Balloon tract may be park
The husband of a Eureka City Council member says if no one else steps forward by next June, the couple will buy the 30-acre balloon tract from Union Pacific and turn it into a waterfront park.
"Someone should do something with that property or we're doing to do it," said Robin Arkley II, president of Security National Servicing Corp. and husband of Cherie Arkley.
"We need some things to happen in this town to attract and keep young families. Our biggest export is our children."
The parcel was at the center of the recent Wal-Mart controversy. The retailer had agreed to buy the property to build a store. Instead of requesting a rezoning from the city, Wal-Mart attempted to have the land use changed by initiative, a move defeated by voters in August. After the election, a spokesperson for the railroad said Wal-Mart was no longer interested in the parcel.
Rob Arkley told the Journal last week that his company, a privately held financing corporation with offices in five major cities, has the money to do it.
"The capital is tied up right now but we'll be ready by June," Arkley said.
His plan is to give the property to the city. He has already spoken to Union Pacific and city officials who have checked for any potential conflict of interest issues with the state attorney general.
Arkley and his wife are also principal partners in the Vance Hotel, currently under renovation, and two adjacent buildings in Old Town. The couple also recently purchased the old Adventure's Edge building on F Street in Old Town with plans to remodel it. The company headquarters are located in the renovated Woolworth Building on 5th and E streets, which the couple also owns.
"We can sit around in endless roundtables and have discussions about economic development, but we need some people who are willing to do something about it," he said.
Families file civil suit
The families of three slain Yosemite National Park sightseers have filed wrongful death civil suits in Fresno County Superior Court against the motel and its handyman charged with their murders.
The lawsuit names Cary Stayner, the suspect charged in the criminal case, in addition to owners of the Cedar Lodge, Stayner's employer and the apparent site of the abduction.
The 38-year-old El Portal man, who faces the death penalty if convicted, has confessed to the murders of Eureka residents Carole Sund, 43, her daughter, Juli, 15, and their family friend Silvina Pelosso, 16. The Pelosso family is being represented by a San Francisco attorney.
"I think the motivation is the issue of accountability. There are questions as to whether the motel did everything it possibly could to have prevented the murders," said Zachary Zwerdling, a Eureka attorney representing Jens Sund, Carole's husband.
The suit for unspecified damages will take issue with the women's room in proximity to the lodge office. While touring the park over President's Day weekend, the trio stayed in a remote wing of the motel unoccupied by others.
"We just want to find out why that was," he said. Zwerdling has represented plaintiffs in a few other similar cases where safety in motels is at issue.
"It doesn't happen every day. But when it does, it's very unfortunate," he said.
Stayner is being held in Fresno in connection with the murder of naturalist Joie Armstrong, which happened months after the Sund and Pelosso deaths. He has reportedly shared with authorities the details of his murder spree, which began in the victims' motel room and ended at a reservoir miles away.
Carole Carrington of Eureka, mother of Carole Sund and grandmother of Julie, told NBC's Today show viewers that she hopes for a quick end to the criminal trial and that Stayner pleads guilty to the crimes in court.
"I think it would be better for his family and our family just to get it over with," she said at a benefit concert in Redding last week.
The Carrington family has been raising money for the reward foundation they started for loved ones of violent crime victims and missing persons.
Federal building to open
In two weeks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel won't have to use file cabinets as room dividers.
The federal agency is due to move Nov. 11, Veterans Day, to its new 25,000 square-foot, two-story structure off Valley West in Arcata located in front of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management building.
Redwood National Park, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Geological Survey personnel will split 10,000 square feet of office space with the Arcata Chamber of Commerce's new 1,200-square-foot visitors center. Fish and Wildlife will take over the remaining 15,000 square feet.
The agency has been crammed into the old Stewart School building on 16th Street in Arcata. "We basically have outgrown the space," said Mary Knapp, Fish and Wildlife deputy project leader.
Ironically, the staff has been reduced by 40 percent this last year due to budget cuts, Knapp said. Out of 50 workers in the fisheries and field personnel divisions, 27 remain.
Moving costs will run at least $75,000, Knapp estimated.
The new visitor center will open in spring for seven days a week. The center will feature locally made gifts, arts and crafts, and food products.
Hospice looking north and east
With a new grant and expertise, Hospice of Humboldt is set to expand.
The California Endowment, the state's largest health foundation, awarded a $336,000 grant to Hospice to open branch offices in Willow Creek and Garberville.
Currently the Eureka-based nonprofit serves patients as far away as Orick to the north, Blue Lake to the east and Rio Dell to the south. It is unable to serve patients in the outlying areas because of limitations allowed by Medicare, Executive Director Paul Mueller said. The federal government's health insurance program for the elderly and disabled requires agency field personnel respond to a patient's home in less than an hour.
