Sunday, 21 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – Proposed cuts in the governor's budget have raised concerns about the possible impacts on caregivers and recipients in the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program.

As the state's fiscal crisis has deepened over the last several years, social services programs – including IHSS – have been suggested for cuts by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and this year is no different.

In his January budget, Schwarzenegger proposed capping the state's share of IHSS workers' compensation, which the California Budget Project estimated could cost the state's 370,000 IHSS workers $1.2 billion between this coming June and June 2011.

The report stated that Lake County's estimated 1,560 IHSS workers could lose more then $2.6 million

in that one-year period, a number that's more than half a million dollars higher than a local Social Services official believes it could be.

The California Budget Project reported that 450,000 low-income seniors and those with disabilities receive services through the IHSS program.

Because of the care they receive – help with dressing and bathing, house keeping, meal preparation, shopping and other domestic tasks – IHSS care recipients are able to remain in their homes.

The federal government pays 61.6 percent of IHSS costs, the state pays 25 percent and counties pay 13.4 percent, the California Budget Project reported.

In February 2009 the state Legislature capped the state cost of IHSS workers' wages and benefits at $10.10 per hour, including $9.50 an hour in pay and $0.60 an hour in benefits, but the California Budget Project reported that a federal district court has issued an injunction to stop the implementation of that plan.

Schwarzenegger's recent plan, which would take effect June 1 if approved, proposes to go deeper, capping the state's IHSS contribution at the California minimum wage level of $8 plus $0.60 an hour for benefits.

Forty-five of California's 58 counties – including Lake – pay combined wages and benefits above the $8.60 level, according to the report. The highest compensation in the state is $14.84 an hour in Santa Clara County, while the lowest is minimum wage, found in several counties including Colusa, Humboldt and Lassen counties.

Carol Huchingson, director of Lake County Social Services, said Lake County currently pays $8.75 an hour in wages, plus $0.60 for benefits, for a total of $9.35 hourly.

Huchingson said she found the California Budget Project estimate of $2.6 million in lost compensation for local IHSS workers over the coming year to be high.

She estimated it would actually be just under $2 million, a number based on her estimate of 2.6 million recipient hours for the coming fiscal year.

She said the governor also has proposed reducing the eligibility for IHSS recipients based on the level of disability.

However, she said many of those proposals – like the previous cap on wages – were stopped by litigation.

Even if the new proposals moved forward, she said advocacy groups typically are the next line of defense and will take the proposals to court.

Still, the state's fiscal crisis adds to the uncertainty. “I do question at what point does the whole thing just go over the top because the state has no money,” said Huchingson, who added that she doesn't believe that the wage cuts will be upheld this year.

Tristan Brown, political director for California United Homecare Workers – the union that represents local IHSS caregivers – is concerned that the threat of cuts remains very real.

He said there also have been suggestions that IHSS be completely eliminated – which met opposition in the Legislature – or that an 80-percent cut in “nonmedical” services be instituted. Such services include shopping, housekeeping and other important kinds of care.

He called that proposal a “devastatingly massive cut.”

Likewise, Brown said the suggestion that assessments of disabled clients be used to limit eligibility will hurt people in need.

With the state looking at a huge deficit, Brown thinks that when the governor's May revise comes out IHSS will still be facing cuts. That's because he said priorities appear to be shifting elsewhere; he pointed to a stand being taken by legislators around education money.

The federal portion of IHSS – at nearly 62 percent – is the highest it's ever been, and Brown suggested that any program that brings that kind of federal money into counties shouldn't be on the chopping block. Cutting IHSS could cause the state to lose that money altogether, he added.

Brown said there's a general sense in Sacramento that people are bracing for the cuts to come.

“Any cut to this program is devastating to people,” he said, adding that the union believes that the proposals for scaling back services are a matter of life and death for some IHSS recipients.

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 and on Facebook at .

ANDERSON SPRINGS – A 3.3-magnitude earthquake rolled through Anderson Springs and areas of Cobb Mountain late Tuesday evening.

The quake, reported at 11:02 p.m., occurred at a depth of less than one mile, according to the US Geological Survey.

It was centered two miles west southwest of Anderson Springs, five miles east southeast of The Geysers and five miles south of Cobb, the agency reported.

The US Geological Survey received shake reports from Middletown, Sunnyvale, Durham and San Jose.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney reported being able to hear the quake before it hit. He said it was a shaking and rolling type of temblor which didn't get as big as he expected.

