intensity fire in the natural environment include:

  • Cleansing of the wild land debris. Excessive dead and down branches, brush and small trees are burned converting fuels that are hazards in the summer into rich soil nutrients for larger species of vegetation.

  • Providing habitat. Removal of decadent fuel encourages the growth of seasonal grasses and leafier plants which affords highly nutritional food and habitat to a wider range of animals.

  • Killing disease. Low intensity fire helps eliminate and control diseased plants and trees.

  • New growth. Controlled burning encourages the healthy growth of new plants, especially those fire dependent for renewal or seed dispersion.

  • Reduces opportunity for destructive fires. Prescribed controlled burns decrease the size and frequency of large uncontrolled destructive wildfires. Prescribed burns are safer for firefighters and area residents.

For more information about fire safety or prescribed fire and its benefits, visit the Cal Fire Web site at www.fire.ca.gov.


SACRAMENTO – North Coast State Senator Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) is encouraging cities and counties from within the state’s 2nd Senate District to apply for the next round of funding for the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.

The 2nd District, which Wiggins represents in the Legislature, includes the counties of Lake, Humboldt, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma.

While in the Assembly, Wiggins was co-author of legislation (Assembly Bill 1475) establishing the SRTS program in 1999.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which administers SRTS, recently put out a call for communities to apply for funding grants, which are designed to provide students in grades K-12 with easier and healthier ways to safely travel to and from schools.

“Pedestrian accidents have been a leading cause of fatal injuries for school-aged children, including in school zones lacking crosswalks or sidewalks,” Wiggins said. “That is one of the many great things about this program: Funds can be used for crosswalks, pedestrian and bicycle pathways, bike lanes, sidewalks and a number of ‘traffic calming’ measures.

“By creating a more hospitable environment for children to walk or ride to school,” Wiggins added, “we are also helping to promote exercise, which is a necessary component of the effort to reduce the incidence of obesity in our young people.”

On its Web site, Caltrans describes Safe Routes to School as “an international movement that has taken hold in communities throughout the United States. The concept is to increase the number of children who walk or bicycle to school by funding projects that remove the barriers that currently prevent them from doing so. Those barriers include lack of infrastructure, unsafe infrastructure, lack of programs that promote walking and bicycling through education/encouragement programs aimed at children, parents, and the community.”

The highly competitive program (local school districts, boards, city councils and state agencies can request funding through yearly application cycles) has enabled communities to increase the safety of children walking or riding to school.

The grant funds have been awarded for projects in Lake County, as Lake County News has reported.


Wiggins' office reported that $48.50 million worth of projects will be funded in the next cycle. Caltrans districts are apportioned funds based on student enrollment. District review committees will score and rate applications using standardized evaluation forms furnished by Caltrans headquarters and develop two lists.

Once projects are selected and prioritized, Caltrans districts will then determine which projects will be placed on the Tier I list (those that are ready to go now), and on the Tier II list (those that are selected for future funds) based on a project’s delivery schedule. Projects in Tier I will be funded with FY 08/09 funds up to FY08/09 apportionment level, while Tier II projects will be funded when the next round of funding becomes available. Caltrans will validate district selections and compile a statewide list of selected projects for each cycle for director approval. Districts will notify all applicants of the results.

Any incorporated city or county is eligible to apply. Capital projects must fall under the broad categories of pedestrian facilities, traffic calming measures, installation of traffic control devices, construction of bicycle facilities, and public outreach, education and enforcement. There is a 10% local match required; $900,000 is the maximum amount that can be requested.

For more information, communities are encouraged to visit www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/saferoutes/saferoutes.htm, or contact Joyce Parks, Safe Routes to School coordinator at Caltrans Headquarters, at 916-653-6920, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Applicants must submit an original and one copy to their respective Caltrans district local assistance engineers by the April 15 deadline. Applications postmarked on the deadline are acceptable. Additional information is available at www.dot.ca.gov/hq/LocalPrograms/dlae.htm.

Thirty years ago, 60 percent of children living within a two-mile radius of a school walked or bicycled to school. Today, that number has dropped to less than 15 percent. Roughly 25 percent commute by school bus, and well over half are driven to/from school in vehicles. And back then, 5 percent of children between the ages of six and 11 were considered to be overweight or obese. Today, that number has climbed to 20 percent.

