Monday, 24 June 2024

News

LUCERNE – Faced with a proposed series of water rate hikes totaling over 68 percent for the coming three years, close to 100 Lucerne residents attended a public hearing on Thursday where they voiced opposition to the plans.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) hosted the meeting, which lasted nearly two and a half hours, at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center.

California Water Service Co., which owns Lucerne's water system, is seeking rate increases of 54.9 percent in 2011, 7 percent in 2012 and 6.6 percent in 2013, based on its application.

Many of the Lucerne residents who came to speak against the increases pointed to the county's high unemployment. The most recent unemployment figures for Lake County made available by the state, which are for the month of December, show an overall unemployment rate of 18.5 percent, with Lucerne's specific rate at 19.3 percent.

As well, many argued that the seniors and disabled who make up a larger portion of the Lucerne area's more than 3,000 residents – based on the most recent US Census figures – are on fixed incomes and aren't receiving any cost of living adjustments.

Other complaints during the meeting included questions about the three surcharges on water bills, unreadable meters, people having their water shut off even when they're paid up, and still others facing poverty and having to decide between water and food.

Still others would point to Cal Water's “windfall” profit and stockholder returns, which they said are coming on the backs of ratepayers who already are struggling to pay their bills.

The San Jose-based company, which bills itself as the “largest investor-owned American water utility west of the Mississippi River and the third largest in the country,” has more than 460,000 customers throughout California.

The company reported Feb. 24 that its 2009 revenues increased 10 percent, or $39 million, to $449 million.

Cal Water is proposing the rate increases to make new distribution system upgrades – including installing new water pipeline – and to add new jobs.

Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey O'Donnell led the hearing, which was taped and will be transcribed by a court reporter who attended to take notes.

O'Donnell explained the rates that the company was seeking – to which some people yelled out “Violation!”

He said the CPUC was holding the meeting because it wanted to hear from the community. The CPUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA)n and Cal Water representatives were there to answer questions.

“I fully understand you're not in love with the idea of this rate increase that's proposed,” said O'Donnell.

“I fully understand that you're really pissed off,” he told the audience. “And, frankly, if I was sitting out there instead of here, I would be, too.”

O'Donnell said his job was to be a neutral party in the decision making process.

Explaining the rate hike process, O'Donnell said a utility company files an application and provides documents to support their rate increase request.

For the current Cal Water rate increase request, just the company's first round of reports constituted about five file boxes, O'Donnell said.

In turn, the DRA – which advocates for ratepayers as a whole – has investigated the company's documents and put forth their own reports, he explained.

An evidentiary hearing is set for about two weeks from Lucerne's meeting, said O'Donnell, and after that there will be a month-long pause during which the DRA and other intervenors will submit briefs.

Eventually, all of that work will lead to O'Donnell's decision, which he said the CPUC can accept or, alternately, give its own.

O'Donnell said his job is to make the best recommendation he can based on the evidence in the record. He assured the audience that he has read all of the letters and e-mails the CPUC has received from the community about the rate increase proposal.

Before public comment began, O'Donnell invited Cal Water and DRA representatives up to the microphone to give brief presentations.

Darin Duncan, Cal Water's rates manager, pledged to the audience that he would take all of their comments from the meeting back to the corporate offices in San Jose.

He said Cal Water filed general rate increases for all of its 24 operating districts on July 2, 2009. Duncan said the state now requires multidistrict utilities like Cal Water to file all rate cases at the same time.

“This was a pretty big undertaking,” he said, explaining the company gave the DRA 25 to 30 file boxes of documents.

Lucerne, he said, is a standalone part of the Redwood Valley District, which also covers parts of Guerneville and Dillon Beach. Rate increase meetings have been held in other parts of the district.

In Lucerne, the company is seeking a $682,000 increase for 2011, or 54.9 percent, Duncan said.

Companywide, Cal Water is requesting $70.6 million across 24 districts, or a 16.75-percent systemwide increase in 2011, Duncan said. A Cal Water mailer for the meeting noted that it's also seeking $24.7 million, or 5.04 percent, in 2012 and $24.7 million, or 4.79-percent, in 2013.

Lucerne's proposed rate increase for 2011 is three times the companywide average.

“I realize people are struggling int his economy. It's not our No. 1 thing to do, to go out and ask for a 54-percent increase,” Duncan said.

One man yelled from the audience, “Come on man, you're a corporation!”

Duncan added that the company has low income ratepayer support funds.

DRA engineer Patrick Hoglund said they have engineers, attorneys and accountants who have reviewed Cal Water's recommendations, and looked at the company's Lucerne' facilities.

Hoglund said the DRA's job is to make recommendations to the commission that they believe are reasonable, and will allow Cal Water to continue to provide reliable service.

Public criticizes company service; residents say water rates already too high

First to the microphone during public comment was District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing, who also sits on several county-run water districts.

When Cal Water purchased the system, “I am certain that they got a little more than they bargained for in terms of the system condition,” she said.

Systems around Lake County are requiring “a substantial amount of investment,” Rushing said.

That creates a challenge at a time when Rushing said the county is facing depression-era unemployment levels.

Rushing – who also has previous experience in the utility industry – said Cal Water purchased the Lucerne system for a reason, and because of the rules under which they operate, they figured they could invest and then get a return on it through cost recovery.

“But in this day and age it might be time to question those rules,” she said.

While Cal Water is proposing to use its rate increases to add employees, Rushing said the county is finding ways to do more with less with its systems.

The high rate increase for Lucerne will degrade the county's efforts to turn the local economy around, and when it comes to disadvantaged communities like Lucerne, Rushing said the investor model needs to be questioned.

“Sometimes you just have to spend what you can afford and not what you're allowed to spend,” she said, receiving a round of applause as she returned to her seat.

County Deputy Redevelopment Director Eric Seely followed Rushing to the microphone, explaining that the agency is charged with trying to bring jobs to communities like Lucerne.

That's a task made more challenging by the uncertainty of current and future Cal Water rate hikes, Seely said. The redevelopment agency is concerned about the increases as it works with business owners to show them Lucerne is a good place to locate.

At the same time, Seely said the county is a Cal Water customer, utilizing water for facilities like county-owned parks, one of which currently is being expanded with a new pier.

Craig Bach of the Lucerne Community Water Organization (LCWO) handed O'Donnell a petition with 275 signatures against the rate hikes.

“We just don't have the money,” he said.

Bach said the community has been overcharged for its new water plant, which required three designs and $7 million to complete. “We'd like to pay for the plant we actually got,” and not the two previous designs, Back said.

Referring to 25 new job positions that the company wants to add for about $17 million over a five-year period, Bach said Cal Water asked for new positions in two previous rate hikes, but failed to hire those jobs, to the tune of $4 million.

