The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office is still working to find the person who torched a vacant home out west of Longview this past weekend. At about 5 pm on Sunday, Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue responded to a 911 call about a fire at 153 Bunker Hill Road. The house, which had not been occupied for several months, ended up being a total loss. A person that was in the area reported seeing a red Toyota flatbed truck in the area at about the time the fire started; Detective Sergeant Brad Thurman says that they have located and talked with the owner of that truck, and he says that person is no longer considered to be a suspect in the case. If you can help out with the investigation into this arson incident, you should call the Sheriff’s Office at 577-3092; you can also text your tip anonymously by using TIP411; text your tip to 847411, and add “CCSOTIP.”
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Lower Columbia College and local school districts plan to take part in today’s fifth annual “Great Washington Shake Out,” a statewide earthquake drill that’s taking place this morning at 10:20 am. LCC officials say that participation is optional, but at 10:20 this morning, text messages, flash alerts and website postings will go out, encouraging people to “Drop, Cover and Hold On!” Schools in Kelso, Longview, Toutle, Castle Rock and Woodland will also participate. Washington Emergency Management reports that more than 16,000 Cowlitz County residents have registered to participate, including individuals, families, schools and colleges, local governments, businesses, Indian tribes and some health care facilities. Find out more about this morning’s drill on the LCC web page, or on the Washington Emergency Management web page.
Local anglers have only a couple more days of salmon and steelhead fishing on the Lower Columbia River, as fishery managers announce that the river will close on Saturday. Washington Fish and Wildlife reports that the sport and commercial non-Indian catch has been exceeded, and the river will need to close. Starting this Saturday, the Columbia River will be closed to salmon and steelhead angling, going from Buoy 10 at the mouth of the river, going up to the Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco. Biologists are also revising the size of this year’s run, which came in quite a ways below projections. The initial fall chinook prediction was put at 960,000 fish, but they’re now saying that just over 701,000 fish have been counted. Some tributaries remain open for fishing; check with WDFW for the latest regulations and open waters.
Northwest Innovation Works is announcing a major redesign regarding the methanol production and export facility that they plan to build at the Port of Kalama, saying that the plant will implement a Zero Liquid Discharge system. They say that this ZLD technology eliminates any discharge of waste water into the Columbia River. NWIW says that ZLD uses a combination of technologies to remove contaminants from the wastewater stream; that wastewater will then be recycled and reused inside the facility. They also say that this technology will reduce water usage at the plant by more than 150 million gallons each year. NWIW President Vee Godley says that they are committed to protecting the environment, along with resource efficiency; he says that this ZLD technology, coupled with the Ultra Low Emissions technology to reduce carbon emissions, will continue to have this plant on the front lines of “environmentally responsible manufacturing.” Northwest Innovation Works is spending nearly $4 billion in the development of these methanol production facilities at Kalama and near Clatskanie, producing methanol that will be shipped to China for use in plastics manufacturing. There’s a goal of having the plant up and running by 2018.
Water line replacement work continues in Longview, with contract crews working today in the area of Baltimore Street, between 19th and 20th. Starting this morning, Baltimore Street will be closed to through traffic between 19th and 20th, as the crew completes water line installation and restoration work. Detours will be posted, and local access to private driveways will be maintained. This closure will be in place for several weeks, with a current completion date of November 11th. Use alternate routes to avoid congestion or delays.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry helps to celebrate the 17th annual “Lights on After School” event in the local area, bringing a Traveling Exhibit to the Youth and Family Link building in Longview. OMSI will have displays of live bugs and animals, health and nutrition displays, and “brainteasers,” hands-on puzzles that will challenge your math and science skills, along with needing some “out-of-the-box thinking.” This will be open from 5 to 7 pm at the building on Douglas Street in Longview, and it’s free to all area families and children. Call 423-6741 for more information.
If you or someone you know is taking care of a family member or loved one who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease or other memory loss, there’s a Family Caregiver Support Group meeting set for this evening in Longview. The Alzheimer’s Association support group meets on the third Thursday of each month from 6:30 to 8 pm in Conference Room 6 at the Kaiser Permanente Clinic on 7th Avenue in Longview. These groups help to provide a consistent and caring place for caregivers to learn, share, and gain emotional support from others who are also on the journey of providing care to a person with memory loss. Find out more by calling 261-4612.
The Cowlitz County Commissioners are moving ahead on a proposal to purchase the building that’s currently occupied by the Love Overwhelming homeless shelter. The County Commission voted yesterday to offer $250,000 for the building at 304 Cowlitz Way; Commission Chair Mike Karnofksi says that this is the right time to move on this…lo-purchase…The Emergency Support Shelter currently owns the building, and made the decision to sell the building about a year ago, with the intent of paying down debt on their current building. As the current tenant, Love Overwhelming has the right of first refusal, and it’s reported that the Love Overwhelming board was going to vote on that possibility last night. The result of that vote is not yet known. Love Overwhelming has also been in discussions with other organizations, looking at the possibility of moving. The Shekinah Christian Center on 3rd Avenue in Longview reportedly has been talking about taking the shelter in, but that would require a lifting of the current moratorium on shelters inside the city limits, along with a zoning change. Additional information on this situation could be released later today.
The County Commissioners are giving approval to a new three-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Sheriff’s Deputies and Sergeants Guild, a contract that includes two percent raises in each year, along with an educational improvement component. Deputies that receive Bachelor’s degrees or higher can have the salaries increased by as much as three percent. The new contract covers some 30 deputies and six sergeants in the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Department.
Utility rates in the City of Kelso will increase by an average of 2.5 percent in the coming year, if the Kelso City Council holds firm to the schedule that was approved at last night’s meeting. Water rates will increase 2 percent, sewer rates will go up 2 percent, stormwater rates will go up 4 percent, and garbage rates will rise 4 percent under the schedule that was reviewed last night; while concerns are being raised about increases of any sort, there’s also some relief that the increases are well below what had previously been projected by city staff. The proposed increases would add $3.15 to the average monthly household utility bill. The Kelso City Council plans to take formal action at its next regular meeting, which comes up on Tuesday, November 1st. The public will have an opportunity to comment prior to action by the City Council.