North Coast Journal

NEWSBRIEFS
FEBRUARY 1996


BILLBOARDS TO BE OUSTED

The multi-county board of the North Coast Railroad Authority has voted to oust billboards from its bayshore property between Arcata and Eureka, but not all the advertisers are going quietly into that good night.

The railroad's chief executive officer, Ed McLaughlin, said that the 3M National Advertising Co. was asking for an extension on the 30-day eviction notice. That notice would remove the company's 16 billboards along that stretch by the middle of February.

Ray Paschke, who heads up 3M's public affairs department, said his company already had won an extension until March 1996, or at least until the state Legislature acts upon a "scenic byways" designation for the Arcata-Eureka drive. 3M also is negotiating with the government over an eviction of signs posted on Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge property.

McLaughlin said the board's decision to quit leasing its right-of-way was based on a desire to beautify the area around Humboldt Bay. However, both he and Paschke noted that most of the signs advertise local businesses.

"We are potentially shooting ourselves in the foot," said McLaughlin, especially if the county is serious about increasing its tourist economy.

Paschke points a finger at outgoing Assemblyman Dan Hauser as pushing for a scenic designation for the city-to-city stretch of Highway 101. McLaughlin said that, for its part, the railroad's contracts with the advertisers -- some of which date back to the early 1960s -- require only 24 hours notice of termination, so the 30 days given could be seen as generous.

 

OLD TIRES TO BE USED FOR FUEL?

The Ultrapower energy plant in Blue Lake says it needs to switch over to a less expensive fuel to survive, and it's hoping the city will OK its plan to begin burning tire chips this spring.

The idea was first presented to the Blue Lake Planning Commission in November, said planner Bob Brown, and it's scheduled for a public hearing Feb. 19. Brown said he has submitted a negative declaration on the plan's environmental impact.

Part of that report was based on information from a pollution control agency in the San Joaquin Valley, which has been monitoring a plant in Westley that uses 100 percent tire fuel. Ultrapower's goal is to burn fuel consisting of 50 percent tires, 50 percent organic "hog" fuel.

The energy plant's contract to sell electricity to PG&E ends in August, and Ultrapower's parent company, North American Power Group, Ltd., in Colorado, says the plant must reduce costs to remain competitive or it could shut down. That would mean a loss of 25 full-time jobs.

Tim McKay of the Northcoast Environmental Center said that's a well-known argument: "Trust us, we're only going to increase the carcinogens a little bit. This is about jobs," was his interpretation of the proposal.

Brown said the issue raises something of an environmental paradox -- cheaper energy costs through use of recycled waste products vs. emissions that contain zinc, chromium, arsenic and lead.

Ultrapower is asking for a 90-day test period for its plan. Brown urged the public to review materials available at city hall and attend the public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19, also at city hall.

 

POLICE CHIEF RIVAS ARRAIGNED

Former Trinidad Police Chief Don Littlefeather Rivas was arraigned Jan. 26 on charges of child molestation stemming from an alleged relationship with a 14-year-old girl. Rivas is accused of having begun sexual relations with the child when she was 13.

A sheriff's deputy testified at a preliminary hearing last month about a conversation between Rivas and the girl's older sister, who secretly was wearing a "wire" as they talked. Detective Shannon Murphy said the recording of the conversation was flawed, but he had overheard it as it was being taped.

In that conversation, Murphy said, Rivas acknowledged an affair with the girl and said he wanted to marry her, although he was living at that time with his pregnant girlfriend. An investigator also testified that the girl admitted to having sex with Rivas about 40 different times.

 

RENNER TRIAL SET FOR MARCH

Former Humboldt County Sheriff Dave Renner is scheduled to go to trial March 18 on charges of embezzlement and destroying records.

Renner, who failed in 1994 to win reelection to the office he'd held for over a decade, pleaded innocent in Superior Court late last month. Renner is accused of misappropriating a little over $3,000 from a "snitch fund" set up within the sheriff's department.

Both his lawyer, Greg Rael, and District Attorney Terry Farmer had tried to disqualify Farmer's office from handling the case: In the end, it was given over to a special prosecutor, Bob Hickock.

 

'NO' TO NEEDLE EXCHANGE

The Board of Supervisors declined to throw its clout behind efforts to lobby the state Legislature for a needle-exchange program, and the public health officer who suggested it says it probably would be a waste of time, anyway.

"Needle exchange has been shown to lower the transmission of HIV in drug-using communities," said Dr. Ann Lindsay of the county's Department of Public Health.

However, Gov. Pete Wilson has vetoed legislation to legalize such programs before, and Lindsay doesn't think another bill would even make it through the Legislature now.

Possession of a hypodermic syringe without a medical prescription is illegal, so drug users often share needles. That increases their risk of developing diseases such as hepatitis and the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, that causes AIDS. Needle-exchange programs provide clean needles to drug users.

Although a local study showed the presence of HIV among drug users to be around 1 percent, Lindsay said, the rate of hepatitis C was 70 percent, indicating that the behavior patterns exist to make HIV transmission a serious local problem.

A 1 percent incidence of HIV seems small, Lindsay said, "But once you get up around 5 or 6 percent it grows rapidly," she said.

Lindsay didn't have the opportunity to present her case to the supervisors, she said, but doesn't think she'll pursue the issue, given the current climate in Sacramento.

 

PROFESSOR'S WIFE STILL MISSING

Lonna Raye Angelel, 47, the estranged wife of Humboldt State University physical education Professor Larry Angelel, has been missing since Dec. 17 when her truck was found abandoned behind Al's Eureka Truck Terminal on Broadway.

Police investigators are treating the case as a potential homicide because human blood was found in the bed of the truck.

Humboldt County Sheriff's Detective Chris Thiel said detectives don't know yet if the blood is Lonna Angelel's because no medical records have been found.

Detectives are now trying to track down medical records of lab tests performed in Oregon and Washington. Thiel said blood samples have been taken from the woman's son and her sister for DNA testing.

Since the disappearance, two searches have been conducted on Larry Angelel's property. Rescue dogs were used in a Jan. 6 search of the 20-acre parcel in Fieldbrook.

 

L-P AGREES TO SETTLE SIDING SUITS

Louisiana-Pacific Corp. agreed last month to pay $1.8 million to settle lawsuits over alleged defects in the company's house siding.

L-P will pay $1 million to Washington State University's Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory for research on improving the quality of composite strand board products.

In addition, L-P agreed to pay $505,000 to the state of Oregon and $250,000 in a civil penalty, and $100,000 in costs and attorney fees to Washington.

L-P admitted no wrongdoing.

-END-



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