Monday, 22 July 2024


LUCERNE – One man received second-degree burns and a second man escaped serious injury Monday night when a propane heater ignited gas fumes, causing an explosion in a garage.

Captain Dave Emmel of Northshore Fire Protection District said firefighters were dispatched to the scene of the explosion, which took place on Eighth Avenue, at 6:43 p.m.

Northshore Fire reported that two men were in the garage working on a car, when fuel from the gas line was ignited by a propane heater.

The result was an explosion which blew one of the men into the shut garage door. One of the men also received second-degree burns, said Robbins.

Four engines responded to the scene, said Emmel. “The fire was pretty much out when we got there.”

Emmel said firefighters stayed on scene to do some mopping up. They also ventilated smoke from the structure, which was left largely undamaged.

Neighbors a few blocks away reported hearing – and feeling – the explosion.

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The proposed Blue Ridge Berryessa Natural Conservation Area. Courtesy of Tuleyome.


LOWER LAKE – At a presentation on Saturday, Jan. 19, more than 50 people gathered to learn what a Natural Conservation Area designation would mean to 800,000 acres, which may include a large portion of Lake County.

The Sierra Club Lake Group hosted the town hall at the Brick Hall in Lower Lake.

Victoria Brandon – chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group and board member of Tuleyome, a nonprofit organization that advocates and protects the Cache Creek and Putah Creek regions – introduced two speakers to give an overview of why a Natural Conservation Area designation would be beneficial to Lake County.

The proposed Natural Conservation Area runs from Fairfield and Vacaville in Solano County to the south, west to Middletown, east to Rumsey and along the mountains of the Northshore up into Mendocino National Forest and possibly to include the Snow Mountain Wilderness, although the exact boundaries have not yet been determined.

“I think it’s wonderful, and I support the concept. I hope we can make it happen,” said District 1 Supervisor Ed Robey, who attended the town hall event.

The proposed Natural Conservation Area would include a large portion of Lake County’s District 1.

Bob Schneider, president of Tuleyome, which was instrumental in ensuring that Cache Creek was designated as a California Wild and Scenic River, said the Natural Conservation Area designation would “protect agricultural lands, provide new opportunities for recreation, conservation and stewardship and support the local economies of the adjacent communities.”

A Natural Conservation Area designation, “will have no effect on local jurisdiction or on water rights,” Schneider said.

The public lands in the proposed Natural Conservation Area, according to Dr. Susan Harrison, an expert on botany and serpentine soils with the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, are listed as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity “hot spots.”

Harrison gave an overview of the unique environmental factors – the Mediterranean climate, the topography and soil types – that make designating this area as a Natural Conservation Area critical for conservation.

The designation will not affect private lands within the area unless landowners choose to participate in some way, it will only affect public lands, the speakers explained.

“If we’re going to protect this region,” Schneider said, “We’re going to have to preserve the agricultural heritage,” but private land owner participation is voluntary.

One way a Natural Conservation Area designation can assist private landowners within the the area is by providing conservation easements to ranchers because “ranchers benefit from and play a critical role in sustaining the regional landscape,” Schneider explained and they are, “increasingly jeopardized by development,” in this area.

According to research by the California Department of Finance, the fast growing counties of Yolo, Napa, Lake, Colusa and Solano, which all have lands in the proposed Natural Conservation Area, are expected to grow by 28 percent. That means an increase of 200,000 residents by 2020, which will severely impact the agricultural and wild lands within the proposed Natural Conservation Area according to Tuleyome’s Web site.


Schneider told the audience that there would be an economic benefit for the Natural Conservation Area designation because it is a national-level designation and the entire Blue Ridge Berryessa Natural Conservation Area can be promoted as a destination for recreation and tourism.

What a Natural Conservation Area designation does, Schneider explained, is to create a formal name for the geographic area, Congressional recognition of the region, establishes a public advisory committee and will provide funding for multiple agencies (National Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Parks and Recreation, County governments) to come together and develop a regional management plan for the public lands.

