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May 27, 1999

 

We are the champions

Collecting child support

Crime bill

A call to help a case

Blaze claims park buildings

A desire for speed

New refuge boat dock



We are the champions

The Humboldt State University women's softball team showed what it's made of last weekend, by winning a national title.

The final game of the tournament against the University of Nebraska in Salem, Va., represented the widest margin of victory, 7-2, in the Lady Jacks' 5-game march for the No. 1 standing within the NCAA Division II, HSU athletics spokesman Dan Pambianco announced.

Humboldt trailed 2-1 after the first inning but scored three times in both the second and third innings to seal the victory, finishing its championship season with a 55-7-1 record.

"They don't quit," Head Coach Frank Cheek said of his winning team by telephone from his hotel room Monday night.

Cheek, deemed the winningest coach in HSU history in softball and wrestling, coached six HSU seniors this year and attributes much of their season to their teamwork and built-in philosophy of "never say die."

Of the final win, Cheek said he was shocked and a little numb at first. But while a supportive crowd of parents, grandparents and friends watched the team brought the 30-year veteran back to his senses by dousing him with ice to celebrate.

"That woke me up," he said.



Collecting child support

Under a threat of federal sanctions, the state is proposing to take child support enforcement programs away from district attorneys and administer a statewide program from Sacramento. In California alone, about $8 billion in child support goes unpaid every year, the Associated Press reported recently.

Two bills are moving through the Legislature. One, supported by Sen. Wes Chesbro supported, recently passed the Senate. A similar bill, endorsed by Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, cleared the Assembly.

The plan has district attorneys across the state concerned including Humboldt County District Attorney Terry Farmer.

Farmer is still optimistic his office will maintain control. "The jury's still out," he said, however, the consequences would mean "a lower level of service." He called the notion that a state agency would run the program more efficiently "ludicrous."

"We know how the business works. We know the shortcomings of it," he said. There are advantages to having a law enforcement agency making collections.

People tend to pay attention when they receive a letter from the district attorney, he said.

District attorneys make collections on behalf of families receiving aid under the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWorks) and these collections are used to offset the public costs of CalWorks grants.

Much of the criticism stems from the problems Los Angeles County where there is a huge caseload, Farmer said.

Out of 58 counties, the California Legislative Analyst's Office ranked the largest county in the state worst in collections. Within the 1997-98 fiscal year, L.A. took in the lowest amount per case $524 in collections, which overall amounted to more than $113 million.

Humboldt County ranked 27 in collecting $1,647 per case with a total of $4.6 million processed.

The figures don't present the entire picture because the county family support division collects on more than welfare cases, said Deputy District Attorney Jim Kucharek.

Accounting for all child support collections, Humboldt County's family support division took in $1.2 million on more than 9,000 cases last month alone, he estimated. Kucharek said the state only measures CalWorks cases.



Crime bill

On the one-month anniversary of the Colorado school massacre and the one-year mark of the Oregon shooting, the U.S. Senate passed a sweeping juvenile justice bill by a 73-25 vote last week.

The Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability Act of 1999, which headed to the House of Representatives this week, offers more than $1 billion a year in federal funds for states to fight youth crime.

From the state, Humboldt County has received almost $2 million in grants for projects aimed at reducing juvenile crime and nearly $1 million for upgrading county juvenile hall, Gov. Gray Davis' office announced this week.

Beyond several gun-control measures, the federal bill would examine the possible effects of violent entertainment on children.

This increased attention on teen violence comes in the same week of the school shooting in Georgia that injured six students and numerous copycat threats, one of which involves a North Coast youth who posted a threat of a massacre at McKinleyville High School three weeks ago on a Web site. It was later deemed a hoax, Humboldt County authorities announced.

A 15-year-old sophomore at the school was identified as the suspect responsible for the threat, which declared the thrill of killing everyone at a high school rally. The boy, who allegedly created the website from his home, appears to be "very remorseful," said Chris Andrews, a District Attorney's office investigator.

"It's one of those things when you have a 15-year-old who did something dumb," Andrews said, adding the unidentified young suspect and his parents have fully cooperated with the authorities. The youth is charged with felony crimes, but Andrews believes he'll probably end up with probation.

