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14th District Legislators Wrestle With Vaccination Question

The Washington 14th District Legislative contingent has mixed feelings about a bill that would remove philosophical opposition as an acceptable reason for parents not to vaccinate their school-age children.  Norm Johnson is on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee that heard the bill Tuesday, and he notes even if this passes religious and medical exemptions would exist.  Johnson said he believes “we have an obligation to protect children.”  Fellow House member Gina McCabe says she finds her constituents split on the issue, noting she supports the rights of parents to choose but feels children need to be kept safe.  Senator Curtis King says there are two sides to the issue, but he is concerned about the impact of young people who are not vaccinated on others.

Wasco County To Start Looking For Planning And Public Works Heads

Wasco County Commissioners will begin the process of hiring new directors for both the Planning and Public Works Departments.  That after the interim directors of the two departments say there are strategies available in the short- and long-term to improve the efficient operation of both, but consolidating them into one department probably isn’t feasible.  Commissioners asked for the report on the two departments while the directorships of both were vacant, and Commissioner Scott Hege says they agreed with the conclusion that combining into one department was probably not workable.  The report also indicates there are longer-term higher investment strategies looking at the facility as a whole to integrate staffs and provide more efficiency.

Donation Recommended For Fountain Construction

The Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Advisory Committee is recommending donating $100,000 dollars for development of an artistic fountain at Lewis and Clark Festival Park.  City officials have been working on the project for the last two years, and the Urban Renewal Agency had already promised the funds, which are in its current budget.  Projected costs have been reduced over time to just over $187,000, with a private donation of $87,500 in hand.  Cost savings were achieved through donated material from Wasco County and the Northern Wasco County Parks and Recreation District, and donated labor from local contractor Monte Wasson Excavation.  Plans call for the project to be finished in time for a July 4 dedication.  The recommendation goes to the Urban Renewal Agency board, made up of The Dalles City Council.

February 17 Prep Basketball Roundup

Boys Basketball Columbia River Conference Pendleton 72, Hood River Valley 60:  Wes Persinger scored 22 points and Sonny Green as the Buckaroos led from wire to wire to take sole possession of first place in the CRC.  Noah Noteboom and Dallas Buckley scored 12 points apiece to lead the Eagles, who remain in second place in the league by one game over Hermiston.   The Dalles 48, Hermiston 44:  Coby Conlee scored 13 points and Colin Noonan tallied 11 to go along with nine rebounds to lift the Riverhawks to their third win of the season.  Dillon Zimmerly led the Bulldogs with 15 points.   Big Sky Tournament First Round Dufur 77, Ione 36:  The Rangers will face Sherman in round two on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Hermiston. South Wasco 64, Mitchell-Spray 46:  The Redsides move on to meet regular season league champ Horizon Christian in a semi-final at 7:30 p.m. on Friday in Hermiston.   Girls Basketball Columbia River Conference Hermiston 46, The Dalles 43:  The Bulldogs clinched the league title by holding off a spirited effort by the Riverhawks. Pendleton 77, Hood River Valley 35   Southwest Washington Class 1-A District Tournament Columbia 34, Eatonville 33:  The Bruins keep their season going with the narrow win, and will face Kalama on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at W.F. West High School in Chehalis.   Greater Columbia League Tournament Bickleton 34, Lyle-Wishram 33

Nichols Stepping Down As Gorge Commission Director

Columbia River Gorge Commission executive director Darren Nichols will step down from that position in April to become the Associate Director of the William D. Ruckelshaus Center in Seattle.  Nichols has been head of the Commission’s staff for three years.  During his tenure, Nichols and his five member staff was working to stabilize basic funding for the agency, and increasing the capacity for collaborative regional planning and bi-state partnership.   Nichols plans to spend some time with his family and wrapping up work on a law degree in environmental and natural resources before moving on to the Ruckelshaus Center.   Nichols says he will remain available as needed while the Commission selects a replacement.

Kindergarten Enrollment Jump Could Leave HR Schools In Financial Hole

A dramatic jump in the projected enrollment for full-day kindergarten in Oregon for the 2015-16 school year has the Hood River County School District facing the potential of having to trim up to one million dollars from its budget for next year.  Last week the Oregon Department of Education raised its estimate for kindergarten enrollment, the first with state mandated full-day classes, from 18,000 to over 25,000.  The Legislative Joint Ways and Means Committee budget puts state funding for K-12 education at $7.235 billion, and Hood River Schools Superintendent Dan Goldman says that’s not enough for his district to maintain what it has.  Goldman says to ensure the Hood River district can maintain what it has; the state K-12 budget figure needs to reach $7.5 billion.  The district is holding a community listening session on the budget Tuesday night at 6 p.m. at Wy’east Middle School in Odell.

White Salmon Prepares Summer Water Plans

With very low snowpack on Mt. Adams…the City of White Salmon is beginning to prepare for possible water conservation measures this summer.  Mayor David Poucher says they are not using their two wells at this time to leave them for summer use, and drawing as much as possible Buck Creek.  Poucher says this is a big reason why they have been working with the state on developing aquifer storage recovery.  He notes they did a test for two months, putting water back in the aquifer to help replenish it…but the results of that are not known.  

Port of HR Waterfront To Be Busy This Summer

Hood River’s waterfront will be busy with construction this year.  Between the Naito hotel and office building complex, new construction on the Expo Center property, a path along the west side of the Nichols Basin and much more, it might be the most work done since fill work to create what is now the waterfront.  Port Executive Director Michael McElwee says all of that makes planning for the future even more important than it has been.  Planning for Lot 1 along the Nichols Basin is continuing.  One issue that Port officials will be watching is parking.  McElwee says the Port Commission considered doing a comprehensive parking plan this year, but elected to wait until 2016 to see how the current construction work that will take away Slackwater Beach parking impacts the waterfront.

Work On Expanded NW Cherry Fest Continues

The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce is continuing work on the expanded Northwest Cherry Festival set for late April.  It will run Friday, April 24 to Sunday, April 26, with most events running all three days.  Part of the goal of the expansion is to increase visitation from out-of-town.  Chamber CEO Lisa Farquharson says it is a long-term effort, probably three-to-five years.  Farquharson feels the Cherry Festival is the right type of event, but they need to strategically plan who to reach out to.

What’s Next For Legislature?

One of the big questions around the Oregon State Capitol is how the ascension of Kate Brown to the Governor’s seat will change the dynamic of the legislative session.  52nd District State Representative Mark Johnson says he doesn’t know what to expect from the Portland Democrat, noting it’s hard to project which issues she will emphasize.  59th District Representative John Huffman says he is looking forward to moving away from the John Kitzhaber controversy and getting back to the day to day business of government.  Brown officially takes over as Governor on Wednesday.

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