Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Filling In

Filling In
Parkway Restaurant Construction Continues
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

Construction workers are hammering away toward completion on what will likely be the last of the commercial developments populating Nut Tree Parkway.
Wedged between Chevy's Fresh Mex Restaurant and the Chevron station, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse and a 15,000 square-foot strip center are expected to open in February, according to BJ's Senior Vice President of Brewing Operations, Alex Puchner, and Gwen White, leasing agent for Cornish & Carey Commercial. A T.G.I. Fridays restaurant on the same site is expected to open in mid March, according to Mike Alazada, company spokesman. The later opening for T.G.I. Fridays is because the firm is building the restaurant as one of its new prototypes.

As for the rest of the site, "construction is on schedule and coming along nicely," said White, who represents the site's developer, John McNellis. She explained, however, that T.G.I. Fridays had purchased its parcel of land from McNellis, while the other tenants will lease.

According to McNellis, the strip center will include a 4,000-square-foot credit union, a 3,000-square-foot breakfast and lunch spot, and a host of smaller tenants, which he referred to as "the usual suspects." He was unable to divulge specific company names, as leases are in the process of being signed, but did say he thought T.G.I. Fridays, and particularly BJ's, would create a new, after-work and singles scene for Solano County.

Completion of the projects will mark the end of more than 15 years of development and redevelopment along Nut Tree Parkway, which runs parallel to Interstate 80 before becoming Orange Drive. The stretch of road is home to a plethora of retail establishments and restaurant chains, including the Vacaville Premium Outlets, Target, Mel's Diner, Wal-Mart, Fresh Choice, CompUSA, Old Navy, Applebee's, SportsMart, In-N-Out Burger, Sam's Club, Chili's, Michael's and more.

"Back in '88-'89, there really wasn't anything there," remembered Mike Palombo, Vacaville's economic development manager. He said that while building has taken place through the course of approximately 16 years, much of it occurred in spurts during the '90s.

"Between '89 and '95, a good chunk of the base stuff was built there," Palombo recalled. "The factory stores were first, then Vacaville Commons, then Power Plaza, and just lately we've seen in-fill projects, like Tahoe Joe's and Hometown Buffet."

When asked if the area might see further development in the future, Palombo said there are certainly opportunities for small development further out along Orange Drive, but that there is simply no room left on Nut Tree Parkway.

"It's really pretty much built-out with fairly new stuff," he said, "so I don't expect many changes there." Aside from the site of the old Coffee Tree restaurant, that is, which he said will likely be remodeled or eventually incorporated into a new development.

Chris Gustin, assistant director of the city's Community Development Department, agreed that Nut Tree Parkway was out of room, but was hesitant to call it quits on new development.

"If someone brings in a proposal on any piece of property that conforms to the underlying zoning requirements, we'd talk to them," he explained. "So if someone were to reconfigure a parking lot, for example, or find a way to change things and create a pad out there, we'd talk to them. More power to 'em."

"Especially if it's a restaurant," Gustin continued. "We like restaurants - it's a good land use and a good sales tax generator."

Amanda Janis can be reached at

Making it Big

Making it Big
Vacaville's own Pizza Pucks Expects to go Nationwide
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

A rapidly expanding Vacaville-based corporation expects to get the green light soon from the Federal Trade Commission to sell its food franchises.
Original Pizza Pucks CEO Eric Frakes said that "after three years of work with the FTC and about $350,000 in attorneys fees," the company anticipates final approval to arrive and to begin selling franchises in the first quarter of next year.

During the next five years, 11,000 new stores are projected to open nationwide, he said, with expansion concentrated at first in California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon.

Original Pizza Pucks has already received 500-600 inquiries and requests from would-be franchise owners, according to Frakes.

"We've got potential franchisees that have been waiting almost three years," he said.

The cost to open an Original Pizza Pucks franchise will be $45,000 for a franchises's first store, and $15,000 for additional stores. Total cost - from design to completion - will range from $225,000 to $300,000, Frakes estimated.

"We literally take you to turn-key," he said of the corporation's plans to interact with franchisees. Potential franchise owners will train for two weeks at the company's Vacaville headquarters, and each new store will have corporate employees in lead kitchen and managerial roles for the first month of operation.

"We're unique - we didn't just start another pizza franchise," he said, explaining that the firm's menu offers much more than just pizza, and that most new stores feature wireless internet access and flat-screen televisions.

And, according to Frakes, his is the only nationwide food franchise, to his knowledge, to ever originate from Vacaville.

At the beginning of November, Original Pizza Pucks opened its new headquarters and training facility on Vaca Valley Parkway, though the company intends to build its own facility in the Vacaville area in approximately three years. Frakes said they were looking at several possible sites in the same general vicinity.

The first store, at the Vacaville Premium Outlets, was opened in 2001 by Frakes as a sole proprietorship, after developing the signature Pizza Puck - a pizza that resembles the size and shape of a cinnamon roll. Original Pizza Pucks later incorporated in 2002, and its first franchise opened a year later in Sacramento.

Currently Original Pizza Pucks operates six stores under licensing agreements that will convert to franchising agreements. Local locations include the Vacaville Premium Outlets, Brenden Theatres, Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo and Westfield Shoppingtown Solano mall in Fairfield.

Amanda Janis can be reached at

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Copart Acquires Central Penn Sales

Copart Acquires Central Penn Sales: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance: "Press ReleaseSource: Copart, Inc.

More C-17s could be headed to Travis AFB

Daily Republic Online Edition: "
Printed on: Tue, Nov 29, 2005

More C-17s could be headed to Travis AFB
By Ian Thompson

- Efforts to get more C-17 Globemaster IIIs built could increase the chances of seeing more of the new military jet transport stationed at Travis Air Force Base.

A contingent of Santa Barbara city officials are lobbying in Washington, D.C., to get contracts funded to build 42 more C-17s, which would be assembled at the Boeing plants in Santa Barbara.

This follows two weeks after a Senate vote that gives the Air Force the green light to buy 42 more of the airlifters, bringing the future C-17 fleet from 180 to 222 aircraft.

'We have pretty high confidence that if this is granted, a second squadron at Travis would be likely,' said Fairfield City Manager Kevin O'Rourke, who is also the Travis Community Consortium's director.

The Air Force has stated it is too early to say where such additional aircraft would go if the funds are approved. That would have to be compared against what the service's needs are.

Travis is preparing to receive a squadron of 13 C-17s, which would start arriving next year. The work on the buildings and services needed to support them are already under way.

The Senate voted on Nov. 10 to allow the Air Force to buy 42 more C-17 Globemaster III jet transports and recommended the Department of Defense reassess the need for more transport aircraft, according to an Air Force Times article.

This move doesn't require the Air Force to ask for the additional C-17s and it doesn't include any funding to pay for their construction.

It does promote keeping the production lines at Boeing plants open through 2012, instead of 2008, which was"

Rockville Trails Estate, water district part ways

Daily Republic Online Edition: "
Printed on: Tue, Nov 29, 2005

Rockville Trails Estate, water district part ways
By Barry Eberling

- Rockville Trails Estates will try to get water for its 370 proposed homes without the help or hindrance of the Solano Irrigation District.

The controversial project - formerly called White Wing Estates - is to be located on 1,580 acres. This land is amid the rural hills north of Rockville Hills Park.

One necessity is finding water to serve the proposed homes, if the project is to go forward.

SID in 1982 agreed to provide water for an earlier incarnation of the project. Now the two parties have agreed to cancel that deal.

Rockville Trails Estates will pay $49,000 for a district well on the land and the district will give no promises as to the quality or reliability of the water.

SID agrees it will take a neutral stance when the developer goes to the Solano County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. It will give no opinions on the condition of the well and it will not object to any attempt the developer might make to form a public district to provide water from the well or Vallejo.

"We part on friendly terms," said Jim Daniels, SID engineering and planning manager. "They go off and do their project. And the district is done with that."

Officials with Rockville Trails Estates could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The county Local Agency Formation Commission must review the agreement before this parting of ways becomes official.

Rockville Trails Estates is working on an environmental study for its proposed project. That study must be completed before the project goes to the county Planning Commission.

SID in September wanted the developer to do studies on the well. The district was uncertain how much water might be available.

Plus, SID found minerals in the well water, Daniels said. The district was uncertain how easy it might be to provide water to the proposed development, he said.

The agreement takes such concerns away from SID. The environmental study will look at these questions. Solano County will decide if the answers in the study are sufficient.

Rockville Trails Estates is to be more than homes. It is to include 810 acres of open space with trails open to the public.

Earlier versions of the project generated controversy. Such groups as the Green Valley Landowners Association opposed White Wing Estates in the early 1990s. County supervisors turned that project down.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Monday, November 28, 2005

Fairfield responds to jump in crime

Article Last Updated:

Fairfield responds to jump in crime

By J.M. BROWN, Times-Herald staff writer
Vallejo Times Herald

Fairfield nearly made the top third of California's most dangerous cities, according to a new survey of crime in 2004.

