The Hood River County School District board selected Dr. Corinda Hankins Elliott to fill the zone 3 seat on the panel. Hankins Elliott was tabbed from a field of three applicants for the position after interviews on Wednesday evening. Hankins Elliott is a pediatrician who has been a volunteer in a number of May Street Elementary programs in recent years. She will serve on the board for the next year, filling the term of Kateri Osborne-Lohr, who stepped down with the end of the school year after nine years in the position. The seat will be on the May 2017 election ballot. Zone 3 represents the downtown and eastern portion of Hood River.
A preliminary report by the Federal Railroad Administration says Union Pacific’s failure to maintain its track and track equipment resulted in the oil train derailment in Mosier on June 3. The report released today says the FRA investigation found that multiple lag bolts in the section of Union Pacific track where the derailment occurred were broken and sheared, leading to tie plates loosening from the ties, which allowed for the rails to be pushed outward as trains moved across them. The report noted the Union Pacific train was equipped with an air brake system, and FRA-conducted simulations after the derailment showed that if the train was equipped with newer electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, it could have led to a less severe incident. Union Pacific said Wednesday it would resume oil train traffic through the Gorge this week, with the railroad saying it has an obligation to its customers and under federal law to transport various goods on a daily basis, including hazardous materials. The FRA says it is evaluating potential enforcement actions, and confirmed a temporary speed restrictions through Union Pacific’s Portland subdivision, including a ten mile per hour speed limit in Mosier. After release of the report today Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, along with the groups Friends of the Columbia Gorge and Columbia Riverkeeper, renewed calls for a halt to crude oil traffic through the Gorge.
Union Pacific will resume transporting oil by train on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge sometime this week for the first time since the derailment in Mosier on June 3. Union Pacific spokesman Justin Jacobs confirmed what he called “normal operations” to resume over the course of the week, including the transport of crude oil. He added the railroad has an obligation to its customers and under federal law to transport various goods on a daily basis, including hazardous materials. He added if customers deliver a crude oil tank car that conforms to U.S. Department of Transportation requirements, Union Pacific is obligated to transport the rail car to its destination. Several government officials in Oregon and Washington along with environmental activists have pushed federal authorities to place a moratorium on oil trains through the region, saying they are too dangerous. Meanwhile, Jacobs said a preliminary estimate of a diesel fuel leak from a train that stopped at Bridal Veil on Tuesday is about 200 to 500 gallons in size, and personnel are on the scene assessing what happened, with the locomotive being moved to an area where it can be better studied. He added responders determined there was no impact to waterways.
The Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency Advisory Committee is recommending getting fresh appraisals of the Blue Building and Granada Theatre before putting out an asking price on the properties. City of The Dalles staff presented proposed listings for those properties and the Recreation Building at a Tuesday evening meeting, with list prices that included what the Agency paid for them along how much had been invested in them. But some members of the advisory committee felt new appraisals would give them a better knowledge of what to put in a listing price. There was consensus to not appraise the Recreation Building, noting that building would likely be torn down by a developer. The vote to make the recommendation was 5-1, with City Councilor and Urban Renewal board member Linda Miller voting no, saying the appraisal would not make a difference in the sale process and was an unnecessary expense. The recommendation goes to the City Council acting in its capacity as the URA board at their meeting this coming Monday evening.
The Hood River County Planning Commission will be conducting a public hearing this evening on a time, place, and manner ordinance for the production, processing, and retailing of recreational marijuana. County Community Development Director John Roberts says planning staff took a basic approach toward the ordinance, proposing farm and forest zones to allow growing, processing in exclusive farm use and industrial zones, and retailing in commercial zones, while staying away from residential zones. Roberts adds staff is recommending no marijuana operations be allowed in rural residential zones. He noted the average size of rural residential properties in Hood River County to be about two acres, which is much smaller than most areas.
Firefighters are doing mop-up work today on a 45 acre wildfire that started Monday afternoon about five miles west of The Dalles. The Chenoweth Fire began around 5:20 p.m. on state-protected land and burned through the night before Oregon Department of Forestry and Steelhead Enterprises crews could extinguish all visible flames. The ODF’s Brian Ballou says firefighters today will continue to strengthen trails creating a containment buffer and work on hot spots. The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.
The City of Bingen is considering entering into a memorandum of understanding with BNSF Railway to have a mobile foam trailer placed in the town. Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes says she approached BNSF after the Mosier oil train derailment earlier this month about what could be learned from that incident, and one thing that stood out was the amount of time to get fire suppression foam to the area. Barnes noted under the memorandum of understanding the foam would be available for emergencies in the Mid-Columbia area on both sides of the Columbia River. City Councilors will consider the MOU at their meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Bingen City Hall.
Hood River County Commissioners have revealed the five candidates to be interviewed next week as they look to fill the County Administrator role being vacated by the retiring David Meriwether. The five are Jeffrey Hecksel, who has been a City Manager in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and Monmouth…Marinette County, Wisconsin Administrator Shawn Henessee…Salida, Colorado City Administrator Dara MacDonald…Coquille City Manager Benjamin Marchant…and Eddy, New Mexico County Manager Rick Rudometkin. The public will be invited to meet the candidates at a reception on June 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, with interviews planned for the following day.
Hood River County Commissioners have formally approved moving ahead with signing the legal documents to transfer ownership of the Hood River library and the grounds around it to the Hood River County Library District. The County had retained ownership of the building when voters approved formation of the district to reopen the library five years ago, to allow the district to get firmly established. County Administrator David Meriwether says it’s time to convey the property over to the district as originally planned. In other business, the Commission approved the County budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year. It is unchanged from the document developed by the County’s budget committee, and continues current levels of funding in most areas.
With classes out for summer, for the Hood River County School District it’s now time for maintenance projects on district buildings to take place. Superintendent Dan Goldman says the biggest project is at Hood River Middle School, where the temporary boiler used in the past year has been replaced by another temporary boiler that could become permanent depending on how renovations of pipes in the building progress. Goldman noted bringing in the new temporary boiler is less expensive than what they have been doing since the original boiler went out before the just concluded school year.