North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

Dec. 5, 2002

Promises kept
Q&A with former Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming

Coastal Conservancy gets tough on Eureka marsh

Get ready for the twin tanks

Judge gives green light to PL

Indian summer

Vandals strike Humboldt park

Charged with arson

Toxic algae abates

Levee access settled

Tackling blight

Burn barrel ban

No relief for farmers

Pay up

Promises kept
Q&A with former Eureka Mayor Nancy Flemming


SHE ARRIVED IN EUREKA IN 1972, a 20-something mother of two and wife of the new manager of Westfall Stevedore Co. She brought with her a irrepressibly sunny disposition, a style of dress that can only be described as '50s New York (tailored suits with piping) and the gentle southern manners of a home-grown Alabama girl.

Nancy Flemming seated and smilingIn her new city she threw herself into things she cared passionately about --things to do with the sea, plus a new group called the Eureka Heritage Society. She loved to entertain and her home was often full of international visitors arriving by ship, be it cargo or yacht. ("Our house was like the U.N.")

Along the way she divorced and started her own business, a kitchen store and coffee shop in Old Town called the Gourmet Gallery. One of her trademarks was her elaborate shop window displays, a talent that got her an unusual assignment from the Heritage Society in 1982. The group wanted to do a tour of "old working Eureka" and on the list of possible sites was a shack on Indian Island, accessible only by boat. She was asked if she could go visit the island and figure out how to make it presentable in a hurry for the upcoming tour just one week away.

At the time she was single and dating a young Coast Guardsman named Mark Staniland. They went together to the island. She stepped out on the rickety dock in her black high heel shoes and her cream-colored organza skirt was soon splattered with mud. ("That outfit was over the top!") But the minute she set foot on the island, she said, she knew she was meant to live there.

They had no money -- "Never did," she says -- but sought out the owner and negotiated a deal to lease the shack with the money going toward a down payment. They moved in and were married on the island two years later in 1984. The couple commuted by skiff in all weather, stormy and calm, from the tiny island to Eureka to work.

In 1990 Nancy Flemming ran for mayor. It just made sense to her. The city was in disarray, a ship with no hand on the tiller. Two members of the council were being investigated for attempting to unduly influence department heads and other city officials. (No charges were ever filed but one incumbent councilmember was soundly defeated and the second the subject of a recall attempt.) But her main reason for running was the city was not paying enough attention to the waterfront. "An incredible asset was being ignored," she said. "There was no vision, no plan."

Voters responded to her message and she won 53 percent of the vote in the crowded primary that year against five men, including the popular ex-council member, Jim Howard. The win surprised everyone but her. "I knew I would win."

Flemming was on the cover of the new North Coast Journal in1990. In that interview she laid out her vision of Eureka's future and she made a list of goals -- promises, really -- she wanted to accomplish. Flemming leaves office this week and in this exit interview conducted last Saturday at Avalon Cafe, a chic new Old Town bistro, readers will learn that this is a story of promises kept. It's a story about how a mayor of a city who can only vote in case of a tie was able to complete an agenda she drafted 12 years ago.

JOURNAL: First, the clothes. You are always so well dressed -- formal, in fact, for Eureka. What's with the wardrobe?

FLEMMING: It's my Southern upbringing. It was the way I was raised. You dressed to go to the grocery store. My secret is I shop secondhand stores. I had a favorite [in San Francisco] that just closed after all these years.

We have a ceremony planned [at City Hall] next week for the swearing in of the new mayor and council. I will be wearing the same suit I wore 12 years ago for my swearing in -- the red one with black trim.

Q: On to more serious topics, I just reread the 1990 Journal interview. You had a checklist that was pretty ambitious --on the bay for economic development, a home for the rowing team, a boardwalk, boat rentals, farmers' markets, youth participation in government, restoration of buildings, beautification ...

A: Yes. And it's all happening. Except E and F streets still need to be much more major avenues. You can't have a wonderfully successful city without major avenues and those two really are -- F Street especially because of its history. It is the avenue. We need to get lovely trees there, twinkly lights -- all of that -- to really command attention, to actually seduce you from [Highway] 101 down to the waterfront.

Yesterday was wonderful in Old Town watching family after family, proud of their city, bringing their families down to the waterfront.

Q: You also talked about demonstrations of practical and historical work being done on the waterfront.