Between that $4 million and the proposed $17 million, Bach suggested, “I think we can get a break, folks.”

Frank Parker asked why the company was asking for $1.5 million for upgrades to its new plant, or for increased benefits for employees based on inflation. Parker said he recently received a letter from Social Security telling him he would not receive an increase.

The county government is facing layoffs, and in Lucerne there are vacant houses that can't be sold due to the already high water rates, Parker said.

He said the plant's cost overruns were unreasonable, and alleged that the company made unsubstantiated management decisions about what technologies to adopt. Then they did three plant designs and only used one.

“Why should we pay for their mistakes?” he asked.

Citing the company's millions of dollars in profit for last year, Parker asked when the company was going to start using profits to operate, rather than keep raising the rates. “We need some relief.”

Charles Moton said Cal Water seems oblivious to the current tough economic times.

Besides the troubles nationwide, in Lucerne people are leaving to seek work and opportunities elsewhere, he said. “The utilities always make money, regardless of economic conditions.”

But water is needed to live, and Cal Water has captive consumers. While the stock market and indexes were down the previous day, Moton noted that Cal Water's stock numbers were up.

Asking for money at this time is “grasping, avaricious and just plain greedy,” he said.

Gary Barrious asked if the company could charge all customers across the state 25 cents per bill to help cover the costs of Lucerne's improvements.

“The simple answer is, that is already happening,” said Duncan, with every Cal Water customer paying less than a penny a unit, which goes into the rate support fund.

O'Donnell asked Duncan to respond to the issues of the three plant designs. “What gives?” he asked.

When Cal Water took over the plant and system, both were in disrepair and dilapidated, said Duncan. The company first focused on upgrading the treatment plant.

He said Clear Lake, because of its algae and water quality issues, is “very difficult to treat.” Cal Water couldn't get permits for an initial treatment plant design that they abandoned.

Ultimately, the design they went with is a “state of the art” plant that uses advanced oxidation and an ultraviolet light process to purify the water. “It's the best water quality that you can get,” Duncan said.

Most of the rate increases the company now is seeking are for improvements to the aging pipeline, which is mostly made of 2-inch galvanized pipe put in place in the 1940s and 1950s, Duncan said. Cal Water's 2009 budget included 3,250 feet of pipeline upgrade, a little over 1,000 feet is included in the 2010 budget and another 1,000 feet or so is scheduled for replacement in 2012.

The company can hold off a little while on those pipe replacements, but Duncan said they must do it at some point, as it makes no sense to build a new plant and have old pipes.

Company engineer Maurice Francis explained that Cal Water had challenges during the construction phase because the initial plans were inadequate. The company couldn't use the first two design plans – which he said came from two of the nation's top consultants – because the costs were “overwhelming.”

So the company decided to go back to the drawing board and hire another consultant to create the design that ultimately was built. Francis said the plant was completed last September.

John Foth, Cal Water's rate case project manager for whom the Lucerne plant is a temporary assignment, said the new plant was funded by a no-interest loan from the state revolving loan fund. Customers pay a monthly surcharge to help pay back that loan.

He said the loan was for $7.1 million, but the plant's total cost exceeded that by about $900,000. The company is earning returns on that additional $900,000.

Lucerne's rates higher than other areas

Dr. Wilson Goddard, an environmental engineer and a Lucerne resident for more than 20 years, said the system worked well under the previous ownership of Bob and Nadine Strauss, who he said had repairs made quickly and efficiently.

He compared Lucerne's rates to those in Cal Water's San Mateo district. In San Mateo, Goddard said Cal Water customers pay an $8.75 meter charge. “Our meter charge is $32.58,” Goddard said.

Along with those meter charges, Lucerne's customers are paying other fees for a total base charge of $53.70. Goddard said San Mateo's charge for one “ccf” – or 100 cubic feet – of water is $3.03; for the same amount of water, Lucerne customers pay $5.45.

San Mateo's median income, based on the 2000 US Census, is $95,750, versus Lucerne's $25,345, Goddard said. The number of people in San Mateo considered to be at the poverty level total 7.1 percent, compared to 15.8 percent in Lucerne. Goddard added that 26.1 percent of Lucerne's families are at the poverty level.

Christine Goddard asked how inflation factors are calculated for the company's rates. O'Donnell asked Hoglund to explain. Hoglund said DRA has within it a separate group of staff that develops rates, using data similar to that used by the federal government.

In his turn, Charles Behne – a member of Lucerne Friends of Locally Owned Water – said in 2005 the CPUC gave Cal Water a 111-percent rate increase, but a DRA audit in 2008 showed that the company didn't hire the people or buy the equipment it planned to, resulting in a $2.5 million windfall for the company.

The DRA's evaluation of the latest rate increase shows that Cal Water is asking for similar increases, Behne said. “I think it's time for the CPUC to give the ratepayers a significant windfall.”

O'Donnell asked company representatives about what happens when customers can't pay their bills. Duncan said service usually is turned off within a few months if customers don't pay, although Gay Guidotti, manager for the Redwood Valley district, say they entertain all requests for payment arrangements.

Responding to Goddard's comparisons between Cal Water's Lucerne and San Mateo districts, Duncan said the company buys water from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission water that's already treated for $1.68 a unit. They then put on a markup to cover service costs.

San Mateo has a customer base of more than 35,000, said Duncan. “Those costs are spread over a larger base of customers.”

In his explanation, Duncan did not offer comparable costs for water purchase or the customer base for Lucerne. Lake County News has requested those numbers for a followup article.

Resident Greg Larson brought with him a 2002 Cal Water bill, which had one service charge for $25.80 and a $1.17 charge per cubic foot of water. His latest bill had a per-cubic-foot charge of $5.44, a service charge of $65.16 plus two additional service charges totaling around $30.

“We need some protection from these people,” Larson said, telling the CPUC and DRA representatives, “You gotta help us.”

Company representatives later in the meeting would explain that the additional surcharges were to pay back state-issued, zero-interest loans for the treatment plant.

Lucerne residents also questioned the water quality. Ted Shimizu said he had found bad-smelling green and orange “stuff” growing in his sink.

Later in the meeting, Sam Silva, a Cal Water water quality expert, said they have to adjust treatment to the lake's conditions, and they rely on reports from customers.

Rushing suggested that in a small community like Lucerne, where income levels are dropping and vacancy rates are rising, the ratemaking structure doesn't work.

“This is not the ideal community for this kind of rate system,” she said, because the community can't afford it.

Daniel Mohle, a disabled Lucerne resident who once was a business owner, said that when he made adjustments to his business it came out of his own pocket.

“You want to build a $7 million plant, you build it, not us,” he said. “You want to modify something? You pay for it, not us.”

Moton, who returned to the microphone briefly, said that after hearing about the company going through three plant designs before getting it right, “I feel like I'm living in a 'Dilbert' cartoon.”

