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January 7, 1999


Headwaters deadline looms

An alternative to jail

Next time, stay at home

Arts Council makes its move

Retailers see improved sales

Grant money distributed

Headwaters deadline looms

As the final touches are put on Pacific Lumber Co.'s habitat conservation plan, federal negotiators are faced with the prospect that the timber company may not agree to the deal to preserve Headwaters Forest.

"There is no guarantee," said company spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel. "What we have said is we need to wait and see what form the final HCP is in before we know if it's acceptable."

After negotiations broke off just before Christmas, the Clinton administration last week gave its final offer aimed at sealing the $495 million purchase deal.

At the time, Pacific Lumber agreed that the process to approve the habitat conservation plan should continue, but it stopped short of agreeing to the proposed terms of the 50-year management plan governing timber harvesting on the company's 211,000 acres.

"Until we see what specific terms are included in that final HCP, we cannot say whether we'll accept or reject it," Bullwinkel said. "We're hopeful the timeline will be met. That's why we agreed in principle to continuing this HCP process."

A printed copy of the HCP is expected to be ready mid-month. It needs to be circulated for public review 30 days before the sale is complete. Negotiators are looking at a March 1 deadline to complete the complicated transaction.

A sticking point in negotiations has been the depth of buffer zones protecting waterways and fish habitat on Pacific Lumber land in Humboldt County. The final plan has been described as more stringent than the draft HCP, which Pacific Lumber previously called too restrictive.

An alternative to jail

Chief Probation Officer David Lehman thinks one program could save Humboldt County thousands of dollars, prevent its jail from becoming overcrowded and stymie what he calls "welfare syndrome."

There's only one catch the county would allow certain probationary prisoners to stay out of jail so they may enter the workforce.

This isn't a new idea. Until last week, convicted felon and former Sheriff Dave Renner was able to continue working in Lassen County while on probation through the use of an electronic monitoring program. The program allowed Renner to go to work but required an electronic device be attached to his phone and to his body so officers could monitor his whereabouts.

Because of a lack of funding, the program hasn't been available to adult criminals in Humboldt County since the new jail was completed.

When it was still in existence, Lehman said the program cost the county $10 to $12 per day, per prisoner, considerably less than the $50 it costs each day to keep a prisoner behind bars.

And, Lehman said, less than 2 percent of electronically monitored prisoners returned to prison after completing the program, far better than the rate of recidivism for jailed inmates in Humboldt County. Exact numbers for released prisoners who later return to jail were not available.

Lehman said the program is generally offered to prisoners at the end of their sentences who cannot afford bail. Inmates with violent backgrounds would not be eligible.

"Incarceration vs. probation is always a (controversial) issue," he said. "But not everyone needs to go to jail."

Sheriff Dennis Lewis is also an "enthusiastic supporter" of re-implementing the program.

"It does help people make the transition from being in custody (to being released)," he said. Lehman added that electronically monitored prisoners work and pay income taxes, which generates tax revenue for the county. And the program encourages prisoners to remain in the workforce once out of prison, rather than relying on welfare.

But with adequate jail space available and a limited county budget to fund both inmates and home monitored prisoners, Lehman said he doesn't know if the program will be re-implemented anytime soon.

"The question is, do you run the jail or do you run the program?" he said.

Next time, stay at home

Traveling during the busy holiday season is bad enough without fog, snow and freezing winds.

But folks attempting to travel just about anywhere last weekend got a good dose of winter's fury and many watched through windows at crowded airport terminals as snow fell and fog rolled in.

Travelers attempting to leave from Los Angeles and Bay area airports saw their flights canceled or delayed because of dense fog, and some pilots were forced to divert incoming flights to places like Reno and Sacramento.

Those trying to travel to or from the Midwest were stopped cold when two storm systems collided there Jan. 2, dumping more than a foot of snow in areas of Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois.

Matt Triaca, a spokesperson for United Airlines, said bad weather forced the airline to cancel 692 of 2,300 flights nationwide on that Saturday. The next day travelers didn't fare much better with another 529 United flights canceled. And as of the Journal's press deadline, thousands of travelers were still stranded in parts of the Midwest and some had been stuck in the airport for days.

Although representatives from United Express did not have specific numbers regarding cancellations and delays out of the Arcata/Eureka Airport, Marguerite Dalianes, owner of Dalianes World Wide Travel Service in Eureka, said Humboldt County travelers were not spared weather-related problems.

She said the main problem was trying to make connecting flights in spite of the fog at Los Angeles and Bay area airports. Several of her clients were forced to drive to the Bay area to make connecting flights, she said, and some had to re-book.

To add insult to injury, many travelers returned home after the holidays to find their baggage hadn't yet arrived. Triaca said at one point during the week after Christmas, 5,000 bags belonging to United Airlines passengers nationwide were left unclaimed. Combined with other airlines, lost baggage numbers reached closer to the 30,000 mark.

While Triaca and Dalianes said the severe weather conditions this winter are "unusual," there are steps jaded travelers can take to help make the next airport experience less of a nightmare.

"The best thing you can do is check in early," Dalianes said. And if your flight is canceled or delayed, "make sure the airline re-accommodates you," she said. "It's the airline's responsibility."

