A Columbia Gorge Community College Board of Education worksession shed some light on the school’s short- and long-term fiscal picture, but many questions remain. Chief Financial Officer Will Norris said a $1,600,000 in the current fiscal year’s budget will be handled first by using $600,000 of contingency and will balance out when the school receives its final payment of state funding for the current biennium in July, just days after the fiscal year ends. But the bigger budget problem board chair Meredith Van Valkenburgh acknowledges they will face will be in 2015-16, where there is currently a projected two million dollar gap between revenues and expenditures. He also says closing that gap shouldn’t be on the backs of students through tuition increases. Board member Stu Watson questioned growth in the President’s office from 2011-12 to now, but President Frank Toda noted institutional researcher and marketing coordinator positions in his budget are now unfilled, adding eleven CGCC staff members have moved on in recent months. Van Valkenburgh did reiterate CGCC would not close its Hood River campus, a subject that drew a significant outcry when Toda suggested the potential for such a move as a cost cutting measure two weeks ago.
By a 4-3 vote following the latest state Land Use Board of Appeals remand on the matter, the Hood River City Council denied Wal-Mart’s application to expand its current facility on Cascade Avenue. The final decision came after a series of votes as the Council added back members who had recused themselves due to potential bias. The initial vote was 3-2 in favor of Wal-Mart being able to expand under what it claims were rights granted when the store was first approved over twenty years ago, but four votes are required to pass any motion. So the Council envoked the “rule of necessity” to bring back first Mark Zanmiller and then Kate McBride, who both joined Brian McNamara and Laurent Picard in opposing the application, while Carrie Nelson, Ed Weathers, and Mayor Arthur Babitz were in favor. Afterwards, Babitz felt they had followed a process that would stand up to LUBA scrutiny. Before the vote when McBride was returned to the panel, Wal-Mart attorney Greg Hathaway said it was “unfair” the store would be denied the expansion permit based on what he felt were biased votes.
Wednesday night’s scheduled Wasco County Commission hearing on the outdoor mass gathering permit for the “What the Festival” this coming June has been cancelled due to anticipated poor driving conditions. County officials say the hearing will be rescheduled, with a new date to be published at least 15 days prior to the hearing. The “What the” music and art festival is to be held on property on Dufur Valley Road about ten miles southwest of Dufur is expected to draw 3,000 to 5,000 people over in mid-June. County staff has recommended approval of the application.
Republican Oregon 59th District State Senator John Huffman expects a boldness in the Democrat agenda during the upcoming Legislative session. Democrats have achieved a super majority in the Senate and are one vote away from that in the House. Huffman thinks the majority party will want to move forward a number of concepts. Huffman adds he believes many of those will pass. The 2015 Oregon Legislature will convene on February 2.
Someone sent a fradulent e-mail in the name of Hood River County School District Superintendent Dan Goldman to the company that sends out school closure notices, leading to a false alert being sent Tuesday morning. Subscribers to the Flash Alert system received an erroneous notification that Hood River County Schools were closed just after 7 a.m. Goldman says the message, which was retracted by Flash Alert around 7:30 a.m., caused some confusion in the district. Goldman noted to send such a fraudulent e-mail using another person’s identity is a federal crime, and the district would be working with the FBI’s Internet Crimes unit to find the source of the e-mail.
The 29th Annual Project ELFF (Everyone Loves A Firefighter) Canned Food Drive will take place the next three nights in The Dalles area. The effort is sponsored by Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue, the Salvation Army. and St. Vincent dePaul along with support from the Dallesport/Murdock Fire Department and the Lions Club. Fire trucks and ambulances will go through the east side of The Dalles Tuesday night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the west side Wednesday night, and the Dallesport/Murdock area on Thursday night. Those wishing to donate should turn on their porch light and leave donations by the front door.
The Hood River City Planning Commission started walking through the proposed Waterfront Refinement Plan, and is recommending the City Council accept the overlay boundary as developed at the committee level. Planning Commissioners also will recommend removing a 1998 condition for commercial use of property on Portway between 2nd and 8th streets to include a visitors center, and rezoning the former Expo Center property to light industrial. City Planning Director Cindy Walbridge says they still have more parts of the document to go through, and will continue at a December 8 meeting with the intention to send all of their recommendations to the City Council for a December 15 meeting. One element the Planning Commission has not gotten to yet: a provision to allow retail commercial uses on the Expo Center property.
The City of The Dalles is seeking members of the public to help in development of the bicycle portion of the City’s Transportation System Plan update. A committee will meet beginning early in 2015. Those who might want to take part in the committee can download an application from the City of The Dalles website, and return it to the Clerk’s office in City Hall at 313 Court Street. Those who would like more information on the committee should call Administrative Fellow Daniel Hunter at 541-296-5481, extension 4468.
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.