Monday, August 31, 2009

Carquinez Strait's New Narrow Path Opens for Hikers and Bikers

Carquinez Strait's New Narrow Path Opens for Hikers and Bikers
By Lanz Christian Bañes/Times-Herald staff writer

Posted: 08/30/2009

BENICIA -- Bicycling and hiking enthusiasts now have a new way to cross the Carquinez Strait.

With ribbon-cutting ceremonies on both sides, the bicyclist-pedestrian path of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge officially opened Saturday, with scores of cyclists participating.

"The light shining off the water was fantastic. It was like a jewel, and everything was just so clear and so crisp," Benicia Mayor Elizabeth Patterson said, herself an avid bicyclist.

Patterson was at both the Benicia and the Martinez ceremonies and was among the first Saturday to eagerly use the new path on the southbound George Miller Jr. span.

"This isn't the first bridge to have a path," said Bijan Sartipi, director of Caltrans' District 4, which covers the Bay Area.

The new path -- decades in the making -- continues a trend of making the Bay Area bridges accessible to bikers and pedestrians, Sartipi said. He noted the inclusion of a bike-pedestrian path on the southbound Al Zampa span of the Carquinez Bridge and a similar path on the new east span of the Bay Bridge still under construction.

The Benicia-Martinez bike/pedestrian path is also a point of convergence for six different trails, said Ted Radke, East Bay Regional Park District board director.

The two most prominent trails, which had booths and representatives at the ceremony, are the San Francisco Bay and the Bay Area Ridge trails. The twin trails seek to encircle the entire Bay Area -- the Bay Trail follows the water lines, while the Ridge Trail climbs up for the views.

About 300 miles of the Bay Trail and 320 miles of the Ridge Trail have been completed.

The new bridge path is an important step in completing the twin trails' latest project, a 50-mile loop around the Carquinez Strait anchored by the paths on the Carquinez and Benicia-Martinez bridges, said Janet McBride, executive director of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council.

"The second spanning of the strait opens up commute possibilities," added Laura Thompson, project manager for the San Francisco Bay Trail.

Scores of bicyclists and hikers attended the ceremony and crisscrossed the bridge, braving the mid-morning heat.

"I like biking, and I want to see the country and the new bridge," said Jacob Tabacek, 17, an exchange student from Slovakia who attends Antioch Senior High School.

With his group was 16-year-old Alejandro Sanchez of Spain, also an exchange student at Antioch Senior High School.

"In Spain, everyday I practice," Sanchez said as he prepared to ride across the bridge with Tabacek.

Originally envisioned in the 1980s, the path is part of a nearly $50 million renovation of the southbound span of the bridge, which included adding a fourth lane.

"It takes a really long time to do a really good thing," Patterson said.

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

La Cabana plans second restaurant in Fairfield

La Cabana plans second restaurant in Fairfield
 Photo
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | August 26, 2009
 
Baldemar Solis, Ramses Solis and Ruben Carcamo stand in the kitchen of their new La Cabaña restaurant being built on the corner of N. Texas and Pacific Road. Photo by Mike Greener

FAIRFIELD - As they approach their 20th anniversary, the owners of La Cabana restaurant in Suisun City are planning to take their act on the road. In this case, the destination is Fairfield.

Ramses and Blanca Solis are aiming for a mid- to late-September debut for La Cabana's second restaurant. This one will be on North Texas Street, at the intersection with Pacific Avenue. The site they are leasing was previously the short-lived Asian-themed Fire Pit Restaurant.

'We are remodeling right now, going through the process of making it really nice,' Ramses Solis said. 'It is going to be pretty much the same concept, which is homestyle Mexican food.'

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Local train line gets cleaner locomotive

Local train line gets cleaner locomotive
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | August 27, 2009
 
 
Ed Lynch, a conductor with California Northern Railroad Co., stands on the company's new low emissions train engine before a demonstration run Thursday evening in American Canyon. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - The California Northern Railroad locomotive that passes by the houses and businesses of Cordelia and near Old Town Suisun City is creating a lot less pollution these days.

Gone is a green-colored locomotive that put out a cloud of smoke. The small railroad has a new, $1.6 million, red-white-and-blue locomotive that is green in the environmental sense. It cuts pollution by about 80 percent and can be 30 percent more fuel efficient.

'We want to be proactive in the new technology that's out there,' California Northern Trainmaster Jon Kerruish said Thursday. 'We want to save the environment as much as we can. We want to do our part.'

People living and working near the tracks will get a breath of fresher air.

Train smoke contains small particles that can get caught in the lungs, possibly causing respiratory problems. The new locomotive will reduce this pollution by about five tons a year, said Ralph Borrmann of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

'The people who live close by will experience a significant difference in particulate pollution,' Borrmann said. 'These are very clean engines.'

Eighty percent of the cost for the new locomotive came from a BAAQMD grant. The new locomotive replaces one that dates back to the 1970s.

California Northern's local branch is about 25 miles long and is based in American Canyon. It is what's called a short line, taking products between manufacturers and customers and the main Union Pacific freight line that passes through Suisun City.
 
See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cal Maritime Ship simulator brings sailing scenarios to life

Ship simulator brings sailing scenarios to life

Carl Nolte, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, August 28, 2009
A 360-degree simulator at the California Maritime Academy... A radar display on the bridge gives the position of a lar... California Maritime Academy students monitor a radar scre...

A mariner was at the helm of a powerful, 100-foot-long boat one morning last week, zipping along at 2o knots on a routine trip up San Francisco Bay just past Angel Island, when without warning a huge storm struck.

There was driving rain and the waves must have been 50 feet high.

"Hold on," said Capt. Patrick Moloney, a veteran ship's master, and everybody in the wheelhouse of the boat held on for dear life as the boat seemed to buck and jump and heel over dangerously.

Actually nothing moved at all. The wheelhouse of the boat, the helm, the radar, the fathometer, the radio barking out messages, even the water of the bay and the passing scene were all an illusion, part of a $15 million ship simulator at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo.

The storm was also an illusion, created to test how men and women who run big ships and harbor craft react in an emergency.
A range of conditions

Bringing on nasty weather is part of a whole bag of dirty tricks - from oil spills, ships in distress, engine failures, storms, fog, collisions and other disasters - that instructors at the maritime academy can serve up at the click of a mouse.

The illusion of movement is so good that even old sailors are fooled. The trick is a three-dimensional screen that surrounds the navigating bridge controls. "The people with the most (sea) experience get seasick first," said Capt. James Buckley, who runs the simulator program for the maritime academy.

"Your eye and your inner ear tell you the ship is moving even if it isn't," said Moloney, the executive director of the state pilot commission.

There are two large simulators at the academy's campus on the Carquinez Strait. The smaller of the two can be used to mimic a tug or any vessel up to 100 feet. The larger one is laid out as the navigating bridge of an 850-foot-long container ship.

The programs are set up so that one simulated vessel can react with the other. The smaller boat can come alongside the simulated container ship in the bay and then follow it up, say, the Oakland Estuary and mimic a tug pushing the larger ship into a dock. That way the operator of a simulated tug can work with a ship pilot docking and undocking a simulated ship.
Many training uses

The simulators have many uses - from a basic tool the academy uses to teach ship handling to students who enroll in the academy's four-year courses to advanced training exercises for tug skippers, apprentice ship pilots and master mariners.

"We can train people in emergency procedures," said Buckley. "Say you are a tug operator and you are working a ship into a dock and you lose one engine. This means you lose some of the maneuvering characteristics."

A mistake can be serious when a tugboat is working to move a ship as long as a high-rise building is tall into a tight space. A mistake can cause a ship to hit the dock, run aground, or collide with another ship. A mistake can result in a wreck, an oil spill or an explosion. On a real ship, mistakes are costly. On a simulator, they are lessons learned.

There can also be the unexpected. On one trip, a submarine suddenly surfaced directly ahead of the simulated vessel.

The simulator can be used to train for emergencies, but it is also used to evaluate mariners training to be ship pilots. Trainees, who have to be experienced ship's officers just to apply for a pilot's job, have to pass a number of tests, including sessions on the simulator.

"It is an opportunity to see how someone reacts under stress," Moloney says.

Ship handling is an art, involving moving steel vessels worth millions of dollars, displacing thousands of tons of water in and out of narrow channels. It involves an understanding of relative motion and judgment. Not everyone can do it.

Moloney says pilot trainees are graded on a pass/fail system. Do mariners ever fail?

"Oh, yes," he said, "Oh, yes."

