Brian Hatfield is announcing his resignation as State Senator for the 19th District, saying that he’s going to take a job in the Governor’s office, becoming the Sector Lead for Rural Economic Development. Hatfield has been involved with the Washington Legislature since 1989, starting as a Legislative Aide for Senators Arlie DeJarnatt and Sid Snyder. Hatfield served as a 19th District Representative from 1994 through 2004, then he worked for Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen for two years, before becoming State Senator in 2006. Hatfield says that “It’s truly been a privilege to serve the people of the 19th District,” but he’s also excited to serve the people of Washington in a new role. Over the next few weeks, the Democratic Precinct Committee Officers in the 19th District will submit three candidates to the County Commissioners in the district, and they will appoint someone to serve out the remaining two years of Hatfield’s term. Current 19th District Representative Dean Takko has reportedly said that he’s interested in the position.
Cowlitz County Emergency Management says that people with respiratory issues may want to take some precautions, as a nasty odor reported yesterday morning over Longview was traced to a minor release from one of the waterfront mills. Calls about the strong odors started coming in around 9:30 yesterday morning, and they were quickly identified as Non-Condensible Gases caused by turpentine. While a number of people reported the smell, DEM says that measurements show that the levels being released were well below the amounts that would pose a health hazard. They still advise people with breathing issues to stay indoors, and to take other precautions to limit exposure. A change in the weather over the next few days should help to clear those odors out.
As the strike against KapStone Paper and Packaging moves through its sixth day, with no new contract talks scheduled, the community is stepping up with support for the striking workers. “Jobs for 153” is a new Facebook page, giving the community a place to post “side jobs” for 153 members while they’re out on strike. Get details by going to the “Jobs for 153” Facebook page. The Gateway Learning Center on 3rd Avenue in Longview is also offering free homework instruction for kids in kindergarten through 12th grade, for families where the parents are Local 153 members out on strike. Space is limited, and this service is only being offered while the strike is on. Call 577-3939 for more information.
The investigation into a fire that damaged a vacant mobile home last night near Castle Rock. Around 11:40 pm, crews from Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue and Cowlitz Fire District 6 were called to 145 Camelot Drive, when flames were seen coming from the double-wide mobile home. The trailer was about 20 percent involved in flames when the first crews rolled up. Those on the scene reported that the mobile home had been vacant for about a week, and was unoccupied when the fire broke out. There’s no word yet on the cause, nor has there been a damage estimate.
Fire destroyed about 30 large hay bales last night out on Willow Grove. Cowlitz 2 Fire and Rescue, Longview Fire and the Department of Natural Resources were called out to the 9000 block of Willow Grove Road at about 10:15 last night, finding that about 30 bales were on fire. They used brush engines to surround the fire, and then used a large water tender to get the fire put out. The cause is under investigation, but the initial indications are that this was an accident, or may have been spontaneous combustion. No injuries were reported; the loss is estimated to be in the area of $1,200.
County Auditor Kris Swanson and Finance Director Claire Hauge officially presented the 2016-2017 Cowlitz County Preliminary Budget to the County Commissioners yesterday morning, looking at expenditures of more than $191 million in each of the next two years. Still, Swanson says that the current taxing structure is bleeding the counties dry. Cowlitz County is currently looking at an overall budget of $194 million for 2016 and $191 million in 2017. In the initial presentation, county agencies are asking for nearly 15 new full-time positions, and other personnel requests could be coming in. It’s going to be difficult to get those positions funded, as the budget is still several million dollars out of balance. Department heads will get a chance to defend their requests in budget workshops that will be held over the next few weeks. The draft budget should be ready for review in mid-November, and the first public budget hearing is planned for December 1st.
At 5:30 this afternoon, you’ll have a chance to go over the “expanded energy project proposal” that’s being put forward by Waterside Energy, proposed to be located next to the Port of Longview. Originally, Waterside had proposed an $800 million “micro-refinery” that would have been located on port property. Port CEO Geir Kalhagen now says that the proposal is “expanded,” and would be built on adjacent property, with an agreement to move product through the port. Waterside Energy will be making a presentation on the refinery, and on the additional project expansion. Port Commission President Bob Bagaason requested this informational meeting, recognizing the sensitivity of this project, along with the desire to maintain transparency as the process moves along. This afternoon’s meeting is being held at the Cowlitz Regional Conference Center, and is open to anyone interested.
After 23 years as a Kelso Police Office, Dave Voelker is hanging it up. Kelso Police Chief Andy Hamilton and the Kelso City Council took time to recognize and honor Voelker at last night’s meeting; Voelker talks about his feeling when he puts the uniform on, and why the death of an officer shouldn’t define that person’s career. It would take way too much time to list the number of positions that Voelker covered in his 23-year career, which included the creation of the Citizens Police Academy, time as the Community Policing Instructor, and more than 20 missions with Lower Columbia SWAT. Voelker was a trained hostage negotiator, and was able to help defuse multiple incidents involving armed or suicidal individuals. For the past six years, Voelker has been working as one of the Kelso Police Detectives. Voelker thanked the City Council for the opportunity to serve the people of Kelso; he was presented with a plaque, marking hs 23 years of service.
Logan Morrison hit a tie-breaking, two-run, pinch hit homer in the 8th inning giving the Mariners a 7-5 victory over the Astros. Franklin Gutierrez and Mark Trumbo also went deep for Seattle. The M’s and Astros close out the three game set today, KLOG 4:00 pm…..Fred Jackson is in Seattle talking with the Seahawks about possibly signing with the team. He was cut by the Bills on Monday…..The R.A. Long Lumberjacks are first up for the prep football action as they host Columbia River Thursday night…..The Lower Columbia College volleyball team defeated the Pacific University JV’s 3-1 last night. The Devils return to the home court tonight at 6 pm when they take on the Clark Penguins…..The LCC women’s soccer team takes on the Columbia Basin Hawks today in Pasco at 12 pm.
While the investigation continues into Sunday’s incident involving an AWPPW picketer and a vehicle leaving the KapStone mill property, it’s also being announced that the company is resuming at least limited production. Company officials made a statement yesterday, reporting that the #10 machine “on line”; they also say that the Box Plant is up, with all scheduled equipment running. Union officials dispute the company’s claims. KapStone was just wrapping up a scheduled four-day maintenance outage when Local 153 of the AWPPW went out on strike. No new contract talks have been scheduled.
The Sheriff’s Office is releasing a few more details regarding Sunday night’s incident, where one of the people on the picket line was hit by a car leaving the mill. Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig says that several interviews have been conducted, and both sides claim to have video of the incident. The driver, 35 year-old Derek Knight of Coy, Alabama, says that picketers stood in front of his truck and then started hitting it with signs; Knight says that he feared for his safety, so he drove off. In that process, 36 year-old Steve Blanchard of Saint Helens got knocked down. Blanchard was taken to Saint John Medical Center, where he declined medical treatment. Sheriff Mark Nelson and Rosenzweig met with union and company leadership, where they “stressed the importance of safety.” They say updated information will be released after the investigation wraps up.