Friday, 09 December 2022

News

 

UKIAH At their May meeting, the Board of Trustees of the Mendocino-Lake Community College District awarded the first contract for facilities renovation under Measure W, the $67.5 million construction bond passed by voters in November.

 

 

The $967,476 contract for the re-roof of seven buildings at the Mendocino College Ukiah campus was awarded to Solano County Roofing Inc., the successful bidder out of five companies.

 

 

“We are very excited about beginning our first and much needed construction project under Measure W,” said Superintendent/President Kathy Lehner. “We are very busy in the planning and selection phase for several other projects, but this is the first construction project released.”

 

 

Re-roofing work will begin in June. The buildings to be re-roofed include the Child Care Center, Vocational Technical building, Physical Education complex and gymnasium, Fine Arts building, Agricultural Headhouse and Potting Shed.

 

 

For several years the current cement tile roofs have been leaking when it rains. The new roofs will be standing seam metal roofs that are expected to last 50 years.

 

 

“We are scheduling these projects to cause the least disruption to students and classes,” said Mike Adams, director of Facilities Planning. “However, several of these projects are large and will be in progress while summer classes are in session. For safety reasons, several areas will be fenced off. We ask that students and the public respect these boundaries.”

 

 

Other bond projects in the planning or selection phase include a new Integrated Information System (computer software), new Library/Learning Resource Center on the Ukiah campus, site selection for permanent centers in Willits and Lakeport, and a new Maintenance/Warehouse on the Ukiah campus.

 

 

In April, the College issued the first $30 million in bonds to fund projects and established the Bond Citizens’ Oversight Committee.


Additional information on Measure W activities is available online at www.mendocino.edu/bond.


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LAKE COUNTY – In an effort to make the roads safer during the Memorial Day weekend, the California Highway Patrol is increasing enforcement and planning a local checkpoint to look for drivers who may be drunk or high behind the wheel.


Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of summer and the end of the school year, with people enjoying outdoor activities and events.


The holiday weekend also is a Maximum Enforcement Period for the CHP. All available officers will be on duty from 6 p.m. on Friday, May 25 through midnight on Monday, May 28, the CHP reported Thursday.


CHP, the State Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), Caltrans, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and local law enforcement agencies are asking that drivers plan ahead before heading out for fun – which includes having a designated driver, wearing your seat belt and not speeding.


“Once the barbecue is over, you still have to get home safely,” CHP Commissioner Mike Brown said in a statement.


Brown reported that 80-percent of CHP's officers statewide will be out looking for people driving while drunk or not complying with other rules of the road.


Locally, that will include one DUI checkpoint on May 26, according to Lt. Dane Hayward, the Clear Lake CHP office commander.


Hayward said the checkpoint will be staffed by CHP officers trained in detecting drivers who are impaired by drugs or alcohol.


CHP Drug Recognition Experts, certified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, also will be on site to provide on the spot assessments of drivers suspected of drug use, according to Hayward. Officers will be equipped with state of the art hand-held breath devices which provide an accurate measure of blood alcohol concentrations of suspected drunk drivers.


Traffic permitting, said Hayward, all vehicles will be checked, and any driver suspected of DUI can expect to be arrested.


“Our objective is to send a clear message to those considering mixing alcohol and/or drugs with driving during summer vacation the CHP will be keeping a watchful eye out for you,” he said.


Hayward said the checkpoints are an effective tool in reducing the high frequency of drunk driving on the roads during the holidays.


Officer Josh Dye of the Clearlake CHP office said DUI checkpoints are conducted at regular times throughout the year, such as Memorial Day.


Last year CHP officers statewide arrested 1,639 drivers for DUI during the Memorial Day weekend, the CHP reported. That is a 6.5-percent increase over the previous year.


Memorial Day DUI statistics for past years weren't available for Lake County. However, DUI remains a year-round problem in Lake County.


As Lake County News previously reported, there was an increase in DUI arrests in Lake County from 2005 to 2006, rising from 360 to a reported 411, or about a 14-percent increase, according to CHP records. However, from 2001 to 2005 there was a steady decline in local DUI arrests.


CHP works to reduce fatalities


Last Memorial Day weekend, 20 people were killed on roadways within CHP jurisdiction, statewide, Brown reported. While that number was down significantly from the previous year’s total of 33, Brown said, “We can still do better.”


