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Local News

Eight Taken To Hospitals After Highway 97 Accident

A total of eight people were taken to hospitals after a three-vehicle accident on Tuesday afternoon on Highway 97 about seven miles south of Biggs.  According to Oregon State Police Lieutenant Patrick Shortt, two cars were stopped in the northbound lane for construction when a pickup truck struck the rear end of one of the vehicles at an approximate speed of 45 to 50 miles per hour.  The driver of the pickup told OSP troopers that he was looking and speaking to his son in the right front passenger seat at the time of the accident, had been aware of traffic ahead of him was slowing but unaware it had stopped.  The driver of the car the pickup hit was taken by Life Flight to Portland’s Emanuel Hospital for a damaged pacemaker, while a passenger in that car, the driver of the pickup, and five juveniles in the truck were all transported to Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles for evaluation.  The driver of the pickup received a citation for following too closely and careless driving.

Accident Injures Truck Driver

A truck driver was injured Tuesday morning when the log truck he was driving rolled on Highway 141 Alternate north of White Salmon.  According to the Washington State Patrol, 59-year-old Lawrence Jackson of Brookings, Oregon was southbound in his log truck on Highway 141A just after 8:15 a.m. Tuesday when he crossed the center line.  The WSP says he overcorrected, causing the load to shift and the vehicle to roll on its side.  The truck left the roadway to the right, struck a tree, and came to rest blocking both lanes.  Jackson was transported to Portland’s Emanuel Hospital for treatment of injuries.

Foundation Awards More Than $190,000 In May And June

The Gorge Community Foundation awarded more than $190,000 in scholarships and grants in May and June, benefiting students from several local communities as well as a wide range of public service initiatives across the bi-state region.  Foundation board members awarded a total of $77,000 in scholarships to 11 students, including the newly-created Corwin Hardham Memorial Fund established through Gorge Technology Alliance.   The board also created, through the gift of an anonymous donor, the Gorge Youth Community Leadership Alliance Fund, with an initial combined fund level of $71,000.  Separately, the Foundation board awarded over $43,000 in a series of grants from endowed funds, representing the original intent and general guidance of myriad fund donors, some of which date to the beginnings of the Foundation more than 15 years ago.  Individual grants awarded this spring benefit Celilo Cancer Center, Central Gorge Master Gardeners, Hood River County Library Foundation, HAVEN, The Next Door, Friends of Wonderworks Children’s Museum, Providence Hospice of the Gorge, FISH Food Bank, Rowena Wildlife Clinic, Columbia Gorge CASA, Helping Hands Against Violence, Cooper Spur Race Team and Columbia Gorge Habitat for Humanity, and other groups.

Recidivism Reduction Effort Moves To Judicial Sector

A continued effort to reduce recidivism at the Northern Oregon Regional Corrections Facility is moving from community services and jail programming to the judicial sector.  Hood River County Commissioner Karen Joplin says Circuit Court Judge John Olsen is leading a “call to action” to form an ad hoc task force involving judges, district attorneys, defense lawyers, parole and probation departments, and law enforcement to look at incarceration decisions before trial and how long parole and probation violators stay in jail.  She says the goal will be to agree on protocols on how to better use the jail, adding the focus is on non-violent offenders.  Joplin noted the current matrix jail officials use to release inmates during times of overcrowding can be used as a starting point and NORCOR has recently adopted a new screening tool to assist in that process, and one possibility is to create a system where that information is given to a judge before an initial court appearance.

Discussion Expected On Dividing Up Google Payments

With construction of the third Google data center at the Port of The Dalles to begin soon, Wasco County and City of The Dalles officials will be nearing a discussion on how to divvy up the annual payments Google will make as part of their enterprise zone tax abatement agreement.  County Commission Rod Runyon noted there has been call for a community conversation on how to do this.  The funds from previous Google enterprise zones have been devoted to specific projects determined by the City and County, but there has been some who believe it should be divided up between all the taxing districts impacted by the agreement for those agencies to make their own decisions.

Counihan Selected For HR Council Vacancy

On the third ballot, Hood River City Councilors picked Tim Counihan from a field of seven candidates to fill a vacancy on that panel.  A first round of voting, done by written ballot, narrowed the field to Counihan and Megan Saunders, and the second ballot left the pair tied at three.  Mayor Paul Blackburn called for a third ballot after no one on the Council elected to speak following round two, and someone changed their vote to Counihan.  Counihan, who had sought election to the Council in 2014, indicated his top three goals are to maintain progress in making the City fiscally sustainable, enact policies to make Hood River a safe family friendly place to live, and create an environment where locally owned businesses can thrive.  Counihan fills the seat vacated by Laurent Picard’s resignation in May, and the term runs through the end of the year.

Proposed Urban Renewal Change To Go To Hearing

The Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency board, made up of The Dalles City Council and Mayor Steve Lawrence, is recommending changing its governance structure to the City Council, but there will be a public hearing before a final decision is made.  Currently the Council acts as the URA board, with a nine-member advisory committee in place to make recommendations.  The proposal would eliminate the advisory panel, and create a nine-person URA board made up of three Councilors and two members of the general public appointed by the Mayor, and single representatives of Wasco County, Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District, and the Port of The Dalles.  Lawrence says he wants to make sure the public has a full opportunity to weigh in on the change.  The hearing will take place in September.

HR Council Revises Marijuana Tax Ballot Measure

The Hood River City Council is revising its ballot measure to create a three percent tax on recreational marijuana sales to allow more flexibility in how future Councils choose to use the money.    The Council went along with a recommendation from City Manager Steve Wheeler to remove from the ballot question references to using revenue from the tax for public safety and education, and create a resolution to state that intention.  Wheeler says that’s to allow for unforeseen needs in the future.  The ballot measure will go to voters in November.

Fox Named New HR Library District Director

The Hood River County Library District Board of Directors has tabbed current District Assistant Director Rachael Fox as the library’s new director.  Fox began working in libraries when she was hired as a library assistant in 2002 at the county-run Hood River County Library, a position she held until the library’s closure in 2010.  While working there, Fox studied for and received her Master of Library Science from Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management.  Fox was one of the first employees of the newly-created Hood River County Library District when she was hired as its first Cataloging Specialist in 2011.  She later became the district’s first Assistant Director, a position she’s held since 2013.  Current director Buzzy Nielsen’s announced in May that he would be resigning to move with his family to Central Oregon.  Following a national search, the library district received and reviewed nineteen applications.  Final approval of Fox’s selection will be at the District board meeting on July 19, and she will begin her new position on August 1.

Hecksel Named New Hood River County Administrator

Jeffrey Hecksel has been hired as the new Hood River County Administrator.  County Commissioners voted Monday to select Hecksel from five finalists for the position.  Hecksel served as City Manager of Glenwood Springs, Colorado for eleven years before leaving that post in December.  He has an Oregon background, spending six years as City Manager in Monmouth, and working for the city of Forest Grove for 12 years before that.  County Commission Chair Ron Rivers says Hecksel seemed to fit the community better than the other candidates, adding he is professional but relaxed.  Hecksel is expected to begin his role as Hood River County Administrator on August 15.  He takes over for David Meriwether, who formally retired from the position at the end of June but is serving in an interim capacity until Hecksel takes over.