Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California on January 26, 2000 · Page 1
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Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California · Page 1

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Ukiah, California
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Wednesday, January 26, 2000
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UkiahDaily 'ournal Commerce Retech to lay off 50 • Page 3 Outlook Today In Brief 2 Jumble 13 Classifieds ...13 Lottery 16 Comics 11 Obituaries ... .16 Crossword .. .12 Sports .. . .8 DaHy Digest . .16 TV listings ... .12 Features 12 Weather 16 Forum 4 02000, MedlaNews Group 16 pages, Volume 141 Number 250 50 cents tax included Wednesday, Jan. 26,2000 •^^^^^^^^^^••••••^•••MMBBiBBaBBiiaiiiBiigaMHaBiiaBiaB^ Mitchell expected to get 15 years prison for slaying Victim's brother calls sentence 'a crime against humanity' By DAN McKEE The Daily Journal A 25-year-old coast laborer will be sentenced Thursday to spend the next 15 years of his life in state prison for the January 1999 slaying of a coast man. Anthony James Mitchell pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last October for shooting his boss, Westport businessman Edd McMahon, to death in the living room of McMahon's home. McMahon, 43, was shot six times with a .22-caliber pistol. His dog also was killed. Mitchell had worked at McMahon's Westport rock quarry for about 10 months before the killing. He was arrested at a home near the small town of Hayfork in Trinity County last Jan. 15, a week later. Investigators found an all-terrain vehicle belonging to McMahon's wife outside the trailer where Mitchell was arrested. Earlier that week, police had discovered a blue-and-silver 1991 Dodge pickup taken from McMahon's home abandoned in Redding. Mitchell had been charged with first- degree murder in McMahon's death. But the case against the coast laborer was largely circumstantial, Deputy District Attorney Dave Basner said at the time, which "places a very high burden of proof on the prosecution." In addition to the voluntary manslaughter plea, Mitchell also pleaded guilty to using a firearm in the commission of the crime. Mitchell could have been sentenced to 21 years in prison for the crime, but as part of the negotiated settlement, Superior Court Judge Joseph Orr indicated Mitchell would receive the 15-year sen- See SENTENCE, Page 16 'KEEPING ON TRACK Court and community schools student Michael Nickelson, 15, screws down the clamps on ject while 15-year-old Joe Engle holds the other end. School invests time, attention in students By DEBORAH FINESTONE The Daily Journal T here is a place up in the hills, tucked away from the bustling world, where children feel loved, successful and meaningful. Far from being a Utopia, this place in the hills is a last resort for students who haven't been successful elsewhere. It's part of the court and community schools program for students who have been expelled, are on probation, are habitual truants, have drug addictions, or are pregnant or parenting. The goal of the program, according to Director Peter Kostas, is to show each student that he or she can be successful and give them the confidence to transition back into school. "It just works," he said. "We get habitual truants to attend and students behind in credits to catch up and get a diploma, their GED (general education development) or pass the high school proficiency test." The key element of a court and community school is closer attention to each student by having more staff available to them. Each of the 14 classrooms in the county has a certificated teacher and an aide for only 20 students. "The programs work because of the tight relationship between teachers and students," Kostas said. "We have a staff that likes working with at-risk kids. They're able to develop trust and respect. It works because the classes are small. Kids that were always on the fringe now take center stage." Besides the remarkably low student-teacher ratio, the program's support services has a dozen specialists, ranging from school counselor, psychologist, and substance abuse counselors to a career technician and mental health counselors. All of this is possible because the program, run by the Mendocino County Office of Education, gets more money per student. Besides promoting academic progress and personal development, the schools offer several vocational programs. They collaborate with the Mendocino Private Industrial Council (MPIC) to place students in paying jobs, ranging from clerical work and landscaping to being a foreman for the schools' woodshop, while earning school credit. Some of the programs can lead to Regional Occupational Program (ROP) certification, including the woodworking class at River Court Community'School. This year, 204 students are enrolled. The average stay is one year, because the goal is to reintroduce students to their regular Peter Kostas, county director of court and community schools. Wood shop instructor Phil Sees works with 16-year- old Klki Jackson on her mirror project. school, a continuation high school or - at the very least - one of the community schools held on the school campus. The program has fewer students than in years past, but not because the need is declining. Districts