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PDC Hearing

A 21-month inquiry into supposed wrongdoing by former PUD Commissioner Mark McCrady and former PUD General Manager Brian Skeahan has been settled, as both men accept stipulated settlements with the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. In a brief hearing held yesterday morning in Olympia, both men were fined $500 dollars, after admitting that they improperly used PUD personnel and facilities during McCrady’s last campaign. Half of those fines are being suspended and will be waived if McCrady and Skeahan avoid any additional violations over the next four years. The PDC Commissioners thanked both men for their cooperation during the investigation, saying that they “showed integrity” through the process.

Cowlitz Tribe Land Ruling

The Vancouver Columbian is reporting a huge development in the 12-year battle by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to acquire land near La Center for a reservation. Tribal officials say that they got word on Wednesday that they will receive the 152 acres of land off of I-5 in January, or within 30 days of a federal court ruling in their favor, whichever comes first. Yesterday, Tribal Chairman William Iyall issued a statement saying that “it’s time to celebrate,” as the Federal government issued a notice of intent to take the 152 acres into trust for the Cowlitz Reservation. Iyall says that this is a “significant moment” in Cowlitz Tribal history, and will provide the tribe with the same opportunities as other federally recognized tribes. It’s reported that an assistant attorney general is filing papers that would complete the trust acquisition no earlier than January 21st of next year, or 30 days after a court order granting summary judgment in favor of the Cowlitz Indians. Opponents of the project tell the paper that they plan to ask for a stay, but Wednesday’s statement puts pressure on the judge to move the case along. Iyall says that they are preparing for an appeal, but they’re also in the process of hiring architects for the Cowlitz Casino Project, and he thinks that construction could begin in early 2016.

Household Hazardous Waste Event

Cowlitz County Solid Waste is setting up a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Event for tomorrow, which will be held in the eastside parking lot of the Woodland Safeway store. You can bring your old pesticides, paints, solvents and other household chemicals to this event, which will run from 9 am until 1 pm tomorrow. If you can’t get to this event, household hazardous wastes are accepted in the Permanent Collection Facility at the Waste Control Transfer Station on 3rd Avenue in Longview, every Tuesday and Saturday from 9:30 to 11:30 am. Call Waste Control at 425-4302 if you have other questions.

Weekend Events–10/24-26/14

Friday:
The YMCA of Southwest Washington is hosting a Harvest Festival on from 5 to 8 pm on Friday night, inviting the whole family to come by for treats, bingo, games, prizes for kids of all ages. Admission is free, and bingo cards will be available for a small fee. They’re also having a black-light Zumba party from 5 to 7 pm, with strobes, fog and lighted accessories. Costumes are optional.

Get your fishnets, rice and toast ready for this weekend’s screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” being presented Friday and Saturday night at the Kelso Theater Pub. The doors open at 8 pm each night, and the movie starts at 9. “Proper attire” is encouraged.

It’s billed as a “Bluegrass Explosion” on Friday night down in Clatskanie, as the 26th annual Clatskanie Arts Commission Performing Arts Series bring Jeff Scroggins and Colorado to town. They’ll be playing in the Donovan Wooley Performing Arts Center at 7:30 Friday night. Advance tickets are available at Hump’s Restaurant, or at the door.

The Three Rivers Mall continues its “Reel Pop-Up Movies” through the weekend, with a free “Harry Potter” marathon and matinee screenings of “Cars.” This will be near the SW corner of the mall, and you can get the current movie schedule on www.threeriversmall.com, or on the TRM Facebook page.

The Beaver Homes Grange continues its Haunted House this weekend, going from 6:30 to 9:30 pm Friday and Saturday night. Military personnel get a dollar off of admission, and you can also shave a dollar off the entry price by bringing a food donation for the H. O. P. E. Warehouse. The Beaver Homes Grange is located off of Highway 30 near Goble, just follow the signs.

Up by Silver Lake, the Nyghtmare Manor Haunted House celebrates its tenth year, opening Friday and Saturday night from dusk until 10 pm. Admission is free, but they will be accepting donations of food and cash that will to the Help Food Warehouse in Longview. The Nyghtmare Manor Haunted House is located at 142 Wilford Road in Silver Lake.

The “St. Helens Haunted Tours” are still being offered each weekend through November 1st. The tours of the “secret, creepy and spooky” history of St. Helens will start at Plaza Square at 7 pm, starting each half-hour until 9:30 pm. Get tickets at Bertucci’s Chocolates, or go to www.SSCPmusicals.com.

