OBITUARY: Clifford ‘Ben’ Casey, 1962-2019

LoCO Staff / Wednesday, Jan. 9 @ 6:45 a.m. / Obits

Clifford “Ben” Casey, 57, went to be with our Creator on January 5, 2019, surrounded by his family, after a courageous battle with cancer. Ben was a lifelong resident of Humboldt County and a proud member of the Hoopa Tribe. He was born on January 10, 1962, to John and Ethel Casey in Eureka. He was the second youngest of seven siblings.

Throughout Ben’s youth, he loved to play baseball and football with his lifelong best friend Greg Readen. Ben married his high school sweetheart, Vicki in 1980. Soon after, they moved to Nashville, Tennesee. There they spent the first two years of their 21-year-long marriage and had their first daughter, Natalie. He was employed as a lineman building cable TV systems, where he worked his way up to foreman. When he had the opportunity to move back to California, he and his family lived in several cities throughout Central California before settling back in Eureka, where he and Vicki had daughters, Valerie and Stephanie.

When Ben moved back to Eureka be began to work at Hilfiker Pipe Company. Ben proudly worked for the Hilfiker family for nearly 30 years. He enjoyed working for the company and would like to thank them for their support over the years. Ben took a short sabbatical from Hilfiker in the late 1980s to build Pelican Bay Prison with his father and brother.

Ben lived in Hoopa from 2000 to 2004. He and his longtime girlfriend, Mary Bergenske, spent those years working at fire camps and he worked at the Macintosh Gas Station. This is when his love of gill net fishing began. He also worked for Blue Lake Forest Products and Schmidbauer Lumber.

In Ben’s own words, “his favorite thing was to spend the night on the river setting his net and providing fish for his family and to anyone that was in need of fish, with his cousin and friend Spam. Thanks Spam! Ben loved the outdoors, working in the yard or under the hood of a car. He could fix almost anything. It might not be exactly the way it was supposed to be, but it worked. Ben passed on his work ethic to his three daughters, Natalie, Valerie and Stephanie, who he was very proud of.”

Ben was a devoted father, loving son and loyal friend. Ben had a tough exterior, but was also a very giving and thoughtful man. He was always doing something kind for someone from fixing just about everything to dropping off a surprise bouquet of flowers or bag of candy to his grandkids. Ben was a great storyteller and loved to spend time reminiscing and passing on his knowledge. Ben spent the last year of his life fishing as much as possible, riding his Harley and playing slots at the casino.

Ben is preceded in death by his father, John Casey, sister, Joy Casey-Ingram, brother John Casey, nephews Ben, Sequoi and Chris. He is survived by his mother, Ethel Garcia; three devoted daughters; Natalie and David Renfer, Valerie and Jeremy Canfield, Stephanie and Beau Goodwin; grandchildren Conner and Kasey Renfer; Tianna, Ella and Cade Canfield and Carter Goodwin. Ex-wife, Vicki Casey; partner, Donna Long; man’s best friend, Grizzly; Brother Tim and Marcy Casey Sisters, Anna and Dwayne Myers, Evonne Downs and Kelly Lundy. Nieces and Nephews; Canyon, Amber, Sunny, Fred, Sahneewa, Ahwenga, Dillon, Tim Jr., Robert, Renee, and Keyonna.

Pallbearers; Greg Readen, Frank Henry, Alan Tempelton, Edward Gus Bowie, Russell Gilliam, and Spam Ferris. Honorary Pallbearers; Tim Casey Sr. Steve Christopher, Jeremy Canfield, David Renfer, Beau Goodwin, Canyon Hodge, Sunny Gibson, Fred Trimble, Dillon Myers, Tim Casey Jr., and Robert Claybon.

Services will be at Sanders Funeral Home. 1835 E St. Eureka, CA, Saturday, January 12, 2019 at 11am. Burial and potluck to follow at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Catholic Church in Hoopa. Celebration of life potluck at 4 p.m. at Casey Acres, 130 W 14th St., Eureka. All family and friends are welcome to attend and share in our farewell to Ben.

