Burned by the system
When people are in trouble, these guys rush to the scene. Everyone considers them heroes. But when Oroville passes out the raises, guess who gets left out? In this case, it’s the firefighters.

For almost two years, the 15-person frontline team at the Oroville Fire Department has been working without a contract, trying to negotiate a deal with the city that would bring them a little closer to the average wage for such dangerous work. According to Firefighters Local #2404 President Brad Hemstalk, firefighters in Oroville work at the lowest-paying department in the county, earning between 16 and 27 percent less than their colleagues in other communities.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Hemstalk said, firefighters were the only ones passed up for a cost-of-living adjustment in 2001, and when city administrators finally offered them a contract, including 2-percent raises and a bigger medical allowance, they refused to make it retroactive.

The city couldn’t be reached by press time. Hemstalk indicated that the city’s latest offer would have been a good place to start if only it had taken into account the two years the union had to struggle to get it. Since they can’t go on strike for legal and ethical reasons, he said, they are gearing up for another long, taxing fight with the city.

Think about that the next time your house catches fire.

Voters’ money at work: Butte College unveils new building
Thanks to 1998’s state Proposition 1A, Butte College on Oct. 29 opened its first new building on campus since 1974—on time and on budget.

The $20 million facility, dubbed the Allied Health Public Services Building, is a training center for fire professionals, nurses, police officers, hazardous-materials technicians, building inspectors, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and respiratory therapists.

“We are very thankful to the voters,” said Lisa DeLaby, a Butte College spokesperson, shortly after a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Enjoying the ceremony were Rep. Wally Herger, R­Marysville, visiting his district on a half-hearted campaign swing, and Assemblyman Sam Aanestad, R­Grass Valley, who’s doing his own political stumping for state Senate.

The new building includes six computer labs, a mock hospital ward, a courtroom, police training equipment and programs, driving simulators and classrooms. Still in the works are features including a hazardous-materials lab, building inspection technology lab, fire science lab and home and hospital care lab. But even as the new building takes shape, the college is facing a $4 million budget cut as the state tries to balance its books.

CAMP pot harvest proves best yet
This year’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) ripped a record 354,164 pot plants from the state’s soil, as 70 law enforcement agencies conducted 181 raids in 23 counties. Those raids included 26 arrests. Officials report 40 percent of the plants were seized from Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, the so-called Emerald Triangle, while 30 percent were pulled from the Central Valley and the remainder from the Bay Area and Central Coast. Most of the gardens, 56 percent, were on public lands.

CAMP puts the plants’ worth at $1.4 billion.

“This record-breaking season highlights our resolve to rid the state of large criminal drug operations that use public and private lands to illegally cultivate millions of illegal marijuana plants,” said Attorney General Bill Lockyer in a press release announcing the big haul.

About three-quarters of the plants seized this year were in gardens operated by those with suspected ties to Mexican drug cartels, the press release said. Butte was not among the 23 counties raided.