Motorcyclist Down: Accident in Eureka Impacting 5th Street

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Aug. 19 @ 5:29 p.m. /

Witnesses gather around a downed motorcycle on 5th Street. [Photo by Andrew Goff.]

A little after 5 p.m. a Toyota pickup collided with a motorcycle where Broadway turns to 5th Street in Eureka. Humboldt Bay Fire and an ambulance has arrived. The two riding the bike are both responsive. The Eureka Police Department is questioning the driver of the truck.

One lane of the road is still open but avoid the area if possible.

 


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Breakthrough (Literally) in Eureka’s Martin Slough Wastewater Project

Ryan Burns / Tuesday, Aug. 19 @ 5:03 p.m. / Government

They did it. Contractors for the City of Eureka successfully drilled a hole beneath Pine Hill and ran a 36-inch wastewater pipe through it, thus succeeding where a previous contractor had failed.

You may recall that, back in March, Oregon-based Apex Directional Drilling walked off the Martin Slough Interceptor project, a multi-million-dollar wastewater system upgrade co-financed by the City of Eureka and the Humboldt Community Services District. Apex accused the consulting engineers on the project of misidentifying the soil under the hill. (They were expecting stable dirt and instead found flowing sand, which caused the hole to keep collapsing, company representatives said.) In May Apex filed a $6.3 million lawsuit against the City alleging “negligence, misrepresentations and breach of contract.” 

That suit is still pending, but the new contractors have proved that the job was indeed possible. Eureka-based Wahlund Construction, originally a subcontractor for Apex, took over as the general contractor in April while HDD Co. Inc., a directional drilling company out of Cameron Park, took over the drilling and pipe work.

How were Wahlund and HDD able to succeed where Apex could not? Wahlund Construction President Ken Wahlund was reluctant to talk about it in those terms, given the pending lawsuit against the City, but he did explain some of the techniques used to complete the job. The first order of business was freeing up the drill steel that Apex left buried in a hole roughly 3,000 feet long. 

Wahlund explained that HDD used a large “donut ring” attachment and shot high-viscosity mud into the hole as a lubricant. This particular hole went underground near the municipal golf course. In order to free the drill steel HDD dug in from the other side, near Highway 101, using a smaller rig, Wahlund said.

Then the company finished drilling the hole, using first an 18-inch reamer and then a 36-inch attachment to pull material out. After the hole was bored to a large enough diameter, Wahlund Construction pulled three large lengths of pipe through, each section measuring about 1,500 feet. Company employees are now testing the pipeline.

This breakthrough is being viewed as a vindication by SHN Consulting Engineers and Geologists, the Eureka company whose soil analysis was besmirched by Apex. SHN geologist Roland Johnson was careful not to say anything negative about Apex, though he did give credit to HDD Co. Inc.

“I think it’s safe to say that there’s substantial difference between the experience of the two contractors,” Johnson said. HDD, he added, “clearly were able to accomplish something the others either didn’t want to try or couldn’t do.”

The big question that remains is how much these hiccups have added to the cost of the project. It had been slated to cost more than $7 million. Wahlund was awarded a contract for nearly $4 million to complete it after Apex abandoned work. And of course, the lawsuit is still pending.

Bruce Young, Eureka’s director of Public Works, said the total cost — or even a rough estimate — will be difficult to calculate. Much of the preparatory work done on the original contract — work areas and access roads, for example — carried over to the latter phase, Young said.

As for the dispute over the soil makeup, Young defended SHN’s analysis. The consulting engineers identified the soil as Hookton Formation, described as a mix of gravel, sand, silt and clay. “Hookton is — it’s more of a place in geologic time than anything else,” Young said. Sometimes it can be solid; other times it’s less so. “But I think the base report [by SHN] fairly accurately described what [Apex] might expect,” Young said.

Young, too, was cognizant of Apex’s pending lawsuit. “I’m being careful,” he said, “but HDD has proven that, using the right techniques ,you could indeed accomplish what was being asked to be accomplished.”

He said he and the City’s consulting engineer will get back to the Outpost soon with an updated estimate of the project’s total cost.



McK Union School District Calls Special Early Morning Meeting to Refinance Huge Bond Debt

Hank Sims / Tuesday, Aug. 19 @ 4:09 p.m. / Local Government

PREVIOUSLY

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The McKinleyville Union School District will hold a special meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, Aug. 20) at the ungodly hour of 7:15 a.m., in order to vote on the refinancing of the hugeous bonds it took out a few years ago.

Back in 2012, the district issued $7 million in bond debt, a little over $4 million of which was in the form of slow-repaying “capital appreciation bonds,” which have since become something of a statewide scandal. The total debt to district property owners incurred by those bonds was a whopping $56 million, spread out over 40 years.