A: That will happen. We just got the funding two weeks ago [for C Street]. Visitors will be able to see our fishermen at work. It augments tourism as well. I think what I've been talking about for my 30 years here, is that [the waterfront] is such an incredibly authentic place. It looks right, it feels right because it's real.

Q: The extension of Waterfront Drive is part of that?

A: If you have an alternative -- a scenic drive -- into Eureka along the waterfront from the south, you meet our fishermen, you see our marina, you see them working, you see our oyster company, you see Pacific Choice [Seafoods] -- all of that a working waterfront. And then you come to our beautiful boardwalk. That is your introduction to who and what Eureka really is. Then in Old Town you see beautiful art galleries and antique shops, unique clothing shops -- shops of high quality, not T-shirt shops. That is Eureka.

Q: What about the sensitive environmental habitat of the marsh?

A: People talk about is as an alternative truck route when actually it's an alternative scenic drive that gives people the option of coming along the water. If you think about it, no one is going to take better care of and love and cherish and protect that marsh, that waterfront area, [than the city, which is able] to take ownership and create access through it. The plan as I understood it is to build on existing fill and the railroad bed where it doesn't damage the marsh. I truly support it.

The entire waterfront for more than 100 years has been kept separate and apart from most of the citizens of Eureka. They didn't know or care about it and now they do. They will protect it. You are driving along the most magnificent bay and you don't know it's there. Now you just see commercial buildings and billboards.

Q: Let's talk recent history. Since you came into office as mayor 12 years ago, you saw three city managers in a row fired. You supported all three.

A: I came into office when there was literally scandal at City Hall. We came into a climate of mistrust where it was difficult for department heads to work closely with elected officials with very good reason. City officials were keeping memos -- that's why it was called "memogate" --protect themselves from elected officials. They kept memos of all their conversations. Our first four years was spent creating a safe, comfortable climate for the staff to become confident enough to become creative, to use their educations and to reach out and trust us -- to see the goals we had in mind were really good. The first four years were about creating a safe culture and climate at City Hall.

Still, those four years we got an enormous amount done. I had the good fortune, since I won in the primary, to work with Mayor Fred Moore and he was very generous. I got excellent training from the City Design for Mayors Institute. I went to them to talk about the waterfront and had them analyze it. They were so intrigued by the possibilities that one professor at Berkeley took it on as a project and for an entire year students came here and worked and had incredible ideas. It was transformational. People were excited. We had the pulse of the people.

Q: Then City Manager David Tooley was fired.

A. Because of that [forward push] I think David was fired. It was an exciting time of moving forward and there were people who really wanted to pull back the reins. We formed the sister city relations with Japan, too. That very week we were there on a visit, they [the council] fired him. I flew home for the vote.

Negativity is a form of laziness because you really don't have to produce very much. With a positive energy, it's harder. You have to create, you have to produce.

Q: You were re-elected in 1994 ...

A: Without much opposition. The same group of what I consider negative people, disgruntled types, came together and got the same person to run against me.

Q: Then City Manager John Arnold was fired.

A: John was very creative. He helped formulate the plans for the waterfront. It was so exciting to actually put up billboards [signs] along the waterfront showing what the plans were, how it all would come together, like pearls on a necklace. We had an overall plan. It created momentum. Then he was fired. [Councilmember] Jack McKellar came into office promising he'd fire Tooley. And he did. He also headed up the campaign to fire Arnold.

That was the worst part of being mayor. ... You build a relationship, a level of trust with such well educated, creative people. They were visionary. I felt privileged to work with them. I still do, with all our staff.

Q: Then City Manager Harvey Rose?

A: The same thing. It's easy to get a 3-2 vote. Council members get angry, usually at different times. That happens. There are groups of people out there who work to raise the hackles on the back of your neck. They teach mistrust. They whisper in ears. It's like junior high. It's not very deep. It's more visceral. There's a whole philosophy of keeping things unsettled. With a 3-2 vote it was always very easy to fire a city manager on a given day and the council certainly knows when that day is -- when they have three.

Now that David has the four-vote clause [it takes four votes to terminate the contract of current City Manager David Tyson], we will have a more stable city government. It will be very difficult to ever fire a city manager. I wish I had had that luxury of a stable city government.

Q: Let's move forward to 1999 and Measure J, the No on WalMart initiative. It was defeated by a 2-1 margin in that special election. Why were you so gung-ho WalMart for the Balloon Tract parcel and were the 2000 and 2002 city races a backlash against you personally?