As part of that effort to reduce fatalities, OTS is coordinating California law enforcement’s 2007 “Click It or Ticket” campaign.


“We have funded overtime to put extra police and CHP officers on the road to look for people not wearing their seat belt during this campaign,” said OTS Director Christopher J. Murphy.


Fifty percent of the people killed on the roadways during Memorial Day weekend were not wearing their seat belts, Murphy reported.


Caltrans Director Will Kempton said they're also joining the effort, and asking the public to help keep impaired drivers off the road.


Signs at Caltrans statewide network of public rest stops urge people to report drunk drivers by calling 9-1-1, Kempton reported. When calling to report someone suspected of driving under the influence, try to provide as much of the following information as possible: description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.


Because a lot of teens are driving at this time of year, extra ABC agents will be working over the weekend to prevent the sale of alcohol to underage or intoxicated people, said ABC Director Steve Hardy.


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Students get to inspect the REACH helicopter. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

 

 

LOWER LAKE The early morning air was quiet and cool only moments before the distinctive sound of the 830 horsepower turbine engine could be detected.


Flying into the Lower Lake High School football and track field was REACH Air Ambulance's familiar Red Bell 407 helicopter, which circled the field before gently touching down in front of the home team seats.


Twenty-two students from Doug DeSoto’s Public Safety Program recently were treated to an up-close look at one element of what are known as “First Responders” in the Public Safety and Law Enforcement community.


On board the REACH copter is a host of cutting-edge technologies. Literally anything that is found in a hospital emergency room is crammed into the $3 million aircraft. Also on board were Nurse Anna Blair, paramedic and crew chief Terry Gowen and pilot Dennis Smith.


The three crew members each spoke of their respective duties as well as their educational backgrounds. Students were invited to sit in the pilot’s seat and otherwise examine the workings in fine detail.


The 40-minute visit was, fortunately, uninterrupted by more serious matters and the group was treated to a take-off and fly-around that showed off the pilot's considerable skill.


The REACH Air Ambulance services have transported thousands of patients and celebrates its 20 anniversary on Thursday, May 24 at Lampson Field, 4615 Highland Springs Road. The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The public is invited.

 

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REACH nurse Anna Blair talks to students about her job. Photo by Harold LaBonte.
 


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KELSEYVILLE The US Department of Labor has settled a two-and-a-half-year old civil suit against the owners of Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa.


According to court documents obtained by Lake County News, the suit which was filed in November 2004 was resolved in a May 15 settlement conference presided over by Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman.


As Lake County News previously reported, the U.S. Department of Labor sued current and former trustees, the plan administrator and Local 38 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Journeymen for diverting more than $36 million in assets of five employee benefit plans to renovate and operate Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa.


The employee benefit plans in question were UA Local 38's Pension Trust Fund, Scholarship Trust Fund, Health & Welfare Trust Fund, Apprentice & Journeyman Training Trust Fund and Vacation & Holiday Trust Fund.


Local 38 controls the UA Local Convalescent Fund, which has owned Konocti Harbor since 1959, according to court records.


The lawsuit alleged that the fund's trustees, including Lawrence J. Mazzola Sr., business manager and financial secretary-treasurer of Local 38, violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by diverting the funds.


ERISA is a 1974 federal law that establishes protection to individuals covered by private industry health and pension plans.


Mazzola, son of labor leader Joe Mazzola – and namesake of Konocti Harbor's resort's indoor showroom – was named personally in the suit, as was his son, Lawrence Mazzola Jr.


In addition to the Mazzolas, about one dozen other men who had fiduciary responsibility as members of the joint board of trustees that governed Local 38's ERISA plans were named in the lawsuit.


James Baker, attorney for Mazzola and Local 38 in the case, confirmed this week that the case had been settled.


However, Baker declined to discuss the tentative settlement, preferring to wait until the details are finalized next month.


As part of the agreement, the Department of Labor will receive a $3.5 million payment, which will be covered by Local 38's insurance company, ULICO Casualty Co.


Judge Zimmerman noted in the settlement conference that a sale of Konocti Harbor is expected to be completed soon, with the funds from that sale going to reimburse Local 38 and the pension fund. (For the full story of the Konocti Harbor sale, see the related story, “Konocti Harbor sale in the works.”)


