Wednesday, 24 July 2024


HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – The state Department of Fair Employment and Housing is investigating a complaint alleging that the Hidden Valley Lake Association has discriminatory rules and practices that especially affect children and families.

In December, Kent Arndt – a stay-at-home father of three and former Hidden Valley Lake Association (HVLA) employee – submitted a complaint to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), alleging discrimination under the federal Fair Housing Act.

HUD accepted Arndt's housing discrimination complaint on May 8, and referred it to the state three days later, according to agency documents.

Annemarie Billotti, a spokesperson for the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, confirmed to Lake County News that the complaint – which she called “fairly new” – was now with their agency.

Because the matter is under investigation, Billotti could not offer any specifics about the situation.

Arndt alleged that the Hidden Valley Lake Association's practices are discriminatory against familial status, with rules that are too restrictive toward anyone under age 18.

Specifically, Arndt's claim alleges that the association's rules restrict children ages 13 through 17 from using the tennis courts, and the homeowners association's rules also state that “baby sitting children on the courts is prohibited.”

Arndt, who with his wife Bonnie has three children ages 1 through 7, said he was prohibited from bringing his children with him to the tennis courts on March 22, 2008.

In addition, Arndt alleged that the association's curfew rules are too restrictive toward minors.

The association has a curfew for children under age 18 between 10 p.m. and 6 p.m., which goes beyond the county's curfew for minors, which lasts from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. but also has many exceptions, Arndt said.

Arndt's 7-year-old daughter often visits friends who live three or four blocks away, but on June 25, 2008, Arndt said association officials prohibited his daughter from returning home by herself based on the rules.

The complaint names as respondents the Hidden Valley Lake Association and Jim Johnson, the association's general manager at the time of the complaint. Johnson was succeeded late last month by interim general manager, Charles Foster.

Department of Fair Employment and Housing investigator Michelle Partee was assigned to the case May 21 and has since begun working the case to determine if the association is discriminating against a “protected group” – which includes familial status, according to state law.

Late last month a draft conciliation agreement between Arndt and the association already was submitted to both parties for their consideration.

The terms of the agreement call for:

– Immediately allowing “all common areas of the community to be open to all residents regardless of age,” with possible exceptions for limits on the use of the pool and sauna, where one must be age 14 or older to use them unless supervised by an adult;

– Within 30 days of the full execution of the agreement, amending all rules to remove specific reference to age restrictions regarding the use of amenities, such as specified hours for tennis playing for teenagers and curfew. The association also would need to provide the Department of fair Employment and Housing “with written notification of all rules that have been amended/eliminated and how the residents of the community have been notified regarding the amended rules.”

– Removing all posted community signs which reference age restrictions in the common areas and tennis courts. The association must then submit photographic proof showing the sign(s) before and after removal of language specifying age restrictions within 30 days of the full execution of the agreement.

– Posting and maintaining the Department of Fair Employment and Housing fair housing poster in the clubhouse or association community area; the poster is supposed to be “prominently displayed so as to be readily apparent to all persons seeking and/or enjoying housing accommodations.” Within 30 days of the full execution of the agreement, the association must submit a photograph showing the displayed poster.

Arndt was told that if the complaint can't be worked out through an agreement, the department will complete its investigation and issue a decision on whether there was a violation of the law.

Foster said the association board received the materials last Thursday at their meeting.

“Outside of that they're reviewing it now and we have no other comment to make,” Foster said.

Arndt has lived in Hidden Valley Lake almost seven years, and was the association's activities coordinator from 2004 through 2008. During the course of his employment with HVLA, he spent a lot of time researching state and federal rules and regulations to make sure operations were in legal compliance.

He said questions such as those he raised in his complaint aren't new – similar ones relating to children and restrictions of their use of such facilities as the pool had been broached by other individuals. Such matters, he said, were “always being discussed.”

Arndt said his concerns came to a head after he became a parent – both through guardianship and adoption – in the course of a few years. Then it became evident to him that the rules were particularly restrictive against parents and families.

