St. Joseph Health System, which includes St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, Redwood Memorial Hospital in Fortuna, Humboldt Home Health Services, and Humboldt Central Lab, purchased one of the largest primary care practices on the North Coast last month.

The sale of Eureka Family Practice was finalized July 1. The physician group, started in the early 1960s by Drs. Jim Hercher and Roy Wittwer, currently has five full-time physicians serving 13,000 patients, which includes nearly a third of Eureka residents.

In a separate transaction, St. Joseph purchased the practice of Dr. WAilliam Koch, an Arcata-based obstetrician, who will join the Eureka-based Center for Women's Health Care, a subsidiary of St. Joseph. Dr. Koch will maintain his Arcata office and will open another in McKinleyville later this month.

Last year St. Joseph Health System, part of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange Corps., purchased Arcata Family Health Center, which serves 8,000 to 10,000 patients in the north county, and the practices of a number of independent physicians.

The St. Joseph Humboldt County system also includes Health Care Medical Associates of Eureka and McKinleyville, which serves approximately 10,000 patients, the Willow Creek Family Health Center and numerous other outreach programs.

One physician who is affiliated with the hospital said the strategy of vertical integration of health care services on the North Coast by St. Joseph Health System-Humboldt County may be part of a plan to eventually become a type of health maintenance organization that provides complete medical care including insurance, such as Kaiser.

But Neil Martin, chief administrative officer for the hospital said he has heard "absolutely no discussion" of such a move in his year and a half tenure with St. Joseph.

The primary reason for the vertical integration, Martin said, "is to create a stable health care system with physicians who share our values."


The pepper spray nine vs. the county of Humboldt and the city of Eureka is set for trial Aug. 10 in federal court in San Francisco.

However, Sheriff Dennis Lewis, Eureka Police Chief Arnie Milsap and other individual officers may be dropped as defendants from the case prior to trial.

At issue is whether police officers violated the civil rights of nine environmental protesters last year by administrating "cruel and unusual punishment." Using Q-tips dipped in pepper spray, officers swabbed the eyelids of the protesters who voluntarily locked their arms in heavy metal pipes to avoid arrest.

Two incidents occurred on Pacific Lumber Co. land and a third in the office of Rep. Frank Riggs. Videos of the latter incident made national and international news overnight and provoked an avalanche of criticism and hate mail directed at officers and elected officials.

According to court documents, Chief Sheriff's Deputy Gary Philp approved use of pepper spray on nonviolent protesters after consulting with the county's two top law enforcement officers Lewis and District Attorney Terry Farmer and a deputy district attorney, the Humboldt County risk manager and county counsel.

Based on discussions of application methods with Sgt. Wayne Hanson, the sheriff's chemical agent training officer, Philp gave the go-ahead to apply pepper spray directly "near the eye with cotton swab Q-tips," court documents say.

The videos taken by police show the officers rubbing the chemical back and forth across eyelids as the protesters screamed and writhed.

Attorneys for the county and city asked a federal judge last month to dismiss the lawsuit, saying the use of pepper spray did not constitute excessive force. They cited a case in San Diego where abortion clinic protesters were injured while passively resisting arrest.

In a separate motion, attorneys asked that all police officers be dropped from the case because "they were following orders."

At press time, Judge Vaughn Walker had not ruled on either motion but was reportedly considering releasing the officers. Walker also indicated to attorneys that he expects a jury to be seated quickly and the trial to proceed on schedule.

In a new development last month, Eureka Attorney William Bragg, an experienced criminal defense lawyer, joined the case. Bragg will be consulting with the firm Mitchell, Brisso, Delaney & Vrieze in defending the county and city.

Representing the nine plaintiffs are Arcata Attorney Mark Harris and Tony Serra, a nationally known civil rights attorney whose work was featured in the 1988 film "True Believer."

In May the nine plaintiffs appeared before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and offered to drop all claims for monetary damages if several conditions were met.

The board did not respond.


It was a tough decision, but the trees had to go, said the man who ordered more than 80 pine trees felled at McKinleyville High School last month.

Kenny Richards, assistant superintendent of Northern Humboldt Union High School District, said as chairman of the North Coast School Insurance Group he felt the 28-year-old pines posed a significant hazard to pedestrians and motorists on Murray Road.

Large branches had already fallen on the thoroughfare and one limb landed on a Homecoming Parade float; students were not present when the incident occurred.

Flowering trees and shrubs will be planted in place of the pines, which were cut up and donated as firewood.


Two Eureka businessmen who bought the 126-year-old Vance Hotel at public auction in June say they will restore the structure and lease it. Tenants may include a restaurant and retail space on the first floor and business offices on floors two through four.

The sale of the controversial building was not without controversy. Robin P. Arkley II and Kurt Kramer, the successful bidders at $156,000, temporarily presented a line of credit instead of cash or a cashier's check. Another set of bidders sued to block the sale but in mid July Judge John Feeney refused to issue a preliminary injunction.

"We don't think they have a good case (to challenge the sale) so we're going ahead with the restoration," said Arkley, who recently purchased and restored the old Woolworth Building at E and Fifth streets in Eureka.

Arkley's company, Security National Servicing Corp., employs 75 people in its Eureka office. The company, which also has offices in Anchorage, Ala., Baton Rouge, La., New York, Boston, Sacramento and Nashville, Tenn., owns and leases more than 2 million square feet of office and other commercial space nationwide.

