The Washington State Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s ruling that the Klickitat Public Utility District is liable for one-point-six million dollars in fire-suppression costs resulting from a fire five years ago near Lyle. The PUD had appealed the 2013 Klickitat County Superior Court ruling, arguing it was not subject to state law requiring the Department of Natural Resources to recover fire-suppression costs if negligence is found. Investigators said the 2,100-acre wildfire started when a tree fell on a power line owned by Klickitat PUD. The Court of Appeals ruling stated even as a municipal corporation, the PUD can still be held responsible for the starting a wildfire. PUD chief operating officer Ron Ihrig told the Yakima Herald-Republic the utility has not yet decided whether to appeal, noting their insurer had led the effort to contest liability because it insures several other public utilities.
Oregon Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli says legislators have to try again to make reforms to the state’s Public Employees Retirement System, but adds that probably should happen during next year’s legislative session. Ferrioli thinks the state can’t afford for the Oregon Supreme Court ruling that the 2013 cuts to public employee retirement benefits are unconstitutional to be the end of PERS reform. The John Day Republican believes while PERS premiums will not spike immediately, the cliff is coming and he wants to bring together the state’s best and brightest budget, economic, and legal scholars to look at the decision. Justices ruled the Legislature cannot retroactively scale back an annual inflation increase of up to two percent.
The Oregon Supreme Court says some of the 2013 cuts to public employee retirement benefits are unconstitutional. Today’s ruling eliminates much of the savings state lawmakers were seeking, and will probably lead to larger pension contributions for state and local governments starting in 2017. Justices ruled the Legislature couldn’t retroactively scale back an annual inflation increase of up to two percent. House Republican Leader Mike McLane and Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli both expressed disappointment with the ruling, saying it reverses bipartisan work done to address PERS liabilities. The Court did rule the Legislature could change cost of living adjustments for services provided after the law was amended, and that out-of state retirees do not have a right to extra benefits to cover state taxes they don’t pay.
Washington Department of Natural Resources officials are worried about ultra-dry conditions in much of the state, and urging people to be prepared for the fire season. DNR’s Mary Verner says the fire season is actually underway, with 73 fires already reported. Verner points out there are already restrictions in place on DNR-protected lands, even though there is no burn ban at this point. She says they want people to understand how to protect their own properties. Verner adds DNR resources to fight were stretched thin last year, and they rely on numerous partnerships for help. DNR is hosting a wildfire preparedness meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Lyle High School.
Track and Field
Columbia won both the boys and girls portions of a four-school meet it hosted in White Salmon, while Lyle-Wishram’s boys were second and girls fourth. Lyle-Wishram’s Gabe Montoya won three boys’ events, while teammate Jacob Zeigler and Columbia’s James Bell won two each. In the girls’ part of the meet, Columbia’s Savannah Story, Stacia Bell, and Alondra Casarez-Garcia all won a pair of events.
LaCenter was first among boys and girls teams in a four-school meet in Stevenson. The host Bulldogs were third in both the boys and girls standings. Madison McCrum won three events for the Stevenson girls, while Brandon Campbell won two for the Bulldog boys.
Hood River Valley 7, The Dalles 1
Horizon Christian finished sixth in district qualifying at Quail Valley Golf Club in Banks. Ian Walker had the best round for the Hawks, shooting an 89.
Hood River Valley 19, Hermiston 9 (10 innings): Riley Wilson’s three-run double set off an 11-run tenth inning to lift the Eagles to the win in a back and forth game. Hermiston jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first inning, HRV came back to take an 8-7 lead in the top of the seventh inning, only to have the Bulldogs tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. Kam Walker pitched five innings in relief to earn the win. The Eagles moved two games in front of Pendleton and The Dalles atop the Columbia River Conference.
Pendleton 13, The Dalles 1: The Buckaroos rolled to the win at Quinton Street Park to pull even with the Riverhawks in second place in the league.
Columbia sweeps Stevenson: The Bruins win 8-7 and 14-3 to tie LaCenter for fourth in the Trico League.
Sunnyside Christian sweeps Lyle-Wishram-Klickitat 15-3 and 13-9.
Naches Valley sweeps Goldendale 3-0 and 10-0.
Pendleton 12, The Dalles 4: The league-leading Buckaroos completed a three-game sweep of the Riverhawks that saw them score 37 runs.
Hermiston 10, Hood River Valley 0: The Bulldogs stayed in the post-season race and pull within a game of HRV for third in the Columbia River Conference.
Google and Columbia Gorge Community College are partnering in their second annual Student Wind Challenge this weekend in The Dalles. The event has doubled in size this year, with over 200 students part of 40 middle and high school teams. Google’s Dave Karlson says the challenge is to build the best wind turbine. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center adjacent to the CGCC campus in The Dalles There will also be a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fair, with the University of Oregon and OMSI taking part.
The 28th Annual Community Clean-Up in The Dalles will be taking place this Saturday. The Wasco County yard on West 10th and Walnut will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, and people can bring two standard-sized pickup loads per household. Cindy Keever of The Dalles Public Works says it helps to have your items sorted before you arrive. Items no longer needed but too good to throw away can be donated to the Re-Use area. Those with questions about the Community Clean-up can call The Dalles Public Works at 541-296-5401 or Keever at 541-506-2004.
The City of The Dalles will hold its first budget committee meeting next week. The committee is made up of the City Council and five at-large members from the community. Mayor Steve Lawrence projects it will take three days of meetings to go through the entire budget. Lawrence reiterated the priority would be on road maintenance, noting Councilors approved allowing transferring general fund money to road maintenance. Lawrence added one of the Council’s goals for this year is to evaluate how the City can decrease its debtload, perhaps using a portion of increased transient room tax revenue to do so. Another is to clearly identify what is in the general fund and how priorities are being set.
FISH Food Bank’s new facility on Tucker Road adjacent to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Hood River is about to open FISH is going to open the building to its clients this coming Monday, while the Pine Street location will close. Marianne Durkan of FISH says they will be able to have more items and fresh food items available. FISH will retain the same hours of operation in the new building as they have had at Pine Street. FISH branches in Cascade Locks, Odell, and Parkdale will maintain their current operations. A grand opening and community open house is planned in June.