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2002: A rear-view mirror

Part II

This is Part 2 of the annual retrospective on the news in Hood River County and the Mid-Columbia, from the pages of the Hood River News during 2002. Part 1 appeared in the Jan. 1 edition.


July 6

Theft crimes are the biggest challenge facing many Hood River neighborhoods.

But Community Resource Officer Aaron Jubitz believes that residents can lessen their chances of becoming a victim by adopting proactive tactics. He plans to discuss those strategies at a series of community meetings within the next two months.

“Just because Hood River is a rural area doesn’t mean that people don’t need to take certain precautions,” said Jubitz, who has spent the past year researching crime data.

He has compared that information among 10 zones that he mapped out in the city and identified the top law enforcement needs.

July 13

For a second time, Hood River Circuit Court Judge Donald Hull has declined to scrutinize a disputed land trade between the county and Mt. Hood Meadows, Ltd.

On July 10, Hull denied a request by the Hood River Valley Residents Committee and Mike McCarthy, one of its members, that he reverse a prior dismissal of their case.

“This is just one small battle and we’ll continue to aggressively pursue protection of the Crystal Springs Drinking Water Protection Area and forest lands in the forest zone,” said McCarthy. “We’re encouraged by the strong support we are getting from the citizens of Hood River County and across the state.”

However, Dave Riley, Meadows general manager, questioned the HRVRC’s tactics in light of the two dismissals.

“We are pleased but not surprised with the judge’s opinion; the judge’s affirmation that the plaintiffs lack standing in this matter indicates that the HRVRC should re-evaluate its strategy of continual litigation and appeals that go nowhere,” said Riley.

Aug. 21

To the sound of five bells, the community of Odell dedicated a small space to a large service.

About 300 citizens, including dozens of firefighters, gathered at the fire hall Dec. 18 to dedicate the Fallen Firefighter Memorial, a flag plaza with a four-foot-high black stone listing the names of Odell firefighters who have died.

The event was one day from the anniversary of the death of John Hazlett, who lost his life on Aug. 19, 2001, while driving an Odell tanker truck in a mutual aid call near Cascade Locks. He is the only Odell firefighter to die in the line of duty.

Sept. 11

Hood River will host two “red, white and blue” events today in remembrance of more than 3,000 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the East Coast.

But both ceremonies — one in the morning and the other in the evening — are also intended to celebrate the strong American spirit that emerged from the unprecedented devastation.

Local citizens are asked to show their patriotism by wearing the national colors to the 9 a.m. Memorial Ceremony at Overlook Park and the blended performance of the Sweet Adelines and Friends and Neighbors choirs at 7 p.m. in Jackson Park.

“After one year, we are all still coping with the magnitude of these attacks. I am humbled to be asked to help the community pay our respects to those who lost their lives and honor the countless heroes who helped us to recover,” said Sen. Rick Metsger, who will be one of two keynote speakers at the morning commemoration.

Sept. 18

A suspicious mail parcel led to a quarantine of the Hood River Post Office for more than three hours on the afternoon of Sept. 13.

Although HAZMAT specialists from Gresham found the package to contain only a dead trout, City Police Chief Tony Dirks said what appeared to have been intended as a private prank ended up costing the public thousands of dollars.

Hood River Postal Supervisor Mike Winder said with the shutdown of business from 2-5 p.m, the post office lost about $2,500 in retail sales alone. He said that since outgoing mail was delayed until Saturday, the effect on other area businesses was unknown.

Sept. 25

The first hearing over Wal-Mart’s plans for a supercenter has been postponed until January of 2003.

On Sept. 23, officials from the national chain store were granted more time to address design concerns. The site plans for the proposed 185,000 square foot store were to have been given a first look tonight by the Hood River County Planning Commission.

Wal-Mart asked for a continuation of the hearing following the recommendation by county planners last week that the application be denied because it failed to meet six key areas of concern.

“We requested the delay to the hearing so that we could further address the county provisions and concerns,” said Amy Hill, Wal-Mart spokesperson.

Mike Benedict, county planning director, said the hearing will be rescheduled for early January, although no firm date has yet been chosen.

Sept. 25

An interim leadership plan will go into effect at Hood River Valley High School, following principal Ben Kolb’s resignation, which he announced Sept. 23.

Kolb, starting his fourth year at HRVHS, took a job as assistant principal at the 1,440-student Redwood High School in Marin County, Calif.

Sept. 28

A $49,000 payment to former athletic director Glenn Elliott has led to the resignation of Superintendent Jerry Sessions of Hood River County School District.

