Filing for this year’s election cycle opened up on Monday, and it took just over 90 minutes to get our first contested race, as C. J. Nickerson files for the Longview School Board seat now held by Jerry Stinger. Nickerson filed at 9:26 yesterday morning, followed by Stinger’s filing at 9:34 am. A third contender came in at about 12:30, as Darrell Hal Smith also filed for the position now held by Stinger. It looks like we may also have a second contested Longview School Board post, as J. D. Rosetti files for the position that’s currently being held by James Campbell. 26 people filed for this year’s election, most of them being current incumbents. Current Woodland City Council member John “JJ” Burke is apparently looking for a new position, filing for a Port of Woodland Commission post that’s currently occupied by Jerry Peterson. Leon “Lee” Kessler is also filing for a Castle Rock City Council seat that’s now held by Glenn Pingree. Amber Buck is also going after the Kalama School Board seat that Shannon Barnett currently holds. Filing continues until 5 pm on Friday.
A convicted sex offender from the Scappoose area is behind bars once again, after he allegedly tried to run a woman down late Sunday night. The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office says that Micah Leroy Bills, 32, was arrested late on Sunday night, after witnesses reported seeing him hit a woman with his car, then drive away. The woman was taken to a hospital in Portland, and authorities say that she is expected to survive. Her name is not being released at this time. Authorities say that the woman had met Bills earlier in the day, while fishing in the Scappoose Dike area. They say that the woman was not previously acquainted with Bills. Other details in the case are not being released at this time, but they do say Bills is being charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, attempted assault, attempted rape, coercion, menacing, unlawful use of a weapon and cocaine possession. It’s noted that Bills has a 2007 conviction for first-degree sexual abuse.
Yesterday’s gusty winds did have utility and road crews a little busy, dealing with branches that were knocked around by the winds. Longview Public Works crews were called to the 18 hundred block of Hemlock at about 5:15 yesterday afternoon, when it was reported that a large branch had come down into the street in front of the Economy Inn. The branch blocked about one and a half lanes of the roadway; Longview Police provided traffic control while public works personnel removed the branch, which took about an hour. It’s also speculated that branches got into some overhead lines on the Kalama River Road, knocking power out to 385 Cowlitz PUD customers from about 5:15 to 6:15 yesterday afternoon and evening. No problems are reported this morning.
The City of Kelso is getting more than $156,000 form the Environmental Protection Agency, as one of eight cities in the northwest that are getting money to assess, clean up and revitalize “brownfield” properties. Kelso is receiving $156,275 that will help to pay for the cleanup and reclamation of the Terry’s Salvage Yard property on North Pacific Avenue. That property was contaminated by a number of materials, dumped over decades of activity on that parcel. Recently, the city completed demolition of the old structures on that property, and awarded Community Development Block Grant funding that will eventually have new family homes built on that reclaimed property.
The Cowlitz County Commissioners are holding a joint meeting today with the Cowlitz County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, where they plan to discuss possible options regarding park funding and management. County officials say that no action is anticipated at today’s meeting, but they do plan to discuss different ways to run and fund county park properties, including concessionaire contracts, and other partnerships. Today’s meeting is set to start at 5:30 pm in Conference Room B, on the first floor of the County Administration Building in Kelso. The meeting is open to the public.
The Cowlitz Community Network is hosting a Job Fair and Fashion Show, set to run this afternoon and evening at the Youth and Family Link building on Douglas Street in Longview. You’ll be able to network with potential employers and learn about job opportunities; you’ll also get tips on looking your best for interviews, sprucing up your resume and more. Admission is free; they’ll be serving light refreshments and will also have some door prizes. Anyone interested is invited to attend, but they are encouraging an RSVP by calling 442-7089.