E-mail Carl Nolte at cnolte@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/08/28/BA1L19BUSG.DTL

This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Friday, August 28, 2009

Farm event harvests in Fairfield


Anisa Sain of Fairfield receives a bag of fresh produce from Mark Petrill of PetrillÕs Fresh Produce at no cost during the first Farm to Families night at The Groves apartment complex in Fairfield on Thursday. (Ryan Chalk/RChalk@TheReporter.com)

Farm event harvests in Fairfield



Talking over cups of fresh fruit smoothies and freshly made salsa, residents of a Fairfield apartment complex gathered Thursday to learn about healthy foods and strengthen the bonds in their community.

Despite the August heat, Fairfield Mayor Harry Price wielded a pair of extra-large scissors and cut the ribbon signaling the first Farm to Families Night at The Groves apartment complex on East Tabor Avenue.

The event featured farm fresh produce for residents, a cooking demonstration, games and a host of information for families about making healthy choices when it comes to health and nutrition.

The event was made possible due to a partnership with The Leaven, Fairfield Quality Neighborhoods and Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser had successfully implemented the program in communities in Southern California and chose Fairfield as the first Northern California city to implement the program as a pilot.

Price, calling the program a great partnership, said, "This will make a great difference in the lives of so many for years to come. It gives these residents a sense of community."

Mark Lillis, director of The Leaven, a non-profit, faith-based collaborative with the city of Fairfield, the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District and a collective of local churches, said, "We're just so excited to bring all of these organizations into our community and show that Fairfield really does care."

The Leaven operates two after-school tutoring and mentoring programs in low-income neighborhoods in Fairfield.

Thursday's event was highlighted by a produce stand operated by Mark Petrill of Petrill's Fresh Produce.

Petrill set up a table full of fresh fruits and vegetables, and all participants received a voucher for five pounds of fresh produce at no cost.


With a smile, Petrill distributed the clear plastic bags of mostly local produce that included a vine-ripened tomato, nectarine, two types of peaches, three types of pears, red and black plums and no fewer than four different types of squash.

"I think it's awesome," said Anisa Sain, a resident at The Groves. "We have a lot of kids in the complex so this is good for them."

Sain also signed up for a series of free cooking lessons and said she was going to have her children get their blood pressure checked, another free service provided by Kaiser during the event.

"It's something positive, and there's sometimes a lot of negative that goes on around here," Sain said.

Lillis said that the last time the community came together at the complex was after a July 10 shooting that left one man seriously injured with gunshot wounds to his abdomen.

"What a difference now," Lillis said. "The community can come together for something positive. The residents can come out and enjoy one another and get to know each other. I think thisa really going to catch on."

Farm to Families Night will continue at The Groves from 3 to 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month through December. For more information, call 422-KIDZ (5439).














Thursday, August 27, 2009

New option for Solano, Contra Costa commuters walking or biking across bridge path

New option for Solano, Contra Costa commuters walking or biking across bridge path
By Sarah Rohrs/Times-Herald staff writer

Posted: 08/27/2009










Cyclists from the Benicia Bicycle Club ride on a portion of the pedestrian/bike path across the Benicia Bridge. The path is expected to open with some fanfare Saturday morning. (Chris Riley/Times-Herald)

BENICIA -- For Mick Weninger of Vallejo, commuting to work involves leg power rather than horse power, and the new Benicia-Martinez Bridge Pedestrian Path will give him one more option for cycling to work.

Weninger, 73, is one of many Benicia Bicycle Club members and other avid cyclists anxiously awaiting the path's official opening Saturday morning. He said he makes his 50-mile commute to Concord by bicycle nearly every day.

Other club members tested out the new pathway Wednesday and liked what they found.

"I love it. I can't wait to ride it," cyclist Barbara Wood said. "This is really going to open up Solano County to Contra Costa."

Saturday's opening ceremony starts with an 8:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting on the Martinez side. At 10 a.m., another ribbon-cutting ceremony takes place on the Benicia side at Vista Point, a park-like area on the east side of the span accessible by the path and a vehicle access road.

The new bicycle/pedestrian pathway is 2.2-miles long, 12-feet wide and on the west side of the span that carries southbound traffic.

The path is part of the $500 million southbound bridge reconfiguration project that included seismic upgrades, and widening to four lanes with eight-foot shoulders on either side, a Caltrans official said.

In Benicia, the opening to the path and access road to Vista Point can be found at Park and Oak roads in the Benicia Industrial Park.

However, Vista Point will not be open for parking, and those who want to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony can park at the Amports parking lot across from the Camel Barn Museum and walk to the area, following the signs. A van and shuttle will be available for those needing it, authorities said.

In Benicia, a bicycle rodeo follows the ceremony at 10:45 a.m. at the Amports parking lot. Geared for youth, cyclists can undertake an obstacle course, and get their bikes checked out to ensure they are safe and in good working order, MTC spokeswoman Ursula Vogler said.

Those wishing to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremonies are asked to RSVP at (510) 817-5757, or visit www.mtc.ca.gov and follow the link for the opening ceremony.

Benicia Bicycle Club president Joe Marks said the new pathway will make it easier people to ride back and forth between Solano and Contra Costa counties.

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

$32.6 MILLION IN STIMULUS FUNDS AWARDED TO UC DAVIS FOR RESEARCH, MORE TO COME

University of California, Davis
August 27, 2009

$32.6 MILLION IN STIMULUS FUNDS AWARDED TO UC DAVIS FOR RESEARCH, MORE TO COME

[Editor's note: For help finding the NIH and NSF Web sites that provide details on Recovery Act grants to UC Davis, contact Liese Greensfelder at (530) 752-6101 or lgreensfelder@ucdavis.edu .]

In a year that's held little good news for budget planners at the University of California, Davis, a steady stream of grants from federal stimulus funds is providing a much-needed cushion for research programs campus-wide.

According to information available online from two federal agencies that administer research funding, as of Aug. 24, UC Davis faculty have garnered 88 research grants totaling nearly $32.6 million.

"At a time when we are very hard-pressed, this stimulus funding will allow us to build up an infrastructure that will serve us well for many years," said Barry Klein, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. "And that is precisely the purpose of these awards: to get things under way quickly that will have a long-term positive impact on the stability of the workforce on campus."

Klein said he expects to see many more stimulus-funded grants flowing to the campus over the coming months. "We have about a half billion dollars of proposals submitted, while only a fraction of stimulus funds have been awarded so far," he said.

Whatever the final tally, it will significantly boost research funding the campus receives from established government and philanthropic channels. Support from these external sources has steadily climbed from just under $300 million in 2000-01 to just under $600 million for the 2007-08 fiscal year.

While federal regulations prohibit research grants from substituting for budget deficits, Klein said, ARRA grants will be saving jobs for faculty and staff.

"Adjunct professors are supported through grant funds, as are research administrators, technicians and staff research associates,"
he explained. "And these grants will also create jobs by enabling us to hire graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to participate in the research."

Benefits of the grants will extend beyond the campus, as well, Klein said, pointing out that researchers will be purchasing equipment and supplies with their awards. In addition, grants that support renovation or construction will provide jobs in a diversity of fields.

Creating jobs through research

Signed into law by President Obama in February, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as ARRA, was designed to save or create more than 3.5 million jobs over the course of two years.

Killing two birds with one stone, the act proposed to create jobs while revitalizing the nation's scientific research programs, which have been in a decline following half a decade of near-static budget appropriations for such agencies as the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The act charged the NIH and NSF with distributing $11.2 billion in stimulus funds to scientists around the country. For months now the agencies have been evaluating thousands of new proposals as well as awarding grants for deserving projects from last year's grant cycle that went unfunded due to budget shortfalls.

The grants that UC Davis has received target a broad array of projects across the research spectrum.

"These grants really cover a lot of ground," Klein said. "From the life sciences, to the physical sciences, to engineering, the profile of our recipients reflects a lot of strength across the campus. I congratulate our excellent research community for these successes and for the hard work that's been put into the proposals."

Big projects in the works

Of the 88 grants that have already been designated for campus research, the lowest award is for $12,500 and the highest for $2.2 million. But much larger sums may be in the offing, said Paul Schwartz, assistant director of capital program management in the Office of Resource Management and Planning.

Schwartz has been working on half a dozen proposals for new buildings and renovations with multimillion dollar price tags. A request to the NIH for $6 million would create a facility in the Chemistry Building to house chemical biology and bio-analytical facilities under one roof. Another proposal, for $15 million, would upgrade and expand quarters for the physics department, which has been jammed into a fixed space for years even as new faculty have been hired and student enrollment has risen.