Other terms of the settlement include the Mazzola and the other named defendants' resignation from the joint board of trustees and installation of new trustees by Dec. 31, according to court documents.


Two of the named defendants, Lawrence Mazzola Jr. and Robert Buckley Jr., were not required to resign, court documents state; however, they have “agreed to complete a course of training in fiduciary duties as a condition of remaining on the board,” Zimmerman stated.


Mazzola Sr. also has agreed to resign from his position with the Plumbers Union's International Training Fund within the next two years, court documents reported.


The Department of Labor stipulated that those defendants who were required to resign from the joint board “be permanently barred from again being fiduciaries of any ERISA-covered plans or service providers.”


Other settlement terms include appointing an independent plan administrator to develop a system of controls over the ERISA plan's cash flows for a term of six years.


“This is an important moment for you,” Zimmerman told the defendants. “You will be closing, hopefully, a chapter, a long chapter in your life.”


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KELSEYVILLE – Two drivers escaped major injuries Thursday after a truck carrying a load of Coca Cola collided with a small auto.


The accident was reported at about 6:27 a.m. on southbound Highway 29 more than two miles south of Highway 175/Cobb, according to the California Highway Patrol.


CHP Officer Josh Dye reported that the truck, which was driving southbound, was hit by a small Honda that was traveling north.


Clois Burns of Lakeport was driving the 2001 silver Honda four-door sedan when, for an unknown reason, she veered across the double yellow lines and into the southbound lane, Dye said.


Dennis Mcclelland of Willits, who was driving a 2003 International tractor trailer carrying the load of soda, attempted to swerve out of the way but Burns' car collided with the tractor trailer's left front.


The tractor trailer continued off of the road and collided with a large oak tree, Dye reported.


Burns was taken to the hospital and released later in the day, having suffered only lacerations and contusions, Dye said. Mcclelland was uninjured.


Both lanes of the road were partially blocked, with officials redirecting northbound traffic onto Red Hills Road while the road was cleared, according to the CHP incident logs. Dye said the road was reopened at 10:16 a.m.


Some diesel fuel was reported on the ground, and a gash was in the truck's tank. Dye said an environmental cleanup company was dispatched to the scene, but he didn't see any hazardous materials or soda spilled.


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LAKE COUNTY – The US Department of Agriculture has designated Lake and 12 other California counties as primary natural disaster areas due to extreme weather conditions.


The USDA reported that the designations were made on May 9.


Lake County Agricultural Commissioner Stave Hajik said Lake has been designated a disaster area both for drought conditions last fall and for freeze conditions earlier this year.


“The only reason we're a freeze-listed county is we're an adjacent county to a county that has freeze damage,” he said.


Two local strawberry growers and one vegetable grower are believed to have had serious affects from the freeze, said Hajik, but the damage was mostly to equipment, like sprinklers, rather than crops.


Hajik said he applied for the disaster designation for the county in March, after Tim Strong, a local veterinarian and president of the county's cattlemen's association, told him about concerns for the county's rangelands due to the dry fall and winter weather.


Hajik said he did a survey of the county after speaking with Strong, and found that the area's rangelands had indeed been damaged by lack of rain during the period of Dec. 11 through Feb. 7.


Although rain did eventually arrive, it was too late to alleviate the rangelands' dry conditions, said Hajik.


He estimated $661,000 in damage to county ranchers because of the dry weather: of that, $151,000 is for rangelands, $340,000 for damage to hay crops and $170,000 for permanent pasture.


The declarations make Lake County farmers and ranchers eligible to receive low-interest emergency loans, said Erica Szlosek, spokesperson for the USDA Farm Services Agency.


Szlosek said those who intend to apply for assistance have eight months from the May 9 declaration to do so. She said applicants must have had a 30-percent loss to their operation to qualify for the 3.75-percent loans.


Hajik said a “major” dry period in the state in 2002 made it possible for farmers to receive free assistance that they weren't required to pay back.


Strong said effects of the drier conditions can be seen around the county.


For cattlemen like him, the biggest issue is lack of grass.


“We had that real cold weather in January and we didn't have very much rain,” he said.


The last few rains helped a little, said Strong, but he added, “the damage was really already done.”