For more information on the Natural Conservation Area proposal, visit; to see a slide show of photos taken in the proposed area, visit

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



Dr. Susan Harrison describes the unique attributes of a Mediterranean climate and how that impacts plants and animals in that region. Photo by Terre Logsdon.




Bob Schneider, President of Tuleyome, tells an audience what the benefits of a National Conservation Area designation will have for Lake County. Photo by Terre Logsdon.






LAKE COUNTY – Friday's extremely wet weather is filling up area creeks, saturating the ground and causing trees and utility lines to fall.

The California Highway Patrol reported that area roadways were affected by small rock slides, fallen trees and power lines because of wet conditions Friday.

Caltrans crews responded to rock slides on Highway 20, with county road crews removing large rocks from Soda Bay Road near Clear Lake State Park, CHP reported. County crews also had to respond to remove a tree from the road at Floyd Way and Lakeview in Nice Friday morning.

CHP reported it was snowing up on Bartlett Springs Road at about 3 p.m. Friday, with water crossing the road about four miles up from Highway 20.

Lake County Public Works reported that chains are still required on Elk Mountain and Bartlett Springs Roads. Chain restrictions were lifted in Cobb.

Carson Street in Nice was closed due to a downed tree, Public Works reported.

Pacific Gas and Electric crews removed a downed power line along Highway 20, CHP reported. However, that didn't appear to have caused any power outages, according to Jana Schuering, a spokesperson for PG&E.

As the day progressed into night, officials had to close Highway 20 from its junction with Highway 53 to Interstate 5 in Williams due to flooding and rock slides. Slides were reported on Highway 20 at Paradise Cove and near Clearlake Oaks.

Just after midnight Caltrans had to remove a tree that was blocking the westbound lane of Highway 20 near Cora Drive between Glenhaven and Lucerne, CHP reported.

At Morgan Valley Road at Highway 29 a mudslide was reported at about 1 a.m. Saturday, according to CHP.

The Northshore had steady, heavy rain during most of the day, with Weather Underground reporting that 3.31 inches was recorded at a personal weather station near Clearlake Oaks as of midnight.

Lower Lake also received a lot of rain, according to Weather Underground, with 3.21inches as Friday's total.

Lakeport had a daily total of 1.06 inches, according to Weather Underground.

Rainfall totals were not available for Cobb; however, area resident Roger Kinney reported heavy rainfall and snow melt Friday afternoon.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Friday snow began to fall in Cobb once more, Kinney reported.

Chris Rivera, coordinator of Lake County's Office of Emergency Services, said his office had received reports of swollen creeks due to ground saturation from previous storms.

“We're just advising people to be aware of what they're doing, where they're going,” he said.

Rivera said drivers should not cross roadways covered with water and to be careful around the small creeks and tributaries that are filling up due to the rains.

The US Geological Survey stream gauges showed Kelsey, Putah and Cache Creeks to be running high, with Clear Lake at 3.41 Rumsey, just off its 3.53 Rumsey measurement on the same day last year. A full lake measures 7.56 Rumsey, according to the Lake County Water Resources Division.

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CLEARLAKE OAKS – Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began a new phase of cleanup activities near the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund Site.

EPA Region 9's Emergency Response Division – which recently completed a cleanup at Abbott Mine in 2007 and at Elem Colony in December 2006 – is handling the cleanup.

Chuck Lamb, chairman of the Clear Lake Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), said that the cleanup is not an emergency; the emergency response division is so named because it can mobilize quickly and perform the work with less red tape.

This latest cleanup will be about 10 percent of the size of the Elem Colony cleanup, which removed contaminated mine wastes from residential yards and roadways, said Rick Sugarek, the EPA's project manager on the Sulphur Bank project.

EPA reported that it plans to remove contaminated mine waste from areas along Sulphur Bank Mine Road and Ward Road and several residential properties located to the south and west of the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine Superfund Site near Clearlake Oaks.

The Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine began operations in the mid-1800s. The miners dug for sulfur and mercury, ingredients used for gold mining and gunpowder, according to a report on the mine by University of California, Davis researchers.

The mine closed in 1957, leaving approximately 3.5 million cubic yards of production waste scattered in four major waste piles on the 220-acre mine property, according to the EPA.

