Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wineries uncork marketing campaign

Wineries uncork marketing campaign
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | March 27, 2009



Rick Lanza, with Wooden Valley Winery, watches over the bottling of a special cuveé for wine club members Friday morning. Wooden Valley and other Suisun Valley wineries are always looking at new ways to expand their customer base. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - Try as they might, local winemakers know the Suisun Valley name simply doesn't have Napa Valley's panache.

As the wineries strive to expand their base of customers, they are taking a variety of approaches. Some have tried to get into grocery stores, some have tried to get into restaurants and some will rely on Suisun Valley's first-ever Passport Sunday event in April, which aims to bring the customers to the wine.

'It is not easy,' said Rick Wehman, general manager for Ledgewood Creek Winery. 'We are a small winery in an unknown valley. We have the advantage of being close to Napa, so we do use that, but mostly what you have to live on is the quality of the wine and the price range you're selling the wine at.

'Once you leave California, you are either in Napa or in Sonoma or you're California-labeled.'

Ledgewood has worked with small distributors across the country to get its wine into local restaurants and fine wine stores, Wehman said. Ledgewood sells wine 'from here to New York,' he added.

Wooden Valley Winery has found success going in a different direction.

Ron Lanza, whose family has operated the winery since 1955, said he has found local restaurateurs are generally supportive of the industry. However, he said the typical markups limit the quantity of wine sold. He said the real breakthrough for the company came when Wooden Valley got a presence in four local Raley's grocery stores after years of trying.

'They are very difficult to get in,' Lanza said. '(But) it is nice to have that presence. Your customers can get your wine at a more convenient location than having to come out (to the winery.) The amount they sell is great, but I look it at as more of a marketing campaign to sell wine.'

Nevertheless, getting people out to the wineries is still viewed as the ultimate goal.

'We want foot traffic in the valley,' said Tracy Ellison, agricultural ambassador for the area. 'That is the big drive for local wineries. They would like to gather those memberships.'

The Suisun Valley Grape Growers Association has been conducting a strategic marketing plan for the area and recently formed a vintners committee for the growing number of wineries in the area.

The first public event will be 'Passport Sunday,' a tasting tour of seven prominent wineries that will begin at 11 a.m. April 19.

'It is a chance for folks to come out and taste and travel,' said Ellison. 'We will be pairing the wines with local restaurants.'

Tickets are available at Blue Victorian Winery, Ledgewood Creek, Suisun Valley Wine Co-op, Tenbrink Family Winery, Vezer Family Vineyards, Winterhawk Winery and Wooden Valley. For more information about Passport Sunday, go to http://www.svgga.com.

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or bantonius@dailyrepublic.net.

Progress on Highway 12

Progress on Highway 12
By Danny Bernardini/DBernardini@TheReporter.com
Posted: 03/31/2009



Traffic moves along Highway-12 East of Suisun City Monday. In an effort to increase safety, officials from the California Department of Transportation held a groundbreaking ceremony Monday as they launch a refurbishing project that will include turn lanes, rumble strips and shoulder lanes along sections of the dangerous and deadly highway. (Rick Roach, The Reporter)

Two years ago, five separate fatal traffic accidents on Highway 12 prodded local and state leaders to join forces and take action.

Many of those who were behind the changes to the landscape and laws for Highway 12 gathered Monday to celebrate $25 million in projects that will continue improvements on 12 miles of the roadway between Suisun City and Rio Vista.

Some of those improvements -- scheduled to be completed by spring 2011 -- include shoulder widening, increased signage and pavement improvements.

"Today is a day for celebration. Two years ago this month, this highway really earned the name 'Blood Alley,'" said state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Solano. "A lot has changed since then. It's just a very different road."

Local, state and federal officials joined at the Western Railway Museum in Suisun City for a groundbreaking ceremony. Thank-yous and pats on the back were plentiful as several speakers spoke highly of the partnerships among the California Highway Patrol, the California Department of Transportation, state Sens. Wolk and Patricia Wiggins, as well as city and county leaders.

Sue Ward, commander of the Solano area CHP, said that, because of past efforts to improve safety on Highway 12, fatal and other accidents have dropped significantly for those who travel the road between Interstates 5 and 80.

From 2005 to 2007, she noted, there were 22 fatalities and 491 injuries on that stretch. Those numbers dropped to three fatalities and 101 injuries in 2008.

"However, a loss of three lives is too many," Ward said. "We hope to continue the downward trend of accidents. Slow down, buckle up and enjoy the ride. You just might save a life -- your own."

Many speakers pointed to AB 12, the bill that designated Highway 12 as a double-fine zone, as one of the first major tools of improvement. There also have been dividers set up on many stretches of the road, increased hours for CHP officers, more signs and heavy public outreach.

The next steps include several improvements between Shiloh and Currie roads, scheduled to be completed this spring. They include widening the shoulders, adding centerline channelizers (temporary upright plastic posts) and rumble strips, modifying the drainage, widening the intersection and rehabbing pavement.

Environmental documents are being completed for 8-foot shoulders and other changes between Azevedo and Liberty Island roads.

A major investment study is under way for improvements from I-80 to the Rio Vista Bridge and a corridor study between the Rio Vista Bridge and Highway 99.

Welcoming the stimulus

Welcoming the stimulus
By Richard Bammer/ RBammer@TheReporter.com
Posted: 03/31/2009 01:02:58 AM PDT

Not all federal economic stimulus money has been set aside to fix or replace aging sewers, outdated electrical grids and creaky bridges or to patch pot-holed highways and roads. Some of it will be earmarked for "economic development-type projects," said Mike Ammann, president of the Solano Economic Development Corporation.

He should know, since he was recently appointed to serve on the Bay Area Council Economic Institute's advisory board. In coming days and weeks, he and other board members will brainstorm on suggestions and proposals that, eventually, will lead to funding of economic-stimulus programs in all nine Bay Area counties.

"If there are some federal stimulus dollars out there, we'd like some," Ammann said Monday during an interview from his Fairfield office. Solano County, he added, often gets the short end of the financial stick and less attention when it comes to disbursement of federal aid.

"We're not going to be left off this time," he said. "I'm at the table. That's not going to happen this time."

But he cautioned that the advisory board's outlook likely will be for projects that boost the entire region's interrelated economies, not necessarily those of particular towns and cities.

Institute officials, part of the Bay Area Council, a private employers group, said earlier this week that they seek input from area business leaders and residents. At the behest of Dale Bonner, head of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, the organization will create a regional proposal to show how the Bay Area wants to spend the taxpayer money it receives. Submission deadline is April 24, and the region's final report is due to the state by June 1.

"The institute will be the conveyer -- the group will collect everything, then it'll go up to the state government, and, hopefully be endorsed, and, hopefully, we'll get a little more attention when it goes to Washington," Ammann explained.

Funded projects under the stimulus plan must fall into one of seven categories: transportation, water, energy/climate, workforce training and education, business development, science and innovation, or housing. Projects must provide short-term job creation and long-term return on investment.

Ammann noted that the Workforce Investment Board in Fairfield, which provides employers access to qualified workers and helps jobseekers with placement and training, is already in line to receive some stimulus money. Robert Bloom, WIB president, did not return a telephone call at press time.

Ammann said he is hopeful that Solano County's private sector and government agencies will "look closely at this opportunity to receive federal funding to jump-start economic development projects that will provide job opportunities and growth."

"What we are looking for are projects ... that will be competitive with other areas across the United States," he noted, adding that they may be special projects that affect Solano County but still enhance the economic health of the Bay Area. He cited projects related to the county's burgeoning biotech and pharmaceutical industries and "green, sustainable" businesses, such as wind and solar power companies.

"We need to come together as a region," said Ammann. "We'd be better off rather than competing with each other (as separate towns and cities), which is what we've done in the past."

At the institute's Web site, Sean Randolph, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, said, "The plan will be developed through an open, consultative process."

About $30 billion in taxpayer money will flow to the state, and then be dispersed to regions. Another $20 billion of discretionary money will be sent to California, as part of the federal stimulus package, he noted.

"These are critical times for Solano County and the Bay Area," Ammann wrote in an e-mail. "We are competing against other states for this funding and it is important we present a uniform plan to increase our chances for funding."

For more information about the economic institute and the regional economic recovery workplan, visit www.bayareaeconomy.org/recovery.

Bay-Tec leaves Napa for Fairfield

Bay-Tec leaves Napa for Fairfield
ENGINEERING FIRM SAYS NEW LOCATION BETTER FOR MANY EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS
Monday, March 9, 2009
BY JEFF QUACKENBUSH, BUSINESS JOURNAL STAFF REPORTER

NAPA – Bay-Tec Engineering, a designer and maker of control systems for automated manufacturing that started in the city in 1982, will be moving to Fairfield this month. Bay-Tec’s 50 employees in Napa will relocate to 5130 Fulton Drive in Fairfield by the end of this month, according to Controller Kyle Downs.

The company’s lease at 535 Airpark Road in south Napa was expiring, and Bay-Tec found the rent to be a little cheaper in Fairfield when it signed a lease in November with Castle Management Co. of San Ramon for 17,500 square feet in a new commercial condominium development. However, the main reason for the move was convenience.

“It’s more convenient for our work force, probably 40 percent to 50 percent are coming from Solano County, and for our customers to get to the 680/80 junction instead of coming to Napa,” Mr. Downs said. “Even with the new lanes on Highway 12, it’s still a bad commute.”