He estimated that more than 50 percent of the county's grasslands were affected.


Cattlemen who put their cattle on winter range usually pull the cows off a little early to leave some feed behind for the fall, said Strong. Less rain meant ranchers were having to pull their cows off the range even earlier, with even less residual feed left behind. Winter range depends on water for seasonal streams and ponds, as well, said Strong.


The end result is that cattlemen are cutting their grazing season much shorter and having to supplement with more hay, which means a bigger cut out of farmers' bottom lines.


Strong said he believes the full effect of the drier weather will become more apparent next fall, when he expects to see less grass.


In addition to Lake, the counties listed as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and freeze conditions last fall and this spring are Contra Costa, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Mariposa, Merced, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Stanislaus and Tulare.


Counties contiguous to the 13 primary natural disaster areas also are eligible for assistance. Those counties are Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, Glenn, Inyo, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Stanislaus, Solano, Sonoma, Tuolumne, Yolo and Ventura.


Lake County farmers and ranchers can call the Farm Services Agency office in Mendocino County in Ukiah, 468-9223, for more information, or go online for forms and information at www.fsa.usda.gov.


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LAKEPORT – A Clearlake Oaks man accused of criminal threats, battery and elder abuse was acquitted of all charges this week.


On Wednesday, a Lakeport Superior Court jury returned not guilty verdicts on the charges against Joel Paulle, according to his defense attorney, Doug Rhoades of Lakeport.


Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson prosecuted Paulle's case. Abelson did not return a call seeking comment on the case.


Paulle was accused of a felony criminal threat against his neighbors, a charge of battery against a neighbor’s son, and two counts of elder abuse against his 82-year-old mother as a result of an April 2006 incident.


The neighbor and her son both testified against Paulle, but no charges were sustained, Rhoades reported.


Paulle’s mother had passed away while the trial was pending, which Rhoades said was due to health problems not related to the charges in the case.


The trial lasted only two days, Rhoades reported. After deliberating less than one hour, the jury returned not guilty verdicts on all charges against Paulle.


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ST. HELENA – A 3.3 magnitude earthquake hit five miles south of St. Helena on Thursday morning,


The earthquake was recorded at 9:01 a.m. at a depth of 6.2 miles, according to the US Geological Survey.


There were 100 reports of the quake to the US Geological Survey from as far away as Tracy and San Francisco from people who felt the quake.


However, the quake doesn't appear to have been noticed in the Middletown area, according to the US Geological Survey reports.


When contacted to see if they felt the quake, the offices of Realtor David Neft said they hadn't.


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Jim Paschke of Woodland with his winning catch, a 28.32-pound catfish. Courtesy photo.

 

 

CLEARLAKE OAKS – What's the biggest fish you've ever caught?


Chances are, not too many of us have reeled in a 28-pound catfish. But that's just what James Paschke of Woodland did on Friday evening, a feat which helped him win the 26th annual Clearlake Oaks Catfish Derby this weekend.


The Clearlake Oaks derby is billed as the largest catfish derby west of the Mississippi. It's hosted by the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association, said Gail Jonas, the event's chair.


This weekend's derby also had the biggest field in its history, said Dennis Locke, another of the dedicated team of volunteers who organize the derby.


In all, the derby welcomed 487 adult fishermen – and women – along with 96 children, said Jonas.


The event offered a Kids Derby for ages 16 and under. Locke said they set out to attract more kids entries, and as a result got almost twice the normal number of young competitors.


Paschke's 28.23-pound winner helped him land a grand prize of a new boat, trailer and motor.


“That's a nice fish,” said Jonas. “We've had bigger, but that's fairly good-sized.”


Many of the fish brought in for the tournament were caught near M&M Campground on the Peninsula, near Rattlesnake Island and Indian Island, near the mouth of Cache Creek, Jonas said.


