It appears that a resolution to the hit-and-run charges filed against Kelso City Council member Jared Franklin are being dismissed, after he agreed to pay the owner of a car that he hit $700. Today’s Daily News reports on the agreement, where Longview City Prosecutor Steve Schuman is quoted as saying that they approved this resolution because the victim is being compensated. The 34 year-old first-term City Council member was arrested back on April 24th, after a car crash that took place at 15th and Hemlock. Franklin was arrested outside of his girlfriend’s house, charged with hit-and-run and driving while suspended. Along with the dropping of the hit-and-run charge, the driving while suspended charge will also be dropped if Franklin gets his license reinstated by September 11th.
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Results of the 2014 Primary Election are now certified by the Cowlitz County Elections Department, confirming that County Commissioner Jim Misner will not advance to the General Election, and that there are two extremely tight local races heading into November. In the final, certified tally, only 21 votes separate the “top two” in the County Commission District 3 race; Mark Smith has 2,057 votes, while Joe Gardner has 2,036 votes. Challenger Ryan Jurvakainen also heads into the November General Election as the front-runner in the race for Cowlitz County Prosecuting Attorney. The final tally shows Jurvakainen with 9,003 votes, while incumbent Sue Baur received 8,972 votes, a margin of 31 votes, and a separation of only .27 of a percent. The “top two” in each of the races on the Primary Election ballot now moves onto the General Election, which will be held on Tuesday, November 4th.
Bob Simmons is retiring after more than three decades on the Kelso School Board. Simmons announced his retirement earlier this week, at Monday’s Kelso School Board meeting. Simmons says that he and his wife will be relocating to Federal Way, so that they can be close to other family members. Applications for the open seat on the Kelso School Board are now being accepted, to fill the remainder of Simmons’ term, which runs through November of next year. Application packets can be picked up at the Kelso School District administrative offices on Crawford Street, and are due back at those offices by 5 pm on Monday, September 8th. Contact the Kelso School District offices if you have any questions about this.
Saying that they’re trying to streamline the process, and to put the decision in the right place, the City of Kelso is removing the approval of alcohol use permits in city parks from the City Council. Instead, the City Manager or a designee will approve or deny applications for liquor use in city parks. City Attorney Janean Parker says that they’re trying to put an administrative act in its proper place. Parker and City Manager Steve Taylor say this changes the park code to put the decision on alcohol consumption in city parks in the Manager’s hands. They say that this change eliminates the need for the City Council to make the approval decision, and will become part of the Special Event permitting process. The ordinance was approved on first reading, and will return to the Council for final action at its next meeting, scheduled for September 2nd.
It’s moving at a snail’s pace, but the Employment Security Department says that Cowlitz County’s jobless picture is continuing to improve. The July jobless rate came in at an even 7 percent, down marginally from the number in June. They also say that this is three percentage points lower than the unemployment rate in July of last year, and they also say that there are more jobs in the area than there were last year. Regional Economist Scott Bailey says there is some good news, with more jobs in the local area, and some bad news, showing a decline in the labor force. He also says that the number of unemployment claims continues to drop, with both initial and continuing claims going on at “very low levels.”
Castle Rock is putting together a Task Force that will take on the task of trying to figure out what to do with the Castle Rock Exhibit Hall, which was vacated earlier this year. Officials say that the building is currently “not sustainable” in its current condition, either physically or functionally. Castle Rock citizens, community and business leaders, city officials, local organizations, associations, church members and other interested parties are being invited to take part in the Task Force, which plans to start work later this month. Nancy Chennault has been selected to facilitate the workshop session on the morning of Wednesday, the 27th, as part of her consultant contract with the city for implementation of Phase 1 of its Strategic Marketing Plan. If you would to be a part of this, an orientation and workshop is planned to start at 7 am on the 27th, at the former Exhibit Hall building on Front Avenue Northwest. To RSVP, or if you need more information, call Nancy Chennault at 360-703-8174.
Opponents of coal export facilities that are being proposed for the Pacific Northwest got a huge win yesterday, when the Oregon Department of State Lands concluded more than two years of review with the rejection of the soil removal and fill permit for the Coyote Island Terminal near Boardman. In the denial letter, DSL Director Mary Abrams says that the decision was reached after extensive deliberation, research and legal counsel. DSL says that the proposed project is not consistent with the protection, conservation and best use of Oregon’s water resources, and that the applicant, Ambre Energy, did not provide a sufficient analysis of alternatives that would avoid construction of a new dock, along with the negative impact on tribal fisheries. The decision puts a proposal for a coal transfer facility at Port Westward near Clatskanie in serious jeopardy, as the Coyote Island facility was intended to supply the one at Port Westward. Ambre can appeal the decision through an Administrative Law Judge.
The Cowlitz PUD Commission is holding off on a vote regarding contracts that are being proposed for the utility’s general counsel and auditor, proposed deals that the Daily News says would make it nearly impossible to fire or even discipline either one of those positions. Today’s Daily News has information on yesterday’s special 7 am meeting of the Commission, where about two dozen people showed up to speak on these proposals. Commission President Buz Ketcham reportedly says that they HAD to meet early in the morning, because Commissioner Ned Piper is heading off on vacation, and Ketcham himself was going to be unavailable. Commissioner Kurt Anagnostou also says that they want to get these in place before an investigation by the Public Disclosure Commission is concluded. Both Ketcham and Anagnostou say that these contracts are needed to help retain key employees, and to protect them from “harassment.” Every citizen who spoke joined with Piper in wondering why there was such a rush; TDN also reports that these would be the only contracts of this sort, with any PUD in the state. In the end, the Commission declined to take action yesterday, but they could take a vote at the next regular PUD Commission meeting on the 26th.
Longview Police say that a serial commercial burglar is now in custody, arrested last Friday in Kelso. Detective Sergeant John Reeves say that they have been able to connected Adam Gregory Stack, 30, with a string of local commercial break-ins that have taken place over the past few weeks. An alert was sent to local law enforcement; this past Friday, Cowlitz County Deputies contacted Stack at a home in Kelso. It’s claimed that Stack was in possession of a vehicle that had been stolen in a burglary reported the night before. During an interview after his arrest, Stack allegedly implicated himself in eleven commercial burglaries in Longview, two in Kelso and three in Rainier. A search warrant was served on Stack’s residence, where detectives claim to have recovered a number of stolen items. Stack is now being held on multiple counts of burglary, theft, malicious mischief and trafficking in stolen property. The investigation is continuing, with the possibility of additional charges and arrests.
Authorities in Skamania County say that an autopsy confirms that the remains that were recovered earlier this month from the 7,100 foot level of Mount St. Helens are those of a missing Japanese hiker. Yosuke Onishi, 27, had been missing since November 27th of last year, when he headed out from the Lone Fir Resort in Cougar, and failed to return. On August 9th, dozens of trained searchers went up onto the mountain in an effort to find Onishi, and one of those teams located his remains on the south slope of the volcano. The cause of death has yet to be determined, but Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox says that they’re hopeful that can be clarified as reports come in from the Medical Examiner’s office.