The new location has about 2,500 more square feet than the company’s current Napa location. The additional warehouse space will allow for more room to build control panels. Though the company has been touched by the economic slowdown, it still has opportunities for orders, according to Mr. Downs.

“A lot of our customers are Valero and other refining companies, and they are still spending on capital projects,” he said. “Bayer and Genentech and our bigger customers are still spending money.” One customer that spent even more on Bay-Tec was Emerson Electric. In December the company acquired it and made it an independent control-system integrator in the Austin-based Emerson Process Management division.

Bay-Tec has 68 employees total, including about a dozen in Brea in Southern California and a few in an office in Portland, Ore. The company was included on the Business Journal’s Best Places to Work list in 2008 for the third straight year.

The city of Fairfield’s six-person economic development team actively helped Bay-Tec through the process of obtaining permits for its new space when approached by Bay-Tec’s agent, Graden Travis of Cornish & Carey. Last year the city actively was involved with creating or attracting 1,100 net new jobs, including Trans Bay Steel, which relocated from the former Napa Pipe plant to the Cordelia area of the city early last year, according to economic development specialist Charles Ching.

For more information, call 707-252-6575 or visit www.bay-tec.com.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Windsmiths make turbines go 'round

Windsmiths make turbines go 'round
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | March 30, 2009



Mike Seaverson, a windsmith for Enxco, shuts down a turbine at the Shiloh II Wind Project so that he and other technicians can operate on the machine. The Solano County wind season traditionally kicks into high gear on April 1, so technicians are doing maintenance on turbines in preparation for the season. Photo by Chris Jordan

FAIRFIELD - It ranks among the more strenuous journeys to replace a light.

There's more than 200 rungs to climb along an aluminum ladder inside the mammoth wind turbines that dot the Montezuma Hills. At the top of the hollow, metal tower a hatch leads to the outside and to the red, flashing lights that warn planes.

But even if the climb is long the view from the top of a turbine is exhilarating. Sheep and horses might be rambling along the green fields 270 feet below. A clear day reveals the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east and Suisun Bay to the south.

'It's the best,' said Anthony Perales, who is among the growing number of green-energy workers who call themselves windsmiths.

Windsmiths care for turbines. Perales works for the wind company called enXco, which recently opened the Shiloh II wind farm in eastern Solano County. The 75 turbines there must be adjusted during their break-in period and will then require maintenance to keep generating enough combined electricity for 74,000 homes.

Perales starts a typical day by climbing the ladder inside a turbine. He can make it to the top fairly quickly, though he's never timed himself.

'Ten minutes tops -- unless you have someone who likes to take his break and doesn't push himself,' Perales said.

Then he spends hours slowly coming down, stopping on steel platforms and doing such things as tightening bolts. For the most part he remains inside the metal tower. At quitting time, Perales walks out the door at the tower's base and back into the sunlight.

It's unclear how many windsmiths there are in the wind industry. EnXco operations manager and Fairfield resident John Opris said there are hundreds, as opposed to the thousands of turbines they tend.

'It is an exclusive group,' said Opris, who has been in the wind industry for 21 years and still occasionally climbs a turbine.

Windsmiths often come from the construction industry or have a mechanical background. But, while there's no set resume, one thing they have in common is no fear of heights.

'You're up there in the air all the time,' Opris said. 'It's like being in the Air Force -- you have your wings.'

Windsmiths don't perform their high-wire acts without a net. They have safety harnesses that prevent falls. Plus, there are platforms inside the turbines every 60 feet or so on which they can stand.

Perales has been in the windsmith fraternity for only a few months. He had worked in the construction industry, lost his job amid a faltering economy, then worked for a Ford dealership in Livermore rising to the position of detail manager before getting laid off.

He had no job, a family and bills to pay.

'That was when everything was really bad -- gas prices were high. We had car payments . . .' he said.

He'd never heard of a windsmith, much less had a childhood dream of becoming one. A friend in the industry told him about the enXco job. Perales now has a new career in a profession he never knew existed.

He's trim and fit and used to such ventures as rock climbing. Still, he laughed when recalling the day following his first climb up a turbine.

'I couldn't really bend down,' he said.

Windsmiths can get some help for their long climbs. A device called Climb Assistance connects to their safety harnesses and uses a motor to tug on them as they scale the ladders. When the windsmith stops moving, the tug also stops.

Perales and the other windsmiths at the Shiloh II farm will have to wait for this lift, however. The Climb Assistance devices for the new Shiloh II turbines are still in their boxes. The priority for the new turbines is providing power for the Pacific Gas & Electric grid.

'Generate green energy -- we'll deal with creature comforts later,' Opris said.

Opris worked at a local sheet metal company more than two decades ago and never gave a thought to becoming a windsmith. Then he saw an advertisement for the post in the mid-1980s and decided to give it a try.

He worked at the Altamont wind area, back when the turbines were half the size and consisted of metal towers that looked like something from an Erector set. Windsmiths back then spent their day outside, exposed to the elements as they scaled the towers and did their work.

The wind world has changed. Today's sleek, white turbines provide more power than the earlier models and make life a lot easier for windsmiths. EnXco would like to build even more in the Montezuma Hills, provided issues concerning the radar at Travis Air Force Base can be worked out.

EnXco Southwest Region Director Mark Tholke on a recent day stood amid green hills dotted with his company's huge, white turbines.

'Not only is this a beautiful wind resource area, it's one of the last in California,' Tholke said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 ext. 232 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Playground taps donation paydirt

Playground taps donation paydirt
By Lanz Christian Bañes/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 03/27/2009

Organizers of the impending City Park playground build-out received a check for $3,000 Thursday from Touro University.

"It's really neat to be on the other side of (the process)," said Amanda Morris, who presented the check to the two chairpersons of the City Park Committee of the Vallejo Architectural Heritage Foundation.

Morris, a first-year pharmacy student at Touro and a Benicia resident, was part of the build process 15 years ago that gave Benicia its own playground at its City Park. She was 8 years old.

Now she and fellow student Sheree Neilson and professor Dr. Aglaia Panos hope to get the entire university involved with the process.

Touro's $3,000 goes a long way in helping the City Park Committee close a $20,000 budget gap, said Adrienne Waterman, committee co-chairperson.

The two-year project calls for an ambitious five-day community build of a playground at Vallejo's historic City Park, bounded by Sacramento, Alabama, Marin and Louisiana streets.

The build dates will be from April 29 to May 3 and hundreds of volunteers are needed for the playground to be finished on schedule.

The playground was designed by a group of more than 200 Vallejo students.

Richard Leathers and Associates, an Ithaca, N.Y.-based architectural firm that specializes in large-scale community builds, worked on the project. The firm previously designed the playground at Benicia City Park of which Morris was a part.

Touro's $3,000 will go to building the tree fort section of the playground, which features a variety of child-imagined sections, including a sandbox, a ship and several slides.

The committee already has raised about $15,000 and received $75,000 in a federal community development block grant.

An estimated $15,000 gap remains, Waterman said.

Students at Touro will continue to raise funds and hope to sponsor more parts of the playgorund, such as the handicap accessibility ramps, Morris said.

Additionally, the work requires tools that Waterman and the committee hope the community will allow the volunteers to borrow.

All tools will be returned in the same condition or better, and broken tools will be replaced, Waterman said.

Volunteers will be fed breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there will be a daycare site for children too young to participate (younger than 10 years old), Waterman said.

Because volunteers will be fed breakfast, lunch and dinner, any food donations are also welcome.

As the last five weeks of the project draw to a close, the committee is scrambling to finish up the details.

On Wednesday, volunteers began calling the more than 600 people who said they were interested in the build, using the Youth and Family Services building at 1017 Tennessee Street as headquarters.

While monetary donations are needed, companies and organizations also can donate materials to help close the budget gap, Waterman said.

For details, visit www.preservecitypark.org.

Contact staff writer Lanz Christian Bañes at (707) 553-6833 or lbanes@thnewsnet.com.

Vallejo to receive $1 million: Federal funds meant for energy projects, job creation

Vallejo to receive $1 million: Federal funds meant for energy projects, job creation
By Tony Burchyns/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 03/27/2009

Millions of federal dollars are headed to Vallejo and other cities to reduce energy costs and create jobs, officials announced Thursday.

The massive release of funds by the U.S. Department of Energy is part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act -- and is meant to spur job growth while helping local governments trim energy use.

"Anything that helps reduce our ongoing costs is helpful," Vallejo Assistant City Manager Craig Whittom said.

Vallejo will receive $1.05 million in funding through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program.

It was not immediately known how the money would be used. Public Works Director Gary Leach was at a conference Thursday and could not be reached.

Generally, the funds can be used for projects that reduce fossil fuel emissions or total energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Projects can take the form of replacing traffic lights with light-emitting diodes or crafting transportation plans, among other things. Federal officials say the funds will have the most impact if invested in ways that create and retain jobs in the short run while laying a foundation for a long-term sustainable clean energy economy.

John Cerini, a maintenance superintendent for the Vallejo Public Works Department, said solar panels on City Hall have lowered energy costs by as much as $4,000 a month. The city has three other solar arrays, he added.

Cerini said the cash-strapped city is "aggressively" looking for more grants that bring in revenue and lower costs.

