Oregon Senator Ron Wyden attached an amendment to the federal budget bill to renew the expired Secure Rural Schools program, extend the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program, and fully fund for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Wyden and Idaho Senator Mike Crapo introduced a bill to extend the county payments program last month. Wyden told the Senate Budget Committee said the Secure Rural Schools program is especially important, saying no matter how much timber can be harvested from federal lands, there will still be a need for the safety net. The amendment passed in the Senate Budget Committee on a bipartisan, 18 to 4 vote.
Hood River County Commissioners have approved a plan to develop a park at Punchbowl Falls, setting the stage to apply for grants to purchase the property around the falls. Administrator David Meriwether says the committee involved with drawing up the plans kept it simple with the goal of protecting what is there and maintain access to it. The plans include some trail work, restrooms, signage, and improved parking. The County will now be seeking $578,000 in Oregon State Parks grant funds to purchase the land from Western Rivers Conservancy. Meriwether noted the improvements would be done by volunteers and paid for by donations, and require minimal maintenance.
North Central Public Health District is advising parents of University of Oregon students who are coming home for spring break that there is no supply of Meningitis B vaccine at clinics or pharmacies in Wasco, Sherman, or Gilliam counties. According to the district, if a U of O student is returning and was not vaccinated while at the school, they recommend calling ahead to a local pharmacy. If the vaccine is not in stock, it can be ordered within a day or so. Five U of O freshmen have contracted type B meningococcal disease since mid-January, resulting in one death. The Oregon Health Authority has recommended vaccination as the best way to eradicate the illness, and students were encouraged to obtain vaccination in Eugene.
Track and Field
The Dalles’ Katie Conklin won three events in the season opening Mullen-Leavitt Invitational at Sid White Field. Conklin won the girls’ 100 meter hurdles, high jump, and triple jump. There were two other multiple event winners in the meet involving a number of area schools, also in the girls’ portion of the competition. Dufur’s Taylor Darden won the shot put and discus, while Yasmin Hill of The Dalles won the long jump and pole vault.
Columbia finished third in both the boys and girls team standings in a meet at Woodland. Stacia Bell won the girls’ shot put and discus for the Bruins. The host Beavers won both team competitions.
Sandy 12, Hood River Valley 0
Hockinson sweeps Stevenson 12-0 and 17-6
Stevenson 6, Castle Rock 0
Hood River Valley 16, Central Catholic 8: Erin Mayer scored six goals as HRV evened its record at 1-1.
Wasco County Commissioners have told Chief Administrative Officer Tyler Stone to institute changes to financial processes found in an independent audit. The auditing firm of Pauly, Rogers, and Co. gave their report to Commissioners this week, noting material weaknesses in internal control for bank and tax deposit reconciliations and month-end closings. Commissioner Scott Hege says the report identified work that wasn’t being completed, noting issues related to policies, with the primary goal to ensure solid and reliable financial records. Hege noted auditors did not find any money missing from county accounts, but their report pointed out better practices were needed to ensure County Commissioners and department heads receive accurate and timely financial information for operations, decision making, and managing the budget.
Oregon State 52nd District Representative Mark Johnson says an e-mail campaign advocating for increased funding for K-12 education is the best grassroots efforts he has seen as a legislator. But whether it will result in change is an open question. The Ways and Means co-chairs budget number of seven-point-two-three-five billion dollars is not considered enough. Johnson says they need to get to at least seven-point-five billion to even tread water, and he is frustrated by a continued drop in K-12’s share of the state general fund budget dating back to the 2003-05 biennium. The Hood River Republican says the education budget is the top discussion point among legislators at this time.
Washington lawmakers are becoming increasingly concerned about this year’s drought conditions, and the potential for increased fire danger. 14th District Representative Norm Johnson says state officials are going to hold a meeting in Olympia on April 2 with federal deputy chief of state and private forestry Jim Hubbard to discuss forest health and the fire danger the Northwest will probably face this year. Johnson added one of the people who will take part in the meeting is SDS Lumber President Jason Spadaro, who will represent mill and forest owners during the discussion.
The Dalles 17, David Douglas 6: The Riverhawks win their second straight game to begin the season.
Newberg 3, The Dalles 1
Track and Field
Centennial 68, Hood River Valley 67: Centennial won the final event, four by 400 meter relay, to win the season-opening dual meet. Parker Irusta won three events for HRV, while Thomas Morrell III did the same for Centennial.
Hood River Valley 73, Centennial 59: Jestena Mattson won three events for HRV, while Sascha Bockius won a pair.
Hood River Valley 7, Gresham 1
Gresham 7, Hood River Valley 1: Maddy Graham won the lone match for HRV.
The man who died in Monday’s standoff and house fire in The Dalles has been identified as William Rengigas. Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley says an autopsy by State Medical Examiner Karin Gunson found Rengigas died of smoke inhalation in the fire at 1100 Mt. Hood Street, and ruled it a suicide because he could have left the building at any time before the smoke overcame him. Wasco County Sheriff’s deputies went to the house to serve Rengigas eviction papers authorizing his forcible removal from the residence after it was repossessed by the financial institution that owned it. Officers heard gunshots from inside the house and retreated, then observed smoke coming from the eaves of the home as additional law enforcement officers arrived and tried to get Rengigas to come out. After a number of hours the Oregon State Police SWAT team breached the house and the fire accelerated. Firefighters found Rengigas dead. Evidence suggested that Rengigas shot and killed one of his dogs…while the second was found dead at Rengigas’ feet by investigators. The fire was determined to have been set by Rengigas. The public is asked to assist law enforcement in locating any family members of Rengigas. Efforts by law enforcement to find any next of kin have been unsuccessful.
The body of the resident who died after barricading himself into a house at 1100 Mt. Hood Street in The Dalles on Monday has been sent to the Oregon Medical Examiner’s office in Clackamas to determine the cause of death and make a positive identification. Wasco County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Lane Magill says investigators are working on piecing together what happened inside the house after deputies heard gunshots when they attempted to serve eviction documents Monday morning. Soon after that smoke began coming out of the eaves of the house, and a little more than four hours later the house began to be consumed by fire that produced thick black smoke. Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue crews discovered the body after the blaze was extinguished. Officers set up a perimeter around the house and attempted to negotiate with the occupant, but never received a response at any time during the incident. Magill says they are trying to piece together how the person died and the cause of the fire. He adds it may take until Wednesday to reach next of kin and announce the identity of the resident.