As many as 150 disgruntled citizens gathered yesterday morning outside of the O. O. Howard House in Vancouver, rallying outside of the office of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, and demanding that she hold a Town Hall, and increase her interaction with constituents. Many at yesterday’s rally held signs dealing with the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, while other signs showed concern about President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Staffers for Beutler say that she was in Skamania County yesterday, before conducting a Telephone Town Hall meeting last night. Beutler’s office say that she’s committed to contact and get feedback with as many constituents as possible; the people involved in yesterday’s event are demanding even more availability. Beutler is entering her fourth term as the Congressional Representative for the Third District, receiving nearly 62 percent of the vote in last November’s election.
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The J. H. Kelly company of Longview reportedly has come in with the low bid for construction of the building that will house a new McMenamins hotel, restaurant and brew pub at the Port of Kalama. Construction bids for the building were opened last week, and J. H. Kelly reportedly came in with the low bid of $7.3 million. The port will construct the building, and then the Portland-based brewery chain would lease and operate the facility. The bid is a bit over original estimates on the project; it’s reported that some negotiations will be held before the deal is finalized. Project managers say that they’re still on track to get building permits from the City of Kalama in the next few weeks, and to get this new McMenamin’s open by this fall.
Just a few days after reporting the hire of their new Executive Director, the Port of St. Helens is starting over in the search, when the preferred candidate was lured back to where he currently lives. Earlier this month, the job in St. Helens was offered to William Anderson of Kotzebue, Alaska, after a search that started in fall of last year. The South County Spotlight reports that Anderson was offered the job, but he declined at the last moment, after his current employer came back with a contract extension. Meetings were held late week at the Port of St. Helens, to discuss how the search will move ahead. The Port of St. Helens has been involved in this search process since September of last year, when Patrick Trapp announced that he would be leaving the post this spring.
McBride Elementary School in St. Helens is one of 100 schools across the country that are winners in this year’s “Grand Stand for Education” contest from Campbell’s Soup, winning an award of $10,000. The soup company is giving away $1 million in the Grand Stand for Education promotion, $10,000 to 100 schools across the country. This is connected to their “Labels for Education” program, where schools collect box tops and end tabs, sending those back in to Campbell’s for credits and school support. School officials announced the award in an special assembly that was held last week; they haven’t decided yet how the money will be spent, but school officials say that it will be used in a way to benefit both students and staff.
Longview Police continue an investigation, after a woman’s body was discovered Sunday morning on the banks of the Cowlitz River. LPD Detective Sergeant Chris Blanchard announced this morning that the body is that of Shannon E. Fuchs, 52, of Longview. It’s reported that a person walking along the dike discovered the body late Sunday morning, on the river bank in the 1500 block of Third Avenue in Longview. Blanchard says that the body was found just downstream from where several transient camps have been located, and they don’t think that the woman down there for more than just a couple of days. There was a delay in announcing the woman’s name until after next of kin were contacted. Blanchard says that the initial autopsy was inconclusive, so they will have to wait several weeks for toxicology tests to return. Other details on the case are not being released at this time.
They’re collecting and reviewing security videos from businesses that neighbor Manchester Brothers on Vandercook Way in Longview, after someone broke in and stole several guns. The break-in was reported at about 8:40 yesterday morning, when a driver for a nearby business noticed that the back door of Manchester’s had been kicked in. Longview Police responded and found that the building had been burglarized, and that a number of firearms had been taken. At this time, no suspects have been identified, but they are still going over videos collected from at least one nearby business.
The Sheriff’s Office is opening an investigation after a pickup truck fire that was reported last night near Kalama. Firefighters were called out from Cowlitz Fire District 5 in Kalama at 10:50 last night, when it was reported that the truck was engulfed in flames, parked in the area of Greenwood Road and Kalama River Road. They say that the truck was just sitting on the side of the road, and did not appear to have been in a crash. It took several minutes to get the fire put out, and to get the truck cooled off enough to get identifying information. The truck is registered to a Castle Rock-area resident, but the driver hasn’t been seen for several days. Deputies are still working to find and talk with the registered owner of the pickup
Looking at a potential shortfall of $600,000 in the next school year, the Rainier School Board is already taking steps to deal with the deficit. The Clatskanie Chief reports that the Rainier School Board has placed a freeze on the budget, while also preparing for substantial reductions in services and personnel. Superintendent Michael Carter says that the shortfall is due primarily to increases to the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System and other business costs. Carter says that the PERS costs for the district will rise by 27 percent next year, and as those costs rise, they will need to cut personnel and programs. There’s still a chance that the Oregon Legislature could come through with full funding of $8.4 billion for Oregon schools, but the districts are planning for the shortfall. The budget freeze takes effect March 15th, and a series of public budget hearings will be held in the spring, asking the public where the cuts should be made. Carter also says that a planned 15 million-dollar renovation and expansion of Rainier High School athletic facilities is going on hold until private backers step up to support that project.
The Kelso City Council meets at 6 pm tonight, with items connected to the revised Comprehensive Plan on the agenda. The Council is scheduled to take action on a Planning Commission recommendation to add the West Kelso Subarea Plan to the Comp Plan. The Council is also being asked to expand the Adult-Oriented Business Overlay, acting on a request from a person who purchased property for a marijuana retail shop, finding out after the purchase that the building is two lots outside of the zone where those shops are allowed. The Planning Commission did vote in favor of the re-zone request. Tonight’s meeting is open to the public.
The Port of Kalama reports that Phase 2 of the Spencer Creek Business Park development project is under way, as a $1.2 million contract for site pre-loading and ground improvements is awarded to Tapani Underground of Battle Ground. The contract calls for removal of sand that’s been used as pre-load in Areas 1 and 2 at the business park, moving that material into Areas 3 through 6. Some trees and vegetation will be removed, along with fences and other structures. That pre-load sand will also be compacted, and then it’s expected that the entire 70-acre footprint will be ready for development at the end of this second phase. This part of the project is set to begin late this spring.