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Jan. 13, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Tsunami relief efforts

'Udder Convienience'
Milk, the old-fashioned way


The Weekly Wrap

WILSON BOWS OUT: Judge Christopher Wilson voluntarily removed himself from the district attorney's fraud lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co. on Monday. "I think it's time to focus on this case," Wilson said. "Unfortunately, for the last six months the focus has been on me." The move follows a months-long legal struggle in which the district attorney's office sought to have Wilson removed from the case because of remarks he made to Asst. District Attorney Tim Stoen during an unrelated case; Stoen and DA Paul Gallegos alleged that the comments indicated "the appearance of bias." Late last year, though, a state appellate court ruled that Wilson could remain on the case if he wished. Wilson said Monday that he had no doubts about his ability to remain impartial, but he said that the case was too important to the county for the outcome to be recorded "with an asterisk." "We're not happy with this, and that's obvious," said Pacific Lumber attorney John Behnke after Wilson entered his decision into the record. The case will be turned over to Judge Richard Freeborn, a retired judge from Lake County. Freeborn is scheduled to hold a case management conference with the parties on Jan. 19.

STERNS FINDS HIS NICHE: John Sterns, the former Humboldt State administrator who was at the center of the university's 2001 financial scandal, has a new job. Since July, Sterns has been working for Centerforce, a San Rafael-based nonprofit that advocates for prisoners' rights. "I think Centerforce does good work, and I enjoy working for them," he said in a phone interview Monday. Sterns said that he has been up front with his employers about his criminal history; Centerforce's Web page notes that 73 percent of its staff are either ex-prisoners or relatives of ex-prisoners. Sterns had little to say about his previous job with a different nonprofit, the Coalition for Essential Schools. Sterns abruptly departed that job in December 2003, shortly after the Arcata Eye found out about Sterns' position and called to ask management for comment. "I just changed jobs," Sterns said of the episode. In June 2002, Sterns pleaded guilty to nine felony counts ranging from forgery, filing false government records and lying about donations to the university during his tenure there. He spent seven months in county jail and was ordered to pay back some $125,000 in misappropriated university funds.

PLANNING COMMISSION STANDOFF: It looks as though Mayor Peter La Vallee and the Eureka City Council are headed into a major clash over an empty seat on the city's Planning Commission. Last month the council rejected the mayor's choice of resident Xandra Manns, a retired professional planner, for the appointment; last week the council delayed appointing his second choice, Heartwood Institute owner Robert Fasic, a former attorney with a specialty in land use issues. The vote was 4-1, with Councilmember Chris Kerrigan dissenting. "Things are happening behind the scenes that I don't know about," La Vallee said Monday. "I think it's fair to say that they are getting pressure from someone." Seven people originally applied for the position -- among them local developer Steve Strombeck, who La Vallee said is one of the people apparently favored by a majority of the council for the spot. But La Vallee said that he believed it would be improper to nominate a prominent developer, given that the commission has broad powers to oversee construction in the city. The City Council is scheduled to revisit the issue at its meeting Tuesday night.

BABY DIES IN CRASH: A 1-year-old girl died Friday when the SUV she was riding in slid off the roadway on Hwy. 101 south of Laytonville and flipped upside-down into a creek, the California Highway Patrol said. The baby's mother, Sarah Allen, 27, of Blue Lake, was driving a 1997 Toyota 4Runner in the heavy rain and intermittent snow when she lost control of the vehicle, the CHP said. The SUV overturned down an embankment, completely submerging the passenger compartment. Allen and passenger Joseph Salas, 28, also of Blue Lake, were able to get out of the car, but bystanders who attempted to remove the baby, Opa Magdelena Mayataa Allen, were not able to get her out of her car seat in time. Efforts to revive her at Howard Hospital in Willits were unsuccessful.

THOMPSON ON WAYS AND MEANS: Rep. Mike Thompson, recently re-elected, was selected for the House Ways and Means Committee last week. The powerful committee oversees a wide range of matters, including taxation, international trade, health care and Social Security.

ARKLEYS FUND INAUGURATION: The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday that Eureka businessman Rob Arkley, owner of Security National Servicing Corp., and his wife, Cherie, donated $100,000 to President Bush's $18 million inauguration fund.

