Saturday, 20 July 2024


Customers crowd into the gas station Thursday afternoon. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKEPORT – What started out as a customer appreciation promotion at a Lakeport gas station ended with traffic gridlock and public safety concerns.

On Thursday, Tower Mart on Lakeport Boulevard began selling regular unleaded gasoline for $1.99 per gallon, with discounts for other grades of gas as well, except for diesel, which remained at $4.29 per gallon.

Tower Mart Regional Manager Walt Huth said he found out from the corporate offices Thursday morning that the reduced gas was being offered beginning at noon as part of a special promotion.

At about 12:01 p.m., Lakeport Police started receiving a deluge of calls, said Sgt. Kevin Odom of Lakeport Police.

Over the next few hours, callers reported a massive traffic jam at Highway 29's Todd Road exit and down Lakeport Boulevard, said Lt. Brad Rasmussen. There also were reports of irate people – some of them getting ready to fight.

Lakeport Unified School District's transportation supervisor called to express concern about school buses being able to get through town between 2:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., said Rasmussen.

Odom and Officer Norm Taylor initially were sent out to investigate the situation, and found traffic was lined up from the station down Lakeport Boulevard to Main Street, Rasmussen said.

Both northbound and southbound off ramps were backed up with traffic almost to the highway, said Rasmussen. At one point, drivers were backing down the off ramps or blocking intersections. Gas station clerks were out near the road beckoning divers into the business.

“We discovered they had not done any planning for this,” said Rasmussen, who added the promotion was supposed to go on for four days.

A California Highway Patrol sergeant and a Lakeport Public Works superintendent responded to the scene along with Lakeport Police. Rasmussen said they quickly became concerned that if the promotion went on until 5 p.m. as planned, the public safety concerns would only mount.

Rasmussen said the clogged streets caused delays for people trying to get to other businesses in the area and to Mendocino College's Lake Center on Parallel Drive.

Across the street, McDonald's owner John Norcio said that he did not feel that his lunchtime business had been adversely effected. His staff had begun taking orders from drivers waiting in the backup and had runners delivering food directly to the cars.

Rasmussen spoke to Lakeport City Attorney Steve Brookes about legal concerns before asking the station to shut the promotion down until he could meet with city officials to form a plan.

Police didn't want to harm the station's business but their concerns about safety were the primary issue, Rasmussen explained.

Store manager Debbie Bottorff said the sale shut down about 1:30 p.m.

Rasmussen said police helped control traffic around the gas station. Anyone still in line when the shutdown was called were allowed to purchase gas. By the time police left the area it was nearly 3 p.m.

People were still busily stopping into the station all afternoon.

Bottorff said sales figures for the sales period were not available Thursday afternoon. She estimated that on a normal day the station pumps a total of 2,600 gallons.

Tower Mart offered the reduced gas at seven other areas around the state, including Lincoln and Lathrop. In Lathrop, the resulting traffic jams also led to a shutdown over public safety concerns, according to media reports.

Rasmussen said he had asked Huth to meet with city officials Friday morning to go over a plan for future reduced gas sales, and Huth agreed, although later in the day he changed his mind and canceled.

Huth indicated that the Lakeport station would still offer some gas discounts in the coming days, with prices expected to be set at $3.29 through the weekend.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

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




Traffic was lined up down the highway off ramp. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The line of vehicles stretched down to Main Street. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The prices at the station haven't been seen in a long time. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



From left, Julie Price, Bruce McCracken and Juan Ortega with one of Lake County Waste Solutions' new split body trucks for collecting garbage and recyclables. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKEPORT – Thinking green, living green and developing greener technologies and business models is on a lot of peoples' minds these days. {sidebar id=94}

Some of the most original work going on to make lives greener isn't just going on in think tanks or startup companies; if you want to see the front line of green, you have no farther to go than a local garbage and recycling center.

Lake County Waste Solutions has a franchise agreement with Lake County, and collects trash, recyclables and greenwaste in all unincorporated areas of the county except Middletown, Cobb and the Clear Lake Riviera. They also have the trash collection agreement for the city of Clearlake and for Ukiah.