A: It wasn't really about WalMart. I was put in that position [of WalMart support] by the anti-J people. It was convenient. I was for people getting to say what they wanted, that the citizens got a chance to vote, and they did. And yes, I voted for Measure J.

I think it was important to understand that in the '70s, our original general plan called for the expansion of retail into the Balloon Tract area -- to enlarge Old Town. To me we had the potential to expand using WalMart's money to develop. We thought we had put together a good plan for mixed use that would augment our beautiful new marina and have some retail and light industry as well. We had three local companies that wanted to expand their businesses there. It included a park and a small lake, lots of parking and retail that would help service the marina.

The marina is a little isolated right now. There are people who come in on commercial boats and yachts and sports fishermen, and they need services -- to go to restaurants, to get supplies to go on board. There needs to be public transportation, too. I thought we could create a better hub. Unfortunately it was WalMart, but it didn't matter to me what the store was. I just think the zoning needed to be changed.

I kept trying to get that across. To keep the focus on just anti-WalMart created a prejudice, because there is a prejudice against poor people and poor people shop at WalMart. That's grossly unfair. Poor people need to shop as well as high end. They just wanted a WalMart wherever.

Smart development, smart growth means intensifying and creating more density in existing space. It's what we've been focused on for many years, to build the city as a hub to service the entire region.

Q: What about the big-box ordinance pending before the new council?

A: It won't change much. We have almost all those requirements already in place because we are in the coastal zone. It's just another moment to stand up against "big-box" retailers, one more hurdle.

I have always thought the city could have [more] diversity as the regional shopping center. We have a successful mall. We could have successful big boxes -- and we could have a very successful downtown-Old Town, Henderson Center and Cutten retail areas, too, because you have different needs that you are meeting. We are the center of the region and we are the county seat, the central point for retail.

Q: Was Measure J a clash between two powerful women, you and County Supervisor Bonnie Neely, who helped lead the No on Measure J campaign?

A: Some people painted it as personal, but it was much more profound. We became symbols of different philosophies, different approaches to the future.

It was a watershed moment for the region. I was in favor of continuing to expand the waterfront mixed use. It was a wonderful proposal. She [Neely] became a strong symbol for continuing focus on industry. The city was torn and it was painful.

That discussion hasn't ended, really. The concept of mixed use is more sustainable. Throughout the nation there are successful projects being made from old railroad yards. History will prove who was right. Today just look at the Balloon Tract and look at F Street.

Q: Does that mean you no longer think the railroad is viable?

A: Ten to 12 years ago I thought it was doable. I don't think it has much of a chance now. We just aren't going to be a huge industrial city. So what can we do that's positive? We can have a great passenger shuttle between the coastal towns, a local transportation system.

Q: After Measure J was defeated, the candidates you backed for council in 2000 were trounced.

A: Trounced and trounced.

Q: And this election? Were the "anti-Nancy" forces at work? You backed Cherie Arkley for mayor and Peter La Vallee won.

A: It was very close. I strongly supported Cherie. She and her husband Rob have done so much for this city.

We've just had over a decade of aggressively moving forward. It can be overwhelming because there has been such change. So it may be a time to take stock and assess things. Maybe that's what the voters were saying.

With Peter, he's more into social services work. Maybe it's a good time to take a look more at that. But the funding available for those kinds of programs is generally through the county.

Q: How will you be remembered?

A: That I was tenacious. No matter who the city manager was. Every time we got a new city manager, we had to start over. But we hired good professional people who came in and saw immediately that of course it was important to revitalize the community and broaden the economic base and to focus on the waterfront.

Q: And things left undone?

A: One of the things that is terribly important is that H and I streets need to no longer be one-way streets. They need to go two ways and straight up the center should be beautiful plantings of trees and flowers. We should return those to the neighborhoods. It will augment the value of their homes, it will feel like a neighborhood and they will be safer streets and will have a more even feeding [of traffic] on 101 than we have now. I hope this new council will take that on.

And of course the waterfront [redevelopment] is just beginning. Government's job is to provide the infrastructure for success. We can build the streets, provide the beautiful lighting. It can help retailers be more successful. And if you don't have successful retail, then you don't have the money for social services. It's all a circle.

Q: Any other elected office that interests you?

A: No. I had thought at one time I would run for supervisor, but the timing wasn't right. I thought for a while about being an assemblyperson. But I would never want to live anywhere else.

