North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

December 28, 2000

'Bijou' gets green light
in Ferndale

Energy crunch worse for some

The check's in city's account

Water authority shift?

More firefighters in 2001

Harbor commission vacancy

Teacher of the year named


'Bijou' gets green light in Ferndale

It's official. Jim Carrey is coming to Humboldt County. Filming for a romantic comedy called The Bijou is scheduled for six weeks beginning in March. The period piece, set in 1951, will use Ferndale as a backdrop.

"Monday (Dec. 11) we got the permit from the city of Ferndale," said Rory Enke, location manager for Castle Rock, the production company shooting the film. "Now it's a matter of negotiations with private property owners in the downtown area and dealing with downtown merchants arranging for fees connected with filming."

The city will receive fees for police services and the use of city property, including streets, the town cemetery and a public parking lot where a Bijou movie theater will be built.

Castle Rock will also cover the cost of converting a veterinary office into office space for the film crew. After the filming is concluded, the building will become Ferndale's new police station. Ferndale's mayor, Jeff Farley, estimates that the city will take in $60,000-$70,000.

"That's a fairly good sum of money for not having to do a lot," said Farley in a call from his milk delivery truck. "We told them up front we're not going to gouge them. We just want them to make everybody happy. And we want it in writing."

Fees paid by the film company are just a small part of the millions the production will spend locally. Humboldt County Film Commissioner Jensen Rufe estimates that filming for Outbreak brought in $3 million. "And that was just a three-week shoot. This time they will be here twice as long."

Despite the financial benefit for the county as a whole, after the Outbreak experience some in Ferndale were leery about another film crew coming to town.

"We learned a lot from Outbreak," said Farley. "We had people upset. `I didn't know they were going to do that, or I didn't know they were going to do this.' This time we've had five different public hearings and meetings for all the merchants and all the people. That way they can ask all those questions and believe me, they did. And Castle Rock was there to answer them.

"We said, `If you'd like to film in Ferndale we'd love to have you. But here's the way it's going to be this time: You're going to take care of Ferndale first.' Between the hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts, we have 63 rooms in town for rent. We're going to rent about half of them to the film and crew. That's one thing the people wanted; They didn't want Castle Rock in all of them so no tourists could come in."

Besides shooting downtown, the film crew will set up a sound studio in the largest building on the Ferndale Fairgrounds, Hindley Hall. Other interior shots will be done in Los Angeles, but Enke said, "The problem is we're shooting in the rainy season. We cannot afford to shut down. This way we'll have a place to go when it rains. When you're paying 100 some-odd people who are all living in motel rooms, you have to keep it moving."

Farley said he has read the script and thinks The Bijou will be "a fine movie."

Carrey plays a writer blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee who suffers a case of amnesia. Arriving in a small town, he is mistaken for the estranged son of the owner of the local movie house, the Bijou.

"This time Jim Carrey is not just a comedian," said Farley. "He really gets to act. It's a romance and a drama together. It's the kind of film I'd take my family to."

Rufe is collecting resumés from those looking for work as an extra or in production. He requests that anyone interested send two copies of a resumé and a head shot to the Humboldt County Film Commission, 1034 2nd St., Eureka, 95501.

Energy crunch worse for some

As the energy squeeze tightens and consumers across the state are looking for ways to reduce costs, certain businesses are being especially hard-hit.

Some are "non-firm" customers, those who purchase electricity from Pacific Gas & Electric at reduced prices. In return they agree to be taken off of the grid in power emergencies. In good years, the savings can be substantial, but right now, it's anything but a good deal.

"We've gone down 17 times this year," said Kenneth Cole, manager of the Louisiana-Pacific particleboard plant in Arcata. Cole said in the past the company has saved money but not this year.

"It's not cost-effective with this many curtailments. We go completely black," Cole said. "It certainly puts a strain on us and it gets to the point where it was probably not the best decision we made. When the contract comes up it will be something we look at."

Even if you don't get taken off line, the crunch can be costly, said Sean Kearns, director of university advancement for Humboldt State University.

"Last December, our natural gas bill was about $47,000. We do not know how effective our conservation measures will be, but it's likely that cost will double." He said the university had budgeted extra money for natural gas this winter but was unprepared for such rapid price increases.

Kearns said that while the university is introducing extra conservation measures to adjust to the energy shortage, there is a limit to the number of improvements possible.

"We are in a situation as a campus where we have implemented many conservation measures in the past, including energy-efficient building designs or replacing old boilers. There's not a lot of fat in our energy usage."