He asked if the CPUC checks to make sure the rates Cal Water applies for are fair and in keeping with other industries. Hoglund said yes, they do look at “normal, reasonable costs.”

As the meeting drew to a close, O'Donnell told meeting attendees that DRA, CPUC and Cal Water representatives would stay afterward until 10 p.m. to answer questions one-on-one.

As to the final decision, “I can't tel you what the results are going to be” he said, adding that he has five file boxes of papers to read.

“We will be considering what you've had to say today,” O'Donnell said.

Comments can still be sent to O'Donnell about the rate hike.

Send comments referencing Application No. 09-07-001 to the CPUC Public Advisor's Office, 505 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94102; e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The office also may be contacted via phone at 866-849-8390 or 415-703-2074.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – After listening to weeks of detailed testimony from 21 people – including police, criminalists and the defendants themselves – the jury in a Clearlake murder case sat down to begin deliberations on Thursday afternoon.


The six-woman, six-man jury must now decide justice for Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, and Melvin Dale Norton, 38, two friends who are accused of killing 25-year-old Shelby Uehling.


The three men were involved in a confrontation along Old Highway 53 early on the morning of Sept. 22, 2009.


Norton and Edmonds testified to walking up to confront Uehling – parked in his car, the motor running and lights off at around 1 a.m. near Norton's trailer park – and tell him to leave Patricia Campbell alone.


Campbell is a longtime friend of Norton's and a woman who had been briefly involved with Uehling during a breakup from Edmonds, who she'd lived with on and off since last June. After abruptly breaking it off with Uehling, she returned to Edmonds. When Uehling tried to see her and call her, she told the men he was stalking her.


The early morning fight with Uehling began with a shoving match between him and Norton, during which Uehling reportedly reached into his waistband to pull out a weapon, according to testimony during the trial. At that point in the fight, Edmonds arrived at the scene and charged Uehling, both Edmonds and Norton testified.


Closing arguments in the case began Wednesday, running the length of the day and continuing Thursday.


Norton's attorney, Stephen Carter, finished his arguments Thursday morning.


Carter questioned the testimony of a witness who claimed that, despite the night's dark conditions, he could see two men leaning over a body on the ground.


Due to the lighting conditions, Carter suggested the testimony was embellished, and that the man by that point was aware of the case facts from media reports.


In order to conclude Norton and Edmonds are guilty of murder, Carter told the juror that they would need to break the allegations down and look at the elements of murder, which must all be met for a conviction.


While it's accepted in the case that Edmonds struck the fatal blows to Uehling, who died of a slit throat, Norton is charged with murder also under the theory that he aided and abetted the crime. Carter explained to the jury that theory by giving them an example of another crime, such as a sexual assault, where a person holds the victim down.


He maintained that there is no evidence showing Norton had any part in the confrontation once Edmonds arrived and began to brawl with Uehling.


Norton also faces an assault with a deadly weapon charge for allegedly swinging a golf club at Uehling as he sat in the front seat of his car. Carter said Norton swung the golf club at the car to distract Uehling, who Carter said was reaching down to the floor looking for a weapon. An examination of Uehling's body at the hospital found a small knife tucked in his shoe.


During opening arguments, prosecutor Art Grothe argued that the handle end of the golf club – which broke when it hit the car – was used to make a large puncture wound in one of Uehling's buttocks.


“That was a big argument for the prosecution,” he said.


However, Carter asked, “Has that been proven? No, in fact the exact contrary has been proven to you.”


Carter cited the trial testimony of forensic pathologist Dr. Thomas Gill, who performed Uehling's autopsy and noted the wound and the end of the broken golf club shaft were inconsistent.


In additional, state Department of Justice criminalists who tested the club found no biological evidence – blood or DNA – to show that it had wounded Uehling, Carter said.


Norton and Edmonds left the club behind at the scene and therefore it can't be argued that the club handle was washed to remove such evidence, he added.


Carter said that his client was being accused of involvement because he hadn't initially been forthright during interviews with police.


“It's not fair to accuse someone of something they didn't do,” he said, suggesting that should make the jurors wonder why Norton was charged.


Carter then read a portion of a transcript from a jail phone call between Edmonds and Norton's aunt Gigi.


Edmonds said of Norton, “It was self-defense for me and he was just like, he was there, he didn't do anything.” He added, “Melvin did nothing,”


Those statements, said Carter, “show Shannon in an unguarded moment, simply saying what the deal is, what the situation is in this case.”


Carter asked the jury not to convict Norton of something he didn't do. Norton didn't murder anyone and neither did he act as an accessory, since when they changed their clothes and cleaned Edmonds' knife at Norton's house a short time later, Carter argued the Norton didn't know Uehling was dead, and that as a convicted felon he was acting out of fear for himself.


“You have the power to do justice, and that's after all what we ask from a jury,” he said.


Carter said the scene where the fight occurred was left open and unguarded for hours afterward by police.


“It's not good police work, that's true,” he said. “In a scene like that mistakes are made, but what a heck of a mistake, to leave the scene unguarded for that long.”


There was a search of one field near the area, but that was it, said Carter.


He asked the jury to think about how Norton felt, riding his bicycle home early on Sept. 22, and seeing Uehling parked not far from his home.


Norton already was concerned about Campbell, who had claimed Uehling was stalking her. “You ever see somebody get played like that before?” Carter asked, noting that Norton had not reason not to believe Campbell.


“Now we've got a different mindset for Melvin, one of wanting to protect,” both himself and Campbell, Carter explained.


“I ask you to convict Melvin Norton of nothing,” Carter concluded.


In a rebuttal argument that took about 45 minutes, Grothe said the witness who claimed he saw Edmonds cut Uehling's throat had no reason to lie, but Grothe said Norton's first statements to police were filled with lies. A second police interview never hinted at self-defense, Grothe added.


Regarding Carter's statements about the quality of the police work, which Edmonds' attorney Doug Rhoades also had challenged on Wednesday, Grothe said Uehling's car has been locked up in an evidence holding facility since day one.


“If any one of these folks wanted something out of that car, it was there and available,” he said, adding that instead they want to take “cheap shots” at investigators.


Grothe also dismissed Rhoades' suggestion Wednesday that marks on Uehling's chest – which Grothe had argued during his initial closing arguments were caused by an extendable baton, or asp, that he alleges Edmonds wielded – were caused by nylon backboard straps used to transport Uehling to the hospital.


“They match up with nothing else in this case but an asp,” Grothe said.


He replayed brief portions of Norton's police interviews. During that interview, Norton mentioned Edmonds jumping into the fight after Norton and Uehling had been shoving each other.


Clearlake Police Det. Tom Clements asked Norton, “Why didn't you tell us that in the first place? I told you, you have to be completely honest with us.”