The Solano County seat's crime rate ranked 35th highest among 90 California cities with populations of at least 75,000, according to an annual Morgan Quitno report released this week.

Lt. Tony Shipp, a Fairfield police spokesman, said the department takes stock in such reports and has recently created two task forces to tackle drugs and gangs, two problems that increase any city's crime rate.

The news was better for Vacaville and Napa, which were listed as the state's 24th and 27th safest cities, respectively. Benicia and American Canyon were not included in the survey because they are too small.

Vallejo was not included because of data reporting difficulties. Police officials have said personnel shortages caused the agency to fall behind.

Shipp said Fairfield, which curbed a spike in gang-related homicides two years ago, has actually seen a violent crime decrease so far this year.

"Drugs and gangs usually go hand in hand," Shipp said. "If you get a good grip on those two, you can usually bring down (other crimes)."

For its report, Morgan Quitno tallied the incidence of murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and vehicle theft reported to the FBI by police agencies. The figures are then plugged into a formula that compares the numbers to national averages.

The report said Richmond, with more than 30 homicides this year alone, was the most dangerous city in California and the 11th most dangerous in the country. Other Bay Area cities that made the top third most dangerous list for California are Oakland and San Francisco.

The safest Bay Area city on the survey is Livermore, followed by Santa Clara and Daly City. The safest California city overall is Mission Viejo, which was named the fourth safest in the country.

While pleased that Vacaville was among the safest, Police Chief Richard Word said "we want to do better."

Although the city experienced an increase in crime last year, "we are pretty much holding even so far this year," Word said.

While police and school officials have curbed gang activity, he said the city is now battling an increase in auto burglaries and petty thefts, crimes the public can help solve by reporting suspicious activity.

Fairfield's Shipp said citizens can also help cut crime by reporting drug activity and fingering violent offenders. "We can't be everywhere at once," he said.

Although Fairfield ranks low on the crime survey, Robert Noyes, president of Solano Crime Stoppers, said the city's police are moving quickly to act on tips called in to his Vallejo-based organization, which expanded several years ago to include up-county towns.

"That's why we went countywide - north county was tired of their crime," Noyes said. "That's why Vallejo is a lot safer than Fairfield and Vacaville - we ran all of our criminals into their town."

- E-mail J.M. Brown at or call 553-6834.

California Coffers Swelling Again After Struggles

November 25, 2005

States' Coffers Swelling Again After Struggles


LOS ANGELES, Nov. 24 - After four years of tight budgets and deepening debt, most states from California to Maine are experiencing a marked turnaround in their fiscal fortunes, with billions of dollars more in tax receipts than had been projected pouring into coffers around the country.

The windfall is a result of both a general upturn in the economy and conservative budgeting by state officials in recent years, and it is leading to the restoration of school funding, investments in long-neglected roads and bridges, debt reduction, and the return of money borrowed from cities and counties.

In Sacramento, officials are setting aside part of a multibillion-dollar revenue windfall to build up California's depleted cash reserves. Delaware has appropriated money for a pilot program for full-day kindergarten, and Florida will spend nearly $400 million on a new universal preschool program for 4-year-olds. Some states, including New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Oklahoma, are pouring significant new sums into public colleges and universities after several years of sharp cutbacks.

One sign of the improved fiscal health, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, is that only five states were forced to make midyear budget cuts, totaling $634 million, in the fiscal year that ended, for most states, on June 30. In 2003, by contrast, 37 states cut spending in the middle of the budget year, by a total of $12.6 billion, the association said.

But the good news is not universal and may prove short-lived. The Great Lakes States continue to be hammered by the loss of manufacturing jobs, and full recovery from the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast States will take years.

And experts warn that even though tax revenues are rising in most of the country, demands on state budgets - particularly for education, health care and pensions - are growing even faster.

"The general picture is that revenue is coming in better than expected for quite a few states," said Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers.

"The problem," Mr. Pattison said, "is that the states are like the guy who had been laid off and his income went way down, and now he's got a job again. But in the meantime, he put a lot of expenses on his credit card, his kids' tuition went up and he tapped into his retirement fund. That's exactly what a lot of states did."

During the lean years, states resorted to a lot of one-time fixes to balance their budgets while maintaining services. They cut spending, raised taxes, drew down their rainy-day funds, relied on federal programs, delayed payments to employee pension funds and borrowed heavily. Now they are coping with the hangover from those stopgap solutions.

In California, for example, increased tax collections and the cumulative effect of state spending cuts produced a turnaround in the state's budgetary fortunes, to the tune of nearly $4 billion, according to analysts for the governor's office and the Legislature. Officials now project a surplus of $5.2 billion at the end of the current fiscal year, up from an earlier projection of $1.3 billion. But all of that excess revenue will be consumed during the coming fiscal year, and the state will find quickly itself back in the red unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers agree on longer-term solutions to the chronic imbalance between revenue and spending.

"We still have to control the rate of growth in spending," said H. D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance.

Governor Schwarzenegger, a Republican, sponsored a ballot measure this fall that would have forced reductions in state spending when revenue fell short of projections, but it was soundly rejected by voters, who responded to heated warnings from state employee and teachers unions that it would mean steep cuts in education and other services. Mr. Palmer said the governor would work with the Legislature on another approach.

The picture in New York is similar to that in California. New York entered the fiscal year that began in April with a projected deficit of $4.2 billion. Instead, because of a sharp rise in personal income taxes and capital gains receipts, the state now expects to end the year with a surplus of $1 billion, a $5 billion turnaround in one year. But Michael Marr, the communications director for the New York state budget office, said rapidly rising costs for Medicaid, education and other state programs demanded continued fiscal caution.

New York City has also seen a significant brightening of its fiscal picture. Income, sales and real estate transfer taxes are coming in above forecasts, cutting the projected deficit for the next fiscal year to $2.25 billion from $4.5 billion, the City Hall budget office reported this week.

New Jersey's finances, too, have benefited from the upturn in the economy and a relatively strong stock market, with state tax revenue growing at a double-digit rate over last year. New Jersey is one of several states considering tax cuts in the current fiscal year. The newly elected governor, Senator Jon Corzine, a Democrat, promised property tax relief in the recent campaign.

Indiana is also considering property tax cuts, perhaps offset by an increase in cigarette taxes. Lawmakers in Utah are looking at ways to reduce sales or income taxes after the state took in $90 million more in taxes than anticipated in the first four months of the current fiscal year.

Michigan's economy remains in the doldrums because of the deep slump in the auto industry, and its state budget woes have eased only slightly, said Jay Wortley, senior economist at the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency. Revenues are expected to grow by a modest 3.2 percent in the current year over the year just ended, Mr. Wortley said. But that rate of growth will not begin to make up for five years of cutbacks in virtually all state services, he added.

Mr. Wortley said prison costs were rising, local governments were not getting promised payments from the state and financing for state universities remained tight. The state is selling publicly owned property and is borrowing against anticipated revenue from the nationwide settlement with tobacco companies to make ends meet.

Despite all that, Michigan officials are debating a package of business tax cuts to attract and retain high-technology companies to replace the jobs lost in manufacturing.

State officials know that the tax cuts will create additional stress on the budget, Mr. Wortley said. "But they feel they have to do something to turn the economy around," he said. "The only thing state government can do to help business is to cut taxes."

And then there are Mississippi and Louisiana.

Both states entered the current fiscal year on a high note. In Louisiana, oil and gas royalties were coming in at a record pace and sales tax revenue was growing at a double-digit clip. Mississippi ended the last fiscal year with a healthy surplus, and the current year began strong, with sales, corporate and individual income taxes exceeding estimates in July alone by $22 million.

Then Hurricane Katrina hit in late August, followed by Hurricane Rita.

"In the absence of these storms," said Greg Albrecht, chief economist for Louisiana's legislative fiscal office, "we were rocking and rolling. Just before they hit, we were sitting around saying, Look at all the money we're going to have. We were finally going to come back from the recession of 2001."

"Then the storms came along and just pulled the rug out from underneath us," Mr. Albrecht said.

Louisiana has emptied its rainy-day fund and cut $600 million from its $7.3 billion annual budget, and the state is still looking for ways to fill what has become a gaping hole in its finances.

Mississippi, which was also hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, took out a $500 million line of credit to make up for lost sales and income taxes and to provide disaster assistance to state residents. J. K. Stringer Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, said that despite the devastation after the storm, revenue rebounded in October because of heavy spending by federal workers, insurance companies and thousands of evacuees from neighboring Louisiana.

But Mr. Stringer said the state faced unknowns that made it impossible to draft a budget for the coming year.

"We got things under control here," he said, "other than three little unknowns: how much state revenue we're going to collect, how much this thing is going to cost us and how much money we're going to get from the feds."

"Other than that," Mr. Stringer said, "we've got a firm handle on things."

