Two significant public meetings are scheduled for Hood River on Tuesday. The Columbia Gorge Community College Board of Education will hold a worksession at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Room 302 of the school’s Hood River-Indian Creek campus. The subject will be the upcoming 2015-17 budget, concerns about which became public two weeks ago when CGCC President Frank Toda including closure of the Hood River campus among a list of possible money-saving measures, but was quickly taken off the table after a negative reaction from board members. The agenda for this worksession indicates the board will not take public comments. Meanwhile, the Hood River City Council meets in City Hall at 6 p.m. Tuesday for the latest hearing involving an Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals remand of Wal-Mart’s effort to expand its current facility, and whether it has a vested right to do so based on its 1992 land use permit. The hearing will be “on the record,” with the three parties with standing in the appeal given ten minutes to make a presentation.
North Wasco County School District 21’s new Wahtonka Community School is proving to be a popular alternative for students who perform better with a hands-on perfomance-based approach. Superintendent Candy Armstrong says it is a very different approach from traditional high school, but it is going through the same accreditation process The Dalles High School has gone through. She says the school will be a success if it hits all of the measures that they have for a traditional high school. Armstrong says the district will be looking at how elements of the new school’s concepts can be used within the traditional school set-up but she adds it tends to be very customized, so revenue to set up these kinds of program is an issue.
The Hood River Holidays kick-off event is set for Friday. Hood River County Chamber of Commerce Events Coordinator Ashley Huckaby May says the event since its conception a few years ago has proven popular in bringing the community together to celebrate the season. Streets in downtown Hood River will be closed at 5 p.m. Friday, with a parade from Oak and Seventh through downtown to start at 6 p.m., followed by a tree lighting celebration in Overlook Memorial Park at 7 p.m. Those who would like to participate in the parade can get a registration form on-line at hoodriver.org or call the Chamber at 541-386-2000.
The Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Advisory Committee voted 6-3 to recommend a nine-month extension for Rapoza Development to purchase the Recreation Building and the Blue Building in the Granada Block for a hotel development, which would move the deadline to September 30, 2015. The majority voted for a plan proposed by member John Nelson which requires Rapoza to provide a $10,000 non-refundable deposit by December 31, and to apply for a hotel franchise by April 30 which would require another $65,000. Committee members Gary Grossman, Greg Weast, and Linda Miller were opposed. The group did approve an amendment from Weast to direct staff to prepare a request for proposal for the property should Rapoza not be able to meet the timelines. Staff had recommended the extension be allowed with a $10,000 deposit at signing, another $40,000 on December 31, a requirement to submit the hotel franchise application by March 31. Rapoza’s Michael Leash told the committee he believes they are days from signing a seven million dollar term sheet to solicit foreign capital through the federal EB-5 program, and was accompanied by Ryan Schneider of Martin Hospitality, which he described as a potential investor. The recommendation goes to the urban renewal agency board, made up of The Dalles City Council and Mayor Steve Lawrence, at their next meeting on December 8.
The annual Starlight Parade in downtown The Dalles is set for Friday evening. It begins at six in the evening at Sixth and Webber and coming all the way through town. The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Lisa Farquharson says they will once again this year end up at the Chamber parking lot on 404 West 2nd for the annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. Anna and Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” will be special guests. This year’s Starlight Parade theme is “A Cherry Christmas.”
FISH Food Bank of Hood River County is gearing up for its biggest time of year to receive donations. Marianne Durkan of FISH says once again the need is great, with the food bank helping many area families make ends meet, and the numbers of people who are coming for help are not diminishing. Local supermarkets will have bags of food available for purchase that will go to FISH Food Bank, and Hood River Valley High School’s annual food drive will be taking place in early December. Those who would like to make a monetary contribution can do so by going on-line to fish-food-bank.com.
The Dalles City Council acting in its capacity as the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency approved an extension for Discover Development to exercise an agreement to purchase the Sunshine Mill property from Urban Renewal and to pay off a $600,000 line of credit over a three-year period. The extension, which was recommended by the Urban Renewal Advisory Committee, calls for Discover to retire the loan with a $150,000 principal payment this coming May 15, a $100.000 payment in 2016, and a final $350,000 payment in 2017, and the interest rate will jump from 4.25% to 5.25%. The purchase option is extended for three years to May 15, 2018, with Discover to pay interest on the nearly $310,000 purchase price at an annual rate of 5.25%. The agreement was approved after a testy exchange between Mayor Steve Lawrence and Discover’s James Martin. Lawrence wanted some kind of security put up by Martin. But Martin countered that the property is now a significant asset with the improvements his company has made, and therefore a performance bond was not necessary.
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and a group of other senators are calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to speed up approvals for Unmanned Aerial Systems test permits in a letter sent to FAA officials Tuesday. Wyden also wants the agency plans to regulate aircraft to be done on schedule. The FAA created six test sites across the country to study unmanned aircraft in response to a request from Congress in 2012 to craft regulations that meet the unique safety challenges posed by UAS. Three UAS test ranges are in Oregon: on the Warm Springs Reservation, and outside Pendleton and Tillamook. The agency, which is responsible for overseeing the safety of U.S. airspace, has until September 2015 to create a strategy to integrate unmanned aircraft into U.S. airspace. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley also signed the letter.
A committee of Hood River citizens will be working with Hood River Garbage Service and Dirt Huggers to come up with a “green waste” program. City Manager Steve Wheeler put together the group to try to put together not just a program for yard waste, but for kitchen waste as well. Mayor Arthur Babitz says the kitchen waste separation is something that is beginning to catch on in other communities. The kitchen waste would be used for compost. Wheeler is also hoping to put together some kind of program to help people dispose of bulky items like unwanted appliances and furniture.