Other top finishers in the adult derby were: second place, William Bhader III of San Jose, 26.15-pound fish; third place, James Champlin, San Jose, 24.63 pounds; fourth place, Josh Gouker, Marysville, 24.57; fifth place, Sheila Bird, Oroville, 24.41 pounds; sixth place, Pamela Woods, Clearlake, 24.18 pounds; seventh place, Justin Lane, Hood River, Ore., 24.05 pounds; eighth place, Donnell Thompson, Pittsburg, 23.82 pounds; ninth place, Michael Reed, Greenville, 23.19 pounds; 10th place, Joshua Lane, Hood River, 23.18 pounds; 11th place, Tommy Wheeler, Sutter, 22.85 pounds; 12th place, Steve Johnson, Oceanside, 22.51 pounds; 13th place, Gary Moore, Clearlake, 21.56 pounds; 14th place, Kerry Hamilton, Boron, 21.48 pounds; 15th place, Lee Harris, Oakland, 21.39 pounds; 16th place, Matthew Ross, Clearlake, 21.10 pounds; 17th place, John Willis Jr., Lakeport, 21.00 pounds; 18th place, Gene Shogren, Yuba City, 20.31 pounds; 19th place, Colin Johnson, Santa Rosa, 19.33 pounds; 20th place, Brad Zazzetti, Forestville, 19.26 pounds; 21st place, Ricky Williamson, Clearlake, 18.43 pounds.


Locke said everyone had a great time in spite of the high winds, which affected fishing conditions. People fished both from the shorelines and from boats, Jonas added.


She said about 70 percent of the tournament participants came from outside the county, with visitors from as far away as Maryland, Oregon, Nebraska and Montana.


The Catfish Derby is the association's major fundraiser of the year, said Jonas, helping the group fund the community's Fourth of July fireworks, assist the senior center and local schools, and contribute to the community's new park at The Plaza.


“We try to spend it where it's going to help people the most in our community,” she said.


Jonas, who estimated she has worked on about six or seven of the tournaments, said it's inspiring to see everyone pull together to make the event happen.


“Everybody just pitches in and it makes you feel really good,” she said.


The process of organizing the derbies take about nine months, Jonas said. “We start in September and we work all year.”


Which means, of course, that they have a few months of rest before the team of volunteers – which includes about 40 community members, according to Jonas – gets started on next year's event. The effort will include mailers to fisherman from recent derbies and other outreach.


More photos will be posted Monday at www.clearlakeoaks.org.


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Paschke won a new boat, motor and trailer. Courtesy photo.
 

 

 

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WASHINGTON, D.C. An emergency supplemental spending bill which will put another $120 billion toward the Iraq war is on the way to the president for his signature.


The bill split the state's Democratic senators, and drew a no vote from North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson.


The U.S. Senate on Thursday night approved HR 2206 in an 80-14 vote, according to GovTrack.


The Senate vote came the same day as the House voted 280-142 to approve the bill.


HR 2206 did not contain a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, as did HR 1591, an emergency supplemental that Congress approved last month but which President Bush vetoed on May 2.


Sen. Barbara Boxer voted against the bill. She cited her concerns that the supplemental maintains the “status quo,” which so far this year has meant higher casualties amongst US troops. Boxer reminded fellow senators of the more than 3,400 US troops killed and more than 25,000 wounded.


At the same time, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voted for the supplemental.


On the House side, Thompson, who has been a consistent critic of the war in Iraq, voted against HR 2206 on Thursday, saying he did so because it lacked the timeline or benchmarks needed to end the war.


“I voted against the Iraq supplemental because it only furthers the president's open-ended war in Iraq,” Thompson said in a statement.


Thompson had previously supported HR 1591, but has maintained that war funding should go through the regular budgeting process. “If the administration doesn't know after four years how to fund the war, we're in more trouble than we may think.”


He stated his belief that the Iraqi government “needs to take responsibility for securing their country so we can bring our troops home as safely and quickly as possible.” Benchmarks are needed, he said, to know whether or not the Iraqi government is making progress.


The supplemental only continues what Thompson said has been a lack of accountability in the war spending, said Thompson, with $400 billion spent so far.


“I can't support a war funding bill that doesn't make our troops and veterans the top priority,” Thompson said.


President Bush is expected to sign the bill over the Memorial Day weekend.


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From left, National Guardsmen Mark Matthews, Bryon Martinez, Dave Hodgson and Vincent Torres. Photo by Ginny Craven.


 

LUCERNE – Four young National Guardsmen who are scheduled to ship out next week in preparation for a mission to Iraq were honored at an afternoon get-together Wednesday.