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Economic picture good for Solano County

Article Last Updated: 11/25/2005 07:54 AM

Economic picture good for Solano

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald, Vallejo

A temporary economic dip will likely mean deep discounts at some stores during the holiday shopping season which traditionally starts today, a university economist says.
Meanwhile, a Solano County expert sees everything coming up roses locally, particularly over the longer term.

Dr. Sean Snaith of the University of the Pacific's Business Forecasting Center, which released its fourth-quarter U.S. economic forecast Tuesday, said several conditions conspired in recent months to slam the brakes on the national economy.

Barring more of the same, however, Snaith predicts the slowdown is temporary, but its timing may benefit holiday shoppers as retailers slash prices to lure spending-wary consumers.

Considering the Fed's raising of interest rates several times lately, two devastating hurricanes and skyrocketing energy and gas prices, that the economy isn't in worse shape proves it's bullet-proof nationally and regionally, Snaith said.

"There have been dramatic fireworks, but the roller coaster ride is subsiding. It's making a soft landing back on solid ground,"he said.

Despite the shocks to what Snaith calls the nation's Kevlar economy, its overall growth rate for 2005 is expected to be 3.5 percent, he said.

Mike Ammann, president of the Solano County Economic Development Corp., said that while there's no escaping the higher energy costs this winter, Solano County is poised for significant growth in the next three to five years.

"We're in better shape in Solano County than pretty much anyone else in the Bay Area," Ammann said. "We have a stable unemployment rate at about 5 percent and a more diversified economy. We no longer face uncertainties like the closure of Travis Air Force Base. And, housing continues to be built."

Ammann also cited Triad Communities' downtown and waterfront projects in Vallejo and the Solano County Fairgrounds project probably kicking off in 2006.

"If you look up and down Interstate 80 in Solano County," Ammann said, "you see major development breaking ground in the next few years."

Ammann cites Genentech's $750 million expansion and its 500 added jobs in Vacaville, the improvement or expansion of most of the area's hospitals, Travis' nearly completed C-17 facility, renovations in Vacaville, Benicia, Dixon, Suisun, Fairfield and Vallejo and other projects, all either under way or ready to start.

Solano Community College, for example, has campuses coming out of the ground in Vallejo and Vacaville, Ammann said. In Solano, the next three to five years is planned, announced and pretty much going to happen.

But there's still the short-term 2005 holiday shopping season to weather. With record high energy prices predicted this winter, the consumer is getting squeezed at the pump, at the thermostat and at the light switch, Snaith said.

"This is going to put a squeeze on budgets and may cause people to trim their family's holiday spending."

Snaith said that anticipating this, middle- and lower-end retailers will slash some prices, likely starting today.

"Expect retailers to come up with real aggressive discounts to get people into the stores and shopping early. They're not going to wait to see how things go," Snaith said.

Even with drastically reduced prices, Snaith said, retailers should expect a flat holiday shopping season, which traditionally begins the day after Thanksgiving.

The bad news for retailers is that "Black Friday" - the day most retailers go into the black for the year - won't be as good as they may have hoped for, as consumers struggle with high energy bills, Snaith said. But as the post-hurricane impact starts to diminish and as the end of the year approaches, things should start to turn back around.

Snaith describes hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which ripped through the Gulf states in August and September, as a traumatizing shock to the national economy. The federal rebuilding efforts, however, should act as a fiscal stimulant in the first part of 2006, he said.

"We should see continued steady, level economic growth beginning with the new year," Snaith said.

Report highlights:

• Higher energy costs will result in the weakest growth in real fourth quarter spending by consumers since 2002, with the worst hit to consumer durables, particularly big-ticket items.

• Much of the retail sector is expected to pursue aggressive pricing strategies early this holiday season.

• Energy prices have fallen from the post-hurricane peak but will remain the cause of the weakest quarter of real Gross National Product growth in 2005.

• GNP growth should surge the first part of 2006 as reconstruction spending ramps up in the Gulf states.

• Housing starts will begin declining at a measured pace as the residential real estate market cools.

• Investment spending and hiring growth will continue to grow more slowly over the next several years in response to diminishing demand for products and increasing cost of capital.

• Spending at the federal level will grow at the slowest rate since 2000, but state and local expenditures will expand to their best growth rate since 2002.

• The dollar should continue depreciating for the next three years.

• Prices should remain under control but core inflation will continue growing at a contained rate for the next few years.

• Unemployment should remain low, consistent with stable prices, for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Apartment construction keeps pace, rents stay down in Cities of Fairfield and Vacaville in Solano County

Article Launched: 11/22/2005 06:26:58 AM

Area rental relief
Apartment construction keeps pace, rents stay down

The latest survey of rents in Vacaville and Fairfield has some good news for apartment dwellers, some favorable results for landlords and an indication that the housing challenges ahead have not changed much.

For those looking to live in a smaller studio apartment, the supply is not overwhelming. Therefore, it was not unexpected that rents increased more than 7 percent over what a renter paid a year ago. New construction is focused on larger units - two or three bedrooms for renters who cannot get into the single-family home market.

The median rent for a studio apartment in the area is $750, an increase of 7.14 percent from 2004.

However, a survey by Fairfield's Planning and Development Department showed that rents were stable for the larger units, as vacancy rates climbed a bit. The median rent for a one-bedroom apartment increased 3.13 percent, to $825, while the two-bedroom apartment median rose only .22 of a percent to $925. The monthly rate for a three-bedroom unit rose 1.88 percent to $1,195.

Overall, it seemed, the landlords were able to raise rents, but nowhere near the skyrocketing ascent they took three or four years ago when the demand overran the supply. Double-digit rent increases were common back then.

New construction has been a bit more healthy in recent years. City planners and elected officials have realized the need to provide rental housing in the market. After all, fewer local residents can afford to get into home ownership these days.

New construction seems to have kept pace with demand of late. Still, most of those in entry-level jobs still cannot afford to live in Vacaville or Fairfield. They commute from communities like Davis or Woodland or West Sacramento where rents are more affordable.

In other words, the local cities should continue to move along multi-family projects in order to keep pace with demand, but also to keep rents from climbing too quickly. In Dixon for instance, a new complex that offers help to qualified individuals - those whose income is below the median - is ready to open with 200 would-be renters on a waiting list for 100 units.

As long as workers and residents flow out of the central Bay Area to Solano County, the pressure on the housing supply will not cease. Policy-makers in our cities should not constrict the builders who are ready to provide rental units for those not ready or able to become homeowners.

Dixon Trustees Unanimously Approve New School

Dixon Trustees Unanimously Approve New School
They accept the $60.6 million bid to build a new high school; groundbreaking scheduled for Dec. 3.

By David Henson/Staff Writer

Dixon Unified School District trustees unanimously accepted a $60.6 million bid to build a new high school Monday night, putting a partnership of two construction companies to work.

Now, Woodland-based Broward Brothers and Sacramento-based Clark & Sullivan Builders can crank up their construction equipment, which already is on the 80-acre site awaiting the Dec. 3 groundbreaking.

"Tonight's a good night," said School Board President Shana Levine, barely concealing her glee.

The $60 million price tag on the project exceeds the latest budget, which was $58 million, but surpasses by $7 million to $8 million the funds the district has earmarked. Neverthelees, trustees focused on the positive and tip-toed around the cost overruns.

Trustee Alan Hodge said the district still was working on ways to bridge the budget gap and wasn't ready to lay out a plan - whether by not having parts of the high school constructed, by further fundraising or by leveraging future years' developer fees.

"We have some options in place of what we can do," Hodge said. "It's a matter of deciding which one."

Trustees are confident that finding the extra funding won't hinder the project in the least.

"We just approved a bid for the whole high school," Trustee Steve Larson said, who added that conversations with the district's financial consultant had put him at ease over the numbers.

The district also completed the final leg of an intricate partnership involving the city of Dixon and Danville-based developer Brookfield Homes. Trustees closed out a land deal with Brookfield, which has helped offset cost increases by providing the district with half the 80 acres needed for the school as well as site-grading and infrastructure. In exchange, Brookfield will get to build homes a little sooner than otherwise allowed under a limited-growth initiative.

Thanking trustees for their support, Mayor Mary Ann Courville said she came to the district's meeting to return the favor and offer the city's further assistance.

"I know, working on it together, we can close that gap," Courville said.

David Henson can be reached at

Monday, November 21, 2005

Travis Air Force Base Gets Millions in Funds

Travis Air Force Base Gets Millions in Funds
By Reporter Staff

Some $46.4 million in funds for Travis Air Force Base are included in a bill passed Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives on an unanimous vote.

The Conference Report for H.R. 2528, the Military Quality of Life and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2006 is essential, said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Solano, who voted for the proposal.

The Senate has approved the conference report negotiated by members of the House and Senate and the bill will be directed to the President ' desk for signature.

