Pacific County Sheriff’s Deputy placed on leave following criminal charges

South Bend, WA. – A Pacific County Sheriff’s deputy remains on administrative leave after eleven criminal charges were filed today against the deputy, including one count of first degree extortion, four counts of bribery, five counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of reckless driving. Johnson is also a former Cosmopolis police officer.

The deputy, identified as Vance O. Johnson age 44, is a 5 year veteran of the office. Deputy Johnson had been on administrative leave while an internal investigation that led to the criminal investigation related to these charges was conducted. The investigation was conducted by the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at the request of Sheriff Scott Johnson to ensure that it was conducted in a fair and impartial manner.

The investigation was started after information and witness statements were received on April 21st of this year relating to an incident that Deputy Johnson was involved in that occurred originally while he was off duty, and later events that occurred while he was on duty.

Sheriff Scott Johnson said, “Today is a very sad day for the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office, it’s news none of us ever wish to hear, however nothing is more important than maintaining public trust and confidence in our employees, all of whom I hold to the highest moral and ethical standards”.

Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Meyer is prosecuting this case in Pacific County Superior Court due to a conflict regarding one of the witnesses in this case working for the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office.  Sheriff Johnson & Deputy Johnson are not related.

Smoke alarms saved Two bed ridden residents pulled from Oakville house fire

Crews evacuated two bed ridden patients from a house fire in Oakville early Wednesday morning. Fire District 1 Chief Kevin Witt tells us flames were visible when they arrived at the home in the 2300 block of South Bank road around 2:17 A.M.. Both were evacuated, one person was transported from the scene with non life threatening injuries. Witt said they knew the health conditions of the residents, and called for mutual aid from Grays Harbor, Thurston and Lewis county units right away.
Witt said the fire was knocked down by about 2:46, crews were on scene until almost 6 Wednesday morning.

Oakville Firefighters were called to a report of a house fire just after 2:15am early Wednesday morning in the 2300 block South Bank Rd in the Oakville area.  The 2 story, 1800sq. foot house was owner occupied and had working smoke detectors.  Owners were home and were alerted by smoke detectors and called 911. Fire was also reported by multiple neighbors who could see a fire in the upper story and called for help as well.  Upon Grays Harbor Fire Dist. 1 arrival, there was heavy pressurized fire from the second story windows and multiple bystander’s alongside Chehalis Tribal Police who began heroic evacuation efforts.  Patients were unable to ambulate, and the critical assistance from Tribal law Enforcement and neighbors to the firefighters made for a successful rescue.   The family was treated on the scene by EMT’s from West Thurston Fire, until AMR Ambulance arrived for patient transport to an area hospital. Additional crews were called in from West Thurston Fire, Riverside Fire and Grays Harbor Fire Dist. 5 to assist with patient care, fire control and water shuttles. 

Oakville Fire“In the light of the day I’m standing here in “awe” over the extraordinary feat that the Tribal Police, neighbors and firefighters did to save lives.  To see what effort they did to rescue people who were unable to rescue themselves. This is what communities do.” Lt. Lanette Dyer, from West Thurston Fire said.

The family’s home sustained heavy fire damage to the second story and significant smoke and water damage to the first story. Fire department cleared the scene at 5:30 am and turned over the home to the Tribal Authority for in fire investigation. No firefighter injuries to report.

Oakville Fire

Commissioners from Pacific County PUD, Chelan County PUD, Wahkiakum County PUD and Lewis County PUD assume leadership positions for statewide PUD association

