North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

March 28, 2002

Satellite TV Week ceases

Federal Building sold

More smokies on the way

Is railroad suitor for real?

Senior elections next month

BLM seeking advice

Satellite TV Week ceases

Satellite TV Week, the Fortuna-based periodical that was once the country's largest magazine for satellite television consumers, is no more.

The magazine, a viewer's guide for people with the older model, large satellite dishes, has ceased operations and transferred its subscribers to its largest competitor, OnSat magazine of Shelby, N.C.

Satellite TV Week was printed by Fortuna Communications, a subsidiary of the Humboldt Group Inc., owned by Fortuna businessman Patrick O'Dell. Other Humboldt Group properties include the Humboldt Beacon and Humboldt Printing.

Both magazines were started in the early 1980s when the satellite TV phenomenon was just taking off. They jockeyed with each other for position for almost 20 years, said David Melton, news editor for OnSat.

"They have been the two primary weekly competitors for a long period of time," he said in a telephone conversation from North Carolina.

But the market for the large satellite dishes, which use a platform known as C-Band, has been shrinking for years. The introduction of satellite TV that uses smaller dishes has cut the number of new C-Band subscribers to almost nil.

"Sales of the big dishes have dropped from 40,000 a month 10 years ago to just 100 a month now," Melton said.

The new platforms, DirecTV and the DISH Network, are much less willing to work with outside magazines. Melton said both Satellite TV Week and OnSat have had trouble reaching small-dish subscribers because the companies behind the small-dish networks prohibit dealers from releasing the names of their customers.

And if the magazines can't figure out who's watching satellite television, they can't sell them a subscription, Melton said.

"They have in essence created a closed-door policy," Melton said.

There was only room for one magazine in that shrinking pool of customers. Satellite TV Week sold its list of subscribers to OnSat in late January and published its last issue Feb. 17.

O'Dell did not return calls for this report.

Federal Building sold

[photo of Federal Building]Another of the large unreinforced masonry buildings in downtown Eureka has been sold.

The Federal Building, located on the corner of 5th and H streets, was auctioned off by the federal General Services Administration. Bidding ended Feb. 11, when John North of Pleasanton entered the winning bid of $820,000.

North has gotten quite a chunk of real estate -- the building has almost 24,000 square feet of office space. But it comes with a host of conditions: Several federal agencies have three-year leases in the building, including the U.S. District Court and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The U.S. Post Office is also still operating on the ground floor.

That's bound to be problematic for the new owner because the building is in need of an earthquake retrofit. It is constructed of unreinforced masonry, notoriously susceptible to failure during earthquakes. A retrofit normally necessitates moving the tenants out of a space to install structural reinforcements.

And the fun doesn't stop there: There is also asbestos and lead paint removal that needs to be done.

The federal estimate for all that work? Around $8 million.

And demolition isn't likely to be an option: The building is listed on the Historic Register and any major plans must go through the State Historic Preservation Office.

North did not return calls for this report.

More smokies on the way

Drivers may be looking at more traffic tickets by Memorial Day when the speed limit along the Highway 101 Eureka-Arcata corridor drops from 60 to 50 mph. The California Highway Patrol has received additional funds to increase its patrol of that section of highway by eight hours a day.

"That stretch is staffed 24 hours a day now, typically," said Mike Cipriano, CHP public affairs officer. Three officers on eight-hour shifts patrol Highway 101 from just north of the Eureka Slough bridge to the Mad River bridge in McKinleyville. They are also responsible to patrol Highway 299 to Redwood Creek. However the majority of their time is spent between Eureka and Giuntoli Lane in Arcata, according to Cipriano.

The extra funds will allow for a second patrol car at different times throughout the day.

"They may be used in peak drive time or sometime in the middle of the day when drivers may be more tempted to speed," Cipriano said.

CHP will be aided by new radar guns that measure and display a vehicle's speed that will be installed in permanent, not mobile, signs by Caltrans. The signs will be placed along the north- and south-bound lanes near the more dangerous Highway 101 intersections of Indianola and the Bayside Cutoff, where the accident rate is two to three times the state average.

There is only one other section of roadway in the state that has similar warning signs, according to Caltrans District Director Rick Knapp.

"There's a section of northern I-5, north of Yreka, where there are tight curves that vehicles don't anticipate." Trucks particularly were leaving the roadway with increasing regularity until Caltrans installed permanent radar guns that reduced the number of accidents.