"Travis is essential to our nation's air strength and is a leader in our military engagements abroad," she said. "I am proud of our brave airmen and women at Travis and I am pleased my colleagues voted with me to continue keeping them supplied and prepared to do an outstanding job."

The bill included the following requests for Travis:

• $19 million for the Air Mobility Operations Group (AMOG) Global Reach Deployment Center.

• $1.3 million for C-17 addition/alteration life support.

• $3.2 million for a C-17 addition composite shop.

• $8.1 million for a C-17 maintenance training facility.

The AMOG Deployment Center will provide a maintenance and storage facility for high-value, mobile command and control equipment and will augment the base's rapid deployment capabilities.

Fairfield Mayor-elect Harry Price praised the bill, and Tauscher.

"We are ecstatic with the great success that has been achieved," he said in a press release issued Friday. "Congresswoman Tauscher continues to keep a watchful eye on the troops at Travis. Indeed, both the Active Duty components and 349th Reserve Wing at Travis will benefit from these extraordinary efforts. The $46.4 million will go a long way to ensuring that Travis Air Force Base will continue to be a valuable military asset and the funds will provide further projection from any future Base Realignment and Closure actions."

In addition, Tauscher worked with Senator Dianne Feinstein to secure $10.9 million for a new, state-of-the-art Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) Facility, which will be used for maintenance, service, and storage of equipment used on aircraft. The existing AGE Facility is outmoded and this upgrade will provide for relocation of a key fuel station and storage building closer to mother maintenance facilities, Tauscher said.

Tauscher said she was also able to secure an extra $3.9 million in additional funds beyond the Administration's requests for the C-17 Wheel and Tire Shop, which will help prepare the base for receiving their upcoming fleet of C-17 aircrafts, allowing Travis to continue its mission and play a critical role in the War on Terror.

Bill Would Fund Solano Transportation Projects

Bill Would Fund Solano Transportation Projects
By Reporter Staff

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation with important funding for Solano County transportation projects.

The identical measure is expected to be passed by the Senate and signed by the President, said Congressman George Miller, D-Solano.

Miller had sought the funding approved in Friday's bill.

"Transportation improvements are critical to economic growth and quality of life in our community and I am pleased Congress is able to provide funding for several important projects in our area," said Miller.

Included in the bill:

• $800,000 for the Nut Tree Airport. The requested funding would finance improved airport access, sealing of hanger taxi landings, and improvements to the parking aprons at the regional airport.

• $850,000 for the Vallejo Baylink Ferry. The funds will help complete construction of 1,200 off-street parking spaces for passengers, a relocated and improved bus transfer facility, roadway access improvements, and bicycle and pedestrian connections between the Vallejo downtown and the waterfront area. The Baylink Ferry serves almost 1 million riders annually.

• $500,000 for a Fairfield-Vacaville Intermodal Station (requested with Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Solano).

The station is a high priority in order to accommodate the planned 16 daily round trips through the San Jose-Oakland/San Francisco-Auburn corridor.

Ready and Rented

Ready and Rented
New Dixon Apartment Complex Highlights Need for Affordable Housing
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

More than 100 new, affordable apartments are almost ready for renting in Dixon's 210-acre Valley Glen residential community. There's just one hitch: 300-plus names are already on the waiting list.

Poised to open Dec. 1, Bristol Affordable Apartment Homes will rent for between $692 and $1,152 per month, and are available to households whose annual income does not exceed 50 percent to 60 percent of the Solano County median income, which was $73,900 for 2005.

For those lucky enough to have signed up before completion of the complex, Bristol's pet-friendly apartments - which range from 651 to 1,070 square feet - will be an extraordinary solution to the difficult problem of finding affordable housing. The complex not only offers one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchens, but also boasts covered parking, laundry centers, and even a community center that will offer residents various services, including a computer lab with internet access.

When told how many people were on the Bristol waiting list, Mayor Mary Ann Courville remarked, "Obviously, it's a sign that we have to do more."

Vacaville Housing and Redevelopment Interim Director Cindy Johnston concurs, saying she isn't surprised by such a substantial waiting list at Bristol. Vacaville Housing and Redevelopment has a contract with the Solano Housing Authority to work with unincorporated regions of the county, as well as several Solano County cities, including Dixon.

"Dixon has a huge problem," she said, noting that at one point in the past Vacaville was contracted to work with the city of Dixon on housing and redevelopment issues. "One of the things we observed right away was a very acute shortage. There's a huge demand, because there just isn't anything in Dixon."

Courville agreed. "We know that there is a need for affordable housing," she said, "and unfortunately past councils didn't make that a requirement of past housing projects. We have now made that mandate of all housing projects to do the 80/20 split."

The "split" mandate requires that at least 20 percent of all new housing developments in Dixon be affordable for mid- to low- and very low-income households. Several such projects are already underway or have recently been approved, according to the mayor.

Dixon residents are certainly not alone, however, in their quest for affordable housing. The problem is ubiquitous in California, according to John Quigley, professor of economics at University of California, Berkeley and author of several works on affordable housing issues in California.

"I think it's pretty clear that housing in general in California has been increasing substantially in price," he said in a telephone interview. "I would point to the extreme difficulty of producing housing in California - and particularly rental housing - to the extent that we insist on producing barriers to the erection of new housing. Regulations really make it hard to add to the housing stock."

Quigley said that point, especially in California, is really relevant. "Somehow we don't have much to facilitate new construction," he said. "We have all sorts of noble ecological reasons to prevent it, for the benefit of people already living here."

As a result, he said, "We should expect that there's going to be a scarcity and prices are going to go up."

Quigley's comments were largely echoed by one of the two firms managing Dixon's Bristol apartments, Fairfield Residential.

"There's a lot of demand," said spokeswoman Kitty Calahan. She explained that any plans to build more affordable housing units in the area - which is currently not on the firm's agenda - would depend largely upon the ability to purchase suitable land.

Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation is the other firm managing the Dixon apartments, they could not be reached for comment.

Amanda Janis can be reached at

Reading, Writing and Religion...

Reading, Writing and Religion...
Christian School to Celebrate 30 Years of Service
By Karen Nolan/Staff Writer

Whenever Steve and Erin Hankins set foot on the Vacaville Christian Schools campus, they feel right at home.

As they enter the driveway off Davis Street, they pass by the preschool that Steve's mother helped start three decades ago. They spot the high school where they themselves met in the 1980s, back when it was called the Vacaville Christian Academy. Nowadays, they usually stop at the elementary or middle schools, where their own three children are enrolled. On the way into the classrooms, they may spot Steve's sister, Tracy Castelli, another VCS graduate who now works at their alma mater as a teacher's assistant. Her children are also among its students, as are several other cousins.

"We like how it teaches the same values that we teach at home," Erin Hankins said, explaining why she and her husband, who live in Fairfield, chose to send their children to Vacaville Christian Schools. "We love the whole family atmosphere. Everyone is on a first-name basis. And the teachers have been extremely kind to our children. ... Where else do they get hugged every time they stop and talk to someone?"

Members of the extended Hankins family will be among the 800 guests expected to turn out Dec. 3 as the school celebrates its 30th anniversary. A gala dinner party under a big tent on the school grounds will feature former Apollo astronaut Alan Bean as the guest speaker.

The schools' choirs and its award-winning jazz band, which recently put out a CD, will provide music. A ventriloquist will entertain, and Bud's of Dixon will cater. "We're going to be celebrating all of the great things that have happened in our school in 30 years, and we'll be launching our future," said Karen Winter, school superintendent for 16 years. "We're hoping to have a special announcement that evening about our future."

Winter wouldn't even hint about what that announcement will entail, but no doubt it will have to do with growth. Vacaville Christian Schools currently offers programs for 1,700 youngsters in preschool through high school. Last year it opened a West Campus at Crossroads Christian Church on Butcher Road. That campus now houses preschool and kindergarten classes and plans to add a first-grade next fall. Within five years, Winter said, the school hopes to have 1,950 students at both sites.

She isn't daunted by reports that enrollment at area public schools has flattened or declined. "Our school has continued to grow at a steady pace each year," Winter said, attributing the school's academic reputation and expanded extracurricular activities as contributing factors. "We have a lot of people who want a strong Christian education for their children," she added. "They want that focused attention of having character education and positive discipline in the classroom."

Steve Hankins, a member of Valley Church, would agree. His main reason for wanting his children to attend Vacaville Christian Schools "is the 'Christian' part of it," he said. "I think kids can get a good education anywhere, but I want reinforcement of the Christian values during the day."

It's the same reinforcement he received when he was a student there. "It backed up what my mom and dad impressed on me," he said. Steve Hankins began attending the Christian school as a third-grader. He tried public school in the eighth-grade, but returned the following year after his hopes of playing football were dashed. Then the Christian Academy "was a smaller school, with a little more one-on-one with the teachers," the 1986 graduate said. "There are still teachers I had in high school who I still associate with."

