Northern Wasco County Parks & Recreation District Executive Director Phil Lewis has resigned effective September 23 to accept a new role as Oregon City’s Community Services Director. Lewis came to Northern Wasco Parks and Recreation as Executive Director in December 2014. During his time with the parks district he oversaw construction of the district’s Aquatic Center and splash park, organizational realignments, modernization of marketing efforts including a new website and unveiling of an online program registration system. The District Board of Directors will immediately begin searching for a replacement. Board Chair Catherine Whalen says they hope to have a new Executive Director in place by the end of October.
A woman who stabbed and killed her husband at the Oregon Veterans Home in The Dalles last October has been sentenced to ten years in prison after pleading guilty to first degree manslaughter in Wasco County Circuit Court. Court documents indicate 71-year-old Esther Wilkerson killed her husband of nearly 40 years, 67-year-old James Wilkerson, while under what defense attorneys called “the influence of extreme emotional disturbance.” Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley said Esther Wilkerson had claimed it was part of a “murder-suicide” plan, but James Wilkerson was not terminally ill and had not to anyone’s knowledge expressed a desire to die, adding Esther Wilkerson had not spoken to her husband for months prior to the murder. Nisley indicated it’s doubtful the motive for the murder will ever be learned. He also said the frailty and age of Esther Wilkerson and her lack of any prior criminal history make it unlikely she would ever try to harm anyone else in her lifetime. James Wilkerson had lived in the Veterans’ Home since 2013 and was confined to a wheelchair.
The Oregon Transportation Commission has approved a grant of over one-point-three million dollars to the Port of Hood River to put toward infrastructure for a new aviation technology and emergency response center at the Ken Jernstedt Airfield. Port of Hood River Executive Director Michael McElwee says the Port will provide a 40 percent match, some of which will come from a private partner they are currently negotiating with. McElwee notes this funding will go toward infrastructure, not the buildings themselves. The actual building development will be done through private investment.
A ribbon cutting ceremony took place Wednesday for the newly constructed children’s wing of The Dalles-Wasco County Library. The 2,300 square foot area is the result of a long fundraising campaign to provide the $855,000 needed to construct it. Corliss Marsh of The Dalles Wasco County Library Foundation says it will mean a great deal to the library, and for children in the area. A couple of storytime programs have been held in the new area, but furniture has not yet been moved in. It should be fully equipped in about a month.
A fire that started when a pickup truck overheated burned 20 acres on Seven Mile Hill west of The Dalles on Tuesday. According to Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, the fire started around 3:30 p.m. It began with smoke and flame under the engine, but spread to a trailer containing hay, and then to the surrounding grassland. Crews from MCFR, Dallesport, Mosier, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area were involved in fighting the fire. The fire originated four miles from The Dalles on Seven Mile Hill Road, and eventually was stopped at Mountain View Road. Seven Mile Hill Road was shut down for about two-and-a-half hours as a result of the fire.
The Hood River City Council will be considering the topic of discouraging the use of single-use plastic bags in about six weeks. It comes out of a recent “plastic bag summit” conducted by Mayor Paul Blackburn last week involving citizens and business representatives. Blackburn says one option will be to consider an ordinance that has been adopted by Corvallis that would not allow the giveaway of single-use plastic bags, with a charge for paper bags. Blackburn says the paper bag charge is to encourage re-use. Other options that will get consideration will include doing nothing, and City Manager Steve Wheeler says Councilor Mark Zanmiller will be developing a third option to bring to the table.
By a 5-1 vote, the Hood River City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance to amend zoning requirements for vacation home rentals and hosted home shares. It includes a seven-year amortization period in which those renting homes that are not their primary residence can continue to do so to the same extent they are now, and must meet parking requirements within five years. Primary residents could rent their homes for a period of up to 90 days. Mayor Paul Blackburn says he feels good about what the Council developed, adding it will “help our town, and really manage this rapidly growing change that’s been pretty disruptive.” Public testimony taken before deliberations fell along similar lines as previous hearings, with supporters of the ordinance citing the need to preserve neighborhoods, and opponents saying it will hurt the local tourism and recreation sector and will not create more affordable housing. The ordinance comes back for final passage at the panel’s September 12 meeting.
The Dalles City Council is taking its usual August hiatus, but there will be plenty of issues waiting for them. One of those is what is called a “gap analysis” of the municipal public works department that is being done by an outside consultant. Mayor Steve Lawrence says the analysis reviews the department to find where efficiencies can be found, noting there are a lot questions he and the Council have. The report should be ready by November.
The Port of The Dalles is working out the details of a lease agreement with a new management firm to lease and operate the Port’s marina. The Dalles Marina LLC was approved by Port Commissioners earlier this month after a subcommittee reviewed proposals from three different groups. The Dalles Marina LLC is made up of current Port bookkeeper Angie McNabb and Lori Stirn, who is about to step away from her position as director of the Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District. The Port’s Kathy Norton says both are boat house owners and have extensive marina backgrounds. Norton added they hope to have a lease agreement in place for the September 21 Port board meeting.
The Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office is conducting extra patrols through Labor Day to crackdown on intoxicated drivers. The efforts are part of the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign aimed at encouraging everyone to get a safe ride, especially if alcohol, prescription or overthecounter medicine, or other drug use might be causing any impairment. The Washington State Patrol is also participating in the campaign. Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director Darrin Grondel says they want drivers to be as aware of the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs as they are of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol.