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Local News

PUD Taps Karp To Fill Unexpired Term

The Northern Wasco County People’s Utility District Board of Directors selected Connie Karp to fill the unexpired term of Director Kenneth Leibham for Subdivision 5.  The board voted 3-1 in favor of selecting Karp.  Bill Lennox also applied for the position.  Karp will be sworn in at the PUD’s regular meeting this Tuesday.  Karp retired from Columbia River Bank in 2008, and has stayed involved in the community through a variety of jobs and volunteer work.  Roger Howe, who was elected in November to the board for Subdivision 1, will be sworn in on January 3.

Dealership In The Dalles Remains In Tonkin Hands

The Tonkin automobile dealership in The Dalles is not one of the dealerships being sold to Spokane-based Gee Automotive Companies.  Tonkin Subaru/Chevrolet/Buick/GMC General Sales Manager Steve Ross says The Dalles business will continue to be owned by Ed and Brad Tonkin and Scott Seidel.  The Portland Business Journal is reporting that most of the Portland Ron Tonkin Dealerships have been sold to Gee.  Ross said The Dalles operation was not sold, along with a Ferrari location in Wilsonville and dealerships in Reno, Nevada.  The Tonkin name is remaining on the dealerships that are being sold, with Brad Tonkin become platform president for Gee.

TD City Council Moves Ahead With Wastewater Plant Improvements

The Dalles City Council authorized moving ahead with phase two work on improvements to the municipal wastewater treatment plant.  That will include the completion of the design for a second phase that is enlarging capacity and finding a way to use the methane gas the plant produces to power it.  Mayor Steve Lawrence says to qualify for grant funds for the methane generator, work has to start fairly quickly so it can be finished by December of next year.  Some changes are being made to the design to accommodate challenges that arose in the upgrade, including a new structure to house the headworks, additional piping work, and a second backup power generator to handle the electrical loads of an upgraded plant.  The cost is just over $10.9 million dollars, with most of that having been included in the 2016-17 City budget without requiring the issuance of bonds.

HR City Council Approves Plastic Bag Ban

The Hood River City Council has passed an ordinance banning retail stores from providing single-use plastic carryout bags, and requiring those establishments to charge at least five cents for paper bags.  City Manager Steve Wheeler says the ordinance will begin to go into effect on March 1 at stores that employ more than 50 people, and July 1 for smaller outlets.  The ordinance was based on similar measures passed in other Oregon communities.  Councilors believe the ordinance is a local step toward encouraging the use of biodegradable or reusable bags for transport of retail goods.

Important Time For Food Bank Donations

This is an important time of year for Hood River’s FISH Food Bank.  FISH helps provide food to about 400 families a month, and a large portion of their donations come between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.  FISH’s Marianne Durkan notes they receive tremendous support from the community and local grocery outlets, and Hood River Valley High School’s annual canned food drive is underway.  Donations to the Hood River Valley High School effort, both cans of food and monetary donations, can be taken to the school.  In addition, donations can be made to FISH through its website, FISH-Food-Bank-com.  One dollar can pay for five cans of food.

NORCOR Hoping To Receive Coffee Creek Overflow

NORCOR officials hope they might be able to help the state deal with overcrowding at the Coffee Creek women’s prison.  NORCOR board member and Hood River County Commission Chair Ron Rivers says they have been working with the state for about a year to hopefully house about 50 to 60 female inmates from Coffee Creek at the regional jail, noting they have made changes to meet state requirements for such a move.  Rivers noted if they received inmates from Coffee Creek, they would be non-violent offenders.  NORCOR currently houses an average of 120 inmates, about half of its capacity.

Appeals To County Railroad Decision Filed

Union Pacific has filed an appeal with the Columbia River Gorge Commission of Wasco County’s decision to deny a permit to for its proposed addition of a second mainline track in the Mosier area.  Wasco County Commissioners overturned a county planning commission decision to grant the permit, saying opposition to the project by treaty tribes meant it could not approve it under the County’s National Scenic Area ordinance.  Another appeal has been filed with the Gorge Commission by Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Riverkeeper, and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.  In their filing, the groups indicate while the County denied the permit based on the tribes’ objections, their appeal was also denied by the County Commission.  Those organizations contend the project should not proceed based on threats to fish and wildlife habitat, parks and recreation, scenic resources, and Gorge communities.

HR County Commission To Hear Construction Excise Tax Proposal

Hood River County Commissioners will hear a proposal at their worksession next Monday to use a two-percent construction excise tax to help establish an affordable housing program in the county.  A task force has been working on the proposal.  The state allows establishment of the excise tax for new construction.  County Administrator Jeff Hecksel says this would be one piece of the complex puzzle to encourage affordable housing construction, but added it’s not a “silver bullet.”  Commission Chair Ron Rivers says he expects the proposal will include some exemptions.  The worksession will be next Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. in the Hood River County Administration Building.

Finding Existing Building Space Difficult For Businesses

It appears finding existing building space in the Gorge is becoming more and more difficult for businesses interested in locating here.  Port of The Dalles Executive Director Andrea Klaas says her office received a call recently from a distribution company that was looking for a four-thousand square foot building to lease, and not only did the Port of The Dalles not have a location to offer, but none of the other Ports in the region had one, either.  Klaas says the Port of The Dalles is taking two steps to deal with the problem, including discussing with the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport about getting space in the flex building it is constructing, and talking with developers in the region to see if anyone is interested in constructing spec buildings.  Klaas notes the need is not for large buildings, but utilitarian facilities for smaller manufacturers and distributors.