December 6-12, 2006

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By Patricia Lynn Henley

Whoa for Wal-Mart

The on-again, off-again construction of a 176,000-square-foot Wal-Mart superstore east of Highway 29 in American Canyon has once more ground to a halt. An appeals court recently ruled that the city violated environmental laws in approving the project. A temporary stop work order was issued Nov. 29. City officials asked to continue related offsite improvements because of safety concerns. "We have one street that's half-done," explains city manager Richard Ramirez. The request was denied and all construction is halted, at least until the next court date of Dec. 18. Construction of the big-box store was previously stopped by a temporary court order in May 2005, but in August of that year the local court ruled in favor of the project. Two local groups appealed that ruling, leading to the current work stoppage. The store was scheduled to open early next year. Wal-Mart officials estimate it will generate $600,000 in annual sales tax revenue, and the city's 2006-'07 fiscal budget is based on adding at least some of that money to its coffers.

Cable climbing

North Bay couch potatoes who depend on Comcast cable services for their daily television fix will see their rates climb an average of 5.86 percent, or about $3 a month, starting Jan. 1. Officials say the increase is needed to cover the cost of upgrading its technology and adding new services, such as on-demand programming. There will be no change in the company's fees for high-speed Internet access and phone service. Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia and has 24 million cable subscribers nationwide, raised its cable rates 6.9 percent for 2006 and 5.7 percent in 2005. An announcement of this latest price hike will be included with subscribers' bills this month.

Slow learning curve?

A 45-year-old Corte Madera woman was charged with driving under the influence (DUI) after being involved in a car crash on Nov. 10. On Wednesday, Nov. 29, she drove her 1995 BMW to the California Highway Patrol office in Corte Madera, to pick up a copy of the accident report. Officers smelled alcohol on her breath and noticed that her speech was slurred. They gave her a sobriety test, which she failed. She was arrested on yet another count of DUI. "Something like this doesn't happen every day, but it's not the first time it's happened," says CHP officer Ross Ingels. When celebrating the holidays, remember to appoint a designated driver.

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