Sunday, 21 April 2024


Jack O'Hara's second quarter 27-yard touchdown run gave Lower Lake a short-lived 12-7 lead on Friday, October 15, 2010. Photo by Ed Oswalt.


LOWER LAKE, Calif. – In a tightly fought battle, the Fort Bragg Timberwolves narrowly defeated the Lower Lake Trojans football team 49-42 in Lower Lake Friday night.

It was a seesaw offensive battle Fort Bragg head coach Jack Moyer called a “tit-for-tat back and forth game.”

After the Timberwolves lost the ball on downs on their opening possession, the Trojans drove 66 yards in 10 plays to score first, capped by a two-yard dash into the Fort Bragg end zone by quarterback Devante Scott.

Fort Bragg’s Cody Ryden ran the ensuing Trojan kickoff 53 yards downfield to Lower Lake’s 37-yard line, and nine plays later caught a Brandon Freitas pass from the three-yard line for their first score of the night. The extra point by Eric Herrejon put the Timberwolves ahead 7-6.




Three Timberwolves close in on a fumble by Lower Lakes' Roy Percoats. The recovery by Brandon Freitas (No. 21) set up a touchdown for a 21-12 Fort Bragg lead. Photo by Ed Oswalt.



Lower Lake answered with a nine-play, 74-yard drive of their own, scoring their second touchdown of the night when runningback Jack O’Hara carried the ball 9 yards into the Timberwolves’ endzone to reclaim the lead for the Trojans 12-7.

But the Wolves need just one play – a 70-yard pass from Freitas to Ryden – to take back the lead 14-12.

“They were able to score at will on us,” Lower Lake Head Coach Stan Weiper said after the game.

When the Trojans fumbled the ball deep in their own territory and Fort Bragg recovered, the Timberwolves took advantage of the turnover, scoring on a nine-yard Freitas pass to Michael Mehtlan for their third touchdown of the night, bringing the score to 21-12.

Lower Lake answered with a touchdown of their own, and when Alphonza Daniels made the two-point conversion, the Trojans trailed by only one, 21-20.

“They came right after us,” Timberwolves head coach Moyer said after the game. “They scared me is what they did.”

But Fort Bragg scored once more in the first half on a 16-yard Freitas pass to wide receiver Alfredo Huerta, and when Eric Herrejon made his fourth extra point of the night, the Wolves went ahead 28-20.

Lower Lake tried to score again, but with just 4 seconds left in the second quarter and down to their last play, quarterback Devante Scott was stopped on a four-yard run just inches from the goal line.

“That was a critical play,” Weiper said. “I had the wrong personnel in the game, and we just didn’t get a good play call.”

When the Trojans fumbled on their opening possession of the second half, the Timberwolves recovered and scored on another Freitas-to-Ryden pass, this one for 20 yards, increasing Fort Bragg’s lead to 35-20.

But running back Roy Percoats had a 51-yard touchdown carry for Lower Lake on their next possession, and that narrowed the score to 35-26.




Fort Bragg's Alfredo Huerta outfights Lower Lake's Alphonza Daniels for a pass reception and scores for a 28-20 Timberwolf lead. Photo by Ed Oswalt.



The Wolves answered with their own 50-plus yard touchdown run by Caleb Cunha, and Fort Bragg increased their lead 42-26.

“I’ll be rolling in my sleep tonight on a couple of those plays,” Weiper said after the game, noting his team made “a couple of key mistakes.”

When Lower Lake’s Roy Percoats took the ensuing Timberwolve kickoff 70 yards downfield, the Trojans benefited from a facemask penalty against Fort Bragg, and O’Hara scored his second touchdown of the night on a 3-yard run. After O’Hara made the 2-point conversion, the score stood at 42-34.

“We knew they were good, and they had a lot of speed,” Timberwolves coach Moyer said. “They’ve got so many guys that have good team speed, it’s really hard to cover them.”

Lower Lake forced the Timberwolves to punt on their next possession, but fumbled the ball deep in their territory, and Freitas threw his fourth touchdown pass of the night, bringing the score to 49-34.

The Trojans fought back with their longest drive of the night, using 11 plays to charge 62 yards downfield for another touchdown. After a successful 2-point conversion, Lower Lake was in striking distance, down by 49-42.