The 3.3-magnitude quake was followed about a minute later by a 1.8-magnitude aftershock, centered in the same location, US Geological Survey records showed. At 11:04 p.m., a 1.4-magnitude temblor occurred two miles west southwest of Anderson Springs and five miles east southeast of The Geysers.

A 3.1-magnitude earthquake occurred near The Geyser geothermal steamfield on April 10, as Lake County News has reported.

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 and on Facebook at .

An Oakland lumber company has reached an agreement to purchase the Oakland branch of Piedmont Lumber.

Economy Lumber Co., founded in 1935, has purchased the Oakland Piedmont store and lumberyard, which is about the size of a city block and has seven employees, said John Bacon Jr., Economy Lumber's president.

Bacon said he approached Piedmont about buying the store. “This is the one that was available.”

He said the deal became effective March 22 following about three weeks of negotiations.

“We're very excited about it,” Bacon said. “It will work great for us.”

The store was purchased for cash and other considerations, but Economy Lumber officials would not disclose a purchase price.

Piedmont Lumber has several Bay Area stores as well as a store in Lakeport, located at 2465 S. Main St.

“The official word is that Piedmont continues to explore all of its options,” Piedmont spokesman James Simmons told Lake County News on Monday.

Over the past month and a half Piedmont has been hit by several challenges, including judicial foreclosures on its properties – including the Lakeport store – a federal lawsuit over benefits for union-represented employees, a fire that destroyed its Walnut Creek store on March 13 and the closure of its Calpella truss plant on March 31, as Lake County News has reported.

The inventory at the Calpella facility was moved to the Lakeport store, which Simmons said previously will remain in operation.

The Walnut Creek store also had been considered for purchase. Bacon said he went out to look at that property on March 12, the day before it burned. “That ended the conversations.”

Bacon said the Oakland store is a great, well-run operation, and will bring the total number of Economy Lumber stores to four, including the company's seven-acre facility on Interstate 880.

He said the entire staff will be retained, and the only thing that will change is the store's name.

Bacon said it was a pleasure dealing with Piedmont owner Bill Myer and Ed Smith, the company's chief financial officer.

“They've done what they said they were going to do,” Bacon said. “It was an easy transition.”

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 and on Facebook at .

NICE – On Wednesday a Lake County jury acquitted a Northshore man in an elder theft case.

Leland Buckmaster of Nice was found not guilty of five theft, contracting related and elder theft counts filed by the Lake County District Attorney’s Office.

Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson charged Buckmaster with theft from an elder, grand theft, embezzlement, contracting without a license and charging in excess of $1,000 for a deposit on a contract, according to a statement from Buckmaster's attorney, Doug Rhoades.

Following two days of testimony, the jury took only 45 minutes to return not guilty verdicts on all counts, Rhoades said.

The jury foreperson, who did not authorize use of a name, stated the case was such that no proof of the charges sufficient for a guilty verdict had been provided by the prosecution.

“This case should never have been filed or prosecuted” was the opinion of the foreperson.

Buckmaster had been charged based on an agreement to provide a water filtration system which was not completed in a timely manner.

After the not guilty verdicts, the defendant thanked the jurors as they exited the courtroom.

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LAKE COUNTY – One of the best ways to gain a better understanding about health needs and available resources in a community is to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment.

A group of local stakeholders has come together to conduct a countywide needs assessment in Lake County, and is working with a consultant firm, Barbara Aved Associates.

The goal is to create a report by fall 2010 that identifies key health needs and barriers to receiving services, and is useful for prioritizing and planning programs and services that improve the quality of life in Lake County.

A wide variety of data will be collected during the assessment process. These include commonly used measures of population health status, such as the incidence of certain diseases and death rates, and social and economic variables that have been shown to affect a person’s health, including income,

education, employment, and even literacy, language and culture.

To ensure the community has an opportunity to participate, surveys, interviews and focus groups will be held throughout the county over the next couple of months.

The Healthy Lake County Questionnaire is a general survey that is available for Lake County residents to provide their opinions about health needs and recommendations.

Printed in English and Spanish on light blue paper, the survey has been placed in a variety of places in the county (for example, libraries, coffee shops, campuses) and will also be distributed at health fairs, casinos, churches, etc.

People can also take the survey online by going to .

Both the online and paper surveys will be available from April 9 until May 26.