State Sen. Wesley Chesbro plans to introduce legislation to double the traffic fines in the new safety corridor, but that penalty would not go into effect by the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The Arcata City Council last week approved the Caltrans plan to lower the speed limits and add signage and flashing lights. The council also asked that Caltrans consider lowering the speed limit to 50 through the city up to the Mad River bridge.

Caltrans has not received the written request from the city, Knapp said, but when it does, it will have to be considered separately from the current plan, which has already been approved by the Eureka City Council and the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and concerns a specific five-mile stretch of highway.

Knapp said residents continue to suggest closing the medians to cross traffic entirely or allowing only U-turns, but those options have been considered and rejected at this time. Studies show that closing the median would create 12 percent more traffic in the corridor -- the equivalent of 5,000-6,000 more cars per day --require drivers to travel two to eight miles out of their way for each trip. And U-turns cannot accommodate most trucks.

A traffic signal at Indianola is another frequent suggestion to reduce injury accidents, but in order to allow adequate "green time" for cross traffic, the intersection would have to be expanded to six lanes -- a complicated proposal, Knapp said.

"History has shown that addition of traffic signals typically increases the number of collisions, although it may reduce severity, due to pulsating traffic, rear-enders and red-light runners."

Is railroad suitor for real?

An Illinois developer has expressed an interest in buying some of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad line -- but his desire may be hard to realize.

Ted Niemeyer of Wonderlake, Ill., appeared before the board of the North Coast Railroad Authority March 20 to discuss the possibility of acquiring all or portions of the Northwestern Pacific corridor.

It remains unclear what Niemeyer is interested in buying, said Max Bridges, executive officer for the NCRA.

"We did not get a lot of details, other than that he was interested in purchasing all or a portion of the line," Bridges said.

Purchasing the railroad line could be problematic. It is owned by several public entities, including Marin County, the NCRA, the Northwestern Railroad Authority and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Ownership of the southern end of the line is in flux, as recently introduced legislation would create a Sonoma-Marin rail district to consolidate ownership.

The Northern end of the line (from Healdsburg north) is owned entirely by the NCRA, so purchasing this section of line would be simpler. Niemeyer suggested as much at the March 20 meeting, according to a March 25 NCRA press release.

"His [Niemeyer's] first public statements were about taking over the entire line, but his latest statements seem to indicate that he may only be interested in acquiring the line from Willits north," said NCRA board chairman Dave Ripple.

But even if only the northern end of the line were bought, serious questions remain. How would Niemeyer find the funding to rehabilitate the line? Would legislation be required to authorize a sale? How would he run a railroad line that many feel will require continued subsidy?

"I can't get a fix on exactly what Niemeyer does want," Ripple said in the press release. "The only thing that seems certain is that Niemeyer feels strongly that he can raise large sums of money to take over all or part of the North Coast rail corridor."

Senior elections next month

The March 5 primary has passed and the Nov. 5 general election is still months away, but politically aware seniors have a legislative election in their near future. The California Senior Legislature, a 21-year-old legislative advocacy organization, will hold elections April 29 to May 2.

The Senior Legislature, a project of the Area Agency on Aging, consists of elected representatives from across the state. Assemblymembers and senators meet once a year in Sacramento to discuss concerns facing their constituents -- and ways those concerns might be addressed. The top 10 issues are presented to the state Legislature as potential laws.

The Senior Legislature has no official power, but its meetings aren't busywork. Many of the laws governing nursing homes and prohibiting elder abuse started as proposals drafted by the Senior Legislature.

"Actually, most of that type of legislation originated in the Senior Legislature," said Chris Martinek, a spokesperson for the Area Agency on Aging.

Both the Senior Senate and Assembly seats for our area are being contested this year. James Garvey of Rio Dell is challenging incumbent Senior Sen. Mary Dennison of Eureka. Senior Assemblymember Thea Gast of Arcata faces challenger Jerry McCrea of Eureka.

The election will consist of forums followed by balloting. The forums will take place in locations across Humboldt and Del Norte counties, starting with the McKinleyville Senior Center April 29. For more information on the forums or candidates call 442-3763.

BLM seeking advice

It's your land, so you might as well have a say in what happens to it. The federal Bureau of Land Management is looking for citizen advisers to help it make decisions regarding use and conservation of its public land holdings in northwest California.

Resource advisory councils are made up of individuals with a stake in the BLM's land. That includes those who are interested in livestock grazing, recreational off-road vehicle use, environmental protection, wild horses, historical preservation, backpacking, Native American interests and elected officials.

Nominations for the council must be received by April 22. For more information, call (530) 252-5332.




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