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June 29, 2000


$62,505 for art from trash

Ferndale flood fighter

Fuel cell deal at HSU

County bus fares up

Budget, tobacco bucks

Good service awaits

Pride of ownership

New home for museum

$62,505 for art from trash

[drawing of proposed fence design]Imagine taking someone on a tour of art projects in Eureka. Would you take them to the city dump? Someday soon you will.

The new solid waste transfer station and recycling center being built at Hawthorne and Broadway will be decorated by an elaborate work of art created by Trinidad metal artist Kris Patzlaff.

In January the Journal reported on plans by the Humboldt Waste Management Authority and the Waste Solutions Group to commission a design for a fence and a gate that would enhance the appearance of the new $3 million facility.

Waste Solutions Group President David Gavrich's vision was "a continuous flow of art weaving through the gates and the fence." Working with Gerald Kindsfather, general manager of the HWMA, Gavrich came up with a plan to commission an artist who would use recycled material for the project.

"There's a specific function that the art needs to achieve," said Kindsfather. "It has to glorify found objects in a way that has a classy sophisticated look."

He and Gavrich sat on a committee that included sculptor Mel Schuler, Sally Arnot of the Humboldt Arts Council, Jim Test owner of Bug Press, and Michael Lehrer, architect for the waste facility.

Patzlaff read about the project and was one of 10 artists who submitted a proposal.

"What was different about my approach was I looked at it from the point of view of an assemblage artist," said Patzlaff. "I really want to use the materials in a way that shows people that they came from the waste stream, letting the individual pieces retain some of their identity.

"The overall idea is to create rural and urban scenes of our county with people involved in different activities. For example, one part of the drawing had a sailboat -- I have this grate I found that had a patina from being in the weather -- so I'll use that as the water."

Patzlaff presented a series of drawings based on photographs of junk along with a detailed budget. She already had experience in putting together a large-scale art project: She coordinated the creation of a public sculpture while she was an instructor for a College of the Redwoods environmental art class.

Kindsfather said that the committee was impressed by her attention to detail in budgeting and with the touch of humor they saw in her plans. They also liked her "Scale House" lettering concept, a trash font that will be used in the logo for the Humboldt Waste Management Authority.

Patzlaff has already started the trash collection process. In fact she began even before she heard about the gate/fence project. Her yard is full of bumpers, bicycles, metal parts of furniture, lamp fixtures, grates, shelving, pots and pans.

"I had some, but I have a whole lot more now," she said. She has been hanging around the Samoa waste station and has asked those who work there to set aside material she might find interesting.

Now that she has been awarded the contract she is beginning the assemblage process. Plans are for the entire project -- the solid waste facility with its decorative fence and gate -- to be completed before the end of the year.

Ferndale flood fighter

You can't change the weather, but the citizens of Ferndale are proving that with hard work you can change how it affects you.

Ground was broken in front of the Ferndale High School June 22 on the Francis Creek Hazard Mitigation Project, a $3 million public works project designed to prevent the flooding that has become a part of life in the town. The project consists of removing or widening bridges and widening the creek bed to allow for higher flow rates without flooding.

The impetus for the project came in the winter of 1995-96, when Francis Creek overflowed and spread silt over the city's streets and sidewalks.

"It was a mess," said Ferndale Mayor Jeff Farley. "The cleanup was so extensive, somebody started asking if this was going to happen every year."

While it may not be an annual occurrence -- flooding of that scale hasn't happened since -- chances are that the creek will overflow more frequently now than 50 years ago. Farley said that earthquakes have opened up a ravine in the watershed that drains into Francis Creek above town, exposing large amounts of silt to erosion. That silt has settled into the creek bed and made it shallower.

The project's high cost made it necessary for Ferndale to seek outside financing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, Caltrans and the state Office of Emergency Services all pitched in. Ferndale's share of the project is a little more than $300,000 -- about a tenth of the total cost but still "a lot of money for us," said Farley.

"After all, we only have an annual budget of $500,000," he said.

The project, which is slated to be finished in two years, will begin to show benefits for the community this year but will not be fully effective until completed.

Fuel cell deal at HSU

Being on a world-class team researching environmentally friendly technology has advantages: the pride of knowing you're on the cutting edge of science or the pride that comes from knowing your work helps humans tread more lightly on the earth, for instance.

And the significant monetary compensation doesn't hurt either, said Ron Reid, fuel cell engineer with Humboldt State University's Schatz Energy Research Center.

The center recently signed with Teledyne Energy Solutions, a manufacturing and distribution company for small energy-production systems, to produce, use and sell fuel cells designed by the center.

The SERC is unique in California, Reid said, because "the whole process takes place here, from design to manufacturing to testing." He said that such concentration "adds flexibility and saves time." He could be doing anything on a given day from "sitting in front of a computer designing to assembling parts." There is even a full-time machinist on staff.

Fuel cells function by allowing hydrogen and oxygen to combine, releasing energy and creating only water as waste.

Reid said that it was "not yet completely clear" what the cells would be used for, but that fuel cells are in general used as remote power sources. Much has been made of their potential as power sources for cars, but Schatz-designed cells are already operational for other uses, including power for a telecommunications station in Redwood Park.

County bus fares up

"It is because of a combination of things beyond our control," said Humboldt County Transit Authority Director Roger Murphy. "We take no pleasure in fare increases."