In February 2006, he informed then-general manager that Rick Archbold that he believed, based on his research, that some of HVLA's age restriction rules were potentially illegal and discriminatory against children, based on fair housing laws.

He said he received no response, and a month later he filed a complaint with HUD, which he later withdrew after the agency encouraged him to try to work it out with the community leadership first.

In November of 2007, the HVLA board reportedly discussed fair housing issues and sent them to their attorney to have the rules rewritten, but they never were, said Arndt.

He and his family filed a formal complaint with the association in May of 2007. He resigned from his job with the association in February of 2008, and three months later he and Bonnie took the matter to the association board of directors, where it was tabled.

“We followed the process and it went nowhere,” he said.

Eventually, after researching the matter further, he decided to take it to the government agencies. “For two years I've tried to bring this to the place where we are now, which is, 'Let's talk about this,'” said Arndt.

Arndt said Partee, who is acting as a go-between, has been candid in telling him that if the complaint process doesn't work there are other departments and agencies that might be able to affect some change. There's also civil court.

Billotti said when there is a complaint of discrimination against a homeowners association, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing has jurisdiction.

“We only deal with discrimination complaints,” she said.

Arndt acknowledged that homeowners associations often have their own rules, which he said he understands is “part of the experience” which helps protect the association against liability. But he alleges that state and federal law puts boundaries on what homeowners associations can do.

While Hidden Valley Lake got its start in the 1960s as a community marketed toward retirees and summer residents, it's since become a community filled with families, which Arndt suggested has been a difficult transition for some people and has resulted in resentment.

Arndt believes that the rules may be contributing toward a sense of prejudice toward families, which he said isn't good for promoting Hidden Valley Lake's community spirit.

“I believe Hidden Valley Lake can be a better, more enjoyable and more friendly community if these rules are fixed,” he said.

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

LAKE COUNTY – It's graduation season, and the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” will soon be playing at high school graduation ceremonies around Lake County.

Close to 600 students are expected to be picking up their diplomas over the next week and a half at Clear Lake, Kelseyville, Lower Lake, Upper Lake and Middletown high schools.

Upper Lake will kick things off with the first graduation for the Class of 2009.

The school will celebrate commencement this Friday, June 5. The ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. on the school's football field, 675 Clover Valley Road.

Approximately 90 students – a number which includes Clover Valley Continuation High School, whose seniors graduate with Upper Lake High – are expected to graduate, according to Tami Stogner, Upper Lake High's registrar.

Upper Lake has two valedictorians this year, both Academic Decathlon standouts – Belarmino Garcia Jr. and Kyle Coleman.

Stogner said the young men have grade point averages well above 4.0; following the final grade calculations being done now, both Garcia and Coleman could have GPA in the range of 4.6.

Coleman earlier this year also received a $20,000 Horatio Alger National Scholarship, as Lake County News has reported.

Hannah Johnson will be Upper Lake's salutatorian; Johnson has a 3.94 grade point average, Stogner said.

On Friday, June 12, the rest of the county's high schools plan to hold their commencement ceremonies.

Middletown High's senior class – 134 in all – will march to graduation beginning at 7 p.m. on the school's football field. The school is located at 20932 Big Canyon Road.

The school does not give out grade point averages, but reported that it has four valedictorians – Freza Paro, William Phelps, Nicholas Reed and Kelsey Welton. Salutatorian is Anthony Correia.

In Lakeport, Clear Lake High School, graduation will begin at 7:30 p.m. June 12 at the football field, according to counselor Paul Larrea. The school is located at 350 Lange St.

Larrea said 100 students will graduate from Clear Lake High this year.

The school's valedictorian and salutatorian have been chosen, but won't be announced publicly until the school's award ceremony, planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 9, in the high school gym.

Lower Lake High School's graduation also will begin at 7:30 p.m. June 12 at the Gordon Sadler Football Field, 9430 Lake St.

Approximately 141 student will pick up diplomas at Lower Lake's graduation.

This year's valedictorian is standout student Emmalena Illia, a member of the Academic Decathlon team and the student representative on the Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees. Illia has a grade point average of 4.02.

