Jose Travis Allen Sanchez, 34, of Kelso is under arrest after Sheriff’s Deputies and Kelso Police used a dog and a Taser in getting him out from under a house in North Kelso. Shortly after 3 yesterday afternoon, Sheriff’s Detectives went to a home in the 800 block of North 8th, saying that they had probable cause to arrest Sanchez on a first-degree robbery charge. They say that Sanchez was found to be hiding in a crawl space under the house; a K-9 was called in, as Kelso Police also assisted. Sanchez was finally taken into custody shortly before 5 pm, after a Taser was deployed. Along with the robbery count, Sanchez is also being served with Clallam County warrants for third-degree theft and second-degree burglary; he also is being cited for resisting arrest, as the criminal investigation continues.
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State Troopers say that charges are pending in connection with a rollover crash that took place yesterday afternoon on I-5, just south of Todd Road near Kalama. Troopers say that Ryan Abbott, 20, of Longview was driving northbound on I-5 when he lost control of his Honda Civic at about 3:50 pm. They say that the car slid off of the road and went up an embankment before rolling over. Abbott was injured in the crash, along with two passengers, Cameron Brewer, 20, and Matthew Hoven, 25, of Longview. All three men were treated and released at St. John Medical Center. A third passenger was unhurt. Abbott’s car has been impounded as the crash investigation continues.
Teachers in Longview plan to show solidarity with other educators from across the state in protesting this year’s Legislature, and what the teachers claim is a lack of action on key issues. The local teachers say that there should be little impact on educational time for local kids, as today is a scheduled early release day. Teachers plan to picket before and after school, and to walk out on training/PLC time. The teachers will lose compensation for walking out during that time. Teachers across the state are upset about issues regarding health care coverage, COLA’s, levy swap legislation, standardized testing and class sizes. A rally is planned for this afternoon at 2:45 pm, at R. A. Long High School.
There’s another seat coming open on the Port of Longview Commission, as current Commission Vice President Lou Johnson announces his resignation, effective June 30th. Johnson cites family and personal commitments as the reasons for his departure. He says that “It has been a privilege to serve my community, and I wish to thank my fellow Commissioners and the Port staff for this opportunity.” Port CEO Geir Kalhagen and current Commission President Bob Bagaason both say that Johnson made “important contributions” to the panel, and they thank him for his service. The remaining Commissioners will review the process for filling the open position at their regular meeting on June 9th; the person appointed would fill the remainder of Johnson’s term, which expires in 2017.
Port of Longview officials say that a request to build a new “micro-refinery” at the Port of Longview is back on the table, just a few weeks after saying that the proposal from Riverside Refining was “dormant.” It was announced yesterday that Port staff plans to continue evaluation the proposal, and will also start preliminary negotiations on possible deal points for the facility. Port CEO Geir Kalhagen says that Riverside is proposing to use 35 acres of port property to construct an $800 million “micro-refinery,” which would produce up to 45,000 barrels per day of “refined product.” A majority of the facility’s oil would come from the Bakken Oil Fields in North Dakota, but the plant would also accept used cooking oil, along with virgin seed and vegetable oils from international markets. It’s emphasized that these talks are in an extremely preliminary stage; port officials emphasize that no decisions have been made and no agreements have been entered in connection with this project.
As the amount of crude oil being shipped through the local area continues to increase, the Department of Ecology is taking steps to be prepared in the event of a possible spill. DOE says that a draft contingency plan that outlines how responders would protect public safety and the environment in the event of a spill in Cowlitz, Clark and southwestern Lewis Counties. This plan covers three counties, along with 51 miles of the Cowlitz River, 13 miles of the Coweeman River, 12 miles of the Kalama River, 17 miles of the Lewis River, and more than 8 miles up the Toutle River. The cities of Kelso, Longview, Kalama, Castle Rock, Winlock, Woodland, Ridgefield and Vancouver also fall within the boundaries of the plan, which includes strategies that are designed to keep oil away from sensitive resources, or to collect oil off of the water before sensitive areas are impacted. The Clark-Cowlitz Plan is one of eight that are under development state-wide. The draft plan can be reviewed on the Department of Ecology web page. Comments on the plan are being accepted through June 18th.
The unemployment picture in the local area continues to slowly brighten, as Washington Employment Security reports that the April jobless numbers came in at 7.3 percent. That’s six-tenths of a percentage point lower than April of last year, and is the lowest April number since 2007. Over the past 12 months, Cowlitz County employment has increased by 1,500 jobs, including 400 jobs in construction and natural resources, 300 manufacturing jobs, 400 jobs in trade and transportation, 300 jobs in education and health services, 200 jobs in government and 100 jobs in leisure and hospitality. Statistics show that Cowlitz County’s labor force has grown by three percent over the past year; the number of employed residents has increased by 3.6 percent, while the number of unemployed residents has decreased by 4.7 percent.
If you’re planning some nighttime travel through the Centralia area tonight, tomorrow or Friday, be aware that a popular off-ramp in Centralia will be out of commission. Starting tonight at 10 pm, the northbound Mellen Street off-ramp at exit 81 will close, and will remain closed until 5 tomorrow morning. The same off-ramp will close at 9 pm tomorrow night, and will be closed until 5 Friday morning. Workers will be grinding and repaving worn pavement, which should help to smooth that driving surface. Signs will be posted; use alternate exits if you need to get off of the freeway in that area.
From 5 am until 10 pm today, your Cuppa Joe from the Kelso Dutch Bros. stand will help to build a new covered play area at Rose Valley Elementary School. All day today, Dutch Bros in Kelso is donating proceeds from all drink sales to the Rose Valley Elementary PTO, which is working to construct a new covered area for the school playground. Owner Mark Luna says that they love being in the position to help local youth, especially when it’s for something fun like a playground. The Kelso Dutch Bros. is located just east of I-5 off of the Allen Street exit, on Kelso Drive next to AM-PM.
St. Helens Police report that a ten year-old boy is in trouble, identified as the suspect in a couple of arson fires reported over the past few months. Back in February, a suspicious fire damaged the softball batting cage at St. Helens High School, then that was followed about a month later by a house fire that resulted in the death of a parrot. St. Helens Police Chief Terry Moss says that they interviewed a number of witnesses and examined other nearby crime scenes, eventually identifying the boy as a “person of interest.” The boy was brought in for an interview last week, and reportedly admitted his involvement. Moss claims that the boy admitted to setting both fires, along with other recent malicious mischief incidents in that area. The boy was released to his mother, while the case is referred to the District Attorney’s office for a charging decision.