Bruce McCracken and two partners bought the company, formerly known as Timberline, in September 2007. Before becoming a part owner, McCracken had been involved with managing the company's local operations on and off since 1988.

Since purchasing the company McCracken and his partners have made substantial investment in the company, including updating the 20 garbage trucks that serve Lake County in order to meet new California Air Resource Board guidelines, and have replaced 12 trucks in the county's fleet. The company employs 61 people, 32 of them at its Lake County operations.

“I'm a proud papa,” McCracken said of his company.

He's especially proud of the new “split body” trash collection trucks, two of which run in Clearlake and three in the county.

A brand new split body truck runs just under $300,000 and allows both trash and recyclables to be dumped into the same truck and separated into the truck's two holding bins. The trucks make trash collection more efficient, said Julie Price, the company's recycling manager.

The trucks have, however, generated a little public concern.

When they first appeared on the streets and people saw recyclables being dumped with the trash, the company began getting a lot of calls. Juan Ortega, the company's dispatcher, said some drivers were being chased down the street. McCracken said he thinks more people are interested in where their garbage and recyclables go, which gave rise to the reaction.

Even with the new investments, the company has managed to keep its rates low, averaging about $12 per month. “We're not only the lowest in Lake County, we're the lowest in the region,” said McCracken.

Lake County Waste Solutions has plans to expand its Soda Bay Road facility to include a larger transfer station that will be built on an adjacent piece of land. The company and the county are in discussions about having the new transfer station take over for the county's Bevins Street trash collection facility, at no additional cost to customers. The new transfer facility would come online next year.

McCracken said the new center will allow the company to increase its efforts to pull more recyclable items out of the trash. “We think you could see diversion skyrocket in the county.”

The current yard would be used as a recycling buyback center, with more space to welcome customers. The facility also would be covered to be more welcoming in all weather. McCracken said they may even be able to have their own version of “Recycle Town,” the reclaimed materials sales center at the Sonoma County Dump.

Once they collect trash, it isn't just a matter of taking it to the landfill. For a garbage company to take a lot of trash to the dump isn't good for the bottom line, said McCracken. “Taking it to the landfill is what we don't want to do.”

Rather, they're looking at every opportunity to divert more materials from the trash and into cash.

Last November, as an experiment, McCracken and several staffers at their Ukiah facility went through the contents of a garbage truck and sorted it all by hand. They found that as much as 70 percent of what was in the trash was really recyclable.

McCracken said more manufacturers are realizing that it's both less expensive and better for their public image to use materials that can be recycled or are themselves reused. At the same time, the garbage collection industry is changing – and it's not just about trash anymore.

So, what materials do they find in the trash that don't belong? Paper, plastics and construction materials, they say.

In the case of plastics, they can now take all types, rather than just a few as in the past, including plastic bottle caps.

Rigid plastics, such as toys, milk crates and laundry hampers, also now can find a place in the company's blue recycling containers.

As recycling manager, Price's job is to look for businesses that reuse the myriad materials that are found in the trash. She said she has a big “to do” list of materials for which she's looking to find new uses.

Her job also will include a public outreach campaign. The company's new Web site,, is set to launch next month and will feature information about recycling and how people can help divert more of the waste stream from the dump.

McCracken said they're always looking at new opportunities to keep things out of the landfill. That led them to sell greenwaste to businesses that make wood chips out of it or, in some cases, to bioenergy companies.

Electronics – televisions, computers and the like – are taken to a Fresno facility where they're disassembled, said McCracken.

Cardboard, much of it produced in China, is usually sold back to recycling businesses in that country, he said.

The company's Ukiah facility will begin accepting clothes and shoes next month from its Mendocino County customers. Price said they have a contract with Goodwill, which takes the clothes. They hope to be able to offer the same service in Lake County in the future.

McCracken said the company's next big goal is to find uses for materials such as food waste and roof tiles.

Price said it's amazing what people will throw away; they're always finding things that can be reused. They said all of their office furniture is reclaimed from the trash. Sitting outside of the offices were four matched wooden chairs in good condition that had been thrown out and which one staffer was taking home.

