Familiar name: Rick Rees is latest school board candidate
The field of candidates for three seats up for grabs on the Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees has widened to four. And a fifth potential candidate, retired teacher David Haynes, indicated that he would “probably” turn in his papers soon.

Rick Rees works for the Student Activities Office at Chico State University. He is also the widower of Jackie Faris-Rees, who died of breast cancer in April 2000 while serving in her eighth year as trustee. Rees briefly threw his name into the 2000 election, when it looked like few people were going to run, but withdrew when others filed at the last minute. “I mean it this time,” he laughed.

“I’m certainly not of the same caliber my late wife was,” he said. “I’m sure people are going to try to draw comparisons and think that this is some kind of legacy thing. But this is me, and I really want to serve a town that has been very good to my family.”

Haynes, who recently retired from the CUSD after 26 years of teaching at Chico and Bidwell junior highs and then Pleasant Valley High School, said several people have encouraged him to run. “I’ve been active in the union,” said Haynes, who has served on the Chico Unified Teachers Association executive board.

So far, incumbents Donna Aro and Ann Sisco, along with retired high school attendance clerk Eileen Robinson, have filed to run. Scott Schofield decided not to try for re-election.

Oroville Hospital looks to unload in-house ambulance service
Less than a month after suddenly closing the Berry Creek Health Center, Oroville Hospital officials acknowledge that they’re “seriously considering” selling the hospital’s in-house ambulance service.

Although the sale to a private company wouldn’t greatly affect the Oroville-area residents who depend on the service, it does raise more questions as to the hospital’s financial security. The hospital has been dogged by rumors of fiscal troubles. Some employees charge it has not paid into their retirement accounts for months, and some local doctors say it hasn’t paid them for services rendered.

Bob Wentz, Oroville Hospital CEO, said the recent moves are a part of the hospital’s restructuring efforts. He confirmed that the hospital would have the service appraised and take bids from ambulance companies.

“We’re not closing anything,” Wentz said, “but we are restructuring. … There’s really no need for us to maintain the ambulance service.”

Wilderness act picks up mountain biker support
A state coalition of mountain bike enthusiasts has come out in support of Sen. Barbara Boxer’s California Wild Heritage Act, which would place some 2 million acres off limits to logging, mining and off-road vehicles, including mountain bikes. Hiking, fishing, hunting and camping would be allowed.

The support from Mountain Bikers for Wilderness, a statewide group that started in Chico, is counter to the position taken by many off-road recreationists who see the bill as a land grab that will diminish their opportunities for fun. Don Massie, the local spokesman for MB4W, said his group supports the bill because it balances access with conservation.

“I enjoy mountain biking because I can experience nature,” Massie stated in a press release. “But there are some places the should be designated wilderness to protect them in their natural state.”

California currently has more than 100,000 miles of trails and roads open to mountain biking, with more set to open in the future. Boxer’s bill would set aside about 9,000 acres locally, most near the Feather River Canyon.