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April 21, 2005
HALTED: C onstruction at Humboldt
State's new Behavioral and Social Sciences Building has been
shut down following discovery of a possible seismic fault at
the site. An HSU press release issued Tuesday stated that Danco-Swinerton
consultants had identified a suspicious "discontinuity"
in the soil at the building's site shortly after construction
crews returned to work after a winter break. A California State
University investigation team was brought in soon afterwards;
it agreed that there could be an unmapped fault line running
through the site. "It's out of our hands," said Jane
Rogers, HSU public affairs officer. "Once a fault is found
at a construction site, the CSU Seismic Review Board just takes
it." A follow-up investigation should take between 10 days
and three weeks. According to the press release, Danco-Swinerton
discovered the suspected fault on April 5; HSU President Rollin
Richmond last week said that the company, citing increased construction
costs, had asked to be released from its contract to construct
the building on Feb. 1. See last week's Journal for details (and note the correction
SAMOA RESIDENTS EVICTED?: Some residents
of the former lumber town of Samoa received eviction notices
from the property manager that represents their current landlords,
according to one 20-year resident. The resident, who asked to
remain unnamed, said she and at least three of her neighbors
got letters last week from Danco Property Management saying they
were to be evicted in 60 days so that their homes could be renovated.
The resident pointed out that this was not the original plan
as described by Dan and Kendra Johnson and Lane and Kathryn DeVries,
who bought the historic town for a reported $1.7 million in 2000.
In 2002, the owners announced that the changes to the town would
include a 250-seat performing arts center, a 500-person capacity
convention center, a 75-room hotel, a 70-space RV park, a swimming
pool, a wastewater marsh similar to Arcata's and a 35-acre industrial
park. They also said that once renovated, the houses would be
offered for sale at market rates to their current tenants. A
representative with Danco Property Management did not return
calls seeking comment Tuesday. Dan Johnson said he was unaware
of any evictions, and referred questions to the property manager.
NUKE RODS: The General Accounting
Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, issued a
report last week on missing nuclear fuel at three power plants
across the country, including Pacific Gas and Electric's Humboldt
Bay Power Plant in Eureka, which was closed in 1976. While reviewing
its records last summer, PG&E discovered that three fuel
rod segments, containing hazardous radioactive uranium used to
generate electricity, could not be accounted for. Similar discrepancies
at two still-active nuclear plants in Connecticut and Vermont
prompted Congress to investigate the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's
regulations for tracking spent fuel. In its report, the GAO concludes
that the NRC -- which is responsible for overseeing nuclear facilities
-- needs to tighten its requirements for tracking spent fuel,
and to develop inspection procedures to ensure operators comply
with the regulations. The GAO's report indicated that PG&E
will issue a final report on Humboldt Bay's missing material
next month. The company has stated that it believes the rods
are lurking about in some hidden corner of its storage pool or
that they had been shipped off unaccounted to a certified waste
facility sometime in the late 1960s.
EUREKA TO DISCUSS INSTANT
RUNOFF VOTING: Eureka's
David Cobb, the 2004 Green Party presidential candidate, preached
about it constantly during his many media appearances last year
-- Instant Runoff Voting, an innovative way to conduct elections.
Next Thursday, April 28, Eureka City Councilmembers Mike Jones
and Chris Kerrigan will host a town hall meeting to discuss whether
to bring IRV to Cobb's hometown. Under the system, voters rank
their preferences for each office from first to last, rather
than just marking an "X" for their top choice. The
city of San Francisco used the system for the first time in its
last election, and voters in Berkeley and Burlington, Vt., officially
approved its use in future elections. Supporters say that the
system is more efficient than traditional run-off elections and
allows people to vote for third parties without fear of "spoiling"
an election for major candidates. Eureka businessman and major
Republican donor Rob Arkley, an opponent, believes it a plot
of some sort. "This is the most absurd proposal ever,"
Arkley wrote in a well-circulated e-mail last week. "It
is the move [by] the EXTREME LEFT to take over Eureka."
The town hall meeting will be held at Eureka's Wharfinger Building
between 6 and 8 p.m.