Spc. Bryon Martinez, 23, of Corning; Spc. Vincent Torres, 20, of Red Bluff; Spc. Mark Matthews, 22, of Santa Monica; and Sgt. David Hodgson of Red Bluff are members of the 160th Infantry Unit which will leave for Mississippi May 29.


From there, they'll be sent to Iraq, although Martinez said they're not sure when they'll ship out for their 12-month deployment.


Veterans and community members gathered at Firehouse Pizza, which Martinez opened in February. The business had barely gotten off the ground before Martinez found out he was slated for deployment to Iraq.


Martinez invited his three friends over for some pizza and beer, and when local veterans found out, they joined the group for a going away party.


The four soldiers just completed two months of training in Mississippi. Hodgson said they studied convoy security, explosive device identification and removal, and risk assessments.


“Right now our main mission is protecting convoys,” said Martinez.


When necessary, he said, they'll also do “route clearance,” which means getting rid of explosive devices planted along roadsides. Hodgson said they'll drive humvees to protect the convoys.


Vietnam veteran Dean Gotham, who came to wish the young men well, said in his day their assignment was called “rough rider” duty.


Torres, who joined the National Guard two years ago for adventure, money for school and because he “wanted a challenge,” said he volunteered to go to Iraq. “I'd rather go when I'm prepared than go when I'm not.”


Hodgson – who at age 20 has nearly four years of time in the Guard, the most of the group – also got into the Guard to help build a career.


Matthews has a wife and 5-month-old son and has been in the Guard two years. Joining the military, he said, “was something I always wanted to do since I was a kid.”


Martinez and his wife, Sabrina, welcomed a new son, Zakary, on May 19. They also have a 5-year-old son, Kameron.


Gotham said he gave the young men some advice to keep them safe.


First, keep an ear cocked on the distance, Gotham said. Stay low, don't stand around in groups.


And keep your mouth open; that helps avoid serious concussion in case a bomb goes off nearby, he advised.


Gotham said he learned that lesson the hard way, while laying in a trench in Vietnam. A bomb hit the lip of the trench, he said, and because his jaw was clenched shut, it made the effects of the concussion just that much worse. As a result, he lost the hearing in his left ear.


Since March, when Martinez left for training, his longtime friends, Thomas, Cisco and Andreas Bobadilla, have been running the pizza parlor.


Business has been good, said Martinez. The Bobadillas have agreed to continue managing the business while he's away.


Martinez said he and his fellow soldiers expect to be home by August 2008.


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LAKE COUNTY – As the state Legislature prepares to begin hearings on the governor's updated budget, there are concerns about what the proposed budget changes will do to counties, especially rural areas such as Lake County.


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger released his May budget revision on May 14. The $145.9 billion budget calls for $103.9 billion from the state's General Fund alone.


A report from the state Senate's Committee on Budget & Fiscal Review identified “significant changes” from the budget originally proposed in January.


In her overview of the May revision, Elizabeth G. Hill, the state's legislative analyst, estimates that under Schwarzenegger's budget, state expenditures will exceed revenues by $3 billion in the 2007-08 budget year.


Among the changes, the General Fund reserve was estimated at $2.1 billion in January, a number which since has declined to $500 million.


The shortfall comes from a variety of sources including a decline in major tax sources such as personal and corporate taxes which are expected to be down by $806 million this coming year, with sales and use taxes revised down by $500 million due to a weaker economy, Hill reported.


In addition, proposed tribal gaming revenues of $314 million in the next budget year, which are $192 million lower than anticipated.


To make up some of the shortfalls, the governor made several controversial proposals, including selling the state's EdFund, which administers federal student loan programs for both in-state and out-of-state students in higher education, eliminating a cost of living increase for Social Security and eliminating the Williamson Act subvention for counties.


Hill wrote that she believes Schwarzenegger is overestimating his budget reserves, which will result in a “significant challenge” for the Legislature as it develops a budget “that realistically reflects revenues and spending while maintaining a prudent reserve.”


At the same time, some General Fund expenditures are expected to go up significantly. Hill's report notes that Schwarzenegger has added $624 million in budget expenditures in the May revision, including money to pay Proposition 98 obligations for education.


Modest economic growth is predicted in the budget, though Hill notes there are uncertainties due to the housing market – lighter sales, dramatically increased foreclosure rates along with lowered selling prices – and gasoline prices.