With recyclables becoming more valuable, the company is becoming more protective of the materials. Lake County Waste Solutions and other local garbage collection companies are keeping an eye out for recycling poachers.

McCracken said it's a growing problem which isn't just illegal but breaks their franchise agreement. “It's potentially tens of thousands of dollars a year.”

He attributes the increase in recycling poaching to two main reasons – the lagging economy and the prices of materials skyrocketing.”

Because of those higher prices, metal thefts also have been a concern in some parts of the state. He said ATT has a number they ask recyclers to call if someone appears with a spool of copper wire.

However materials prices recently have begun falling; some of that may be due to factories in places like China, where the need to improve air quality during the Olympics led the country to temporarily close down some of its factors, Price said.

Some of the company's future goals include looking at alternate fuels for garbage trucks. For now, they're still running on diesel, although McCracken said garbage companies in other parts of the country are looking at hybrids. “Something's coming,” he said.

The dream, said McCracken, is that someday trash itself could be used for fuel, an idea he said “is not too Jetsony.”

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



The split body trash trucks make garbage and recyclables collection more efficient. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


LAKECOUNTY – It may be OK to rescue California Redemption Value (CRV) beverage containers from a public garbage can but it is definitely not OK to remove any recyclable material from a recycling container or drop off location, says one county official.

Jackie Armstrong of Lake County Public Services said theft of recyclables can be classified as misdemeanor or infraction, but if the recycling agent elects to pursue civil action, the court may award damages three times the value of the stolen recyclables up to $2,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for a second offense.

Most people agree that local scavengers are performing a service when they remove recyclable materials from garbage cans, said Armstrong – after all, no one wants to see recyclable materials taking up space in the landfill.

But she said it's another matter entirely to remove recyclable materials, including CRV containers, from recycling containers, including residential curbside totes, or a drop off recycling location.

According to California Public Resources Code Section 41950, once recyclable materials have been segregated from solid waste materials and placed in recycling containers or at a designated recycling collection location, the recyclable materials become the property of the authorized recycling agent (i.e. garbage company), Armstrong explained.

Recyclables theft doesn't constitute a serious problem in Lake County as a whole, although Armstrong said they've encountered trouble spots in some areas.

It's a serious enough problem in some parts of the state that legislation has been introduced to crack down on it. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) authored AB 1778, meant to stop professional poaching rings operating in neighborhoods with curbside recycling services.

Armstrong said recycling poachers also increase the risk of identify theft, so if you see someone digging through recycling carts in your neighborhood, please let the poacher know that the activity is prohibited by law and call your garbage company to report the incident.

For more information about this or other waste management issues, call the county Public Services Department at 263-1980.


LAKEPORT – A tree took down a power pole and power lines in an area of Lakeport on Thursday.

The lines and power pole were in the area of Third and Crawford, officials reported.

Brandi Ehlers, a Pacific Gas and Electric spokesperson, said the initial outage was reported at 5:31 p.m. and involved secondary power lines.

She said the outage affected eight customers in downtown Lakeport from 18th to Starkeys Lane and from Clearlake Avenue to Highway 29.

PG&E workers were transporting a new pole through town on Thursday evening. Ehlers said they were replacing the pole and restringing the lines.

She said power should be restored to all customers by 5 a.m. Friday.

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


LAKEPORT – Sheriff's officials are looking for a Lake County Jail inmate who walked away from a work assignment on Wednesday afternoon.

Leticia Flores Batres, 34, of Santa Rosa, a minimum security inmate assigned to Lake County Animal Care and Control, was last seen by animal control staff cleaning kennels with fellow inmates at about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, Captain James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported.

About a half hour after she was last seen, Animal Care and Control – which is now located next to the Lake County Jail – notified jail staff that Batres was missing after searching the area, Bauman said.

After conducting their own search of the Animal Control and jail grounds – which included a formal count of the jail housing units – jail staff confirmed Batres had walked away from her work assignment outside of the jail facility, said Bauman.