That sort of bond was no doubt helped by the fact that his mother was a staff member. Joan Hankins launched the early kindergarten class in November 1975, two months after the school opened. "It was the first one in Northern California, I believe," she said in a telephone interview from her current home in Lincoln. "I started with 12 students and by the end of the year I had 19."

Joan Hankins had moved to Vacaville from Martinez a few years earlier and was surprised to find few Christian preschools. She approached her pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church and he gave her the go-ahead to start one. "I wasn't interested in teaching, but I agreed to organize it," she said. Bethany Lutheran Preschool opened in 1974.

A secretary at Bethany was among a group of parents who had decided to start a non-denominational Christian school rather than continue with Vaca Valley Christian School, which had decided to affiliate with the Assembly of God church. When the new school began looking for a pre-kindergarten teacher, she suggested Joan Hankins.

Hankins taught the class for six years. When she realized that parents were dropping off their older children and taking their younger ones to preschools that had begun springing up, "I went to Mr. (Jerome) Barrett, who was principal at the time, and asked if he though this school would like to have a preschool."

Barrett and the board approved of the idea, and the preschool opened to 2- to 4-year-olds in October 1982. Joan Hankins was its administrator, a job she held until illness forced her retirement in 1991.

Both Joan Hankins and the school survived a crisis triggered by a loss of enrollment, blamed in part on the Catholic Church's opening of Notre Dame Elementary School in 1987. About the same time, a disagreement between faculty and administrators led to the dismissal of three teachers and caused a rift. Joan Hankins and several other administrators were laid off, although she continued to work at the school as a volunteer. School trustees closed the high school in 1988 and began focusing on building up the younger grades. The strategy paid off and the high school was reopened in 1995. "I am so excited about what has happened there," Joan Hankins said, crediting Winter's leadership with much of the school's current success. "My greatest fear was that the school would be closed. "I now have five grandchildren who attend that school and five great nieces and nephews," she continued. "I'm still tied to that school. ... And I'm grateful every day that my grandchildren and nieces and nephews have a place to go and become the people the Lord wants them to be."

Graduates, former students and the general public are welcome to attend the 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner on Dec. 3. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased through the Development Office by calling 446-1776 ext. 22 or e-mailing AT A GLANCE:
Name: Vacaville Christian School
Opened: 1975, as the Vacaville Christian Academy at 1117 Davis St.
Enrollment on opening day: 33
Enrollment at the end of the first year: 95
Current enrollment: 1,700, in preschool-high school, on two campuses and representing 160 churches throughout the Bay Area. First graduating class: 1980, with 10 graduating seniors.
Mascot: Falcons
School colors: Blue, white, and red
Motto: The Choice for Excellence
Mission Statement: "Vacaville Christian Schools, in partnership with home and church, exists to provide a distinctive Christ-Centered education in a nurturing environment which equips young people excel in life and service to Jesus Christ."
Bible verse: 'For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11
Most-tenured teacher: First grade teacher Ella Blair, who started August 24, 1976
Senior staff member: Arlene Siebert, who started Jan. 1, 1980, as a preschool aide/teacher and now is the Preschool and Infant Director

Helping Solano County Business Flourish

November 20, 2005

Helping Solano County Business Flourish -- Two Groups Build Relationships, Focus Dreams, Enhance Economic Growth
By Nathan Halverson

FAIRFIELD - What do a portable coffee shop in Dixon and biotech giant Genentech have in common?

The answer is a little office in Fairfield that houses both the Solano Economic Development Corp. and the Solano College Small Business Development Center.

From the same modest space, these two groups work to create new jobs and generate new revenue for Solano County and the seven cities within its boundaries.

But the groups operate dichotomously in two drastically different worlds.

The Solano College Small Business Development Center, under the leadership of director Charles Eason, works primarily with business owners who employ from one to three workers.

In contrast, the Solano EDC, with guidance from president Michael Ammann and vice president Sandy Person, works with companies such as Genentech, which employs upward of 9,000 people.

The scales are vastly different, but the overall mission is the same: Assist economic growth in Solano County.

Grassroots Entrepreneurship

A little before 6:30 a.m. Friday, Jacqueline Murphy pulled her conversion van into the Kaiser Permanente parking lot in Vacaville.

Construction workers from the adjacent project site began mulling around the van. They knew what was coming.

Soon Murphy would throw open her doors and sell the coffee, espresso and pastries she's become known for.

But this is a far cry from where she started. Murphy is a former IBM employee who long harbored the dream to open her own restaurant.

It was just under two years ago she began to realize that dream when she enrolled in a 10-week program hosted by the Solano College Small Business Development Center. The educational program, known as Next Level, helped Murphy focus her dream into a solid business plan.

"I needed a mentor, I needed someone to bounce ideas off of," she said. Along with a mentor, she got access to the center's business library, Internet resources and business specialists for free.

The Solano center receives 50 percent of its roughly $250,000 budget from the state, 40 percent are federal funds and 10 percent come from local government.

Every year it holds about 100 workshops, which have varying nominal costs, to assist small business owners. Last year, more than 1,800 people enrolled in its classes.

California business owners need all the help they can get.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council ranked California the worst in public policy climate for small businesses.

"We'd like to see less regulations on small businesses. It's tough for small businesses to make it," Ammann said.

In the meantime, Ammann and his support staff work to help prospective and established business owners through the maze.

When Murphy, with help from the center, began to understand what she was up against she took a different approach to her dream.

"I love to cook," she said. "But when I started looking at the regulations and risk-factors to opening a restaurant, it dampened my desire."

Working with a Next Level mentor, she began looking more seriously at what had initially been an idea for a side project: A mobile coffee shop.

She could open this business without having to borrow money and the marketing research showed good prospects.

With the help of the program, she opened the business in May and has not looked back.

"I'm really having a ball," she said.

Growing Bigger Business

Solano EDC's Ammann hurried into the biotech conference. He sat front row as the co-founder of the biotech firm Renovis approached the podium.

Ammann was surrounded by scientists and corporate executives - the players of the biotech world.

Most of the faces were familiar to him, as well they should have been.

Since joining Solano EDC a little more than two years ago, Ammann has traipsed around the Bay Area, the state and even the country getting to know the big guns of the biotech world.

But it's not just biotech. Ammann rarely spends a whole week in the office. He's too busy networking with the leaders of various industries and professions.

He spends a good deal of time engaging the directors of corporate real estate agencies that are frequently tapped by large firms such as Genentech to find suitable land to build new offices or manufacturing plants.

When these directors begin brainstorming locations for their clients, Ammann wants his familiar face to pop into their minds. And more importantly, he wants the area he represents - Solano County - to always be considered.

"We facilitate investment in this community," Ammann said.

Solano EDC's Person provides the more lively assessment of what they do.

"We kiss a lot of frogs on behalf of the county," Person said.

They know one or more of these leads could result in the next economic prince of Solano County.

Genentech has become one such economic prince. The company employees more than 700 people at its Vacaville manufacturing plant.

Genentech opened the plant in 1998. But by 2003, the company was looking to expand, although not necessarily in Vacaville.

Communities from across the country, even other countries, were throwing millions of dollars in incentives at Genentech to open a plant in their area.

"The world is competing for biotech," Person said. "It has high-paying jobs, which is the creme de la creme."

The County's Advantage

While the world was competing for Genentech's blockbuster business, the state government was a mess. The recall was going on. Former governor Gray Davis had recently dissolved the California Department of Commerce.

There was little concerted effort by the state to retain Genentech, according to Ammann and Person.

"We don't control incentives. We don't control property," Ammann said. "But we had some things going for us that $100 million in incentives couldn't overcome."

Executives at Genentech knew Solano County. They knew Vacaville. They had already worked with business leaders in the area and there were fewer unknowns.

"It was the relationships that reduced the risk to Genentech," Ammann said. To the risk-adverse Genentech that made the difference, Ammann said.

Genentech announced it would expand its Vacaville facilities in April 2004.

Now the Solano EDC, which receives about 60 percent of its funding from private donors and 40 percent from public sources such as the county and cities, is working with other firms to help them locate or expand in Solano County.

The organization provides interested parties with detailed information on land, politics and the names and numbers of local business leaders.

This year, they will launch an electronic news list and make improvements on their online database and Solano Prospector, an online mapping tool for land research.

But ultimately, they're effort to build economic growth in Solano County boils down to one word: Relationships.

Nathan Halverson can be reached at 425-4646 X267 or

Info Box:

Shared Address: 424-C Executive Court North, Fairfield

Organization: Solano Economic Development Corporation
President: Michael Ammann
Phone Number: (888) 864-1855
Web site:

Organization: Solano College Small Business Development Center
Director: Charles Eason
Phone Number: (707) 864-3382
Web site:

Friday, November 18, 2005

Results of Annual Apartment Rent Survey Conducted by City of Fairfield

For Immediate Release

Contact Name: Lark Ferrell

Housing Project Manager

Planning & Development

Phone: (707) 428-7457

Fax: 707-428-7621

Results of Annual Apartment Rent Survey Conducted by City of Fairfield

Fairfield, California (Friday, November 18, 2005)

The City of Fairfield Planning and Development Department conducted its annual apartment survey of the tri-city area, which includes the cities of Fairfield, Suisun and Vacaville. City staff surveyed 117 apartment complexes, accounting for 7,975 dwelling units. The survey is conducted to determine median rents for studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom units and the area vacancy rate.

