The Willits Freeway and other future projects were discussed at a public meeting held February 1957 in Eureka. (Photo and caption provided courtesy of Caltrans)
This is part two of Lost Coast Outpost’s three-part series on the Willits Bypass. While every effort was made to ensure this story is unbiased (both sides had the opportunity to rebut the other side) it should be noted that reporter Kym Kemp’s father and grandfather worked for Caltrans and she is married to a Caltrans Project Manager.
Today’s focus will be on the reasons against putting in the bypass. Phil Frisbie, a Caltrans’ spokesperson, will rebut.
Against: Point 1. The bypass costs too much money.
David Drell worries about scarce resources being used on the bypass when other, more important projects are unfunded. He calls the project a “colossal waste.”
His wife, Ellen Drell, agrees: “One of the things that is causing the state to be in financial trouble is a transportation department that is out of control.” She alleges, “There is a 300 billion dollar backlog of maintenance projects.” The money spent on the bypass, she believes, would be better spent on fixing those issues rather than building this one project.
Furthermore, she argues, “This project is being paid for by bond money. That means it is going to cost many times more than the original price tag because you always have to pay back with interest.”
Phil Frisbie, Jr., Caltrans spokesperson, responds by saying that while “$210 million is the total cost to develop the project and mitigation,” it would cost less than that if funding for phase 2 were available right now. He adds that the longer it takes for the project to be funded, “the higher [the cost ] is likely to be be due toinflation.”
Battle for Hearts and Minds Heats Up On Willits Bypass: Caltrans Puts Up Website and Anti-Bypass Crowd Offers Nude Photo Shoot
The Willits Bypass issue is heating up. The scheduled Caltrans’ project which proposes to put in a road around Willits to the east has local environmental groups up in arms. A tree sitter, the Warbler, has occupied a large pine tree in the affected area. LoCO has approached both environmentalists and Caltrans and is in the process of gathering information in order to present a solid factual piece about the scheduled work.
Meanwhile, here is a quick update. Those opposed to the Willits Bypass have plans to shoot a nude photo similar to this one taken in Richardson Grove. (Found here on the Wild California site.) The photo, which enchanted many, is part of the Tree Spirit Project which consists of many fine art photos by Jack Gescheidt that are themed around nudity and nature. The Tree Spirit photo shoot will occur this Saturday. For more information go here.
Caltrans has just put up a new blog with “the latest official news and information regarding the Willits Bypass Project.” The most recent post is “The Bypass is Good for the Children.” The post argues that removing traffic (particularly diesel trucks) improves air quality and protects the lungs of children.
Caltrans Press Release:
Caltrans announced today that a new website is available offering the latest official news and information regarding the Willits Bypass Project. The Willits Bypass Project News, located at willitsbypass.wordpress.com, will include news releases, multimedia content, and will address trending questions and common misconceptions about the project. It is mobile phone friendly and has a subscription feature which allows subscribers to receive an email notification of new posts.
The Willits Bypass Project will relieve congestion, reduce delays, and improve safety for traffic and pedestrians along U.S. Route 101 through Willits in Mendocino County. This $210 million highway improvement project is funded by $136 million in Proposition 1B funds, the 2006 voter-approved transportation bond.
Please direct comments or content suggestions regarding the Willits Bypass Project News to Phil Frisbie, Jr., Public Information Officer, at 707-441-4678 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
UPDATE 10:05 A.M. 2/1/13: According to Mendocino Sheriff, Sgt. Greg VanPatten, the warrant is for making “terrorist threats” and the precipitating incident occurred on January 19th.
Spy Rock School (Photo from here.)
People across the country are raw from recent shootings involving schools. Tragic events such as that at Sandy Hook Elementary and the driver killed trying to protect a busload of kids have left a nation of parents and children on edge. That edge got a little sharper for some students and their parents at a tiny school in northern Mendocino recently. On January 23rd, the school went into lockdown mode over an alleged threat from a Humboldt Co. man.
Spy Rock School is a tiny two classroom building located in the hills north of Laytonville. Parent volunteers make hot lunches three days a week and, as there is no bus service, many of the families carpool. The school has an old fashioned charm in spite of the modular type buildings.
The details on the day of the lockdown are hard to pin down. Although the teacher of the school, Tim Henry, was originally willing to explain what happened, he later apologized and said that he could not. Instead, Joan Potter, Superintendent of Laytonville Unified School District, provided a short statement giving the minimal outline of the situation. She said, “There was a phone call to the school that was threatening in nature but not directed at students.” Someone at the school–she declined to say who—called law enforcement.
While the school was waiting for law enforcement, every classroom (there are two) were locked and the gates to the school were also locked. What the children did during the lockdown is not clear but handouts at a 2006 Mendocino School Crisis Response Workshop indicated that the teachers should lock the doors, close the curtains and “have students assume Duck and Cover positions.”
A warrant has just been issued for the man alleged to have made those threats, Kevin Foster, who owns the Fortuna based business, Southern Heat and Service.
Photo of Bailey asleep comes from Foster’s Facebook page (which has since been taken down.)
The story starts with Foster’s older rescue dog named Bailey. On a weekend in January, Foster who was staying on a piece of land near the home of Tim Henry, the Spy Rock schoolteacher, let his two dogs out to play. Foster by all accounts was very attached to his dogs, particularly Bailey.
Kym Kemp / Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 @ 10:55 a.m. / Mendocino
Mendocino Co. Sheriff Press Release:
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the possibility of a missing person in the area of the North Pass Fire. On August 22, 2012 at approximately 3:00 p.m., a cell phone call was made to the Cal-FIRE Command Center from a non-English speaking male. The Spanish speaking male was reporting being close to the flames and being in direct danger of the fire.
Numerous attempts were made to get a specific location of the subject without success.
The U.S. Forest Service has searched the possible location with a helicopter and Cal-FIRE has searched the area on foot.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office has not received any reports of a missing person but is requesting anyone with information to contact Sergeant Shannon Barney, Search and Rescue Coordinator, at (707) 463-5667.
Kym Kemp / Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 @ 5:09 p.m. / Mendocino
Humboldt Co. CHP Press Release:
On August 19, 2012, at approximately 1:20 pm, 36 year old Robert Jared Sochor of Willits, California was the driver and only occupant of his 1990 Toyota Camry while traveling northbound on US-101 near Ryan Creek Road in northern Mendocino County. Due to Sochor’s level of impairment, he allowed his vehicle to cross over the double yellow lines directly into oncoming southbound traffic. Sochor’s vehicle subsequently sideswiped a southbound traveling 2009 Honda Civic driven by 17 year old Mitzi Hu Pierson of Laytonville, California. Sochor’s vehicle continued out of control traveling northbound in the southbound traffic lane and collided into a 2009 Kia Rondo driven by 54 year old Duane Richard Tims of Fontana, California. Pierson and her passengers, 17 year old Colton Gover and 17 year old Joseph White, both of Laytonville, California, were transported by ground ambulance to Howard Memorial Hospital in Ukiah with moderate injuries. Sochor was transported by air ambulance to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with moderate to major injuries.Sochor was subsequently placed under arrest for felony DUI. All parties had their seatbelts on at the time of the traffic collision. US-101 northbound and southbound were shut down for approximately one hour while the collision was being investigated. The California Highway Patrol Garberville Area office is investigating this traffic collision.