Q: Is there life after being mayor?

A: My [tenure] as mayor was a service. It's not anything about my life. If you visited my home, you would find no clue that I had ever been mayor. If you read my diaries at home, there'd be no clue. Now at work, I have 12 years of diary entries about the city. But at home, it's about the weather or what we're doing at home.

Q: Diaries at work? Is there a future book in the works?

A: Probably not. The diaries are already filed away. I need a year to think of what's next, what's best for me. My 50s and 60s I want to be truly rewarding.


Editor's note: Flemming, 54, says her lifelong interest in painting was rekindled after her husband bought her an easel and oil paints for her 50th birthday. A show of her latest paintings, called "Humboldt Bay, a sense of place," opens Dec. 8 at Avalon.

Coastal Conservancy gets tough on Eureka marsh


The California Coastal Conservancy says it will consider suspending funding of the Eureka Boardwalk project if the city continues to engage in "inappropriate delays" of the problem-plagued, much-postponed effort to restore the Eureka marsh.

In a three-page letter dated Nov. 8, coastal conservancy executive director Samuel Schuchat expressed impatience with the city's handling of the project.

"The conservancy understands that some of the continuing delays result from causes beyond the control of the city of Eureka. Yet these projects remain incomplete and current progress remains inordinately slow," Schuchat said in the letter.

Despite receiving $1.5 million in conservancy grants for the project, the city remains largely stuck in neutral. It is also in violation of contractual agreements it reached with the conservancy pertaining to the project. The conservancy itself has not consistently bird-dogged the project, which has further delayed things (see the Sept. 26 Journal cover story, "Clashing Visions").

Representatives of local environmental groups have suspicions that the city is deliberately dragging its feet on restoring the marsh out of concern that it could interfere with the Waterfront Drive extension project, which would run right through the middle of the 113-acre area.

Schuchat said that conservancy funding of city projects besides the Eureka boardwalk project could also be in jeopardy, but he did not specify what he was referring to. He added that the conservancy may decide not to fund future projects unless the city gets its act together.

Earlier this year, the conservancy decided to provide the city with $1.5 million for the boardwalk project, but Schuchat made clear that the conservancy, a state agency charged with preserving coastal lands, is on the verge of reconsidering.

City Manager David Tyson said that he didn't see the letter as a threat, and that at this point he wasn't alarmed by the possibility that funds could be withheld from the boardwalk project. He said the city has an obligation to live up to the terms of its agreement with the conservancy.

"They control the funds. The coastal conservancy has been kind enough to support our programs. Some things [on the marsh restoration project] we can't comply with at this time."

One thing that genuinely seems to be on its way to being corrected has to do with a 1992 contract between the city and the conservancy that allowed the city to lease over two acres of marshland to Bayshore Mall -- on the condition that the property be used solely for parking, for the mall and for those visiting the marsh.

For several years, a go-cart facility called Oasis Fun Center and a scrap metal recycling outfit have operated on the parking lot. Tyson said that city staff, in recent talks with Bayshore Mall officials, have determined that the recycling operation is not within the area covered by the agreement, but that the go-cart facility is.

"The mall will relocate all [Oasis Fun Center] operations and return marsh parking within the next few weeks," Tyson said.

In another development, an eight-page city memo dated Oct. 18 outlines in a fair amount of detail the restoration work that remains to be done.

Environmentalist Christine Ambrose said the memo is an encouraging sign, but expressed concern that it is based on hydrological data that was gathered in the late 1980s and which may no longer jibe with on-the-ground realities.

One chronic problem with the marsh is that due to previous human-caused disturbances, such as the building of railroad lines and the depositing of fill material, it does not drain properly and tidal circulation is constricted.

In his letter, Schuchat outlines several concerns, such as the city's failure to post signs on Highway 101 directing the public to the marsh parking area; and the lack of a "marsh interpretive display" either inside Bayshore Mall or in the vicinity of the marsh parking area.

Schuchat demanded that the city provide him with some evidence of progress on those two matters this week. He also asked for evidence that the city intends to abide by a legally-binding agreement to record a conservation easement with the county on a parcel near the marsh called "Restoration Area A." The imposition of an easement in this area, which would prevent development, is considered critical to the goal of restoring tidal circulation to the marsh.

Staff writer Geoff S. Fein contrtibuted to this report.