At the special meeting tomorrow morning, the district will be looking at refinancing options that could knock between $11 million and $17 million off of the $56 million it now owes.

There are three different refinancing options on the table, and each of them would involve some combination of lower property taxes and faster repayment. (See a chart comparing the three options here.) District staff is recommending a plan that would reduce the district’s outstanding CAB obligations from $53.1 million to $39 million, while at the same time knocking down estimated property tax assessments through 2050 by about 13 percent.

“It’s something the district needed to do to move forward,” McK Union Superintendent Michael Davies-Hughes told the Outpost this morning, referring to the original, high-interest CAB bonds. “[But] the commitment that the board made was, look, we’re going to continue to monitor this, and when the time is right, we will look at refinancing these bonds.”

The time is now – and while paying $39 million for $4 million still may not be ideal, it’s inarguably better than the alternative. That’s tomorrow at 7:15 a.m. at the Azalea Conference Center – 2285 Central Ave., McKinleyville.

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DOCUMENTS



Two Arrested After Allegedly Smoking Pot and Sleeping in the Bed of a Stolen Truck

Andrew Goff / Tuesday, Aug. 19 @ 3:35 p.m. / Crime

Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office press release: 

On 08-19-2014, at approximately 6:00 a.m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a call of two suspicious people smoking pot in the bed of a pickup truck parked on Kipling Drive, Eureka. The Sheriff’s Office dispatcher ran a DMV check on the vehicle license and learned the 2004 Chevy pickup truck was reported stolen from the City of Eureka.

When deputies arrived they located a man and woman sleeping in the bed of the pickup truck. The man was identified as Daniel Byrd, 25 years old and Heather Haselip, 28 years old, both from Eureka. The deputies searched the truck and located a small amount of marijuana, a marijuana pipe and syringes.

Byrd and Haselip were both arrested for possession of stolen property and transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where they were booked. Their bail was set at $25,000.00 each.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.



Your Daily Dose of Ferndalean Optimism: Roadkill Edition

Andrew Goff / Tuesday, Aug. 19 @ 3:05 p.m. / wildlife

Sigh, OK. Here is your disclaimer: If you do not want to see roadkill do not scroll down. Are we all clear on that point? Great.

 

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On our way back from lunch, LoCO noticed that someone had tied a balloon to some roadkill on the side of Highway 211 which leads into Ferndale. It was not until we pulled over (why?) that we were able to fully appreciate the depth of the unknown optimistic installation artist’s message.

There is always hope. Or not.



DOLLISON’S DOCKET: Marijuana, Violence and Greed

Allan L. Dollison / Tuesday, Aug. 19 @ 3:03 p.m. / Dollison’s Docket , Op-Ed

PREVIOUSLY: DOLLISON’S DOCKET: Humboldt, Murder and the Death Penalty

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So if you are a movie buff like me, you probably enjoy quoting famous lines from movies and attempting to put them into context. One of my favorites was from 1987’s Wall Street. Michael Douglas’ legendary Gordon Gekko character says the following: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right…”

Douglas won the Academy Award that year, and many people believe that line from that speech played a decisive role in the win. The other day I started to think: Does our infatuation with greed color our own views of particular issues we encounter? Here in Humboldt, the obvious one is the marijuana issue. Now many would agree it does, and they stop at the marijuana growers in the community as the only folks here who are accused of being greedy.

I think such a simplistic analogy is not fair. The marijuana industry in Humboldt alone is worth in excess of $1 billion dollars and thus it is a fallacy to focus on just one group of folks to determine whether or not greed motivates their activity. The growers are merely the farmers. Then there are the customers — the buyers, if you will — who hope to make money by selling the high-quality Humboldt crop in other locales for a significant increase from the wholesale-retail markup. Lastly, there are the “asset forfeiture seizures” by law enforcement that even in a bad year typically top $1 million. So there really is this tripartite alliance that desires to keep the status quo in place. Is greed the central motivating factor of each of these separate groups, who admittedly all have very different and separate biases?

Recently the California Court of Appeals affirmed a murder conviction of a case that I had prosecuted called People v. Brian Fiore. Although the appeal centered around an arcane jury instruction issue and a legal interpretation of the felony murder rule, I am sure it was very interesting for the justices of the Court of Appeal to read the actual facts of the case, and how that effected their analysis of the legal issues.

Fiore and his partner wanted to buy approximately 14-16 pounds of marijuana. This occurred in 2009, when wholesale prices were higher, at about $3,500 a pound. The opinion revealed that the case involved a vehicle pursuit, and money was discovered after the vehicle crashed over the side of a hill, but what was interesting was the money was in several rolls of currency that only had a $100 bill on the outside and single dollar bills on the inside. They were about $48,000 short. There was an automatic weapon involved, an AK-47, the murder by Fiore of his partner, David Fields, and an unsuccessful suicide attempt by Mr. Fiore, who self-inflicted a gunshot wound to his head.