Rising fuel prices, a new labor agreement and expanded service all add up to a fare increase for the bus service. The increase, which will take effect in August, will be the first in four years. It will amount to 17 percent for single-ride fares.

The good news, said Murphy, is that a plan to switch the buses to liquid natural gas fuel would not only reduce emissions but also help to slow fare increases in the future. That's because natural gas prices "have not fluctuated in the last five years."

And chances are good that the project will go forward. Federal funding has been secured and is only waiting for state matching funds. Murphy said the project could be completed in as little as two or three years.

Budget, tobacco bucks

The county budget may still be months away from finalization, but it is already gaining firm contours -- one of which is a $2.9 million shortage.

But it's not a deficit, said Humboldt County Auditor Neil Prince.

"The term deficit is misleading because they [the County Board of Supervisors] will be adopting a balanced budget." Prince said in all likelihood the budget would be balanced by using funds from the recent tobacco settlement.

That action occurs over the protests of some residents and groups who had hoped the tobacco settlement money would be directed toward health programs alone. By absorbing tobacco dollars into the general fund, the board will avoid across-the-board cuts and be able to budget for some maintenance work that has been deferred in recent years due to lack of funds.

The budget crunch comes as a disappointment to some.

"We were hoping that the state would help us out more than they have," Prince said, noting that Sacramento is pledging $200,000 in the latest version of the state budget, which had not been signed by Gov. Davis at press time. County officials had earlier hoped it would be around $600,000.

Prince said that while our representatives in Sacramento -- Sen. Wesley Chesbro and Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin -- are more aware of the county's plight, "What we hear is that the state doesn't think we're in that bad of a financial condition. We need to educate them."

Good service awaits

The Humboldt Bay Service Corps, an affiliate of the Americorps National Service Program, is recruiting members. Participants spend a year providing environmental education and other services to the community.

The pay isn't great -- minimum wage -- but the job is meaningful and participants are eligible for the Americorps scholarship, $4,725 toward student loans or future education. Call 445-0913 for details.

Pride of ownership

"Communities have found over the years that privately owned and operated properties tend to be better maintained than rental properties," said Kermit Thobaben, director of Planning for the Redwood Community Action Agency.

That's why the RCAA, the federal government, the city of Eureka and private businesses are sponsoring the addition of $625,000 to the already successful Eureka First Time Homebuyer Program. They hope that what Thobaben calls "the pride of ownership" will help to beautify some of the city's poorer neighborhoods.

The program gives financial assistance to residents who want to buy or make significant repairs to a home. The program pays at least 50 percent of the amount needed for purchase and rehabilitation, with the remainder of the purchase cost coming from a mortgage, usually through Humboldt Bank, which sponsors the program.

The money from the program is repaid in 20 years or when the home is sold, whichever comes first -- but homeowners do not have to face immediate payments on program funds, making it easier for them to financially survive.

The program is funded primarily by money from the federal Home Investment Partnership Program. It contributed $500,000, with $125,000 being made available by Eureka's Redevelopment Agency. More information is available by calling 269-2006.

New home for museum

The Redwood Discovery Museum has been homeless since late last year. After moving from space to space in the Bayshore Mall for four years everything was packed in boxes and put in storage while organizers searched for a new location. Now that search has ended.

On Tuesday the museum held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new location, the bottom floor of the Carson Block Building at 3rd and F streets in Eureka.

"For the last six months we've been going through a restructuring phase," said Carolyn Widner, president of the museum board. "We brought on five new board members and completed a five-year strategic plan."

The new board hired a business manager and strengthened its outreach program. It has been running after-school education programs in Eureka schools with the same hands-on science education concept that was the basis for the museum.

Displays have set up at events like the Oyster Festival and the Festival on the Bay and there will be an interactive display at Eureka's Fourth of July festival on 2nd Street near Hurricane Kate's.

"The museum has always used a hands-on experiential approach to learning. We use the theory that people remember what they do, not what they hear or what the read, or what they see. When people interact with our exhibits -- touch them, move them, feel them -- they internalize the lesson more than they would if it was static. It turns people on to learning."

The board stepped up its fund raising by seeking sponsorship from businesses and individuals in the community. The group has $70,000 in the bank, plus pledges for another $30,000.

Then there is the possibility of additional grants, Widner said.

"We have seven outstanding proposals that could bring us another $90,000."

While the initial long-range plan called for raising enough capital to open a new facility at the end of five years, the board realized that after being gone for that long the museum would basically have to start over.

"We didn't want to be out of the public eye for that long so we found this space in Old Town. We have signed a five-year lease with an option to renew," she said.

The space in the Carson Block Building, owned by the Indian Development Council, has 4,500 square feet, much more space than it ever had in the mall. Widner said the new museum will not just be for kids. "We recognize that there's a child in all of us."

The plan is to reopen the museum by the end of the year with new exhibits and a bookstore. In the meantime the fund raising continues. Tuesday was the opening of the Helping Hands Campaign.

"You can purchase a tile for $25. You put your hand print on it and your signature, glaze it and we'll fire them. The Fire Art Center in Arcata is helping us do it. We will have a whole wall that's the Hall of Hands with everyone's tiles. We want people to feel that this is their museum."

-- reported by Arno Holschuch and Bob Doran



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