NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: The greatest gift to the Fairhurst family of Lafayette on Christmas Day did not arrive in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. It came in Central Contra Costa Sanitary District vehicles carrying Joshua Whitman, Joe Placencia and Justin Anderson.

It all began when raw sewage from neighboring homes backed up in the family's shower and toilets on Christmas Eve. The night before Christmas for the family of four included no functioning toilets, no showers, no dishwashing and using disinfectant and air fresheners to get rid of the stench.

By Christmas Day, the sewage inside went down but filled the front lawn. A plumber informed the family there was a problem with the sanitary district's sewage line. So Brian Fairhurst, who admitted he didn't know who operated his sewer lines, tracked down the district and called dispatch.

They arrived within 45 minutes as promised, fixed the line, scooped the mess out of the yard and even apologized, he said.

Fairhurst, a father of 1-year-old and 3-year-old boys, wrote in January to thank the workers for ending their nightmare before Christmas.

"Considering it was Christmas Day, I was impressed," he said recently. "They treated it like it was their own yard. (Civil servants) don't have a reputation for being customer-service friendly. These guys acted like it was their problem."


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FROM INFAMY TO FAME?: Mark Wassberg has a reputation in Richmond. His anti-gay and anti-Latino slurs regularly draw hisses at City Council meetings. His profanity-laced tirades at the mayor and City Council are applauded by a few but have been known to get him ejected from the chamber by police officers. His slapdash campaign for City Council last year got a few hundred votes but not much wider attention.

The Eye has watched it all, like a train wreck on an instant loop.

Now, Wassberg, Richmond High School class of '75, wants to be taken seriously as a filmmaker. His movie, an hourlong documentary titled "Just Another Day," is a pastiche of home video-captured carnage and commentary that chronicles the bloodshed and community outrage that roiled the city for much of the 2000s.

"I would park in the Iron Triangle at night, dressed in all black and with my scanner," Wassberg said. "The key was to film as many homicides without the bodies covered with the yellow tarp; it was an adrenaline rush but so sad. Sometimes it made me sick, but I kept filming."

Wassberg's film also features extensive clips from council meetings in the mid-2000s, when activists persuaded the council to pony up more resources to stem the violence.

Wassberg said he plans to premiere his work March 9 at New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, which was the scene of a horrific in-church shooting a few years ago. He says he still isn't sure where the leaders there will host his big event.

One of the city's most infamous residents, Wassberg says he is shooting for fame and fortune.

"I need to get this to Hollywood," Wassberg said. "Living in my truck is starting to get old."

BUCKING HIS PARTY: The "Business Person of the Year" award is given out in many of Contra Costa's cities. Bill Snider, owner of Moraga Hardware and Lumber, is this year's winner of the award bestowed by the Moraga Chamber of Commerce. He will be honored at a dinner Tuesday.

As with winners of such awards everywhere, Snider was chosen not only for the hard work he's put into his own business, but for his efforts to lift other local businesses and, by extension, the entire community.

Such honors are generally nonpartisan in nature, but in a proclamation approved Feb. 13, the Moraga Town Council noted that Snider's hard work in support of a recent sales tax increase to fund road and infrastructure repair came despite his being a member of a political party often identified with opposing new taxes.

In the official proclamation was this passage: "WHEREAS, despite being a registered Republican, Bill was an early endorser and supporter of Measure K, Moraga's local sales tax to repair our roads and critical infrastructure, and campaigned tirelessly for its recent successful passage (70 percent pro vote) as a key member of the 'Yes on K' committee."

Snider told the Lamorinda Sun his party affiliation is irrelevant when an important cause beckons. He also said he was amused by the party mention, which may have been the whole point; Snider is known in the community as someone who appreciates a good joke.

Chamber President Frank Melon told the Sun that Snider is "definitely one of a kind" and "a very generous and passionate person."

Staff writers David DeBolt, Robert Rogers and Sam Richards contributed to this column.