Because ARRA-funded projects are expected to get under way virtually as soon as an award is granted, proposals for the building projects are more complex than any he's ever seen, Schwartz said. From schematic-level designs to title reports, each submission is costing the university from $40,000 to $70,000. "The point is to create proposals that bring each project as close to shovel-ready as we can go while keeping in mind that these are projects that are not yet funded," Schwartz said.

With so much of the planning already completed, Schwartz said, construction could start just eight to 10 months after awards are announced next year.

ARRA funds to students, Unitrans

Apart from research and building grants, ARRA funds are arriving at the campus through other channels, as well.

The Department of Transportation, for example, awarded two grants to the City of Davis, which in turn re-granted them to Unitrans, the partnership between the city and the UC Davis student government that provides public transportation service throughout the campus and city. Totaling $4.9 million, the awards will be used for the purchase of 11 new fuel-efficient, natural-gas buses, which will replace old vehicles in the Unitrans fleet.

ARRA funds will also directly benefit UC Davis students. Thousands will see hikes in their federal Pell Grants of up to $619, while hundreds of others will now qualify for Pell Grants as a result of a change in eligibility requirements funded through the act.

In addition, the Financial Aid Office has received $487,977 in stimulus funds for payments to students enrolled in the federal Work-Study program.

A sampling of six UC Davis research proposals funded by ARRA:

* $98,028 from the NIH to Wenbin Deng, assistant professor of cell biology and human anatomy at the School of Medicine.

Deng will use cellular and molecular techniques to learn how lead harms neurons during critical stages in the development of the brain.
His work will expand the understanding of risks associated with lead exposure and support efforts to develop strategies for dealing with lead toxicity.

* $229,250 from the NIH to Jay Solnick, professor of medicine and medical microbiology at the School of Medicine and at the Center for Comparative Medicine.

Solnick will use the funds to continue his study of the bacterium that causes peptic ulcers and stomach cancer, Helicobacter pylori. In previous work, Solnick has found that H. pylori triggers an antimicrobial response, which, paradoxically, seems to boost its competitive edge among the various microbes within the stomach.

* $547,740 from the NIH to William Reisen, professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at the School of Veterinary Medicine, and director of the Center for Vectorborne Diseases.

By investigating the complex interactions among multiple environmental and biological factors related to the overwintering and spring transmission of West Nile virus, Reisen's team will attempt to develop a system of predicting early in the mosquito season whether the virus will remain at low levels or expand to create outbreaks of human cases.

* $330,000 from the NSF to Kai Liu, professor of physics in the College of Letters and Science.

Liu plans to fabricate nanowires studded with tiny magnets
("spin-valves") in order to explore a new method of controlling magnetic states by using electric current to locally switch the polarity of magnets rather than the standard method of using magnetic fields to accomplish the task. These studies hold the potential of opening up whole new classes of materials and mechanisms for exploration in the field of spintronics, which uses the spin as well as charge of electrons for electronic information storage, transmission and manipulation.

* $430,000 NSF CAREER Award to David Horsley, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering.
(CAREER awards are NSF's most prestigious awards for young faculty members, recognizing outstanding scientists and engineers who show exceptional potential for research, teaching and leadership.)

Horsley will use the grant to further his research into boosting the sensitivity and lowering the power consumption of micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS. Horsley's improvements of these tiny devices that are embedded into semiconductor chips will benefit a wide range of instruments, including high-precision navigation systems and atomic force microscopes. Horsley will also develop a hands-on summer course for high-school students to learn about MEMS and microfabrication techniques used in their production.

* $205,812 from the NIH to Peter Mundy, professor at the School of Education and the School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and director of education at the M.I.N.D.
Institute.

Mundy's work will explore applications of virtual reality technology for social-skills training of children with higher functioning autism. He will bring together two groups of experts -- clinical scientists who study autism and scientists who use virtual reality to study social interactions -- to develop a series of virtual reality social-skills training tasks for children with higher functioning autism. Results of this work have the potential for providing widespread and cost-effective training programs for children with a variety of other neuro-developmental disorders, including ADHD.

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 six professional schools -- Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

Media contact(s):
* Liese Greensfelder, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-6101, lgreensfelder@ucdavis.edu

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Magazines praise Cal Maritime

Magazines praise Cal Maritime
Times-Herald staff report
Posted: 08/23/2009

The California Maritime Academy got a high ranking in U.S. News & World Report and Forbes magazine's annual surveys of the nation's undergraduate colleges and universities, the school announced.

Cal Maritime placed fifth among 17 ranked baccalaureate schools in the western U.S., second only to the U.S. Air Force Academy among public schools in that category, according to the survey.

Cal Maritime also was placed Number 61 among the nation's top 100 public colleges and universities in Forbes' 2009 rankings of America's Best Colleges.

The Vallejo campus was the only state maritime academy to make the list. Results from both surveys became available earlier this month.

Cal Maritime President William B. Eisenhardt said the annual surveys are useful in tracking perceptions over time, according to a prepared statement.

The Vallejo school is unique inits focus on maritime trade and transportation, engineering, maritime policy, maritime security and the environment, Eisenhardt said.

Butler hits big time at state fair

Butler hits big time at state fair
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | August 19, 2009



The midway at the Solano County Fair last July was operated by Fairfield based Butler Amusements. Butler is now operating the midway at the California State Fair for the first time. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - There are few frontiers left on the west coast for Fairfield-based Butler Amusements, which on Friday crossed one of the biggest items off its list.

Already the biggest carnival business in the western United States, Butler is for the first time running the midway at the California State Fair. The company serves about 135 events each year across six western states, but it had never done this one before.

'Whenever you put another feather in your cap like the California State Fair, it is certainly something people notice,' said Richard Byrum, vice president of booking.

The state fair opened Friday and runs through Sept. 7 at CalExpo event center in Sacramento. This year is the first in a 10-year arrangement for Butler to operate dozens of rides, games and concession stands.

The initial setup began more than two weeks ago and started in earnest a few days before the beginning of the fair. Once the event winds down, it will take only two or three days to take everything down, Byrum said.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Nut Tree train resumes its rides

Nut Tree train resumes its rides
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | August 21, 2009



Nut Tree Village employees Matthew Cammorata, 25, and Adam Fiel, 20 polish the brand new Nut Tree train Friday afternoon in Vacaville. Photo by Mike Greener

VACAVILLE - Nut Tree train engineer Jim Holtz is back running his beloved Engine No. 5.

'It's great,' Holtz said, adding he loved giving people train rides so much he had told his new boss he'd do it for free.

The Nut Tree train has fired up its new 'green' bio-diesel engine and formally returned to making trips around the new Nut Tree Plaza in the Nut Tree Villages shopping center Friday.

'It runs better than it did before,' Holtz said of the engine while opening the gate to let passengers on Friday.

Westrust, the Nut Tree Plaza's owners, gave people free rides on the train and carousel as a thank you for their support. The free rides continue today with costumed characters on hand and live music by The Hipwaders.

'The feedback has all been positive,' Westrust representative Jessica Koukis said. 'The people are all having a great time.'

Linda Freeman, who had brought her kindergartners to the original Nut Tree when she was a teacher, was back to ride the train again with her family.

'We took lots of rides on it. It was our Nut Tree outing,' Freeman said.

James Healy also lined up with his family Friday afternoon, saying Nut Tree's owner should bring back the other rides, too.

Nut Tree's redesigned plaza will have both the train and the carousel as well as other parts of the original Nut Tree for shoppers to enjoy.

Visitors will now be able to enjoy the train and carousel, have a picnic, sit at the fireplace, ride the hobby horses or just relax under the plaza's hackberry trees, the plaza's designers said.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Bridge bike path cause for celebration

Bridge bike path cause for celebration
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | August 24, 2009

BENICIA - Count J.B. Davis among those waiting for the Benicia Bridge bicycle and walking path to open on Saturday.

The Benicia bike enthusiast recently rode to Walnut Creek and had to use the Carquinez Bridge several miles to the west to cross the Carquinez Strait. Starting this weekend, he can simply use the Benicia Bridge, which will have a two-mile-long, 12-foot-wide lane devoted to bikers and walkers.

'It's going to be a more straight shot,' Davis said.

He predicts the bike path will open new opportunities. For example, people will be able to bike from Benicia to Martinez to catch the Capitol Corridor trains or to Concord to catch BART.