North Coast legislators Assembly member Patty Berg (D-Eureka) and Sen. Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) both criticized Schwarzenegger's May budget revision.


“California deserves a government that puts people first, a government that protects the environment, plans for the future and takes care of our families and our children,” said Berg, chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. “The budget the governor gave us falls short of that goal.”


Wiggins cited several concerns, among them social programs.


“What I heard was a message that it would be OK for us to again cut services and assistance to seniors, the disabled, the homeless and the mentally ill – not something I had hoped to hear during a time of ‘bipartisan cooperation,’” she said.


Social programs could be hit hard


Schwarzenegger proposes to help offset that, Hill reported, with the $185 million in savings from suspending the cost of living increase for the elderly and disabled Social Security Income and State Supplementary Program recipients.


That proposal could affect the more than 10,000 people in Lake County over the age of 65, according to US Census numbers.


David Miller, Wiggins' spokesman, said Schwarzenegger “prefers that we repay $3.1 billion to Wall Street, about double what we have to, instead of ensuring that we are able to provide for the needs of poor kids, the disabled or the elderly. Or for that matter, instead of ensuring that that cities, counties and school districts have the resources they need to serve the people in their communities.”


Kelly Cox, the county's administrative officer, is a veteran of dealing with county budgets and how they're affected by the overall state budget. He said it's still too early to know the full impact of Schwarzenegger's proposals on Lake County's fiscal picture for 2007-08, especially the actual dollar impact.


However, he did say Social Services, Child Support Services, health and mental health services, and other county services could stand to be affected by Schwarzenegger's proposals.


Williamson Act proposed for cuts

 

The governor also expects to save $40 million by cutting the Williamson Act program, another area that could immediately affect the county.


The Williamson Act was created by the state Legislature in 1965 to help preserve agricultural and open space by discouraging “premature and unnecessary conversion to urban uses,” according to the state Department of Conservation.


The act helps protect nearly 16.9 million of the state's 29 million acres of farm and ranch land through 10-year contracts, which result in landowners saving an estimated 20 to 75 percent in property tax each year. In order to enter into a Williamson Act contract, a landowner must have an “agricultural preserve” of 100 acres or more – which can be a number of smaller parcels combined, the Department of Conservation reported.


Cox said the Williamson Act would be one of the first areas of impact.


“We would immediately lose approximately $70,000 per year in general fund revenue from discontinuance of the Williamson Act/Open Space subvention and future Williamson Act contracts would certainly be at jeopardy,” said Cox. “In fact we could be forced to initiate proceedings to cancel some of the existing contracts.”


According to the state's Division of Land Resource Protection, Lake County has 49,504 acres enrolled in the California Conservation (Williamson) Act. Of that number, 5,866 acres are listed as prime agricultural land.


Wiggins, who was been working to redefine and expand the Williamson Act through her bill, SB 562, was also critical of this part of the governor's budget.


“The governor has received a lot of press for his efforts on behalf of the environment, but his budget shows that when it comes to spending a small amount of money to preserve our agricultural land from being converted to golf courses or Super Wal-Marts, he doesn’t put his money where his mouth is,” she said.


She added that Schwarzenegger's plan shows “he clearly wants local governments to pay the tab for the entire {Williamson Act] program.”


Presidential primary a costly addition


One area where Cox expressed concern was the proposal to delay state reimbursement of the cost of the early presidential primary election to fiscal year 08/09. That proposal, while farther out, could have ramifications on the 2007-08 budget, he said.


“This will be a costly additional election the county will be required to conduct which is entirely due to action recently taken by the governor and state legislature,” he said. “It is being proposed that the county cover the entire cost of that election and not receive any state reimbursement until the following fiscal year.”


He added, “That certainly won't help balance our 07/08 budget we need to be reimbursed in the same year the expense is incurred. In fact, they should be providing us with the necessary funding prior to the election.”


Cox said he's not sure when the budget picture for the county will become more clear, although be believes more information and clarifications will be coming “on a piecemeal basis” in the coming weeks.


He added that what the governor proposes isn't what the legislature ends up approving, so there's no telling at this point what the final budget will look like.


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


{mos_sb_discuss:3}

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