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.
A veteran member of the Washington 14th District Legislative contingent wasn’t happy with the tone of Governor Jay Inslee’s State of the State speech. Republican Norm Johnson felt Inslee, a Democrat, offered no indication of seeking to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle, and felt that message should have been there with the 147 total members of the Senate and House split with 74 Democrats and 73 Republicans. Inslee touted proposals to eliminate a handful of tax exemptions and to raise some taxes as he looks for revenue to address what he calls “the nation’s most unfair tax system.”
With the recent departure of the heads of the Planning Department and Public Works, Wasco County Commissioners want to look at how they structure administration of those two departments. Former Planning Director John Roberts moved to Hood River County, and Public Works Director Marty Matherly retired. Commissioner Rod Runyon notes with the departures and both departments housed in the same building, it’s a good opportunity to look at different management structures. Runyon added they might not make any changes. Arthur Smith is currently interim Public Works Director, and Angie Brewer is interim Planning Director.
The Cascade Locks City Council unanimously approved an application to the Oregon Water Resources Department for a cross transfer of water rights between the City and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Cascade Locks would transfer a half-cubic-foot per second of the City’s Herman Creek water rights to ODFW, which will apply to give the same amount of their Oxbow Springs water right to the City. It’s designed to shorten what has been an on-going process to provide Cascade Locks with the spring water necessary for Nestle’s proposed bottling water plant in the city in exchange for the creek water to enhance fish production in low flow periods. City documents project the cross-transfer process could be finished by mid-2017. Approval of each one is contingent on approval of the other. A number of environmental groups oppose the proposed bottling plant.
Hood River County is embarking on a visioning process to determine whether to create a park at Punchbowl Falls. Western Rivers Conservancy has purchased over 100 acres along one point-five miles of the Hood River from the falls northward, with the intent of selling into to the County for a park. That area has been used for recreation for years while owned by Longview Fiber and PacifiCorp. The visioning process is expected to take three months, with a goal of creating a conceptual park development and management plan in time for the 2015 grant cycle. The land is appraised at over one million dollars, but County Administrator David Meriwether notes Western Rivers is willing to sell to the County for half of that. A public forum on the subject is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the County Administration Building.
When Hood River County Commissioners hold their annual goal-setting session at the end of this month, trying to track vacation rentals will be a topic. It’s part of the continuous discussion on trying to find ways to encourage development of attainable housing in the face of high home and land prices in the County. Commission Chair Ron Rivers says they need to get a handle on how many vacation rentals are actually out there. Rivers expects duration of rental to be a big part of the definition, and how to apply transient room taxes will also be discussed. The County Commission worksession will take place on January 31 at 9 a.m. in the Hood River Hotel, and is open to the public.
The Governor’s Regional Solutions team for Wasco, Hood River, and Sherman counties is looking at how to get high speed broadband access to rural areas to assist in economic development. Team member and Port of The Dalles Executive Director Andrea Klaas says they are anticipating receiving a two million dollar allocation from the state in the next year, and would like to use one-point-five million of that for developing the Internet access in rural locations. Klaas says it’s become critical to have high-speed Internet access to allow business to take place in rural areas.
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