'For commuters, it's a huge deal, it really is,' Davis said.

Bike riders will be able to take a bridge-to-bridge ride, crossing over the Benicia Bridge, heading west to the Carquinez Bridge and returning to the starting point.

'It makes a nice exercise loop,' Davis said.

Walkers can also enjoy the aerial path. They'll be able to stroll over the Carquinez Strait on the bridge, feel the breeze from the bay and see the big ships far below.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Demolition nearly complete at Mission Village

Demolition nearly complete at Mission Village
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | August 24, 2009



Demolition crews continue to take down buildings at the former Mission Village Shopping Center Monday on North Texas Street. The site is being prepared for a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - Good-bye, Mission Village.

As of Monday, a few piles of rubble were all that remained of the Mission Village Shopping Center on North Texas Street, an unceremonious end for the long-suffering strip mall.

Once all the rubble is cleared away, the site will eventually be rebuilt as a massive Walmart Supercenter.

In late July, work crews began removing the siding and wall insulation from a stand-alone bank building near the corner of Atlantic Avenue and North Texas Street. That task is still unfinished, but the rest of the demolition appears complete. The Liberty Christian Center church, which owns and uses one of the original Mission Village buildings on the property, will remain standing.

Walmart officials didn't return multiple phone calls seeking comment on the project, so it isn't clear how long the project will take.

The company's plan involves building a 185,000-square-foot store and 1,100 parking spaces.

After several years of delays, Walmart took out a building permit from the city March 31. The permit covers both the demolition and construction phases.

Building official Tom Garcia said in July the permit doesn't impose time restrictions on when the company has to finish work.

Finance Director Bob Leland said the city has adjusted its budget as Walmart has adjusted its timeline for the store. He said the sales tax effects of the new store aren't budgeted until some time in 2011.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

New name in the works for Suisun ship

New name in the works for Suisun ship
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | August 24, 2009



The Spirit of Sacramento sits docked at the Suisun City waterfront Monday afternoon. The vessel is about to be renamed to something that reflects its new Suisun City home. Photo by Brad Zweerink

SUISUN CITY - So long, Spirit of Sacramento.

The triple-decker entertainment vessel that tied up to Suisun City's Public Dock a week ago is getting a new name today that is more in line with the town that it will call home.

The list is down to three possible names, and maybe one or two yet-to-be-made last-minute additions, said Capt. Dan Thiemann, who is fixing up the vessel.

The three names under consideration are the Suisun City Queen, The City of Suisun City or Old Suisun.

While a number of Suisun City leaders have been queried about possible new names for the vessel, it will be up to the owner to make the final decision.

'We want to make sure that the boat gets a name that is characteristic of the Suisun City waterfront,' Thiemann said.

The Spirit of Sacramento is owned by a local developer. Thiemann owns the California Sunset, the smaller entertainment boat the Spirit of Sacramento will replace.

If the Spirit of Sacramento's owner and the city of Suisun reach a deal on docking the larger tour boat, Thiemann will become part of operating that vessel.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Vacans to ride new bus

Vacans to ride new bus
By Melissa Murphy
Posted: 08/24/2009

The city of Vacaville is sporting a new set of wheels.

The first of 10 compressed natural gas city buses is now rolling a regular route through town.

The entire fleet will be in Vacaville by the end of September and will replace all diesel City Coach buses in the community.

"There will be a lot less pollutants," said Brian McLean, transit manager. "It's a way of removing harmful emissions and to adhere to more stringent air quality standards."

McLean said the new buses have a few changes to make them an overall better ride for passengers, such as a low floor design that allows visitors to step off the curb and into the bus to sit down without having to walk up stairs.

"Overall it's much more comfortable." he said and added that the new buses are quieter with a smoother ride. "It has a feel of riding in a Cadillac."

The new buses will also be equipped with the standard bike rack at the front of each bus.

He said it is also cheaper to keep the higher quality buses fueled.

According to McLean, it's only $1 per gallon of compressed natural gas. The city then receives a rebate of 50 cents.

The city did not have to grab from its general fund to purchase the buses. About $1.7 million was received from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act stimulus deal and another $2 million from regular federal funding. Another $740,000 was received from the Transportation Development Act and Proposition 1B.

Mayor Len Augustine said he's excited about what the new buses mean for Vacaville.

"Vacaville is on the forefront of looking out for the environment," he said and pointed to the city's electric cars and solar energy uses. "We're not going to stop here. We'll continue to work to clean up the air in Vacaville. We're revamping how we do business here as far as air quality goes."

The new fleet couldn't have come at a better time, city officials said.

Since the Vacaville Unified School District opted not to have school bus service, the city has since seen a significant jump in its ridership, as students catch a ride to school each day.

McLean said the number of youth who ride City Coach has increased fourfold.

"It's great to see many more students taking advantage of the bus system," he said.

Turbine expansions planned

Turbine expansions planned
By Danny Bernardini/ Dbernardini@TheReporter.com
Posted: 08/23/2009

Two new wind turbine farms are waiting for approval to be built in the Montezuma Hills, although one applicant may have a harder time getting the green light.

The Montezuma Wind Project recently received a ruling from the Federal Aviation Administration saying the 16-23 turbines being installed would not pose a threat to radar systems.

Montezuma was originally proposed alongside enXco's Shiloh II project, which went on-line in February after a drawn-out process involving Travis Air Force Base and its radar systems. That process ended shortly after enXco promised $1 million to help with any potential problems with Travis' new radar system installed in November.

Travis had contested the turbines interfered with radar screens, including images of small planes disappearing from the radar and others appearing when the planes weren't actually there. The applicants of the Montezuma project have begun the process for approval, said Mike Yankovich, planning director for Solano County.

Also in the works is the third phase of a wind turbine project by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). It would double the amount of energy currently being produced by the first two phases.

The third phase would be included in the 6,775 acres SMUD already owns, which features turbines rated at 102 megawatts. That property borders the Sacramento River and is near the land previously owned years ago by Dow Chemical.

Because SMUD is a public entity, it does not need to go through the permitting process, Yankovich said. It does however need a clearance from the FAA, which both Shiloh II and Montezuma have received.

The problem, he said, is the Solano County Airport Land Use Commission has stated it believes the project is in their jurisdiction and must comply with the Travis Air Force Land Use Compatibility Plan (TALUCP). The ALUC also objected to the Shiloh II project until Travis and the FAA determined it was not a risk.

The ALUC is a advisory committee appointed by the seven mayors of Solano County that rules on any development near the three airports in the county. Its decisions can be challenged by the a governing board.

SMUD presented to the ALUC on Aug. 13, but Yankovich said that presentation was a short one and no ALUC commissioners commented on it.

Now the two sides are at a stalemate and Yankovich said he isn't sure what the next step is.

"They believe they can get a non-hazardous declaration. The ALUC has put SMUD on notice that they have jurisdiction," Yankovich said. "I imagine this could end up in court, but I don't know."

Kaiser announces Oct. 6 as opening for Vaca center

Kaiser announces Oct. 6 as opening for Vaca center
By Melissa Murphy
Posted: 08/25/2009

After a long delay, Kaiser Permanente will open its doors Oct. 6 to the Vacaville Medical Center.

Kaiser had announced last November that the opening at the new hospital at 1 Quality Way, near Leisure Town Way and Vaca Valley Parkway, would be delayed until at least the latter part of this year due to the downturn in the global economy.

Even after more than 1,200 layoffs throughout Northern California this month, it will not affect the opening of the state-of-the-art facility.

According to a press release issued Monday, the new hospital features a 24-hour emergency department, 24-hour pharmacy, private rooms, and the latest technology, including Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect, a powerful electronic medical record system.

"We're bringing 21st-century health care to Vacaville," said Jim Caroompus, media spokesperson for the Napa/Solano area. "It's very convenient access to the latest health care and our physicians and employees will benefit from using Vacaville services."

The hospital features all private, spacious rooms with space for family members to stay overnight. The new building and two adjacent medical offices offer a wide range of services -- from primary care and specialty care to diagnostic and hospital services -- on one campus.

The Vacaville hospital will open with emergency services, a critical-care unit, medical-surgical services and a full complement of diagnostic and support services.

"Our new hospital is a beautiful addition to the communities where our members live and work," said Rose Calhan, area manager for Kaiser Permanente Napa/Solano. "We are committed to caring for these communities, and we are sure the new medical center reflects that pride and commitment."