Co-workers, clients, customers, neighbors and friends, and other residents are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to guide policymakers in improving health in Lake County by voicing their opinions in the Healthy Lake County Questionnaire.

For further information, please call 707-263-1090.

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MENDOCINO COUNTY – A Lakeport man has pleaded guilty to several felonies in connection to a series of bank robberies he is alleged to have committed around the North Coast last spring.

On Monday, as his trial was scheduled to get under way, Rick William Robison, 56, pleaded guilty to seven charges, according to a report from the office of Mendocino County District Attorney Meredith Lintott.

In Judge Rick Henderson's court Robison pleaded guilty to robbing Ukiah's Bank of America on March 24, 2009; a March 31, 2009, robbery at the Willits Chase Bank; an attempted robbery at Safeway in Willits on April 11, 2009; a robbery at the Hopland branch of the Savings Bank of Mendocino on May 20; and three burglaries in connection with the robberies of those banks.

The Mendocino County District Attorney's Office said that Robison also admitted all of the special allegations against him, including that he had suffered a prior strike for a bank robbery in Marin County in 2000; that he was charged with a "serious felony" with the prior "serious felony" conviction; and he had been to prison and not remained free from prison custody for a period of five years, based on going to prison for the Marin bank robbery as well as a felony reckless evading.

He's due in Mendocino County's Department A for judgment and sentencing on June 4.

The case against him was based on an extensive multi-agency investigation by the Ukiah Police Department, Mendocino County Sheriff's Office and Willits Police Department, officials reported.

In all but the Hopland robbery, the amount taken was under $2,000. Hopland, where Robison was apprehended, briefly netted him close to $6,000, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

Robison was cooperative with law enforcement, providing statements to each agency. Detectives from both Sonoma and Napa counties came and questioned him about similar robberies in their jurisdictions.

Currently, Robison has a $100,000 warrant out of Napa County for a robbery from the Safeway there. After sentencing, he, most likely, will be taken to Napa to answer to those charges.

In carrying out the bank robberies Robison had a variety of things that he would use in order to disguise himself, according to the investigation.

Sometimes he had makeup and a cowboy's hat. Other times he would wear sunglasses and a baseball cap. Robison often wore boots that contained women's shoes that were cut in half, in order to make himself appear taller. He referred to these as "elevators."

When law enforcement was in pursuit, after the Savings Bank robbery, he was changing his clothes while he fled from the crime.

Though Robison never was armed, he would always use a demand note that stated he was. On one occasion, he referred to a friend that had a gun trained on the clerk. There was no such friend, but he allegedly caused fear in each of the teller's that he robbed.

Robison's plea constitutes three strikes, though it does not subject him to the state's Three Strike sentencing law, district attorney's officials reported. Those 25-to-life provisions would be available should Robison be convicted of any subsequent felony in the future.

Depending on some arguments to be made at sentencing, Robison's exposure in state prison is approximately 21 years, four months. He is not eligible for probation because he admitted his prior strike, the Marin robbery. His prison time will be served with only 15 percent credits, meaning that he will serve 85 percent of any sentence.

Prosecutor Steve Jackson handled the case, and public defender Linda Thompson represented Robison.

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CLEARLAKE – No doubt you’ve heard by now that Census 2010 is well under way – Census Day was April 1 – and that if you don’t return a questionnaire for your residence by the end of April, you can expect a visit from a census worker to be sure that you and the rest of your household are properly counted, per Article I of the U.S. Constitution.

And no doubt you’ve heard that the US Census count drives not only how many congressional and state representatives we have working in our behalf but the distribution of some $400 billion a year for important programs in education, health care, transportation and other areas that define our quality of life.

You’ve stayed on top of how Lake County’s budgets were cut this last decade and want to do your part to be sure it gets no worse – but what if you never received a form? Well, grab your coat or grab your phone – your choice!

If you’re not busy this Saturday, April 17, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., you can join Lake County’s March to the Mailbox at Austin Park in Clearlake.

Pick up a form or get help completing it from a sworn census worker, score some census memorabilia, munch down on a tasty hot dog and groove to the sweet sounds of the Lower Lake Jazz Band – all courtesy of Lake County’s own Complete Count Committee.

Other community organizations will be there to provide you with information you can use and, starting about noon, you can dialogue with local dignitaries and census representatives about the importance of Census 2010 and how it was conducted.

