Four Kelso Police Officers are being honored for their outstanding performance during an officer-involved shooting incident that took place on March 2nd in West Kelso. Officer Ralph Hines was presented with a Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart, while Sergeant Khembar Yund, Officer Mark Berglund and Officer Bebe McFall were recognized for Exemplary Performance. Mayor David Futcher says that the awards simply reinforce the excellence of the Kelso Police Department…kpdawards…Jesse McMillan, 27, was killed in the shootout on March 2nd, hit by return fire put down by Hines and Deputy Danny O’Neill. One of the rounds fired by McMillan hit Hines in the leg, and he still carries a portion of that bullet. Police Chief Andy Hamilton says that Hines is only the second Kelso Police Officer wounded by gunfire in the history of the department. Back in March of 1948, Patrolman Patrick Konen was fatally wounded by a domestic violence suspect. Despite his wounds, Konen was able to hold the suspect until additional units arrived on the scene.
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It’s being reported that PeaceHealth is facing its biggest-ever budget gap, and is now asking employees to identify ways to cut another $30 million from its overall budget. The Eugene Register-Guard claims to have obtained a copy of a presentation that PeaceHealth President and Chief Mission Officer Alan Yordy is making to employees during this week. It’s reported that $100 million in savings has already been identified, and they’re appealing to employees to identify another $30 million over the next two months. They say that part of the plan is to immediately suspend hiring for open positions, and will review those positions on a case-by-case basis. They’re also reviewing open spots, to see if they can be consolidated, eliminated, cut to part-time, or if there are other options. Currently, PeaceHealth employs about 16,000 people in three states, and has about 900 vacant slots at this time. Yordy says that they’d like to avoid layoffs; he also says that unpaid furloughs or early retirement options could be part of the mix. The R-G says that these moves are a continuation of cost-cutting efforts that started with the recession, but Yordy says this year’s challenges are “unprecedented.”
The Longview Police Street Crimes Unit reports making two arrests, as they were called in to investigate suspicious activity in the 1900 block of Dorothy Street in Longview. Local residents reported that a car was repeatedly parking behind a building in that area, and then the occupants would head over to what’s being characterized as a “well-known drug house.” The SCU responded and caught up with Mikel Scott McCulley, 50, and Marcus Anthony Cochran, 21, both of Longview. It turns out that both men had outstanding warrants; McCulley was booked for driving while suspended, while Cochran was arrested on a Department of Corrections hold. Both men are being held without bail as the investigation continues.
The annual Scappoose Pow Wow opens tonight and runs through Sunday. The opening ceremony is set for 7 pm at the Veterans Park Flag Pole, kicking off a full weekend of festivities. There’s a “Pancreatic Cancer Walk” at 8 pm tonight, and a “Live While You’re Young” bonfire at 9 pm. Things re-open at noon tomorrow, with activities for the kids, live music and dance, and the “Beer Zone.” Saturday has a fun run, a softball tournament, a parade, a Texas Hold’em tournament and other fun. On Sunday, the Chinook Canoe Family will hold a Canoe Ceremony, along with a Grand Entry of the tribes. The Chinook Canoe Family will also conduct a demonstration of an Indian Stick Game. Admission is free.
Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson says that the rescue of two St. Helens-area men from the Columbia River happened “just seconds” before both would have been lost. Around 1:30 yesterday afternoon, the Columbia County River Patrol and aid crews from Columbia River Fire and Rescue dashed to the north end of Sand Island, where Kawai Niau, 24, and Kyle Snider, 19, were struggling in the current of the river. Witnesses directed the rescuers to the two men, who had been swimming near a wing dam in that area. Niau called out that he could no longer tread water, while Snider was about 100 yards further downstream, and was losing consciousness. Deputies quickly pulled Niau onto their boat, then sped down and got to Snider. Dickerson says that Snider was unresponsive when they arrived, and was unable to grab a rescue rope. One of the firefighters jumped into the water, got hold of Snider, and then both men were pulled on board the boat. Snider was taken to Legacy Emanuel Hospital in critical condition, but he’s listed in good condition this morning. Niau refused medical treatment on shore. Dickerson says that both men would have been beyond help in just a few more minutes, and the quick work of the Deputies and Firefighters made the difference in this event.