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The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Ben Casey’s family. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.


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Prep Roundup — First Conference Wins for Loggers, Warriors

Ray Hamill / Tuesday, Jan. 8 @ 10:40 p.m. / LoCO Sports!

Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com – The Arcata Tigers hosted the Del Norte Warriors in the Big 5 on Tuesday night.

It appears as if the Eureka Loggers are building some momentum.

Just 24 hours after defeating Hoopa Valley, the Loggers made it two straight wins by knocking off McKinleyville in a Big 5 boys basketball clash at Eureka High on Tuesday night.

In other action Tuesday, the Del Norte Warriors held off a late Arcata surge for their first Big 5 win, while the Fortuna Huskies continued to roll with a comfortable non-conference win over St. Bernard’s.

The Loggers’ two wins this week have both come in exciting down-to-the wire games, and they followed Monday’s one-point victory over Hoopa with a 60-58 win over McKinleyville, giving them just their second Big 5 win since 2014.

The back-to-back victories over quality opponents, however, would suggest this is a Eureka team that is finally waking up from a four-year slumber.

“I definitely loved the energy,” Eureka head coach Robbie Thompson said of his players’ performance. “Last night’s energy led into tonight.”

The performance was similar too, with the Eureka boys starting the stronger of the two teams only to blow a sizable lead and find themselves trailing late in the game.

But once again, the players found a way to step up late, outscoring the visitors 26-22 in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.

Miles Meynell and Zach Reed were each instrumental for Eureka once again, as was Gary Jimenez.

“He was our mystery player,” Thompson said of Jimenez. “It seemed like he was always there in the right place at the right time, from defense to rebounds. He was like a Swiss army knife.”

Reed led the team in scoring with 17 points, including eight in the fourth quarter, when he nailed all six free-throw attempts.

As a team, the Loggers were 13-of-15 from the line in the final period.

Braden Glavich also stepped up late, scoring seven of his 10 points in the fourth quarter and nailing all four of his free throws.

With the win, the Loggers are now 1-2 in league and 4-10 overall.

AJ Stubbs scored 16 points to lead McKinleyville, which fell to 0-2 in the Big 5, having lost two close games, and is now 7-9 overall.

Isaac Puzz finished with 15 points for the Panthers, while Freddie Sundberg had 14 points, including four 3-pointers.

McKinleyville plays at Del Norte on Thursday.

Del Norte’s Judah Robinson

Del Norte 54, Arcata 52

The Warriors won at Arcata to even their record at 1-1 in the Big 5, while handing the Tigers their first league loss in three games.

Omar Banuelos led the Warriors with a game-high 31 points, as they withstood a late surge by the home team in the final minutes to hold on for the key league win.

Ethan Price was next best with six points for the Warriors, who improved to 10-4 on the season.

Garrett Hall led a balanced performance by the Tigers with 15 points, while Hunter Santsche scored 12, Niko Zambas 10 and Jaden Gorge seven.

Seven of Santsche’s tally came in the fourth quarter.

Things won’t get any easier for the Tigers (8-10 overall) with a trip to league leaders Fortuna on Thursday.

Del Norte hosts McKinleyville on the same night.

St. Bernard’s 41, Fortuna 72

The Huskies remained unbeaten against North Coast opposition with a comfortable non-conference win at home to St. Bernard’s on Tuesday night.

With the win, their fourth straight, the Huskies improve to 17-1 on the season, while St. Bernard’s is now 7-6.

Donald Willis led Fortuna with 27 points, while his twin brother Bradley Willis finished with seven points and 12 rebounds.

Drew Gillette and Zac Claus each also had big nights with 15 and 11 points, respectively.

For St. Bernard’s, Lane Thrap scored a team-high 15 points, while Cole Petrusha added seven points.

“Great effort by the boys,” St Bernard’s head coach Steve Thrap said. “We did some things better than we’ve done so far, and playing against a good team definitely helps us improve.

“Fortuna is fun to watch, even when they’re kicking your butt.”

Both teams return to conference play on Thursday, with St. Bernard’s hosting South Fork and Fortuna hosting Arcata.