FERNDALE CHIEF FINDS HIS MAN: New Ferndale Police Chief Lonnie Lawson has only been on the job for about six weeks, but he's already making quite an impression. When he assumed office, Lawson decided to clear out the force's evidence locker. Among the items was a bag of camera equipment valued at $8,000 that an officer had impounded several years ago during a routine traffic stop. The owner of the equipment could not be traced. But looking into the bag, Lawson -- a former investigator for the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and private detective -- discovered a small bottle of touch-up paint from a Eureka auto body shop. On a hunch, he asked employees at the shop if they could identify whom they sold the paint to. They could, and a very surprised Eureka resident was reunited with his equipment years after the fact; on bad advice from a security guard, he had never reported it stolen. "It's always been a curiosity thing -- to see if I can figure something out," said Lawson. The evidence locker isn't empty yet: Lawson said that he is currently looking for the owner of what he believes may be a very valuable collection of sports trading cards. If you think you know who they may belong to, call 786-4025.

FRIENDS OF VAN DUZEN VISIT SACTO: Representatives of the local watershed group Friends of the Van Duzen met in Sacramento late last month to ask, once again, for more oversight of Van Duzen water conditions on the part of the Water Quality Control Board. Sal Steinberg, coordinator of the citizens' group, said Monday that they are concerned that rates of harvest by the Pacific Lumber Co. are severely damaging the watershed. The water board is failing to exercise its power in the matter because of staff and budget cuts, he said. Pacific Lumber did not return a phone call seeking comment. The Friends of the Van Duzen will hold its biennial fund-raiser Jan. 22 at the Carlotta Grange Hall. For info, call Mike at 777-3408.

MAN KILLED BY POWER LINE: A man from Whitethorn was electrocuted and died last week after he attempted to pick up a power line that had fallen near a southern Humboldt roadway. According to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, a person driving on Bell Springs Road in the Harris area east of Garberville spotted Neil Steven Gambrall, 22, lying upon a downed power line. Police said that it appeared that Gambrall tried to move the live wire that had fallen during a rainstorm.

SNOW RESCUES: Severe winter weather in Humboldt County's high country set off a string of snow rescues for the Sheriff's Office and Sheriff's Search and Rescue Posse. On Jan. 3, Wendy Parker walked nearly two miles through knee-deep snow in Berry Summit to get help for her family trapped in their cabin and running low on heating fuel. Humboldt County Deputy Phillip Daastol said that Parker left her children, ages 11, 9 and 3, and their puppy, and trekked to the freeway, where she flagged down a driver who took her to Blue Lake. She contacted the Sheriff's Office, who had to cut down trees and use a Snowcat vehicle to reach the residence. On Friday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. Joseph Scott Brooks, 20, of Arcata and Pat E. Patterson, 41, of Blue Lake were stuck in snow that reached the windows of their pickup truck on Bald Hills Road, east of Orick. The men were not hurt and were taken to Orick to stay with relatives. On Saturday, James Lindeman, 50, was stranded at his home off Titlow Hill Road. According to a Sheriff's Office press release, snow drifts leading the man's home reached 5 to 6 feet high. Lindeman was taken to a friend's home in Eureka. At 1 a.m. on Sunday, the Sheriff's Office received a cell phone call from Sheila Layman, 24, and Michael Fishkin, 28, who were stuck in their 2-wheel-drive pickup truck on the snow-covered Johnson Road, off Bald Hills Road. Later Sunday, at 10 a.m., Nanci Ochoa called police from her Titlow Hill home where she was stranded and running low on fuel and food. Rescue teams plowed through six-foot snowdrifts in the Snowcat to reach the residence.

MARIJUANA BUST: Humboldt County Sheriff's deputies helped federal agents bust an indoor marijuana growing operation in Alderpoint, where $1.8 million worth of pot was confiscated, according to police. The Sheriff's Department, the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI arrived at the Dokweiler Road property Jan. 4 with a search warrant, although no suspects were at the scene. Law enforcement seized 2,501 marijuana plants from the indoor facility, which was camouflaged beneath a dense tree canopy and powered by a diesel generator.