The sprinkler system on Paper Machine #10 at Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging is getting credit for helping to control a fire that broke out yesterday afternoon. Longview Fire Battalion Chief Kevin Taylor says that the alarm call came in shortly after noon yesterday, with the Fibre Emergency Response Team reporting that flames were visible in the area of the machine, also going through the overhead roof vents. Taylor says light smoke was showing as fire crews arrived; once inside the building, it was discovered that the fire had spread from the machine to the roof vents, along with several spots along the assembly line. The sprinkler system contained most of the fire, while hose lines were deployed to knock down several hot spots. Taylor says that this fire could have been much more complicated, but the sprinkler system helped keep the fire in check. Firefighters were at the facility for a couple of hours; officials with Fibre say that damage was “minimal.” No injuries were reported.
Authorities in Marion County continue to investigate yesterday morning’s crash in downtown Salem, where a truck carrying more than 5,000 chickens bound for the Foster Farms plant in Kelso overturned. Salem Police say that the crash happened around 8 am, as Patricia Aguilar, 41, of Kelso was merging onto Commercial Street, one of the main routes through downtown Salem. It’s thought that she was driving too fast to make the turn, which caused the truck to tip over. A pole on the corner was broken off, along with several cars parked in a lot on the corner. They also say that chickens were strewn all over in the crash; a “considerable number” were killed outright, and many others died in the cleanup phase. Traffic in downtown Salem was snarled for more than six hours after the crash, as dead chickens were cleaned up, live chickens were rounded up, and the wreckage was removed. Aguilar was taken to a local hospital for observation. So far, no citations have been reported, but the investigation continues.
Auston Wade Jessee, 18, of Longview is facing at least two felony counts, after he tussled with law enforcement officers during an apparent escape attempt that took place yesterday morning at the Hall of Justice. Deputies say that a 17 year-old girl apparently tried to leave the facility shortly after 10 am, after it was directed that she be taken into custody. A “Code Red” was called while Jessee allegedly fought with Deputies; both he and the 17 year-old were subdued and taken into custody after just a few minutes. Jessee is now being held in the Cowlitz County Jail on felony charges of intimidating a public servant and third-degree assault. He’s also charged with obstructing an officer and resisting arrest. The girl was booked into the Juvenile Services Center; her charges haven’t been disclosed.
The Cowlitz PUD Commission is filing additional charges against ousted PUD General Manager Brian Skeahan, alleging that he was involved in other improper activities during last year’s election, in addition to the three other counts that led to his firing. Today’s Daily News reports on the 2-1 vote at yesterday’s meeting. Commission President Buz Ketcham says that these new allegations came to light after interviews with several employees, who came forward as the previous investigation continued. It’s now claimed that Skeahan directed staff to prepare reports that were used as talking points by then-incumbent PUD Commissioner Mark McCrady, that he illegally delayed retirement compensation payments to top executives until after the November election, and that he directed a public relations firm hired by the Commission to include campaign-related questions in a public survey that was conducted last summer. Contacted by phone, both Skehan and McCrady deny any wrongdoing; Skeahan also says that the Commissioners, including Ketcham, were aware of and approved of his activities. Ketcham is praising the employees that came forward, telling the paper that they were putting “loyalty to the public above loyalty to a former general manager and former commissioner.” Commissioner Ned Piper voted against the new charges, saying that he’s concerned about the “obsession” to pursue a man who’s been gone from the utility for six months. Officials with the Public Disclosure Commission say that they’ll make rulings on all of the allegations at once, which should be out later this year.
Also at yesterday’s PUD Commission meeting, it was disclosed that the Fitch Rating Service is upgrading the utility’s standing on several outstanding bonds. Fitch is raising the PUD’s outlook on the Production System Revenue Bonds from “negative” to “stable,” and will continue to give those bonds an “A” rating. In making this announcement, Fitch says that the revision to “stable” reflects the measures taken by PUD management to stabilize financial performance. They also say that the PUD is engaged in “conservative budgeting” in the face of varying hydrological conditions, and they’re projecting only “minimal” rate increases as the BPA hikes wholesale power rates later this fall. PUD officials say that this rating will have benefits for both the utility and its ratepayers, as they’ll get a better interest rate on future bonds, which means lower interest payments and more stable rates over the next 20 years. CFO Trent Martin and Internal Auditor Royce Hagelstein are getting credit for offering advice that was “instrumental” to getting this revised rating.