CATTLE AND GEESE: Can't we all just get along? In the animal kingdom,
it's often not that simple. For instance -- every spring, hordes
of once-rare Aleutian geese swoop down on Humboldt County pastures,
scarfing down grass that was formerly the exclusive province
of local cattlemen and their four-legged colleagues. The geese's
presence is sometimes resented. But in an ongoing effort to increase
the peace, Humboldt State University will host a talk by Matt
Johnson, professor of wildlife management, at Humboldt Agricultural
Center from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday. Johnson will give the community
an update on his current research, which centers on attempts
to steer the marauding geese toward publicly owned grasslands.
The presentation is part of HSU's "Taking Care of Business"
lecture series. The agricultural building is located at 5630
S. Broadway, Eureka. Call 826-3924 to RSVP.
ASSISTED SUICIDE BILL
CLEARS COMMITTEE: Nearly two weeks
after the death of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who sparked
a national debate over right-to-die issues, a bill sponsored
by Assemblymember Patty Berg that would allow terminally ill
people to end their own lives cleared a key legislative committee
last week. Berg's bill, called the "California Compassionate
Choices Act," squeaked through the Assembly Judiciary Committee
on a vote of 5-4; it must now pass through another committee
before going on to the full Assembly, the Senate and governor's
office. The bill, which is modeled on Oregon's "Death with
Dignity Act," is co-sponsored by Assemblymember Lloyd Levine
POWER PLANT BUYOUT: Since its purchase by DG Energy earlier this month,
things have been hectic around the Fairhaven Power Company in
Samoa. Hectic in a good way, says plant General Manager Bob Marino.
"We are extremely busy with projects that need to be done
to make the plant more efficient," said Marino on Tuesday.
That includes the installation of a "fuel drying" system,
to dry the sawdust and woodchips -- or biomass -- that the company
burns to make energy. The project will cost around $1.5 million,
Marino said. The company is also preparing to build a facility
to collect fly ash. The 20 employees who were at the plant before
the sale still have their jobs, and Marino said they are pleased
with the new ownership. The president of San Diego-based DG Energy
Steve Mueller said the company is also looking to buy the Ultrapower
3 plant in Blue Lake. The plan is contingent upon whether enough
reasonably priced biomass can be purchased to run the 12-megawatt
facility, which has been closed since 1999. Mueller said that
between $8 million and $10 million in upgrades at Ultrapower
3 would be necessary. A spokesperson for current owners of the
Blue Lake plant, North American Power Group, could not comment
on negotiations between the company and any potential buyers.
PEPPER SPRAY TRIAL: A lawsuit stemming
from the 1997 pepper spray eye-swabbing of eight logging protesters
by Humboldt County sheriffs, Lundberg v. County of Humboldt,
went back to trial for the third time last week in San Francisco
before federal Judge Susan Illston. The jury was chosen on Tuesday,
April 12, and opening statements from plaintiffs' lawyer Dennis
Cunningham and defense attorney Nancy Delaney, representing Humboldt
County and the city of Eureka, were heard the following day.
Plaintiffs took the stand this week and last, and Humboldt County
Sheriff Gary Philp was also questioned this week along with other
deputies. The crux of the trial is whether police used excessive
force when using Q-tips to apply pepper spray to the eyes of
protesters who had locked their arms into metal sleeves. The
trial is expected to conclude this week or next, between April
TENANTS UNION CLOSES: After four years,
activists at the Tenants Union of Humboldt County have closed
up shop, citing a lack of funds. "We have worked hard with
our many wonderful volunteers to educate other tenants on their
rights and demand that landlords, city governments, and the community
make safe, decent housing a priority," the group announced
in a written statement.
TEACH-IN EXAMINES WAR:
Veterans and activists will be
the featured speakers at a teach-in on war, terrorism and repression
to be held at Humboldt State and the surrounding community April
27-30. The event marks 30 years since the end of the war in Vietnam
and 35 years since four students were killed by Ohio National
Guardsmen at Kent State University. Speakers include Tim Goodrich,
who co-founded Iraq Veterans Against the War after an honorable
discharge from the Air Force. For more information, see www.humboldt.edu/~ser23
or call 826-9197.
ARCATA UNVEILS AFFORDABLE
lucky families are now the owners of new $140,000 duplexes in
the Windsong subdivision of Arcata, thanks to a project of the
Humboldt Community Development Land Trust. The trust will hold
title to the land on which the homes sit. To assure that the
homes remain affordable, the resale profit is limited. The land
trust was founded by Humboldt Bay Housing Development Corp. to
provide permanent affordable homeownership opportunities to those
who might not otherwise be able to afford a home.