A community celebration will be held at the new facility from noon to 4 p.m. on Oct. 3. The event will feature entertainment, refreshments, hospital tours, hands-on health demonstrations and activities for children.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Solano wine industry improves with age

Solano wine industry improves with age
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | August 20, 2009



Ron Lanza, of Wooden Valley Winery and Vineyards, looks over some of his petite sirah grapes growing in the Suisun Valley Friday. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - It doesn't define Solano County like it does the famous valley to the north, but wine is nonetheless a major force locally.

Suisun Valley is home to about 20 winemakers, several of whom operate their own wineries and tasting rooms. It also grows huge quantities of wine grapes for use in out-of-county wines. Benicia is home to one of the largest cork companies in California. Fairfield hosts a 1 million-square-foot bottle distributor.

'There are a lot of wine-related companies in this county,' said Ron Lanza, general manager of Wooden Valley Winery. 'A lot of that has to do with (interstates) 80 and 680 and (Highway) 12. It is just a great strategic spot for transportation.'

Lanza and other speakers at a Solano Economic Development Corp. breakfast this week touched on the growth the industry has experienced during the last two decades.

Benicia-based Cork Supply has grown from being essentially a start-up business to shipping hundreds of millions of wine corks each year.

The company has changed with the times, owner James Herwatt said. As wine companies have started using plastic stoppers and metal screw tops, Cork Supply started distributing them, too.

If there is a dark cloud on the horizon, it may be in the commercial trucking industry, said Matt Schrap with the California Trucking Association.

He spoke on Thursday about the increasing regulatory costs of doing business in the state. He talked about several different state laws imposing varies changes on the industry, mostly in the name of environmental efficiency.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

UC Davis stem cell researcher awarded funding for novel approach to wound repair

UC Davis stem cell researcher awarded funding for novel approach to wound repair
Created: 08/22/2009 06:27:07 AM PDT

Min Zhao, professor of dermatology and an expert in cell migration, has been awarded a three-year, $1 million grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

The award to Zhao was part of a $16 million infusion from the state's stem cell agency this week to support research that will lead to advances in understanding the basic mechanisms underlying stem cell biology and cellular differentiation.

The funding supports Zhao's research developing scientific techniques using electric fields to direct the migration of human stem cells for the repair of wounds and regeneration of damaged tissues. Currently, physicians use electric fields for deep brain stimulation to control seizures and for pain management. They represent a novel approach in the effort to turn stem cells into cures.

"Studying the migration of stem cells toward electrical gradients is very cutting edge and will have important implications in wound repair," said Jan Nolta, director of the stem cell program at UC Davis and a co-investigator on the grant with Zhao. "It is very exciting work that could potentially help patients with burn injuries and other conditions such as non-healing ulcers. UC Davis is committed to bringing this important basic science research from the bench to the patient's bedside rapidly."

One of the barriers to stem cell therapies is that researchers cannot precisely target or consistently integrate transplanted stem cells with the damaged tissues of an injury site.
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Studies have shown that electric fields can guide the migration and division of certain types of stem cells. Zhao and his colleagues think the same electric fields could produce an effective signal for directing neural stem cells and the progeny of human embryonic stem cells, as well as for ensuring that the cells successfully interact and fully connect with sites of tissue damage.

The next step is to better understand the electrical controls required to guide stem cells to a specific location in the body. If successful, the new techniques will help overcome one of the biggest road blocks in stem cell therapies.

"My focus is to explore the feasibility of using electric signals to direct stem cells to migrate toward diseased tissues, with the goal of being able to restore their structure and function," said Zhao. "The influence of electric fields on stem cells is not well understood and has not been fully studied. My hope is that this investigation will provide a critical step in developing safe and successful techniques for guiding stem cells directly to the appropriate injury sites in patients."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quite a collection - New Services of the Solano/Napa County Library System

Quite a collection
By Karen Nolan
Posted: 08/19/2009 01:00:50 AM PDT

Last week, the Solano Public Library sent a couple of emissaries to visit The Reporter and tell us what's new.

I've been a library card-holder for almost two decades, and, while I was a more frequent visitor when my children were young, I still seem to get by one branch or another at least once a month. I've also been familiar with the online database page for years. Still, I was astonished by how much the library has to offer that I didn't know about.

I was particularly impressed by the number of online resources that can be obtained from home or work -- including an electronic library card (click on the Get a Library Card link in the upper right hand corner of the library's home page: www.solanolibrary.com.)

Some, such as EBSCOhost and ProQuest, which contain magazine and newspaper articles, and the Encyclopedia Brittanica Online are old friends.

Others I had never ventured into.

For instance, the netLibrary Collection, which contains more than 7,500 e-books that can be read online and nearly 2,000 audio books that can be downloaded to MP3 players and, in some cases, iPods. Many of the books are classics, but there are modern pieces, too, including a host of military and Air Force writings.

Are you into genealogy? Check out HeritageQuest Online. For the last couple of years, I've been on the lookout for a particular census record concerning my great-grandfather. Just for the heck of it, I typed his name into the searchable 1900 census
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-- and I think I may have found the record.

Ever had to make an emergency home or auto repair and wish you had some guide to go by? The Home Improvement and Auto Repair reference centers offer photos, drawings and instructions on common problems.

For parents with kids in school, or adults who are going to school themselves, a host of materials available. Check out the Student Research Center, which lets you search newspapers, magazines, books, encyclopedias, TV and radio transcripts and primary source documents. Or try Homework Help, which offers live tutoring for all ages -- including college -- in the afternoons and evenings.

Need to analyze a topic? Visit the Points of View Reference Library, which provides not only pro and con articles on controversial subjects, but teaches students how to think critically about the information. I am personally going to recommend the "Health Insurance: Guide to Critical Analysis" to some adults I know.

One other tidbit I learned: You don't have to be a Solano County resident to get a library card, but if you don't live here, you must go into a library to obtain one.

- - -

The author, a Vacaville resident, edits The Reporter's opinion pages. E-mail: KNolan@thereporter.com. To have a librarian visit your group or business, call Lani Clarke at the Vacaville Public Library-Cultural Center, 784-1541, or e-mail laclarke@so-lanocounty.com.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New Nut Tree Plaza to open Saturday

New Nut Tree Plaza to open Saturday
Published by The Reporter
Posted: 08/19/2009

The new Nut Tree Plaza's grand opening will be celebrated Saturday. It will feature The Hipwaders, a children's music band, as well as costumed characters, clowns and other fun activities. Music begins at 11 a.m.

As a special thank-you from Westrust, all Vacaville residents showing proof of residency (driver's license or utility bill) will be able to ride the train and carousel for free all day Thursday and Friday.

The newly configured plaza, shaded by original Nut Tree hackberry trees, also will include the family park carousel, original Nut Tree benches, a pavilion and rocking horses.

"The opening of the Nut Tree Plaza marks a turning point in the history of Nut Tree," said Michael Piazzola, senior general manager of Westrust, the Nut Tree developer and owner.

Westrust has reconfigured the route of the vintage Nut Tree No. 5 train that was most recently used at the defunct Nut Tree Family Park. The train, sporting a new "green" bio-diesel engine, will run on a circuit that includes the plaza.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

UC Davis Research and rehab in gear for California's rough highways

Research and rehab in gear for California's rough highways
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By Jim Downing
jdowning@sacbee.com
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009 - 8:54 am

The pavement on California's highways is hard to ignore.

After decades of heavy traffic and a chronically low-maintenance budget, some stretches can be a teeth-rattling, axle-bending nightmare.

More than a quarter of our highway miles are in poor condition and 18 percent are in need of serious repair, the state Department of Transportation says. By one national transportation group's calculations, the state's major urban roads are the country's roughest.

At the University of California's Pavement Research Center in Davis, director John Harvey spends his days figuring out what to do about it.

Now, Harvey and Caltrans officials are about to launch a strategy they hope will pull the state's highway system out of crisis and set it on a course for long-term health.

Starting later this year, vans equipped with cameras, lasers and ground-penetrating radar will drive every lane of the state's highways, cataloging cracks and bumps and building a database of the layers of pavement beneath the surface of the road.

The system should help target repairs where they can do the most good for the least money.

"If we can pick our projects based on that engineering data, then we do the right project at the right time," said Michael Miles, Caltrans deputy director for maintenance and operations.

The point, he said, is to "predict when the pavement is failing. That way, (highways) won't get to the condition where they need a full rehab. Once they get there, it becomes very, very expensive."