Median rents have increased in the past year. In November 2005, median rents are: $750 for studios, $825 for 1 Bedrooms, $925 for 2 Bedrooms, and $1,195 for 3 Bedrooms. The chart below shows the change in median rents over the past five years and the previous year by bedroom size.

Percentage Change In Median Rent

Time Period
1 Bedroom
2 Bedroom
3 Bedroom

Mar. ’00 to Nov. ‘05

Nov. ’04 to Nov. ‘05

Source: City of Fairfield Planning and Development Department

The overall vacancy rate slightly decreased from 6.09% in 2004 to 5.94% in 2005. A five percent rental vacancy rate is considered healthy. The reported time of an apartment unit remained vacant before a new tenant was identified to rent the unit decreased from 21 days to 16 days.

Vacancy Rates since March 2000

Vacancy Rate and (Number of Units Surveyed)

March 2000
October 2001
March 2002
November 2003
November 2004
November 2005

1.82% (3,700)
2.25% (4,094)
2.94% (4,080)
4.92% (4,007)
6.69% (3,844)
5.65% (3,839)

2.81% (712)
1.56% (704)
1.56% (704)
2.52% (674)
3.53% (623)
8.42% (677)

0.38% (3,261)
1.97% (3,453)
3.13% (3,451)
4.76% (3,360)
5.89% (3,461)
5.78% (3,459)

1.28% (7,763)
2.07% (8,251)
2.90% (8,235)
4.65% (8,041)
6.09% (7,928)
5.94% (7,975)

Source: City of Fairfield Planning and Development Department

To encourage renters to move into vacant apartments, 61 of the properties surveyed, or 54%, offered incentives. Apartment complexes that charge higher than median rents are more likely to have higher vacancies and to offer incentives. Typical incentives offered were discounted first month’s rent, discounts off the monthly rent with a long-term lease, and discounts off the security deposit, credit check and application fees.

Top Solano leaders target coordination on key issues

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Article Last Updated: 11/17/2005 06:13 AM

Top Solano leaders target coordination on key issues

By Reporter Staff

Top leaders from every Solano County city and the entire Board of Supervisors agreed to give political peace a chance Wednesday night in Benicia, gathering for the first summit of the City County Coordinating Council.
Resurrecting a joint agency that collaborated on key issues facing the county from 1991 to 2000, the new version kicked off a new era with an ambitious work plan that addresses land use, transportation, farmland preservation and a host of less controversial topics.
The council comprises each mayor and the five county supervisors.
Chairwoman Mary Ann Courville, mayor of Dixon, kicked off the first meeting which was held in the Benicia Clocktower, attended by more than 60 city and county officials, from councilmembers to planners to fire and police chiefs. A host of county staffers and the Solano Transportation Authority participated.
The council's 'purpose statement' calls for the group to come together regularly to 'discuss, coordinate and resolve' issues such as land use, planning, duplication of services and to respond to the local impact of decisions made on the state and federal levels.
The work plan includes:
� Better managing federal mandates on housing and looking for cost savings or program enhancements;
� Considering a joint platform to lobby for and against legislation;
� Coordinating transportation projects and new urban development;
� Reviewing the options for a proposed regional park district; and
� Securing funding and technology to establish an emergency communication network that ties together police, fire and emerge"

Lennar Gets Extension on M.I. Deal

Lennar Gets Extension on M.I. Deal
By CHRIS G. DENINA, Times-Herald staff writer

Two developers so far have failed to transform Mare Island's north end from a ghost town into a job center for Vallejo.

Now a third firm is up to the task, but city staff needs more time to work on the project because of Vallejo's recent spate of development projects.

The Vallejo City Council on Tuesday gave Lennar Mare Island LLC a 200-day extension to reach an agreement to revamp the former naval shipyard's north end, known as Area 1A.

Lennar is using that extra time to find a way to succeed where others have failed in renewing the 191 acres.

"There remains challenges from a cost-feasibility standpoint," Lennar spokesman Jason Keadjian said Thursday. "We are looking very carefully with the city at the numbers, at some of the infrastructure issues associated with the north island."

For example, Lennar may focus on developing more office space or bring in more firms working on research and development. At the same time, the company may focus less on getting companies to occupy warehouses.

"Certainly more office and R&D would bring in a lot of jobs," Councilmember Pamela Pitts said Thursday.

Lennar also may replace old military dorms that housed enlisted personnel who weren't married, with new multi-family housing, or simply add additional units.

"There are always challenges associated with the reuse of a former military base," Keadjian said. "No one is in a better position or has better information on these issues than Lennar, given its long term presence on Mare Island."

The company already is developing 650 acres on the former base's east side.

Lennar sought to revamp the north end after the team of Weston Solutions Inc. and Harvest Properties withdrew from the project last year. The pair cited issues including Mare Island's aging infrastructure and the city's requirement of putting up more than $2.5 million in earnest money.

Before that team, Legacy

Partners Commercial Inc. backed out because of a dispute over district taxes.

Lennar has until April 29 to sign a deal with the city, officials said.

The parties will need to come to terms on matters including a price for the property and a plan for upgrading the infrastructure and developing the land. For example, the Highway 37 interchange at Mare Island's north entrance needs major improvements, city officials said.

"We're still committed to working cooperatively with the city to see if we can reach an agreement," Keadjian said. In recent months, city staff has been busy working on other development deals for the Vallejo mainland. The council recently gave two companies the green light to work on revamping the waterfront and downtown, which combined are still dwarfed by the overall Mare Island project.

Pitts, who's been in office since 1997 and will step down Dec. 6, said it'll be up to the next council to see the project forward.

Travis Prepares to Accept C-17s

Travis Prepares to Accept C-17s
By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - There is nothing to stop the first C-17 Globemaster IIIs from arriving at Travis Air Force Base on time next year, an Air Mobility Command inspection team announced.

The team, called a Site Activation Task Force, visited the base in the first four days of November to check the progress of getting ready to bed down the new air transport, according to an AMC News Service release.

"We assessed the progress of the program and we did not find any show stoppers that will prevent or delay the delivery of C-17s to Travis," said Maj. Keith Thibodeaux of AMC headquarters.

Travis is slated to get 13 new C-17s - with the first of the aircraft planned to arrive by July and the first of the active-duty aircrew and maintainers slated to start arriving in January. The C-17s, the newest of the Air Force fleet, are a key in solidifying Travis' future.

Members of the Air Force Reserve's 349th Air Mobility Wing also have aircrew and maintainers training and preparing for the aircraft's' arrival.

Construction of buildings needed by the C-17s will be completed by January, as well as a flight simulator facility, an aircraft parts store, a squadron operations building and an aircraft maintenance building, the news release said.

The task force's duty was to check on the preparations and identify any issues that needed to be addressed before the aircraft arrive and the squadrons associated with the C-17s are activated.

A lot of work for both the active duty and Reserve air mobility wings still remains to get ready for the C-17s, Travis officials said in the news release.

"That jet is coming and when it gets here, the nation is going to want us to put it in the fight the next day and we need to be ready," said Col. Keith Frede, 60th Maintenance Group commander.

Reach Ian Thompson cat 427-6976 or at

County Program Extends Health Care to Homeless

County Program Extends Health Care to Homeless
By Sarah Arnquist

VALLEJO - Charles Low saw a doctor last week for the first time in two years. Before that, he frequented the emergency room because that was the only place a doctor would see him.

Low, 49, has been homeless since 2000. Solano County public health workers connected with him three weeks ago, and he has since seen a doctor and signed up for a county insurance program for very low-income people.

"Next week I'll finally get a primary care doctor and access to dental care," he said.

Low couldn't remember the last time he saw a dentist.

Low is one of an estimated 4,800 homeless people in Solano County. They sleep on the streets, in shelters, transitional homes or double up with friends and family on any given night. Solano County health workers hope to improve the homeless population's health by increasing access to care through expanded community clinic hours, satellite clinics and health outreach workers.

A three-year $600,000 federal grant Solano County received in 2004 funds the expanded health care services, which include a full-time health outreach worker, nurse case manager and a satellite clinic at the Success Center, a homeless day shelter and program in Vallejo.

Bringing the health services to places where the homeless people already are seemed the best way to reach them, said Odessa Pinnock, Solano County health services manager in charge of the program.

After a year of planning, the program is just getting on its feet. The satellite clinic opened Sept. 8 and sees seven to 10 people each Thursday morning , Pinnock said.

County officials plan to expand the homeless health services to Fairfield and Rio Vista next year. If the program meets all its goals after three years, the federal government will renew the grant.