GENERAL PLAN WORKSHOP:
The Humboldt County Planning Commission
will host a public workshop on the county's ongoing revision
to its general plan next Thursday, April 28. At issue will be
the proposed "urban study areas" -- areas which are
expected to absorb most of the growth in the county's unincorporated
areas over the coming years. County planners have tentatively
identified several of these areas -- including McKinleyville,
the Cutten area and the urban fringes of many of the county's
incorporated cities -- as already possessing the water and sewer
infrastructure that will allow development with a minimum of
sprawl, one of the priorities set by the Board of Supervisors
last fall. The workshop will be held in the Board of Supervisors'
chambers at the Humboldt County Courthouse, 825 Fifth St., Eureka,
at 6 p.m. Documents relating to the urban study areas can be
found on-line at www.planupdate.org.
week's story about Humboldt State's new Behavioral and Social
Sciences Building, the Journal incorrectly reported
that HSU's media affairs office recently stated that the project
was months ahead of schedule. In fact, the press release referenced
in the story was from April 2004, not this year. The Journal
regrets the error. [The
online version has been corrected]
Printing to shut its doors
Humboldt Beacon up for
by HANK SIMS
In early 10 years after the
death of the Arcata Union and the Redwood Record,
and just three years since Satellite TV Week ceased publication,
it appears that former Fortuna resident Patrick O'Dell is on
the verge of dumping the remainder of his once formidable Humboldt
County publishing empire.
On Friday, O'Dell's umbrella
company, the Humboldt Group, Inc., told clients and employees
of one of its subsidiaries, Humboldt Printing, that the Fortuna-based
press would close its doors on June 3.
A Humboldt Group official subsequently
confirmed that Humboldt Printing's sister company, the Humboldt
Beacon newspaper, is up for sale, with several unnamed parties
expressing interest in the 103-year-old paper.
In a letter to Humboldt Printing
customers, O'Dell wrote the decision to shutter the press --
which currently has 13 employees -- came with "deep regret."
"With mixed emotions of
leaving old friends, I would like to extend a sincere thank you
to each of our customers for their past business," he wrote.
"I wish you many years of continued success."
In addition to the Beacon,
the company prints a number of other local newspapers -- including
the North Coast Journal, the Ferndale Enterprise,
Senior News, Econews and some high-school publications
-- in addition to numerous other local jobs, such as Humboldt
State University's schedule of classes.
Caroline Titus, publisher of
the Ferndale Enterprise, said Tuesday that she had just
received the news, and had not yet had time to figure out where
her paper would be published in the future. However, she said
that she worried that printing at an out-of-town press -- such
as the Daily Triplicate's press in Del Norte County, printer
of a number of other local newspapers -- would seriously impact
"We are one of the smallest
papers in California, if not the smallest," Titus said.
"The thought of having to drive to Crescent City to pick
up our 1,600 copies every week, or hiring someone to do it for
us -- it will be a real hardship for us."
Humboldt Group's announcement
Friday follows failed negotiations to sell Humboldt Printing
to Security National Servicing Corp., the Eureka-based financial
corporation that publishes the Eureka Reporter.
Reporter Publisher Judi Pollace said Monday that Security
National, owned by Rob and Cherie Arkley, ceased negotiations
to buy Humboldt Printing about three weeks ago, after deciding
that it was not a good fit for the company, as the cost of relocating
it to Eureka would be too great.
"Obviously, we're a Eureka-based
paper, so we wanted to move it to Eureka," she said. "The
logistics just weren't right for us."
Pollace declined to comment
on whether the Reporter was still considering purchasing
its own printing press.
Doe Neal, O'Dell's assistant,
said Tuesday that one key factor in the closure of Humboldt Printing
was the forthcoming sale of the Beacon -- the last of
the Humboldt Group's local papers.
"The newspaper will be
sold, therefore leaving Humboldt Printing with no reason to be
there," she said.
Neal added that the company
would also seek to sell Humboldt Printing's presses and related
The O'Dell family had owned
the Beacon for many years when, in the late '70s, the
first wave of satellite television -- the large, ungainly dishes
that used to populate suburban back yards -- first swept the
nation. Sensing an opportunity, Patrick O'Dell founded Satellite
TV Week, a magazine that told dish owners what was on. It
quickly became the most popular guide in the country, with subscriptions
in the hundreds of thousands.