Youth and Family Link continues with its Family Open Gym Nights on Friday, running from 6:30 to 8 pm. You’re invited to bring the whole family down for movies, crafts, bingo and other fun. Youth and Family Link is located at 907 Douglas Street in Longview.

Saturday:
You can help to improve the habitat for the endangered Columbian White-Tailed Deer by heading down to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday. Volunteers are needed to help plant 7,600 native trees and shrubs to help provide cover and fed for the deer, starting this weekend and going into March of next year. Get more details on the Refuge website.

Saturday and Sunday, the Southwest Washington YMCA will be offering a kayak instruction class in the main pool. Paddle Flatts Kayaking will be helping with these sessions, with a kids session running from 4:30 to 6 pm on Saturday, and an adult session going from 5:30 to 7 pm on Sunday. Call Paddle Flatts Kayaking at 751-7966 to pre-register, or call 423-4770 for more information.

The Rainier Senior Center is holding a Harvest Festival on Saturday evening, an event that’s geared to the adults. Costumes are optional, but they will be having a contest for the best-carved Jack O”Lantern. They’re also planning to have a magic show, games and other prized. This will run from 6 to 9 pm on Saturday, with proceeds helping to support the center. Tickets are available in advance or at the door of the Rainier Senior Center.

On Saturday, there’s a Cider Pressing planned at the historic Cedar Creek Grist Mill near Amboy, with a goal of making cider out of about 8,000 pounds of apples. At least three dozen volunteers are needed for this event, starting at 9 am on Saturday. Get directions and more on the logistics of Saturday’s cider pressing by going to the Cedar Creek Grist Mill web page.

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Lower Columbia Community Action Program at a Gala planned for Saturday night at the Kelso Red Lion Hotel and Conference Center. Tickets include dinner, entertaining, and a close-up look at the impact that CAP has had on the local community over the past half-century. Tickets are available on the CAP website, or at the CAP building on Commerce Avenue. Doors open at 6 pm on Saturday.

It’s sold-out, but it should be a great time at Saturday’s “Spooktacular” Halloween party that’s going on Saturday night at the Kelso-Longview Elks Lodge. This event is a fundraiser for the Lower Columbia Professionals Scholarship Program, and will run from 7 to 11 pm. Contact the Kelso-Longview Chamber of Commerce at 423-8400 for more information.

There’s a Halloween Party planned for Saturday night at the First Lutheran Church in St. Helens, starting at 5:30 pm on Saturday. The party has a “Carnival” theme this year, being planned by the church youth groups “PULSE.” All of the kids who come in costume are promised a treat.

Come to the Cowlitz Community Farmer’s Market and find produce, plants, crafts, baked goods, eggs, entertainment, and fun! Come on down and join the fun, there’s something good for everyone! Hours are 9 am until 2 pm on Saturday in the parking lot on 7th Avenue, across from the Cowlitz County Fairgrounds.

Sunday:
The Downtown Longview Farmers and Artisans Market is open from 10 am to 3 pm on Sunday at 15th and Broadway in downtown Longview. Along with the locally grown produce, they’ll have all kinds of hand-made crafts, specialty foods, flower baskets and other items for sale. Find out more by calling 957-2515.

Tornado Hits

Several blocks of Vandercook Way are shut down after what appears to have been a small tornado touched down this afternoon in downtown Longview, damaging at least two buildings. The funnel cloud appeared shortly after one pm, and tracked from the area of 11th and Vandercook Way to the area of 6th and Catlin.
At least two buildings were damaged when a corrugated roof was sucked off of Searing Electric and Plumbing, and then was sent into the windows of Manchester Brothers across the street. Cowlitz County Emergency Management report that the roofs on several buildings were damaged, as the funnel cloud first touched down at the 15th Avenue Safeway store. From there, the next damage came between 11th and Vandercook, tracking northeast for several blocks. Emergency Management reports that several buildings have suffered roof damage, along with trees and power lines being knocked down. There was also damage to the roadway in the area of 9th and Vandercook Way. There’s also a report that a tree landed on top of a house in the vicinity of 5th and Catlin. At this time, no injuries have been reported. Authorities are asking everyone to stay away from this part of town, as they continue to assess the damage and start repairs to infrastructure. Kelso High School is also being advised to “shelter in place” at this time. The National Weather Service says that the funnel cloud has dissipated, but there is still a chance of severe thunderstorms in the local area through the evening.

The National Weather Service is sending a team up to start its assessment of the area, so that they can determine the size and severity of this incident. Andy Bryant with the National Weather Service in Portland says that they didn’t see anything on their imagery that would help them determine the size of this event, but they hope to know more after this team arrives and assesses the damage done. Bryant says that based on the photos that are being published, they’re fairly certain that this can be classified as a tornado, but they aren’t yet able to classify its size. The team should be in the Kelso-Longview area by 3 o’clock, and he hopes that they can have a better idea about the severity of this event some time this evening, or early tomorrow.