Homeless people are frequent users of the emergency room. One goal of the program is to reduce emergency room use by connecting these people to a primary care doctor, Pinnock said. That often requires extensive case management and frequent phone calls, she said.

This is a transient population that moves and changes phone numbers a lot, said Janice Vega, the program health outreach worker. She tracks people to ensure they have transportation to an appointment, they went to the appointment and they followed the doctor's orders. She also connects them to other resources such as housing, transportation and food assistance.

"Our goal is to not lose a person -Êbecause once you lose contact that's it," Vega said.

Managing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes is particularly difficult for homeless people and often is what brings them into the emergency rooms, Pinnock said.

Martin Cacique has been homeless for eight months and has type 2 diabetes, a disease that requires close monitoring of blood sugar levels. Before Cacique, 45, found shelter at the Christian Help Center a few weeks ago, he said he frequently felt terrible because his sugars were out of whack. He would sometimes only eat once a day and then binge when he did eat, a cycle that left him feeling drained and dizzy.

Cacique last saw a doctor more than two years ago in the emergency room. He saw a nurse practitioner last Thursday at the Success Center and said he hopes to get the prescriptions and equipment necessary to track his sugar levels. Now that he has a regular diet and sleep, Cacique thinks he can find and hold a job.

Good health is a critical component to helping people get out of the homeless cycle, said Elvie DeLeon, Success Center executive director. But bringing the homeless into the health care system also benefits the entire community, DeLeon said.

"I think the community will benefit in the long run if these people are given proper health care because they don't spend the resources at the hospital and they are able to work," she said.

Reach Sarah Arnquist at 427-6953 or

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dixon Trustees May Accept Bid for New High School

Article Launched: 11/17/2005 06:13:39 AM

Dixon Trustees May Accept Bid for New High School
By David Henson/Staff Writer

Dixon school trustees are expected tonight to accept a $60.6 million bid to build a new high school ... and then discuss how they can pay for it.

There is enough money in the Dixon Unified School District's coffers - from a $29.2 million local bond, state funds and other sources - to start the project, but not enough to complete it.

Last week, district officials were disappointed somewhat when bids for a new high school project came in over budget. The lowest bid was $2 million more than the district's construction estimate and at least $8 million more than it had earmarked for the project.

The district will discuss borrowing some $10 million to $11 million in developer fees expected through the next 10 years in order to close the project's budget gap, a proposal that trustees have said is risky.

Board President Shana Levine said there is no hurry in deciding how to make up the budget discrepancy and that she wants to toss around a few more ideas before leveraging future developer fees.

"We have a year and a half to make a decision," Levine said, referring to the expected 2007 completion of the new school.

In addition, trustees will close out a land deal for the new high school which was started more than a year ago with the city of Dixon and Brookfield Homes, a Danville-based developer.

A three-year contract with the Dixon Teachers Association also will be up for consideration. If approved, teachers will receive a 2.25-percent raise, increases in special education stipends and new contract language regarding retirements and teacher evaluations.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. at the district office at 180 S. First St.

David Henson can be reached at

With New School Coming, AmCan Weighs Amenities

November 17, 2005
With New School Coming, AmCan Weighs Amenities
By DAN JUDGE, Times-Herald staff writer

AMERICAN CANYON - The impending construction of American Canyon's first high school is presenting a rare opportunity for the city to acquire new community facilities like a theater, library and swimming pool at bargain prices.

Tonight the City Council will consider which facilities American Canyon should jointly fund with the Napa Valley Unified School District in order to gain public access to them.

"It is unlikely we will get a second chance to build another high school," City Manager Mark Joseph noted in his report to the council."Any investments made today will improve the quality of the high school and improve the amenities within this community."

The list of potential cost-sharing projects the city and school district includes a gymnasium, swimming pool, library, a performing arts theater and football field.

No final decisions are needed until January, but Joseph said he is recommending the city explore the possibility of contributing to a theater. It would provide the community and school a performing arts theater with more seating and better stage equipment than either could afford alone, he said.

The city manager also is recommending that the city consider partnering to some extent on a swimming pool, which could relieve pressure at the existing community pool during the peak summer months.

A football stadium also could prove to be a wise investment, he said.

Although the city could use a second gymnasium like the one it jointly funded with the school district at American Middle School, Joseph is recommending against it at the high school.

The time available to the general public would be too limited, he said. "At the high school level, they're going to use the gymnasium about 90 percent of the time," he said. "It's not practical."

Joseph also suggested the council study the possibility of locating a new library at the city's proposed town center project rather than the school.

After the council has indicated the facilities it wants to participate in, Joseph said those can be potentially incorporated into plans for the high school. "Once the council narrows the scope down, we can go back to the architect and say give us some ballpark cost estimates," he said.

The council's regular meeting will be held at 7:30 tonight in the Recreation Center at 2185 Elliott Drive.

Capitol Corridor to Serve Proposed Fairfield-Vacaville Station

November 17, 2005
Capitol Corridor to Serve Proposed Fairfield-Vacaville Station
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - It's official: The Capitol Corridor will allow its passenger trains to serve a proposed Fairfield-Vacaville train stop near Peabody and Vanden roads.

The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Board on Wednesday granted permission. Fairfield has yet to build the stop, but it now knows for certain it will have the trains.

"Another one of those incremental, major steps," Fairfield Mayor-elect Harry Price said.

Fairfield is moving ahead with plans to have a parking lot, boarding platform and related projects ready by 2010. Plans include building a Peabody Road bridge over the train tracks.

The Capitols run passenger trains along a 170-mile long corridor, from Auburn to San Jose. It is the third-busiest Amtrak route in the nation, serving about 100,000 passengers monthly. Solano County has one stop, the Suisun-Fairfield station in Old Town, Suisun City.

Fairfield and Vacaville have looked at building a train stop since the mid-1990s. Fairfield is taking the lead on the project because the site is within Fairfield city limits. The city has $26 million for the project from such sources as regional bridge tolls.

A major breakthrough came recently when Union Pacific sent a letter agreeing with the design concepts for the stop. Union Pacific owns the train tracks and wants to make certain a stop doesn't interfere with its freight service. The Capitols wanted Union Pacific to accept the train stop idea before granting service.

Among other things, Fairfield told Union Pacific it will build an overcrossing at Peabody Road. Trains currently cross directly over the road, with crossing arms stopping vehicles.

The Peabody Road overcrossing is designed to improve safety at the tracks. City officials said it will also eliminate the Peabody Road traffic delays caused by passing trains. About 20,000 vehicles use this stretch of road daily, Fairfield Transportation Manager Kevin Daughton said.

Fairfield also plans to build a road leading from Cement Hill Road under the Peabody Road bridge to the train station. That will allow cars to get to the station without worsening congestion at the Peabody/Vanden/Cement Hills roads intersection.

About 400 to 500 riders should use the station daily when it opens in 2010, Daughton said. That could rise to 700 to 750 riders as Fairfield develops the area around the station, he said.

By comparison, the Suisun City station about five miles away serves about 350 passengers on an average weekday.

Suisun City Mayor and Capitol Corridor Joint Powers board member Jim Spering strongly supported opening a Fairfield-Vacaville stop. But he made one thing clear.

"We're certainly expecting the trains to continue to stop at Suisun City," Spering said.

Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine said the train stop can do more than provide a way for local residents to go to such places as the central Bay Area. The trains will also bring visitors to Solano County, he said.

Several Capitol Corridor Joint Powers board members praised the planning work that has gone into the Fairfield-Vacaville train station. That includes planning development within a half-mile radius. The idea is to build townhouses, apartments, homes and businesses that will generate passengers for the nearby train service.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

Copyright © 2005. Daily Republic. All rights reserved

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Vaca Public Works 'Agency of the Year'

Vaca Public Works 'Agency of the Year'
By Tom Hall/Staff Writer

Work hard enough, and someone will notice.

Vacaville's Public Works Department found that true last week as it was named "Agency of the Year" by the Solano Transportation Authority.

The Department is dealing with the expansion of two freeway overcrossings, a major arterial's realignment, numerous road resurfacing projects, and has just finished a large park-and-ride lot.

The city won the STA's biggest annual award for the first time Wednesday, along with the "Project Delivery" award for the second consecutive year.

Dale Pfeiffer, the city's director of public works, said the recognition is a testament not only to his employees' hard work, but also the dedication of Mayor Len Augustine in dealing with regional issues.

"Not only do we have the best and hardest-working staff, but the mayor has done tremendous work in being involved with local, regional and statewide transportation issues," he said.

"Agency of the Year," an award voted on by the board of the STA, goes to the local agency "most committed and dedicated to helping Solano County's transportation programs and issues in an exemplary fashion," according to a release.

Among the projects Vacaville public works officials completed this year are the Bella Vista Park-and-Ride Lot on the south side of Interstate 80 and the Davis Street Plaza project, which realigned the dangerous I-80 offramp at Davis Street and improved existing roads in the area.