These statistics point to a rise in preventable childhood diseases, worsening air quality and congestion around schools, and missed opportunities for children to grow into self reliant, independent adults.

Wiggins represents California’s 2nd Senate District, comprised of parts of all of six counties: Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Solano and Sonoma. Readers interested in learning more about the Senator can visit her Web site at http://dist02.casen.govoffice.com/.


LAKE COUNTY – On Wednesday the Lake County Narcotic Task Force served two search warrants and made three arrests – including two at a local marijuana collective – for illegal marijuana cultivation and distribution.

The task force reported that the first warrant was served at 10 a.m. in the 21000 block of Highway 29 in Middletown.

Detectives found an indoor marijuana cultivation in the residence. The plants had been harvested and the marijuana was in the process of drying.

The task force found 48 pounds of processed marijuana and 80 pounds of unprocessed marijuana in the residence, which was prepared to grow more than 500 marijuana plants.

Detectives arrested Moeun Dam, 40, of Middletown for marijuana cultivation. Dam was booked into the Lake County Jail, where he later posted $10,000 bail.

The task force found evidence at the Middletown residence that led them to the Alternative Solutions Collective in the 12000 block of E. Highway 20 in Clearlake Oaks.

Task force detectives obtained another search warrant for the marijuana collective, and with the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the task force served that search warrant at approximately 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Inside the Alternative Solutions Collective, detectives found a honey oil/hash laboratory and evidence that the collective was operating outside of state of California guidelines.

Detectives arrested Daniel Lee Clark, 22, a construction worker from Clearlake Oaks, and Caleb Stuart Hazard, 26, an unemployed Santa Rosa resident, for distribution of marijuana, conspiracy and possession of a clandestine honey oil laboratory.

Bail for Clark and Hazard was set at $40,000 each. Both have since posted bail and been released, according to jail records.

The task force seized 15 pounds of processed marijuana, $2,129 in cash, two pounds of hashish and dozens of food items containing marijuana.

The Lake County Narcotic Task Force is comprised of detectives from the Lakeport Police Department, Clearlake Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Lake County Probation Department, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the State of California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

If a citizen in Lake County has any information on illegal marijuana grows, or any other narcotic violations, please call the task force at 263-9055.


WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives voted Wednesday in support of a comprehensive economic recovery package to provide funding for a major infrastructure spending program and tax benefits targeted at individuals and small businesses.

Developed with the Obama administration, this job creating package is meant to rebuild America, give 95 percent of working families an immediate tax cut and invest quickly in the economy.

Congressman Mike Thompson's (D-CA) office reported that he helped draft key provisions of the bill and voted in favor of the legislation, which passed the House by a vote of 244 to 188.

“There isn’t a day that goes by without new signs that our economy is grinding to a halt,” said Congressman Thompson. “This bill provides desperately needed funding and tax relief to help working families cope with these challenging times. By making these critical investments, particularly in rural communities like those in our district, we are not only putting people to work in the short run, but also strengthening our economy for the long haul.”

H.R. 1 includes $275 billion in tax cuts for individuals and businesses, and $550 billion in carefully targeted investments in infrastructure, education, clean energy and health care.

California alone will receive a minimum of $32 billion in recovery funds in addition to the billions of dollars in tax cuts that will flow to citizens of the state.

Independent economist Mark Zandi estimates that this will save or create over 800,000 jobs in California.

The legislation also includes key provisions to ensure that rural communities are not left behind and receive their fair share of assistance.

Locally, the possible benefits aren't yet known, according to county officials.

Some of the key job creating provisions of H.R. 1 include:

  • $90 billion to repair and modernize roads, bridges, transit and waterways, including $4.5 billion requested by Congressman Thompson for the Army Corps of Engineers;

  • $145 billion for a Making Work Pay tax credit which will cut taxes for more than 95 percent of working families;

  • $20 billion in targeted tax cuts for American businesses, large and small, to spur job creation;

  • $41 billion for local school districts to repair and upgrade their facilities;

  • $63 billion for increased food stamps, unemployment benefits, and job training to assist those who have lost their jobs;

  • $73 billion in new funding and tax incentives to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas, including several alternative energy tax provisions authored by Congressman Thompson that will provide billions of dollars in tax incentives to expand the use of renewable energy;

  • $6 billion to expand broadband Internet access in rural and underserved areas;

  • An unprecedented level of transparency, oversight and accountability will ensure our tax dollars are spent wisely.