Vallejo, mired in bankruptcy, must plug a $12 million deficit over the next year.
Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis said the program funds would help the city maintain its quality of life.

"I think we will find ourselves the recipients of other stimulus monies," Davis said, adding the city should seek federal funds to help struggling families avoid foreclosure.

The only other Solano County cities receiving Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funding Thursday were Vacaville and Fairfield.

Vacaville, which was allocated $849,000, is considering four or five different options for the funds, including replacing pressurized gas lamp streetlights and traffic signals with LEDs, city spokesman Mark Mazzaferro said.

Vacaville has already upgraded its green and red traffic lights, but not the yellow ones, which obviously get less use, Mazzaferro said.

Other Vacaville projects under consideration include putting energy-efficient lighting in city buildings and replacing heating and air-conditioning units with cleaner models.

U.S. states, territories, Indian tribes, cities and counties were eligible to receive funds.

Grantees will be required to report regularly to the U.S. Department of Energy on the number of jobs created and retained, energy savings, added renewable energy capacity, greenhouse gas reductions and funds leveraged from other investors.

While the grants alone are not expected to cure the recession, U.S. Rep. George Miller, who represents Vallejo and Vacaville, called the funding "the latest shot in the arm for our communities."

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants being doled out in Solano County:

Vallejo - $1,051,200

Vacaville - $849,000

Fairfield - $984,500

The funds, tied to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, were released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy. They will support projects meant to lower energy costs.

Stimulus money provides energy funding for Vacaville

Stimulus money provides energy funding for Vacaville
Daily Republic staff | March 26, 2009 16:26

VACAVILLE - Energy-efficient LED bulbs will be installed in traffic signals across Vacaville using $849,000 in federal block grant money, Rep. George Miller announced earlier this week.

The money is coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides grants for city governments to reduce fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency.

Vacaville will also install energy-efficient lighting in city buildings and replace old heating and air conditioning systems.

Seven cities in Miller's 7th District will receive a total of $8.3 million. Vallejo is the only other Solano County city to get money, receiving $1,051,200.

'This is the latest shot in the arm for our communities struggling to climb out of the recession,' Miller stated in a press release.

PRESTIGIOUS NEW HHMI FACULTY POSITION AWARDED TO UC DAVIS GENETICIST

PRESTIGIOUS NEW HHMI FACULTY POSITION AWARDED TO UC DAVIS GENETICIST
University of California, Davis
March 26, 2009

[Editor's note: Contact Liese Greensfelder for a high-resolution photo of Neil Hunter.]

A geneticist from the University of California, Davis, is one of 50 researchers nationwide named today as Early Career Scientists by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).

Neil Hunter, associate professor of microbiology and of molecular and cellular biology, was selected from among 2,000 scientists who applied for the 50 positions. This new HHMI initiative is designed to provide the country's most promising young researchers "the freedom to explore [their] best ideas without worrying about where to find the money to fund those experiments," according to a press release from the institute.

With his appointment, Hunter becomes the first UC Davis faculty member to join the prestigious ranks of HHMI faculty.

"Neil Hunter is a real star," said Ken Burtis, dean of the College of Biological Sciences. "Howard Hughes scientists are the upper echelon of biological researchers in the United States. If you look every year at the U.S. Nobel Prize winners in the biological sciences, or any of the other top science award winners, odds are that they have earlier been recognized as an HHMI investigator."

Over the six-year tenure of the award that begins this September, Hunter will continue to work at UC Davis, but the institute will provide his full salary, benefits and a $1.5 million research budget.

Additional expenses will also be covered, including research space and the purchase of critical equipment.

Hunter has focused much of his work on the process known as homologous recombination. This swapping of similar segments of DNA between chromosome pairs plays two crucial roles in most organisms.

It serves as the repair mechanism for DNA damage that occurs during regular cell division. And it creates new DNA combinations during the process of meiosis -- the division that specialized reproductive cells undergo to produce eggs and sperm. Because these new combinations create genetic variation within populations, they are the underpinnings of evolution.

Errors that occur in homologous recombination can have severe consequences. They are linked to a number of disorders, such as Down syndrome, and some inherited cancers, including the breast and ovarian cancers that result from defects in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. They can also cause severe developmental defects that end in spontaneous abortion.

Hunter has identified several previously unknown steps in the process of homologous recombination in yeast. Now he's moving his research to mice and the more complex mammalian system. Results of his studies may some day lead to strategies to prevent cancer and therapies for infertility.

"Neil's specific focus on homologous recombination in meiosis involves an extremely creative mix of genetics combined with physical analysis of recombining DNA molecules," Doug Nelson, chair of the microbiology department, wrote in an e-mail. "Neil Hunter is a stellar researcher, a gifted teacher and a wonderful colleague."

Hunter obtained a Ph.D. in genetics from Oxford University's Wolfson College in 1996. After working for six years as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University with Nancy Kleckner, a world leader in the field of meiosis, he arrived at UC Davis in 2002.

The geneticist has not had time to map out his plans for the award.
But he does have some thoughts.

"The HHMI award will allow us to continue several new lines of investigation instead of one much narrower focus," he said. "It's going to allow us to continue working in the mouse and to get a little more imaginative with some projects that wouldn't be immediately fundable by the usual routes."

A million ideas are always coursing through his head, he admits. And while most of them are not something he'd try to implement, he's grateful that the award will provide the latitude to test some of the better ones.

Ranked as one of the nation's largest philanthropies, HHMI is a nonprofit medical research organization with the principal mission of furthering basic biomedical research. As of September 2008, its endowment fund stood at $17.5 billion.

The principal goal of its new Early Career Scientist award is to provide the kind of latitude that Hunter is anticipating. The nine female and 41 male recipients of the award come from 33 research institutions around the country and have led their own laboratories for two to six years. During this precarious period in a young scientist's career, funding can be particularly difficult to obtain, said Ken Burtis.

"The young scientist is launched, heading off on his or her trajectory, poised for spectacular success, but then maybe they have trouble obtaining sufficient funds to support their rapidly expanding programs," he explained. "This level of support to these young scientists will lead to some great scientific advances."

HHMI's second Early Career Scientist competition will not take place until 2012.

For a full list of award winners and more information about HHMI, go to http://www.hhmi.org/news/ecs20090326.html.

About UC Davis

For 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 31,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $500 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges -- Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science -- and advanced degrees from five professional schools: Education, Law, Management, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine. The UC Davis School of Medicine and UC Davis Medical Center are located on the Sacramento campus near downtown.

Solano cities garner federal energy funds

Solano cities garner federal energy funds
By Reporter Staff
Posted: 03/27/2009

Vacaville, Fairfield and Vallejo soon will be receiving more than $2 million through the federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, according to Congressman George Miller, D- Solano.

The grants, part of the recently-approved American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, include:

* Vacaville, $849,000

* Fairfield, $984,500

* Vallejo, $1,051,200

The $3.2 billion national grant program also included energy efficiency funds for nearby cities of Woodland ($508,700); Davis ($591,000); Napa ($699,500); and Martinez ($150,000).

Funds were released Thursday morning.

"This is the latest shot in the arm for our communities struggling to climb out of the recession," Miller said in a press release. "Investing in energy efficiency will create jobs here at home while also helping to move America toward a more energy independent future."

Economic growth and energy efficiency, Miller said, go hand-in-hand.

The program, he stated, will help cities reduce energy use while creating jobs.

Nationwide, eligible projects range from development of energy efficient transportation systems to reduction and capture of methane and greenhouse gases and development of energy-efficient building codes and energy audits for residential and commercial buildings.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Travis to use stimulus funds for projects

Travis to use stimulus funds for projects
By Ian Thompson | Daily Republic | March 23, 2009

TRAVIS AFB - More than $14.5 million in President Obama's stimulus package will be going to Travis Air Force Base for projects such as replacing the base's reservoir and installing a perimeter fence as an anti-terrorism security measure.

The projects at Travis are just a few of the 3,000-plus Department of Defense military construction and improvement projects being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The cost of replacing Travis' reservoir will be $3.7 million. Other big projects will be replacing power lines at the cost of $4.8 million and repairing one of the base's dormitories.

Approximately $7.4 billion in defense-related funding was included in the stimulus package, and the Department of Defense announced the list of projects on Friday. Hospitals under construction at Camp Pendleton in Southern California and Fort Hood, Texas are the largest package.

More funding would be on the way.

'This is just one part of the spending package list,' said Solano County Supervisor Mike Reagan, a retired Air Force officer.

Several other agencies and local governments such as the Solano Transportation Authority and the Solano County Sheriff's Office are in the process of getting some stimulus funding.

Reagan called the amount of Travis' funding a nice amount of repair and construction money.

'It is operations maintenance money and that is what's always scarce,' he said.

The City of Fairfield is also getting federal funding unrelated to the stimulus package for its Place 2 Be After Three after-school program and its transportation center.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill signed by Obama includes $190,000 for the Place 2 Be After Three and $475,000 to begin designing the Fairfield Transportation Center's second parking structure.

Earlier this month, members of the Fairfield City Council traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for projects. In addition to The Place 2 Be After Three, the list of projects included air conditioning for the Matt Garcia Youth Center, creation of an emergency operations center and closed-circuit TVs on North Texas Street.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at ithompson@dailyrepublic.net.

