An increase in tolls for the Port of Hood River Interstate Bridge were a part of a 2017-18 budget being recommended by the Port’s budget committee this week. The budget calls for an increase in cash tolls for passenger cars from $1 to $2, and from 93 cents to $1 for electronic tolling. For large trucks the cash toll would jump to $3 per axle and to $2 for those using electronic tolling. Port Executive Director Michael McElwee says the increase would help the Port prepare for either a local match for funding bridge replacement or maintaining the current structure over the next 20 years. For the toll increase to take effect, the Port Commission would have to first pass the proposed budget, and then approve the increase in a separate action. The Port will hold a budget hearing on May 21. The budget committee approved a toll increase in last year’s fiscal plan, but the Port Commission elected not to enact it.
The Dalles Riverfront Trail Committee presented City Councilors with a plan to complete the final section of the ten-mile long pedestrian and bicycle connection between the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and The Dalles Dam, but it comes with a hefty price tag. Committee chair Dan Durow says the plan involves either constructing a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 84 near Brewery Grade or attaching a cantilever addition to the existing bridge at that location, which puts the estimated cost of the section at $7,000,000. The committee currently has $1,200,000 in Oregon Department of Transportation grant funds available, so Durow says trail construction would have to take place in stages, and fundraising and grant applications would be needed to generate the rest of the money. Original plans to keep the entire trail on the north side of Interstate 84 were scuttled when the Yakama Nation raised cultural and fishing site access concerns. City Councilors have to approve the plan, and will discuss it at their May 8 meeting.
The Dalles has been selected to be one of the three latest Blue Zones Project Demonstration Communities in Oregon, which is intended to bring a community-led cross-sector approach to make it easier for people to make local choices. Oregon Healthiest State, a privately led partnership supported by Cambia Health Foundation, announced The Dalles, Grants Pass, and Roseburg were chosen to join Klamath Falls in the three-year program. Lauren Kraemer of Oregon State University Extension is part of the stakeholder group that developed the Blue Zone application, and she says the next step includes a discovery process to bring community partners to the table to determine the health issues they want to tackle first, and hiring four people to work on the project. Total operational cost for the Blue Zone Community is $2,500,000 over the next three years, and the local group will need to provide one-third of that. Kraemer says they have some commitments from OSU and other funders, and they will be looking for grant monies and local business partnerships.
LaCenter 4, Columbia 1
King’s Way Christian 3, Stevenson 0
Track and Field
Horizon Christian’s boys finished second and the girls sixth at the Southwest Christian Invitational. Quinn Roetcisoender won the pole vault and the four by 100 meter relay team finished first for the Hawk boys, while for the girls Kaitlin Wenz won the long jump and Paulina Finn was first in the triple jump.
South Wasco finished second in both the boys and girls standings at a five-team meet in Madras. Dawson Herlocker and Michael Cuevas won two events for the Redside boys, while Ana Popchock won a pair for the girls.
A student debt reform bill proposed by Oregon 26th District State Senator Chuck Thomsen passed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee. The Millennials Relief Act would amend Oregon’s tax code to make student debt payments completely tax free. The Hood River Republican says having Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, as a chief sponsor of the bill is helping move it forward. It now moves to the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee for further consideration.
The City Councils of Bingen and White Salmon will meet on May 31 to discuss the pros and cons of combining the two cities into one. The mayors of both cities have been discussing the possibility behind the scenes for a number of months, and talked to Councilors about it this week. White Salmon Mayor David Poucher points out the two cities already operate a number of essential services together, and this is a good time to discuss the issue. Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes had similar thoughts, but adds there is a long way to go before any decision is made. The two Councils will meet on May 31 at 6 p.m. at a location to be finalized. The public will be welcome to attend, but no comment will be taken. Both Poucher and Barnes said there would be public hearings at a later date should the two Council agree to move forward, and any combination would be have to be approved by voters of both cities. The two cities could consolidate into one, or one city could annex the other.
Voters in Wasco, Hood River, Sherman, and Gilliam counties are being asked by Northern Oregon Corrections during the May 16 election to establish a permanent property tax rate of 26 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for operation of the regional jail. The rate mirrors the construction bond rate to build the facility which came off the tax rolls in September. NORCOR and Wasco County County Commission board chair Rod Runyon says the board is looking to stabilize its revenue picture, which currently involves funding from each county along with various contracts with other entities including Immigration and Customs Enforcement that fluctuate over time. The permanent tax rate would generate about $1,300,000 per year, which would be on top of what the $3,800,000 the four counties currently pay annually to operate the facility.
Northwest Cherry Festival time has arrived in The Dalles. Activities begin Friday and will continue through Sunday. The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Lisa Farquharson notes the festival layout has changed this year, with the carnival and vendor locations rearranged. The carnival is lined up against the railroad tracks on First Street, with vendors now in an area protected from train noise. Friday night include the Family Pit Party at the stage beginning at 6:30 p.m., and Saturday features the Tonkin Subaru Cherry Festival Parade at 10 a.m. and entertainment on stage starting at noon and continuing to the Northwest Cherry Idol finals at 6:30 p.m. Event guides are available at Gorgeradio.com. The Bicoastal Media Guild Mortgage Home and Lifestyle Show will be at The Dalles Civic Auditorium during Cherry Festival weekend, open Friday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The 41st Annual Mid-Columbia Lions Follies will premiere Friday night at the Hood River Middle School Auditorium. This year’s show is titled “Kid Awesome and the Disco Girls”. Director Kim Vogel says the show is set in a town called “Supertown,” with a super hero school where the students have to solve a number of problems. This weekend’s performances are Friday and Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., with shows Thursday through Saturday nights next week beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for children at the door, with one dollar off for tickets purchased in advance from Lions Club members and various ticket outlets. Proceeds go to the Oregon Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation.
A group of Hood River County Commissioners, staff, and a member of the public will meet next week to try to determine a formula to distribute funds generated by a new one percent construction excise tax to assist in development of affordable housing. Commission Chair Ron Rivers says half of the revenue generated by the tax is mandated to go directly to affordable housing, but the rest is a little more flexible involving the two types of construction the tax applies to, residential and commercial construction. The group recommendation will go to the County Commission for consideration at the panel’s meeting in May.