Several sheriff’s patrol units responded to the apparent escape and commenced with an extensive search of the area for Batres. Bauman said that, a short time into the search, one deputy located the jail-issued denim shirt rolled up and discarded behind the Animal Care and Control facility along with her jail identification tag.

All potential routes leading away from the animal control and jail facilities were thoroughly searched but Batres had yet to be located late Wednesday, according to Bauman.

Batres is described as a Hispanic female adult, 5 feet 4 inches tall, 135 pounds, with medium length black hair and brown eyes. Bauman said her tattoos include a “band” on her left ankle, a heart on her upper right arm, and “Flores” on her back. She is believed to be still dressed in blue denim jail issued pants, a white T-shirt and jail-issued shoes.

Batres was classified as a minimum security inmate who was booked on May 29 for a Lakeport Police Department bench warrant for transportation of a controlled substance, Bauman said. She was serving a 365-day sentence and had an Immigration and Naturalization hold placed on her.

Bauman said Batres has an alias of Leticia Hernandez Flores. Officials recently discovered she also has an outstanding misdemeanor warrant of arrest out of Sonoma County for contempt of court and possession of controlled substance paraphernalia.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Leticia Batres should immediately notify the Lake County Sheriff’s Department at 263-2690.


LOWER LAKE – An Old Time Bluegrass Festival will be held at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake Saturday, Sept. 13 and Sunday, Sept. 14.

The event features music from Alhambra Valley Band, Sidesaddle, The Mighty Crows, Pat Ickes & Bound to Ride, Mountain Laurel Band, Public Nuisance, The Mighty Chiplings, Laura and Darin Smith, and others for performances on two stages all day.

Musician workshops will be held throughout the day on such topics as banjo, fiddle and flat-picking techniques for guitar. Attendees are encouraged to bring their instruments for workshops and informal jam session.

The Old Time Bluegrass Festival will feature demonstrations and vendors selling old-time handmade crafts, Art in the Barn, a wine garden featuring Lake County wines, and a beer garden, as well as food prepared by local service clubs and local schools’ culinary programs.

The Old Time Bluegrass Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Gates open on both dates at 9:30 a.m.

Advance tickets are $15 for Saturday, $10 for Sunday, or $25 for both days. A limited number of advance tickets will be available for purchase at various locations and on the Web site,, or call 707-995-2658. Children 12 and under may attend free but must be accompanied by a parent.


LAKEPORT – The 29th Annual Clear Lake Splash-In is scheduled to return to Lakeport later this month.

The event will take place Sept. 19 through 21.

Organized by SeaPlane Operations LLC, the Clear Lake Splash-In is the oldest and largest seaplane gathering in the Western United States.

Concurrent with the splash-in is the Lakeport Seaplane Festival at Library Park on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Arrivals and registration begin Friday, Sept. 19, at noon with most activities scheduled for, and aircraft arrivals expected on on Saturday, Sept. 20.

Headquartered at the Skylark Shores Resort, the event utilizes the nearby Natural High School field for on-shore parking of amphibious seaplanes. Land planes use nearby Lampson Field and the Aero Airport Shuttles provides shuttle services to and from the venues.

Exhibitors from Big Foot Air, Delta Seaplane Tours, Norcal Aviation, the Seaplane Pilots Association and Leading Edge Insurance will be providing information and seminars for anyone interested in Flying and Seaplanes.

Community support from Lake County, the City of Lakeport, the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Lake County 4H Club, the Lake County Public Works Department, and the Lakeport School District has made this the local, successful event it has become.

The event draws visitors from throughout the region, with hundreds of people coming to see the planes on exhibit in Lakeport.

Part of the weekend is the Lakeport Seaplane Festival put on by the Lakeport Regional Chamber of Commerce. Now in its second year, the festival celebrates the annual return of the seaplanes to Lakeport. Beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, the L.C. Diamonds will present a free concert in the gazebo at Library Park.