Fort Bragg threatened to score once more, but Freitas relinquished his only interception of the game when Lower Lake defensive back Alphonza Daniels made a spectacular, acrobatic catch on the Trojans’ one-yard line.

“He’ll catch impossible catches,” Weiper said of his defensive back.

With less than four minutes left in the game, Lower Lake tried to drive downfield again, but Ryden intercepted a Hail Mary pass by the Trojans, and Fort Bragg ran out the clock.

“We played real well on offense, and not so well on defense,” Moyer said after the game. “It’s hard getting these road wins.”

Fort Bragg runningback Caleb Cunha carried the ball 18 times for 142 yards, and quarterback Brandon Freitas completed 13 out of 18 passes for a total of 257 yards.

“The kids played hard,” Weiper noted about the Trojans (now 4-2 overall, 0-1 in league play) adding, “We just ran out of time.”

Lower Lake’s JV team also fought a close match Friday night, but they prevailed over the JV Timberwolves by a score of 8-0.

Lower Lake travels to Kelseyville (5-1 overall, 1-0 in league play) next Friday night to take on the Knights, while the Timberwolves (6-0 overall, 1-0 in league play) host Middletown (5-1 overall, 0-0 in league play) in Fort Bragg.

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Caleb Cunha was the leading groundgainer for Fort Bragg on Friday, October 15, 2010. Photo by Ed Oswalt.

NORTH LAKEPORT, Calif. – A Lakeport woman was seriously injured Friday when she was pinned between two vehicles.

The 32-year-old woman, whose name was not released by the California Highway Patrol, sustained major injuries in the accident, which occurred at 10:20 a.m. in the 7600 block of Bridge Arbor Road in the north Lakeport area.

According to the CHP, the woman's 37-year-old husband was loading a 1997 Land Rover onto an automobile tow-dolly which was attached to a Chevy Suburban.

The woman was standing at the back of the Suburban – and may have been straddling the hitch – signaling for the man to drive forward, the report said.

The CHP said the man didn't bring the vehicle to a stop on the tow-dolly and the woman was trapped between the two vehicles.

The woman was flown by air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, according to the report.

CHP Officer Nick Powell is the incident's investigator.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

SAN FRANCISCO – California has joined a coalition of 49 attorneys general and dozens of state banking regulators in a multi-state effort to demand that lenders find solutions to serious and potentially widespread problems in the foreclosure process across the country.

Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced the action on Wednesday.

“While California continues its own vigorous efforts to ensure that homeowners facing foreclosure are treated fairly and lawfully, we are now working together with other attorneys general and regulators to seek solutions that reach across state lines to protect all borrowers at risk of losing their homes in this foreclosure crisis,” said Brown.

On Oct. 8, Brown called on all lenders in California to halt foreclosing on California homes until they can demonstrate that they are complying with state law.

Earlier, Brown sent letters to Ally Financial and J.P. Morgan Chase directing them either to prove they are in compliance with state law or else halt foreclosures.

His office also has been in discussions with other lenders, including Wells Fargo, One West and Bank of America. Brown's office will continue its independent efforts to protect homeowners facing foreclosure.

Bank of America announced last Friday that it was temporarily halting foreclosures nationwide.

The multi-state group will review how lenders verify foreclosure documents nationally. The group was formed after several lenders and loan services admitted that officials, dubbed “robo-signers,” had vouched for the accuracy and completeness of foreclosure documents without reviewing them. Such sham verifications may constitute a deceptive and unfair practice or otherwise violate state laws.

Regulators in the states involved, including California, have already started examining whether mortgage servicers have submitted improper affidavits or other foreclosure documents.

Although each state has its own foreclosure laws, all attorneys general and financial regulators have a common goal of making certain that every lender and servicer conduct a good faith review of foreclosure documents, only foreclose on homeowners after confirming all requirements have been met, and obey all state laws.

California law prohibits lenders from recording notices of default on mortgages made between Jan. 1, 2003, and Dec. 31, 2007, unless – with certain exceptions – the lender contacts or tries diligently to contact the borrower to determine eligibility for loan modification. A notice of default must include a declaration of compliance with California law.