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Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.



Eureka’s 101 Corridor May Be Getting Greener, In More Ways Than One

Stephanie McGeary / Tuesday, Jan. 8 @ 5:13 p.m. / Business

P & B plans for a building on West Fourth Street on the edge of downtown Eureka, from the Eureka city staff report

After recently purchasing the old Kmart building in Eureka, local cannabis company Papa & Barkley is planning another project that could possibly beautify the city. The company has submitted plans for a fancy new building on West Fourth Street what will be reviewed by the Eureka Design Review Committee tomorrow morning.

The property is already owned by Papa & Barkley and includes a small building being used as a non-volatile manufacturing facility. The plans would include building a two-story, 10,200-square-foot building on the property, complete with a living wall, solar panels and a rooftop garden.

“It’s a really unique design,” Eureka Development Services Director Rob Holmlund told the Outpost. “We haven’t seen anything like this in Eureka before.”

The building site at 122 West 4th Street, Eureka

Holmlund is thrilled about the potential aesthetic improvement the project would bring to that segment of the 101 corridor, an extremely high-traffic area of Eureka. Holmlund also sees it as a good sign that a company wants to invest in an expensive project like this one and hopes it will create a chain reaction of investments in the area.

Papa & Barkley Chief Compliance Officer Jon O’Connor told the Outpost that the new development would be a LEED certified green building, meaning that it would meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards for sustainability.


O’Connor also confirmed that Papa & Barkley closed on the Kmart building and will be using it as a distribution facility for now, but will likely expand into manufacturing there in the future. The company plans to turn the Kmart into a green building eventually, although O’Connor said they probably won’t be starting any construction projects on that sight until 2020.

The Design Review Committee Meets at 8:30 a.m. on Jan. 9 at Eureka City Hall, 531 K Street. You can check out the full agenda here.



Crescent City Middle Schoolers Hospitalized After Taking Over-the-Counter Drugs at School

LoCO Staff / Tuesday, Jan. 8 @ 4:29 p.m. / Emergencies


Crescent Elk Middle School. | Google Maps

A number of Crescent Elk Middle School students were hospitalized in Crescent City today, after one or more students reportedly distributed over-the-counter drugs to their peers.

Crescent Elk Middle School Principal Paige Swan responded to the incident on Facebook this afternoon, saying that some students were taken to the hospital by ambulance, while others were taken there by parents.

“We are still investigating the situation, but we do know that one or more students brought an over the counter medication to school and distributed it to a number of students,” Swan wrote. “Students who took the medication were transported to the hospital by the ambulance or parent. We contacted the parents of all students who were reported to have taken the medication.”

The Del Norte Triplicate reports that eight students from both 7th and 8th grade were hospitalized after paramedics staged a triage to evaluate students at about 12:20 p.m. School staff and emergency personnel are reportedly still investigating how the drugs got onto campus and what side effects they might cause.

“We encourage our families to discuss the importance of not taking medication that has not been provided by parents/guardians or prescribed by a doctor,” Swan wrote on Facebook. “No medications, including over the counter medication are allowed at school, without a doctor’s note and must be stored in the office. Medications administered at school are given by the school nurse with a prescription from the doctor or administered directly by the parent.”

Concerned members of the community have been encouraged to call the school for more information at (707) 464-0320.



Supervisors Give Themselves a Raise With Madrone Dissenting and Bass Absent

Ryan Burns / Tuesday, Jan. 8 @ 4:14 p.m. / Local Government

Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell. | Screenshot.

PREVIOUSLY: County Supervisors Set to Give Themselves a Pay Raise, Bumping Their Salaries to More Than $97,000 per Year

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The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors today approved an ordinance that will boost their annual salaries by nearly $10,000 over the next two years, with two-percent wage increases this year and next plus an adjustment in their work hours (on paper, anyway) from 37.5 to 40 per week.

Their pay will go from $87,427 to $95,121 this year and then jump up to $97,023 starting in January 2020.

Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass was not in attendance at today’s meeting; she’s in Washington, D.C. as part of her duties as president of the California State Association of Counties.