The agency expects about one to four patients in Willow Creek and five to 10 in Garberville, Mueller said. About one-third of the grant money is earmarked for teleconferencing-type equipment that will help staffers make diagnostic decisions from Eureka. This feature is especially important when roads close due to weather.
The money will also be used to expand bereavement services for the families it serves, the board of directors announced Monday.
Hospice of Humboldt is hiring as a consultant Catherine Krause, former Humboldt Home Health executive director, to help build the branches.
Tory Starr, a 15-year staffer with the home health agency, took over as director last week, St. Joseph Health System announced.
Headwaters $$ to be invested
The $22 million in federal and state money given to Humboldt County from the Headwaters Forest purchase in March will go into an endowment fund.
But residents needn't worry about the safety of such an endeavor, according to Treasurer-Tax Collector Steve Strawn. The state has strict guidelines on investing public funds. Funds cannot be invested in the stock market in the same way private individuals invest, he said.
The county's first priority is the safety the $22 million, part of the approximately $150 million in the county's investment portfolio, Strawn said.
"Even the most stable investment runs the risk of losing money, but only if you sell it," he said. Unless there's an unforeseen emergency that requires a lot of cash, the county most likely will not be forced to do that.
A second priority in investing is the liquidity, meaning the county's ability to pay its bills in the normal ebb and flow of financial management and the third priority is yield the earning potential.
Since deposited months ago, the Headwaters funds have earned enough to reimburse law enforcement agencies about $575,000 for costs accrued in monitoring environmental demonstrations.
The Board of Supervisors agreed to pay out that amount last week by a unanimous vote. Supervisor Stan Dixon was absent. It also decided to allocate a portion $200,000 a year for 10 years into the general fund in lieu of lost timber taxes.
For months agencies and community groups have been lining up with wish lists and recommendations to advise the county on how to spend the money.
FEMA funds get final OK
The North Coast Railroad Authority will receive $11.4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to make much-needed repairs to the 300-mile rail line.
New authority Chairman Bob Jehn said the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, which closed last November due to track defects, will be open as far north as Petaluma by next month. In December all the major work will be completed to Willits. Eureka's stretch will be open by late next summer. That's if the weather cooperates, a common factor in whether the rail service runs or not.
Meanwhile, new director Max Bridges has been splitting his time between the Eureka office and the new Cloverdale office, where Jehn is also stationed.
Strope to lead HAF
Times Printing owner Lane Strope was elected to lead the Humboldt Area Foundation into the next millennium.
Strope also serves on the boards of American Syntactics Inc., College of the Redwoods Graphic Arts and Printing, North Coast Leadership Round Table, Fieldbrook Community Services District, Northern California Community Blood Bank and the Clarke Memorial Museum. He joined the HAF board July 1994.
Other new officers for the 1999-2000 fiscal year include Vice Chairwoman Mary Ann Spencer, who's been on the HAF board for three years, and Secretary Amos Tripp, a Karuk attorney who specializes in federal Indian law.
The new board members join Jorge Luis Babot, Mary Ann Bansen, Marilee Hadley Taylor, John R. Selvage and Edward L. Nilsen.
Video crew rolls into town
Photographer Herb Ritts' video production company is touring Humboldt County this week to tape a Cadillac commercial.
While they were here the Los Angeles-based Ritts/Hayden 67-member crew occupied rooms in three local hotels and ran up a $200 pizza tab in one night alone.
"It's definitely positive exposure to the county," said local coordinator, Gabrielle Bacchus.
It's the second time in the area for the crew of the famous photographer, who got his start with a black and white photo of actor Richard Gere. Last time the crew shot a Jaguar commercial. This time the Detroit, Mich. advertising agency handling the account, D'Arcy, is requesting tape of the Cadillac in different settings.
The crew toured the Avenue of the Giants last week. This week the car has made its way to the new federal building off West End Road, then a ridge southeast of Ferndale. The crew will finish off the week at Sequoia Park in Eureka.
Fortuna to handle own trash
Fortuna has decided to withdraw from the Humboldt County Waste Management Authority because city officials believe they can do it cheaper themselves.
The city has lined up Eel River Disposal to handle its trash and to set up a city transfer station, City Manager Dale Neiman confirmed. Neiman is working on "an exit agreement" from the joint powers authority, which includes the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Ferndale and Rio Dell. Eureka has also expressed interest in withdrawing from the authority.
"Like sewer and water, we should pay for the service we get," he said. Neiman contends the city has been paying too much for trash pickups outside the city limits and wants to go its own way.
The city's dissent in subsidies first came to light when the authority passed its budget last summer.