California homeowners who experience problems with foreclosures, or other consumer issues, can file a complaint online with the Attorney General's office at:

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Northshore Fire Protection District firefighters and California Highway Patrol were among the agencies on the scene of a crash on Saturday, October 16, 2010, near Glenhaven, Calif. Photo by Gary McAuley.




GLENHAVEN, Calif. – A man and his dog escaped injury on Saturday when the vehicle in which they were traveling rolled over along Highway 20.

The California reported that the single-vehicle incident occurred just west of Glenhaven shortly before 1:30 p.m.

A man, whose name was not available from officials on Saturday, was traveling westbound on Highway 20 with his dog in his late model Honda Ridgeline SUV when the vehicle rolled over. It was not immediately clear why the vehicle rolled.

The vehicle, which was heading westbound, ended up back on its wheels and the driver and his dog were able to get out, officials reported. Man and canine were said to be uninjured.




A tow truck pulled the Honda Ridgeline westward to clear the roadway, but a wrecker had to be called, as the front axle of the Honda was broken and couldn't be towed. Photo by Gary McAuley.



Cal Fire responded with two engines and arrived on scene first, remaining on scene to direct traffic and assisting with removing debris from the roadway.

Two CHP units were on scene along with Northshore Fire, which sent one medic unit each from Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks and one battalion chief. Other units were canceled while en route due to the collision being noninjury.

Gary McAuley contributed to this report.

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Traffic along Highway 20 in Lake County, Calif., was backed up on the afternoon of Saturday, October 16, 2010, as officials dealt with a crash scene near Glenhaven. Photo by Gary McAuley.

NAPA, Calif. – Congressman Mike Thompson and President Bill Clinton will host a special event this weekend in Napa.

The “Get-Out-The-Vote Rally” will take place on Sunday, Oct. 17, at Napa's Uptown Theatre, 1350 Third St.

Residents of the First Congressional District are invited to come to the event and stand up for the future of the district and the nation.

Doors open at 1 p.m. with the rally set to begin at 2 p.m.

Seating is offered on a first-come, first-served basis at the theater, which has 860 seats, according to its Web site,

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From left, Lake County Health Services Department and Veterans Service Officer Jim Brown, Congressman Mike Thompson and Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, cut the ribbon on the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.





CLEARLAKE, Calif. – As dozens of community members and local officials looked on, Congressman Mike Thompson took a large pair of ceremonial scissors and sliced through a blue ribbon strung across the front of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake on Wednesday afternoon.

It was a moment, according to Thompson and local leaders, that was more than a decade in the making.

The new clinic, located at at 15145 Lakeshore Drive, Clearlake, will officially open for patient care on Nov. 1.

An estimated 10 percent of all Lake County residents are veterans from one branch of the military of the other, with every U.S. action and war since World War II represented. It's reported to be one of the largest per-capita veteran populations in the state.

Even so, it took years of lobbying by local veterans and leaders, and Thompson himself, to make the clinic a reality, a fact acknowledged in his opening remarks Wednesday by Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, which will oversee the Clearlake clinic's operations.




Lawrence Carroll, medical center director for the San Francisco VA Medical Center, speaks during the dedication ceremony for the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



The clinic's importance becomes even clearer when considering, as Carroll shared, that 40 percent of U.S. Veterans live in rural areas.

“The planning for this clinic has been a long time coming,” said Carroll, who thanked county Jim Brown, the county's Health Services Department director and veterans service officer, for his lobbying efforts.

The work of Brown and many others was necessary “to get us to this day,” said Carroll, who also thanked Thompson for his longtime support, noting that without it they wouldn't be standing there, opening the new clinic.

Carroll said the VA looked forward to serving local veterans with the dignity and honor they deserved.

District 1 Supervisor Jim Comstock, a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam, said watching the colors be presented at the start of the ceremony reminded him of his induction into the military 40 years previously.

He had dropped a college class which resulted in him becoming eligible for the draft. He recalled going into the induction center and having one side of the room be designated as Marines and the other Navy.




Dr. Mike Novak, left, introduces his children to Congressman Mike Thompson at the dedication ceremony for the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



“I remember that day,” another veteran, standing in the nearby crowd, said to this reporter.