Her colleague at the podium will be salutatorian Jamie Dawson, who has worked to receive a 3.96 grade point average. Both Dawson and Illia have been active in sports during their high school careers.

Kelseyville High's graduation will begin at 8 p.m. June 12 at the football field, 5480 Main St.

Counselor Sue Samota said 132 students will graduate from Kelseyville High this year.

Samota said the high school has two valedictorians – Jonathan Bridges, with a grade point average of 4.14, and Maripaz Lozano, whose grade point average is 4.13. Both students received straight As throughout high school.

Megan Andre is this year's salutatorian, said Samota. Andre is just a few points away from Bridges and Lozano, with a 4.11 grade point average.

Samota said the Class of 2009 will receive about $120,000 in scholarships at the high school's annual awards night, beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4, in the student center. Samota said local dignitaries will be on hand for the presentations.

Local continuation high schools also are graduating this week and next.

Intermountain Continuation in Kelseyville will hold ceremonies beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 4, at the Gard Street Campus.

Loconoma Valley Continuation High School's graduation will be held at the campus, 21256 Washington St. in Middletown, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 9.

Natural Continuation High School in Lakeport is scheduled to hold graduation at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 10, at the Marge Alakszay Center, 350 Lange St.

Lower Lake's William C. Carlé Continuation High School will hold its graduation ceremony from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10, at the campus, 9345 Winchester St.

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

UPPER LAKE – A bill to restore up to 1,400 acres of wetlands along Clear Lake's north shore received unanimous approval from the state Assembly on Monday.

AB 74, the Middle Creek and Hamilton City Flood Damage Restoration and Ecosystem Act, introduced last December by North Coast Assemblyman Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) and Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), was approved 75-0, according to Chesbro spokesman, Andrew Bird.

The bill had survived a tough Assembly Appropriations Committee last Thursday, in which hundreds of bills proposing state spending had been knocked out, as Lake County News has reported.

Bird said the bill is an authorization to spend funds from previous voter-authorized bond sales to restore Clear Lake habitat and wetlands.

The bill also would include funds for a levee project on the Sacramento River in Glenn County in Nielsen's district.

Bird said next week the Senate Rules Committee will assign AB 74 to a committee – most likely the Senate Natural Resources Committee, after which it may go to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

He said the bill probably won’t arrive at the Senate floor for a vote for at least a month.

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

LOWER LAKE – Four Santa Rosa men have been arrested in connection with an illegal marijuana grow discovered this week in Kelseyville.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that Reynaldo Damian Corrales, 29; Amador Davila Garcia, 35; Juan Amezcua Cornejo, 24; and 32-year-old Carlos Barrera Hernandez were arrested late Wednesday on felony charges of cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale.

Bauman said that a sheriff's deputy on routine patrol spotted a pic-up truck backing out of a wooded area off of Highway 29 – south of the Konocti Conservation Camp in Lower Lake – on Wednesday at about 8 p.m. He said the deputy stopped to make sure the vehicle had not crashed into the brush.

One of the four men told the deputy they had been repairing a gate on the property and were just leaving but none of the men could say who the property owner was or how they could be contacted, Bauman said.

Once other deputies arrived to assist and detain the four men, the deputies checked the wooded area to determine why the men were really there, according to Bauman.

About 100 yards into the woods from the highway, deputies located a length of irrigation hose running from a water well up a hillside, said Bauman. Following the hose about 200 yards up the hill, they located a small handmade water reservoir dug in the ground and several hundred small marijuana plants growing from a seed bed.

Bauman said when the deputies returned to the truck and confronted the men about the marijuana plants, they were told they had been shown the grow site and provided the marijuana seeds by a man from Santa Rosa.

The men also said they started the grow about a month prior and were apparently told by the man who provided the seeds that once the marijuana they were growing was harvested, they would all be paid an unspecified amount of money, Bauman said.

Bauman said all four suspects were transported and booked at the Lake County Jail on felony charges of cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale.

Each of the men are held on a $10,000 bond, however Bauman noted that immigration holds were also placed on all four by federal immigration officials.