Washington’s tall ships are starting a six-week tour of the Columbia River, arriving today in Astoria, just prior to a visit in Rainier over the weekend. The Official Ship of Washington, the brig “Lady Washington,” and the topsail ketch “Hawaiian Chieftain” are scheduled to arrive in Astoria today, and will be there until Thursday. The two tall ships are scheduled to arrive at the docks in Rainier on Saturday, and will be open for tours from 10 am until 1 pm both Saturday and Sunday. In addition, they’ll be involved in a “Battle Sail” at 2 pm both Saturday and Sunday, and an “Adventure Sail” at 11 am on Sunday. The ships will move upriver after that, planning an overnight stop in Saint Helens on Tuesday, the 21st. The rest of May and June will be moving upriver, going all the way to Pasco in early June. Coming back downriver, The “Lady Washington” and the “Hawaiian Chieftain” are scheduled to arrive in Kalama from June 24th to 26th, then will head to Ilwaco before continuing their summer tour. Detailed information on the ships’ schedule, along with details on tours and sailing opportunities are available on the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority website, at www.historicalseaport.org.
The Longview School District reports that Bonnie Jean Merritt is being appointed as the new Mint Valley Elementary School Principal. She started with the district in 2003, beginning as a kindergarten teacher at Kessler Elementary School; after two other teaching positions, Merritt was named as Dean of Students at Robert Gray in 2011, and then was transferred to Cascade Middle School last year. She was named as Mint Valley’s interim Principal on March 11th, and is now being named as the permanent replacement.
After a combined 78 years of teaching, coaching and mentoring of students in the Longview School District, Dick and Jan Stumph are both retiring at the end of this school year. Janet Stumph started at Mark Morris High School in 1973, teaching art and also running the school’s pep club. She also acted as the art department chair for 27 years. Dick Stumph also started with the Longview School District in 1973, beginning as the pool manager at MM. He started teaching swimming in 1978, then picked up a social studies teaching assignment. He taught swimming until 2006, and continued to teach social studies through this year. In addition, Stumph served as the Mark Morris swim team and water polo coach. District officials are thanking both Dick and Jan Stumph for their service to students and staff, and wish them both the very best in their retirement.
The coordinated effort to find a 16 year-old Kelso boy who apparently jumped into the Cowlitz River Friday night is being called off until new information is developed. The Sheriff’s Office reports that a person driving over the Lexington Bridge reported seeing Alexander Rodriguez jump off of the bridge at about 8:45 pm Friday night. Deputies say that witnesses saw Rodriguez carried downstream to Rocky Point, where he reportedly tried to get out of the river. One Deputy says that he saw Rodriguez go under at that point, and he didn’t resurface. Cowlitz County Dive Rescue was activated, and a call went out to the Coast Guard for aerial assistance. A helicopter from Astoria responded, spending several hours traveling up and down the river, sweeping the shorelines with a searchlight. Divers also attempted a water search, but the swift current in the Rocky Point area made it impossible for them to continue. The search continued for about four hours after the initial incident, then resumed at 9:30 Saturday morning. That effort continued until about 6 pm on Saturday, with no success. Sheriff Mark Nelson says that they’ll meet this week to discuss where additional search efforts might be targeted; Kelso School District officials will also be mobilizing resources to assist students and staff following this incident. It’s reported that Rodriguez may have been despondent over some personal issues.
Saying that the numbers don’t work out, Arizona-based developer Don Cardon is informing the Longview School District and the Cowlitz Economic Development Council that his study of purchasing and re-developing the property from Mark Morris High School to Northlake Elementary School is done. Cardon contacted School Superintendent Suzanne Cusick and CEDC Director Ted Sprague on Friday, saying that the project just doesn’t pencil out for him. Cardon says that there were about 37 acres of property involved, but only about 9 acres made sense for retail and residential development, located at both ends of the parcel. He says that the bulk of property should be used by LCC for expansion, but he’d have to hold that property for about ten years, before the college would be in a position to purchase it. In addition, Cardon says that he’d only offer about $5 million for the remaining properties, which would include Mark Morris and Northlake schools, an offer that he says would be “not respectful” to the school district. For those reasons, he’s opting out of any further involvement in the study of those properties. District officials reacted by saying that Cardon’s review doesn’t affect their facilities process, and that the process will move forward.