In 2007, doing preventive maintenance on one lane of California highway over one mile cost an average of $60,000, according to Caltrans' latest "State of the Pavement" report. Major rehabilitation work on the same amount of pavement, by contrast, costs an average of $1.1 million.

By doing more quick and inexpensive repairs – re-sealing asphalt when small cracks appear, grinding down rough edges between concrete slabs – the state could cut the lifetime cost of a given stretch of road by as much as 20 percent, Harvey estimates. At the same time, fewer of the state's highways would fall into major disrepair.

"It's basically changing their whole philosophy," Harvey said.

To some degree, the shift is already under way. Caltrans more than doubled its annual spending on preventive maintenance from 2005 to 2008, to around $250 million. The agency also managed to secure a total of $6.1 million in new funding over the most recent two budget years for a "pavement management system" – including hiring the data-collection vans – to monitor conditions and coordinate maintenance on the 50,000 lane-miles the agency oversees.

Part of the reason maintenance has become so important is simply that California's highways are old. About 90 percent of the state's major routes were built between 1955 and 1975. Most were designed to last 20 years.

"There was a baby boom of pavement," Harvey said. "And now its health care costs are really high."

The UC Pavement Research Center was founded in the late 1940s at UC Berkeley to advise the state on the construction and maintenance of the highway network. The center now is headquartered at UC Davis, with a small team of staff researchers assisted by students.

Some of the center's work involves helping to devise road materials that last longer or cost less, but in recent years helping the state to manage maintenance and repairs has become a central focus.

Preventive maintenance, of course, doesn't address the thousands of highway miles already in need of major repairs.

In recent years, the state has spent less than half of the more than $2 billion a year needed for serious highway repair, according to the California Transportation Commission. Federal stimulus funding for major highway repair – $191 million to date – will close only a fraction of the gap.

Funding for highway maintenance and rehabilitation comes primarily from the state fuel tax, which hasn't been raised for more than a decade. Highway funding did get a boost under Proposition 42, passed in 2002, which allocated some of the sales tax on gasoline to road projects. Proposition 1B, which passed in 2006, allocated $20 billion in bond funding to transportation but only $750 million to highway rehabilitation.

Solano County is proving to be a good place for petite sirah.

Petite syrah, pedigree intact, gains new stature
By Laurie Daniel for Bay Area News Group
Posted: 08/18/2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Updated: 08/18/2009 03:00:44 PM PDT

For years, petite sirah had something of an identity crisis.

The grape wasn't a small version of syrah, despite the similar name (and despite the fact that some bottles are labeled "petite syrah"). It's durif, a grape from southern France, where it produces coarse, rustic wines.

In California, petite sirah was often intermixed in vineyard plantings with zinfandel, carignane and other red grapes. It was used in blends to add body and structure, and some winemakers started bottling it separately and gained a reputation for it. (Concannon in Livermore was the first, bottling the first varietally labeled petite sirah in the early 1960s). Some of the wines were quite good, but petite sirah still got little respect.

Then, through DNA fingerprinting, it was discovered that petite sirah/durif was the offspring of syrah, considered a noble grape, and peloursin, a minor French grape. The syrah connection gave petite sirah/durif a boost. A few years later, devotees of the grape formed a fan club of sorts: P.S. I Love You. (P.S., of course, stands for petite sirah.) The group recently held its seventh annual symposium at, appropriately, Concannon Vineyards, where there was a tasting of roughly four dozen petite sirahs, mostly from around California (along with one entry from southern Oregon).

Petite sirah acreage in California has more than doubled since 2000, to about 7,300 acres. Much of that planting has been in the
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Central Valley, but there's some in cabernet-centric Napa County. There's also been a big uptick in San Luis Obispo County, which now has more than 1,100 acres of petite sirah, second only to San Joaquin County, state figures show.

Still, petite sirah producers battle to draw more attention to their grape. A survey by Full Glass Research found that many consumers aren't aware of petite sirah and that retailers and restaurants don't push the variety. The grape's fans, however, understand that it produces dark, robust, teeth-staining wines with tannins that range from firm, but manageable to very intense and drying.

The wines at the symposium's tasting had many of these characteristics. One of my favorites was the 2006 Clayhouse Petite Sirah ($25), a Paso Robles wine with peppery black fruit and firm structure. Also excellent was the 2006 Concannon "Captain Joe's" Petite Sirah ($30), a dark, concentrated Livermore wine with bright berry and white pepper notes. (For less money, there's Concannon's regular 2006 bottling, which doesn't have quite the same concentration but costs only $15.) Newcomer Aver Family Vineyards in San Martin produced just 25 cases of its 2006 "Blessings" Petite Sirah ($55), which is pricey but delicious, with lively blackberry and boysenberry fruit, a hint of dried herbs and good balance.

Solano County is proving to be a good place for petite sirah. That's the source for the 2007 Winterhawk Petite Sirah ($18), with its juicy blueberry and blackberry and spicy notes, and the 2005 Shoe Shine Petite Sirah ($25), with its ripe black fruit, good acidity and fine tannins.

From elsewhere in California, there's the 2003 Foppiano Reserve Petite Sirah ($45), which is inky, concentrated and aromatic, with boysenberry fruit and drying tannins. (Foppiano Vineyards is a Sonoma County winery well known for its petites, and the regular bottling, at $20, is usually reliable.) The 2005 David Fulton Petite Sirah ($45) from Napa Valley is dark, dense, ripe and brawny, while the 2005 Il Gioiello Petite Sirah ($20) from Amador County displays robust black fruit accented by roasted coffee and spice.

For a great bargain in petite sirah, the 2007 Bogle ($11) offers robust blackberry and blueberry flavors and firm tannins. Bogle also produces a Petite Sirah Port; the 2006 ($18/500ml) is inky and sweet, with flavors of dried fig, prune and dark chocolate.

A couple of standouts in the tasting — the 2005 Robert Biale EBA Petite Sirah and the 2004 Ridge "Dynamite Hill" Petite Sirah — are available primarily through mailing lists. Both are on the pricey side, but they offer further evidence of how delicious and mouth-filling a good petite sirah can be.

Contact Laurie Daniel at ladaniel@earthlink.net. Find out what's in her glass at twitter.com/ldwine.

Hearn Builds New Facility for Local Medical Technology Company

Hearn Builds New Facility for Local Medical Technology Company

Hearn Construction is constructing a new concrete tilt-up building for Rave Properties in Vacaville. The primary tenant will be Eclipse Medical Imaging, a Vacaville company that refurbishes CT scan imaging equipment. The building will feature office and warehouse space for EMI, including a two-story lobby with mezzanine. The company’s refurbishing space will have some special features like lead lined drywall staging bays and a paint booth.

There will be 5,000 square feet of space in the new building for other tenants. J. Lee Buckingham AIA of Auburn, CA, has designed two office spaces into the building with a drive around, ample parking and six roll-up doors for access to the warehouse space. Architectural metal canopies will accent the building. The 17,291 square foot mixed use project is on schedule to be completed at the end of the year. Dave Dosker, Project Executive, Rich Kovalik, Project Manager, Laura Roberts, Assistant Project Manager, and Jim Hansen, Superintendent make up the Hearn project team. Mr. Kovalik says, “It’s nice to build for a business who is expanding and contributing to the local economy.”

Valero wins $230 million military fuel contract

Valero wins $230 million military fuel contract
San Antonio Business Journal
Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Valero Energy Corp. subsidiary won a $230.5 million fuel supply contract with the Defense Energy Support Center.

The company, Valero Marketing and Supply Co., will provide the U.S. military with aviation fuel. Valero will ship the fuel from its 170,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Benicia, Calif.

Valero will furnish aviation fuel to the military between now and Oct. 30, 2010.

San Antonio-based Valero (NYSE: VLO) is an oil refining and marketing company with a throughput capacity of 3.1 million barrels per day.

High-wage life sciences seen as critical to region’s future

High-wage life sciences seen as critical to region’s future Stevens, Business
By Loralee Journal Staff Reporter
August 17th, 2009

Sector faces challenges on R&D space, education; cluster includes 40 companies



SOLANO - Solano’s life science cluster is healthy and thriving, offering high-wage jobs for the county, according to a recent a report issued by the Solano Economic Development Corp.

Employment in the cluster grew at an annual rate of 35 percent between 2000 and 2006. In contrast, life science companies in the San Francisco Bay Area lost about 3 percent of jobs each year for the same period.

Currently, employment in Solano’s life sciences and related industries is 60 percent more highly concentrated than in the state as a whole, the report said.