Although both Rhoades and Carter has questioned the investigators' thoroughness on scene – it was noted that a knife that Edmonds said Uehling used to stab him in the arm was never found – Grothe said investigators looked very closely at the scene. They accounted for everything from doughnuts scattered about the site to blood spatter that had been found about 8 feet up a nearby tree.


“If there had been some kind of knife out there they would have found it,” he said.


Grothe told the jury that a person who engages in mutual combat or first engages in force can only use self-defense as a legal defense if they try to stop the fight. He said Uehling tried backing out of the fight several times, but added, “Shannon Edmonds kept pressing that fight,” and he wanted “a piece of Shelby,” Grothe added.


The right to use self-defense exists as long as the danger exists, then it ends, Grothe maintained.


“At the end of this fight, Shelby's down on the ground and Shannon Edmonds is standing over him, Melvin's about 20 feet away, yells at Shannon to stop, 'Let's go.' Shannon is standing up at that point. Shelby is on the ground,” Grothe recounted.


Then, he alleged that Edmonds bent down and took one last punch, slitting Uehling's throat with the knife.


Norton, who first arrived on the scene, kept Uehling from leaving, got him out of his car, got between Uehling and the car so he couldn't get away, Grothe said.


“He kept him there until Shannon got there. And he kept him there so Shannon could take care of business.”


Uehling was beaten down to the point that “there was no danger of any kind of resistance,” Grothe said, and as Uehling lay there screaming as a neighbor had testified, Edmonds reached down and cut his throat.


“That is deliberate, premeditated murder,” Grothe concluded.


With about an hour left in the morning session, Judge Arthur Mann read through the jury instructions, which explained how to consider charges, what information jurors can and can't use in deliberations, how to weigh testimony, the differences between perpetrators and those accused of aiding and abetting, and the difference between homicide and manslaughter.


Words, he said, no matter how offensive, and nonthreatening actions don't justify assault.


Mann also cautioned jurors about stating their opinions too early in the deliberations process, which can interfere with working toward a solution.


The clerk of the court then swore in the bailiff, who took charge of the jury.


After breaking for lunch, the jury began deliberations at 1:30 p.m. and went beyond 4:30 p.m., according to Carter.


They'll be back to continue deliberations on Tuesday morning.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

CLEARLAKE – This week Caltrans completed the installation of stop signs meant to help cut down on crashes at the intersection of Highway 53 and Olympic Drive in Clearlake, but the change in traffic flows resulted in a crash on Tuesday.


Phil Frisbie, a Caltrans spokesman, said on Wednesday that the agency had changed the intersection – which previously had a stop sign from Olympic onto Highway 53 – to an all-way stop.


Frisbie said the agency also installed advance warning signs and rumble strips to alert motorists of the upcoming stop.


The intersection's alterations, Frisbie said, are interim measures to improve safety and will remain in

place until traffic signals are installed.


The signals have been merged into a larger highway rehabilitation project, which will also provide wider shoulders, longer turn pockets at intersections, and repave over four miles of Highway 53 from just north of 40th Avenue to just south of Highway 20, he said.


The total project, including the intersections new traffic lights, is expected to be completed by the

fall of 2012, Frisbie said.


Area motorists are still getting used to the new signs, which appear to be catching some of them off guard.


Shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday two vehicles collided at the intersection, according to Clearlake Police Lt. Craig Clausen.


He said that one car was stopped at the intersection and was rear-ended by another vehicle that failed to make the stop and was traveling at abut 55 miles per hour at the time of the crash.


Both drivers were taken to the hospital with complaints of neck, back and face pain, Clausen said.


Caltrans urged motorists to drive with caution and slow down as they approach the intersection, and to be alert for inattentive drivers who may not notice the new stop signs.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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Kelseyville Unified's declining revenue picture. Courtesy of Kelseyville Unified School District.

 


KELSEYVILLE – Unhappy faces filled Kelseyville High School’s Student Center during a special board meeting held this week to discuss California’s budget crisis and its ill effects on Kelseyville Unified School District.


Students, parents, teachers and other Kelseyville Unified staff came to make a statement to the board – that they refuse to settle for anything less than excellence.


About 200 chairs were assembled to accommodate the crowd of concerned citizens expected at the meeting Tuesday evening, but the chairs were half-filled.


For the board and the community members who came to the meeting, the budget crisis was the main concern.


District officials had plenty of bad news to share – from potential job cuts to the fact that the district is now on a state monitoring list.


Board President Rick Winer said the board wasn't planning any action Tuesday.


After a brief introduction, Superintendent David McQueen took the floor and began a slide show presentation. The audience followed along with copies that were offered in the form of a thick packet.


The very first slide was a collage of news bits about various California schools districts’ woes. The slide noted that class prep was being cut at Ukiah Unified, where they are getting five furlough days and coaches stipends are being eliminated. In the Willits Unified School District, they're giving notice to more than 100 teachers, eliminating class size reduction as well as music and art. And the list went on.


“It is amazing – the amount of districts facing these issues,” said McQueen. “There have been a lot of school closures.”


Aside from the well-known elimination of programs, such as the cost of living fund, another factor contributing to the struggle the education system endures that was discussed was how people and businesses are leaving the state, straining California’s economy to the breaking point.


“The state has reduced instructional days and allowed schools to go back to a 175-day school year,” McQueen said.


“Since the recession began, school districts have been cut approximately $400 per student per year in revenue limit funding,” he said.


The presentation was filled with easy-to-read graphs to show the true impacts of the budget crisis and how Kelseyville Unified has come to its lowest point on its revenue scale.


McQueen then handed the microphone over to Tiffany Kemp, the district's chief financial officer, who reviewed revenue limit cuts and their effects on the district.


The first item she wanted to clarify was what “ADA” – “average daily attendance” – means.


“It’s actual days of butts in the seats,” said Kemp.


In 2003, 1,872 students were enrolled; now there’s only 1,739. Enrollment numbers are projected to continue to fall, Kemp said.


As a sample ratio, Kemp explained that if a student attends 175 days out of a 180-day school year, that generates 0.972 ADA.


As another example – not using actual figures – if the revenue limit for the school district was $6,000, the district would only get that number divided by the ADA percentage. So they would only qualify to get $5,832 – not what they needed to have to spend.


Kemp said that because the reduction in revenues from the state was simultaneous with the district’s ongoing spending, Kelseyville Unified is facing a $1.9 million ongoing deficit.


“This year and next year, we’re surviving off of one-time government funds and our reserves,” she said. “We can’t continue to function at that level.”


In fiscal year 2008-09, one-time monies reinvigorated the struggling school systems, but the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds are running out.


When McQueen spoke again, he discussed the district's future.


There are cash flow issues on top of less cash flowing, he said.