During drafting of H.R. 1 in the Ways & Means Committee, Thompson was able to include key provisions of legislation he authored (HR 546) that will allow state and local governments to help homeowners and businesses more easily finance the purchase of solar systems and provide $2.4 billion in new qualified energy conservation bonds to finance state and local government programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, the Thompson provisions will provide grants to incentivize businesses to invest in renewable technology today, rather than waiting until the economy improves.

“The solar energy tax provisions I authored will make it easier for businesses and homeowners to have solar panels installed,” said Congressman Thompson. “This has the twin benefits of creating green jobs while at the same time reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

The Senate is expected to consider companion economic recovery legislation next week with the expectation that a House-Senate Conference will be convened the following week to negotiate a final bill. House and Senate leaders have said that they expect to send this legislation to the president by President’s Day, Feb. 16.

To learn more about H.R. 1, please visit the following web links:





LAKE COUNTY – More than a million California homes – including tens of thousands in Lake County – could be impacted by a set of proposed state regulations governing septic tanks. {sidebar id=117}

The proposed regulations, stemming from the 2000 passage of AB 885, would require inspections of septic systems every five years and institute more stringent requirements that could require many homeowners and businesses to have to entirely replace their systems.

The State Water Resources Control Board crafted the proposed regulations, which are meant to protect groundwater and surface water quality from wastewater discharge.

Kathie Smith, a spokesperson for the State Water Resources Control Board, said the new regulations are supposed to be in place by Jan. 1, 2010, but AB 885 included an automatic six-month delay, making the regulations official by July 2010.

According to an environmental impact report prepared on the proposals, there are an estimated 1.2 million households statewide that would have to comply, including about 15,000 Lake County homes. Those estimates are based on the number of septic systems known to be in operation in 1999.

“Everyone will be impacted to some degree by the proposed regulations,” said Jim Hemminger, a staff consultant with the Regional Council of Rural Counties.

The council is especially concerned about the prospect of high costs for rural areas, where septic servicing may not be readily available and may becoming prohibitively expensive due to drive and transport time.

Hemminger said the council has been working with the state to come up with regional regulations that can be cost-effectively applied. “We don't feel we're anywhere close to being there right now,” he said.

He said AB 885 grew out of one area's specific problem – a pollution situation in Santa Monica Bay that was believed to have come from septic tanks in sandy soil along the beach.

Hemminger said the regulations originally were started along the state's coast, but since have spread to the entire state.

One of his biggest concerns is that he interprets the regulations to have no flexibility or room for variances regarding site- or region-specific impacts. There are a lot of variations in groundwater, geology and other natural features throughout the state, he explained.

They also won't allow much budge room for regional water boards, and could result in higher-than-anticipated costs, Hemminger suggests.

What the regulations would require

Those households with septic tanks – called on-site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) in the environmental impact report – would expect to pay between $150 and $500 for the inspections at least once every five years.

If upgrades were required, the report states, “The cost to households and businesses that must install new OWTS with supplemental treatment units and to convert conventional OWTS to OWTS with supplemental treatment units would be substantial.”

By substantial, the report estimates the costs for installing new septic tanks with a supplemental treatment unit to be in the range of $25,000 to $45,000, or $13,900 to $23,300 for a conventional septic system.

Businesses using septic systems that are “high-strength waste dischargers” could expect to have to pay $100,000 to $400,000 to replace a system or install a new one with a supplemental treatment unit.

A Regional Council on Rural Counties comment letter on the draft regulations' environmental impact reports says AB 885 has no express mandate for creating regulations. The letter also faults the state's proposals for establishing “inflexible siting, construction and performance requirements.”

Debate over local impacts

Locally, Lake County Farm Bureau Executive Director Chuck March is concerned that residents could be facing additional regulations.

He pointed out that the proposed regulations have additional requirements for septic systems that will be located within 600 feet of a water body that is listed as “impaired” – or doesn't meet water quality standards – because of high nutrient levels.

Among those impaired water bodies is Clear Lake and its entire watershed, March explained.

