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IRS Scam Update

Local law enforcement agencies are reporting that there have been huge numbers of citizens in the area who are getting these “IRS scam” calls; in fact, there have been so many calls, they’re instructing citizens NOT to call the agency, unless you have actually lost money. Sheriff Mark Nelson put out a warning about the scam yesterday morning, as did Longview Police. Numerous scam calls have been reported, with the caller claiming to be from the IRS, demanding immediate payment for a “past tax bill.” The caller also threatens to arrest the citizen if immediate payment isn’t made. It’s reported that several citizens actually did send money, with one losing as much as $5,000. Nelson and other law enforcement agencies offer this advice if you get one of these calls: If you get one of these type of calls, you’re advised to hang up immediately. You do NOT need to report the incident to law enforcement unless you have actually suffered a loss. If you have suffered a loss, then you should call your local law enforcement agency. You can also check with local accounting firms, and if you want to verify that the IRS is calling, go to the IRS web page, or contact the IRS office in Vancouver.

Stolen Bobcat

The Sheriff’s Office is reporting the recovery of some construction equipment that was reported as stolen from a local rental company. A man called the Sheriff’s Office at about 3:15 yesterday afternoon, reporting that he had spotted a Bobcat that may have been stolen from Star Rentals. The reporting party also said that the machine was actually in use, but the driver ditched the Bobcat in some bushes and then ran off. Deputies did find the abandoned machine, and noted that it looked like the serial number had been altered. The Bobcat was taken in as evidence, but the driver hasn’t been located. The investigation continues.

Big Boom

Analysis of a seismic incident that happened yesterday afternoon near Longview is under way, after a magnitude 1.6 seismic event was recorded. The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network reports that the event took place at 3:53 pm, centered six miles northwest of Longview. The initial analysis of the event indicates that this was a “probable explosion,” but no huge events of that sort were reported to local law enforcement. There were also no reports of damage or injury connected to this event. Some follow-up is planned.

PUD Complaints

Cowlitz PUD officials continue to analyze the “high bill” complaints that have been coming in, contending that a phone app that they’ve been directing people to is actually flawed, giving those people inaccurate information. At the same time, new PUD General Manager Steve Kern is pledging to analyze and respond to each and every customer complaint that has come in…PUDbills…About 30 mostly disgruntled customers attended yesterday’s PUD Commission meeting, expressing their displeasure over bills that increased dramatically in December and January. PUD staff made a detailed presentation, analyzing the high bills, explaining the Automated Meter system, and also discussing additional assistance for consumers in making sure that they’re being efficient in their electricity use. Staff presented historical data from several customers who had complained, showing how their usage was comparable from year to year, as was the fluctuations in their bills. They say that the “MyUsage” app that the PUD has bene directing customers to hasn’t been completely accurate in reflecting actual usage and billing for each customer. Kern says that they’re shutting the app down, while they look for a more dependable way for customers to track their electricity usage. They also say that “communication issues” involving the utility’s automated meters have led to some confusion. PUD auditor Royce Hagelstein that he’s personally reviewing nearly 500 complaint bills; to date, he’s gone through 213 bills, and found that most are correct. 13 accounts are being flagged for “potential problems,” while 16 complaints were found to be legitimate. Analysis is continuing.

KapStone Reports

KapStone Paper and Packaging is getting beat up on Wall Street this morning, after issuing a fourth-quarter and full-year financial report that came in well below analyst’s estimates. Net sales for the quarter were up 36 percent, but net income was down 65 percent. Net sales for the year came in at nearly $2.8 billion, up 21 percent from 2014. Net income of $106 million was $66 million less than 2014, a reduction of 38 percent. The company reports per-share earnings of 17 cents; Wall Street had been looking for 36 cents. KapStone Chairman and CEO Roger W. Stone says that this has been a “transformational year,” pointing to the successful integration of Victory Packaging into the company, along with growth in the corrugated product sector. Stone says that the fourth quarter was “disappointing,” due to reduced demand and a “market shutdown” of the Longview mill for eight days. Stone says that cash flow generation is strong, and he says that they are ready to “steer through the global economic issues that the company faces, in order to grow profitably.”

Strategic Plan Kickoff

Starting at noon today, the Port of Longview Commissioners will gather at the Cowlitz Regional Conference and Events Center, where they will be kicking off a strategic planning process for the port. Port officials say that the goal is to develop the plan and set operational, policy and business direction that will help better position the port to generate jobs and economic growth. Commission President Bob Bagaason says that the Port has some tremendous competitive advantages, and they also have the capacity for growth. He says that this planning process will help to identify the opportunities that are best suited for the Port’s facilities and the local community, helping to develop the Port as a strong economic engine. At today’s session, the Commissioners will be focused on developing the framework for the Strategic Planning process, which is expected to take several months. Today’s meeting comes amidst some pretty major issues at the Port, including the recent firing of Geir Kalhagen as CEO, and yesterday’s decision to terminate the Port’s contract with the management board for the Southwest Washington Regional Airport. Today’s meeting is open to the public.

Citizen Academy Deadline

Today is the deadline to get signed up for the annual Citizens Police Academy, a ten-week program that it intended to help show you how local law enforcement works. The Citizens Police Academy is jointly offered by the Sheriff’s Office, Kelso Police and Longview Police, with sessions covering Patrol, SWAT, Drug Enforcement, Use of Force, Street Crimes, K-9 and more. Classes start next Wednesday, the 17th, and continue each Wednesday night for ten weeks. Participants will also get tours of the Jail and 911, along with a 3-hour police ride-along. It’s free to take part, and the Citizens Police Academy is open to anyone who lives or works in Cowlitz County. You do need to pass a background check. Applications are available at the offices of each agency, or you can apply on their websites. Class space is limited to the first 30 enrollees.

Valentine Concert

The local gospel band “Cool Water” will be offering a “Valentine Concert for the Lord,” presented this evening at the Kelso First Baptist Church. Church officials say that they’re offering this concert as a “thank you” to the community, for helping to raise enough money to pay for a new roof on the church. The concert is set to begin at 7 pm tonight. The Kelso First Baptist Church is located at 214 South 4th in Kelso. Call 423-2513 for more information.

MSH Quake

There was a small earthquake recorded yesterday morning near Mount St. Helens. The magnitude 2.9 quake was recorded at 8:50 yesterday morning, about 37 miles east of Longview and 31 miles south of Morton, at a depth of just over four miles. About three hours later, a 0.6 aftershock was recorded in in almost the same location. Because of the remote location, only a few people reported feeling the quake, and there were no reports of damage or injury. Scientists at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network continue to monitor the situation.

Pacific Way Victim

Longview Police now identify the man killed early Saturday morning in a head-on crash on Pacific Way as Genara Joel Ruiz Rosa, 23, of Longview. He died shortly after midnight on Saturday, after his Honda Civic lost control and collided head-on with a van driven by Douglas Perry, 50, of Longview. It’s reported that Rosa was driving at a high rate of speed before losing control and crashing into Perry’s van. Rosa died at the scene, while Perry and a passenger were taken to St. John Medical Center, where both were treated for minor injuries. No citations are being reported.