Comstock thanked the veterans who served the country. “You are what this is all about,” he said.

He also thanked Brown, who he said helped get him into the VA health system 10 years ago. Comstock said the VA takes “fabulous care of us vets,” and he is looking forward to being able to go to the Clearlake clinic rather than having to go to Santa Rosa.

Comstock thanked Thompson and the VA staff, a sentiment that District 2 Supervisor Jeff Smith echoed in his comments.

Smith recalled talking to former Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Frank Cammarata and the late Bernie Edwards 12 years ago about getting a VA clinic in the community.

He called the clinic's opening the single greatest thing to happen in his district during his board tenure.

“We finally got what we've been fighting for for years,” Smith said.

Thompson, himself a Vietnam veteran wounded in combat, said the clinic was important for veterans.

“It's not so much they deserved it, they earned it,” he said.

He thanked the community of veterans and their families, a group whose importance he acknowledged. Like the others before him at the podium, he thanked Brown for his work.

Thompson also thanked the VA, who he said he appreciated despite occasionally having to shout and pound his fist on the desk to get things going.

He went on to recognize the efforts of local veterans in getting themselves a clinic. Thompson said 9,000 veterans signed petitions to let the VA know how important it was to have the facility.




The front desk of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




He said both the veterans community and the larger Lake County community are “wonderful.”

Thompson was then joined by Comstock, Smith, Jim Brown and Supervisor Rob Brown in cutting the ribbon.

Both before and after the ceremony, visitors toured the building, which the VA has on a 10-year lease, officials reported.

Renovations on the building – which formerly housed Lake County Mental Health and, before that, a bank – began earlier this year.

The newly outfitted clinic features earth tones in its spacious 8,600-square-foot interior.

A large waiting area leads down halls with numerous new examination rooms, conference rooms with large flat panel televisions for telemedicine, a laboratory and room for administrative offices.

Dr. Mike Novak, a doctor who has been in private practice in Clearlake for 10 years, brought his young family to see what will be his new professional home.

Novak has been hired as the clinic's medical director, and has closed his private practice to make the transition.

“I have a lot of vets in my private practice already,” he said, and many of them will be making the move with him.

He called the new facility “amazing.”




Visitor pass through the hallways of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif., on Wednesday, October 13, 2010. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



As he was touring the clinic's halls, Thompson – who was peering into what will be the laboratory – was approached by an elderly couple, who thanked him for his help. They reminded Thompson that when their son, a veteran, was fighting throat cancer, he had helped them get their son's VA benefits going.

Thompson's district representative, Brad Onorato, also recalled when the clinic building had housed a bank many years ago. It had a conference room where – ironically – Thompson and local leaders had met to discuss bringing a VA clinic to Clearlake, he said.

Veterans can register at or or contact the VAMC Eligibility Office at 415-750-2015.

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A conference room at the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Clearlake, Calif. Doctors plan to use telemedicine to assist with treatments at the newly renovated facility. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

Zino Mezoui taking part in the olive pit spitting contest at the Kelseyville Olive Festival in Kelseyville, Calif., on Saturday, March 21, 2010. Photo by Lexie Firth.



On Sept. 24, 2010, a tragic crash took the life of one of Lake County’s most beloved citizens.

Zino Mezoui was a restaurateur, an avid supporter of local agriculture, and one of the warmest people on the planet. He also made a mean eggplant parmigiana.

Mezoui (pronounced mez-WEE) was known as Zino to virtually everyone. He preferred hugs to handshakes, treated new acquaintances like old friends, and dispensed his trademark smile generously, without reservation.

Nearly 500 people attended his recent memorial service on Oct. 9, a testament to the number of hearts he touched throughout his life.

It was hard to encounter Zino without being affected by his warmth and charm.

Congressman Mike Thompson, who’s known Mezoui since the late 1980s, said that Mezoui made him feel as though he’d known him all his life at their first meeting.

“Since that time, whenever I’ve seen him, Zino made me feel like the most special person in the world,” Thompson said. “I’ve enjoyed many meals in his restaurant.”

Alison Mannweiler, also a regular customer at Mezoui’s restaurant, recalls his kindness to her after her husband passed away, assuring her she would find love again. Another fond memory is his patience in speaking French slowly and animatedly with her daughter, a novice speaker.