Repaving I-80 in Fairfield gets stimulus money

Repaving I-80 in Fairfield gets stimulus money
By Barry Eberling
DAILY REPUBLIC

FAIRFIELD - Solano County's first shot of federal stimulus money for freeways will go to a project that has a ring of familiarity -- repaving Interstate 80 in Fairfield.

The California Transportation Commission on Wednesday voted that 57 projects statewide will be first in line for a total of $625 million of stimulus dollars. All that remains is for the Federal Highway Administration to release the money so construction can begin.

'This is about jobs, jobs, jobs,' said Will Kempton, director of the state Department of Transportation, in a press release.

Solano County's lone item on the list is $29 million to repave I-80 from Highway 12 in Fairfield to 1 mile east of Air Base Parkway. The program already seemed to be going forward, even without Congress passing the $787 billion stimulus package last month.

Caltrans announced in 2007 that the I-80 repaving in Fairfield would be done in 2009. The California Transportation Commission in approved funding the project with other state money. Caltrans put the project out to bid Jan. 12.

Still, the state's recent budget problems cast uncertainty over transportation funding in general.

'Now we have funds guaranteed to start the project and finish it,' Caltrans spokesman Ben Edokpayi said Thursday. 'Our plan is to be out there this summer paving.'

The majority of California counties have a project on the commission's stimulus list. Among these projects are replacing the Russian River bridge near Ukiah, helping to reconstruct Doyle Drive in San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge and replacing two Highway 99 bridges in Merced County.

Meanwhile, the Solano Transportation Authority remains on the hunt for other federal dollars. The agency is working to get money to build a railroad crossing in Dixon, STA Director of Projects Janet Adams said.

Then there are larger potential projects such as renovating the interchange of interstates 80 and 680. But the federal stimulus bill seeks to pump money into the economy quickly and the new interchange has yet to be designed or earn environmental clearance.

Still, the STA ultimately hopes to get some stimulus money for the interchange.
'We just need to find a program that fits the timeline on the project,' Adams said.

Money has already been allotted from the stimulus package to help reconstruct McGary Road in Fairfield. Also, local cities expect to get money for road maintenance projects.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

Vaca, Vallejo get energy stimulus money

Vaca, Vallejo get energy stimulus money
Daily Republic staff | March 26, 2009

VACAVILLE - Vacaville is getting $849,000 in federal block grant money to help fund local energy efficiency projects, Rep. George Miller announced Monday.

The funds are from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which President Obama signed earlier this year. Vallejo is getting $1.05 million for energy efficiency projects in its town. Only those two Solano County cities got funding.

The program provides grants to local governments to help reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions, and improve energy efficiency.

Vallejo gets federal money for 'streetscape' downtown

Vallejo gets federal money for 'streetscape' downtown
By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 03/15/2009

Four blocks in Vallejo's downtown may get new trees, sidewalks, street lighting, pavement and other features thanks to the federal stimulus package, city officials say.

The federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made $1.6 million available to implement a small part of the downtown "streetscape" plan, accordding to Public Works Director Gary Leach.

The stimulus money will be combined with nearly $580,000 in other sources of money, creating a pool of $2.1 million for the work, Leach said.

City Engineer David Kleinschmidt said the city is proposing to spend the money in the following blocks:

* Virginia Street from Sonoma Bouelvard to Sacramento Street.


* Marin Street from Virginia and Georgia streets.


* Sacramento Street between Georgia and Maine streets.

Work on each block is expected to cost $1 million, but Leach said efforts will be made to trim the costs and do more than two blocks.

Janet Sylvain, Central Core Restoration Corp. board president, said she's encouraged the city will spend stimulus money downtown.

"We're looking for any new construction downtown to signify it's alive and well," Sylvain said.

The city has been working on the plan's design for more than a year; it has held several public meetings and also met with downtown property owners, Kleinschmidt said.

No stimulus money will be spent on Georgia Street since those downtown blocks have undergone past improvements, Kleinschmidt added.

Originally the city was to get money for the downtown improvements from the Triad housing / commercial project, but that development has not moved forward.

A landscape consultant is evaluating downtown trees. Some may be removed if they are ill, in decline or incompatible with the new improvements, officials said.

The downtown improvement project encompasses a 14-block area.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at (707) 553-6832 or srohrs@thnewsnet.com.

Store is icing for cookie company

Store is icing for cookie company
Daily Republic staff | March 21, 2009



George and Kathy Hunt check out the ice cream play-dough with their grandson J.J. Hunt at the newly opened Family Cookie Outlet Store in downtown Suisun City. The store, which is run by Jay Shamieh, sells Its It ice cream, different cookies and Stella's frozen cookie dough. Photo by Chris Jordan

SUISUN CITY - You no longer need to wait until the next fundraiser or school cookie sale to get your hands on some of the Family Cookie Company's cookie dough.

The downtown Suisun City business that has quietly baked cookies and made cookie dough for nearly 30 years has opened a discount retail shop at 304 Spring St., next to the bakery. More than a half-dozen flavors of Stella's Gourmet cookie dough and bags of baked cookies are available.

There is also a selection of It's It Ice Cream Treats available. The Family Cookie Company has been providing the cookie portion of the ice cream sandwich treat for decades.

Owner Ray Shamieh opened the store two weeks ago 'and we have gotten a great reception. It has been better than we thought it would be.'

Shamieh hopes to expand the store's offerings over time so he can meet the needs of people who want to buy cookie dough and cookies for school and community fundraisers.

The store is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call the store at 425-1900.

It's a 'Fresh' beginning

It's a 'Fresh' beginning
Work begins on new grocery store
By Melissa Murphy
Posted: 03/26/2009



Crews from Capitol Removal gut the former 50,000-square-foot Ralph's grocery store Wednesday at the Regency Plaza. (Rick Roach / The Reporter)

Building is under way to make room for Fresh & Easy, a new grocery store coming to Vacaville.

Business owners in the shopping center at the corner of Nut Tree and Elmira roads were recently notified of the construction taking place at the former Ralph's building.

Lewis Operating Corp., the property managers that sent the notice, could not be reached at press time.

Construction crews with Reeve Knight Construction of Roseville confirmed that Fresh & Easy is moving in and that the 50,000 square-foot building will be divided into four new businesses, one of which is a 15,000-square-foot grocery store with an opening near Longs Drugs.

Last year, the British firm announced plans to build 18 stores in the Bay Area, including two in Vacaville, as well as stores in Fairfield and Vallejo and more than a dozen stores in the Sacramento region.

At that time, it was believed that Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market would begin opening stores across the region in 2009, pending final negotiations, according to company CEO Tim Mason.

Last month, Fresh & Easy representatives said that despite some rumors that the company was backing off because of the economy, plans for new stores were still moving forward.

An additional Fresh & Easy store will locate in Vacaville at the former SaveMax site at Alamo and Butcher roads, company officials have said.

Fresh & Easy has 55 markets open throughout Southern California, Nevada and Arizona. The company is a subsidiary of U.K.-based Tesco, one of the world's largest international retailers.

The stores are a new concept in grocery retailing. They are about one-fifth the size of a typical grocery store, but shoppers can buy all of their groceries there.

And the chain prides itself on carrying products that don't contain added transfats, artificial flavors and the least amount of preservatives possible. It also carries a variety of organic produce and natural foods, such as cage-free eggs and hormone-free meats.

Each store employs some 20 to 30 people. All Fresh & Easy employees work a minimum of 20 hours per week, which ensures everyone is eligible for health care. Entry-level positions pay well over the minimum wage, starting at $10 an hour in California, and offer a quarterly bonus of up to 10 percent.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Financing tough, but industrial markets hold own

Financing tough, but industrial markets hold own
Monday, March 16, 2009
BY CHRIS NEEB, GLEN DOWLING AND MATT BRACCO

NAPA-SOLANO – The industrial markets in Napa and Solano counties seem to be holding steady, even though we are in the midst of an extremely volatile economic climate.

Throughout 2008, a significant percentage of the industrial transactions in Napa and Solano were primarily lease deals with only a few building sales. What is occurring right now in the building sales market is the ongoing restructuring of the financial markets, and so obtaining reasonable financing compared to the previous few years has definitely been a challenge for even qualified investors.

The turbulent financing market is also impacting new construction. Speculative construction toward the end of 2008 came to a complete halt, and we expect to see few, if any, speculative projects break ground in 2009. However, with the consistent leasing activity and minimal new speculative construction, the vacancy rates in both Napa and Solano are presently at a very healthy level.

The year-end 2008 overall vacancy rate for industrial space in Solano and Napa is 7.6 percent compared with 7.2 percent at the end of 2007. The Napa and Solano vacancy rates are holding up fairly well under the ongoing downturn in the national and global economy.

Solano County currently has approximately 2 million square feet of industrial space available with a 7.8 percent vacancy rate compared with an 8.3 percent vacancy rate at the end of 2007, while Napa County currently has 822,745 square feet available and an 8.3 percent industrial vacancy rate, which increased from a 4.2 percent vacancy rate at the end of 2007.

The key contributor to Napa’s current rise in vacancy is the completion of Brock/Stravinsky Development Group’s two new high-cube warehouse buildings in American Canyon totaling approximately 718,000 square feet, which is 90 percent vacant except for 60,000 square feet occupied by Billet Transportation on a short-term lease.

Notable lease transactions during 2008 in Napa and Solano include the Winetech lease of 36,000 square feet at 2515 Napa Valley Corporate Drive in Napa. The facility is being used for wine production and barrel storage. Bacchus Distribution leased 33,000 square feet at 1245 Commerce Blvd. in American Canyon, using space for storage and distribution of wine.