Power Outages

Cowlitz PUD crews are still dealing with impacts from the wind and rain storm that rolled through, starting early yesterday morning. Multiple power outages were reported over the past 24 hours, mostly due to the weather. About 1,900 customers were affected during yesterday’s outages, and another 200 or so along Cameron Creek were down from about 5:15 to 6:15 am, as they dealt with a tree that had fallen into some overhead lines. Weather-related outages were reported Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in the Kid Valley area, near Castle Rock, Ostrander Road, several spots around Kelso, and Oak Street in Longview. The largest outage was actually caused by a Mylar balloon, affecting 770 customers near Lake Sacajawea. The outage hit at 9 am, and power was fully restored around 10:30 am. There was also a Tuesday morning outage in Kalama, affecting nearly 800 customers; that was due to a fault in an underground line, and was not caused by the weather. Outside of the issue out on Cameron Creek, no other problems are being reported this morning.

Crude Texts

The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office is working to find the source of a series of sexual text messages that were sent to a 14 year-old Longview girl Sunday night. Officials with the middle school that the girl attends contacted Longview Police yesterday morning, saying that they had learned that she had received the texts over about 90 minutes, while she was at home Sunday night. The girl says that she didn’t know who was sending the texts, but they did refer to her by name. When it was determined that the girl and her family live in the county, the case was turned over to the Sheriff’s Office. Deputies traced the number, which comes back to a land line in Kitsap County. Messages have been left on the voice mail for that number, but Deputies haven’t reported making contact with the owner of that line as of yet.

Train Death Investigation

As Kelso Police continue to investigate Tuesday morning’s death of Kassarina Rochelle Kohler, 22, they’re piecing together her final hours and last steps before she was hit and killed by a northbound freight train. It’s reported that Kelso Officers had contact with Kohler, her boyfriend and another woman at about 3 am on Tuesday, not far from where she eventually died. Officers contacted the three people on the walking path underneath the Cowlitz Way Bridge; Kohler and the other two people told the officer that they were “just hanging out,” and were “having an adventure.” Police say that it appeared that all three people were intoxicated. They also say that Kohler was bleeding from a small cut above her eye, but she declined any medical attention. Kohler died about an hour later; the train crew says that they saw her sitting on the tracks as they passed the Kelso train station, and despite multiple horn blasts, Kohler didn’t move. Her body was found and recovered a short distance from where she was sitting. When contacted again, the boyfriend and the other woman said that they were unaware of her death, and that she had walked away after getting into an argument with her boyfriend. County Coroner Tim Davidson hasn’t ruled yet on the manner of Kohler’s death, but that determination could be made later today. Memorial arrangements are being made.

Mushroom Pickers Found

Two men from Tacoma are safe and sound after spending a night lost in the woods near Packwood. Lewis County Chief Criminal Deputy Stacy Brown says that the two men, ages 60 and 66, were reported as overdue by fellow mushroom pickers yesterday morning, about 15 miles east of Packwood. Ground searchers went out around 7:30 yesterday morning, and caught up with the pair about 45 minutes later. They were about a quarter-mile from their rig. The two men say that they got “turned around” while they were picking, and decided to follow a stream downhill. Both men have experience in the woods; they had gear for the cold and wet weather, and were also able to start a fire to stay warm. Brown says that they were cold, wet and hungry, but were uninjured, and were in “good spirits.” Brown says that this positive result shows how being prepared can pay off when things go bad.

PUD-PDC Hearing

Former PUD Commissioner Mark McCrady and former PUD General Manager Brian Skeahan will be in Olympia this morning, appearing before the Public Disclosure Commission to answer charges connected to an investigation into alleged election law violations. This hearing comes after a 21-month investigation into alleged violations made by McCrady during his campaign against Kurt Anagnostou. Current Commissioner Buz Ketcham had sent a list of eight alleged violations involving McCrady and Skeahan, claiming that McCrady was illegally using PUD resources in his campaign. Six of the allegations have been dismissed, but the two men are being called in to answer charges that McCrady took campaign photos with PUD employees on PUD property on PUD time, and also had PUD staff prepare a “campaign briefing document.” If they’re found guilty, each man could get a penalty of up to $10,000 on each charge. This morning’s hearing is set to start at 9:35 am in Room 206 at 711 Capitol Way in Olympia. The PDC will also be putting up a live stream of the hearing on the internet through the PDC web page.