The Four Rivers Early Learning Hub, to oversee services for children through age 5 in Hood River, Wasco, Sherman, Gilliam, and Wheeler counties, is in process of being approved by the state. Hood River County Prevention Department Director Joella Dethman, who is serving as an interim coordinator for the hub, says they are in the final stages of getting state approval, and should be an official hub by April. Dethman says the goal of the hub is to coordinate services for young children to help them get off to a good educational start while providing accountability on results.
Hood River City officials are working with state officials to establish the new restroom facility on State Street currently under construction to be a part of the Gorge Bicycle Hub. The hub will feature locations from Wood Village to The Dalles to provide a place for bicyclists to stop. Hood River City Manager Steve Wheeler says the State Street location will include a bicycle rack and water fountain, but added Hood River didn’t need to do too many things because there are so many bike shops near that location. Wheeler noted Hood River was first in line for the bicycle hub because of the rest room construction.
The Dalles City Council, acting in its capacity as the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency, got an update from Rapoza Development on its efforts to obtain funding for a proposed hotel and other amenities in the Granada block. Michael Leash of Rapoza was upbeat about gaining the necessary funding, bringing experts in acquiring funding through New Market Tax Credits at the state and federal level and the federal EB-5 program which solicits international investment through an employment based immigrant visa program. Jason Pasternak of Wave Hospitality Advisors said they remain focused on meeting a deadline to purchase the properties on the block from Urban Renewal by a December 31 deadline, saying one term sheet with an investor has committed $200,000l, and two more term sheets for $750,000 to $1,000,000 are outstanding at this time. Councilor Bill Dick call the investor news a potential “game changer,” while Mayor Steve Lawrence says he remains focused on what could be put together by the December 31 deadline.
The Dalles City Council decided to roll back its planned water rate increase for this year from ten percent to five percent. Councilors received a report from City Public Works Director Dave Anderson that municipal water revenue was already $284,000 over what they expected this fiscal year. The Council has been wrestling with an unpopular rate increase plan while dealing with how to pay for a list of needed capital improvement projects. Councilor Tim McGlothlin is in favor of the drop in the rate increase, and wants to find more ways to chop it down. Anderson said increased industrial water use led to the water revenue jump.
The Dalles City Council voted to pass an ordinance to establish a tax on the sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products. Measure 91 on the November ballot to legalize recreational marijuana limits the right to tax it to the state, sparking a number of cities and counties to adopt ordinances to establish a tax before the vote in anticipation of the measure passing. Mayor Steve Lawrence says while there are concerns about whether a local tax would withstand a legal challenge and whether it is even desirable, he and the Council didn’t want to shut off any options at this point. No tax rate was established in the ordinance. Councilor Dan Spatz voted against it, saying he believed the marijuana question should be handled at the federal level.
Representatives of the Fort Dalles Rodeo asked the The Dalles City Council for $10,000 to help with efforts to make this summer’s 50th annual event the most memorable ever. Rodeo Association President Damon Hulit says they would use half of the money for specialty acts in an effort to make the 50th year special The rest of the funds would be used to help market the rodeo and the fact that The Dalles is in the top 10 Western towns in the region. Hulit added it was a one-time request to the City, which will consider it during their budget process.
With one week left to go, ballots are being returned in both Wasco and Hood River counties. Wasco County reports as of yesterday afternoon 29.37 percent of voters had returned ballots, while in Hood River County the rate of return was slower at 19.84 percent. The deadline for ballots to arrive back in County election offices is next Tuesday at 8 p.m. Ballots can be mailed or dropped off at County election offices or designated drop boxes.
Oregon State Police arrested a man wanted on numerous warrants out of Hood River County early Saturday morning after checking on his welfare along Interstate 84 near Biggs Junction. According to the OSP, a trooper responded to Interstate 84 near milepost 104 just after 1 a.m. Saturday following a citizen’s report of a man lying next to a guardrail. Upon arriving at the scene the trooper found a man sleeping next to the guardrail and awoke him to check on his welfare. The man was identified as 32-year-old Bruce Warren Sampson of White Swan, Washington. Sampson was arrested after the trooper learned he was wanted on five Failure to Appear warrants out of Hood River County. He was lodged at the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility.
Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz says the final documents to allow the Naito Development hotel and commercial building near the Nichols Boat Basin should be finished up in the next week or so. Babitz says there have been no snags to this point, and he expects a formal announcement next week. He notes there have been five different attorneys working on the documents. Under the deal reached between Naito Development and Friends of the Hood River Waterfront, the Hood River Urban Renewal Agency will purchase land at the south end of the basin for a low impact public park.
Klickitat County Commissioners have begun work on the County’s 2015 budget. Commissioners and department heads have held a handful of meetings so far, and Commissioner Rex Johnston says things are looking similar to last year. He expects the budget to remain flat in 2015. It was a similar story in preparing the budget for the current year. The 2014 budget was approved at a size of just over 50 million dollars at the fund/department level.