are now allowed to open their own community schools to serve the same type of students, but they are also getting fewer referrals from probation officers. Sometimes, they reduce their own enrollment. The classroom at Pomolita Middle School is for students who can be successful on a campus. With early prevention, many students are able to go on to high school instead of a court and community school. One of the problems faced by the program is getting parents to become involved and supportive of their child's education. "Parents of these kids are typically not as involved as they are See SCHOOL, Page 16 Coffee Critic's barn mural gets supervisors' OK By GLENDA ANDERSON The Daily Journal The Coffee Critic's Gobbi Street barn rooftop advertisement is art, or close to it, and can stay, county supervisors said Tuesday, overturning an earlier Planning Commission ruling on the issue. However, in an attempt to avoid proliferation of otherwise illegal offsite advertising on agricultural land, the board, at County Counsel Peter Klein's suggestion, limited its exemption to barn murals and to businesses that actually own the barns. Supervisors also said signs on barns must resemble old-fashioned barn ads from the early 1900s. In an attempt to make the existing Coffee Critic mural less of an advertisement, supervisors asked business owners, the Mountanos family, to remove the phone number on the sign, which also includes the business name and the phrase "Wake up and smell the coffee." Supervisors made the exemption despite a warning from county planner Alan Falleri, who said the department doesn't have the latitude to decide what is "nice" and what is not. Mark Mountanos disagreed. "It's all subjective. That's why I'm here," he said. His sister, Michelle Leoni, presented the board with a petition signed by 634 people who favor die sign, including county Judge Cindee Mayfield and District Attorney Norman Vroman. While they argued it was art, the Mountah'oses reportedly objected earlier to Planning Department suggestions that the name of the business be eliminated from the sign so it would not be an advertisement. From the beginning of Tuesday's hearing, it was apparent supervisors wanted to find a way to accommodate the Mountanos' sign. "We're trying to make this The board limited its ' exemption to bam murals and to businesses that actually own the bams. thing work," said 4th District Supervisor Patti Campbell. Second District Supervisor Richard Shoemaker noted his favorite drink is the Coffee Critic's latte and joked about that being a potential conflict 'of interest. Third District Supervisor Tom Lucier said he didn't think it makes sense to let businesses like Walmart and Selzer Realty put up huge, ugly business signs along the highway just because that property is zoned for industrial or business uses while denying a more tasteful sign, like the Coffee Critic's. He called Selzer's sign a "monstrosity." Lucier also said he didn't believe making an exception for the Mountanoses would mean other businesses could also get exceptions to the county's sign ordinance. But he was advised otherwise by planners and county counsel. The Coffee Critic sign is painted on what Mark Moun- tanos says is the original tin roof of an 80-year-old barn located on the Mountanos family vineyards on East Gobbi Street. The fourth-generation coffee businessman said he spent $60,000 rehabilitating the old barn after buying the property and believes the mural on its roof enhances Ukiah's charm. "I think they decided the right way," Mountanos said of the board's unanimous decision. $100,000+ price tag on jail control panel By GLENDA ANDERSON The Daily Journal The county will spend more than $100,000 to replace a computerized control panel that opens and closes jail cell doors. The control panel has been malfunctioning for several years, according to Sheriff's Capt. Gary Hudson. "More and more recently, we've had problems with the system failing to open doors or doors opening when they're not supposed to," he said. Ironically, "it worked perfectly during Y2K," Hudson said. While the door problem hasn't resulted in escapes or injuries, "obviously, you don't want cell doors to open unless you know they're going to open," he said. Hudson said county maintenance workers have tried to fix the defective system, which was custom-made for the jail by a now-defunct company. "You can see the county was trying to keep the existing system running as long as possible because of the cost of replacing it," he said. But it's now time for a new system. He said the decision to replace it was not the result of a visit last week from Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials. "This has been a priority for us for awhile," Hudson said. • He said the Sheriff's Office solicited bids for the project before OSHA was called to the scene. Apparently someone reported the control panel problem as well as leaky shower heads to OSHA, Hudson said. Some of the shower heads leak, leaving the floors wet and slippery, he said. Parts to repair the leaks have been ordered, he said. While the defective control panel was a nuisance, it did not create serious situations, Hudson said. He said doors that didn't work properly were disconnected from the control panel and keys were

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