Eureka City Council approves lease for off-road track

Contingent requests council agendize St. Joseph Hospital staffing issues

Over a hundred people packed the overflowing council chamber on Tuesday night for the Eureka City Council meeting. (Philip Santos — The Times-Standard)
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The Eureka City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a lease for an off-road track in Samoa and delayed a decision to send a letter to the state Attorney General to probe a proposed rail line project.

Also Tuesday night, a contingent of health care workers and supporters asked the council to plan a discussion on the staffing levels at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.

St. Joseph probe requested

A delegation of health care workers, laid-off hospital employees, and local residents asked the Eureka City Council to request that St. Joseph Hospital freeze layoffs at the Council’s meeting Wednesday evening. Additionally, the delegation requested the council hold a public hearing on the status of staffing and patient care at the hospital.

This follows a series of demonstrations and similar petitions to the council after the hospital laid off 25 workers last month.

In the standing room only chamber, Jessica Corral, who is one of the workers recently laid off, said, “there has been a huge decline in quality patient care.” The hospital, according to Corral, doesn’t “have enough people to function as we should.”

Corral, who was an emergency department technician Isaid her job involved taking electrocardiograms, drawing blood, cleaning wounds, as well as other tasks.

“Patient safety and employee safety has gone downhill,” Corral said.

Christian Hill, St. Joseph Hospital’s spokesman, maintains that testimony like Corral’s is false.

“We have engaged union representatives in several conversations about the rationale for the changes and have listened to their concerns,” Hill wrote in an email to the Times-Standard. “Following this dialogue, we stand by our decision to continue to strategically invest in health care services in the best interest of our organization and community. To be clear, there is no staffing crisis.  As always, our community should feel safe, secure and confident while seeking high quality care at our facilities.”

In response to Hill’s email, Corral said she urges Hill to talk to her former co-workers who are on the ground floor at the hospital who, according to Corral, said conditions are “horrible.”

Allen McCloskey, a union steward with the National Union of Healthcare Workers, said the hospital is “running a corporate agenda.” He believes more layoffs are on the way.

Off-road track

The council unanimously passed a motion to approve a lease for an off-road vehicle track, or a motocross track as described by attendees, at the Samoa Airport Property adjacent to the drag strip.

During the presentation of the staff report regarding the track, community development director Rob Holmlund described the city’s role in the track as landlord-like, meaning that they are simply leasing the property to the parties responsible for the track.

Ken Goldie, who is leading the effort behind the track told the Times-Standard before the council meeting that the only place to ride off-road motorcycles legally is a “small area in Samoa.” Otherwise, riders must ride illegally, find private property to ride on or travel hours to the nearest track.

The proposed track would be about 1/2-mile in length, located at the bottom of an area commonly referred to as the “Superbowl.”

Holmlund said discussions were already underway about conditions for the lease, such as restrictions on night-time operation as well as lighting.

According to the staff report on the track, “Mr. Goldie has been working with Humboldt County Planning and Building Department to research the feasibility of the Project. A conditional use permit and a coastal development permit will be required for the project to move forward.”

“It’s not Evil Kneivel,” Goldie said, referring to the sport.

Goldie, among many others who spoke during the public comment period on the track, framed the sport as family friendly.

“It’s a little dangerous at times, but so is football,” he said.

Another person commented that kids involved with motorsports won’t get involved with anything else because they can’t afford to.

Several council members took time to thank Goldie as well as the community members who showed up to support the track.

“Having other opportunities for kids is a huge, huge boon for us,” Councilwoman Kim Bergel said. “You can feel the community that’s already engaged”

Other business

The council delayed discussing the submission of a letter to the state Attorney General requesting a review of the investment practices for the Humboldt Eastern Railroad, LLC until sometime in December, according to Mayor Frank Jäger.

Philip Santos can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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