In Solano, Fed-Ex leased 330,000 square feet at 5191 Fermi Drive in Cordelia, relocating from Benicia to expand its operation. Greatwide Distribution Logistics (3PL Co.) leased 114,000 square feet at 400 Crocker Drive in Vacaville, a relocation in the city to expand its storage and distribution facility.

The food production company ABCO leased 91,000 square feet at 2445 S. Watney Way in Fairfield. Cork Supply leased 100,000 square feet at 521-527 Stone Road in Benicia, expanding its facility to accommodate for the growth of cork and its wine barrel manufacturing operations.

The most significant investment building sales in Napa and Solano during 2008 included the Blake Trust’s acquisition of 2260 Cordelia Road in Fairfield, which is a 47,000-square-foot multi-tenant industrial building. PAMCO purchased 801 Chadbourne Road, a 191,000-square-foot distribution facility, and Jaeger-McHugh acquired 2850-2870 Cor-delia Road in Fairfield, which includes three multi-tenant industrial/flex buildings totaling approximately 98,000 square feet.

Year to date, Solano County experienced more than 1.5 million square feet of gross industrial absorption, while Napa’s gross industrial absorption was approximately 457,000 square feet. However, both markets did see a dramatic decline for land, building and investment sales in 2008. The key factor for this rapid slowdown as mentioned above is the current financing climate and overall poor condition of the national economy.

Rental rates for existing high-cube warehouse space have remained flat, even though the inventory levels in both Napa and Solano are relatively tight. Rental rates for high-cube distribution space currently range from $0.28 to $0.50 NNN in Solano and $0.47 to $0.59 NNN in Napa. Rental rates for light industrial space in Solano range from $0.50 to $0.75 NNN and $0.65 to $0.90 NNN in Napa.

The Napa and Solano region also benefits from the outstanding labor pool in Solano County, which combined with Napa’s central location, outstanding demographics and its world renowned name, make Napa well positioned to experience continued growth, especially when the economy regains some consistency.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Leaders learn community lessons

Leaders learn community lessons
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | March 14, 2009



Sem Yeto High School principal Bud Sexton talks to the Leadership Today participants during a tour of the school's facilities. Photo by Mike Greener

FAIRFIELD - One month a hospital, the next a military base and the next a candy factory.

The Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce's Leadership Today program checked 'school' off its to-do list on Friday, visiting the Sam Yeto Continuation School in Fairfield.

The program is aimed at up-and-coming leaders in the community. Classes are held one day each month at various sites across the community. The current class includes Fire Chief Vince Webster and Deputy Police Chief Paul Bockrath.

Webster, who was promoted to chief in June 2008, said the program is aimed at 'people who want to take on high-level positions and influential positions in the community.'

Jan Maguire, who runs the program and a similar one in Vacaville, said community involvement is a primary objective.

'Our big goal is that the graduates of this program will then go on to serve on boards and committees and commissions, that they will take a more active role in the community and help improve the quality of life,' Maguire said. 'They should know about some different aspects of our community.'

The inaugural Fairfield class in 2007 included Police Chief Kenton Rainey, Community Development Director Eve Somjen and City Councilman Matt Garcia. Rainey and Somjen had been recently promoted to the top jobs in their respective departments, and Garcia was a first-time councilman.

In addition to the site visits, each class volunteers for various community events throughout the year and works on a season-ending project. For the 2007-08 group, it was a community-wide fundraiser that ended up benefiting the Matt Garcia Youth Center.

The current group is looking at the possibility of a career fair, Bockrath said.

'There are a lot of interesting careers out there,' Bockrath said. 'It is an opportunity for kids to come together and see what they're good at.'

The leadership program concept is new to Fairfield, although it is not exclusive to it. Leslie Fay, executive director of the Fairfield-Suisun Chamber of Commerce, worked with a similar program when she was with the Chamber of Commerce in Danville, Ill.

'A lot of bigger chambers already have them (and) some of the smaller city chambers are starting to come around,' Fay said. 'They find a tremendous value in them.'

Prospective applicants to the program should look for information on the Chamber of Commerce's Web site toward the end of summer, Maguire said. The program starts in October and runs through June.

Reach Ben Antonius at 427-6977 or bantonius@dailyrepublic.net.

Ground broken for new Fairfield park

Ground broken for new Fairfield park
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | March 14, 2009



Former mayor Gary Falati helps his daughters Taylor, 14, and Jordan, 10, left to right, break ground on the new Falati Park during the Friday afternoon ceremony. Photo by Mike Greener

FAIRFIELD - The Gold Ridge neighborhood's long-awaited park finally saw progress Friday, even if it was only of the ceremonial variety.

A few golden shovels worth of dirt were moved around Friday afternoon in a ground-breaking ceremony for the park, which will be named in honor of retired Mayor Gary Falati.

The park will be located on Falati Lane, between Joseph Gerevas Drive and Josiah Wing Drive, in the far east Fairfield neighborhood off Peabody Road.

Falati was on hand for the event, as were many of the neighbors who organized the effort to get the park built.

Falati Park was slated for construction several years ago, but the city said it could no longer afford to pay for maintenance of new parks. To get bulldozers moving, residents had to agree to pay $85 per year for upkeep, which they did by a wide margin.

'I'd like to thank the neighborhood for possessing the intestinal fortitude to tax themselves,' Falati said.

Fairfield has hired Rocklin-based Gold Valley Construction to build the park. The $1.1 million park was designed in a joint effort between the residents and the city. Completion is scheduled for early 2010.

The 6.8-acre park will borrow concepts from several other parks across the city. It will have an 'interactive water play feature' similar to Mankas Park, a gazebo similar to the one at Dover Park and a 'skate node,' which is a miniature version of the skate park at Allan Witt Park. The park will also have a grassy expanse that would work for sports practices, although it would not have actual competition fields.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Just like New Deal, stimulus package would fund projects

Just like New Deal, stimulus package would fund projects
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | March 13, 2009



The Rockville Stone Chapel on Suisun Valley Road was refurbished as part of a New Deal public works program during the Great Depression. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - Solano County could benefit for the second time in 80 years from a massive federal stimulus effort designed to jolt an ailing economy to life.

This latest package is backed by the Obama Administration. The first effort came under the Roosevelt Administration during the Depression.

Solano County received no grand public works project in the 1930s, certainly nothing like such New Deal-era titans as the Golden Gate Bridge or Grand Coulee Dam. But it did get a historic church restoration, an impressive post office and sidewalks. Even as the country is poised for a Newer Deal, the original New Deal's impacts are still present.

The then-small county was hurt by the Depression but perhaps fared better than big cities elsewhere in the nation.

'It was largely agricultural, so they had food,' local historian Jerry Bowen said.

Residents also wanted more jobs, however. President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for a range of programs to get Americans back to work. Among them was the Work Progress Administration, which completed a number of local projects.

One was the restoration of the Rockville Stone Chapel, now a state historic monument. Two stone masons built it in 1856 out of rock quarried near what is now called Rockville Corner. The building eventually fell into disrepair, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South deeded it to the Rockville Cemetery District in 1929.

By 1939, the church had broken stained-glass windows, a rotted floor, a leaky roof and bats. A local Sunday school class of 40 children had to instead meet in a fruit shed. The Depression was a factor in church restoration plans being stymied.

'Would we not point with pride to that little stone church in the valley if it were restored and showed signs of friendly occupancy and worship?' Rosa Lee Baldwin, a descendant of a pioneer-era family, wrote to the Solano Republican newspaper.

The New Deal and its WPA program came to the rescue. Restoration work began in March 1940, and a Memorial Day celebration two months later marked the church's rebirth.

'Since that time, the cemetery district has kept it up,' district board member Jim Campi said recently. 'It's in good shape now. It's perfect. There's not a thing wrong with it. I think we've had to put on a new roof one time, a composition roof, just general upkeep.'

Today, the merged Suisun-Fairfield Rockville Cemetery District rents out the church for such events as weddings. One of Solano County's oldest buildings has been preserved.

In Vallejo, the WPA built the Moderne-style Vallejo post office at the corner of Marin and Carolina streets, complete with such touches as black marble pilasters and a mezzanine. A mural inside depicted the completion of Mare Island Naval Shipyard's first massive dry dock.

This grand building ceased being a post office in the 1960s in favor of other federal uses. By 2003, it was obsolete and on the auction block. The Vallejo Music Theater bought the building for $532,000 in 2003.

'It's in good shape,' Don Kelly said of the theater. 'There's nothing wrong with it. Structurally, it's sound. It's a running joke (that) this building is a bomb shelter.'

Now the old building is being reborn. Vallejo Music Theater holds small shows there, such as a recent production of 'The Fantasticks.' Space in the building can be rented. A room once used for bankruptcy court is now a church.

Ultimately, the group wants to remodel the building to hold a 299-seat theater for larger productions. The high ceiling will allow for a system that moves sets by lifting them, instead of wheeling them off.

'We have to raise a lot of money to make that happen,' Kelly said.

The New Deal also led to smaller local projects.

In the English Hills near Vacaville, the New Deal program called the Civilian Conservation Corps established Camp Chester. Youth there seeded gully channels and transplanted more than 100,000 trees for erosion control, Frank Keegan wrote in his book 'Solano: The Crossroads County.'