LAKE COUNTY – Thunderstorms rolled through Lake County and much of Northern California on Wednesday, bringing hail, locally heavy rains, wind, thunder and a few lightning strikes, which is predicted to continue.

According to the National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS), scattered and numerous thunderstorms will continue rolling through Lake County and much of Northern California, particularly over higher elevations, through next Tuesday.

Temperatures are predicted to top off in the low 70s Thursday and Friday, with a slight warming trend through the weekend, when temperatures should reach closer to normal temperatures with highs in the low 80s by Monday and lows in the 50s the NWS states.

Marble-size hail fell Wednesday at times in Lakeport and other areas in county, although no damage was reported.

The public, large scale and community-based lightning detection network,, received lightning strike reports in Lake County on Thursday, although no fires have been ignited here according to Cal Fire, the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which serves and safeguards the people and protects the property and resources of California.

This same storm system ignited over 20 wildland fires in the San Bernadino National Forest area of Southern California Wednesday, according to California Fire News. The largest of those fires was the Mckinley Fire, which had grown to over 150 acres by 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The NWS forecasts a 40-percent chance of rain and thunderstorms Thursday and Friday, but decreases to a 20-percent chance on Saturday, and a slight chance on Sunday.

A slight chance of rain remains for Monday, according to the NWS, but skies will clear by Wednesday with highs in the mid-80s.

For more weather information, visit the forecast for Lake County weather on our home page.

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

CLEARLAKE – A local man the Clearlake Police Department was seeking has been arrested.

Lt. Mike Hermann reported Monday that Clearlake Police had spent two weeks looking for 35-year-old Daniel Andrew Cox, who turned himself in last Friday.

Hermann said Cox was wanted for several outstanding warrants including a local traffic warrant and a no-bail, out-of-county probation violation warrant.

Cox's legal problems also allegedly included a confrontation with an off-duty Clearlake Police officer. Hermann said Cox approached the officer, who was with his young child, and started challenging him.

Hermann said officers visited Cox's known associates in an attempt to locate him. On May 29, Cox called and turned himself in.

After his arrest, Cox was transported to the Lake County Jail and housed.

In addition to the work of the officers who were actively searching for Cox, several community members also played a vital role in the arrest.

Hermann said Cox had taken care of his no-bail warrant before his arrest. He has since been released from the Lake County Jail on the other charge.

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – The Hidden Valley Lake Association's (HVLA) board of directors has released its general manager and put an interim manager in place while an employment search is launched.

The association reported that on May 21 Jim Johnson was released from his employment agreement, which had been set to expire Dec. 31.

Succeeding Johnson is Charles Foster. Security Chief Charles Russ will be Foster’s backup, the board reported.

Foster told Lake County News that the board is now beginning to put together a package for a search for a new full-time general manager.

He anticipated that the search for a new manager will take at least a few months.

Residents with questions are urged to contact HVLA Board President Kathy Joseph at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Written messages also may be left for Joseph at the Hidden Valley Lake main office at 18174 Hidden Valley Road. Phone calls are discouraged.



LUCERNE – Lucerne photographer and artist Ron Keas captured this picture Sunday evening of May's last sunset.

Keas has been busy this week – some of his artwork of President Barack Obama was featured on the front of the Sunday New York Times.

Visit his Web site at

The Manhattan Transfer performed at Cache Creek Casino Resort on Saturday, May 30, 2009. From left, Tim Hauser, Janis Siegel, Cheryl Bentyne and Alan Paul. Photo courtesy of Cache Creek Casino Resort.

“Hey! Would you all like to come on the road with us?”

Aside to crowd by Manhattan Transfer member Alan Paul after the second standing ovation

At some point on Saturday at Cache Creek Casino Resort, during The Manhattan Transfer’s magnificent reading of their 1980 Grammy award-winning mega hit, “Birdland,” it became apparent to me that all the cats mentioned in the lyrics of the song are now in Bop Heaven. I think the last one standing was the innovative percussion pioneer Max Roach, who ascended in 2007.

It indeed seems like only recently that the Transfer sprang to the top of the charts with their gospel-inflected hit “Operator” from their self-titled album in 1975.