Get ready for the twin tanks


Water tower looming up from behind treesThe giant water tank that towers above the intersection of Harris and K streets in Eureka and serves as a local landmark is going to have a twin.

If all goes as planned, for a couple of months next summer there will be two seemingly identical tanks side by side, same powder-blue color, same half-a-million gallon capacity.

"The city is going to have double-vision," joked public works director Brent Siemer.

The visual display will be short-lived. The older tank, built in the 1950s, is out of line with the latest earthquake safety standards and will be dismantled.

Common sense would seem to dictate that the existing tank be taken down before the new one is erected. But if that were done, Siemer said, the water supply to thousands of Eureka households would be disrupted.

"The high tank provides pressure to half the city. Without it, we would have to run pumps to keep city water flowing in the upper areas.

"We'll make sure that the new tank is ready to go into service and then fill it out and then take out the old one," Siemer added.

A new $1.5 million pumping system is going to be installed at the one-square-block, city-owned site. It will send water to residents when the new tank is periodically drained and cleaned. It will also serve as a backup water supply in the event of a severe earthquake.

The cost of replacing the tanks is $1 million.

The first phase of the project, set to begin this month, calls for the removal of the large Monterey cypress trees that line two half blocks at the site. Siemer estimated there were about a dozen trees at the site and that they were 40 years old. Parks Superintendent Tom Coyle said there were probably twice that many and that they were "well over 50 years old."

Siemer said some residents have raised objections to the tree cutting, but that it's necessary for security reasons; he said someone could gain entrance to the fenced site simply by climbing one of the trees, crawling out on a branch and jumping down.

Unfortunately, Siemer said, the trees are falling victim to last year's terrorist attacks.

"We were looking at ways to avoid cutting the trees, pruning them up instead. But 9-11 pushed that out of consideration. I hope it's not a knee-jerk reaction but we feel we have to be prudent."

Siemer said the area would be replanted with smaller trees. "They won't have the grandeur that those [cypress] have, but they will look good in 20 years."

Judge gives green light to PL

After issuing an order in August that seemed to block further logging by the Pacific Lumber Co., a Superior Court judge turned around last week and gave the green light to all the company's approved timber plans.

While dismissing Pacific Lumber's contention that he didn't have the authority to order a halt in the first place, Judge John Golden essentially negated his earlier ruling by exempting at least 100 timber harvest plans to avoid causing undue "economic hardship" to the company.

Spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel said, "obviously we're pleased with this ruling."Company officials had argued that a cessation of logging would result in layoffs this winter.

Cynthia Elkins of the Garberville-based Environmental Protection Information Center, meantime, called Judge Golden's latest ruling "a travesty of justice." She said the real losers are Humboldt County's fish, forests and wildlife.

So, apparently, ends a strange chapter in the never-ending battle between PL and environmentalists, one in which Pacific Lumber continued to log in the face of a court order, arguing that the ruling did not apply to already-approved logging operations.

The logging produced a spate of tree-sits that continue to this day, as protestors argued that PL was logging illegally.

A turning point came in September, when the state Fish and Game department, along with the Department of Forestry, sided with the timber company.

Elkins said her group is proceeding with contempt proceedings against the company for violating the stay before it had the exemptions, but with last week's ruling the prospects don't look good.

However, a three-year-old lawsuit filed by EPIC that challenges the "sustained yield plan" that is supposed to govern logging on Pacific Lumber timberlands for the next 100 years is coming to trial next month. The suit was held up because the forestry department failed to turn over to the court thousands of logging-related documents. It was that failure that triggered Golden's initial order.

Indian summer

The sunny weather that has brightened the North Coast for the past week or so has been unusual, to say the least.

Last Wednesday, a record was set when the mercury reached 72 degrees in Eureka, normally damp and drizzly this time of year.

Given that the balminess followed a cold snap in late October, the shirtsleeve weather seems to qualify as a genuine Indian summer, a period of unusual warmth following an autumnal frost.

It's all part of a longer-term pattern of rain-free weather. According to the National Weather Service, this has been one of the driest falls ever recorded in Humboldt County.

Between July 1 and Oct. 31, only .16 inches of rain fell, the least ever recorded.

"It's been a kind of persistent weather pattern," said meteorologist Dave Soroka of the weather service's Eureka field office. "By mid-October we look for the summer-time pattern to start breaking down and it didn't this time."

The one blip was a storm in early November that dropped over 2 inches of rain and brought rainfall up to about 30 percent of normal.