The New Deal also helped Fairfield and Suisun City get sidewalks in 1940. The Fairfield City Council that year required property owners to add sidewalks. WPA laborers did the work at a cost of $35 per 50 feet.

Despite such local benefits, the Solano Republican questioned the program's overall worth.

'For years, WPA billions have gone largely to useless leaf-raking and shovel-leaning types of projects,' it said.

For Solano County, the really big economic stimulus came a few years later because of World War II. That's when Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo saw a huge expansion and the Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Base was built. The base later became Travis Air Force Base.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646, ext. 232, or beberling@dailyrepublic.net.

That was then, this is now

Some of Solano County's New Deal projects
- Restoration of Rockville Stone Chapel
- Building of Vallejo post office
- Building sidewalks
- Erosion control
- Vaca Valley Grammar School addition

Some of the county's 2009 federal stimulus plan requests
- McGary Road renovation-
- Capitol Corridor track improvements
- North Connector and Jepson Parkway regional roads
- Vacaville-Dixon bike route
- Vallejo ferry maintenance facility
- Renovating interchange of interstates 80 and 680

Fairfield earns A+ bond rating

Fairfield earns A+ bond rating
By Reporter Staff
Posted: 03/16/2009

Fairfield's water bonds have earned an A+ rating by Standard and Poor's Register of Corporations.

That means the city will save money by obtaining lower interest rates on any future bond issues needed to finance public improvements, according to a city-issued press release.

"Given the current upheaval in the economy and the credit markets, it is gratifying to get this kind of endorsement," said Finance Director Bob Leland.

Vallejo Yacht Club starts work on $2 million sea wall

Vallejo Yacht Club starts work on $2 million sea wall
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen/Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 03/16/2009

The first major renovation along the Vallejo waterfront in nearly two decades began last week, as the initial parts of a new sea wall were placed.

It took Vallejo Yacht Club members about 20 years to raise the nearly $2 million the project will cost, as well as to finish all the studies and obtain the necessary permits, said longtime club member Tom Ochs. He said though, that a serious effort has only been under way for about five years.

"The old wall is dilapidated," he said. "It was built around 1957, and we've tried to fix it, but it's coming apart."

The original wooden sea wall was installed to create a sheltered cove, to help slow the intrusion of silt into the marina and reduce the impact of waves and wakes, yacht club members said.

"Dredging is really expensive. The last partial dredging we did cost $350,000," Ochs said. "And without the sea wall, the boats would be bouncing all over each other and the slips would break apart."

Evidence of what happens when there's no sea wall can be found at the old city marina, which has become impassible because of silt buildup, said Chris Mendonca, the club's vice commodore .

The new sea wall, which will be made of interconnecting steel sheets, will add about 20 percent to the marina and alter its footprint, Mendonca said.

The work is being done by Mare Island's Cooper Crane using a vibration method, as opposed to hammering the 40- to 50-foot-long steel sheets into place, Mendonca said. This is less disruptive to the area's sea life, he said. Most of the project's steel was bought two years ago just as prices started rising, thus saving a lot money, Mendonca said.

"This is the first waterfront improvement since 1992, and it's all privately funded," he said.

The Vallejo Yacht Club was founded in 1900 and has been in its present location since 1965. The wall helps ensure the club's survival, members said.

"Without it, the harbor would eventually disappear and the area become a marsh," Ochs said. "The city would lose an important asset."

The club and the city would also lose the two-day Great Vallejo Race, the traditional opening of the Bay Area yachting season, which brings nearly 2,000 sailing enthusiasts to the city each year.

"In its biggest year, it brought 660 boats here, but the larger boats couldn't get in any more because of the silt, so they eventually stopped coming," Ochs said.

"But since the dredging in December, they can, and we're trying to get the word out that the big boats can come back," Mendonca said. "We expect they'll start coming back, which will mean more funds for us, more prestige and spillover to hotels, restaurants and other businesses."

Friday, March 13, 2009

SUBURBS WITH A DIFFERENCE: YES, SOME ARE 'ENLIGHTENED'

SUBURBS WITH A DIFFERENCE: YES, SOME ARE 'ENLIGHTENED'

Critics of suburbs have called them bland, monocultural, and insular. Though some may fit the "selfish and soulless" stereotype, the Utne Reader, a digest of independent ideas and alternative culture, has identified what it calls "enlightened" suburbs – ones that are rich in "civic spirit and livability."

These communities range from affluent Montgomery County, Md., a leader in antisprawl development, and Shaker Heights, a 1920s garden suburb of Cleveland that has adopted pro-integration policies, to Suisun City <http://www.suisun.com> , Calif., a once rough-and-tumble San Francisco Bay Area suburb that has transformed its downtown with two new plazas, a town hall, and a revitalized waterfront.

Utne's picks for the 10 most enlightened North American suburbs, with the cities or metropolitan areas they're geographically linked to:

• 1. Montgomery County, Md. (Washington, D.C.)
• 2. Tempe, Ariz. (Phoenix)
• 3. Suisun City <http://www.suisun.com> , Calif. (San Francisco Bay Area)
• 4. Shaker Heights, Ohio (Cleveland)
• 5. Royal Oak, Mich. (Detroit)
• 6. Hammond/Whiting/Gary, Ind. (Chicago)
• 7. Burlingame/San Mateo, Calif. (Bay Area)
• 8. Delray Beach, Fla. (Palm Beach/West Palm Beach)
• 9. Markham, Ontario (Toronto)
•10. Naperville, Ill. (Chicago)

Suisun gets official highway exit sign: We're Now Exit 58B!

Suisun gets official highway exit sign: We're Now Exit 58B!



It's official! The main Suisun City Waterfront District exit from Highway 12 is now Exit 58B!

Crews from Hudson Excavation installed the first of four new signs along the highway designed to improve the visibility of our historic business district to passing motorists.

Additional signs are scheduled to be installed over the next several days, including another large sign at the Civic Center exit that will read "Suisun City Main Street/Civic Center Blvd." For westbound traffic, we're increasing the size of the current Main Street sign.

Improved Highway 12 signage has been a concern of Waterfront District businesses for quite a while. Here at City Hall we've heard stories of people who wind up in Rio Vista and say they have no idea they drove clear through our entire city. These signs along with the Waterfront District emblem the BID painted on the water tank should fix that!

We're also looking at additional signage to help motorists, visitors and residents realize there is a terrific Waterfront and business community right off Highway 12.

So plan to come visit us in Suisun City. Just take Exit 58B from Highway 12!

Repaving I-80 in Fairfield gets stimulus money

Repaving I-80 in Fairfield gets stimulus money
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | March 12, 2009

FAIRFIELD - Solano County's first shot of federal stimulus money for freeways will go to a project that has a ring of familiarity -- repaving Interstate 80 in Fairfield.

The California Transportation Commission on Wednesday voted that 57 projects statewide will be first in line for a total of $625 million of stimulus dollars. All that remains is for the Federal Highway Administration to release the money so construction can begin.

'This is about jobs, jobs, jobs,' said Will Kempton, director of the state Department of Transportation, in a press release.

Solano County's lone item on the list is $29 million to repave I-80 from Highway 12 in Fairfield to 1 mile east of Air Base Parkway. The program already seemed to be going forward, even without Congress passing the $787 billion stimulus package last month.

Caltrans announced in 2007 that the I-80 repaving in Fairfield would be done in 2009. The California Transportation Commission in approved funding the project with other state money. Caltrans put the project out to bid Jan. 12.

Still, the state's recent budget problems cast uncertainty over transportation funding in general.

'Now we have funds guaranteed to start the project and finish it,' Caltrans spokesman Ben Edokpayi said Thursday. 'Our plan is to be out there this summer paving.'

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bigger is better in Suisun

Bigger is better in Suisun
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | March 11, 2009



Sacramento rider Peter Zernik makes a turn during the first heat of the Fast Stand Up class Jet Ski races in Suisun City last October. Photo by Mike Greener

SUISUN CITY - A bigger, family-friendly kite festival, a new June event called Shore Fest and jet ski racing at night are among the expanded events this year on the city's waterfront.

There is even talk of importing sand to an empty lot near the Suisun Marina during the Shore Fest so the city can hold a beach volleyball contest. The synthetic ice rink was a hit last December, so the city is thinking beach volleyball in June could be one as well.

'We are focusing on kids and families to get them out to enjoy our waterfront,' said Mick Jessop, director of the city's Recreation and Community Services Department.

The Friday Nights at the Waterfront, Saturday Nights at the Movies and The Waterfront Jazz Series are coming back and will start in early July.

The Kids & Kites Festival on May 2 is being expanded to offer activities such as slides, rock walls and a trackless train.

'We are making everything center truly around the children,' said Anita Skinner of the city's Redevelopment Agency who organizes the events. 'We are trying to bring in kite clubs for demonstrations of different kinds of kites.'

The city stripped the It's a June Thing Festival of its title and renamed it the Shore Fest at Our Particular Harbor. The new event will debut June 6. It will feature a Jimmy Buffett tribute band and the beach volleyball contest if all the preparations work out.

August Fest and its microbrews will return on Aug. 1 and feature the first of two nighttime jet ski races, which will be held just before that evening's Saturday Night at the Movies offering.

'The racers are excited about racing the jet skis under lights and we want to give that a shot,'

Jessop said.

