News Briefs

News Briefs

Hospital Lease OK’d

SANTA ROSA As expected, county supervisors have unanimously approved a lease agreement with Sutter/CHS to operate county-run Community Hospital for at least the next 20 years. The Sacramento-based health-care company is due to take over in mid-March. Under the terms of the agreement, Sutter will maintain all existing programs and services at the venerable hospital, and will rehire all current employees with the same wages and benefits that they presently receive. The company has also said it will spend at least $12 million to upgrade the hospital facilities, and that it will provide up to $38 million in charitable health care over the next two decades. The supervisors’ vote came two days after a Superior Court judge refused a bid from the Campaign to Save Community Hospital to block the lease. However, a ballot initiative that, if passed, could overturn the agreement has qualified for the ballot and will go before the electorate in November. County officials are seeking to have that measure voided before the election.

Molestation Settlement

SAN FRANCISCO A civil suit charging a Roman Catholic clergyman with molesting three altar boys, one of whom now lives in the Guerneville area, was settled out of court this week for an undisclosed amount. The three men received letters of apology in addition to money for medical treatment and therapy costs resulting from the abuse they suffered at the hands of Monsignor Patrick O’Shea. A criminal case against O’Shea is still pending. In two previous settlements, the Santa Rosa diocese has paid more then $1.3 million to other victims of molestation by their priests. Meanwhile, in an unrelated case, more charges may be filed against a former Santa Rosa priest accused of molesting children in three North Coast counties. Humboldt County Deputy District Attorney David LaBahn said last week that additional charges may be filed against the Rev. Gary Timmons, 55, who is charged with molesting a Eureka boy in 1992, two 13-year-old boys in Sonoma County in 1989, and two boys at Camp St. Michael in Mendocino County in 1976.

Mushroom Fatality

PETALUMA Local farmworker Arturo Leyva-Sanchez, 43, died Feb. 6 from fungal poisoning after eating toxic mushrooms. County health officials believe he ate the “death cap,” the same wild mushroom that seriously injured an Orinda family on the same day. Friends say Leyva-Sanchez gathered the mushrooms from an unknown location and then cooked and ate them last Saturday. Within the hour, he complained of stomach pain and nausea. He died three days later at Petaluma Valley Hospital.

Sewer Pond Protest

WINDSOR The Sonoma County Water Agency’s plans to construct a 33-acre, 200 million-gallon wastewater storage pond near the western edge of the Santa Rosa Airport has residents of that rural neighborhood up in arms. More than 50 people attended an informal meeting to organize opposition Sunday, strategizing on the front yard of a modern home overlooking the bucolic pastureland that would become a small lake ringed by huge earthen berms up to 40 feet high if the plans are carried out. The pond represents a combining of the third and fourth phases of the Airport-Larkfield-Wikiup Sanitation Zone’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, which was reviewed in a 1981 Environmental Impact Report, according to Water Agency documents. Although other sites for the pond were studied in that EIR, the northwest corner of Slusser and Mark West Station roads is considered the only place “now available and/or appropriate for construction of a storage pond,” the agency concluded. Residents say their presence has been overlooked or disregarded by the Water Agency. They are preparing to deluge county officials with their protests, which include complaints that the pond is too large, is poorly sited, and may harm local groundwater supplies, property values, viewsheds, and the general quality of life. “This is definitely not a done deal,” Martin McClure, an aide to Supervisor Paul Kelly, assured the gathering. “It hasn’t even shown up on the radar yet.”

Grape Prices Soar

SACRAMENTO Sonoma County grapes earned a record $157 million in 1995, according to preliminary figures from the state Department of Agriculture. Thanks to a bidding war among wineries that drove price up by 14 percent, the average price per ton for local grapes last year reached $1,122. Those figures are expected to increase by at least as much again in 1996. The 1995 crop was 140,000 tons, 8 percent less than that of 1994, owing to flooding and other unfavorable weather conditions.

Curbs on Film Crews

PETALUMA The City Council Monday agreed to form a committee to devise tough guidelines for filmmakers who want to use this picturesque riverfront town in future movies. Councilmembers decided to take action after complaints from residents and merchants, who were adversely affected when movie crews for the film Lolita last month changed three blocks to resemble the 1950s and blocked downtown traffic for several days two weeks ago. Some merchants were compensated $350 and others say they got nothing. The city has been the backdrop for films ranging from American Graffiti to Basic Instinct.

Tobacco Warnings

SANTA ROSA Three dozen local stores have been warned that they are in violation of the city’s laws restricting tobacco sales and access to minors. They must take corrective measures or face fines of up to $1,000 and a possible six-month jail term. Complaints were generated by the local STAMP (Stop Tobacco Access to Minors Project) campaign, with follow-up by police officers. A STAMP spokesman says the group has surveyed about third of the local tobacco sellers so far.

From the Feb. 15-21, 1996 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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