“In balancing the budget over the 2010-12 school years, we must realize that reductions need to be ongoing,” said McQueen. “The more we can reduce in ongoing expenses up front to attack the $1.9 million deficit in the next two years, the bigger impact we’ll see down the road. But, it is such a huge amount there is no way I see us tackling the whole $1.9 million.”


He further explained how Kelseyville Unified is now on a state monitoring list and may be at risk for negative certification. They may be assigned a fiscal advisor and even need county intervention if these trends do not improve.


McQueen also made it clear that Kelseyville Unified has nearly exhausted its reserve funds. One idea the district considered a total cut of transportation, but it was quickly dismissed since it would directly affect ADA.


Other methods of generating revenue are in the works. Fees will most likely be implemented for sports if sports programs are to continue. Transportation is another possible source of revenue using fees.


“The reality is, for 2010-11 we are looking at possibly laying off 11 to 13 certificated positions and 11 to 14 classified positions,” McQueen said.


Shortly after that note, the floor was opened up to the audience, who were invited to step up to the podium with a question or statement for the board.

 

 

 

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Finley resident Philip Murphy suggested the district make

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Members of a local family are recovering after a serious crash involving an alleged drunk driver in Sonoma County on Tuesday.


Carron M. Boyd, 21, her 8-month-old daughter, Allesandrya Hinojosa, and the child's father, Randal C. Hinojosa, all of Clearlake Oaks, were injured in the three-car collision, which occurred Tuesday evening, according to Officer Jonathan Sloat of the Santa Rosa office of the California Highway Patrol.


Sloat said that at approximately 6:24 p.m. Tuesday Faustino Vega-Xicohtencatl, 24, of Santa Rosa, was driving his 2004 Ford F-150 pickup westbound on Mark West Springs Road approximately one-quarter mile west of Quietwater Road at an estimated speed of more than 45 miles per hour.


Boyd was driving a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer eastbound on Mark West Springs Road with Hinojosa and their young daughter, with 45 miles per hour their reported speed, according to Sloat.


Following behind Boyd was another Lake County resident, Marty Lee Nelson, 52, of Hidden Valley Lake, driving a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt, Sloat said.


Vega-Xicohtencatl was seen by a witness attempting to pass slower-moving traffic across solid double-yellow lines and tailgating. After rounding a curve onto a short straightaway, Vega-Xicohtencatl crossed the double-yellow lines into the eastbound traffic lane directly in front of the Mercury Mountaineer, Sloat said.


Witnesses stated that the Ford F-150 and Mercury Mountaineer hit head-on instantly. Sloat said the Mercury then rotated in a counter-clockwise manner and the rear struck the adjacent hillside. The Ford rotated in a counter clockwise manner and came to rest across the eastbound traffic lane.


Nelson took evasive action by steering to the right and braking and struck miscellaneous debris in the roadway, according to Sloat.


Boyd suffered major head and body trauma and was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial, where spokesperson Katy Hillenmeyer said Thursday that Boyd remained in critical condition. Randal Hinojosa suffered minor injuries.


The infant was transported to Sutter Hospital, then transferred to Oakland Children’s Hospital by air with severe head injuries. Sloat said he thought the child was going to survive but had no specific update on her condition.


Nelson had no injuries, but Sloat said Vega-Xicohtencatl appeared extremely intoxicated and claimed that he had not been driving. He was transported to Santa Rosa Memorial for complaint of pain.


Through further investigation, Vega-Xicohtencatl was determined to be the driver. He was arrested and booked into the Sonoma County Jail on two charges of felony driving under the influence and driving unlicensed, Sloat said.


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LAKE COUNTY – Late last week, a total of more than $6.2 million in California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) was awarded for mental health services in Lake, Mendocino, Mono and San Bernardino counties.


Lake County will receive $410,000, while $187,409 was approved for Mendocino County in prevention and early intervention funds. Another $24,000 was approved for Mono County and $5.6 million was approved for San Bernardino County in innovation funds.


The California MHSOAC is a 16-member commission charged with the oversight of the Mental Health Services Act (MHSA). The MHSA was approved by California voters in 2004 as Proposition 63 to provide for expanded mental health services in California.


“Prevention and early intervention programs will transform the mental health system. We will stop requiring consumers to “fail first” before receiving services and we will move to a “help first” system,” said MHSOAC Chair Andrew Poat. “Prevention and early intervention programs are a new approach to mental health in California. This program is a win for both mental health consumers and taxpayers.”


Prevention and early intervention (PEI) funds are approved for programs that apply strategies focused on preventing mental illness from becoming severe and disabling.


“Our prevention programs will decrease expensive emergency room visits as we provide prevention services to consumers of mental health services,” Poat said. “Prevention and early intervention funds will keep kids in school, keep families together, and will avoid long term unemployment.”


Lake County plans on using their PEI funds for eight prevention and early intervention projects. Project 2 will provide one-on-one attention to children who may be facing personal and social adjustment issues.


Mendocino County will use their PEI funds for four projects. Mendocino’s Project 3 expands existing services to include isolated American Indians and Latinos. This project uses culturally appropriate senior peers who have established relationships in these communities.


The funds approved by the MHSOAC for innovation (INN) purposes will help fund county mental health programs that are novel, creative, and ingenious in their mental health approaches. These programs are also developed within communities in ways that are inclusive and representative.


“Innovation funds will help to jump start our thinking about how to improve our mental health programs,” said Poat.


Mono County will be using their innovation funds for their Peapod Innovation Program, which will test a different approach to increase the effectiveness of support groups in English and Spanish for diverse new parents countywide.


San Bernardino County plans on using their Innovation funds, for four different programs. One of these programs, the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation Program (CASE), will develop a model of comprehensive and collaborative care that facilitates a safe haven and clinical rehabilitation for exploited children who are drawn into prostitution.


The MHSOAC met on Thursday, Feb. 25, at the California Institute for Mental Health in downtown Sacramento.


This MHSOAC meeting is one of many commission meetings that take place around the state. The intent of these meetings is to conduct business where the public can have access to the commission and where the commission can bring information regarding mental health oversight and accountability to the public.


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YUBA COUNTY – On Thursday agents from the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement Task Force, Yuba-Sutter Narcotic Enforcement Team (NET-5) arrested three men for heroin trafficking in the Yuba-Sutter area and seized 3.5 pounds of heroin, $32,887 in cash and six weapons, according to the California Attorney General's Office.


Agents also arrested three other people who were sub-dealers or otherwise involved in the area's heroin trade.


All six suspects are Mexican nationals and have been placed on immigration hold.


"This is the largest heroin seizure ever made in this community," Attorney General Jerry Brown said.


He said the arrests “will significantly impact the availability of hard drugs in the Yuba-Sutter area."


Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement Task Force agents began the investigation in January and served three separate search warrants in Yuba City over a three-month period.