Miners also left behind a 90-foot deep, flooded open pit mine known as Herman Impoundment. Contaminated water flows from Herman Impoundment through waste rock into Clear Lake contaminating the sediments and the Clear Lake ecosystem.

The EPA added the mine to the National Priorities List in 1990, and has conducted extensive field investigations to determine the nature and extent of contamination at the site.

The agency has conducted a number of cleanup actions at the mine property to prevent erosion of mine wastes into Clear Lake, to control discharges of contaminated surface water from the mine, and to seal several improperly abandoned geothermal wells on the property.

Keith Takata, the EPA's Superfund director for the Pacific Southwest region, said abandoned mines like Sulphur Bank too often leave behind “a toxic legacy that continues to threaten the health of the people and natural resources of the area.”

Sugarek said the cleanup will take about six weeks.

The area slated for cleanup was once home to miners who worked in the mine, said Sugarek. “It's basically a private residential area now.”

In the 1940s and 1950s roads in the area were built up with contaminated mine waste, said Sugarek. More recently, mine waste was used in some of the residential driveways and to repair potholes.

“We found mine waste in very specific locations,” he said.

Lamb said the EPA began conducting testing and taking samples in the area – along roads and the shoreline, and on private properties – at the request of area residents.

Final analysis of soil samples around homes and in roadways showed elevated mercury and arsenic levels at 13 locations, the EPA reported.

Lamb said that the EPA informed residents of the findings and planned to deal with 12 of the sites immediately. One site, said Lamb, is more complex and will require additional analysis before action is taken.

Without the removal action, the EPA is concerned that residents may be exposed to harmful levels of mercury and arsenic that are present in mine waste that was used as construction material in the residential area.

People can be exposed to mercury and arsenic by breathing air with contaminated dust or mercury vapor, incidental ingestion of contaminated soil or ingestion of contaminated water and food, the agency reported.

The EPA reported that it will spend approximately $800,000 to remove the contaminated material to prevent hazardous substances from coming into direct contact with area residents and from reaching Clear Lake.

Crews will work through March to excavate approximately 2,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and transport it to the disposal site at the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine. Clean soil will then be used to replace the contaminated soils that EPA excavates.

Sugarek said the contaminated soil is fairly shallow – between 6 and 12 inches deep. “We ought to be able to get in there and get it down straightaway,” said Sugarek.

Because of concerns for cultural resources, Sugarek said an archaeologist from the firm Pacific Legacy surveyed the area within the last few weeks.

One of the homes in the area is more than 50 years old, and therefore is a potential historic resource, along with a nearby rock wall, said Sugarek.

The archaeologist found some other historic materials which Sugarek said aren't in the work area, although they're not sure if those items are actually intact or have been previously disturbed. So a second archaeologist is taking a look at them.

At Elem, EPA relocated tribal members for several months while the extensive cleanup was underway. The agency excavated contaminated soil that the Bureau of Indian Affairs had used to build roads on the property in the early 1970s. They also replaced some housing and laid new water pipes.

However, no one will need to be relocated in this instance, Sugarek said.

Instead, EPA will use air monitoring and control dust by wetting down the area during work, said Sugarek. They'll coordinate with property owners to give them access to the property.

“If I can speak for our community, we are once again impressed with the EPA's concern for our well being and we continue to appreciate the responsible and professional manner in which these cleanups have been conducted,” said Lamb.

Elem Colony cleanup still raising issues

However, there is still controversy in some quarters about the Elem Colony cleanup.

“The issue is ongoing,” said Sugarek.

Some tribal members and archaeologist John Parker have accused the EPA of failing to follow National Historic Preservation Act guidelines during the six-month Elem cleanup.

Parker has accused the agency of failing to protect the area's cultural resources and excavating in a manner that damaged the archaeological record.

The result, Parker alleges, is the loss of 8,000 years of cultural history, which he currently estimates is work $70 million. Previously, he had put the damage at $40 million.

Ray Brown Sr., tribal chair of the Elem Colony, says he's “80-percent happy” with the cleanup.

“Overall what they did there was a lot better than what was there,” said Brown.

