The North Wasco County School District 21 board approved a budget for 2016-17 on Thursday night. Superintendent Candy Armstrong says the fiscal plan essentially maintains the status quo from this year. She notes the 2017-18 budget may prove to be more challenging, depending on what happens in the upcoming session of the Oregon Legislature. Armstrong said the only change made prior to the budget going to the board was to shift some money set aside for college credit tuition to have part of it go to the Wahtonka Community School rather than all of it to The Dalles High School.
The Oregon Department of Transportation is asking federal authorities to suspend unit oil trains from going through the Gorge and the state until more is known about the cause of the derailment in Mosier two weeks ago. Officials made public a letter from ODOT Rail and Public Transit Division Administrator Hal Gard to Federal Rail Administration Regional Administrator Mark Daniels asking for the moratorium during a Hood River meeting on Thursday. The letter expresses concern with lag bolts, a type of fastener used on curved sections of track to attach the rail to the rail tie, and requests that oil train traffic not resume until a means of detecting defects with those bolts is developed. Union Pacific has indicated a failure of the bolts cause the June 3 derailment.
Columbia Cascade Housing is accepting applications from Skamania and Klickitat counties for the Washington Home Rehabilitation Program. The program will provide no interest, deferred payment loans up to $20,000 for low to moderate income homeowners to make needed health and safety repairs to their homes using local contractors through a grant with Community Block Grant funds. The loan, with a lien placed against the property, is paid back when the house is sold, the title changes hands, when the house ceases to be the owner’s primary home, or 30 years from date of the loan. David Peters of the Mid-Columbia Housing Resource Center encourages anyone who thinks they might be eligible to apply. For an application or more information, contact Peters at 541-296-3397 or 1-800-800-3397.
Klickitat PUD has a couple of planned power outages this weekend. One will start at 11 p.m. Friday and run until 3 a.m. Saturday, and will affect all customers in the town of Wishram, Wishram Heights, and on Highway 14 between milepost 87 and 100, including the Avery area. It will also affect part of Maryhill from the Biggs Bridge to 71 Maryhill Highway, including the State Park area. The other will take place Saturday morning from 3:30 a.m. to 8 a.m., and affects all customers in the town of Klickitat and parts of western Goldendale. Klickitat PUD will be performing maintenance on the power lines that serve those locations.
By a 5-2 vote, the Hood River County Planning Commission voted to uphold an appeal by the Hood River Valley Residents Committee and deny an application for a 50 room hotel on a portion of the old Dee Mill site. Landowner Jason Taylor of Apollo Land Holdings was seeking a commercial land use permit for the hotel along the south side of Lost Lake Road southwest of its intersection with Dee Highway as part of project that includes an amphitheater. The amphitheater was not a part of this application. County Planner Eric Walker said the planning commission found when the County originally adopted its comprehensive plan in 1984 it had to make exceptions for existing uses in forest and farm lands like the area where the old Dee Mill was located, but while an exception was granted for the industrial use it wouldn’t extend to commercial uses. Planning Director John Roberts expects it will take a couple of weeks for the planning commission order to be finalized, and then a 15-day window to appeal to the Hood River County Commission will begin.
Wasco County Commissioners and The Dalles City Council approved a list of eleven projects to split $250,000 from the initial payment from Google as part of the enterprise zone agreement for its data center that is just beginning construction. County Commissioner Rod Runyon says they were targeting projects that could be done quickly. The largest award was $50,000 to the Mid-Columbia Senior Center for installation of an elevator between the facility’s main floor and basement. Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation, Wasco County 4-H and Extension, Fort Dalles Museum, the cities of Dufur and Mosier, The Dalles Main Street, Wasco County Soil and Water Conservation, and The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce all received funds.
The Columbia Gorge Community College Board of Education has filled a vacancy on the panel. Long-time The Dalles resident Carmelo Gamez was appointed to fill position one, which represents Wasco County. The seat became vacant when M.D. Van Valkenburgh stepped aside from the post. Gamez will fill the seat for the remainder of the term, ending June 30, 2017. That position will be on the special district elections ballot next spring.
The Next Door, which runs over two dozen programs to support and empower people in the Mid-Columbia region, is conducting a fundraising campaign to mark the organization’s 45th anniversary. The Next Door is working to raise $45,000 in 45 days, with longtime supporters Phil and Judy Jensen offering to match the first 15-thousand dollars raised. The Next Door began in 1971 with a group home in Hood River that eventually became the Klahre House day-treatment center and year-round alternative high school. The organization will host the Hood River Chamber of Commerce Coffee Clatter at 8 a.m. on July 15. Executive Director Janet Hamada says they want to reconnect and celebrate with former staff, teachers, students and program participants, community partners, donors and anyone else who wants to mark the Next Door’s anniversary.
In spite of varying weather conditions during harvest time, the outlook for Columbia Gorge cherries remains good, but rain in Mosier and the Hood River Valley on Monday night has caused some damage. Oregon State University Extension Agent Lynn Long says how much damage orchards in those locations suffered is still being determined. With hot weather ten days ago and cooler temperatures the past few days, Long says harvest times for Bing cherries around the region are a bit compressed. Long pointed out the cooler temperatures of the past five or six days has slowed ripening. He also noted the harvest should allow growers to get cherries to market in the important July 4th window.
The Dalles City Council has sent back to the Planning Commission the recommendations that panel had developed for time, place, and manner regulations for the processing, production, retailing, and wholesaling of marijuana. Mayor Steve Lawrence says one of the issues was a recommendation to extend the buffer to 1,000 feet around churches, pre-schools, and schools. The Council has asked for maps with 500 and 750 foot buffers. The Council is also seeking more definition on what would qualify as a pre-school or church. They also want the planning commission to look at allowing processing and production uses in light industrial zones as has been proposed in heavy industrial areas.