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October 21, 1999


Nature's fury continues

Clinics to merge

Spilling into the courts

Employment picture brighter

New hospital chief named

HSU president gets raise

Woolley wants another term

A matter of national pride

Welfare director named

New PL resource chief

More people in the news

Nature's fury continues

From Hurricane Irene drenching Florida to a 7.1 earthquake in the Mojave Desert, Mother Nature topped the news again last week.

Wildfires continued to blanket Northern California. A new fire that engulfed dozens of homes near Redding and forced thousands of people to evacuate claimed the life of volunteer firefighter Karen Jane Savage, 44, of Junction City when she was struck by a fire truck.

Closer to home, the fires burning in the Trinity National Forest that have consumed about 105,000 acres in almost two months jumped containment lines in strong winds Saturday, again dusting Humboldt County with ash.

East winds pushed the active Megram blaze in a westerly direction over the Packsaddle Ridge area into the upper reaches of the north fork of Mill Creek. The Onion Fire remains at 16,000 acres and is fully contained.

The Humboldt County Public Health Department issued a smoke advisory this week suggesting that all people in the Willow Creek region remain inside or leave the area. The Northern California Indian Development Council is offering hotel vouchers for those with health problems.

Clinics to merge

Due to cutbacks in Medicare reimbursements, two North Coast community clinics are merging in January.

Open Door Community Health Centers and North Country Clinic plan to centralize operations starting in 2000.

Medicare, the federal government's health insurance program, provides coverage for 34 million seniors and 5 million disabled people. More than a quarter of the residents in Humboldt County rely on the community clinics for health care, according to North Coast Clinics Network President Herrmann Spetzler.

Although the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 extended the life of the Medicare Trust Fund through 2015, the results have meant a loss of revenue of up to 30 percent for these clinics, he estimated.

The parent company will take on the Open Door name, but all clinics will continue operating under their present names.

The Open Door has four clinics in Arcata, Eureka, Crescent City and Smith River, with a $7 million operating annual budget. Northcountry Clinics has facilities in Arcata and McKinleyville and an operating budget of $2 million. No changes in patient care or staffing in either clinic group are anticipated.

"The bottom line is, we want to make sure services we deliver to the community don't disappear," Spetzler said.

"We're moving to do this while we still are operating in the black," said Gail Nickerson, director of Northcountry Clinic. The two clinics alone serve about 100 patients a day.

In related news, Sun Healthcare Group, one of the nation's largest nursing home chains based in Louisville, Ky., filed for bankruptcy protection after more than a year of losses it blames on Medicare fees.

Sun provides care to about 40,000 people at 320 nursing home facilities nationwide, including the SunBridge Seaview Care Center in Eureka.

Spilling into the courts

Two oil spills barely a month apart have prompted environmental groups to take legal action against the dredging company and the U.S. Army over the deaths of endangered marbled murrelets.

The Environmental Protection Information Center and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a 60-day intent to sue notice in U.S. District Court against the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bean Dredging Corp. of Belle Chasse, La., for "willful disregard" of this species.

The two conservation groups are using the Endangered Species Act in their argument. Out of more than 500 birds found dead, at least 24 of them were marbled murrelets. Environmentalists fear this represents a fraction of the fatalities caused by the spill from Bean's Stuyvesant.

The oil spill occurred in early September during a dredging operation in Humboldt Bay when an arm of the dredging vessel punctured its hull. More than 2,000 gallons of the diesel mix spilled out, affecting miles of North Coast shoreline.

EPIC contends the Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing the project due for completion in December, resumed operations too soon after the spill without taking the necessary precautions. Less than a month later, another 40-gallon spill was caused by the dredging ship during refueling.

Bean Dredging Corp. Vice President Bill Hoffman was unavailable for comment.

Employment picture brighter

The state posted its lowest unemployment rate in 30 years for the month of September, the governor's office announced.

Humboldt County's 4.7 jobless rate mirrored the state's rate. The number of unemployed in the state was 807,000, a decline of 43,000 in a month. The last time the rate was that low was December 1969 when it was 4.4 percent.

Gov. Gray Davis attributed the low rate to the state's continued economic expansion.

New hospital chief named

Come November Mike Purvis will trade cacti and lizards for redwoods and banana slugs.