The check's in city's account

Rob and Cherie Arkley handed over two checks for a total of $2 million to Eureka Tuesday to cover the shortfall in the city's boardwalk project.

"I want to make sure it gets in the bank tonight," said Rob Arkley, who said his wife will be present for a press conference Wednesday to acknowledge the donation.

City Manager David Tyson said he was happy to accept the check a day early. The interest on $2 million for one day is about $600.

City officials discovered in November that bids exceeded estimates for the $4.2 million project by about $2 million. They recommended the project be completed in sections while additional funds were pursued.

However the Arkleys, who have undertaken a number of private projects to enhance the city's cultural and historic buildings over the last two years, did not want to see the boardwalk project delayed. Since Cherie Arkley is on the City Council, she had to recuse herself from accepting the gift to the city. A special fund was created to accept donations from the Arkleys and any other potential donors.

The Arkleys, along with developer Kurt Kramer, are responsible for the renovation of the Vance Hotel in progress and the two adjacent buildings now housing Kokopilau boutique and Hurricane Kate's restaurant. The couple also purchased and donated money for remodeling another historic building which is now the home of the Redwood Concert Ballet on F Street.

The concrete boardwalk will run approximately 1,200 feet between C and G streets along the bay. A pedestrian promenade along F Street between First Street and the bay will lead to a plaza at the foot of F.

Water authority shift?

When Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt signed the historic decision to restore almost half the flow to the Trinity River Dec. 19, he shared the podium in Hoopa with representatives of state, county and other governments. However there was one official that day who may have had her mind on another river -- State Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin.

Strom-Martin recently introduced Assembly Bill 38, which would shift control of the Sonoma County Water Agency from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to an independent, elected body. The agency controls as much as $8 billion in water facilities and resources, including water diverted from the Eel River in Southern Humboldt to the Russian River, supplying agriculture and almost 600,000 people in Sonoma and Marin counties.

"The bill I've introduced takes the 1949 state legislation that created the agency and says the Board of Supervisors will not be the water agency. It will be a separate elected body," Strom-Martin told the Journal. She called the bill "just a starting point," and said the new, elected body could possibly include representatives of Humboldt and Mendocino counties, although such language is not in the bill at this time.

"We need to make these decisions by taking into account all of the people affected," she said. "Those are the kinds of things we're researching now."

AB 38, which has yet to be referred to a committee, comes at an important time for the water agency and those affected by its decisions. The agency is planning a $140 million expansion that would increase the amount of water sold by 40 percent. At the same time, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which controls the dam diverting water from the Eel to the Russian, has proposed reducing the amount taken by 15 percent.

Strom-Martin said the bill is an attempt to broaden the decision-making process.

"I wouldn't be doing this without the outcry from citizens. Water systems don't know political boundaries."

About 95 percent of the state's water agencies are separate, elected bodies.

More firefighters in 2001

In response to this year's disastrous fire season, the federal government has funded more than 1,500 new positions for wilderness firefighters, including 75 in Six Rivers National Forest.

"Being a firefighter is hard work," said Peggy Lawrence, supervisor of the Eureka office of Six Rivers, cautioning prospective applicants.

The forest service holds a week-long camp in early summer to train new recruits that includes a grueling physical fitness test, classroom work and building a mock fireline.

"They wear all the safety gear, work long hours in hot, dusty, dirty conditions. It's very physical work, and of course it's very smoky," Lawrence said.

Starting pay is about $7 an hour plus room and board. Workers with experience get paid more, and any time a crew is actually fighting a fire, they receive hazard pay. When not actually digging firelines, the firefighters will be mechanically clearing brush to reduce the likelihood of future fires.

Applicants may call 441-3548 for more information.

Harbor commission vacancy

When Jimmy Smith won the race for 1st District Supervisor, he lost something else: his seat on the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District Board.

The board directs policy for the harbor district, a county agency with an annual budget of $1.7 million. Smith's replacement will be appointed by the four remaining commissioners out of a pool of applicants. Applications will be available starting Dec. 29 and will be accepted until mid-January.

Teacher of the year named

John Matthias, a 28-year veteran of Fortuna Union High School, has been named Humboldt County's Teacher of the Year. Matthias, a Eureka native and graduate of Humboldt State University, teaches English.

Matthias said he always wanted to be a teacher. "I can remember even as a kid playing school," he said.

In addition to teaching English, Matthias has taught psychology and served as the chair of the English Department. He was recognized as Teacher of the Year by graduating seniors in 1987 and 1990.

"It's a great honor," Matthias said of his latest award. "I feel like I represent a lot of great teachers in the county. It is too bad only one can be singled out, because there are a lot of good people."


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