Hood River County Commissioners gave the go-ahead to submit an application to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department seeking a $500,000 grant to purchase and develop property around Punchbowl Falls for a county park. The County has made a similar request in the past, but County Administrator David Meriwether says recent public interest generated through public forums over the last couple of months give this application a much better chance for approval. Western Rivers Conservancy currently owns the property, and is willing to sell it to the County for development of a park for $500,000.
Columbia Gorge Community College Chief Financial Officer Will Norris has put the final estimate of the structural deficit for the school for the 2015-16 fiscal year at just under two million dollars. In a letter to the school’s faculty and staff…Norris says the revenue forecast anticipates flat tuition, level enrollment, and what he terms a “less than adequate” increase to the state-wide Community College Support Fund. Norris pointed out in a follow-up that dropping enrollment with an improved economy is a driving factor in the deficit. It does not include savings from current vacancies or other materials and services cuts, with decisions on making those reductions permanent to take place as the budget is built over the rest of the month. A voluntary resignation incentive program began at CGCC in January, and an initial reduction in force is now underway. Norris noted in the letter a balanced budget will be presented to the school’s budget committee for review. He also says that when a $400,000 set aside for contingencies is factored in, budget reductions and new revenue must equal $2,400,000 to balance the budget without further accessing reserves.
The Port of Hood River Commission approved an amended disposition and development agreement that will convey the former Expo Center property to Key Development. The agreement was actually approved a year ago, subject to addressing zoning questions that were clarified with the recent approval of the Waterfront Refinement Plan by the Hood River City Council. Port Executive Director Michael McElwee says the amended agreement sets the stage for Key to move forward with plans for three buildings on the site. The property has been split into two parcels, with sale of the portion for the 21,000 square foot Turtle Island facility to close in late August with completion set for September 2016. Closing for the rest of the property is to occur in December, with construction on the other two buildings taking place in 2016. Total purchase price is just over two million dollars.
In her first speech after being sworn in as Oregon’s 38th governor, Kate Brown said “the first order of business is to regain the confidence of the people” in the wake of the departure of John Kitzhaber under the cloud of an ethics investigation. Brown pledged that for as long as she is governor, she will not seek or accept any outside compensation from any source, and that members of her household and staff will not accept outside compensation for work related to the business of the state. She also called for passing meaningful legislation to strengthen the capacity and independence of the Government Ethics Commission, and strengthen laws to ensure the timely release of public documents. Brown also called on legislators to work together to strengthen Oregon’s economic recovery, improve access to education and health care, and create more living-wage jobs around the state.
The Washington 14th District Legislative contingent has mixed feelings about a bill that would remove philosophical opposition as an acceptable reason for parents not to vaccinate their school-age children. Norm Johnson is on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee that heard the bill Tuesday, and he notes even if this passes religious and medical exemptions would exist. Johnson said he believes “we have an obligation to protect children.” Fellow House member Gina McCabe says she finds her constituents split on the issue, noting she supports the rights of parents to choose but feels children need to be kept safe. Senator Curtis King says there are two sides to the issue, but he is concerned about the impact of young people who are not vaccinated on others.
Wasco County Commissioners will begin the process of hiring new directors for both the Planning and Public Works Departments. That after the interim directors of the two departments say there are strategies available in the short- and long-term to improve the efficient operation of both, but consolidating them into one department probably isn’t feasible. Commissioners asked for the report on the two departments while the directorships of both were vacant, and Commissioner Scott Hege says they agreed with the conclusion that combining into one department was probably not workable. The report also indicates there are longer-term higher investment strategies looking at the facility as a whole to integrate staffs and provide more efficiency.
The Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Advisory Committee is recommending donating $100,000 dollars for development of an artistic fountain at Lewis and Clark Festival Park. City officials have been working on the project for the last two years, and the Urban Renewal Agency had already promised the funds, which are in its current budget. Projected costs have been reduced over time to just over $187,000, with a private donation of $87,500 in hand. Cost savings were achieved through donated material from Wasco County and the Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District, and donated labor from local contractor Monte Wasson Excavation. Plans call for the project to be finished in time for a July 4 dedication. The recommendation goes to the Urban Renewal Agency board, made up of The Dalles City Council.
Columbia River Conference
Pendleton 72, Hood River Valley 60: Wes Persinger scored 22 points and Sonny Green as the Buckaroos led from wire to wire to take sole possession of first place in the CRC. Noah Noteboom and Dallas Buckley scored 12 points apiece to lead the Eagles, who remain in second place in the league by one game over Hermiston.
The Dalles 48, Hermiston 44: Coby Conlee scored 13 points and Colin Noonan tallied 11 to go along with nine rebounds to lift the Riverhawks to their third win of the season. Dillon Zimmerly led the Bulldogs with 15 points.
Big Sky Tournament First Round
Dufur 77, Ione 36: The Rangers will face Sherman in round two on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Hermiston.
South Wasco 64, Mitchell-Spray 46: The Redsides move on to meet regular season league champ Horizon Christian in a semi-final at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Hermiston.
Columbia River Conference
Hermiston 46, The Dalles 43: The Bulldogs clinched the league title by holding off a spirited effort by the Riverhawks.
Pendleton 77, Hood River Valley 35
Southwest Washington Class 1-A District Tournament
Columbia 34, Eatonville 33: The Bruins keep their season going with the narrow win, and will face Kalama on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at W.F. West High School in Chehalis.
Greater Columbia League Tournament
Bickleton 34, Lyle-Wishram 33
Columbia River Gorge Commission executive director Darren Nichols will step down from that position in April to become the Associate Director of the William D. Ruckelshaus Center in Seattle. Nichols has been head of the Commission’s staff for three years. During his tenure, Nichols and his five member staff was working to stabilize basic funding for the agency, and increasing the capacity for collaborative regional planning and bi-state partnership. Nichols plans to spend some time with his family and wrapping up work on a law degree in environmental and natural resources before moving on to the Ruckelshaus Center. Nichols says he will remain available as needed while the Commission selects a replacement.
A dramatic jump in the projected enrollment for full-day kindergarten in Oregon for the 2015-16 school year has the Hood River County School District facing the potential of having to trim up to one million dollars from its budget for next year. Last week the Oregon Department of Education raised its estimate for kindergarten enrollment, the first with state mandated full-day classes, from 18,000 to over 25,000. The Legislative Joint Ways and Means Committee budget puts state funding for K-12 education at $7.235 billion, and Hood River Schools Superintendent Dan Goldman says that’s not enough for his district to maintain what it has. Goldman says to ensure the Hood River district can maintain what it has; the state K-12 budget figure needs to reach $7.5 billion. The district is holding a community listening session on the budget Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at Wy’east Middle School in Odell.