Profits from the magazine fueled
a number of local acquisitions, including, in the late '80s,
the Arcata Union and the southern Humboldt-based Redwood
Record. O'Dell closed both papers in 1995, consolidating
them into the Beacon.
O'Dell relocated to the Napa
Valley sometime after purchasing a winery, Johnson Turnbull Vineyards,
in 1993. In recent years, he has reportedly devoted much of his
attention to the winery, which has since been renamed Turnbull
In 2002, he sold Satellite
TV Week to a competitor on the East Coast. If the sale of
the Beacon goes through, his Humboldt Group will have
only one business left in the Humboldt County area -- Swanlund's
Camera in Eureka.
Skip Stone, the publisher of
the Garberville-based Redwood Times, a subsidiary of the
Times-Standard, worked as general manager for the Humboldt
Group's news and printing operations during the company's heyday
in the mid- to late-1980s. He said Monday that he was saddened
to hear about the printing plant's demise, and expressed concern
for the future of the Beacon.
"You know, it's been a
gradual thing -- slowly unwinding, selling off the businesses,"
he said. "It's kind of the end of an era."
racks up water board fines
Problem is part of larger
By EMILY GURNON
The city of Ferndale is on the
hook for $66,000 in fines to the regional water board after failing
to file required reports on wastewater discharge, city officials
According to a Feb. 22 letter
from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to
Ferndale City Manager Michael Powers, four monthly reports dating
back to August 2004 were overdue. The reports list such data
as wastewater volumes and pollution levels.
In an effort to resolve the
problem, City Councilman Ken Mierzwa made an emergency trip to
Santa Rosa last Tuesday to meet with Lisa Bernard and Tom Dunbar
of the water board staff. By Thursday, the reports were being
faxed in -- a day before the fines would have doubled -- and
the charges were no longer accumulating, Mierzwa said.
"It's almost embarrassingly
simple, really," Mierzwa said. "Public works took the
samples all the way through; they were just not turned in."
Powers, the city manager, said
he was under the impression that the reports could be submitted
only by a certified wastewater plant operator -- something that
Ferndale did not have for several months last year.
But Dunbar, a senior engineer
with the water board, said Tuesday that the city's permit for
the wastewater facility says that the task can be assumed by
another city official. "There's nothing that says only a
certified operator can sign or send in these reports."
Powers said the city would appeal
The financial blow is just part
of a larger sewer mess facing the town, officials said. Residents
have complained bitterly about proposed sewer rate hikes, which
the city says are necessary to maintain the system and eventually
build a new treatment plant for the town's 650 connections. The
current plant on Port Kenyon Road, built in the early '70s, has
racked up over $100,000 in additional fines for "discharge
violations" such as excessive levels of ammonia and bacteria.
Meanwhile, the existing system
is functioning like one big clogged toilet: The Salt River, which
used to be a free-flowing channel to the ocean through which
all the wastewater travels, is now chocked with silt.
"We've gotta get flow back
from the plant to the ocean," Mierzwa said. "Anything
else is a short-term fix." The problem affects more than
just the sewer system. "We have dairy farmers who are forced
out of business right now because their land is too wet to graze
cows on," he said.
In the meantime, Ferndale residents
have until June 2 to weigh in on a proposed sewer rate increase,
from the current rate of $21 up to $36 per month. (Ferndale's
water is billed separately.) The council approved the increase
last week, but if more than 50 percent of customers oppose it,
it will not take effect.
Mierzwa said the city dearly
needs the cash. "We're not building anything without an
increase. There is no [new] plant without an increase."
Theater façade near completion
Work is nearly done on the new
façade for the renovated Sweasey/State Theater, completing
the first phase in a project that developer Kurt Kramer estimates
could cost from $3.5 million to $5 million.
"We are at a unique position
with the funding, in that we have just one underwriter,"
said Kramer, who figures the whole project could be done by fall
2006. All of the costs of restoring the theater to its 1920-era
glory are being covered by Rob and Cherie Arkley.
"Most of these theaters are in a nonprofit status worrying
about fund-raising. We haven't had to deal with any of that.
It's get the project done and send me a bill and I'll pay you.
They know I'm doing everything I can to make it historically
accurate but do it as cost-efficiently as possible. "
The next step in restoration
is installing a new marquee with the theater's new name: The
Arkley Center for the Performing Arts.
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