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.
New Washington 14th District State Representative Gina McCabe is getting settled in to her new role as a legislator. The Goldendale Republican has three committee assignments: Labor, Business and Financial Services, and General Government and Information Technology. The General Government panel is a new committee in the House that McCabe says will be going through every single state budget. McCabe says this committee should allow her to become educated about all facets of state government.
The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office has a new boat. The Oregon State Marine Board recently delivered a 22-foot River Wild jet boat built by Liquid Technologies in Grants Pass to replace a 24-year-old boat the agency has used for on-the-water patrols. The new boat was on display at the recent Portland Boat Show, and has a special purpose law enforcement 6.0 motor built by KEM Equipment in Tualatin. The design and construction address rough waters as well as shallow water operations, with the hull featuring a double-layer transom and bottom, with special rub rails for side protection. Marine Board Waterways Coordinator Mervin Hee says the extended engine life and improved fuel efficiency should save about $42,000 over the 20-year life of the boat. The Wasco County Marine Patrol provides recreational boating enforcement services and emergency response on the Columbia River and Deschutes River. Wasco County has 16,873 surface acres of water and approximately 57,054 boat use days between those two waterbodies.
Washington State Senate Transportation Committee Chair Curtis King believes a transportation budget agreement can be reached. Lawmakers have struggled the past few years to reach a deal, with Republicans pushing for reforms within the state Department of Transportation. King, a 14th District Republican, believes it will take a lot of effort to get the transportation budget done, but he senses more people are willing to sit down and talk. In his State of the State speech, Governor Jay Inslee said if no action is taken on a transportation plan…commute times will rise and the ability to move goods will be affected.
Mid-Valley Elementary School Principal Dennis McCauley has announced he will retire at the end of the school year. McCauley has spent over 40 years in education…coming to the Hood River County School District as principal at Mid-Valley in August 2004. The District is beginning the search for McCauley’s replacement. A community meeting with Superintendent Dan Goldman to discuss what the District should look for in a new principal is planned for January 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Mid-Valley Elementary library.