Earnings have been on the rise, growing from an annual average wage of $60,000 in 2000 to $78,300 in 2006 and jumping 26 percent to $98,800 in 2007.

National Institutes of Health grants to the region are on the rise, too. During the last seven years 13 NIH grants were awarded to Solano companies.



Life sciences companies - pharmaceuticals, testing labs, medical equipment and supplies, high-tech precision instruments and research and development - have been coming into the area since 1985, when pharmaceutical developer Biosource Technologies relocated from Palo Alto to Vacaville, leading the way.

Building incentives persuaded Alza Corp., also a developer of medical systems and pharmaceuticals, to put a manufacturing plant in Vacaville soon afterwards, and other companies followed suit, finding the location along key transportation corridors and between the Davis and Berkeley U.C. campuses was an added draw.

Acrometrix, a laboratory and manufacturer of quality control materials for diagnostic testing, and Gammex, a manufacturer and distributor of products and services for diagnostic imaging and radiation oncology, moved to Benicia in the 1990s.

By 2007, there were 40 life science businesses in the county, including giants like Genentech and Novartis.

While the sector is strong, it does face challenges. One of them is the availability of appropriate R&D and manufacturing space.



Typically, small life science companies require about 2,000 to 10,000 square feet with access to wet labs. Currently there is little wet lab space available in the county, the report found. Also, commercial vacancy rates rose in the fourth quarter of 2008 as the economy shrank, but there was no new construction. Life science companies that want to expand in the near future may be out of luck.

The regional cluster also shares the challenges of others like them in the state, said SEDC President Michael Ammann.

“We recently lost a Genentech operation to Portland, Ore., because of sales tax issues. We should see some relief in 2010 when the single sales tax reform goes into play.”

Other state taxes that apply to the developers of drugs and devices that require FDA approval have been brought into line with federal standards, which recognize that the process can take up to 20 years while the developer is not yet generating returns, he said.

“On a national level, the health care debate and the patent length issue will impact our companies, as they will all life science clusters in the U.S.,” he said.

Another area of concern noted in the report is that Solano middle and high school students are performing below state levels in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“I’m meeting with the Solano Education Foundation to talk about how we can change that. We’ll be approaching other organizations and the public to find ways to stimulate STEM in our schools,” said Mr. Ammann.

Overall, he’s optimistic about meeting the challenges documented in the report.

“We have room to expand, stable sources of water, an excellent labor force and a great location for manufacturing. In 10 years, I’d like to see our current 2,300 life science jobs grow to 5,000,” he said.

Dixon officials approve 23-acre travel plaza off I-80

Dixon officials approve 23-acre travel plaza off I-80
By D. Ashley Furness, Business Journal Staff Reporter
August 17th, 2009

Dixon City Council members gave final approval last week for the construction of a 23-acre travel plaza and restaurant near I-80, expected to generate about 90 jobs and add $500,000 to city coffers once it opens.

Builders of the $1 million Flying J truck stop and travel plaza are required to construct water, sewer and utility infrastructure as part of the approval, including the addition of a storm water basin.

The project includes two pump islands, a market, lounge, restaurant and parking accommodations for big rigs, recreational vehicles and passenger cars.

Delayed Kaiser Permanente Vacaville hospital to open in October

Delayed Kaiser Permanente Vacaville hospital to open in October
By D. Ashley Furness, Business Journal Staff Reporter
August 17th, 2009

Kaiser Permanente’s $500 million Vacaville hospital will officially open Oct. 6 following a decision to delay the project in the wake of the ailing economy.

“With the change in the economy during the past year, we have made prudent decisions to manage costs and preserve our ability to provide high-quality care and service to our members and customers,” Kaiser spokesman Jim Caroompas said.

“We have already made the investment necessary to build the Vacaville hospital, so the decision is really based on operating costs.”

Initial projections for the Vacaville Medical Center called for an opening in April 2009, but officials announced a change in plans late last year. The facility was also initially designed to house maternity services, but those will no longer be included, according to the hospital’s Web site.

Mr. Caroompas said membership enrollment has declined by about 1 percent since the beginning of this year and the center designed for a maximum 150 beds will open with 62. A 217,000-square-foot medical office building on the same campus was completed last November.

At the same time, construction on Kaiser’s new $500 million Vallejo hospital tower originally set to open this year is continuing and will conclude next spring.

The organization currently has about 236,000 members in the Napa/Solano region.

Fairfield tourists can find their way with new kiosks

Fairfield tourists can find their way with new kiosks
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | August 14, 2009

FAIRFIELD - Visitors will soon be able to find their way around Fairfield with the help of colorful kiosks scattered around town.

The effort by the Fairfield Tourism Association will place six-foot kiosks in prominent hotels and attractions in the next two weeks. The displays will feature a large map noting Fairfield area hotels, attractions, wineries, farm trails, golf courses, tours, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor activities, with brochures to take away.

'The kiosks show visitors what there is to do and see here,' said Beth Javens, executive director of the Fairfield Tourism Association. 'Visitors will be able to locate a place on the map that they want to explore and then grab a brochure.'

The kiosks will be in all local hotels and the largest tourist stops, such as Jelly Belly Candy Co. The map lists 18 hotels, seven vineyards and wineries in Suisun Valley, the Western Railway Museum, Jelly Belly, the Budweiser plant, two golf courses and several other destinations.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Road work planned in Suisun City

Road work planned in Suisun City
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | August 17, 2009

SUISUN CITY - Workers are expected to start repairing pavement, putting in new street lights and upgrading pedestrian ramps on Sunset Avenue from Railroad Avenue to Highway 12 soon.

The entire project is being paid for by $700,000 in federal stimulus money which the city qualified for earlier this year.

Suisun City Councilmembers are expected to vote Tuesday on awarding a contract to Ghilotti Construction for the work.

Business owners were concerned the work would hurt access to their business so work along Sunset Avenue between Highway 12 and Merganser Street will be done late at night.

The work on Sunset Avenue between Merganser Street and Railroad Avenue will be done during daylight hours.

At least one lane will be open to traffic at all times during the project.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Local chest pain center accredited

Local chest pain center accredited
Published by The Reporter
Posted: 08/15/2009

NorthBay Medical Center has become the first-ever accredited Chest Pain Center in Solano County.

The coveted three-year designation was awarded by the Society of Chest Pain Centers after a rigorous audit of emergency services and interviews with staff, as well as Solano County Emergency Medical Service workers.

There are only 17 California hospitals, and 500 worldwide, that have earned this special designation.

"Chest Pain designation is another major advancement in the treatment of cardiac disease here in Solano County," said NorthBay Healthcare President and CEO Gary Passama. "It's another example of our commitment to compassionate care, advanced medicine, close to home."

Pat Wentworth, director of emergency services for NorthBay, added, "I'm thrilled and most appreciative of everyone who served on the Chest Pain Center Committee who contributed to the process, the change, the program."

"The Emergency Department managers and staff, as well as the leadership of the Vacaville Fire Department, Fairfield Fire Department, Medic Ambulance and Solano County EMS Agency were directly involved in improving the ways we recognize and respond quickly to patients who may be experiencing a heart attack, in order to initiate the appropriate treatment as quickly as possible," said Wentworth.

Dr. Ron Chapman, Solano County's public health officer, lauded the team effort, noting the long partnership between Solano County EMS and NorthBay Healthcare.

"It's definitely something to celebrate. People in Solano County are going to benefit in a number of ways," said Chapman. "New services offered by NorthBay are going to save lives. It means people with heart disease are going to get critically needed services in a timely and professional manner. And that translates into lives being saved, which is fantastic."

Wentworth noted all improvements were also implemented in VacaValley Hospital's Emergency Department.

The goal of the Society of Chest Pain Centers is to significantly reduce the mortality rate of heart patients.

To earn accreditation, NorthBay had to demonstrate expertise in a number of key areas including:

* Integrating the emergency department with the local emergency medical system.

* Assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients quickly.

* Effectively treating patients with low risk for acute coronary syndrome and no assignable cause for their symptoms.

* Continually seeking to improve processes and procedures.

* Ensuring Chest Pain Center personnel competency and training.

* Maintaining organizational structure and commitment.

* Having a functional design that promotes optimal patient care.

* Supporting community outreach programs that educate the public to promptly seek medical care if they display symptoms of a possible heart attack.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sacramento, 71 other markets surpass $25B income level

Monday, August 17, 2009, 9:05am PDT
Sacramento, 71 other markets surpass $25B income level
Sacramento Business Journal - by G. Scott Thomas

Seventy-two U.S. markets currently have more than $25 billion in total personal income, with Sacramento ranking 27th on the list and the San Francisco-Oakland area ranking No. 8.