Taking place in Library Park from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, the Festival features seaplane rides, model aircraft flying from 11a.m. to noon. At 12:15 p.m. there will be demonstrations by both Air Station Sacramento's fixed wing C 130 doing a survival equipment drop just off shore and a helo doing a rescue demo in the same spot to follow, seaplane flying exhibitions on the lake in front of the park, vendors, food booths and great fun for the whole family.

Four local car clubs will participate in a “Show and Shine” display of their beautiful cars: The No Name Car Club, Lake County As, Mt. Konocti Antique Auto Club and the Corvettes of Lake County. The Lakeport Fire District will have a booth with an engine on display and the Lakeport Police Department will have information on display as well.

The official opening of the festival will be at 11 a.m. with a parachute jumper landing at the Third Street ramp.

Seaplane pilots from throughout the region, and from out-of-state, attend to show off their planes and see others. Approximately 50 seaplanes are expected to attend, making an interesting day of flight and ground displays. Water bombing contests and spot landing contests will allow pilots to showcase their planes and flying skills.

The Lake County 4H Club will provide food and drink during the day at the Natural High School Field and the Skylark Shores Resort as well as a tri-tip dinner at the Skylark Shores Resort Saturday evening.


See for complete information. Further details will be posted on the Website as times and events are confirmed. Photos from past Clear Lake Splash-Ins are available on the website as well.


NORTH COAST – One group in Lake County and three in Mendocino County will receive a total of $445,860 in transportation planning grants, Caltrans reported this week.

The groups applied for the funds, which were awarded on a competitive basis for fiscal year 2008-09, according to Caltrans.

The Transportation Planning Grant program complements the Governor’s Strategic Growth Plan for transportation, which reduces congestion below today’s levels while accommodating future transportation needs from growth in the population and the economy, Caltrans reported. The Governor’s Strategic Growth Plan incorporates GoCalifornia, a plan designed to decrease congestion, improve travel times, and increase safety.

Lake County/City Area Planning Council will receive $160,000 for their “State Route 53 Corridor Study.”

This project will evaluate current and future traffic conditions, with a primary emphasis on access points, including future interchange locations and designs, and develop preliminary long-term plans to address highway and local road needs.

The city of Fort Bragg will receive $75,889 for their “South Fort Bragg Bicycle and Pedestrian Access Plan.” It involves reaching out to under-represented citizens and developing a comprehensive plan to improve pedestrian and bicycle mobility and access along the busy South Main Street corridor.

Mendocino Council of Governments will receive $148,000 for their “Community Action Plan – City of Point Arena,” which will create a downtown streetscape and parking plan by evaluating crosswalk locations, bike lanes, pathways, current parking, traffic circulation and access, and the existing discontinuity of sidewalks.

MCOG and Mendocino Transit Authority will receive $61,971 for their “Commute Transportation Study for Mendocino County.”

The project will focus on the development of a Commute Transportation Plan between the outlying inland communities of Mendocino County to the city of Ukiah, and the potential demand for commute service between the Willits and Ukiah areas to Sonoma County.

Transportation Planning Grants are intended to promote strong and healthy communities, economic growth, and protection of the environment.

In accepting these grants, these groups agree to be a partner with Caltrans in its common mission to improve mobility and the quality of life in California.

Funding for these grant programs is contingent on the passage of the 2008-09 State budget.


SACRAMENTO – Assembly member Patty Berg's end-of-life information bill is waiting – along with numerous other bills by the legislature – for the governor's signature, but a state senator is calling for the bill to be vetoed.

On Aug. 28 the state Assembly approved AB 2747, the Terminal Patients End of Life Information Act,” which Berg's office reported is meant to give patients the right to receive a candid assessment of what to expect when they are dying of a terminal disease.

Berg, D-Eureka, wrote the bill to require health care providers to answer their patients questions, and to tell them about their rights and options when in their final months of life.

“I fully expect we’ll see better pain management, more use of hospice, and fewer people in a panic at the end of life,” Berg said in a statement.

The measure, previously approved by the Senate, passed the Assembly in a 42-33 vote. It now waits to be signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said last month he won't sign any more bills until the budget is done, although he made an exception for a high-speed rail bill.