This will be the second year that the Suisun City Marina will be a part of the Diablo Valley Jet Ski racing club's race season.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Could be boon for Bay Area biotech

Could be boon for Bay Area biotech
By David Morrill/Contra Costa Times
Posted: 03/10/2009

Bay Area biotech companies sat frustrated for eight years as a cloud of politics generated by the Bush administration hovered over the stem cell industry.

But with a stroke of President Barack Obama's pen Monday, suddenly the sky has begun to clear as federal restrictions on the funding for embryonic stem cells were removed.

"We are now back at the starting line where we should have been long ago," said Michael West, president and chief executive of Alameda-based BioTime. "The political football has been taken off the field, and now we can focus on scientific collaborations that have been long delayed."

Although financially this will benefit academic institutions and not companies, the acceptance of the field will have an impact on everyone, West said.

Stock prices for stem cell-related companies saw the impact immediately. Shares of nearly every company focused on stem cells surged dramatically. BioTime closed up 26 percent, or 45 cents, to $2.15. Menlo Park-based Geron closed up 16 percent, or 64 cents, to $4.51.

Embryonic stem cells are early stage cells capable of being grown into hundreds of cell types used in the human body. Stem cells created before 2001 were not restricted by research funding, but only about 21 of those lines are currently available.

Geron, the pioneer of the embryonic stem cell industry, hasn't been affected much in the past years because it has been able to work with what the company already had, said David Greenwood, its chief financial officer. But the possibilities for the industry's future excite the company, he said.

"It takes the (National Institutes of Health) off the sideline and puts them into the game in funding research in academia," Greenwood said. "Having been closed out for the last years, having university researchers involved will have a general impact that will be broadly and widely felt."

Greenwood doesn't think venture capitalists were swayed by the political ruckus over embryonic stem cells, but others disagree.

West remembers meeting with one venture capitalist who told him, "I'm afraid not to do this, and I'm afraid to do this, so it's hard to decide."

"Now, the politics aren't an issue," West said.

Stephen Thau, co-head of life science practice at Morrison & Foerster, says he expects that there will be more startup companies emerging in the embryonic stem cell arena.

"This move has helped de-risk a lot of the field, and now people will have more confidence that if they put money behind a project that it will have a chance to make it through to therapy," Thau said.

Additionally, large pharmaceutical companies in the Bay Area and across the country are taking notice of the renewed interest in embryonic stem cell therapies, Greenwood said.

Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, opened a stem cell research center to treat nervous system disorders. GlaxoSmithKline, the second largest drugmaker, has put money into stem cell development, as well.

West, who is considered a pioneer in the field, remembers a conversation he had in the mid-1990s with Robert Swanson, the founder of South San Francisco-based Genentech. Genentech had long battled Congress on ethics of scientists being able to make synthetic DNA and Swanson found himself in front of Congress quite a bit.

"I remember he pulled me aside and told me that stem cell research is going to be just like recombinant DNA was for the industry," West said. "Once the political cloud was lifted, the industry just exploded."

Area students take classroom lessons, turn them into robots

Area students take classroom lessons, turn them into robots
By Ryan Chalk/ RChalk@TheReporter.com
Posted: 03/10/2009



Members of the Will C. Wood High School robotics team watch their robot pick up foam blocks. (Ryan Chalk / The Reporter)

A program that has sprung up at area high schools is giving students a reason to pay closer attention in science and math classes.

Vacaville, Will C. Wood and Vanden high schools each offer a robotics or engineering course that allows students to compete against other schools in designing robots. Teachers laud the programs, which are well into the competitive season, saying they increase interest in math and science because they allow students take what they learn in the classroom and put it to use in fun and challenging ways.

In its ninth year, Vanden's robotics team just returned from Boston, Mass., where it competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Boston Regional. The only team representing California, Vanden made it to the quarterfinals and was ranked 10th out of 53 teams from the United States and Canada. The team also snagged the top award for Web site design and an entrepreneurship award.

Doug Green, a physics teacher at Vanden and the engineering/robotics coach, said that a prime reason for the robotics competition is to recognize achievements in math, science and engineering.

"You're seeing it pop up in a lot of schools now," said Green. "It's meaningful to a lot of people, and outside of the traditional extracurricular activities, like sports and band, it's a great way to round out a school."

Vacaville High School also has offered a robotics program for the past several years and will meet Vanden and other teams from across the country at the FRC Sacramento-Davis Regional tournament at the University of California, Davis, on March 27-28.

As fun as building robots sounds, students attest that hours of hard work and planning go into the process before they pick up a tool. Just ask coaches and students at Will C. Wood High School, who are participating in a robotics program for the first time.

Fledgling engineers, the Wood team has already won a tournament in the Vex Robotics Competition league and will be heading to Dallas, Texas, for a world championship tournament in April. Wood will be one of more than 200 international teams competing for the title.

Guy Gray, a Wood math teacher and one of the coaches, said the students use myriad skills, including math, physics and engineering, to take the robot from the design to competition-ready stages. Time management and fundraising also go into being successful, added Gray.

"I teach algebra and when kids ask me, 'Well, what am I going to do with this stuff?' I send them over here and their eyes get huge," said Gray.

Andrew Carlquist, a junior at Wood who has the task of piloting the robot, said that being part of the robotics team has given him extra incentive do well in school.

"Before, you just did it (math and science) because if you didn't get a good grade, your parents would yell at you," said Carlquist. "But now, if I don't know this stuff and somebody else does, they're going to have the upper hand on me."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

$5.5 million NorthBay Medical Center lab project begins construction

$5.5 million NorthBay Medical Center lab project begins construction

While other hospitals are curtailing or stopping construction projects, work has begun on a long-awaited, much-needed new $5.5 million laboratory building at NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield.

NorthBay Healthcare received the last of the necessary state and city permits to build a 4,000-square-foot facility on the front side of the hospital near the ambulance entrance to the Emergency Department. It replaces a 1,797-square-foot lab in use since the hospital opened.

The new lab is a necessity, says Bridgit Strachan, vice president of quality and professional/support services. “Our people in the lab have done awesome work in some very crowded, outdated conditions. I’m sure this will increase productivity and ensure we maintain our high standards.”

More space is imperative for the hospital to maintain its current level of service and to add new programs, such as the NorthBay Heart & Vascular Center, which should launch in April, explained Strachan.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for Feb. 5, with construction taking a year. The laboratory is expected to be operating by January 2010.

The Wiseman Company goes green

The Wiseman Company goes green

Doyle Wiseman, CEO of The Wiseman Company, announced today that Elliot Jorgensen, Director of Properties, has been certified as a LEED accredited professional.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a building standard created by the United States Green Building Council. LEED buildings go above and beyond city, state or federal building standards to emphasize energy efficiency and environmental design that promotes healthy and sustainable infrastructure and communities.

Elliot has been the Wiseman Company’s Director of Properties since January 2008. As a LEED AP, he now has an indepth knowledge of the LEED system and will begin applying that to The Wiseman Company’s
current portfolio of buildings.

As the head of the Wiseman Company’s property management department, Elliot has worked to “green” the properties that he manages through the installation of window film, new building energy management systems and new, highly efficient lighting systems.

“The Wiseman Company works hard to be a contributing member of our community. Being energy efficient and environmentally responsible is a strong aspect of that commitment, complementing the
charitable contributions and community service that The Wiseman Company, our employees and our partners already provide,” said Doyle Wiseman.

Elliot adds that “as a lifelong resident of Northern California, I am excited to keep our beautiful hills and tall trees just as they are today.”

The Wiseman Company LLC is a Fairfield-based, fullservice commercial real estate firm offering brokerage, development, investment and management services to Solano, Napa and Yolo counties. For information, contact Doyle Wiseman at 427-1212 or visit the Web site at www.WisemanCo.com.

BSI moves main office to Vacaville

BSI moves main office to Vacaville
Barrier Systems Inc. brings headquarters to Vaca Valley Pkwy.
Submitted by the City of Vacaville

Even in the struggling economic environment we are experiencing, good things are happening in Vacaville because of the advantages it has to offer businesses. Barrier Systems Inc. (BSI) is an example of a company that has been drawn to Vacaville to take advantage of our location, services and amenities.

In September 2008, Barrier Systems Inc. (BSI) relocated its headquarters to Vacaville from its original home in Rio Vista. The company leased 9,800 square feet of office space at 3333 Vaca Valley Parkway, opposite Kaiser Medical Center and Genentech, to house 24 employees who provide administration, accounting, marketing and engineering services to the company.

BSI originally incorporated in California in 1984, formed around a concept of producing a moveable barrier that could be repositioned to alter a roadway’s lane configuration to maximize existing highway capacity. Over the past 25 years, BSI has become a leader in the development of quickchange moveable barriers that can switch lanes during rush hour traffic to reduce congestion and increase safety. The company also develops, designs and markets crash cushions that absorb or deflect the energy of an accident as well as specialty barriers that utilize the latest technology and materials to improve motorist and highway worker safety.

The most noticeable of BSI’s products are the Quickchange Moveable Barrier elements which link together to separate opposing lanes of traffic, and the Barrier Transfer Machine that realigns them. The system is currently in use in New Zealand and Canada. In the United States, it can be found in Manhattan, Boston, Honolulu, Washington D.C., San Diego and Dallas. Each of the Barrier Transfer Machines is custom constructed in Rio Vista to meet the particular requirements of the situation in which it will be used. The Barrier Transfer Machine can transfer up to 10 miles of movable barrier an hour.