The investigation revealed that Juan Carlos Lopez, Joseph Valdez and Hugo Roberto Rios Martinez were "full time" heroin dealers.


Seven days a week from morning to night, the three traffickers sold the heroin, which was produced in either Mexico or South America and delivered to the area through Stockton.


From Lopez's residence, agents seized 6.64 grams of heroin, 1.5 grams of cocaine, adulterant, packaging material, scales, a .38-caliber handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun, a rifle, and $6,199.00 in drug proceeds.


From the Valdez residence, agents seized 34.27 grams of heroin, packaging material, 35 Hydrocodone pills, and $1,311.00 in drug proceeds.


From the Martinez residence, agents seized 1,554.55 grams of heroin, adulterant, packaging material, scales, 2 handguns, a rifle, and $24,377 in drug proceeds.


Valdez's 16-year-old daughter, who was at school during the service of the search warrant, was taken into protective custody by Sutter County Child Protective Services. A 10-year-old child was removed from the Martinez home and taken into protective custody.


The Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement Task Force determined the street value of the heroin to be $250,000.


All individuals were booked into the Sutter County Jail for possession for sale of heroin. Martinez and Valdez also were charged with child endangerment.


None of the six suspects have any known prior criminal record in California.


Located in the Attorney General's office, the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement is the oldest narcotic enforcement bureau in the United States.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

MENDOCINO COUNTY – Mendocino County Sheriff's officials found themselves dealing with several domestic violence-related cases around that county this week, including one in which a woman stabbed her boyfriend in self-defense and a man who rammed a car in which his girlfriend was riding.


Capt. Kurt Smallcomb reported that 47-year-old Gary O'Flanagan of Ukiah was arrested Tuesday after deputies were dispatched to the 3800 block of North State Street in Ukiah for a report of a male adult who had been stabbed in a domestic dispute.


Upon arrival, Smallcomb said deputies spoke to the victim who stated that she lived with and dated O'Flanagan.


That night they got into an argument because the victim wanted some money that O'Flanagan owed her. During the argument, O'Flanagan allegedly punched the victim in her chest, according to Smallcomb's report.


Smallcomb said the woman feared for her safety and grabbed a pair of scissors due to prior domestic issues. O'Flanagan allegedly came at her and attempted to take the scissors out of her hands but instead got cut on his hand when grabbing the scissors.


O'Flanagan was arrested for domestic violence and taken to county jail after he was medically cleared. Smallcomb said O'Flanagan's bail was set at $10,000.


Also on Tuesday, deputies arrested another Ukiah man, 28-year-old Victor Vargas, after a woman arrived at the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office to make a report of domestic violence, Smallcomb said.


The victim, Vargas' wife, told them that earlier in the day she was at her home Vargas returned. Smallcomb said she reported that they got into an argument during which Vargas allegedly slapped her in the face and arm causing injury to her arm. She went to the home of a friend who helped her get to the sheriff's office.


Deputies contacted Vargas, who Smallcomb said admitted to them having an argument, but denied assaulting his wife. Vargas was arrested for domestic violence and booked into the county jail. Vargas' bail was set at $25,000.


In the third case, at around 1 a.m. Wednesday, deputies were dispatched to the 300 block of Lake Mendocino Drive for a report of an assault with a deadly weapon, Smallcomb said.


Upon arrival, deputies spoke to the victim who stated that 19-year-old Grant Burnham of Ukiah was following his ex-girlfriend who was a passenger in a vehicle with several other people. Smallcomb said Burnham was distraught over the breakup and became enraged over her being in another vehicle with a male.


Burnham subsequently followed the vehicle several miles to a location on Lake Mendocino Drive where he rammed the vehicle and pushed it about 20 feet and then fled the area. Smallcomb said no one was injured during the incident but there was about $5,000 worth of damage to the victim's vehicle.


Burnham was arrested the following day for assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism of $400 or more and taken to county jail where his bail was set at $30,000, Smallcomb said.


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LAKE COUNTY – Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) will host another in his series of regular live town hall meetings via telephone on the evening of Tuesday, March 9.


Thompson is inviting every resident of the 1st Congressional District to join him.


Participants can ask him questions about the issues that are important to them, and the congressman will respond live for everyone to hear.


“Our country is facing many challenges right now,” said Congressman Thompson. “I know that many people are struggling to pay their bills and make ends meet. I look forward to responding to your questions and listening to your concerns. Please take this opportunity to make your voice heard by calling in to participate.”


The town hall will take place from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Pacific Time March 9.


When the call starts, dial 877-269-7289 and enter the passcode 13293.


Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – “This is the most disheartening meeting,” Lakeport Unified School District Board member Phil Kirby said Thursday evening. “It borders on nauseous.”


Kirby's comments followed the unanimous decision by the Lakeport Unified School District Board of Trustees to eliminate nine positions as part of a list of programs and services to be cut for the 2010-11 school year.


Superintendent Erin Hagberg and other board members echoed Kirby's feelings.


“There is nothing on that list that I feel good about,” Hagberg said during the brief discussion before more than a half-million dollars in cuts was approved for next year.


The meeting, which was attended by fewer than 15 people – most of them administrators and employee representatives – lacked spirit.


“Where's the alarm?” asked Clear Lake High School Principal Steve Gentry, who presides over the district's large budget committee.


In this third consecutive year of major budget reductions, Gentry said he felt the budget committee process had run its course.


“We have very few new ideas at this point, quite frankly,” he said. “Many of the options have been used.”


After reviewing the current year budget and multi-year revenue projections, district business manager Linda Slockbower had little optimism, showing the state reducing the district's budget by $5.3 million in coming years.


Referring to per-student funding amounts, Slockbower explained, “It's like saying 'here's your paycheck but you can only have 81 percent of it.'”


Employee representatives had little to say.


Local Classified Employees' Association representative Doreen McGuire commented that past years' budget cuts have sparked local protests and demonstrations, which are being held in cities throughout California, but not here.


Instead, she blamed legislators. “These cuts do have to stop because the only way to invest in our future is to invest in our kids,” she said. “We need to get in touch with our lawmakers.”


In the absence of Lakeport Unified Teachers' Association representation, middle school teacher Rob Alves thanked the board for its consideration.


He referred to the practice by other districts of laying off many teachers only to hire them back in the fall.


“I appreciate the effort that goes into the decision-making,” he said, “so that it affects as few lives as possible.”


Director of maintenance and transportation Dave Norris also put blame squarely on the state for the elimination of a bus route, telling the board, “We should not feel guilty about this.”


He pointed out that although other states nationwide require busing, in California transportation is not mandated.


Norris stated in a prepared report that Lakeport's school district receives a disproportionately small amount of money per student for busing.