(Sessions resigned Sept. 25 and had planned to finish the school year but found another job, in California, and stepped down Jan. 1, 2003.)


A one-year marriage of sorts began Sept. 26 for Steve Fisk and Martha Capovilla at Hood River Valley High School.

The educators will apply their collegial relationship to an experiment: they are now HRVHS co-principals, following School Board approval Sept. 25. Board member Anne Saxby called it “the Mom and Pop thing.”

Oct. 2

It was an out of the ordinary idea. But then, these are not ordinary times. And in the end, it was a perfect melding of tradition and reality, of hope in the face of despair, of youthful optimism to bolster age-ripened dejection. In the end, it made perfect sense.

Under sun drenched skies Saturday, some 50 Hood River students — mostly from Hood River Valley High School — performed highlights of their upcoming production of “Les Miserables” for a captive audience of homeless people in Portland. The group, led by music director Mark Steighner, sang and told the famous story of Jean Valjean, whose theft of a loaf of bread in 18th century France set in motion a chain of tragic and redemptive events, to an audience for whom the epic drama more closely resembles reality than fiction.

The setting was Dignity Village, a homeless camp set up with the city’s approval on the grounds of a leaf composting facility in Northeast Portland. The village and its 60 residents — whose motto is “Out of the Doorways” — are a real-life experiment in dealing with the city’s homeless. Governed by rules and regulations — including no drugs or alcohol, and no violence — and led by a council made up of founding members, the village provides a place for the homeless to live while they work to return to mainstream society.

Oct. 12

Another roadblock has been erected in Wal-Mart’s path to build a supercenter — and speculation has resurfaced that the business may move out of Hood River.

“We were certainly taken back by the Oregon Department of Transportation’s comments and are considering all options,” said Amy Hill, Wal-Mart spokesperson, after ODOT shot down the proposed location for a traffic signal on Tuesday.

“I didn’t get the impression there was much flexibility with ODOT on this issue,” said Eric Walker, county senior planner, who was present at the Expo Center meeting requested by Wal-Mart to clarify traffic and infrastructure issues involved with its application.

Oct. 23

The Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Commemoration is just around the corner and the Gorge could capitalize on the thousands of visitors retracing that historic route.

To maximize the economic gain from increased tourism, the Columbia Gorge Visitors Association obtained grant funding to hire Kathy Watson as the local coordinator for the “epic” journey.

Although the national celebration begins in 2003, Watson told county officials that the Gorge will be highlighted at the two hundred year mark in the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2006. However, she said the three-year span of the anniversary is expected to draw as many as 25 million people to the Gorge.

Nov. 6

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has opened his office for discussion of a tribal gambling casino in Cascade Locks.

And that news released by Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, on Nov. 4 has Hood River, Cascade Locks and Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs officials “hopeful” about reaching a settlement over the controversial project.

“We’re prepared to move forward as soon as it can happen and the sooner the better from our perspective,” said Cascade Locks City Manager Robert Willoughby.

Nov. 20

A faulty wall heater almost started a fire at a Wasco Street house early morning on Nov. 17 — but the smoke detector alarm saved the day.

According to reports, resident Daryl Slining was awakened by the warning system shortly after 7 a.m. He then discovered that the sheetrock above the older heater in his living room had been scorched and the coils were making “popping” noises.

“This home had working smoke detectors that alerted the occupant and possibly saved a life,” said Hood River Fire Marshal Devon Wells.

On Jan. 1, the cost of crossing the Bridge of the Gods will go up — unless drivers go buy the book.

The Port of Cascade Locks Board of Commissioners approved increasing the tolls for single-trips by automobiles, and for commercial vehicles and motor homes, following a staff recommendation at its Nov. 4 meeting.

Rates for commercial trucks and buses will increase from 75 cents per axle to $1 per axle. Motor homes and dual-wheeled pickups will increase from $1.50 to $2 per crossing.

Nov. 23

An elderly Wilsonville woman died of natural causes on Port Marina Beach sometime between the mornings of Nov. 18 and Nov. 19, according to officials. The body of Harriett Arnold Renfroe, 88, was found slumped at the base of a rocky outcropping by a passerby walking her dogs about 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 19.

Nov. 23

Hood River County has been asked to intervene in a stalemate over annexation talks between West Side Fire District and the City of Hood River. The fire district’s board of directors has asked the county to take its mediation role under Oregon law and call both parties to the bargaining table. In turn, the county has requested via a letter sent on Nov. 19 that both public agencies submit a schedule for when the groups can meet. At issue is how to provide for a smooth transfer of services that does not harm West Side’s financial ability to provide property protection.