One evening Mannweiler took her parents to Zino’s Ristorante for a special occasion and was stymied about a wine selection.

She recalled, “He recommended the perfect wine and did it in a way that made me look smart. I will miss him and his hospitality for the rest of my life.”

As will we all.

Born in Algiers of French parents, Mezoui inherited a rich culinary tradition from his father and grandfather, both restaurateurs and chefs.

He learned cooking skills at a very young age in the family restaurant kitchen from both his parents and continued to hone those skills throughout his life, both as a chef and restaurant owner.




Zino Mezoui and his mother during a visit she made from France. Photo by JoAnn Saccato.



Though his first learned cuisine was French, he taught himself to cook Italian food later in his career.

Prior to moving to Lake County, Mezoui owned Zino’s, a restaurant on the plaza in Sonoma, which he ran for 22 years. As he is here, he was known in Sonoma for his warmth and charm. The city rewarded him in 2002 with a “Zino Mezoui Day” and gave him the designation of Sonoma’s friendliest restaurant owner.

Mezoui and wife, Jan, purchased Zino’s Ristorante and Inn on the shores of Clear Lake in 2007 after having been out of the restaurant business for about six years. They had looked at other Lake County sites, but none seemed right until they found the current locale on Soda Bay Road.

Jan recalls the exact moment. “We entered the room and when we saw the view, we put our arms around each other and said, ‘This is it!’”

What ensued was a complete overhaul of the kitchen and a marathon redecorating project, resulting in a dining room with spectacular views of Clear Lake and old world European charm.

Among other things, Mezoui will be remembered for his support of local agriculture.

He was committed to serving locally grown produce in his restaurant and Leonardis Organics of Kelseyville was his purveyor of choice.

Owner Jim Leonardis recalled Mezoui’s desire to have him bring “whatever you’ve got” and his willingness to fashion his menu around what was in season on the farm.

Leonardis, who described Mezoui as “enormously warm,” developed an almost immediate bond with him and characterized their relationship as a deep friendship, rather than a business arrangement.

“Zino was one of the most wonderful people I’ve had the joy to be with,” said Leonardis.

Mezoui’s widow, Jan, will continue the tradition of utilizing local produce in the kitchen.

I enjoyed a tomato bisque soup made with locally grown basil and heirloom tomatoes while my husband and I dined there on a recent evening. Our table was near a window, a perfect place to enjoy a peaceful view of glassy Clear Lake and the changing light on the hills at the lake’s far edge.

In view was a dock extending into the water for those who arrive at the restaurant by boat.

Jan is a warm and gracious host and will continue the Mezoui family tradition of greeting customers with hugs as she carries on Zino’s dream as a restaurateur.

Zino’s Ristorante is open five evenings a week for dinner, from Thursday through Monday.

Their chef, Daniel, trained by Zino, has been with them since the beginning and will continue to make such specialties as bruschetta with Brie, roasted garlic and heirloom tomatoes; all manner of pasta; fresh fish in season; peppercorn steak with mushrooms and Zinfandel; and, of course, eggplant parmigiana.

Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake, Calif., and The Kitchen Gallery in Lakeport, Calif. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The view of Soda Bay from Zino's Ristorante in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.

A fundamental duty of a trustee is to review the trust’s asset composition to determine which assets are economically productive and should be kept and what assets should be sold and reinvested. This is in order to make trust economically productive.

Generally speaking, unless the trust allows for unproductive assets to be held the trustee must sell or distribute unproductive assets and reinvest in productive ones.

Let us examine how this rule plays out in a trust administration.

First, if the trust is being settled after the death of the settlor – in which case the trustee pays the deceased settlor’s debts and taxes, pays trust administration expenses, and distributes the remaining assets to the death beneficiaries – then any assets that are specifically gifted are kept for distribution to the beneficiary even if economically unproductive.

But, if these unproductive assets are costly to maintain then they should be distributed sooner to reduce expenses.

Vehicles, especially, should be sold or distributed expeditiously to avoid unnecessary expenses and potential liabilities.

Existing stocks and bonds, moreover, should be periodically evaluated by a certified financial planner, knowledgeable in the portfolio theory of investments and trust administration, and either kept or sold as appropriate.