Now, they too have achieved a pinnacle of success that the gone-on masters they swing about have attained.

The Manhattan Transfer is comprised of Tim Hauser, Janis Siegal, Alan Paul and Cheryl Bentyne. They have been together since 1972.

The near-capacity crowd at Cache Creek’s Club 88 was thoroughly and joyfully entertained for 90 minutes. The group sprinkled its offerings with liberal doses of their varied repertoire, which includes many styles such as bop, Brazilian bossa nova, pop, jazz fusion, hard-edged New York R&B and doo-wop. You name it, they claim it.

The group’s set list included, but was not limited to, “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Route 66,” “Doodlin’,” “Java Jive,” “A Tisket, A Tasket,” “Tutu,” “Corner Pocket,” “Hear The Voices” (“Bahia De Todas As Contras”), “Groovin’,” “That’s The Way It Goes,” “The Boy From New York City,” “Soul Food To Go,” “Birdland,” “Tuxedo Junction” and “Baby Come Back To Me.”

The rich diverseness of the roots of their material is augmented by the fact that all of the members can easily swing lead on vocals. Let’s see, twice now in this piece I have purposely used “swing” rather than “sing” as the operative noun to emphasize that the group’s groove is firm entrenched in the jazz idiom and branches out from there.

Some of the brilliant vocal highlights of the members include Cheryl Bentyne’s vocals on “Doodlin’” and Janis Siegal’s stunning performance on Ella Fitzgerals’s “A Tisket, A Tasket,” complete with a wah wah trumpet solo created solely from her voice. (Cheryl Bentyne also reprised the Miles Davis trumpet solo with her voice on “Tutu.”) On the tune “Corner Pocket,” which was written by Count Basie’s guitarist Freddie Green, Alan Paul explained that the original harmony that the group has honed over the years was inspired by Basie’s sax section.

Crowd favorites included “Boy From New York City,” “Groovin’” and the doo-wop classic “Gloria” with lead by Paul and metaphysical period bass vocal by Hauser. The group left the stage to a thunderous standing ovation and returned for an encore of two songs, “Tuxedo Junction” and “Come Back To Me.” The group was onstage 90 minutes.

Club 88 is a tasty environ with a seldom seen “bar in the round” design. Early on Hauser quipped, “This is the first time we’ve played a theater with a bar in the middle.”

That prompted Siegal to kiddingly order a Manhattan which set the vibe for intimate interaction with the crowd. The venue is very listener friendly and the atmosphere of the staff very professional.

The Manhattan Transfer Band consists of Musical Director Yaron Gershovsky, keyboards and piano; Steve Hass, drums and percussion; Adam Hawley on guitar; and Gary Wicks on bass. They are a large part of the Transfer’s signature sound.

With close to 30 albums to their credit, The Manhattan Transfer is always attempting to offer up meaty fare to their listening public.

Their next album will tackle the songbook of the great Chick Corea. If you don’t have any Transfer in your collection that might be a good place to start. Then work backwards and get up to speed.

And the next time they are in these parts, check them out. You won’t regret it.

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at





LAKE COUNTY – The fifth-annual Lake County Wine Adventure, a two-day passport event, will be held July 25-26, 2009, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This year’s Lake County Wine Adventure is once again being hosted by the Lake County Winery Association.

Adventurous wine enthusiasts will have an opportunity to discover “wine with altitude” and taste the reason why Lake County – with a grape-growing history that extends back to the mid-19th century – is fast becoming known for its award-winning wines, ultra-premium winegrapes, resort-style wineries and friendly tasting rooms.

