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Anthrax threat stalls mail

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Mail is backing up at California government agencies around Del Norte County and the state as security measures to inspect mail are being implemented, according to officials.

Were at a standstill, said Public Information Officer Lt. Rawland Swift at Pelican Bay State Prison. We receive thousands of pieces of mail and packages for inmates every day. We cant leave them at the post office because they dont have any place to store them, so were having to pick them up and store them here.

Governor Gray Davis signed an order Friday halting all state government mail until employees are trained to spot suspicious letters and packages. The order apparently preceded an order at the U.S. Congress yesterday where mail was halted after a letter addressed to Senator Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota) tested positive for anthrax.

Although enough people in Sacramento were trained to rescind the order there on Monday, Del Norte state offices and facilities are still hustling to train personnel.

The problem is people arent getting paid, said Cheri Broom, who is the wife of a correctional officer working at the prison. How are you going to feed the kids? How are you going to pay your bills? How can you tell them that Gov. Davis screwed us?

California Department of Corrections Spokesperson Russ Heimerich said regular paychecks are not due until the first of the month in most cases.

Some employees are not getting their checks today, but these are seasonal employees and overtime checks, Heimerich said.

Swift said that aside from a delay in overtime checks, prison employees should be paid on time.

As far as paychecks, weve made that a priority and all of those should have gone out, said Swift. A few of the overtime checks may not get processed today, but thats fairly normal. Everything should be back to normal by (Tuesday).

At the California State Parks information office in Crescent City, Superintendent Rick Sermon said his staff was trained via an instructional fax.

We received a fax from the governors office of emergency services on the 12th (of October), Sermon said. We had an employee meeting and talked about anthrax and briefed everybody, using the criteria sent over from the governors office.

Sermon said he did not believe the paychecks of any seasonal employees were affected at the parks department.

At the California Highway Patrol, the dispatcher said that office is waiting for expertise to arrive.

Were not to touch it until further notice, she said. We sent a sergeant over to Redding this morning to be trained.

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