Many of my friends outside of Humboldt whom I described the facts of the case to said it sounded like the movie Thelma and Louise. Older friends said Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. However, was the basic motivation of Mr. Fiore and Mr. Fields none other than greed, and to what extent did these bizarre set of facts play a role in the ultimate successful conclusion of this case and the decision to publish the appellate opinion? So it appears that at least a plausible case of “greed” can be argued for those who are “purchasers.” (Even though in reality they were nothing more than thieves).

In Humboldt County, there is no disagreement that the economy has been foundering for many years. Traditional industries such as commercial fishing and of course the timber industry have dramatically declined. Other than certain positions within the government and a few very select professions, the most obvious way to make large amounts of money here is by growing marijuana – although that is truly under assault as well, as the floor has dropped out from underneath the wholesale market. Some estimate that the price has dropped to about $1,000 to $1,500 a pound, although the wholesale purchasers make considerably more when they sell Humboldt’s famous crop on the retail market – either illegally, or now legally in places like Colorado and Washington. The sale of it through medical dispensaries in California is significantly more legally murky due to a conflicting patchwork of legal opinions on that very topic. (I’ll save that for another article.).

There is one more economic engine driving the economy here: tourism. I have friends who live all over the country, and whenever I tell them where I live, they all say how majestically beautiful our Redwood Coast truly is and how much they want to come visit here. However, those of us who actually live here talk more about the explosion of violent crime.

So the last question is: Does the violence and crime that comes with the marijuana industry here in Humboldt threaten our remaining and only true growth industry, tourism? A case could be made that our lousy and very expensive air service probably does more harm, but if the ultimate extension of greed connected to this one product, marijuana, also delivers violence and a concomitant drug culture then eventually people will start to ask this question for themselves.

During the recent DA campaign, one of my oft repeated lines when I was speaking to Southern Humboldt types was that law enforcement didn’t really care about their marijuana, they just wanted their cash (and vehicles and other belongings and in very rare circumstances their houses). Of course the avenue to obtain those items is to find and seize illegal marijuana (or other drug activity). If law enforcement at least indirectly benefits from these seizures, then does some semblance of greed play a role? If that statement is true, and very few ever disagreed with me, then does at least greed play a role in the aggressive seizure practices? The best argument for this was when the State of California decided to shut down our Drug Task Force, we said, nope, we’ll gladly operate it on our own, because it pays for itself, quite handily. We have done so successfully now for several years.

Like most here in Humboldt, I read the Lost Coast Outpost quite a bit and it seems that most all of the stories on the site are about law enforcement going after this grow, the seizure of these drug related assets and, sadly, violence. Lots of violence. Now, a social anthropologist using a proper scientific method could spend the better part of a year studying these trends and could come up with the answer as to whether or not they are related. Or you can answer that question with a hunch and say, “Yep. It is obvious they are related.”

So just like I started this piece with a line from a movie, I will end it with one. The legendary Lee Strasberg, playing Hyman Roth in Godfather II, said rather angrily to Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone “This is the business we have chosen for ourselves!”

Michael, of course, promptly had him killed at the end of the movie.

Allan Dollison is a local attorney. 



Double Trouble Doubles: Local Twin Brothers Become First-Time Fathers One Day Apart at Mad River Hospital

Andrew Goff / Tuesday, Aug. 19 @ 2:11 p.m. / Feel Good

Twenty-four years ago, Susie and Pat Hawkins of Crescent City had their lives forever altered when they became the proud parents of identical fiery redheaded twin boys, Kevin and Patrick. Oh, time she flies. Fast forward to this week when those same boys blessed Susie and Pat with two separately born grandchildren.

You see, both the boys’ wives gave birth at Arcata’s Mad River Hospital in the last couple days, prompting the following burst of joy posted to Susie’s Facebook page:

“This evening was a once in a lifetime experience … Our twin sons Kevin and Patrick each had their first baby … I am standing in the hospital hall with a new grandson on one side and a new granddaughter on the other side! Going back and forth to enjoy each amazing blessing.”

Who are these bundles o’ blessing? Well, baby Everett James Thomas Hawkins was born to Jael and Kevin Hawkins at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday — for the record, a day that just happened to be the couple’s one year wedding anniversary.

One day later and one room over, baby Adelaide Charlotte Hawkins was born to Amanda and Patrick Hawkins at 9:28 p.m. Only a wall separates rooms 143 and 145 where the new cousins entered the world.

Congrats to the Hawkins clan from LoCO. This is an appropriate time for Humboldt to “Aww.”