However, Brown said the tribe's general membership voted in favor of suing the EPA over the cleanup.

“They don't know what they're getting into,” said Brown. “It's really not practical for us to even get it started.”

He said he didn't think attempting a lawsuit against the government was worth it. “I'm against it.”

For its part, EPA has responded that it complied with the National Historic Preservation Act guidelines as far as was required by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the 1980 legislation that created the Superfund program.

On Dec. 11 the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation sent Takata a letter suggesting that EPA could have done a better following the National Historic Preservation Act.

Sugarek said his interpretation of the letter is that it asks, “How do we make sure that we protect cultural resources in future projects if the procedures that they set up are cumbersome. How do we do it?”

He said EPA still owes the council a response. “We need to have some internal discussions first.”

National Historic Preservation Act sometimes don't work in the context of cleanup emergencies, said Sugarek.

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LAKE COUNTY – Highway 20 is once again open for travelers between Highway 53 and Interstate 5.

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol reopened the highway at about 5 a.m. Saturday.

The highway was closed late Friday night due to flooding and mudslides.

CHP is still reporting mud and debris at other points along the highway as it follows the Northshore, specifically near Clearlake Oaks.

Friday's heavy rains triggered the flooding and slide activity.

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CLEARLAKE – The City of Clearlake must repay more than $18,000 in grant funds to the state because they could not find documentation on how the money was spent for the city’s youth center.

With no other option, the City Council voted 5-0 Thursday night to repay $18,006 out of the general fund to the state Department of Parks and Recreation after City Administrator Dale Neiman said the city could not account for the funds.

Between 2004 and 2006 the city received $38,878 from the state to repair the city’s youth center, The Hot Spot, Neiman reported. The total grant for the center was about $44,000.

Neiman said the state audits the grants. In reviewing the funds neither the state nor the city could find adequate documentation for how $6,049 was spent; another $11,957 was completely unaccounted for, he explained.

That leaves $21,570 for the youth center. Neiman said the city might have to pay back more money if the state continues to find discrepancies in the audit.

The grant’s terms required that The Hot Spot must be operated for 10 years as a youth center – and maintained in an acceptable manner, according to Neiman. If the center isn’t open and kept in good condition, the city would have to return another $20,872 – the amount of grant funds that the city was able to justify.

Neiman suggested using the remaining $21,570 as seed money to build a new skate park facility.

City Councilman Roy Simons said the inability to account for the money “smacks of gross negligence” or corruption.

He asked if a criminal investigation had been undertaken. Neiman said no.

Councilmember Joyce Overton said she supports the skate park but she was opposed to taking money from The Hot Spot to build a new park.

There are negotiations under way to expand the youth center to Lakeport and Middletown, so the center is working, she said.

However, she said The Hot Spot needs a new floor, new roof, gutters and much more.

“This money really was for the youth center and I think it should stay there,” Overton said.

Ronda Mottlow, one of the adult co-chairs of the skate park committee, said they would love to have a new park but she also supported the youth center, which has sponsored the skate park committee’s meetings.

Councilmember Judy Thein asked how many years the city was into the 10-year lifespan of the youth center; Neiman said he was unsure.

He said the state has come to make several inspections of the facility; during a few of those visits the state found the youth center wasn't open.

Thein asked if the city should spell these requirements out in the youth center’s lease. Neiman said they should but the current lease has expired.

“This is a hard choice here,” said Thein. “We need to support our youth one way or the other but we need to protect the city also.”

Overton said it was time the city invested in its youth. Otherwise, gangs and graffiti would worsen, she said.

Neiman agreed, suggesting in the long term the city should develop a parks and recreation program.

Mayor Curt Giambruno said he knew $8,000 of the grant had been spent on a basketball court for city youth.

Giambruno attributed the city’s inability to account for the funding to a previous administration and council, adding that they needed Neiman to help the council sort out the issue and make a plan going forward.

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Patrons of the arts wait for the show to begin on Saturday night. Photo by Ryan Eldredge.






LAKEPORT – While it was only a "temporary" grand opening at the Soper-Reese Community Theater on Saturday night, when the lights went down and the performers took the stage for the Winter Music Fest, the excitement in the audience was palpable.