The portfolio theory of investments says that the performance of the portfolio as a whole, and not any single stock’s or bond’s performance alone, determines whether the trustee has invested prudently.

Lastly, cash not needed to pay debts, taxes and administration expenses should be prudently invested, in consultation with a competent financial advisor.

Second, if the trust is not being settled, but is being administered long term for a beneficiary – such as when a successor trustee replaces an incapacitated settlor as trustee – then the personal residence may be kept (even though it doesn’t produce rents) to provide a home for the beneficiary.

Otherwise, the trustee should periodically review the trust’s assets to determine which should be kept and which should be sold and reinvested.

Lastly, if the trustee fails to keep the trust productive, or takes unnecessary risks (such as making speculative investments), then the beneficiary can petition the court for instructions to the trustee.

The beneficiary can also ask the court to impose financial penalties on the trustee and/or to reduce or to eliminate the trustee’s fees

Clearly, then a trustee must be proactive and diligent in meeting his or her duty to keep the trust productive. Competent financial advisors should be consulted to help the trustee make appropriate investment decisions.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 First St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

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MIDDLETOWN, Calif. – State transportation officials got an unequivocal message from south county residents at a Tuesday meeting: Two area road projects simply aren't acceptable.

District 1 Supervisor Jim Comstock organized the two-hour meeting, which was attended by several officials from Caltrans, including District 1 Director Charlie Fielder and his staff who came down from Eureka to meet with residents to discuss two rubberized chip seal projects.

The projects, completed at a total cost of about $2.1 million by International Surfacing Systems of West Sacramento, stretch along 12 miles of Highway 29 from the Lake/Napa County lines to the Coyote Creek Bridge and 8.5 miles on Highway 175 from Cobb to Middletown. The projects used a larger, half-inch aggregate that officials said was recently approved for use.

Mark Suchanek, Caltrans deputy director for District 1, told the audience at one point that the road projects were completed with “the best of intentions.”

In turn, the group of about 70 area residents went on to share what to them were hellish consequences of the paving projects, from vehicles with thousands of dollars of damage due to flying rocks, to a road surface they insisted is dangerous and pulls vehicles toward the center lane, along with absent striping, uneven surfaces and loud road noise that affects not just drivers but residents of homes near the highway.

One woman summed it up by telling Caltrans that the roads were ugly, bad and noisy.

For an area that relies on tourism, the roads look and feel bad and are likely to discourage visitors, residents told Caltrans.

It grew heated enough at some points that Middletown Area Town Hall Chairman Joe Sullivan said he would shut down the questions if people couldn't calm down.

The concerns about the roads were such that in the audience were several local and state government officials, including Lake County Public Works Director Brent Siemer, Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart, CHP Area Commander Lt. Mark Loveless, Dave Miinch of South Lake County Fire and Ruth Valenzuela, district representative for Assemblyman Wes Chesbro.

At the meeting's start, Comstock told the group, “This is about our community.”

Then, true to his word, Comstock handed over to Caltrans two sets of petitions, one from Middletown residents and one from Hidden Valley Lake, with 1,176 and 53 signatures, respectively.

“I hear you. I understand that you're not happy with the work that was done out there,” said Fielder, who had toured the local chip seal projects with Comstock in the weeks leading up to the meeting.

Fielder said the work was not what he expected, calling the large aggregate chip seal an “aggressive type of treatment” seen more often in mountainous areas for its traction.

During the course of the meeting the south county residents in attendance bristled when Fielder and his staff stated that the chip seal was a good product that met state specifications, and there was louder grumbling when state officials guaranteed that the roads were safe.

Fielder emphasized that a followup project on Highway 29 and Highway 175 would take place, and it would be the same kind of smooth treatment recently completed on Highway 29 near Lakeport.

He said he and his staff went to Sacramento two weeks ago and made the case to get the funding for the followup paving project.

However, that work likely won't be done before next June or July, due to a variety of steps necessary beforehand – including engineering and design – in addition to the fact that the road construction season is nearly at an end.

It's also a “programmed” project, which Fielder said means the work must get the approval of the state's transportation commission. He said he expects a March vote, and hoped to see the time frame for starting the work moved forward to at least May.

