The City of White Salmon is embarking on a study of its aging swimming pool. Mayor David Poucher says they received a donation to pay for the study to determine the pool’s current condition, what has to be done to maintain it in good condition, and establish a realistic lifespan for the 74-year-old facility. An engineering firm has been studying the pool. Poucher says they want to have a report in hand by the middle of March so they can report to the community what the current condition of the pool is.
The Hood River County School District is starting to take steps toward preparing a budget for the 2015-16 school year. Both the Governor and majority Democrats in the Legislature have unveiled their proposed statewide budgets for the upcoming biennium. District Superintendent Dan Goldman says he’s planning to hold community meetings in February to discuss the budget and get feedback. Goldman says their best estimate for state funding won’t come until May, which will take into account district enrollment numbers that have been up by about 50 students this year. Enrollment has been flat the past few years, and Goldman adds it is difficult to project if the increase is a one-time occurrence or the beginning of a trend.
With the Waterfront Refinement Plan approved by the Hood River City Council, the Port of Hood River can now move on to do the subdivision plan for Lot 1. Port Commissioner Jon Davies says they will be determining lot positions and where utilities and roads will be placed. Davies notes the refinement plan limits building footprints to a maximum of 25,000 square feet. He also believes the Port has plenty of time to get the lots properly designed and get the funding to pay for infrastructure, especially with redevelopment of the Expo Center property about to take place.
This year’s Northwest Cherry Festival artwork has been unveiled. A design from Rage Graphix and Design was selected, and it is in the style of a cattle brand, which The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Lisa Farquharson says reflects their intent to honor this year’s 50th anniversary of the Fort Dalles Rodeo. Farquharson noted they had a number of great entries. The winning design was picked by a committee. The Northwest Cherry Festival is set for April 24th to the 26th in The Dalles, and this year’s event has been expanded to have a festival setting downtown for three days rather than just on Saturday as in previous years.
Fire damaged a house at 409 East 8th in The Dalles late Thursday night. Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue Chief Bob Palmer says crews responded to the scene at 11:43 p.m. Thursday to find black smoke coming from a second story window. The fire was contained to one room in the upstairs portion of the home. Palmer says it appears an overheated extension cord running from the downstairs portion of the home upstairs to power a heater and some lights started the fire. He adds a resident said the wiring had been hot for a couple of days. All of those inside the house got out safely. Palmer estimated damage at $5,000 to $7,000.
The Obama administration has told 41 states how much money they are losing as Congress ends subsidies to counties with national forest land. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the Forest Service will distribute more than 50 million dollars to 746 timber counties, compared to about 300 million dollars during the final year of the Secure Rural Schools subsidies program. While local figures are not yet known, most officials in the Northwest had stopped counting on the funds for roads and schools a number of years ago. Hood River County Administrator David Meriwether says they don’t include the funds in their budget. Both Hood River and Wasco counties have reduced their road department budgets in the past few years to reflect shrinking federal forest payments.
An Oregon Health Authority report indicates Medicaid expansion in Oregon last year did not mean a spike in costs or emergency room use. The state says Medicaid costs for inpatient hospital services have decreased about five-and-a-half percent since 2011, despite adding 380,000 enrollees. CareOregon public policy director Martin Taylor says the development of Coordinated Care Organizations in the state to provide more preventive care has helped. Oregon’s goal is to reduce Medicaid spending two percent per patient, per year. The report says emergency room visits by Oregon Health Plan members are down 21 percent since 2011.
Hood River Valley High School’s Mark Steighner has been selected by the Oregon Music Educators Association as the state’s Outstanding Music Educator of the Year. Steighner has been teaching in Hood River since 1979, and began teaching choral and instrumental music at HRV in 1984. During his tenure he has directed 50 musicals at the high school and in the community, including eight original musicals. His ensembles have commissioned over twenty new pieces, and HRV choirs and bands have qualified for state contests every year since 1988. Steighner also teaches music at Columbia Gorge Community College and directs the community orchestra and choir. Steighner, who will retire at the end of the school year, will be honored this weekend at the annual Oregon Music Educators Association conference.