The company also makes a number of other technology-based traffic control and safety products. Crash cushions are designed to compress when struck, absorbing the energy of a crash in order to minimize the level of injuries and damage. In addition, BSI also manufactures products to provide mobile truck mounted crash cushions and lightweight, easily moved, ground-based barriers to provide protection for highway construction workers.

BSI is a welcome addition to Vacaville’s business community. It broadens our economic diversity, rovides quality jobs, and its unique products benefit the environment by allowing traffic to flow more quickly thereby reducing emissions.

BSI was acquired by Lindsay Manufacturing Co. in June 2006 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company. The purchase price paid to the stockholders of BSI was approximately $35 million. Lindsay manufactures and markets systems and equipment which are used by farmers to increase or stabilize crop production while conserving water, energy, and labor.

The Company also produces large diameter steel tubing and provides outsourced manufacturing and production services for other companies.

Economic Update Highlights Vacaville’s Top Projects

Economic Update Highlights Vacaville’s Top Projects
By City of Vacaville Staff

The City of Vacaville’s Economic Vitality Roundtable meets the first Wednesday of each month at the Travis Credit Union Headquarters, located off of Allison Drive, in the Community Room. The meeting features a speaker or speakers discussing topics related to the economic vitality of Vacaville. The meetings begin at 8 a.m. and are open to the public. For agenda info, visit the City’s Web site – cityofvacaville.com – and look under the Public Meetings link or call 449-5112.

At the most recent EVRT meeting, Mike Palombo, the City of Vacaville’s Economic Development Manager, presented an update on a variety of projects in the Vacaville area, including the State Compensation Insurance Fund project, the expansion of Genentech, Kaiser’s office and hospital expansion, and other projects.

State Compensation Insurance Fund
State Compensation Insurance Fund received City approval in 2006 to build a 430,000 square foot office campus off of Horse Creek Drive. They have completed construction of three of the five planned buildings, which, at 258,000 square feet, makes it the largest office development in Vacaville. Employees started moving into the buildings this past August and by October, 750 employees will have moved into their new facilities. When the campus reaches full buildout, approximately 1,230 employees are expected to be employed there.

Genentech
With the addition of about a 400,000 square foot expansion, the Genentech facility is now just under 900,000 square feet and doubles Genentech's production capacity to 344,000 liters, making it the world’s largest bio-manufacturing facility. It is anticipated that when the plant is in full production, over 1,000 employees will work at the facility. The company is currently in the process of proving that the new facilities meet federal requirements and expects to secure FDA approval to make and sell a variety of cancer treating biopharmaceutical drugs.

Genentech’s presence in Vacaville resulted is generating nearly $4 million annually in property tax revenue, net of incentives, for the Vacaville Redevelopment Agency. The revenue is expected to increase in the coming years.

Kaiser
The doubling of the existing medical office space, and the addition of a 150-plus bed hospital, will result in a 700,000 square foot facility and approximately 1,200 jobs at the expanded Vacaville Medical Center. This will make Kaiser the largest private employer in Vacaville, bringing many high-paying jobs to the community. Built to serve Kaiser’s membership (there are over 240,000 Kaiser members in Solano and adjacent counties), the new facility will greatly shorten the travel distance for many north county clients seeking care and treatment. The hospital portion of the Medical Center is expected to be completed in 2009.

Novartis
Novartis’ presence in Vacaville continues to grow, as the parent company has invested over $40 million into the plant since it purchased Chiron in 2005, expanding its capacity, upgrading its systems, and increasing plant efficiency. Novartis currently employs 120 workers, with a potential for more in the future. The plant is located on a 52-acre parcel, but less than 10 acres are developed. There is more than adequate area to expand. The City is working with plant management to encourage further investment and growth of facilities. The biopharmaceutical plant utilizes a very efficient microbial production system which allows it a nearly unique position in the world of biotech manufacturing. It is the sixth largest property tax revenue producer in Vacaville.

Barrier Systems, Inc.
This is a company that manufactures highway barrier systems from a variety of materials including plastic. They also make to order a vehicle that moves the barriers from one traffic lane to another, quickly and easily. Their manufacturing plant is located in Rio Vista, but their administrative and engineering offices are located here in Vacaville in a building that was home to the former Bio Source/Large Scale Biologies company on Vaca Valley Parkway.

Koll Office Building project
The Vacaville City Council approved this 167,000 square foot speculative office building project located near the State Compensation Insurance Fund buildings several months ago, but the lender, which had previously approved the funding for the project, altered its financing package, requiring more than half the building to be pre-leased. Given the current state of the economy, the developer has not been able to meet that requirement. As a result, this project is on indefinite hiatus.

Competitive Power Ventures Power Plant
The City of Vacaville has signed an agreement with CPV to lease excess land at the Easterly Wastewater Treatment Plant. The Easterly site is an ideal location for the proposed natural gas powered, 500-megawatt power plant as it has reclaimed water for cooling, access to transmission and gas supply lines. The lease will allow CPV to enter a competitive bidding process to sell electricity to PG&E.

Despite some of the unknowns, the risk of the project is borne entirely by CPV. The City has not invested any money in the project. In fact, CPV paid the City for the costs incurred in negotiating the various leases and agreements between the parties.

The upside for the City is that should the project proceed as originally contemplated, it could generate up to $4 million annually for the City. If all goes smoothly, CPV could be producing electrical power on the Easterly site in 2012.

Nut Tree Airport
Solano County has started working on a Master Plan for the Nut Tree Airport, and in the process has been acquiring different pieces of property around the airport, including 30 acres at the north end of the runway and another 15 acres near the entrance to the airport. Extending the runway could have an impact on projects in the area, but the City will be working with the County on this project to assure all of our interests, including those of the surrounding land owners, are served. The Master Plan process is expected to take more than a year to complete.

County education, training program wins environmental award

County education, training program wins environmental award
Times-Herald staff report
Posted: 03/09/2009

FAIRFIELD -- A program designed to train water and wastewater treatment plant operators has won the annual Public Education Award from the California Water Environment Association's San Francisco Bay Section.

This program, facilitated by Solano Community College Contract Training Office, is now in a statewide competition, with winners to be announced in late April. The association consists of 8,000-plus professionals in California's wastewater industry.

More than 500 students have enrolled, program developer Deborah Mann said. Many also enroll in Solano's Occupational Education Program, and the combination of classes results in excellent jobs and career opportunities, she said.

With nearly half of all water and wastewater treatment plant operators nearing retirement, water agencies opted to create a new generation of operators. In the Bay Area, Solano Community College offers such a curriculum.

Teachers come from 14 sponsoring agencies, with classes coordinated by the college. Classes are taught at a variety of locations.

Contact Mann at (707) 864-7195, or visit www.solano.edu for more details.

Library to get funding by the book

Library to get funding by the book
By Melissa Murphy/ MMurphy@TheReporter.com
Posted: 03/07/2009

Plans have yet to be finalized for a new Dixon Public Library, but a major contributor has already stepped in to help with funding.

Dixon residents, John and Angelina McKinsey, through Martin Pearl Publishing, have pledged to donate 10 percent of the retail price for every copy of John's book, The Lincoln Secret, that's sold between December 2008 and December 2010.

"It just makes sense for us," Angelina said. "My husband is extremely passionate about libraries and we're always looking to give back."

"Growing up, I craved my time in my hometown library," John said in a press release. "It was one part sanctuary and one part exploration. I read, I learned and I matured in my library and I feel that all children should have access to a safe and secure library filled with books and other resources to explore their world."

In addition, the publishing company will donate $1 million if one million books are sold.

Angelina explained that it would result in nearly $2.4 million to help fund the new library.

"It's not unrealistic to do that in two years," she said. "This is something everybody can benefit from."

Gregg Atkins, librarian for the Dixon Public Library District, couldn't say enough about the generous gift.

"It's the most wonderful thing I've heard," he said about the donation. "It will be a catalyst for all other giving. It's definitely a starting point."

Atkins knows first hand how desperate Dixon's only library is in need of space. The current library is almost 100 years old and is vastly undersized for its community. Right now there is only 6,000 square feet of public accessible space and according to Atkins they've run out of space-saving solutions.

He explained that a 32,000 square foot building is needed and judging by today's prices a new library of that size could cost as much as $16 million.

The reason for the expense includes a building that is seismically retrofitted in case of an earthquake with floors that can withstand the weight of the books.

To pay for such a state-of-the-art facility, Atkins is looking to the community for funds and could be approaching the voters with a bond measure sometime in the next few years.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us," he said. "It's certainly easier to think about with such a generous donation."

Atkins added that the McKinseys have really stepped forward to be a long-term partner with the library.

According to www.thelincolnsecret.com, The Lincoln Secret is "a historical mystery adventure novel set in modern day America. Founded upon several historical theories about Abraham Lincoln and about the Civil War, the novel takes you through Abraham Lincoln's life and death as the main characters try to unravel a mystery left over from those days."

The book is available at Bounty Books in Vacaville, www.amazon.com or at Borders in Davis.

Angelina also is encouraging businesses in Dixon to carry the book, so far it's available at Firehouse Cafe, 180 West A St.

"I would like to see it be a really nice library," Angelina added. "Libraries are for everybody, it doesn't exclude anyone."