Employment Security officials say that Cowlitz County’s unemployment picture is “like a see-saw,” rising one month and dropping the next. The June jobless numbers dropped more than a full percentage point in June, going down to 7.1 percent. That compares to 8.5 percent in May, 7.7 percent in April, and 9.4 percent in March. Regional Economist Scott Bailey says that employment in the county was flat in the month of June, virtually unchanged from May. Bailey says that Cowlitz County has 800 more jobs from June to June, but most of that job growth took place last summer. He also says that both employment and unemployment have been pretty stable in recent months, despite the see-saw swings in the monthly rates. Bailey says that those swings don’t accurately indicate what is actually happening on the ground in the local area.
After nearly a century of family ownership, the “Clatskanie Chief” newspaper is being sold. The publishers of the Chief and the St. Helens Chronicle are jointly announcing the sale of the weekly newspaper to Country Media, Incorporated, the parent company of the Chronicle. The Clatskanie Chief has been owned by the Steele and Hazen families for 92 years; Deborah Hazen says that it’s sad to let go of the paper, but they’re encouraged to know that it’s going to a family-run enterprise that also has a “proven affection” for Northwest Oregon. Country Media is owned by Steve and Carol Hungerford of Portland; they also own newspapers and other periodicals in Lincoln City, Tillamook and Manzanita in Oregon, along with similar publications in North Dakota and Montana. Chronicle publisher Don Patterson will also assume editor and publisher roles for the Chief. The sale is expected to become final by the end of this month.
A large brush fire along Ocean Beach Highway near Stella is causing a traffic backup as fire agencies respond and deal with that scene. Cowlitz County Emergency Management says that the fire was first spotted at about 2:05 pm, and was reported to be approaching an acre in size. The highway was shut down between Coal Creek and Mill Creek at about 2:45 pm, and then was re-opened to limited traffic flow at about 3. The fire was fully knocked down at about 3:30 pm. Even as traffic begins to move again, fire crews are still on the scene, so the flow is extremely slow. You’re advised to use an alternate route like Highway 30, or avoid traveling through that area for several hours.
The Mariners beat the Mets 5-2 last night. Dustin Ackley had three hits and made a great over the fence catch. The teams play again tonight, KLOG 6:00 pm…..The West Coast League All-Star Game was rained out in Klamath Falls last night. The Black Bears return to action tonight at home against Victoria, 6:35 pm at Story Field…..Klamath Falls blanked JH Kelly 5-0 in the first day of the Senior Babe Ruth Regional tournament in Vancouver. Kalama/Woodland/Ridgefield/La Center (KWRL) opened with a 8-7 win over North Oregon. JH Kelly and KWRL play each other today at 5:45 pm…..A good crowd was on hand for the Babe Ruth exhibition between Longview and Kelso, the co-hosts for the 13-15 World Series in August. Longview won the game 14-3.
Starting this morning, a team of 75 geophysicists will be fanning out around Mt. St. Helens, setting up seismic measuring instruments as part of a massive study that’s intended to accurately map the “plumbing” of our local volcano. Peter Frenzen with the U. S. Forest Service says that an “Equipment Center” is being set up at Woodland Intermediate School, where field crews will collect equipment that’s being set up all around the mountain. 23 seismic charges have been placed in specific locations all around the volcano, and those charges will be set off overnight tonight and tomorrow. The explosions are intended to produce vibrations that will mimic a magnitude 2 earthquake, but those vibrations should probably not be felt. Scientists say that they’ll be recording the vibrations, with a goal of developing a clear picture of the inner workings of Mt. St. Helens. Since the explosive shots are in underground boreholes and will be done at night, there will be little to see when the charges are detonated. However, you can track the shots and see some of what the scientists are seeing by going to the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network website.
County Coroner Tim Davidson says that the autopsy on the body found in the Columbia River near Woodland on Sunday has been completed, but the identity of that person still hasn’t been determined. Davidson says that the body is that of a female, estimated to be between 20 and 40 years of age, with a slender build. Due to the advanced state of decomposition, they still haven’t been able to determine the race of the woman. He does note that there didn’t seem to be any signs of violence or trauma connected to the death. He does say that the cause of death is drowning, and that the manner of death is “pending,” as the investigation continues. Davidson says that the Sheriff’s Office is also continuing to investigate the incident; if you have possible information on this woman or her death, you can contact Davidson’s office at 577-3079, or contact Detective Sergeant Brad Thurman at 577-3092.
State Troopers are still looking for a motorcycle rider that sped away from a traffic stop that took place last night on I-5 north of Kalama. Troopers called for assistance from the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office at about 7:35 pm, when they reported that the rider had taken off from a traffic stop near milepost 31 on I-5 southbound. The Trooper on-scene reports that the rider hit 120 miles an hour as he sped off, leaving the freeway at exit 30. It’s reported that the bike was last seen heading north on Old Pacific Highway; Deputies joined in checking the area, but the bike was never located.
A man wanted in Columbia County on a felony warrant for possession of meth and eluding a police officer was arrested early this morning at a park in Kelso. Police officers went to Lads and Lassies Park at 8th and Elm at about 1:30 this morning, when a woman reported that a man was sleeping on the covered slide. Officers met with Tom Miles Durrett, 32, of Longview, and found that he had a local misdemeanor warrant for driving while suspended. He was arrested on that warrant, while further checking also showed the Columbia County warrant, with bail set at $75,000. Durrett is now being held in the Cowlitz County Jail.
About 100 people came to yesterday’s “Big Event” political rally, an event arranged by Kelso barber Bill Ammons as a way for people to hear from all of the candidates for all of the races that are on the August 5th primary election ballot. At least 20 candidates spoke at yesterday’s rally, which Ammons hopes will motivate people to be involved in the process…ammonsrally…While the highlights of the rally included speeches from contested races like County Sheriff, Prosecuting Attorney and County Commissioner, even office holders that are running unopposed took time to stop by and speak to the crowd. Ballots for the Tuesday, August 5th Primary Election were mailed out late last week, and should have already shown up in your mailbox. Contact Cowlitz County Elections at 577-3005 if you haven’t received your ballot by the end of this week. Ballots must be postmarked or dropped off by 8 pm on Tuesday, August 5th to be valid for counting. Additional information is available on the Cowlitz County Elections website.
The Cowlitz PUD Commission is holding a special meeting and a public hearing this evening, where they will take comments on a proposed residential rate hike. Tonight’s hearing follows the recommendations of the Electric Rate Advisory Committee, which said that the utility should raise the PUD’s “base rate” by $5. This is part of a three-year process to equalize the portion of rates paid by residential, commercial and business customers; a comprehensive study that was completed last year shows that commercial and business customers have been subsidizing residential customers, which is a violation of state law. After the report, PUD officials developed a multi-year process for equalization of the rates. Tonight’s hearing is set for 7 pm in the John Searing Auditorium at the Cowlitz PUD Building, and is open to anyone interested.