“It takes time to develop a project, especially when you're talking a couple million dollars,” said Fielder.

Over the next hour and a half the Caltrans team fielded numerous questions from community members on nearly every aspect of the project.

Middletown resident Fletcher Thornton said he was concerned about the crosswalks. Good crosswalks had recently been done, but the project went over them, leaving only dull white marks.

Noting that drivers respond to visual slowdown signals like crosswalks, Thornton said, “Those big white crosswalks are not there.”

Suchanek said crosswalk restriping is a part of the project that hasn't yet been completed. Representatives from International Surfacing Systems of West Sacramento, said they expect to start the striping Oct. 19 and the work should be completed the following week.

There were asked about the larger aggregate, which Suchanek said is “a newer product for us” and one with which they weren't used to working.

A community member said he understood International Surfacing Systems hadn't gotten the necessary permits. Caltrans Area Construction Engineer Alan Escarda said the contractor had all the necessary construction permits, and the company's project manager, James Wilson, said they had applied for all the permits.

At Comstock's urging, Gearhart corrected those statements, saying the company had permits for their generators but not a portable chip seal plant. They were issued a notice of violation and continued to operate.

Fielder said Caltrans is responsible for making sure permits are in order.

Gearhart added that the company also had failed to get a permit for the plant site from the county Community Development Department. “That was a minor issue compared to our issue.”

Caltrans was asked who made the decision regarding the surfacing. Suchanek said Caltrans staff drives the highways and then works to come up with treatment strategies.

Another resident asked about doing something to deal with safety issues at the intersection of Highway 29 and Hartmann Road. Suchanek said the area's volumes are higher than those at the three-way stop at Highway 53 and Olympic Drive in Clearlake, so a signal wouldn't work well. Caltrans is planning a project that will including placing flashing beacons on either side of Hartmann Road.

Steve Massaro of Hidden Valley Lake said the contrast between the stretch of Highway 29 outside of Lakeport and that near Middletown is obvious to everyone, and he wanted to know the rationale behind the south county projects.

“It's unacceptable,” he said, adding, “Why was that decision made? Who made it?”

Suchanek said it was a decision made within the district leadership, and the chip seal is being used statewide. He said it's a method for stretching limited dollars further.

Michael van der Boon, another Hidden Valley Lake resident and District 1's representative on the Lake County Planning Commission, said a quarter-mile stretch of new asphalt in front of Hidden Valley Lake – which had been “smooth as glass” – was covered over by the rougher chip seal.

Responding to a comment earlier in the meeting that the road work had been done at night so they hadn't seen they were going over the nicer pavement, van der Boon asked, “Are you kidding me?” which got a laugh, even from Fielder.

Suchanek said they had covered those newer portions in an effort to make all surface areas consistent.

Judy Mirbegian of Hidden Valley Lake said the roads weren't safe at the current legal speed limit, and asked Caltrans representatives if they thought they should acknowledge that and lower the speed limit. “Our safety is your responsibility.”

After a pause, Suchanek said he would follow up on the speed limit issue, but said lowering a speed limit requires adherence to statutes and traffic laws. “You can't just arbitrarily lower it because you want people to go slower.”

She asked if speed limits correlated to road conditions. Suchanek said they are based on the free flow of traffic in good driving conditions. Caltrans can put up advisory signs, he said.

Wayne Nelson, Middletown's barber, asked Caltrans officials if one of them would go with him on a motorcycle ride over the roads. He added that if he cut hair like they did roads, he'd be out of business. Escarda agreed to go for the offered ride.

Tom and Linda Darms, who own Tom's Auto Dynamics in Middletown, insisted the road isn't safe. Linda Darms said she test drives vehicles and has noticed that cars of all kinds are thrown around on the roadway. They've also found rocks lodged in brake rotors.

“It's not right. It's serious,” she said. “We're frightened for people in our community.”

Attention in the meeting later shifted to Loveless, who had stood at the back of the room throughout the proceedings. Community members asked him about safety issues on the roads and if the CHP had recorded more crashes.

Loveless, who had anticipated such questions, said he had his staff do two analyses of the area, looking at crash statistics from 2005 through this year and also looking specifically at the August time frame for those five years. He said both evaluations showed that they were “dead on” for the statistical average.