Still, the nature and seriousness of the threats wielding heavy artillery at a rally brought on a full-scale investigation culminating with six search warrants, he said. Locally, this was a threat the youth never intended to carry out, the Sheriff's Department stated.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein added measures in the juvenile justice bill to ban those under the age of 18 from owning assault weapons and outlaws the importation of the high-capacity gun magazines into the nation, her Washington, D.C., office announced.

In a written statement, the National Rifle Association called the federal bill a "charade of law-making without law enforcement."



A call to help a case

The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department hopes a $25,000 reward will produce a break in a 2-year-old murder investigation that has detectives frustrated over its progress.

Sheriff's Detective Juan Freeman said the case is moving along slower than expected but hopes the reward offered by Pacific Lumber Co. will bring in new information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the slaying of Sandra Albiani.

Albiani was strangled to death while making her rounds as a security guard on the grounds of PL's Scotia mill in June 1997, Freeman confirmed. The body of the 45-year-old woman was found at the edge of the log pond at the mill.



Blaze claims park buildings

A fire caused about $1 million in damage at a state park in southern Humboldt Monday.

A blaze started at about 1 a.m. and was extinguished five hours later destroying an auto shop and storage shed at the Humboldt Redwoods State Park headquarters in Weott. The two buildings had a "high potential for things to burn," said parks spokesman Alan Wilkenson, stopping short of calling it arson. The incident is under investigation by the California Department of Forestry.

Chain saws, tools and a flatbed trailer for hauling equipment were consumed in the fire. The loss could slow maintenance operations on the same week the park service gears up for the kickoff weekend of the summer tourism season.

On a more promising note, park officials are getting ready to welcome a new visitor's center on the north end of Trinidad at Patrick's Point State Park, scheduled to open by early July.

After the electricity is hooked up, the center will open near the entrance of the park off its namesake drive. It will offer a small, nonprofit bookstore, interactive displays on the cultural and natural history of the region, a meeting room to accommodate 35 people and a staging area for junior ranger programs.

Over the Memorial Day holiday, the park service will launch a series of guided hikes and campfire programs on the weekends at Patrick's Point, one park that is expected to be "very busy," he said. Beginning June 18, the programs will run every day.

State park reservations can be made by calling 800-444-7275. All Redwood National and State Park campgrounds Elk Prairie, Mill Creek, Jedediah Smith and Gold Bluffs Beach are also available for reservations by using the number above.


A desire for speed

As the Kinetic Sculpture Race gears up for its show of shows this Memorial Day weekend, a version based primarily on speed boasts a course record.

The newly-invented Extreme Kinetic follows the same course as the three-day event, but participants navigate the entire circuit in one day.

On May 1, Al Krause and his co-pilot, Bernard Fosnaugh, completed the entire course in 7 hours, 46 minutes. Their cycle was the only entrant.

Whether organizers of the original kinetic race recognize the course record or not remains to be seen. Founding father Hobart Brown said Krause and Fosnaugh needed to circle the Arcata Plaza three times, for instance. Krause said they circled once.

Even so, Krause said he would declare the "all-terrain" vehicle record under the auspices of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association.

The two cyclists pedaled a 3-wheel upright, recumbant tandem bicycle, often beating their support teams to the next destination. They added a "Windwrap" windshield to further enhance the aerodynamics.

The bicycle has placed 1st overall in the Kinetic Sculpture Race twice, as the Top Banana and a fish taxi. It has also placed first for speed three times.

"It was made to go fast and (to) be efficient," Krause said. "It was a good day." They had no break downs, and except for a light drizzle in the morning, a sunny day.



New refuge boat dock

A dock specifically designed for non-motorized boats was installed last week at the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced.

The 10-by-50-foot platform with a hinged ramp, located at the Hookton Slough public use area west of U.S. Highway 101 off Hookton Road, was installed so boaters, such as kayakers and canoers, can observe wildlife, the federal agency said in an issued statement.

Though peak viewing season for most species of waterbirds and raptors is September through March, summer visitors are apt to see many gulls, terns, cormorants and pelicans, along with resident egrets and herons.

The dock, which is closed from Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, was funded by the Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Boating and Waterways and Humboldt Area Foundation. It costs $50,000, said Kim Forrest of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Boaters are warned to be aware of tides, wind and weather changes on Humboldt Bay and are advised to wear lifejackets.


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