The new St. Joseph Health System chief executive officer, who works for Phoenix Baptist Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz., will join the largest health care provider on the North Coast Nov. 29. The avid hiker and cyclist is replacing Gary Fybel, the interim CEO, who will return to Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in Mission Viejo.

Fybel took over following the unexpected resignation of former CEO Neil Martin. Martin resigned in June amid controversy surrounding the reorganization of St. Joseph's Humboldt Home Health.

At the time, former Home Health Director Catherine Krause also resigned. Home health care in transition was featured in the June 24 edition of the North Coast Journal.

HSU president gets raise

Humboldt State University President Alistair McCrone received a 12 percent raise in salary, in line with the average raise for California State University presidents.

The hike amounts to $20,432, lifting McCrone's annual earnings to $186,948. By comparison, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo President Warren J. Baker's new salary is $229,440.

The raises were voted on by CSU trustees in September. CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed received a 7 percent increase, amounting to $18,660. Reed now makes $285,360.

Woolley wants another term

Humboldt County's 3rd District Supervisor John Woolley, 55, announced last week his candidacy for a second term. Woolley took office January 1997 and since then "it has been a whirlwind experience," he said in an issued statement.

"The critical factor has been the county budget, a budget on life support my first two years and now with some breathing room. The Board (of Supervisors) will hopefully begin to direct resources to areas experiencing deep cuts, deferred maintenance and pressing community concerns."

Elections will be in March. Supervisors received 5 percent raises last month, nudging their salaries up to $52,000 for 10-year supervisors Stan Dixon and Bonnie Neely, county personnel reported. Woolley, Paul Kirk and Roger Rodoni have served less than a decade and they receive about $50,000.

A matter of national pride

The National Congress of American Indians picked Yurok Tribal Chairwoman Susan Masten of Eureka to lead the group into the next millennium.

Masten is the first Californian and second woman elected as president of the nation's oldest and largest Native American advocacy organization.

Masten was selected for the two-year term at an annual conference in Palm Springs that brought out 179 tribes from the United States and Canada.

She has served Native Americans in elected offices and appointments for more than 20 years, including a stint as vice president for the Sacramento area of NCAI, the nation's leading coalition of tribal governments.

Masten has testified before Congress and the Legislature on Indian interests. She was also active in the passage of Proposition 5, a fight to defend tribal gaming rights, while serving the Yurok Tribe, the largest in California with more than 4,100 members.

"I am very honored," Masten said last Friday. "It's a huge opportunity for the Yurok people to open all doors that may not have been open before."

Welfare director named

Phillip Crandall, 45, is making the shift from Humboldt County Mental Health to the Social Services Department Dec. 1.

Crandall, mental health deputy director, was selected to lead social services after a nationwide search, the Board of Supervisors announced last week. His annual salary will be $74,436.

Among other credentials, Crandall is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Crandall replaces Maurice McMorries, who came out of retirement to fill in on a temporary basis in July.

Former Welfare Director John Frank resigned after being arrested following an alcohol-related injury accident, his second such in a three-year period.

New PL resource chief

Pacific Lumber Co.'s has announced the appointment of a new resource manager.

Craig Anthony spent three years with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection with a similar job title deputy director for resource management. His responsibilities for CDF involved developing policy for the state's forest practice regulation.

With his new job, Anthony will work with state and federal forestry officials in implementing the Scotia-based timber company's Habitat Conservation Plan developed as part of the Headwaters accord last March.

The prospect of his experience worries some environmentalists but thrills PL. Spokesperson Mary Bullwinkle says he is "well-respected" in the forest industry and a "great asset" to the company.

More people in the news

Long-time North Coast resident and former local newscaster J. Warren Hockaday will return to Humboldt County to run the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce, President Dale Warmuth announced Tuesday.

He will replace Keith Welch, who left the chamber a few months ago after less than two weeks on the job. Before Welch, Wes Reed filled the slot for four years.

Hockaday, who was better known as the KVIQ, Channel 6, news director in the 1980s, will start as the chamber's director Nov. 1.

Since 1989, the 1975 Humboldt State University graduate has been working in the communications and employee relations unit at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to return. My 10 years in Southern California has given me a genuine appreciation for the unique quality of life and sense of community that the North Coast offers," Hockaday said in an issued statement.

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