“We're still trying to evaluate what the effects in Lake County will be,” said March.

March said Clear Lake's impairment is largely a matter of phosphorous loading, and isn't from septic tanks. But there are still “a whole lot of questions” about how the new rules might ultimately apply, and much clarification is needed.

The Lake County Farm Bureau is part of a monitoring program that is looking at the Big Valley Watershed. In that area, the only material noted to be exceeding acceptable levels is E. Coli, and they've not been able to track where it's coming from. However, 50 percent is believed to be coming from human sources, which makes septic tanks a possible source.

Ray Ruminski, director of Lake County Environmental Health, said he doesn't think there will be widespread impacts locally if the regulations become law.

Ruminski said Clear Lake is on a federal impairment list for mercury, which is not a septic issue. It's also listed as impaired because of nutrients, but again those may not be a result of septic tanks. The element of interests – phosphorous – is more an issue of stormwater drainage and erosion.

The Regional Council of Rural Counties' comment letter interprets the regulations as requiring every septic system within 600 feet of a water body with a total maximum daily load that has been approved “to be equipped with expensive advanced treatment systems” or to become part of a centralized treatment or collection system. Other council documents estimate the number of impaired water bodies in the state as 296.

However, Smith said that, under the proposed regulations' definition of impaired water bodies, Clear Lake – which falls into the water board's Region 5 – doesn't apply.

She said there are no such impaired bodies listed for Region 5 at all, said Smith, and only a few in the whole state, with most of them being located in Southern California.


The draft environmental impact report for the proposed regulations lists the following impaired water bodies that would be subject to the proposed regulations: Malibu Creek and its entire watershed, and Northern Santa Monica Bay beaches, both in Los Angeles County; Santa Clara River, Ventura and Los Angeles counties; Canyon Lake and Lake Elsinore, Riverside County; and Rainbow Creek, San Diego County.

Exploring the ramifications

Despite the state's estimate of the number of Lake County's septic tanks – slightly over 15,000 – Ruminski said his office actually does not have a precise count.

The agency's records go back to the 1960s, and track septic systems they've permitted. But that doesn't give an accurate picture of what's actually in use, Ruminski said.

“There's a lot more actually in use, constructed, than we have permits on,” he said.

Stopab885.org, which is advocating against the regulations in their current form, reports that many local jurisdictions and counties have adopted strict regulations of their own to address the concerns raised in the original legislation.

Similarly, Lake County already is taking an approach that Ruminski said “is not all that different in some respects” from what the State Water Resources Control Board is proposing.

Ruminski's take on the requirements is that existing septic systems would need to be sampled every five years if a well was on the property. The inspection would then make a recommendation regarding whether or not the tank needed to pumped, repaired or replaced.

“We think that's good practice, but we're not sure it needs to be in state law,” said Ruminski.

He said septic tanks are necessary because not every place in California can have a sewer system. However, he said there are some blank spaces around Clear Lake where sewer systems would, in his opinion, be a benefit.

Hemminger, who suggested the proposed regulations are a “solution looking for a problem to solve,” said he doesn't foresee them having a positive groundwater impact.

Rather than trying to create an ill-fitting set of blanket regulations, Hemminger suggested the water board should focus on problem areas, since most septic systems in the state are functioning as required.

To be imposing costs of hundreds of millions a year on the state's homeowners, said Hemminger, “just doesn't seem prudent.”

Smith said the water board's staff currently is in the process of hosting a series of public workshops around the state.

Of the 11 workshops, nine have taken place so far, said Smith. One is scheduled for Tuesday evening in Santa Rosa, with another set to take place on Wednesday in Eureka (see accompanying story, “Septic tank regulations: How to get involved” for times and locations.). The water board also will host a Feb. 9 public hearing in Sacramento.

There's been a lot of public interest. It's kind of been building,” said Smith, noting that the Jan. 22 Fresno workshop was standing-room-only.

Smith said there have been a “range of concerns” over the proposals, especially the possible price tag.

“The cost is probably the thing that comes up the most often,” she said, adding there also have been concerns raised about having more government regulations.

She said the water board staff will take information submitted by the public at the workshops, digest it and come up with appropriate revisions to the regulations.

“This is not written in stone at this point, any of these regulations,” Smith added.

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


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