Not your cup of tea? Then grab your phone and call the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance line. One quick phone call and a Census 2010 form will be mailed to your residence or post office box – again, your choice – so that you can complete it in the privacy of your own home.

Whichever way works best for you – if you haven’t completed a Census 2010 Questionnaire, now is the time to do it. It’s fast, it’s easy and it’s important to how our next decade here in Lake County “shapes up.”

Stand up for your community – be counted!

For more information about the March to the Mailbox event, call Melissa Swanson at 707-994-8201 extension 106.

To request a new form – mailed to your home or post office box – call 1-866-872-6868 (English), 1-866-928-2010 (Spanish), 1-866-783-2010 (TDD) or another of the language-specific lines posted at

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CLEARLAKE – The third annual “Clean Up Clearlake” event it set to take place this year on Sunday, April 25.

Inspired by Cathy Thorburn-Wilson and the Keep California Beautiful Campaign, members of the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Development Center, the city of Clearlake, and members of the community are getting together for the one day event to pick up trash, sweep sidewalks, pull small weeds, paint and wash down street signs.

Business owners in Clearlake are asked to take care of their businesses before the event.

On Sunday, April 25, our crew of volunteers will cover properties along Lakeshore and Olympic that still needs some work.

This is the third year that this program has been organized.

The groups supporting the event thank all who have helped in the past and encourage the community to volunteer.

For more information on how you can become more involved in your community, call the Clear Lake Chamber at 707-994-3600.

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LAKE COUNTY – Candidates in this year's race for the office of district attorney will appear in the second televised debate of the election season this Thursday, April 15.

Don Anderson, Jon Hopkins and Doug Rhoades will take part in the debate beginning at 7 p.m. at the Calpine Visitor Center, 15500 Central Park Road, Middletown.

The debate is expected to last an hour and a half.

The candidates previously debated in Lakeport on March 30. That debate is being rebroadcast on TV8 and also is available for viewing here: .

The debates are sponsored by Lake County News, the Lake County Chamber of Commerce and Calpine.

McKenzie Paine of Velocity Video Online,, will record the Thursday debate for broadcast on TV8.

The public is invited to submit questions to Lake County News via e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; fax, 707-274-8650; mail, P.O. Box 305, Lakeport, CA 95453-0305; or via Lake County News' Facebook page at

Questions also may be submitted to the Lake County Chamber via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; fax, 707-263-5194; mail, P.O. Box 295, Lakeport, CA 95453; or drop them off at the chamber office, 875 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport. The chamber can be reached by telephone at 707-263-5092.

The format used for the debates will put the same questions to all candidates, so as much as possible questions should be broadly applicable.

A small number of questions will be taken via note cards at the debates themselves.

Questions about the debates may be directed to debate moderator Elizabeth Larson, 707-274-9904, or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – A teenage driver suffered major injuries on Monday morning when she was broadsided while pulling out from a stop sign near Hidden Valley Lake.

The crash that injured the 16-year-old female – and also left her 17-year-old passenger with minor injuries – occurred at around 8:30 a.m. Monday in rainy conditions, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay. Neither of the teens were identified due to their minor status.

Tanguay said the teen driver, in a 1994 Honda Accord, was at the stop sign on Hartmann Road at Highway 29 when she pulled out in an attempt to turn left.

Thomas Lamburth, 35, of Middletown was driving a 2007 Ford F-350 northbound on Highway 29, approaching the intersection, when the Honda Accord pulled out in Lamburth's path, Tanguay said.

Tanguay said Lamburth was unable to avoid a collision, with the front of his truck hitting the Accord's driver's side.

South Lake County Fire Protection District and CHP responded to the scene. Both vehicles sustained major damage, and Tanguay said the Accord's driver had to be extricated from the vehicle before she was taken by ground ambulance to St. Helena Hospital Clearlake, where she was treated for major injuries.

Due to the weather conditions, emergency personnel had been uncertain that they could safely fly the young woman out to the hospital, Tanguay said.

The teenage passenger also was injured, but Lamburth was not, Tanguay added.

Highway 29 remained open during the course of the investigation. Tanguay said CHP Officer Brian Engle is the lead investigator on the incident.

The report noted that Lamburth and both teens were wearing their safety belts.

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 and on Facebook at .

LAKE COUNTY – Members of a family whose vehicle was hit as they were traveling to the airport last Friday are continuing to recover after sustaining serious injuries and losing one of their relatives to the crash.