NO-COST CANCER SCREENING: Humboldt County clinics are offering no-cost cervical cancer screenings this week. Open Door Community Health Centers provide pap tests and pelvic exams for women through Friday, Jan. 14, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. No walk-in appointments are available. Call ahead at these participating clinics for an appointment: Arcata's Open Door Clinic at 826-8610; North Country Clinic, 822-2481; Eureka Community Health Center, 441-1624; and McKinleyville Community Health Center, 839-3068.

Tsunami relief efforts

These local businesses and citizens are joining in the worldwide effort to help in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami. The Humboldt County Chapter of the American Red Cross: call 443-4521 to make a donation. World Shelters: Arcata makers of all-weather, temporary shelters are accepting donations to ship the huts overseas. Call 822-6600, or visit Sacred Grounds: Arcata coffee house on F Street will match funds donated by customers to send to Sumatra, where they buy coffee beans. Robert Gearheart: HSU engineering professor headed to Sumatra for one month to help with sanitation work. Sun Valley Floral Group: Arcata bulb farm is donating 100 percent of its "Sumatra" lily sales through January to the American Red Cross. Eureka/Arcata businesses: 35 local businesses are participating in a fund-raiser by donating a percentage of their Jan. 15 sales to disaster relief organizations. Julie Fulkerson, owner of Plaza Design, spearheaded the effort. The North Coast Co-op: Arcata and Eureka grocery stores collect funds for international relief programs UNICEF, CARE and Oxfam.

'Udder Convienience'
Milk, the old-fashioned way


The neighborhood milkman seems like a ghost of simpler times, a quaint but fading memory that has been replaced with the fluorescent-lit supermarket check-out line. Resurrecting the nostalgia and the convenience of front porch milk delivery, 21-year-old Stephanie Costa of Eureka is bringing back a dying profession and following in her father's footsteps.

"I think people will want to have their milk delivered. It saves time and gas, and it's a nice, old-fashioned thing to do," Costa said. "It's also good for the elderly, large families or disabled people who can't get out of the house as much."

Dennis Costa, Stephanie's father and owner of Costa Distributors, which delivers Darigold dairy products to area coffee shops and restaurants, delivered milk to people's homes for 15 years in Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna. But as requests from local businesses mounted, and home deliveries declined, ending the residential route four years ago seemed the only option.

"In some families the kids grew up and went off to college, so they'd end the service because they stopped drinking so much milk," Dennis Costa said. "At the same time the other part of the business was growing so I had to let go of the home deliveries."

Of the 200 homes that had the service, Costa only kept 10 that were close to his home in Eureka.

Eventually, daughter Stephanie, a business major at College of the Redwoods and her fiancé, Scott Phelps, a teacher at the North Coast Learning Academy, took over the 10-house route. They have made those deliveries every Monday night for the past year.

It was last semester in a marketing class at CR that Stephanie hit on the idea of creating a division of her dad's business to expand the home delivery service.

"I think it's great that she wants to build that part of the business back up," Dennis Costa said.

After coming up with a business name -- Udder Convenience -- applying for a license, and even talking with seniors about their milk consumption, the young couple is about to start their own business. It worked once; it could work again with some effort, they said.

"Right now we're waiting on our milk handler's license but we should be all set by the end of the month," Costa said.

Gary Stillman's family is one of the few that still has dairy delivered to their home by the Costas. Stillman got the delivery service as a gift to his wife, Michelle.

"It's not that we can't physically get to the store often enough, I just like the idea that someone provides a service of yesteryear," Stillman said. As a kid growing up in the Bay Area, Stillman's family had milk delivered to their home in glass bottles.

But the glass containers of days gone by have been replaced with standard plastic jugs. Stephanie said that while old-fashioned bottles might make the service more popular, she'll stick with the plastic and cardboard cartons of Darigold milk to keep costs down. She also plans to keep the rate for weekly delivery the same as it's always been -- $5 a month.

The next step is to expand the route to Arcata and Fortuna. Once more customers sign up for the service, the couple plans to fix Dennis Costa's old 1964 Ford Divco milk truck, and paint it black and white to resemble a Jersey cow.

"We'll make a little bit from the milk at first, $50 a month. But we know it can grow quickly because it was big in the past," Costa said. "Right now it's just about getting things started, and offering a service to the community."


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