Dumping the dump

Everybody, it seems, wants out of the Humboldt Road Dump cleanup fiasco. Last December the Chico City Council settled on a plan that included concessions to neighbors, some of whom feared getting poisoned by lead-laden dust kicked up during the cleanup. The state agency charged with overseeing the process, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, made it clear it didn’t like that route. That agency’s representative, Jim Pedri, grumbled that the city and state could well end up in court. He said he felt his coworker Phil Woodward had been dissed by certain members of the City Council. Soon after, Woodward transferred off the job. More recently one of the neighboring property owners, who has the biggest chunk of land near the dump and wants to develop it, opted out of the city’s plan and indicated he’d go on his own. Now the RWQCB has said it no longer wants to be the lead agency in this project and has gone to its boss, Cal EPA, to suggest the Department of Toxic Substances Control take over. But that agency reportedly wants no part of it either. The city will discuss the matter in a closed-session meeting March 16. Talk about your can of worms.

Where do we put all the cars? This week the City Council briefly discussed where to go next in the city’s quest to provide more parking spaces for downtown visitors, merchants and employees. A new parking structure is being discussed—who remembers the last time we went through this, 10 years ago? Are any of you non-producers still left out there? Two spots are being considered, the parking lot at Second and Wall streets and the lot at Second and Salem streets. Mayor Maureen Kirk, bless her soul, has indicated she wants the structure located at Salem Street and possibly combined with what will be the new and improved bus transit center. (I’d rather see no structure and a really big bus terminal at Salem, but the city hired a consulting firm that builds parking lots for a living to do the parking study. So what do you expect? A call for more downtown bike racks?)

Councilmember Steve Bertagna said he’d like to see the bus transit moved to the Wall Street location. Councilmember Scott Gruendl said that was a bad idea, that the transit should be located next to the university because of heavy student ridership. Expect a fight if the Wall Street locale is picked—that’s where the Saturday Farmers’ Market folks hang, and it’s a great spot for gathering signatures on petitions. Former Mayor Karl Ory told the council as much after facetiously suggesting the city build a baseball stadium there.

This Saturday the Diamond Alley Arches art project, featuring the tile designs of thousands of local elementary-school kids, will be dedicated. The creation of artists Kathleen Nartuhi and David Barta, the project was nearly detoured in mid-stride when it ran up against the remodeling of the old Diamond Hotel. Four of the eight columns in the pedestrian alleyway that runs behind the Phoenix Building were standing in the way of master renovator Wayne Cook. Seems he ran the risk of dinging the tiled columns with machinery needed to lift materials to the top of the hotel. Somehow, the conflict was avoided, and now the kid and adult artists get their day in the sun (we hope). Be there Saturday, Feb. 21, at 3 p.m.

Walter Cook, a true gentleman and good old-fashioned liberal thinker, passed away Feb. 6 of a massive coronary. Cook, an environmentalist, attorney and voice of reason, was 88. I remember the first time I heard him speak at a City Council meeting. I was so moved by how his voice and logic cut through the otherwise dull buzz of discourse on the now-forgotten matter that I went up to him after the meeting and thanked him. He was a gracious man, and his death is a loss to the community.