Arkley expects the Vance restoration to be a challenge. "A commercial lender wouldn't touch it," he said, because of the extensive work needed to bring it up to code. He and Kramer will be using private funds for the project. The scarcity of parking in downtown and Old Town is also a major obstacle, he said.

Kramer, a local contractor who recently completed a $250,000 remodeling project on an 11-unit apartment complex in Fields Landing, said this is his first joint project with Arkley. He estimates it will take two years to complete.

Kramer plans to start with a new roof and structural work, tackling the interior as specific tenants are known. "Our intention is to take it back to its original siding," Kramer said. "It was a type of grooved redwood made to look like blocks almost a brick veneer. My vision is to restore the arched windows as well."

Throughout the early 1990s former owner Sam Stanson fought with city officials in and out of court while working on his own remodeling efforts. Eventually the city boarded up the building as unsafe and held it as collateral against money Stanson reportedly owed Eureka.


The Eureka City Council this month is expected to receive a number of proposals regarding development of acreage near the Samoa Bridge known as the Halvorsen property.

The piece closest to the amphitheater would become a performing arts park for events like this month's Blues by the Bay. The piece closest to the east side of the bridge would be available for development. And, on the west side of the bridge, the council asked staff for solicitations for a small RV park, City Manager Harvey Rose said.

"The general response we received was that it is too small for an RV park although one (developer) is still talking," Rose added.

Regarding the middle parcel, the city has received five proposals including one from former City Councilman Tom McMurray for a 20,000 square-foot convention center/office space complex. The identity of the four other developers had not been released.

The plan is similar to one contemplated and abandoned earlier by Robin Arkley II (see story above). Arkley said he would prefer a waterfront park along the entire parcel because Eureka already has a surplus of vacant commercial structures.

Other proposals include an office complex, a recreation center and a residential project, according to Rose. All five proposals are tentatively expected to go before the council Aug. 28.


Frustrated by trying to find commercial space with adequate parking in downtown Eureka, Humboldt Bank is moving its administrative offices to the edge of town.

The bank announced last month the purchase of Mall 101, a 13 1/2-acre site across Highway 101 from Montgomery Ward, which includes a shopping center building, parking lot, recreational vehicle campground and gas station.

Rite-Aid Pharmacy is the only current tenant of the 85,000-square-foot shopping center. Its lease expires at the end of 1999.

Humboldt Bank plans to remodel the building and move many of its administrative operations in early next year, including loan and credit card processing and computer information services. The Heritage Club, a service-oriented center for seniors, will also move to the new location.

The main downtown branch of Humboldt Bank at 701 Fifth St. will remain open at that location.


It's almost certain that much of Humboldt's trash will be shipped out of the county via truck or train beginning in the fall. What remains uncertain is where the garbage will be stored in the meantime.

The Arcata City Council will decide Aug. 5 if the Joint Powers Authority which is comprised of the county and the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna and Rio Dell can set up a temporary garbage transfer station at the former Northcoast Hardwoods location, 1220 Fifth St., in Arcata.

The proposed site would occupy three acres of a 22-acre parcel and would process up to 550 tons of waste per day. Utah-based ECDC Environmental would provide compacting facilities at the site.

In the fall, ECDC will begin hauling the trash to Solano County via the Northwestern Pacific Railroad, pending final approval by the JPA. If the railroad isn't operating, the trash will go by truck to Medford, Ore.


The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors recently voted to strengthen its policy on open bidding procedures for public works projects.

The policy reinforces the board's oversight powers to keep large projects on schedule and within budget. It also prevents the board from granting non-emergency "guaranteed maximum price" contracts. A GMP contract prohibits the contractor from making change orders and requires it absorb any additional project costs.

Robert Boileau, president of the Construction Industry Force Account Council, said the policy will prevent a repeat of the county jail controversy which wound up in court.

CIFAC sued the county in May 1997 after Phase II of the jail project was put out to bid with a GMP clause and the plans only half completed. CIFAC claimed the guaranteed price contract scared away many potential bidders because there was no way to know the full extent of the project.


The Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria signed a new gaming pact with the state last month, but other tribes have refused to negotiate, criticizing the pact as a threat to their sovereignty.

The pact is based on a model agreement that Gov. Pete Wilson signed in March with the Pala Band in San Diego County. It allows casinos to conduct any gaming that the California State Lottery offers, but slot machines, which are illegal under state law, will eventually be phased out. The state will also limit the number of legal lottery devices to 975 per tribe.

Tribes that don't sign the compact may face punitive damages, including seizure of slot machines.


Developer Steve Moser got the go-ahead from the state Coastal Commission last month to begin work on McKinleyville's controversial Sand Pointe subdivision.

But the project will be considerably smaller than planned, with only 37 of the proposed 58 homes allowed along the Mad River. This reduction will leave 100 feet of development setback from the bluff to protect riparian habitat in an area known for severe erosion.

In addition, Moser must eliminate plans for private gates and streets, outdoor night lighting and a proposed RV storage facility. The commission also requires that utility lines be placed underground and that the Hammond Trail be extended around the north end of the subdivision. A proposed fence along the trail was not approved by the commission.

Construction of Sand Pointe is scheduled to begin in July or August 1999.

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