As an example, he showed that Konocti Unified School District receives $2.73 per student per day for transportation in contrast to Lakeport's $1.03.


He pointed out after the meeting that in addition to flaws in the funding formula at the state level, urban districts have the advantage of alternative public transportation systems unavailable in rural areas like Lake County.


To the board, he directed his focus on teaching parents and children how to be safe when walking to school.


“There are 19 registered sex offenders living within two miles of our school,” he said.


Norris said he has had parents calling expressing concern about bus stops being located near such residences. “Now they're walking to school,” he said.


But Norris did not dispute the decision, saying he felt it is better to keep the money in the classroom.


Instead he encouraged the board to explore working with the city of Lakeport to provide crosswalks on major roads, develop “walking buses” – or groups of students walking together – and publicize Web sites that provide information about safe routes to school.


E-mail Maile Field at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .


LAKEPORT – Early on the morning of Sept. 22, 2009, three men were involved in a confrontation that turned deadly along Old Highway 53 in Clearlake.


Two of the men would walk away, while the third, they said, lay moaning in the roadway.


That third man, 25-year-old Shelby Uehling, would be found by police not long after the fight, his body facedown along the side of the road, several feet from a large pool of blood on the roadway and another pool of blood beneath his torso, coming from his slit throat. He would be declared dead at St. Helena Hospital Clearlake a short time later.


The two men who walked away from the fight – Shannon Lee Edmonds, 35, and his best friend Melvin Dale Norton, 38 – are on trial for Uehling's murder.


As the closing arguments in their trial began on Wednesday, the prosecution and defense gave their versions of that early morning fight, suggested motives and, ultimately, reminded the six-woman, six-man jury that they would be the ones to conclude the true shape of that morning's events.


“We are not the ones who decide what happens. You are. That's really what jurors do. You tell us what happened,” attorney Doug Rhoades, representing Edmonds, said during his closing arguments in the afternoon.


Motives, as well as what Norton and Edmonds knew as they walked away from Uehling – did they know the extent of his injuries, and what had been their true intent when they walked up to his car from their homes in nearby trailer parks – were debated by Art Grothe, the case's prosecutor, Rhoades and Stephen Carter, Norton's attorney.


Grothe would begin closing arguments Wednesday morning after Carter reported to the court that information he received the previous day about a possible fight between Uehling and two other individuals a day or so before his death didn't appear to be an issue.


Grothe went over the counts with the jury – including murder charges against both Edmonds and Norton, who also are both facing three charges of assault with a deadly weapon regarding the use of a knife, an asp – an extendable police-style baton – and a golf club, a special allegation against Edmonds that he personally inflicted great bodily injury and a charge against Norton that he acted as an accessory.


A week to 10 days before Uehling's murder, Patricia Campbell – Edmond's on-again, off-again girlfriend and a family friend of Norton's – met Uehling, with whom she would have a week-long relationship marked by methamphetamine use, Grothe said.


Campbell and Edmonds, who were introduced by Norton last June, were having problems and then Campbell left with Uehling for a week, he said.


Campbell had left for brief periods before during which she was involved with other men, which Grothe suggested played on Edmonds' mind.


He and Uehling would later exchange text messages, during which Edmonds called Campbell a “bag whore” who used men for drugs.


“Know what's gonna happen and what goes around comes around, Shelby. I know a lot of bad people in this town,” Edmonds wrote to Uehling.


Campbell would then dump Uehling and return to Edmonds, although she and Uehling later would exchange messages, Grothe said.


He said Uehling was no saint, and was doing meth regularly. But Grothe argued that Uehling didn't deserve to die, and he wasn't stalking Campbell as she had told Edmonds and Norton. Rather, the bigger issue, the prosecutor suggested, was the threat Uehling posed to Edmonds' relationship with Campbell.


Grothe showed the jury the asp along with the two knives Edmonds regularly carried with him, including the Fighter Plus brand double-bladed knife with which Edmonds is alleged to have dealt the final, fatal neck wound to Uehling.


Holding up the knife in its package, Grothe said, “It's for slitting people's throats, it's for opening up human bodies, it's not for working on cars,” the latter being the use Edmonds said he had for the knife on a regular basis.


Grothe replayed portions of Edmonds' recorded interview with police on Sept. 22 in which he recounted Uehling stabbing him in the arm during the fight. Another part of the interview had Clearlake Police Det. Tom Clements confronting him about lying to investigators regarding what happened during the fight.


When Clements asked him why he didn't call police, Edmonds replied, “Because I figured he was hurt pretty f---ing bad.”


Grothe alleged that Norton had approached Uehling's car, parked and running on a street off of Highway 53, and challenged him to get out and “talk like a man.”


“That's garbage,” said Grothe, suggesting to the jury that Norton instead was telling Uehling to get out and fight.


Grothe theorized that Norton hit Uehling in the back of the head with the golf club, then went around to the passenger side of the car and swung through the window, embedding the head of the golf club in the dashboard and snapping off the handle.


Showing pictures of Uehling's body and two specific marks on the torso, Grothe compared those marks with the head of the asp, which has a ball on the end. He suggested, “They match. There's nothing else that matches that.”


Grothe argued that Uehling took a heavy blow to his throat early on, rendering him unable to speak. A knife wound to his back punctured his lung, which would have started collapsing.


A neighbor reportedly heard a gasp outside of his home, and allegedly heard someone say, “I cut his throat.” That same witness testified to seeing two subjects near Uehling, kicking him.


Grothe alleged that Edmonds took three weapons with him to the fight – two knives and the asp.


At the fight's end, “He's down,” Grothe said of Uehling. “He is not moving. He's hurt bad. He is down on the ground and he is not capable of any kind of resistance at that point, and that's when Shannon Edmonds makes the decision.”


Grothe added, “Just being beat down is not good enough for Shannon Edmonds at that point. He makes the decision to slit his [Uehling's] throat and kill him.”


Defense attorneys offer alternate view


When court reconvened in the afternoon, Rhoades spent about an hour and a half offering his final arguments on the case.


Nothing that the case is a convoluted one, Rhoades said, “Shelby Uehling is dead, most apparently, from injuries inflicted by Shannon Edmonds.”


After Campbell and Uehling broke it off, it's Norton who intervened to tell Uehling that Campbell doesn't want to see him anymore. When Uehling shows up outside of her mother's home Norton tells him to leave, and when Uehling tries calling on her Campbell's phone when she's sleeping off the meth run, Norton is handed the phone by Edmonds and tells Uehling to stop calling. That call occurred hours before the final fight.


“His beef now could well have been with Mr. Norton,” said Rhoades said of Uehling.


He then asked, “Why does that that fit anything? Here's why. Where is he parked?”


When Norton headed home early on the morning of Sept. 22, he saw Uehling's car parked near the entrance to the trailer park where he lived.