The event provided Lake County residents with their first glimpse of the dream of a state-of-the-art performing arts center coming true.


"It's exciting," said Joan Holman, mistress of ceremonies for the evening, who also will be starring in the upcoming production of The Solid Gold Cadillac which opens in March.


"I remember scraping gum off the floor and cleaning years ago ... we've come a long way," Holman said.


A long way indeed. The lobby has been refurbished, the auditorium gutted and repaired, the building water-proofed from flooding, plus there's a new roof, heating and air conditioning, a sprinkler system, interior paint and more.

However, the theater is not finished yet.


"This is just the interlude," said Mike Adams, who leads the construction subcommittee. “We still have a lot more to do."

Adams is hoping the community will continue to step up and support the reconstruction efforts.


The 16th annual Winter Music Fest Vaudeville 2008, presented by the Lake County Arts Council, was held at the Soper-Reese for the first time this weekend and "coming home at last," was the theme for the evening as volunteers, sponsors and donors were thanked at a champagne reception before the performances began.


John Ross, chair of the renovation committee, held up a list of the community members and businesses who have donated their time, talents and money to make the event and the future of a top-notch performing arts venue in Lake County a reality. Ross thanked them all.



John Ross, chair of the Soper-Reese Renovation Committee, thanks all of the donors on the long list of those who have helped the theater renovation so far and implores the community to help make that list longer. Photo by Ryan Eldredge.



"I feel the excitement in the air tonight," said local actor and business owner Martin Squier. "There's a sense of finding a home for entertainers to perform and the community to enjoy."


The nearly sold-out show on Saturday evening had 17 different acts with as many different styles of singing.

From ragtime to pop, show tunes to Flamenco, folk songs to love songs and more – and the audience loved them all, especially the musical antics of Bert Hutt (who even played the spoons) and pianist David Neft, who kept the audience entertained between performers.



Pianist David Neft entertains the crowd in the newly renovated lobby of the Soper-Reese Community Theater. Photo by Ryan Eldredge.


Now that the first stage of the reconstruction effort has been fully paid for and completed, fundraising will continue for the second and final phase.

Upcoming performances at the theater include The Poetry Out Loud competition in February and a play, The Solid Gold Cadillac, in March.

Donations to support the reconstruction efforts of Soper-Reese can be sent to: Soper-Reese Fund, P.O. Box 756, Lakeport, 95453. Contributions are tax-deductible. For more information on the theater or to schedule a private tour, please call Nina Marino at 279-4082.

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




Giving a solo performance, Robert Stark sang two songs, one of them an original. Photo by Ryan Eldredge.



Songstress Hope Nowak sang a beautiful love song. Photo by Ryan Eldredge.



Connie Miller and Bill Barrows harmonize and entertain the audience. Photo by Ryan Eldredge.



Jill Shaul and Sarah Tichava sing a duet of songs written by Tichava. Photo by Ryan Eldredge.



Actor and Singer Rod Levenduski gives a reprise from the recent production of Fiddler on the Roof, which was presented by The Lake County Repertory Theater and Lakeport Community Players this past October. Photo by Ryan Eldredge.







LAKE COUNTY – Three Washington men have received hefty fines for their part in a poaching case last fall.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff reported Friday that James Booth, Michael Johnson and Michael Bruins pleaded no contest on Tuesday to possessing more than the legal limit for crappie and received fines totaling more than $7,000.

The legal limit of crappie in Clear Lake is 25 per day and 25 in possession, said Hinchcliff.

He explained that the possession limitation means that no matter how many days a person spends fishing, they can possess no more than 25 crappie at one time.

Hinchcliff said that on Nov. 15, 2007, state Department of Fish and Game Wardens Loren Freeman and Nick Buckler received an anonymous tip of fishermen taking and keeping more than the legal limit of crappie.

Freeman and Buckler set up surveillance in the Kono Tayee area and observed a black bass boat with three men catching crappie, according to Hinchcliff's report.

After the men left the area, the wardens contacted them at Indian Beach Resort, said Hinchcliff, where the three men told Freeman and Buckler the fishing had not been very good.