Throughout the weekend, “wine adventurers” will taste wines from five of Lake County’s six distinct viticulture areas (AVAs) as they visit participating wineries, including: Ceago Vinegarden and Tulip Hill Winery in Nice; Brassfield Estate Winery in High Valley; Shannon Ridge Vineyards & Winery, High Valley Vineyard, and Noggle Vineyards & Winery in Clearlake Oaks; Villa La Brenta in Clearlake; Gregory Graham Winery, Ployez Winery, Terrill Cellars, and Six Sigma Ranch, Vineyards & Winery in Lower Lake; Langtry Estate & Vineyards and Off the Vine at Twin Pine Casino in Middletown; Moore Family Winery on Cobb Mountain; Kelseyville Wine Co./Dusinberre Cellars, Rosa d’Oro Vineyards, Steele Wines, Inc., and Wildhurst Vineyards in Kelseyville. Shed Horn Cellars, Sol Rouge Vineyard & Winery, and Zoom Wines will be offered at Lake County Wine Studio, a multi-winery tasting room and wine bar located in the town of Upper Lake; Bell Hill vineyards will be offered at Focused on Wine, a wine bar located in downtown Kelseyville.

Adventure Tickets may be purchased online at for $30 each. Each ticket entitles the holder to wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres at each winery, as well as a logo wine glass, winetasting booklet, and winery map. Several of the wineries also will offer barrel tastings, winery tours and entertainment.

Event-goers may leave their Adventure Tickets with the last winery they visit to be entered into a raffle for several prizes.

Event organizers promote responsible hospitality and encourage all participants to designate a driver. For more information, call (800) 595-WINE, (707) 355-2762, or visit .

Lake County is part of the North Coast AVA, which also encompasses Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. Within Lake County, five other AVAs exist – Clear Lake AVA, Benmore Valley AVA, Guenoc AVA, and the recently approved Red Hills AVA and High Valley AVA.

For those visiting from outside of the area, contact the Lake County Visitor Information Center at 800-525-3743 or .

The new Twin Pine Casino & Hotel is celebrating its grand opening June 4, through 7, 2009. Courtesy photo.


MIDDLETOWN – This week the county's largest tribal casino will celebrate its official grand opening.

The newly expanded Twin Pine Casino & Hotel is a dramatic and ambitious project that tribal officials hope will draw visitors not just from around Lake County but from neighboring Napa and Sonoma, and which will partner with local wineries to make the area a wine-themed destination.

Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians spent $42.5 million on the new 107,000-square-foot casino and hotel, which marks its grand opening this week, from June 4 through 7.

The celebration includes two free shows by comedian Sinbad, 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 4 and Friday, June 5, and more than $60,000 in prize giveaways over the four-day period.

The casino opened last Thanksgiving, with the hotel opening in March, said marketing director Phil Davis. The project, which includes the Manzanita Restaurant and Grapevine Bar & Lounge, took 18 months to complete.

There currently are 12 card tables and 520 gaming machines on the floor, said Davis, with plans to raise the number of machines to more than 600 in the future.

The 49,000-square-foot casino is open 24 hours, seven days a week. The hotel, event center and office comprises the rest of the new square footage.

With the expansion completed, Twin Pine now becomes the largest gaming facility in Lake County, about 14,000 square feet larger than the casino and hotel at Robinson Rancheria Resort & Casino in Nice.

Debra Sommerfield, Lake County's deputy administrative officer for economic development, said the county is in negotiations with Twin Pine to pay transient occupancy – or bed – tax on the hotel.

She said Robinson Rancheria and Konocti Vista casinos currently have agreements with the county to make quarterly payments to the county in exchange for economic development and tourism promotion services. Konocti Vista pays $20,000 annually, and Robinson Rancheria $36,000 each year.

Twin Pine's new casino has a larger-than-life feel. Arching over the the gaming floor are massive exposed beams coupled with enormous grape-cluster chandeliers. There's a functioning water wheel as well as a large wooden storage tank. Wine barrels adorn the building, which also features intricate brick and woodwork. The large rounded entryway is meant to simulate the inside of a giant wine tank, said Davis.

Emphasizing its wine theme, one of the important additions to the casino's offerings is a wine bar, which opened last week. There JoAnn Schwartz – who recently came over from Langtry Estate and Vineyard where she worked as tasting room manager – will put on wine tastings and educate visitors about the surrounding wine regions.

Langtry also is producing for Twin Pine its own labeled vintages – a 2007 Chardonnay and 2006 Petite Sirah.

