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Nuz

Boom Boom

How we love our Monterey Bay. While some are entranced by the sparkling waters, playful otters and cavorting dolphins, others--like folks with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Ft. Ord Toxic Project--are swooning over the unexploded munitions off the now-defunct military base's shores.

According to Patrick Cotter, an environmental scientist and Sanctuary diver, some of his peers found "quite a supply" of 50-caliber machine gun cartridges nestled in the sand off Monterey's Del Monte Beach last December. This little find presented a host of problems. First, the bullets were unexploded. Second, Ft. Ord had a "restricted zone" and "danger zone" for artillery exercises and the cartridges were found outside those zones, which suddenly extends the range of any cleanup plans. And, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (the Sanctuary's parent agency) sent a letter to the Army telling the brass of its find, the GIs notified NOAA that tidying up those messy unexploded munitions was "not a priority."

With a history of over 50 years' amphibious activity and target practice on the shore's edge by Ft. Ord soldiers, it may stand to reason that 50-caliber cartridges might be some of the lesser horrors to be found by unwary divers out there under those azure blue waters. And that's exactly what worries Cotter. While you and I might avoid like the plague areas known to have large things that go boom, this is not a line of wisdom shared by some of the more testosterone-driven divers out there. For that reason, Cotter will not say where, exactly, the cartridges were found. He also urges anyone who has spotted anything that looks, well, explosive, to call the Sanctuary's line at 647-4201.

And for those who might want to see bombs in their bay considered a priority, head on out to the US Army's public hearing on the feds' proposed restoration plan this Saturday (11am) at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside. For more info, call 375-9464.


Friends of Bills

The system Dominican Hospital currently uses to inform patients of charges billed to their health insurance companies can be a source of puzzlement to some patients, not to mention a temporary financial shocker.

The hospital sends out "data mailers," which list charges for medical services rendered, minus Medicare payments. Like any bill, the mailer includes a due date for payment and a detachable stub reading: "Please detach and return with your remittance." There's also a red arrow pointing to the balance, and stating: "Please pay this amount."

For a patient without other health insurance, this is an actual bill. If the patient does have health insurance, however, the balance is billed to the insurer, although it appears as though the patient is being billed. For instance, a recent mailer documented a surgery costing $24,379, leaving a balance of about $4,900 after Medicare payments--ostensibly a figure for which the patient is responsible.

"Some seniors will write checks without questioning bills. They will assume it's correct because it's 'the hospital' or 'the doctor,' " says Gloria Lorenzo of the Consumer Affairs Unit of the county District Attorney's Office, whom Nuz asked to examine the mailer. "I'd like to see a clarification that says all deductions have been made and you must pay the balance," she says. "They have room [on the mailer] for a couple more sentences."

Dominican spokesperson Penny Jacobi agrees that the mailers are confusing and says the hospital will try to make them less so. "I think you're right, it could be clarified," she says. "We're going to take it to one of the process improvement teams to see if we can make the message more clear."

But Jacobi adds that most people wait to pay the bills until their secondary insurer has paid, and those who make redundant payments are usually refunded within 12 days.

Dominican has a free billing-assistance program for senior citizens (phone 462-7734). An independent organization called HICAP, or Health Insurance Consumer Action Panel, also can assist senior citizens in understanding insurance and billing questions (phone 462-5510). Younger folks will just have to use the ol' noggin.


All Dry

By Tuesday, some residents of the Twin Lakes neighborhood were getting a bit fed up with Santa Cruz County Public Works, the City of SC Water Department and all their sidewalk/water main repairs along 7th Avenue and East Cliff Drive. Some weeks ago, workers hung notices on the doorknobs of neighborhood homes stating that the water would be turned off between 8am and 5pm on a particular date. After residents took pains to wake up early that day for a pre-work shower and shave, the water wasn't shut off after all. The doorknob tags reappeared the same afternoon for the following day, at which point the water was cut off as promised. Last Tuesday, however, some residents again had their water turned off, this time without notice. "I'm really pissed," says one unnamed and unwashed 8th Avenue source, who was abruptly denied her morning shower before heading to work. "They should be giving us a warning. It screws up my whole day."

Public Works officials did not return our calls by press time.


Dizzy Spell

Nuz recently received a postcard from esteemed Congressmember Sam Farr cordially inviting us to join him for a special town hall meeting on Monday at Harbor High (7pm). According to Sam's postcard, the meeting will be "focussing" [sic] on public education. Would that focuss be on riting or speling, Sam?


Creative Spirits

Divine creation or evolution? But wait, there are more choices. We're not exactly sure what, but the Raëlian Association of the Bay Area is hosting a free lecture by its director, Felix Clairvoyant, who claims to be a bona fide microbiologist. "Mr. Clairvoyant has long understood that the complexity involved in molecular organization could not have randomly come together to 'create' life," trumpets a press release from the association. Now where have we heard that before? In any case, we were searching for the born-again stamp on the group's stationary when--lo!--included among the evening's speakers and topics is "The UFO Phenomenon."

So we must have been seeded here by aliens. Not so unbelievable, given some of the people who walk the streets of this town. Anyway, the lecture is happening on Thursday (7:30pm) at Louden Nelson Center.


Nuz welcomes tips--call 457-9000 or email us.

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From the May 16-22, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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Copyright © 1996 Metro Publishing and Virtual Valley, Inc.


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