The Wasco County Commission decided Wednesday to rescind a December decision to leave the North Central Public Health District. Representatives of the other two counties in the district, Sherman and Gilliam, contended the withdrawal could only take place after the district had been in place for five years, and that mark did not arrive until two weeks after the December vote. Commissioner Scott Hege says the panel agreed there was no benefit to going through legal action on the decision, and would continue on with its work, and could make another decision to withdraw before the end of this year to leave at the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year. Hege noted Wasco County’s concerns around how the health district is governed and how public health services can be best delivered in the County remain…but he hopes all parties can work together to address them.
The Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Advisory Committee has recommended the purchase of the Elks Building in downtown The Dalles so it can be renovated to house a neon sign museum. The panel approved having the agency seek to purchase the building for $245,000, then transfer the title to David Benko, the original curator of the American Sign Museum of Cincinnati. His group Rock City Neon would then bear the cost of renovating the Elks Building. Two separate estimates have put the cost of bringing the building back to a usable condition at over one million dollars. Rock City Neon has a collection of over 200 signs, and the Portland Art Museum will be a primary fundraiser for the project. One condition for the sale would include the right for Urban Renewal to recover the building if the museum is not open within two years. The recommendation goes to the Urban Renewal Agency board, made up of The Dalles City Council, which will consider it on Monday.
Hood River County Commissioners gave the go-ahead to submit an application to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department seeking a $500,000 grant to purchase and develop property around Punchbowl Falls for a county park. The County has made a similar request in the past, but County Administrator David Meriwether says recent public interest generated through public forums over the last couple of months give this application a much better chance for approval. Western Rivers Conservancy currently owns the property, and is willing to sell it to the County for development of a park for $500,000.
Columbia Gorge Community College Chief Financial Officer Will Norris has put the final estimate of the structural deficit for the school for the 2015-16 fiscal year at just under two million dollars. In a letter to the school’s faculty and staff…Norris says the revenue forecast anticipates flat tuition, level enrollment, and what he terms a “less than adequate” increase to the state-wide Community College Support Fund. Norris pointed out in a follow-up that dropping enrollment with an improved economy is a driving factor in the deficit. It does not include savings from current vacancies or other materials and services cuts, with decisions on making those reductions permanent to take place as the budget is built over the rest of the month. A voluntary resignation incentive program began at CGCC in January, and an initial reduction in force is now underway. Norris noted in the letter a balanced budget will be presented to the school’s budget committee for review. He also says that when a $400,000 set aside for contingencies is factored in, budget reductions and new revenue must equal $2,400,000 to balance the budget without further accessing reserves.
The Port of Hood River Commission approved an amended disposition and development agreement that will convey the former Expo Center property to Key Development. The agreement was actually approved a year ago, subject to addressing zoning questions that were clarified with the recent approval of the Waterfront Refinement Plan by the Hood River City Council. Port Executive Director Michael McElwee says the amended agreement sets the stage for Key to move forward with plans for three buildings on the site. The property has been split into two parcels, with sale of the portion for the 21,000 square foot Turtle Island facility to close in late August with completion set for September 2016. Closing for the rest of the property is to occur in December, with construction on the other two buildings taking place in 2016. Total purchase price is just over two million dollars.
In her first speech after being sworn in as Oregon’s 38th governor, Kate Brown said “the first order of business is to regain the confidence of the people” in the wake of the departure of John Kitzhaber under the cloud of an ethics investigation. Brown pledged that for as long as she is governor, she will not seek or accept any outside compensation from any source, and that members of her household and staff will not accept outside compensation for work related to the business of the state. She also called for passing meaningful legislation to strengthen the capacity and independence of the Government Ethics Commission, and strengthen laws to ensure the timely release of public documents. Brown also called on legislators to work together to strengthen Oregon’s economic recovery, improve access to education and health care, and create more living-wage jobs around the state.
The Washington 14th District Legislative contingent has mixed feelings about a bill that would remove philosophical opposition as an acceptable reason for parents not to vaccinate their school-age children. Norm Johnson is on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee that heard the bill Tuesday, and he notes even if this passes religious and medical exemptions would exist. Johnson said he believes “we have an obligation to protect children.” Fellow House member Gina McCabe says she finds her constituents split on the issue, noting she supports the rights of parents to choose but feels children need to be kept safe. Senator Curtis King says there are two sides to the issue, but he is concerned about the impact of young people who are not vaccinated on others.
Wasco County Commissioners will begin the process of hiring new directors for both the Planning and Public Works Departments. That after the interim directors of the two departments say there are strategies available in the short- and long-term to improve the efficient operation of both, but consolidating them into one department probably isn’t feasible. Commissioners asked for the report on the two departments while the directorships of both were vacant, and Commissioner Scott Hege says they agreed with the conclusion that combining into one department was probably not workable. The report also indicates there are longer-term higher investment strategies looking at the facility as a whole to integrate staffs and provide more efficiency.
The Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Advisory Committee is recommending donating $100,000 dollars for development of an artistic fountain at Lewis and Clark Festival Park. City officials have been working on the project for the last two years, and the Urban Renewal Agency had already promised the funds, which are in its current budget. Projected costs have been reduced over time to just over $187,000, with a private donation of $87,500 in hand. Cost savings were achieved through donated material from Wasco County and the Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District, and donated labor from local contractor Monte Wasson Excavation. Plans call for the project to be finished in time for a July 4 dedication. The recommendation goes to the Urban Renewal Agency board, made up of The Dalles City Council.
Columbia River Conference
Pendleton 72, Hood River Valley 60: Wes Persinger scored 22 points and Sonny Green as the Buckaroos led from wire to wire to take sole possession of first place in the CRC. Noah Noteboom and Dallas Buckley scored 12 points apiece to lead the Eagles, who remain in second place in the league by one game over Hermiston.
The Dalles 48, Hermiston 44: Coby Conlee scored 13 points and Colin Noonan tallied 11 to go along with nine rebounds to lift the Riverhawks to their third win of the season. Dillon Zimmerly led the Bulldogs with 15 points.
Big Sky Tournament First Round
Dufur 77, Ione 36: The Rangers will face Sherman in round two on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Hermiston.
South Wasco 64, Mitchell-Spray 46: The Redsides move on to meet regular season league champ Horizon Christian in a semi-final at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Hermiston.
Columbia River Conference
Hermiston 46, The Dalles 43: The Bulldogs clinched the league title by holding off a spirited effort by the Riverhawks.
Pendleton 77, Hood River Valley 35
Southwest Washington Class 1-A District Tournament
Columbia 34, Eatonville 33: The Bruins keep their season going with the narrow win, and will face Kalama on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at W.F. West High School in Chehalis.
Greater Columbia League Tournament
Bickleton 34, Lyle-Wishram 33