Fifth District Supervisor Steve Madrone, in his first meeting since being elected, voted against the pay bump, arguing that In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers should get a raise first. 

“I have made a decision that I will not take a pay raise, even if it’s approved by this board,” Madrone said. IHSS workers, who help elderly and disabled residents and are contracted through the county Department of Health and Human Services, deserve more than minimum wage, he said, and he vowed not to take a higher salary until they get their own raise. [UPDATE: Madrone later said that he would accept the raise but donate the extra income directly to IHSS workers.]

During public comment on the matter, ever-present microphone fan Kent Sawatzky took an aggressive, even threatening tone as he called on the board to follow Madrone’s lead. “To me this is shame, shame, shame,” Sawatzky said, warning the supes that accepting the raise before giving one to IHSS workers would be “the worst karma.”

Fresh off taking credit for getting former Supervisor Ryan Sundberg voted out of office, Sawatzky declared, “This is a political decision that will end people’s careers.” A few seconds later he identified the stakes: “I could come here every single meeting and make someone’s life a living hell if they want to do this totally unbelievable thing.”

Two other public speakers also addressed the board on the issue. Vernon Price, an advocate for the homeless, invoked the Old Testament town of Lo-debar, “a place of nothing,” as he beseeched the board to raise the pay for peer coaches, part-time workers who help clients receiving social or health and human services. And Vivian Denniston, an IHSS worker wearing a purple Service Employees International Union t-shirt, said she wouldn’t deny the supervisors a raise but would love one for herself and her colleagues.

When the matter came back to the board, Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell articulated a defense of the proposed raises. “This is a job, a very tough job, and to me this is a question of fairness and equity,” she said.

Last year, the county negotiated new contracts with five separate bargaining units, giving the vast majority of county employees the same four percent pay bump. Supervisors put their own pay raises off until all others had been finalized. The other elected officials and department heads all got raises, though none of them “have to sit in the hot seat [and] hear people give us grief,” Fennell said.

“I don’t take kindly at all to bullying and threats. It just doesn’t work for me.”
-Supervisor Estelle Fennell

As for Sawatzky’s comments, Fennell fired back with gusto. “I don’t take kindly at all to bullying and threats,” she said. “It just doesn’t work for me.” She invited the prolific commenter to “bring it on” and then made a motion to approve the ordinance, saying it’s only fair.

Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson seconded the motion, though he called the process of publicly giving himself and his colleagues a raise “super uncomfortable and weird.”

Describing the position of county supervisor as “a very all-encompassing job,” Wilson said it should be analyzed similarly to department head positions, and the compensation should be based on community expectations about experience, workload and the hours required to do the job.

The new salary numbers aren’t out of line with what other county supervisors in the state earn, Wilson said. He sympathizes — and empathizes — with Madrone’s support for IHSS workers and may well donate his extra income, too, though he declined to make a commitment during the meeting.

Finally, Wilson reiterated that it’s a tough job that requires more than 40 hours per week. “Again, not complaining,” he said. “For people who do this and like it, it’s very rewarding. I encourage people to seek out public service in this way.”

First District Supervisor and board chair Rex Bohn, who had stated publicly that he intends to turn down the raise, personally, voted for it nonetheless. “I don’t think there’s anyone here who doesn’t earn it,” he said.

The motion passed three votes to one. 



ALL THAT HEROIN WE CONFISCATED: Drug Task Force Looks Back at Humboldt County’s 2018 in Drug Task Force Busts

LoCO Staff / Tuesday, Jan. 8 @ 3:55 p.m. / Crime

Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

The Humboldt County Drug Task Force (HCDTF) had a successful year investigating illegal narcotics activities, seizing almost two times more heroin in 2018 than in the previous six years combined.

Methamphetamine and heroin are dangerous drugs that continue to plague our county. The HCDTF’s main focus is to investigate methamphetamine and heroin interdiction, sales and possession, giving special attention to investigating drug trafficking within Humboldt County. During these investigations, HCDTF agents often locate and confiscate several other items, including other drugs and illegal firearms. The HCDTF and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office are committed to creating safer and healthier communities by investigating and eliminating the flow of illegal narcotics into Humboldt County.  

