The West Main Street Revitalization Project is being held up by federal bureaucracy and regulation, which are preventing the general contractor on the project from firing a subcontractor that isn’t getting the work done. At last night’s City Council meeting, City Manager Steve Taylor says that this is a prime example of Federal inflexibility…westmainproblems…Taylor says that the problems come under the Federal Highway Administration rules that apply to this project, which is partially paid for with FHA funds. Under the regulations for getting those funds, the general contractor, Advanced Excavating Specialists, has rules that require the use of Disadvantaged and Minority Contractors. Officials with AES say that the subcontractor that’s supposed to be installing sidewalks has been extremely unresponsive, and these federal regulations make it nearly impossible to fire the company. Taylor also says that additional problems with unmapped utilities and worse-than-expected street conditions have caused problems. Taylor says that the city is appealing to state and federal agencies for some relief, and he also says that they will pursue penalties against AES if the contract isn’t completed on time. The late September completion date is now pushed back to the end of October.
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You can get the latest on the Industrial Way-Oregon Way Intersection Project at an Open House that’s planned for this evening. The project team will provide an update on work done in the past six months, and will also discuss the upcoming next steps. After a short presentation, participants will have the opportunity to visit information stations, where they can see the latest concepts, ask questions, and provide input. This input will help to craft the alternatives that will be considered in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project, also helping to improve truck mobility. Today’s Open House runs from 5 to 7 pm in the John Searing Auditorium at the Cowlitz PUD building on 12th Avenue in Longview. Get full details on the project by going to their website at IndustrialOregonWay.org.
Cowlitz County is updating the Critical Areas Ordinance, the local law that helps to identify and designate areas that are sensitive for a variety of reasons, also setting development standards across the county. The Washington Growth Management Act requires a periodic review and update; county officials also say that there are several proposed updates, intended to improve administration and review. These updates are also intended to help promote consistency, dependability and predictability across several chapter of the County Code. The Open House will run from 5 to 7 pm in the General Meeting Room at the County Administration Building, starting with an informal discussion with county staff and the consultant team. Today’s Open House will be a lead-in the County Planning Commission meeting at 7, where there will be a workshop and a public hearing on the CAO. Get more information by calling County Building and Planning at 577-3052.
Water line replacement will have some alley approaches along Nichols Boulevard closed for the next couple of days. Starting today, alley approaches on Nichols between 16th and 19th Avenues will be closed, while the project contractor completes water line and restoration work across the sidewalk. Detours will be posted, and traffic will be diverted around this closure. Local access to alleys will be allowed off of Cypress Street. This work is expected to be complete by this Friday, the 23rd.
The August jobless rate in Cowlitz County held steady from the month before, holding steady at 7.6 percent. Scott Bailey with Washington Employment Security says that the unemployment rate is slightly higher than the same period last year, which was at 7.3 percent. Bailey says that total non-farm employment increased by 300 jobs, and total employment is estimated at 39,000 jobs. Transportation and utilities added 200 jobs, along with smaller gains in the construction and state government sectors. Manufacturing had a small loss. Year-to-year, there’s been an overall increase of 400 jobs; about 3,400 Cowlitz County residents are jobless and are seeking work, an increase of 200 at the same time last year. Initial and continuing unemployment claims continue at “very low levels.”
Some groups got a little less than they asked for, but the City of Kelso is covering more than $235,000 in allocations from the 2017 Lodging Tax Fund, supporting eleven local groups and organizations with upcoming events. Council member Todd McDaniel is on the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, and he says that it’s a good feeling to have these kind of resources… …The Kelso LTAC recommended allocations to support the Kelso Highlander Festival, along with a $100,000 allocation for the joint Wayfinding Sign Project with the City of Longview. The Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce had three requests filled, dealing with operation of the Visitors Center, publication of the Visitor’s Guide, and support of the upcoming S’quatch Fest. LCC Athletics is getting support for three sporting events, along with an allocation to help pay for renovation of Story Field. Other allocations will go to the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts, the Cowlitz County Museum and Kelso Babe Ruth Baseball. Proceeds from the Lodging Tax Fund come from a tax paid at local motels and hotels, and are intended to help support groups and events that attract overnight visitors to the local area. The Cowlitz County Commissioners are also kicking in on the Story Field project, approving a County LTAC allocation of $100,000, acknowledging the role of Story Field and the events that bring “heads to beds” through that facility.
The Longview School Board and the community at large now have the chance to go over the pages of information that was presented from the Facilities Advisory Committee, looking at the concepts that have been developed regarding long-term facilities needs in the district. Board President C. J. Nickerson says that the FAC has provided a good springboard for study and discussion…lsdfacilities…The FAC has been working for nearly two years on this study, looking at the health and functionality of each building in the district, while also examining enrollment trends, current and future capacity, the impacts of new initiatives and eliminating the use of portables. The FAC presented three main concepts, with subsets under each of the main concepts. Concept 1, dubbed the “Conservative Plan,” would preserve the current class configuration, pretty close to the “status quo.” Concept 2, the “Long-Range Plan” is put forward as a way to preserve “Neighborhood Schools,” but also recommends the closure of at least one elementary, along with consolidation of the high schools. Concept 3 is billed as a “spectrum of options,” and would be done in one phase, rather than being spread out over time. At least five of the seven scenarios presented last night would have one high school closed or modified. At full buildout, each concept would cost an estimated minimum of $212 million, up to a high of $273 million, depending on what is done with the high schools. All three concepts also leave Longview Memorial Stadium out of the equation, saying that the district should pursue private dollars to get those improvements made. The full report is now available for review on the Longview Schools web page, and the School Board plans to take public input at next Monday’s regular School Board meeting.
The Sheriff’s Office is on the lookout for a dirt bike and a rider that evaded Deputies late last night. At 11:10 am, a deputy reported seeing a motorcycle traveling up Glenwood Drive, going at least 50 miles an hour. The deputy pursued the bike up into the hills, going onto Columbia Heights Road and then onto Lone Oak. The chase went back down to Pacific Way, and then onto Coal Creek Road. Deputies describe the motorcycle as a dirt bike with no plate, and they say that the rider was wearing a long-sleeved shirt that said “Eat Crab.” The rider eventually turned onto Ragland Road, and then went around a gate onto Weyerhaeuser property, losing the deputy. They have a description of the bike and the rider, but they haven’t identified that person.
The charges being filed against Makenzie Tatum, 21, of Vancouver could be elevated, after a man who was involved in a car crash that was supposedly caused by Tatum has died. State Troopers say that Harold Burdsall, 74, of Battle Ground died yesterday morning at PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center, three days after being involved in a two-car crash on SR 503 north of Vancouver. Troopers say that Burdsall was stopped at a rail crossing, also waiting for a C-Tran bus to pass. They say that Tatum failed to see the stopped traffic, crashing into Burdsall’s car. Tatum was cited for driving too fast for the conditions, but he could now face additional charges.
Word is getting out that Holly Bishop passed away over the weekend. Bishop had been taken to the hospital early last Friday morning, and on Saturday, his passing was announced by the Longview Kiwanis. Along with his local business “Bishop’s Bail Bonds,” he was a long-time cog in the community, owning local radio stations in addition to his bail bond company. Bishop was deeply involved in the community, with his long involvement in the Kiwanis and other service groups. Bishop was also a strong advocate of acquisitions for K-9’s in local police departments, helping to spearhead fundraisers to help pay for new dogs when older dogs retired. Memorial services are pending.