Davis said it's the only casino with a wine theme, and they're hoping to partner with local wineries to promote the region. “We're definitely in the wine business,” he said.

He noted the casino also has a great location to draw visitors from all over the North Coast and elsewhere.

Over at the three-story hotel, there are 60 nonsmoking rooms, including three elegant two-room suites with dining areas and kitchenettes; the suites are large enough to host a few families at once. All of the rooms have free Internet access, refrigerators, safes, in-room movies and video games for children. Even with the casino next door, the building has been soundproofed so that no sound from the gaming floor filters through.

The hotel also has artistic touches created by tribal members, such as photos of Pomo baskets produced and framed by Tribal Vice Chair Mike Nitka.

The casino, hotel and the 15,000-square-foot events center – the latter of which is still under renovation – take up about eight acres of the 110-acre Middletown Rancheria, which was formed in 1906, said Nitka. The tribe currently has 99 adults members and 77 children.



The new casino has 520 gaming machines in a 49,000-square-foot space. The hotel and offices bring up the new facility's size to 107,000 square feet. Courtesy photo.



Agreement with Connecticut tribe creates new casino

Nitka said the tribe is very proud of the new project has created 70 jobs, bringing the casino's total job count to about 270, making it one of the south county's largest employers.

The original 15,000-square-foot tent casino was opened in 1994 and named for a twin pine found on the property that tribal members took as a symbol of strength.

Nitka said the tribe decided about five years ago that it wanted to build the new casino and hotel. It had access to bond funding, but Nitka said the tribe was against going that route.

Instead, they went to a tribal finance conference in Las Vegas several years ago, and met representatives from the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut, which owns the 300,000-square-foot Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, Conn., and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Penn.

The Mohegan Tribe agreed to underwrite Middletown Rancheria's project, essentially guaranteeing part of the financing, said Nitka. By forming that funding partnership instead of using the bond funding, Nitka said the tribe lessened its loan repayments by 14 years.

There are more plans ahead, said Nitka.

Middletown Rancheria will have an option in two and a half years to refinance, at which time it could increase the number of rooms in its hotel or even add other amenities such as a theater or bowling alley.

What must come first, however, is a parking structure, said Nitka, which would be part of the project's phase two.

He said if the community sees a parking garage go up, they'll know “the other shoe is about to drop.”

Casino officials say they're getting off to a great start.

Davis said the hotel's occupancy has ranged between 50 and 80 percent, far above the 30-percent rate expected for new facilities.

The casino also is doing well, said Davis.

“Even though the economy is so bad, it's the best year we've ever had,” he said, noting an especially strong January and February.

The tribe is taking it slow, knowing it has big mortgage payments ahead of it. But Nitka said they're continuing to provide health and educational services to tribal members.

They've also continued a campaign of community giving, donating more than $100,000 to individuals and groups in the last few years. Last year alone they made $50,000 in donations.

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




One of the hotel's three large deluxe suites. Courtesy photo.

LAKEPORT – A special local commemoration for the 65th anniversary of the D-Day invasion at Normandy will be held on Saturday, June 6.

The public is invited to the 11 a.m. ceremony, which will take place at the Pearl Harbor Memorial Flag Mast at Library Park in Lakeport.

D-Day – June 6, 1944 – was part of the largest military invasion in history. On that day, the Allied forces landed in France to take back Europe from the Nazis and their allies.

The Allied forces invaded by air and ground from June 4 through 14, 1944.

Veterans of the D-Day launching at Omaha or Utah beaches and support groups afloat or in the air will be honored on June 6.

Guest Speaker will be Bob Tucker of Clearlake, a World War II veteran.

Various veterans groups are seeking any survivors of the D-Day launchings, who are encouraged to come forward and be honored. Veterans of D-Day wanting to participate can contact the Lake County Veterans Service Office, 707-263-2384.

Family members who would like to participate of behalf of their loved ones are also encouraged to attend.

Upcoming Calendar

07.24.2024 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm
ReCoverCA Homebuyer Assistance Workshop
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.10.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.17.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.24.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile

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Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



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