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Tolling Call

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler is urging the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Committee to get involved in the State of Oregon’s possible consideration of tolls on freeways in the Portland metro area. The RTC is scheduled to meet tomorrow, and Beutler is sending a letter out in advance of that meeting. In the letter, Beutler says that there’s no sense in delaying involvement, saying that action is needed before “tolling cameras are installed on every lane of I-5 and our money is in Oregon’s treasury.” She says that residents of this area are carefully watching what’s going on in Oregon, along with keeping an eye on decision-makers in Washington. Beutler says that she’s not opposed to having users pay their own way, but she also says that tolls to price people out of cars, or to fund infrastructure miles away from the metro area are unfair. Beutler says that it’s time for the RTC to take a stand on the side of Washington citizens, and she asks the panel to oppose any tolling plan that would treat local stakeholders unfairly.

Bond Loss Input

The Longview School District is inviting voters to come and discuss the recent loss of the $121.6 million bond measure that was put forward. The measure fell short of the 60 percent needed for passage in the November 2nd General Election, coming up just less than three percentage points short. Superintendent Dan Zorn will be featured at meetings that are set for tonight and tomorrow night; Zorn says that they would like to get input while the issue is still fresh in the minds of voters. This evening’s meeting is being held at Northlake Elementary School, followed by tomorrow’s gathering at Mint Valley Elementary. Both meetings will begin at 6 pm. If you can’t attend the meetings and you would like to share your thoughts, the district is reopening the Thoughtexchange process, which will run through the 15th of this month. Get more information on the Longview School District web page.

Special Meeting

The Kelso School Board also holds a special meeting this evening, starting at 5 pm. The board will immediately recess into executive session, where the board will discuss and review an application for public employment. The session is expected to take about 90 minutes, and then the board plans to adjourn. At this time, no action is anticipate.

Christmas Stuff

The Salvation Army Community Christmas Center opens today, with a ribbon-cutting planned for today at 11 am. The Christmas Center is located at 1400 Commerce Avenue, in the old Korten’s building. Salvation Army officials say that they anticipate serving between 650 and 700 families this year, distributing toys for the kids and $50 gift cards to help with family meals. Call the Salvation Army at 360-636-4522 to learn more.

All this week at the Grocery Outlet on Ocean Beach Highway in Longview, you can shop and also help raise funds for the “10 For 10 Toy Drive.” Today through Sunday, if you purchase a toy for $10 or more, and make that donation to the local Adopt-a-Child Toy Drive, you will get an additional 10 percent off of your total purchase, excluding alcohol. Grocery Outlet is located at 920 Ocean Beach Highway, right next to Sizzler.

You’re invited to a special Christmas concert that’s taking place this evening at the Monticello Park Senior Living facility, located next to the corner of 7th and Hudson. The Northwest Harmony Choir is scheduled to perform at 7 pm; this is a women’s a cappella singing group, bringing four-part harmonies to Monticello Park at 7 pm. Admission is free, but you are asked to RSVP by call 360-575-1778.

Walk and Knock Totals

They didn’t collect quite as much as last year, but those involved in last Saturday’s Walk-&-Knock Food Drive say that the event was a huge success. Volunteers helped to gather nearly 31,000 pounds of food, along with a large amount of cash donations. Last year, they collected nearly 38,000 pounds of food, along with $14,000 in cash. Additional donations are expected through this week, adding to the final totals. Even with the rain and the cold, more than 150 volunteers helped out with collecting this year’s donations. If you would still like to help out, bring your donations to the Lower Columbia CAP offices, located at 1526 Commerce Avenue in downtown Longview. Call 360-425-3430 to learn more.

Dance Group Hacked

A Longview-based international organization reports that their computer system has been hacked, and they say that crooks are posing as the group to try and steal money from people. Shortly before 11 yesterday morning, representatives of the International Round Dance Teachers Association contacted Longview Police, reporting that their computer had been hacked, and that the suspects were posing as officers of the group. They say that the suspects got into their website, obtaining information about the group’s board chairman and other board members. The suspects then posed as those people, sending out emails that were asking people to send money to help “pay a vendor.” The real group members say that they were able to catch the email, and were able to intervene before anyone lost any money. They also say that steps are being taken to increase their security, and the Association is also contacting members about the scam. The suspects have not been identified.

Eagle Creek Fire Contained

Fire officials in Oregon are now reporting that the Eagle Creek Fire is now 100 percent contained, but the fire is still not completely out. The fire started in September in the Columbia River Gorge, reportedly started by a 15 year-old Vancouver boy who rolled some fireworks down a hill in the tinder-dry forest. The fire eventually grew to cover more than 48,000 acres, threatening the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge and other structures in the Gorge. The fire had been listed as 50 percent contained since October, but there’s been little effort to extinguish the fire since then, due to issues with terrain. It’s emphasized that the fire is not completely out, but officials say that they are satisfied that the fire is not active, and will not grow any further. This declaration will allow for the re-opening of additional landmarks in the Gorge. Earlier this week, access to the Multnomah Falls Lodge was re-opened, along with a stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway, allowing visitors to access the Vista House, Guy Talbot State Park and Bridal Veil State Park. Impacts from the fire are still being felt; restrictions are still in place on I-84 between Troutdale and Hood River, and many trails in the Gorge are still off-limits. Multnomah Falls is once again open to tourists, but some areas are still fenced off, including access to the Benson Bridge. The 15 year-old is still awaiting prosecution for his supposed role in starting the fire.

Mountain Snow

They say that you should plan on “difficult travel conditions” if you’re heading into the mountains this weekend. The Weather Service is putting a Winter Weather Advisory up for the South Washington Cascades, reporting that some spots could get up to 16 inches of snow out of this next system. The advisory runs from 10 pm tonight to 10 pm tomorrow night. Snow accumulations of 8 to 14 inches are expected, with some specific locations getting up to 16 inches. The heaviest snow is expected tomorrow morning, going from 4 to 10 am. Visibility is expected to be extremely poor, and driving conditions are expected to be extreme. Be prepared for these difficult conditions if you’re heading over a mountain pass today and tomorrow; have your chains or traction devices available, and pack the extra supplies that you’ll need to navigate these difficult conditions.

New Tugs

The Foss Shipyard in Rainier is preparing to build what’s being called the “next generation of ship assist and escort tugs for the U. S. market,” teaming up with Damen Shipyards of The Netherlands to construct these vessels. Earlier this week, Foss Maritime announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Damen to produce and market the Damen ASD 2813 Tug. They say that this tug design has been modified for the U. S. tug assist and escort market. The Foss Shipyard in Rainier will build the first four in a series of at least ten tugs, with a goal of delivery in 2019. The Damen tug will have 68 hundred horsepower, along with a 90-ton “bollard pull” capability. Foss President and CEO John Parrott says that they will now be able to strengthen their fleet while meeting customer demand; Foss will also have the ability to market these tugs to other companies in the United States. Officials with Damen says that they’re excited about the collaboration, and they look forward to working with Foss.

New Kelso Cops

The Kelso Police Department is celebrating the addition of two new officers to the force, saying that they will help to bolster staffing. Earlier this week, it was announced that Kody Joslin and Adam Swartout had graduated from the Police Academy, and are joining the Kelso Police Department. Swartout and Joslin will now enter a three-phase local training program; once that is completed, they will be able to go out on patrol on their own. Captain Darr Kirk says that the arrival of Joslen and Swartout is badly needed, helping to alleviate staff shortages caused by recent retirements. Joslen and Swartout both are both local boys, and both have previous experience in law enforcement. Joslen was a loss prevention specialist, while Swartout served as a Marine, and as a corrections officer.