The meeting ended at 7 p.m., with Comstock congratulating Caltrans and the contractor's representatives for being willing to come to “the belly of the beast.”

Many people stayed on afterwards to continue questioning Caltrans and International Surfacing Systems representatives and to get claim forms for vehicle damage from the contractor.

One Hidden Valley Man man showed officials a round scar on his knee he suffered from a rock hitting him while he was riding his motorcycle, which he said has now become a more dangerous proposition.

On Wednesday, after having time to consider the meeting, Massaro wasn't satisfied with the answers he got from Caltrans, noting that waiting eight to nine months to have the road fixed is “unacceptable.”

He also didn't feel Caltrans had taken responsibility for the projects' failure, noting, “not one iota of admission that a gross error in judgment had taken place was evident.”

Massaro wondered why Caltrans did not make an effort to test and refine the process using coarse 1/2-inch aggregate instead of using the Hidden Valley Lake/Middletown corridor as a test bed.

“Now we are stuck with this crude result of really very poor decision making based on an obvious lack of any critical thought,” he said. “In a word, it was stupid.”

Massaro said he'll be looking very closely at accident statistics on a monthly, not a yearly, basis as area residents wait for the millions more dollars needed “to cover up this fiasco.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

COBB, Calif. – A crash earlier this month resulted in major injuries for a Cobb man, who is on the mend, according to his family.

Mark Calegari, 44, suffered a broken neck and back – along with severe facial lacerations and broken bones – in the crash, which happened at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, according to his mother, Cobb resident and businesswoman Barbara Flynn.

The California Highway Patrol reported that Calegari was riding as a passenger in a 1983 Toyota pickup truck driven by 25-year-old Nate Fletcher. Flynn said the two men are friends.

Fletcher was heading westbound on Highway 175 west of Estates Drive when, as he was going into a lefthand curve, he allowed his vehicle to veer to the right and began to drive up a dirt embankment, according to the CHP report.

The front of Fletcher's Toyota struck a large rock which caused the truck to roll over to the left. The CHP said the pickup came to rest upside down blocking the westbound lane of traffic.

Flynn said her son had to be cut out of the vehicle. The CHP said Calegari was transported by REACH air ambulance to UC Davis Medical Center.

Fletcher sustained minor injuries, according to the CHP.

He was arrested about 40 minutes after the crash by CHP Officer Ryan Erickson, who the agency reported is the crash's investigating officer.

Fletcher was booked into the Lake County Jail on a felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, with bail set at $10,000. Jail records indicated he is set to make a court appearance on Dec. 3.

Flynn said her son is now home from the hospital and on the mend.

She said he will have to wear a neck brace for his broken neck for at least three months.

The breaks in his lower back don't affect his spinal cord, so she said they should heal without surgery. However, those injuries appear to be giving Calegari the most pain.

However, as a mom, she's seeing signs of improvement.

“He is starting to look like himself and is getting ornery so he is definitely better,” she said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – Autumn is deer mating season – which means deer are on the move and less cautious about darting out into the road.

Caltrans is urging drivers to be careful at this time of year, when collisions between deer and vehicles can multiply.

Drivers should be extra vigilant this time of year and follow these tips for driving in deer country, courtesy of the National Park Service:

  • Be particularly attentive between sunset and midnight, during the hours shortly before and after sunrise, and in foggy conditions. Most deer-vehicle collisions occur during those times.

  • Drive carefully in areas known to have high deer populations. Places where roads divide agricultural fields or streams from forestland are particularly dangerous.

  • If you see a deer, slow down. Others are probably nearby.

  • Use high-beam headlights when there is no oncoming traffic. The high beams can reflect off their eyes and warn you of their presence.

  • If a deer is in your lane, brake firmly but stay in the lane. The most serious crashes occur when drivers swerve.

  • Don't rely on deer whistles, deer fences, or reflectors to deter deer.

  • Wear seat belts.

  • If your car strikes a deer, don't touch the animal. If the deer is blocking the highway, call 911.

“Please use extra caution when driving and make the end of the day a good one,” said Caltrans District 1 Director Charlie Fielder.

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