A recent nationwide study by cancer doctors found that only one in three terminally ill patients were told about their treatment and pain-management options by their doctors, even when their doctors knew the patients were dying.

Those patients who did receive frank information were less likely to die in intensive care, more likely to receive hospice; and their families were better prepared for their loss than were the families of patients who were uninformed. according to the study.

The California Medical Association and many other health care organizations, as well as senior citizens’ groups, civil liberties advocates and others supported AB 2747.

It has, however, drawn opposition from groups that believe it is a back-door route to the kind of death-with-dignity bill that Berg authored in previous years. The opposing groups include California Disability Alliance, California Family Council, California Nurses for Ethical Standards, Mercy San Juan Medical Center, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, and St. Mary's Medical Center, San Francisco.

“This bill is about information and nothing else,” Berg maintained.

Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley) says he's urging Schwarzenegger to veto the bill.

Aanestad, a licensed oral surgeon and vice-chair of the Senate Health Committee, said he has deep concerns about the effects of AB 2747 on patient care.

“The so-called end of life options act interferes with the medical care of people who just received the worst news of their lives,” Aanestad said in a written statement. “State government has no business intruding upon the doctor-patient relationship at that time, yet that is exactly what this bill does.”

His office reported that AB 2747 is sponsored by an organization called Compassion and Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, which has strongly advocated for physician-assisted suicide legislation in the past. The founder of this group, Derek Humphry, once praised Dr. Jack Kevorkian for assisting in the deaths of 130 people.

Dozens of opponents testified against this measure during a recent marathon hearing of the Senate Health Committee. They included disability rights advocates, nursing organizations, doctors who care for cancer patients, minority rights groups, members of religious communities, hospitals and individuals whose lives and families are affected by this issue.

He said the measure is cloaked as compassion but actually opens the door to further “end of life” intrusions.

Aanestad said that patients facing terminal illness need information based on who they are as individuals, not an intrusion into their relationship with their doctor.

“Patients don’t need their doctors to dispense a laundry list developed by Sacramento politicians,” he said. “It’s downright cruel to take a list of treatments that may not even apply to a patient and have the doctor say, ‘Here, this is what the state of California legislates I must tell you when you find out that you’re dying and you ask me what to do.’”

Will Shuck, Berg's chief of staff, told Lake County News they're still awaiting the outcome.

“Hopefully the governor will give greater weight to the California Medical Association and all the other health organizations in support of the bill than to the opinion of a dental surgeon who may never have to tell a patient that they have a terminal illness,” Shuck said.


LAKE COUNTY – After several weeks of clear blue skies smoke from Northern California wildfires has begun making its way back into Lake County's air basin.

The smoke that was visible in recent days is from uncontrolled fires burning in the north part of the state, including the Iron Alps Fire along with the Shasta-Trinity and Klamath National Forest wildfires, Lake County Air Quality Management District officials reported.

Hazy conditions are expected to be temporary with the return of blue skies. Local air quality has been in the good range and is expected to remain in the good range through the weekend, according to the district.

West to southwest winds are expected through Friday, keeping much of the wildfire smoke to the north and east of Lake County.

Some residual smoke may impact areas of Northern California, including Lake County at a much reduced level, until these lightning complex wildfires are extinguished.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – The Clearlake Oaks County Water District Board will hold a special meeting Thursday to select a new director.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the district's office, 12952 E. Highway 20.

Last month, longtime board member Pat Shaver resigned shortly after community members began to call for her removal from the board at a particularly heated public meeting to discuss a potential rate hike, as Lake County News has reported.

Within days of Shaver's resignation, board Vice President Mike Anisman and President Helen Locke also tendered their resignations. Both had said in previous interviews that the district's serious financial condition had come as a total surprise to them after they were seated earlier this year.

Anisman's resignation became effective Sept. 5; Locke's originally was to have taken effect Sept. 5 as well.

However, that was going to leave the board without a quorum and hamper its ability to choose new directors to fill the vacant slots, so Locke pushed back her resignation date and will stay to help choose Shaver's replacement, which is the purpose of Thursday's meeting.