Although airlines aren't obligated to reimburse passengers for weather-related delays, they are required to offer travel vouchers for those who are bumped from their flight because of overbooking.

And some airlines will offer hotel vouchers for travelers who are delayed overnight. But when the hotels are full and there were few vacancies to be found New Year's weekend the best the airline can offer is a blanket and a pillow.

Triaca urges travelers to keep a close eye on weather conditions and be willing to reschedule if conditions make traveling unsafe.

"Safety is our No. 1 concern. Planes can't fly in severe weather," he said. "You have to think ahead and plan ahead."

Arts Council makes its move

The Humboldt Arts Council has temporarily moved from the Eureka Carnegie Building, but it expects to return next year to a bigger, better gallery space.

Throughout 1999, the 13,000-square-foot Carnegie building will be transformed into a Cultural Center and Regional Art Museum, complete with "museum quality" gallery space.

Arts Council Administrative Assistant Kim O'Connell said to qualify as museum quality, the galleries will be equipped with false walls to block out natural light. HAC also plans to install artificial lighting and climate control to help protect the artwork, she said.

The building currently has two galleries in operation, and the council will convert what is now office space into a third gallery. The mezzanine level will be converted into photography galleries and the lower level will serve as an "arts resource center." This center will have a lending library, computer access and an "artist workshop academy" that will make art classes available to children. Administrative offices will also be housed in the lower level.

Because the project is still in the bidding phase, the council has not yet determined the exact cost of the renovations. But Executive Director Debbie Goodwin said the council has raised $700,000 so far, and it's still accepting donations through its Brick-Buy-Brick program. Supporters can buy a brick for $65 to $75 or a tile for $1000, with all money going to help fund the renovation.

During 1999, the council will be located at the historic Ricks House at 730 H St. in Eureka. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Retailers see improved sales

The holiday shopping season was apparently good for some Humboldt County merchants, who reported strong retail sales during November, according to the monthly Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County.

While sales were up 4.4 percent from October, they increased dramatically in a year's time. November 1998 retail sales were up 13.5 percent over November 1997 and approximately 30 percent over levels observed in November 1994, 1995 and 1996.

"Results from our participating retailers suggest that retail sales are a continuing source of economic growth for Humboldt County," according to the index, which is provided as a public service by Humboldt State University Associate Professor Steven C. Hackett in the School of Business and Economics. Some 25 Humboldt County retailers provide statistics for the monthly index, which tracks trends in homes sales, employment, manufacturing and other economic indicators.

For November, the last month for which statistics were available, home sales increased to 97 residential sales, up from 80 sales in October.

"Overall, 1998 has been a very strong year for home sales, no doubt a reflection in part of mortgage interest rates that are nearly a full percentage point lower than in the recent past. ... Home sales for November 1998 were far greater than in any November since 1994," the index states.

Occupancy rates for hotels and motels also increased in November over the previous year, by 10.4 percent.

The employment picture wasn't as bright. "County employment in 1998 (through November) has been lower than the very strong showing in 1997," the index states.

The Employment Development Department reported that 57,400 people were employed in Humboldt County in November, down by 1,000 people from October. Nearly one-third of the decline in county employment during November occurred in the manufacturing sector, which is primarily made up of the timber industry.

Grant money distributed

Women and children are expected to be some of the biggest beneficiaries this year as nearly $354,000 in St. Joseph Health System grant money is put to use in 12 agencies throughout Humboldt County.

At the Redwood Community Action Agency a $50,000 grant has been split between the Youth Service Bureau shelter program for children ages 10 to 17 and the Family Shelter, which provides assistance for homeless families and those fleeing domestic violence.

"They were very generous," said Youth Service Director Peter LaVallee. "This will essentially help staff the facility."

The youth shelter in Eureka, which provides six beds for runaway, homeless and abandoned children and is staffed 24 hours a day, lost a federal Emergency Shelter Grant last year when the federal program changed its focus to homeless families. The St. Joseph grant will help make up the difference, LaVallee said.

The Family Shelter, which has been in business since 1986, includes four transitional shelters providing housing and support for up to 15 families daily. Here, half the grant will be used to fund a program aimed at breaking the cycle of homelessness and violence in families.

St. Joseph of Humboldt County awards grant money through its Community Needs Network Committee, which twice yearly distributes a portion of the health system's profits to Humboldt County programs for the poor, said Sister Ann McGuinn, who oversees the committee.

Ten percent of net revenue from St. Joseph Health System Humboldt County goes to the committee, with 75 percent of that amount earmarked for programs here. The remaining 25 percent goes to a foundation serving the entire St. Joseph Health System, which operates 10 hospitals in California and one in Texas.

For more than a decade, Sister McGuinn said, the Humboldt County health system has awarded about half a million dollars annually to area programs.

Other recipients of the latest round of grants included the Open Door Community Health Centers-Cooperative Dental Care, which received $25,000 for a proposed dental clinic offering services to needy children and Medi-Cal patients; the North Coast Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Programs, which received $26,867 to aid in early detection, screening and diagnostic services for low-income, medically underserved women; the Mobile Medical Office, which serves the rural and homeless population and received $25,000; and the Women's Resource Center, which received $116,385 to aid in its operating costs, among numerous other programs.

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