For the "project delivery" award, Vacaville was lauded for its work on both the Nut Tree Road overcrossing and the Leisure Town Road overcrossing. The latter is the northern-most section of the Jepson Parkway project that seeks to connect eastern Suisun City to Vacaville.

This year's edition of the STA awards was its eighth. The city of Dixon won "Agency of the Year" in 2004.

Tom Hall can be reached at

Jockeying for Jobs

Jockeying for Jobs
Dixon job hunters win place to show
By David Henson/Staff Writer

Ashley Lessa diligently filled out a two-page job application Monday night for a business that has yet to frame up its first wall - or even get the city of Dixon's approval to do so.

Still, the 19 year old was one of several dozen at the Dixon May Fair grounds who snatched up applications in hopes of working at Dixon Downs, should the controversial 260-acre horse racetrack and entertainment complex be approved.

"It's close to where we live. We like horses and it's an easy commute," said Lessa, who loves barrel racing and wants to work in sales at Dixon Downs. "I think for our age people, it's good. Of course, it would cause a little traffic, but people have to travel far if they like horse racing."

Magna Entertainment Corp., the Canadian company seeking to build the racetrack complex in north Dixon - hosted the job and vendor fair, giving residents and business owners a preview of what Dixon Downs would mean for their wallets.

Warming up for the project's first review by the planning commission on Nov. 30, Magna executives and supporters laid out their vision for Dixon Downs in a short presentation on two 50-inch plasma screen televisions. They highlighted the high-end nature of the business and the job opportunities Dixon Downs would afford - from sales to accounting to management.

"We haven't had the opportunity to tell our side," said Lorne Kumer, Magna's point man for Dixon Downs. "All the workshops have been city-driven and we were just bystanders like everyone else."

It seemed, though, that Magna may have been preaching to the choir. Only a couple of the project's active opponents dropped by, and most in attendance seemed eager to see the project come to fruition.

"I'm thinking it looks good. As a business owner, anything that brings more people to your community is a good thing," said Karen Brown, longtime Dixon resident and owner of a local Napa Auto Parts store. "We'd like to be one of their suppliers."

And it wasn't just retail outlets looking for ways to tie into Dixon Downs. Jeannie and Dieter Teschke of Horseplay Therapeutic Riding Center came looking to expand their offerings with Magna's help.

"We're gonna see if we can get a connection here. We could give them great community support and we really need to expand," Jeannie Teschke said.

By the end of the night, both were pledging their support to the project and offering to express their approval of Dixon Downs to local city leaders.

As aspiring veterinarians studying at the University of California, Davis, Bill Vernetti and Britt Petrotta said Dixon Downs would give them a place to work after graduation without having to sell their new house or commute long hours.

"I think it would be great for the community - more jobs, more diversity," said Vernetti, a Southern California transplant who enjoyed attending Magna's Santa Anita track there. "(Santa Anita) is so clean and pristine and so many people have jobs there."

Stephen Sikes, a vocal member of a group opposed to Dixon Downs, came to the fair to gather information about the jobs being offered.

"I think it's eye-opening as far as the job opportunities. But it's one thing to provide the opportunity to work and another thing to hire them," Sikes said.

A city-commissioned report showed that Dixon Downs would bring 1,200 fewer jobs and that they would pay less than the jobs the land would create as currently zoned. That land, however, has generated no interest from developers in the 10 years it has been zoned for light industrial growth.

Sikes' group, Dixon Citizens for Quality Growth, have criticized the kind of jobs the racetrack would offer, saying they would be unskilled and low-paying.

But to people like Bob Hemmer, low-paying doesn't necessarily mean dead-end. Thirty-five years ago, Hemmer started out directing traffic in the parking lot of Albany's Golden Gate Fields, now a Magna track. He's currently the track's operations manager.

"A lot of our employees will tell you that they started out with us and they retired with us," Kumer said.

David Henson can be reached at

Flying high: Vallejo's Six Flags reports larger profits

November 15, 2005

Flying high: Six Flags reports large profits

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

Students from St. Basil's Elementary School watch Shouka the whale in February as she swims by during her birthday party at Six Flags Marine World. Shouka has made a positive difference in attendance. Photo: J.L. Sousa/Times-Herald file photo

Six Flags Marine World had a banner year in 2005, which means an extra half million dollars to Vallejo, city and park officials said. The park recently closed for the season.

City finance director Robert Stout said Monday that while the extra money is nice, it's but a drop in what promises to be a huge deficit bucket.

Vallejo spokesman Mark Mazzaferro said that for the past three years, the city's gotten its Marine World money in February.

"This is a one-time half million dollars," Stout said. "It was a good year, but it's a half million dollars to offset a multi-million dollar deficit. The bigger issue for me on Marine World is what happens if they continue to have good years, and decide to exercise their purchase agreement. Revenues would plunge."

Stout said the $500,000 windfall is unlikely to mean much real, sustainable help for the city.

"I can't project it into the future and say we can now hire more police officers or firefighters, or anything. I'm reluctant to speculate how it might be spent," Stout said.

As part owner of the park, the city of Vallejo shares in its profits, Stout said. If Six Flags exercises its purchase option, the city's $60 million, Marine World-related debt would vanish, but so would the profit sharing, he said.

"It's a complicated issue," Stout said. "The half-million is nice, but you can't draw implications from it for the city on a going-forward basis."

Marine World spokesman Paul Garcia said the park knew the city would be getting some extra money by the middle of the 2005 season.

"We anticipated it since our July presentation to the City Council," Garcia said. "The added interactive animal element drew people who were reminded of the Africa USA days, and is very popular."

Garcia said Ocean Discovery, the park's new three-element marine mammal attraction which opened in April, and the first full year with Shouka the killer whale, have made a positive difference in attendance.

Park officials are already planning for next year, Garcia said.

"We're definitely looking at ways to focus on children and families, adding some new interactive components," Garcia said. "We're looking forward to 2006 and beyond."

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

Perils of converting old bases

Perils of converting old bases: "Perils of converting old bases
- Chip Johnson
Friday, November 11, 2005

From one side of San Francisco Bay to the other, the redevelopment of decommissioned military bases promises to change the landscape -- and the skyline -- of the entire region.
Ambitious housing proposals are slated for former bases in Concord, and on Treasure Island, where San Francisco city officials earlier this week unveiled a plan to erect a 40-story residential tower under a plan to build some 5,500 housing units on the old Naval base.
Things are much further along in Alameda and on Mare Island in Vallejo, where businesses fill some of the giant warehouses on the former bases and nearly 3,200 units of housing are planned.
Oakland officials have suggested filling the now-defunct Army Re-Supply Base with everything from Indian casinos to a theme park, and everyone wonders what will become of Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, a 167-acre plot high in the Oakland hills that SunCal Cos. of Irvine bought for a whopping $100 million last week.
Mothballed bases are a rare opportunity for cities to cash in on undeveloped land in a region where housing -- and space -- are in high demand. But the unique chance to shape a new community is not without pitfalls: If environmental liabilities and legally imposed limits on how the land may be used hinder the project or create delays, a potential windfall can become a financial albatross.
'Unless you plan these types of projects very well, it can become a further drain on city resources, and housing doesn't bring in the returns you think they would,'' said Jim Forsberg, the planning director in Concord, which hopes to redevelop the Concord Naval Weapons Station.
And there often is disagreement about whether a particula"

Editorial: Port of Sacramento - The Sacramento Bee

Editorial: Port of Sacramento - The Sacramento Bee: "
This story is taken from Opinion at

Editorial: Port of Sacramento
Oakland to the rescue

Published 2:15 am PST Monday, November 14, 2005
'It takes 100 gallons of fuel to take stuff from here \ to the Woodland Target store. From Sacramento, it could be 10 gallons.'
Those huge differences in fuel costs as described by Wilson Lacy, the Port of Oakland's director of maritime operations, explain in a nutshell why the Port of Oakland finds a partnership with the Port of Sacramento so attractive.
Jampacked Oakland is searching for ways to unload cargo and get it moving faster. With highways and freight trains overloaded, barges to Sacramento look increasingly like a way for shippers to save money and time.
Oakland's urgent need to expand may rescue the long ailing Port of Sacramento. The money-losing West Sacramento shipping facility has been close to bankruptcy for years. However, to take advantage of the opportunity Oakland offers, the local port must fix its muddled governance structure. After years of false starts, that is beginning to happen. Officials in the city of Sacramento, Sacramento County, West Sacramento and Yolo County have all signed a letter of intent that will turn control of the port over to West Sacramento.
That plan, which requires legislative approval, appeared to run into trouble two months ago. Some powerful Southern California legislators backed by the Longshoremen's union indicated they might not support the change. Since then, however, a local lawmaker, Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, has signaled his support for the West Sacramento takeover; and legislative opposition seems to have evaporated. That's good.
Still, nothing is easy here. When and if Oakland moves into "

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