Rhoades said that the marks on Uehling's chest that Grothe alleged were from the asp were not bruises but scrape marks, based on the pathologist's testimony. They were consistent with nylon straps used to secure patients on a backboard on their way to the hospital, Rhoades suggested.


He also questioned the thoroughness of the investigation, saying detectives didn't check parts of the scene for the location of any additional evidence, and noted that fingerprints lifted from the car weren't checked.


Rhoades questioned if Edmonds was the aggressor or if he was reacting to Uehling's aggression.


If Edmonds killed Uehling not with premeditation but just in reaction to the fight, “then you do not have a murder, you have a manslaughter,” said Rhoades.


He said the jury instructions will explain that they must have an “abiding conviction” of guilt. Rhoades said “abiding” is a somewhat archaic word with important meaning – it's not temporary or fleeting, but is for years to come.


“You can't go along to get along. It's not that easy here,” he said.


During his closing arguments, Carter explained that Campbell loved Edmonds before, during and after her brief tryst with Uehling.


Of Uehling, Carter aid, “Where he specifically lives in Clearlake, methamphetamine is a big problem for a lot of people there.”


After Campbell broke off her relationship with Uehling, “Shelby wouldn't accept that his meth wasn't enough to pull this girl in anymore,” said Carter.


Uehling had no good reason to be in Norton's neighborhood in the hours before his death, during which he was making “odd, weird, paranoid calls” to friends saying he had people after him, said Carter.


Norton rides his bike home, sees Uehling's car parked alongside of the road, running, with the lights out. “Creepy, isn't it?” Carter suggested.


Why didn't Norton call the police? Carter suggested that, with his previous criminal record, Norton was in danger of not being believed.


Norton confronts Uehling, who has weapons with him, including a knife in his shoe. When he reached down for a weapon, Norton hit the car with a golf club, which Carter said was done in panic.


“What if you're about to die? Would you swing the golf club? Melvin did. And what happened? It broke,” said Carter.


He said the prosecution hadn't explained the damage to the car's driver side weather stripping, but he suggested that is where the club would have hit before breaking, sending the head to embed into the brittle, older plastic dash.


Uehling got out of the car and would pull up his shirt to grab a weapon from his waist band. Carter said Edmonds “did something brave” by charging in at that point.


Carter said if Norton is to be proved an accessory to murder, the prosecution has to prove that he knew a murder had been committed.


“Melvin couldn't have known that,” said Carter, adding, “It's too dark and he couldn't see.”


Closing arguments will continue Thursday morning, to be followed by jury instructions.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

LAKEPORT – “We aren't trimming fat, we're cutting meat,” Lakeport’s school chief said of the $561,800 in budget cuts she proposed at a Tuesday night special meeting of the school board.


Lakeport Unified School District superintendent Erin Hagberg told the audience of almost 20 that the cuts would have a “crippling effect” on funding and services to students during the 2010-11 school year.


If approved, students will get a longer Thanksgiving vacation, elementary level teachers will have more students and more children will be walking to school.


Using an overhead projector to show revenue losses totaling $528,850, Hagberg explained that the combination of $300,000 in state budget cuts and $198,000 attributed to declining enrollment was largely responsible for the reductions.


A negative cost of living adjustment for employees accounted for the remaining $30,000 shortfall from this year to next.


If the cuts are approved at the regularly scheduled board meeting Thursday evening, four teachers, one principal, and an assistant day care position will be gone this fall. “It will have an impact, obviously, on kids,” Hagberg said.


Also, a fiscal services assistant would see a nearly 40-percent reduction in hours, Hagberg said. “We are already understaffed compared to every other district in the county.”


Under the proposal a bus route also will be eliminated, Hagberg said. Which route will be cut is to be determined according to safety assessments, not distance to school.


Perhaps the only popular cut would be to the school calendar, cutting the two days of the year with perhaps the poorest attendance so students wouldn’t go to school at all the week of Thanksgiving.


Other cuts would include eliminating the K-8 grade summer school program, which “directly affects kids,” in Hagberg’s words, and loss of the high school readiness program.


Hagberg explained that school districts throughout California are having similar meetings to make cuts in anticipation of a March 15 state budget deadline. To make matters worse for Lakeport’s district, Hagberg added, “We are among half the school districts in the state facing declining enrollment.”


Noting she had proposed to cut slightly more than projections require, Hagberg said these cuts amount to $200 per student. “We are hearing rumors it could be $250,” she said of the governor’s proposed budget shortfall. “I’m thinking this is a best-case scenario, not a worst-case scenario.”


Hagberg commented that the cuts proposed Tuesday would bring Lakeport district’s total for the past three years to $1.6 million in budget reductions. The 2010-11 district-wide budget will be $14 million after Thursday’s expected cuts.


Three of the teaching positions proposed for the chopping block will occur at Terrace School, which serves fourth through eighth grades. The other would be at the elementary school, where class sizes would grow to 24 students per teacher. Teacher to student ratios are worse at the district’s other campuses.


The principal position being eliminated would be that of the alternative education principal who currently administers the district’s home school program, the community day school and the alternative high school. “It will certainly have an impact on children,” Hagberg said.


Explaining her budget choices, Hagberg thanked administrators at all campuses for their thoughtful input.


“The process I’ve chosen to follow and I feel has been effective,” she said, referring to the third time the district has had to downsize, is to consult the principals to decide what is the least damaging place to cut. “We work together as a team,” she said, “to make recommendations to the board.”


Noting, “This becomes more difficult every year,” Hagberg said that although last year she was confident some teaching positions recommended for cutting would be restored, this year is different. “I’m not seeing that we will be putting those positions back.”


Board members responded to Hagberg’s proposals with few questions.


Trustee Dennis Darling expressed appreciation for the work that went into the recommendations. “It’s been hard on staff,” he said.


Board member Bob Weiss echoed Darling’s sentiment. “It’s not supposed to be personal but obviously in this small community, it is.”


Weiss added, “As hard as these decision are, it is clear it will be harder ... if we don’t make these decisions.”


Board president Tom Powers, who said he “looks forward to when this trend reverses,” referred to the personal affect the cuts will have on his family. “I have two children in this district and I know these cuts will affect them,” he said.


Transportation Director David Norris said he feels the district is “at what I consider the bare minimum for safety,” commenting, “our board will have to change its walking policy.” He also commented that the expected increase in traffic from the loss of a bus route will be “more dangerous for kids.”


Norris also said, “it works against everything that is green … (with a bus) you have one engine transporting 90 kids.”


As the board went into closed session to discuss a personnel matter, Terrace Middle School Vice Principal Andy Goodwin commented, “This is an awful time for anybody.”


The cuts, he said, “are certainly not in the best interests of the kids ... outside of kids, you start looking at people’s lives.”


E-mail Maile Field at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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