Four candidates have expressed interest in succeeding Shaver – Mike Benjamin, who has served in various public service capacities in the city of Wheatland; Bob White, a former board member who lost his reelection bid last November, the same time as Locke, Anisman and Frank Toney were elected; Dena Barron, owner of Lake Village Estates; and Lowell Estep, who works for Highlands Water District.

Locke told Lake County News Tuesday that the board will interview the four candidates during the special meeting and then make a decision. The board also will consider adopting a resolution to change signatures on two bank accounts.

She said the board is still finding out the protocol for how it must appoint new directors to take the seats she and Anisman are vacating. Those replacements aren't expected to be named Thursday.

Estep said Tuesday he became interested in joining the board after he heard about their original rate hike proposal, which suggested 39.4-percent increases for both sewer and water.

In his role at Highlands Water, Estep takes care of the district's pipes, so he understands how a water district operates.

He said it's important to get audits of the district's books done so informed decisions can be made.

Estep also suggested that it's important to do one's homework before going to a board meeting “screaming and yelling,” such as what happened at the rate hike meeting last month.

On Tuesday the district's recently formed finance committee met for the first time. Toney, who spearheaded the group in order to put more focus on managing the district's budget, said the meeting went well.

In addition to choosing a new director, the board is expected to adopt a previously approved resolution to change the district's meetings from 3 p.m. on the third Wednesday to 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month.

Directors agreed last month to move the meetings to encourage more public participation.

If that resolution is finalized Thursday, the district board will hold its next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 18.

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



LAKEPORT – A San Francisco man is facing more than four years in state prison after being sentenced for a burglary and assault with a firearm in a 2005 incident in Clearlake Park.

Renato Hughes Jr., 24, was sentenced Monday afternoon by Judge Arthur Mann.

He was convicted last month of burglary and assault with a firearm; at the same time, he was acquitted of two homicide counts he faced under the provocative act, and robbery and attempted murder charges, as Lake County News has reported. A charge of causing great bodily injury resulted in a hung jury.

The prosecution alleged that Hughes and two friends, Christian Foster and Rashad Williams, had broken into the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds and Lori Tyler in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2005, planning to steal Edmonds' medical marijuana.

Tyler's son, Dale Lafferty, then 17, was assaulted with a baseball bat and left with permanent brain injuries.

Mann said that, because of the violence of the burglary, he was sentencing Hughes to the upper term of six years in prison with a one-year enhancement for the burglary, plus another year for the assault charge, which was a mid-term sentence for that crime

In all Hughes received an eight-year prison sentence, according to Mann. With time served and a 15-percent time credit, he should face just over four years in state prison.

Following the hearing, which lasted more than an hour, Hughes' attorneys, Stuart Hanlon and Sara Rief, said they expected Hughes to appeal the conviction and sentence.

Hughes' case has generated significant attention in the nearly three years it's been under way, in part because he was being tried for two homicides he didn't commit.

Edmonds shot Foster and Williams as they ran from his home but has never been charged. Hughes was charged with the murder under the provocative act doctrine, which held him responsible for the deaths because he was alleged to have taken part in a crime with a possible lethal result.

Hanlon had argued that Edmonds was a drug dealer and had killed the men in a drug deal gone wrong.

In making the sentencing decision, Mann considered a 22-page probation report, victim impact statements by Tyler and Lafferty's grandmother, Deborah Besley, and arguments by Hanlon and District Attorney Jon Hopkins.

Reading her statement before the court, Tyler thanked Hopkins for “bringing out the truth” of the case.

She said she didn't have feelings of hatred for Hughes but believed that, if one of the men involved had spoken up, the incident that led to her son's near-fatal beating and the deaths of Foster and Williams could have been avoided.

"Dale was a wonderful young man with a great future and everything going for him," she said.

Today, he has to have 24-hour daycare after suffering eight skull fractures during the incident. Tyler said he had to have surgery to remove part of his brain in order to survive.

"The counselor told me that I have lost my son," she said, adding when she took him home after his hospitalization, it was like bringing home a 170-pound infant.