Nov. 27

Hood River Lions Club Foundation opened its annual gift bag Nov. 25 and announced $108,000 in grants to 33 recipients in Hood River County. The largest single grant is one for $10,339 to Hood River Fire Department to pay for a thermal imaging camera, which will literally help firefighters see through smoke.

The need is one of dozens addressed through the anonymous $2.1 million donation five years ago. The Foundation is the single-largest charity in the County.

Dec. 4

A revision to Hood River County’s inventory of possible destination resort sites is good news for Mt. Hood Meadows, Ltd. But the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition, opponents of large-scale development in the forest zone, are “very curious” about why the changes were made after Meadows complained — especially when the public was never given the opportunity to first review the map and supporting documents.

Mike Benedict, county planning director, said the public will have ample opportunity to scrutinize and comment on the materials submitted by the Portland consulting firm of Cogan, Owens, Cogan. However, he said the first mistake on the map has underscored the need for his staffers to review the information before it is released to correct any further technical problems. “We’re reviewing the map parcel by parcel to ensure its accuracy,” said Benedict.

Dec. 7

Although jokes were traded about organizing BINGO games for profit, the mood was grim on Dec. 3 as 23 officials from public agencies met to discuss “bloody” budget cuts.

The possibility that “working poor” families, senior citizens, and children would be left unserved dominated the monthly meeting of the Hood River County Commission on Children and Families.

“We can’t sit back and say ‘we can’t do this, we can’t do that,’ we have to think about what we can do instead of all the sorrows that have been put upon us,” said Donita Huskey-Wilson, director of the county juvenile department.

Huskey-Wilson has lost $25,000 from her annual budget and is being forced to lay off one of her five case workers. But even worse is the financial plight facing the Mid-Columbia Center for Living.

Sharon Guidera, executive director for the Center, said in November state providers of mental health and addiction counseling services were targeted by emergency legislative action for $30 million in budget restrictions. She said that move dropped her agency’s current budget for fiscal year 2002-03 by $473,600, eliminating some services to high-risk or disabled individuals altogether.

Dec. 11

Stefanie Lowe and her two sons, Ryan and Matthew, moved out of the motel room they’d been living in for several weeks and into a condominium last week. Thanks to an outpouring of community support for the family, whose rented house burned down in early November, Lowe was able to make the necessary rent and deposit payments for a condominium on Wasco Street in Hood River. Nearly all the money raised came from community donations to a bank account in Lowe’s name set up at U.S. Bank by Hood River resident Janet Davis.

Dec. 11

The cost for new developments to hook up to city water and sewer services could take a giant leap this spring.

Under the proposed rates, the Systems Development Charge (SDC) to install a standard residential meter would rise from the current $700 to $1,408, a 101 percent increase. The new fee for the water meter would spike 474 percent, from $450 to $2,584. The SDC has not been raised in more than 10 years and on Dec. 9 the Hood River City Council decided to seek the middle ground in fees levied statewide.

Dec. 14

On Dec. 11 the Hood River County School District Board of Directors appointed Rick Eggers interim superintendent, through June 30, 2003. Eggers, in his fourth year as assistant superintendent of the school district, will lead the district in its period of transition as it searches for a new superintendent during the first quarter of 2003.

Dec. 18

Honking horns, cheers and applause accompanied the first official pedestrian crossing on Dec. 16 at the new traffic stoplight in the Heights. Down Manor resident Jessie Short led the group of state, county and city officials on the walk across 12th Street, also known as Highway 281, at the Eliot and Brookside intersection. She was joined by Dollie Rasmussen and Sharon Wilson, who spearheaded a grassroots fundraising drive toward the $237,000 signal.


Hood River County United Way announced Monday that its campaign would fall $15,000 short this year, unless additional contributions can be secured in the next six weeks. Failure to reach last year’s amount — and the current campaign’s goal — of $105,000 will force the local United Way to reduce funding to local agencies.

Dec. 21

Mixed reviews have met a recent poll showing that Cascade Locks residents are divided over having a casino in their hometown. This week the poll results were used by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge to support its new campaign against a casino in the Gorge city’s industrial park. The Portland-based environmental group has already registered strong opposition toward the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs’ alternate proposal to build a gaming center on 40 acres of trust land just east of Hood River.

However, Cascade Locks officials and some of the residents surveyed contend the poll results are “bogus” since the research was paid for by the Grand Ronde tribe so the questions were deliberately misleading.

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