Death investigation continues
As family, friends and strangers memorialized the Earth First! activist killed in the forest Sept. 17, Pacific Lumber Co. agreed Monday to suspend logging at the accident site until a Sheriff's Department investigation is complete.
PL took the voluntary action at the request of the attorney representing the dead man's family.
Meanwhile, attorney Steve Schectman of Arcata said he will formally ask state and federal authorities to intervene in the investigation.
Schectman conducted his own investigation at the site before announcing he would try to call in outside authorities. He would not release details of what he found, but activists have maintained that the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department is biased in favor of Pacific Lumber. Sheriff Dennis Lewis has sharply disputed that claim.
David Chain, 24, was crushed to death Sept. 17 by a tree that had been felled by a logger. That logger, identified as A.E. Ammons, accompanied Schectman, PL officials and sheriff's deputies on a failed mission to the site Friday, Sept. 25.
Like everything surrounding the case, the reason the investigative team did not make it to the disputed logging site remains in question. PL blames an Earth First! blockade, while Schectman says the group could have bypassed the demonstrators. The team resumed the investigation Saturday.
Meanwhile, Pacific Lumber was cited by the state Department of Forestry last week for two alleged violations of forest practice laws in the area where Chain died. The citations alleged loggers were working in the vicinity of an endangered species survey area and that the company did not report changes to its timber harvest plan.
Law enforcement investigators are attempting to determine if Chain's death, the first in a decade of anti-logging demonstrations, was the result of reckless behavior or an accident. PL maintains the ladder, while the company's critics say Ammons was verbally abusing protesters in the area near Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park and intentionally felled the tree in Chain's direction.
Sheriff's officials have said it will be another two to three weeks before their investigation is complete and turned over to the Humboldt County District Attorneys Office.
Schectman could not be reached for comment on whether any outside agency would honor his request for assistance, although the state Attorney General's Office had previously denied requests to get involved.
Former sheriff sentenced
Former Humboldt County Sheriff David Renner was sentenced to nine months in jail last month, but it's likely he will never see the inside of a cell.
Renner was expected to take advantage of an alternative sentencing program such as house arrest near the High Desert State Prison south of Susanville where he has been working as a teacher.
After several years of delays, Renner pleaded no contest in June to six felony counts of submitting false claims to a public official. In return for the plea bargain, 18 other felony counts including embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds and grand theft were dropped.
During sentencing, Judge Marilyn Miles also ordered Renner to pay a total of $20,500 in fines and restitution and gave him five years probation. The former sheriff is also forbidden from holding public office in California.
Renner was charged with criminal misconduct after voters ousted him from office when it was discovered some $60,000 was missing from two Sheriff's Department funds. Renner was charged with two thefts, of $750 and $2,470.
In office from 1982 to 1994, Renner admitted that he did not keep accurate books, but had always maintained that he did not personally profit from his mistakes.
Economy takes August dip
While home sales contributed to a rosy forecast for the economy in July, the following month a sharp dropoff in the real estate market saw a decline in the "Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County."
Retail sales also fell in August, as did electricity consumption, which economists say is normal for the time of year. The only increase in the economy was seen in hotel and motel occupancy rates, "providing an indication that tourists found the North Coast summer of 1998 to be a drier and perhaps more appealing time to visit than the spring," the Index stated.
Seasonally adjusted economic activity during August 1998 was about 2 percent below the level for the same month last year.
Compiled by the Humboldt State University School of Business and Economics, the Index has been providing information on Humboldt County's economy since 1994. And during that time, researchers say, they had not seen a better month for real estate than July 1998.
A problem with semantics
Mad River Recycling sounds like a recycling center, doesn't it?
That's what Arcata city staff thought when they revoked the new business's license a few days before it was supposed to open on Sept. 8.
"When he said, `I want to operate a recycling center,' we said, `We already have an exclusive contract with Arcata Community Recycling Center," said Bryan Gaynor, city attorney. "We now understand that what he intends to do is to purchase recyclables. That is a permitted activity."
Kevin George's Mad River Recycling will be modeled on the successful recycling business his father, Landon George, has operated since 1982: G & R Metals, also known as General Recycling, on Fourth Street in Eureka.
"It's basically buying and selling," said the younger George, who has worked in his father's business for many years. "If you buy at the right price you can make a profit."
General Recycling buys California Redemption Value glass and aluminum containers, as well as brass, copper, aluminum and stainless steel from radiators, insulated wire and other sources.
"We get a lot of plumbing brass, red brass valves... from local contractors, plumbers and electricians. Auto body places (bring in) cast aluminum," said George. The material is sold to processors in the Bay Area.
The Arcata business will take all the same materials.
"There's a large market of material that doesn't come to Eureka. This will allow me to tap into it," said George, who is the sole owner of Mad River Recycling.
George planned to open for business after Labor Day, but an 11th-hour fax from city officials kept his doors closed.
The city action inspired some disparaging remarks by Arcatans who are critical of the city's contract with Arcata Community Recycling Center. "Somewhere in the higher ups of the city administration the word is not to issue the permit (to Mad River Recycling)," wrote Carl Pellatz, former mayor and a leader of last year's effort to recall four city council members, in The Arcata Eye. "Could there be pressure from (ACRC)?"
But attorney Gaynor said the hang-up was a simple misunderstanding. "We don't get a lot of applications for these types of permits. That's the reason it's been a little bit bumpy for him."
George's business must still pass an environmental review by the city before he can open it. "But as far as I can tell now it's a pretty routine matter," said Gaynor.
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