The two-car, head-on collision outside of Nice last Friday took the life of Sandra K. Thomas, 65, of Noblesville, Ind., injured her husband, James, 64, as well as their daughter, Sarah Noguera, 33, of Ukiah, and Noguera's two young children and her husband, Adonis Noguera, 37, as Lake County News has reported.

Matt Thomas, James and Sandra Thomas' son and Sarah Noguera's brother, has flown out to California to take care of his family, which he said is doing OK and is on the mend. His sister, father and young nephew have all undergone surgeries to address their injuries.

Sarah Noguera was driving her parents to the Sacramento airport following a visit, according to family friends. The Thomases were scheduled to fly home to Indiana on Saturday.

Along the way, just outside of the town of Nice, Noguera's 2001 Ford Escape was hit by a Dodge Caravan driven by Maria Prado, 47, of Clearlake, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Prado's minivan had gone off the highway and up an embankment before veering back across the roadway and hitting Noguera's vehicle. The CHP is continuing to investigate the crash's cause, but a preliminary report indicated that alcohol and drugs do not appear to be factors.

James Thomas and Sarah Noguera both were flown by REACH Air Ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

On Monday, hospital spokesperson Katy Hillenmeyer said James Thomas was in critical condition and Sarah Noguera was in serious condition.

Adonis Noguera and the Nogueras' 5-year-old daughter were treated at Sutter Lakeside Hospital for moderate injuries, while the couple's 4-year-old son was flown by Cal Star air ambulance to Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland for treatment of major injuries.

Friends and neighbors of the couple are mourning the death of Sandra Thomas, who they remembered as a kind, generous woman, a retired elementary school teacher who survived breast cancer and enjoyed traveling with her husband.

Velda Boenitz, who got the news of the crash over the weekend, called it “unreal.”

Randy Gerber has been a neighbor of the Thomases for many years, and attends the same church. He said the couple lived on a seven-acre property in Noblesville, with is about a half-hour drive north of Indianapolis.

Gerber said Sarah Noguera had relocated to Ukiah about a year ago. She's the general manager of Ukiah's Hampton Inn, while her husband is an accomplished ceramics artist.

Gerber said the Thomases were in California for a visit with their daughter. They had been looking forward to enjoying their retirement and traveling more.

Sandra Thomas was a retired second grade teacher who was learning about falconry from her husband, Gerber said.

“They'd do anything for you,” he said. “Everybody loves them.”

Gerber got the news about Sandra Thomas' death the morning after the crash. Right now, he said, friends and neighbors are pitching in to help the family however they can.

“She'll definitely be missed,” he said of his neighbor and friend.

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 and on Facebook at .

MENDOCINO COUNTY – Two Mendocino animal control officers responding to a report of vicious pit bull dogs chasing people last week were themselves victims of an attack by the animals, one of which was killed.

Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that last Friday at 11 a.m. Mendocino County Sheriff's Dispatch Center received a 911 telephone call regarding vicious pit dogs chasing people in the area of Laughlin Way and North State Street in Redwood Valley.

Senior Animal Control Officer George Hodgson and Torsten Werner, a reserve officer with the agency, responded to the location and encountered two blue nose pit bulls behind the Blacklocks Building in Redwood Valley.

Smallcomb said the two dogs immediately attacked Hodgson and Werner. Werner was injured when he was bitten on the hands and in the groin area.

Hodgson had to use his service weapon and strike one of the pit bulls to prevent any further injury to either officers or the people in the area, Smallcomb said. The second dog was captured and taken to the Mendocino County Animal Shelter.

Werner was transported to Ukiah Valley Medical Center for dog bite injuries. He was treated at the hospital and eventually released, Smallcomb said.

Numerous neighbors in the area were frightened by the animals and were in fear of their safety, Smallcomb said. Several witnesses advised that if the officers had not responded they would have had to shoot the dogs.

Smallcomb said it was the first time in nine years that Hodgson had to use his authorized duty weapon to incapacitate a vicious dog.

He said Hodgson has been employed as a animal control officer for Mendocino County for the past nine years. He recently was brought in to conduct an investigation into a Lake County Animal Care and Control officer's horse neglect case, as Lake County News has reported.

Werner is a reserve animal control officer for the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office. Smallcomb said Werner has volunteered over 250 hours.

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07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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