She and Edmonds are no longer together, and she said she has trouble sleeping at night, sometimes getting up to check the doors and windows.

"You never dream that anything this horrible cold ever happen to you," said Tyler, asking Mann for the strictest sentence.

Reading her statement, Besley said Hughes, Williams and Foster made the decision to take away her grandson's future.

"This is not a crime of race, this is a crime of burglary and assault," she said.

She asked Hughes, "Renato, do you have any idea what you have done to Dale and his family?" Hughes looked up at her from the defense table as she asked the question.

Besley said it costs $48,000 a month to care for Lafferty at a special care home more than 400 miles away.

She, too, asked the court for the maximum sentence. "Why should you get all the opportunities that Dale will never get?" she said to Hughes.

As Besley was speaking, Hughes' sister, sitting in the audience, said, "He didn't do anything," which she repeated as Besley turned to return to her seat.

Hopkins relayed to the court a brief statement from Edmonds, who said he whole life was ruined as a result of the incident, adding it has impacted his 11-year-old daughter.

Edmonds was not present at the sentencing. On Saturday, he was arrested by Clearlake Police on a drunk and disorderly charge, but has since been released from jail, according to jail records.

The families of Foster and Williams are suing Edmonds and Tyler in federal court, a case expected to come to trial next year, as Lake County News has reported.

Prosecution, defense debate sentencing

Hughes himself took the chance to speak to the judge during the hearing, appealing to Mann's sense of fairness.

“I stand by my innocence in this whole ordeal,” said Hughes, who noted he has been incarcerated for 33 months.

If he could give Lafferty back his life and bring back Foster and Williams, Hughes said he would.

He said he looks forwarding to having positive opportunities once he's released, including going to college and becoming “a productive and contributing member of society.”

He said he wouldn't continue to be degraded and humiliated by the accusations against him. “Only God can judge me.”

Hughes said he looks forward to being home with his young daughter.


Hanlon told Mann that he had objections to the probation report, and he also faulted Hopkins for statements he's made about the jury verdict in the media.

He said the fact that Hughes was acquitted of most of the charges keeps getting lost. “Those acquittals define the facts.”

Hanlon said the jury found that Hughes was not responsible for Lafferty's injuries, and asked that the entire probation report be stricken due to its lack of impartiality.

Hopkins asserted that the facts of the case still remain, and then discussed previous convictions on Hughes' record. When the 2005 incident happened, Hughes was on probation for driving under the influence, said Hopkins. Hughes also has a conviction for having marijuana for sale.


The probation officer who prepared the report for the sentencing interviewed Hughes, whose statements differ from those he made on the witness stand during the trial, said Hopkins. The report, he said, quoted Hughes as saying the police planted his blood in Edmonds' house to link him to the scene, “which is patently ridiculous,” said Hopkins.

As Hopkins began to recount testimony Hughes gave in court, Hanlon said he objected to an attempt to retry the case. Mann overruled the objection.

Mann said he didn't consider Hughes' prior record significant. However, Williams and Foster inflicted significant injury during the incident, which Mann said demonstrated planning and professionalism.


Hopkins asserted that the burglary was particularly brutal. “Someone had a shotgun, someone had a hammer, and a melee broke out.”

Hanlon responded that Hughes' level of involvement, which was “some sort of aid and abet” and not the murders or use of the bat, called for no more than a midterm sentence with no enhancements, for a total of four years.

Mann said he gave no weight to the two homicides because the jury found Hughes not guilty and Edmonds was “integrally involved.”

“I do find that there was great violence in this burglary,” said Mann, which led him to conclude it merited the upper term.

After handing Hughes the sentence, Mann explained his right to appeal. The appeal must be filed with the Superior Court within 60 days.

He asked Hughes if he had any questions about the sentence. Hughes only responded, “At least I'm not getting life” which is what he would have faced had he been convicted of the homicide charges.

Hopkins informed the court that he would not seek to retry Hughes on the single charge of assault causing great bodily injury, which had resulted in a hung jury.

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


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