The wardens found only 12 fish in the boat, which were all the fish the men claimed to possess, said Hinchcliff.

However, Booth, Johnson and Bruins admitted they had fish in a freezer at their motel after the wardens told the men that they could inspect their vehicle and any freezers or ice chests, and that failing to exhibit all fish was an additional crime, Hinchcliff reported.

In all, the two game wardens found a total of 151 crappie, said Hinchcliff.

Hinchcliff said he charged Booth with possessing 18 fish over the limit, Johnson with 18 fish over the limit and Bruins with 40 fish over the limit.

He said the standard fine is $780 for the first fish over the limit and $68 for each additional fish over the limit.

After the men pleaded no contest to the charges Tuesday, Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom fined Johnson and Booth $1,900 each, and Bruins was ordered to pay a fine of $3,447.

Hinchcliff, who oversees the poaching cases that come through the District Attorney's Office, said crappie and deer are the major poaching victims in Lake County.

As or crappie, “The last couple of years we've prosecuted at least half a dozen people for catching over limits,” said Hinchcliff.

In 2003 Hinchcliff prosecuted an out-of-county poacher who was found in possession of 122 crappie over the limit and received thousands in fines.

Crappie used to be seen in more abundance in Clear Lake, said Hinchcliff, who grew up locally and fished for them himself.

“They pretty much disappeared for a long time,” he said, adding that the fish population has its ups and downs.

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LAKE COUNTY – The chief of the Lake County Fire Protection District is improving after a lengthy battle with pneumonia.

Jim McMurray was placed in a Santa Rosa hospital's intensive care unit for pneumonia over the holidays, as Lake County News previously reported.

However, on Wednesday he was moved to Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital in Marin County, according to Chuck Doty, the fire district's chair.

“He's doing much better,” said Doty.

Doty added, “Every day, it's a better day.”

Fire district officials encouraged the community to send notes to McMurray while he's convalescing, saying he's looking forward to hearing from friends.

Notes and cards can be sent to McMurray at Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital, 1125 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Kentfield, CA 94904.

Assistant Chief Bud Moore was appointed to supervise the fire district's day-to-day operations during McMurray's absence, the fire district previously reported.

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LAKE COUNTY – Highway 20 was closed shortly before 10:30 p.m. Friday as a result of the day's heavy rains.

The California Highway Patrol and Caltrans reported that Highway 20 was closed in both directions from its junction with Highway 53 to Interstate 5 in Williams due to flooding over the roadway and rock slides.

Flooding in the road was reported at early as 5:30 p.m., but it wasn't until nearly five hours later that officials finally closed the roadway, according to the CHP incident logs.

Farther up along the highway, at Hillside Lane at Clearlake Oaks, CHP reported that rocks were falling into the roadway.

CHP's Ukiah Dispatch Center said it was unknown when the highway would reopen.

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MIDDLETOWN – Just days after announcing that she would not seek the District 1 supervisorial seat in the upcoming election, Voris Brumfield was hospitalized for observation on Thursday morning, but was released later in the day.


The former supervisor and current Code Enforcement Division manager went to Sutter Lakeside Hospital Thursday morning after suffering pains in her left arm over the last few days, according to county Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Cox.


Although it’s not known if she suffered a heart attack, Cox said doctors would not release her and decided to transport her to Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa for further medical evaluation.


Cox said he saw Brumfield shortly before she was transported, and noted she kept saying, “This is ridiculous.”


Said Cox, “Knowing Voris as I do, I can envision her telling her doctor that she doesn’t have time for this and plans to return to her office at the courthouse before the end of the day! I’ve never known anyone in my life who has as much energy and drive as Voris Brumfield. Nothing will keep her down.”


Cox's prediction may have held true. Brumfield was released from the hospital shortly before 4 p.m. Thursday.


Brumfield is active in the Middletown community and her church, and she cited those involvements as a reason for deciding not to run for Supervisor Ed Robey’s seat this year. Robey announced last year that he would not seek reelection at the end of this, his third term.


Lake County News will provide an update as soon as more information becomes available.


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