Total personal income (TPI) is defined as the sum of all money received by all residents of a given area in a given year. It encompasses such diverse sources of income as salaries, interest payments, dividends, rental income and government checks.

The New York City area is first in the nation with TPI of $1.031 trillion, based on 2008 figures.

Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington and Houston round out the top five.

The following are the 72 markets with TPI of more than $25 billion:

* New York City, $1.031 trillion
* Los Angeles, $552.5 billion
* Chicago, $433.8 billion
* Washington, $302.8 billion
* Houston, $276.4 billion
* Philadelphia, $274.1 billion
* Dallas-Fort Worth, $267.1 billion
* San Francisco-Oakland, $263.9 billion
* Boston, $248.9 billion
* Miami-Fort Lauderdale, $236.7 billion
* Atlanta, $202.4 billion
* Detroit, $176.1 billion
* Seattle, $168.8 billion
* Minneapolis-St. Paul, $154.6 billion
* Phoenix, $148.5 billion
* San Diego, $136.5 billion
* Baltimore, $126.2 billion
* Riverside-San Bernardino, $119.4 billion
* Denver, $119.1 billion
* St. Louis, $116.4 billion
* San Jose, $107.0 billion
* Tampa-St. Petersburg, $100.9 billion
* Pittsburgh, $100.7 billion
* Portland, Ore., $87.1 billion
* Cincinnati, $83.5 billion
* Cleveland, $83.2 billion
* Sacramento, $82.3 billion
* Kansas City, $80.8 billion
* Bridgeport-Stamford, Conn., $73.6 billion
* Las Vegas, $73.3 billion
* Orlando, $71.4 billion
* San Antonio, $70.8 billion
* Columbus, $67.6 billion
* Indianapolis, $67.4 billion
* Milwaukee, $66.7 billion
* Charlotte, $66.3 billion
* Providence, $64.7 billion
* Virginia Beach-Norfolk, $63.2 billion
* Austin, $62.5 billion
* Nashville, $61.0 billion
* Hartford, $58.5 billion
* Jacksonville, $51.6 billion
* Richmond, $50.3 billion
* New Orleans, $50.1 billion
* Oklahoma City, $49.4 billion
* Memphis, $48.6 billion
* Louisville, $47.4 billion
* Birmingham, $45.1 billion
* Raleigh, $42.7 billion
* Buffalo, $40.9 billion
* Salt Lake City, $40.5 billion
* Tulsa, $39.7 billion
* Rochester, N.Y., $39.5 billion
* Honolulu, $39.4 billion
* New Haven, Conn., $38.3 billion
* Oxnard-Thousand Oaks, Calif., $36.4 billion
* Omaha, $35.8 billion
* Albany, $34.9 billion
* Worcester, Mass., $33.5 billion
* Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla., $33.4 billion
* Tucson, $33.0 billion
* Allentown-Bethlehem, Pa., $30.6 billion
* Dayton, $29.0 billion
* Albuquerque, $29.0 billion
* Baton Rouge, La., $27.6 billion
* Grand Rapids, $26.9 billion
* Akron, Ohio, $26.2 billion
* Poughkeepsie, N.Y., $26.1 billion
* Fresno, Calif., $26.0 billion
* Little Rock, Ark., $25.8 billion
* Springfield, Mass., $25.5 billion
* Columbia, S.C., $25.2 billion


Business First of Buffalo

Solano County's wine industry topic of talks this week

County's wine industry topic of talks this week
Published by The Reporter
Posted: 08/17/2009

The impact of Solano's wine industry will be discussed Thursday at the Fairfield Hilton Garden Hotel, where Solano Economic Development Corporation sponsors a panel discussion on the industry and opportunities for future growth.

Vineyards, bottlers, cork manufacturing, shipping and tourism are making Solano County a major player in California's wine industry, said the EDC. While Napa and Sonoma counties continue to dominate the industry, Solano has slowly pushed its way into the picture as a growing wine industry entity.

Person said the county continues to grow as a wine industry, and he attributes a lot of it to the transportation access afforded by major freeways.

The program, which begins at 7:30 a.m., will feature:

* Ron Lanza, Wooden Valley Winery

* James Herwatt, Cork Supply

* Matt Schrap, California Trucking Association

This member breakfast is sponsored by Pride Industries, Gaw Van Male & Sutter Health. The cost is $25 for Solano EDC members and $35 for non-members. To register, call 707-864-1855, or e-mail, pat@solanoedc.org.

Fairfield, Solano explore building prison reentry site

Fairfield, Solano explore building prison reentry site
By Barry Eberling | DAILY REPUBLIC | August 14, 2009

FAIRFIELD - Fairfield is working with the state to find a possible location for a 500-inmate reentry facility to help local residents in the state prison system learn life and job skills prior to being paroled.

Fairfield officials had an informal meeting with state Department of Corrections officials about a month ago to discuss possible sites, including properties owned by the city along Cordelia Road, City Manager Sean Quinn said. This comes after Fairfield opposed a 2007 proposal by Solano County to build a facility near the Claybank Jail.

'We're still basically in the very preliminary stages of discussion with them,' Quinn said. 'We haven't determined which site works best. We haven't decided if this thing is in our best interest or not.'

Yet an idea that two years ago appeared dead is now, in the words of City Councilman John Mraz, 'alive and kicking.'

California started pushing counties in 2007 to find sites for state reentry facilities to serve prison inmates about to be released back into the counties. Before release, inmates would go to the reentry facilities to learn such things as job and anger management skills and get treatment for substance abuse.


Each reentry facility would hold no more than 500 inmates. The intent as stated by California officials is a Solano County facility would serve inmates who came to the state prison system from Solano County and were scheduled to be released back to Solano County.

'Right now, all we're doing is putting parolees out in the streets with $200 and that's shameful,' Mraz said.

To encourage counties to accept the reentry facilities, the state linked bond money for county jail expansions to the program.

Solano County took the lead in 2007 and proposed the Claybank Jail site for a reentry facility. Other county-owned properties appeared to be too far away from cities, in more remote rural areas that wouldn't be favored by the state.

But Fairfield officials opposed the site near Clay Bank Road and Air Base Parkway because Lewis Planned Communities wants to build a nearby community with about 2,300 homes. That caused some tension between the city and county because the county wanted to qualify for jail expansion money.

'Location, location, location,' Mraz said. 'It was not a good location.'

Mraz said he contacted the state Department of Corrections about finding alternative sites and learned the state would be receptive.

Among the possible sites are properties Fairfield owns south of Cordelia Road that the state would buy. One is at Chadbourne Road between the peaker power plant and the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District plant. The other is near Hale Ranch Road and was once considered for a Field of Dreams site.

Such sites are away from homes, Mraz said.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.

Fairfield pool project heading into last lap

Fairfield pool project heading into last lap
By Ben Antonius | Daily Republic | August 14, 2009



Walter Mazarigos, top, and Selvin Diaz, with Pool Scene Inc. in West Sacramento, work on the childrens' play area in the new Allan Witt Aquatic Complex Tuesday. The complex will include the play area, water slides and an enclosed pool. Photo by Brad Zweerink

FAIRFIELD - A few wayward dolphins are the last hints of the old Allan Witt Pool.

The city is nearing completion of the new Allan Witt Aquatic Complex, a project that encompasses an enclosed pool, water slides and water play areas. What it does not have is any resemblance to the old project.

'It is nothing like the old L-shaped pools you used to see,' project manager Fred Beiner said.

Construction on the project began in August 2008 and is on schedule to finish in the coming winter. Whether that is late 2009 or early 2010 is still up in the air.

Either way, the hope is for a soft opening in winter and to unveil the entire project to the city in a springtime 2010 grand opening event, Beiner said.

The pool is being built in the same spot as the old Allan Witt Park pool, which had become dilapidated before it closed in 2003.

The only remaining structure is the brick building nearest the sports center that used to be lockers and showers. It has been gutted and the floor dug out to house pumps, heaters and other equipment. Doorways have been closed and some of the wall has been painted over, but a few parts of the old dolphin mural remain.

Once completed, the new pool will actually be more of a water park. The most visible amenities are two towering water slides that are visible from West Texas Street, as is the large glass building that encloses a six-lane, all-season pool. The project also includes a playground set in knee-deep water and a wet play area with water toys. The budget for the project is about $14 million.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.