In 2018, HCDTF:

  • Served 135 search warrants
  • Arrested 106 suspects
  • Seized 45 firearms
  • Seized the following:
    Methamphetamine28.95 Pounds
    Heroin
    34.44 Pounds
    Cocaine        
    3.10 Pounds
    MDMA
    55 Grams
    Ketamine 
    89 Grams
    Marijuana  
    333 Pounds
    Concentrated Cannabis 
    5.65 Pounds
    Butane Hash Oil  
    474 Grams

The HCDTF is comprised of Special Agents from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, the Arcata Police Department, the Fortuna Police Department, the Eureka Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Bureau of Land Management and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

The HCDTF welcomes citizen tips to aid in our investigations. If you have information for HCDTF agents, please contact (707) 444-8095.



Marin Judge Orders the Remains of the North Coast Railroad Authority to Pay Humboldt Environmental Groups Nearly $2 Million

Hank Sims / Tuesday, Jan. 8 @ 12:16 p.m. / Local Government

Photo: Friends of the Eel.

Late last month, just a handful of days before Christmas, a Marin County judge ordered the North Coast Railroad Authority to pay two Humboldt County environmental groups more than $1.9 million in attorney’s fees — a consequence of the groups’ successful lawsuit against the public agency, which went all the way up to the California Supreme Court.

The order marks the final act of the NCRA’s quixotic, fruitless, 20-year quest to reestablish rail service between the Bay Area and Humboldt County. Last year, state Sen. Mike McGuire sponsored (and Gov. Jerry Brown signed) legislation that will eventually dissolve the authority and begin work toward building a pedestrian trail along its right-of-way.

This most recent legal blow stems from a lawsuit brought by the two environmental groups — Friends of the Eel River and Californians for Alternative to Toxics — that challenged the railroad authority’s failed attempt to argue that it is not bound by the California Environmental Quality Act, despite the fact that it is a California state agency. After several rounds in lower courts, the California Supreme Court ruled for the environmental groups. The railroad petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case, on yet another appeal, but the high court declined.

As the new legislation puts the railroad authority in a tight financial straightjacket and the dissolution of the agency pending, the nearly $2 million awarded to CATS and Friends of the Eel might be the last major expense the North Coast Railroad Authority will bequeath to the taxpayers of California. 

“This adds another layer of debt to their hot mess of a budget,” McGuire told the Outpost Friday. He said that it’s not yet clear how the debt will be cleared — certainly the authority has no funds to clear it — but that he and his colleagues had been planning for a “worst-case scenario” with the courts.

For the time being, the authority — which meets in Eureka tomorrow — continues on in a neutered fashion. McGuire staffer Jason Liles attended a meeting of the board or directors in October, and according to the official minutes Liles repeatedly warned the NCRA to butt out of railroad matters. According to the minutes:

[Liles] said the bill is the NCRA closure and transition to trails act, and if the Board and staff are not spending 80-90% of their time on trails then they are not following the new state law. He advised Board members that are not ready to work on trails, promoting trails, or invest their time in trails to step down from the Board. He said the state mandate has clearly changed and that NCRA needs to focus on trails, not freight, and if that Board does not agree to the mandate or have time for trails, then those members should step down.

This morning, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors reappointed Supervisor Estelle Fennell to the NCRA board despite a brief challenge from Supervisor Mike Wilson, who spoke of this changing mission and of his district’s experience in railbanking and related manners. Fennell assured her colleagues that she has no problem with the NCRA’s mandate, and that, along with her previous experience on the board, seemed to carry the day.

The North Coast Railroad Authority Board meets Wednesday, January 9, at 10:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisor’s chambers in the Humboldt County Courthouse. Among the items on the agenda: an update on the Annie & Mary Trail between Arcata and Blue Lake, an agreement with the Timber Heritage Association on local speeder runs in 2019, and a few other items of local interest. See full agenda here.

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