Soroka said that given the presence of a moderate El Niño out in the Pacific, things could turn wet in a few months.

Vandals strike Humboldt park

Vandals caused $3,600 in damage to Humboldt Redwoods State Park over the Thanksgiving weekend. Two bear-proof garbage cans were stolen and a handicapped restroom was demolished by a truck.

The garbage cans, bolted to concrete slabs, were taken from Founders Grove and Blue Slide day use areas. The cans, designed to keep bears and other animals from removing and eating garbage, are worth $800 apiece.

Earlier, a handicapped restroom at the Dyerville day use area appeared to have been hit several times by a truck. The restroom was damaged beyond repair. The facility was worth $2,000.

Cement parking barriers were also removed from parking lots throughout the state park. The barriers were connected to the ground with rebar.

Park rangers will increase patrols throughout the park in the wake of the vandalism.

Charged with arson

Two adults and three juveniles were arrested last week on suspicion of setting a number of fires in Hoopa.

More than 300 blazes broke out on both the Hoopa and Yurok reservations this past year. Authorities haven't said how many of those fires were the work of the five charged with arson.

Michael Gabriel, 30, is being held at the Humboldt County Jail in connection with a fire in June that burned 10 acres near Cal Pac Road in Hoopa. That fire cost $9,000 to fight and caused more than $4,000 in damage. If convicted, Gabriel could serve up to six years in state prison.

Brian McKinnon, 33, could spend 20 years in prison if convicted for setting a fire near Big Hill Road on Sept. 21 that scorched 177 acres and cost at least $1.2 million to put out.

Both men are from Hoopa.

One of the three juveniles is charged with setting a fire in August that burned more than 400 acres and cost at least $2 million to fight.

The two other juveniles are suspected of setting a 2-acre blaze that destroyed a trailer.

A call to the Bureau of Indian Affairs We Tip Program helped lead law enforcement to the suspects.

Toxic algae abates

Toxic blue-green algae in the Eel River blamed for killing three dogs in August has subsided.

A rainstorm in early November helped cleanse the river of the algae which produces deadly toxins, according to county health officials.

Levee access settled

The four-year-old battle for public access to the Mad River Levee is over. The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors is expected to acquire an easement to the thin strip of land later this month.

The agreement avoids a legal battle between property owner Manuel Morais, who blocked the levee out of concern that his cattle could come into conflict with dogs and people, and a citizen's organization called the Mad River Levee Access Group.

As part of the agreement, the state will pay $7,000 to Morais, who purchased the property five years ago. Morais will still be able to restrict access during July and August when he moves his cattle, but "no more than two times each month," according to the settlement.

The levee had been open to the public almost since the time of its construction in the 1950s.

Tackling blight

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance Tuesday establishing a redevelopment agency (RDA). It's hoped the agency will lead to revitalization of blighted areas throughout the county and spur economic growth.

The county will select 14 communities to explore for redevelopment. Out of that, four will eventually be considered as targeted communities. That selection is expected to be made in January.

Areas being considered include Samoa and Orick.

Burn barrel ban

The North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District is holding a series of workshops over the next several weeks on new state regulations aimed at eliminating cancer-causing substances produced by burning garbage.

The state is hoping to eliminate so-called "burn barrel" use except in areas where the population density is less than three people per square mile. Residents in more populated areas will only be allowed to burn vegetation -- branches, leaves and twigs.

Among the substances released into the air by burning garbage is dioxin, a potent carcinogen.

The new regulations will go into effect Jan. 1, 2004.

For information on the workshops, aimed at tailoring guidelines to local areas, call 443-3093.

No relief for farmers

Humboldt County farmers won't be getting any federal emergency relief funds despite claiming losses of $10 million in diminished hay, pasture and dairy production caused by an extended drought.

The U.S Department of Agriculture left the county off its list of counties eligible for drought relief assistance.

U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats, as well as Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, are all looking into the matter.

Farmers and ranchers will only be eligible for relief if the county can show a 30 percent loss in production.

Pay up

It's tax time again; property tax time, that is.

Property owners have until Dec. 10 to make their first payment for the 2002-2003 tax season. Payments made after Dec. 10 could result in a 10 percent penalty.

About 70,000 tax bills were mailed out and only 42,000 have been returned. To date the county has received about $11 million in tax payments, leaving $24 million to be paid by Dec. 10.

For more information call 476-2450.


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