Olympia – PUD Commissioners from four public utility districts assumed top leadership positions for 2014-2015 as the Washington Public Utility Districts Association (WPUDA) announced the election of its new officers today. Pacific County PUD Commissioner Diana Thompson was elected to serve as President, Chelan County PUD Commissioner Dennis Bolz will serve as Vice-President, Wahkiakum County PUD Commissioner Dennis Reid will serve as Secretary, and Lewis County PUD Commissioner Ben Kostick will continue to serve as Treasurer.
The officers serve on the Association’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, providing oversight and recommendations in support of WPUDA’s mission. The Washington PUD Association represents 27 not-for-profit, community-owned public utility districts and one-joint operating agency, Energy Northwest. WPUDA member PUDs provide electrical, water and wastewater, and wholesale telecommunications services to residential, business and industrial customers in communities across Washington. The new officers assume an important leadership role in achieving the Association’s mission to support, protect and enhance members’ ability to conserve power and water resources of the state and to provide not-for-profit, locally-controlled utility services.
Newly elected WPUDA President, Pacific County PUD Commissioner Diana Thompson, is not new to leadership positions in the Association. She previously served as Vice-President and Secretary. Thompson, who currently serves as the President of the Pacific County PUD Board of Commissioners, looks forward to serving as the Association’s President this year. “It is an honor and a privilege to serve the Washington PUD Association” said Thompson. “For almost 85 years PUDs have existed in this state and for a good part of that time, WPUDA has been a part of that community. In my role as Association President, I am committed to working collaboratively with members of WPUDA to continue the good work that was started by those who came before us; promoting and protecting the interests of our customer-owners and preserving the value PUDs provide to communities across the state.” Thompson is a resident of Oysterville and has served on the Pacific County PUD Board since 2007.
Chelan PUD Commissioner Dennis Bolz moves into his new position as Vice President having served as the Association’s Secretary last year. Bolz has been active in the Association for seven years, serving on the Government Relations Committee and organizing and speaking at orientation programs for new PUD Commissioners. “Collaboration and good information are important tools for PUD commissioners,” said Bolz. “A good example of that is what is occurring right now with the Wanapum Dam situation. Chelan County PUD has been working closely with Grant County PUD to minimize the impacts to the public. Public power has a great story to tell, and WPUDA is a way for us to share experiences that improve the lives of our customer-owners and stakeholders.”
The position of Secretary has been filled by a Wahkiakum County PUD Commissioner Dennis Reid. Reid has served on the PUD Board since 2011 and is looking forward to his new leadership role within the Association. “It is an honor to be elected and to carry on the work of the Association. I will do my best to represent all the members.”
Lewis County PUD Commissioner Ben Kostick will continue serving in his role as Association Treasurer. Kostick is a Certified Public Accountant and has served on the Lewis County PUD Board since 2007. The position of Treasurer is a two-year term with Kostick beginning the second year of his second term. “I am pleased I am able to draw on my professional background to support the work the Association is doing on behalf of Lewis PUD customers as well as other PUD customers across the state,” Kostick said.
The Washington PUD Association was established in 1936. Its mission is to support, protect and enhance its members’ ability to conserve the power and water resources for the benefit of the people of the State of Washington and provide not-for-profit, locally controlled utility services. Visit www.wpuda.org for more information.

Local schools get continued Levee support as February special election results certified

Election results were certified last night for the February special election, locally all replacement Maintenance and Operations levies passed, with Oakville’s multi-county race passing by only 4 votes, 210 to 206 with 13 Lewis County voters.
Grays Harbor’s voter turnout ended at 36.3%, while Pacific County reports 53.76% and Lewis 38.7% voter turnout.

Hoquiam is among 12 area school districts showing support for their levies School Superintendant Mike Parker said last week “I’d like to thank the Hoquiam community for supporting our school levee again. With a strong 66% ‘yes’ vote, we’ll continue to make you proud, thank you.

School Districts in Aberdeen, Hoquiam, North Beach, McCleary, Elma, Quinault, Cosmopolis, Wishkah, Ocosta, and Mary M Knight all passed their M&O Levies.

Elma Voters rejected the 8.4 million bond measure to replace the grandstands at Davis Field.

Local projects among 70 statewide, proposed $202 million in loans/grants to protect Washington waters

The Washington Department of Ecology proposes to spend $202 million in dedicated grants and loans to help pay for 70 local projects across the state to protect the health of Washington waters. Included is a low interest loan for a new waste water collection system in the Oyehut/Illahee area that will eliminate 130 existing on-site sewage systems, as well as a loan to replace the outfall diffuser at the City of Aberdeen’s waste water treatment plant. There is also a proposed loan to complete the Shelton Basin 3 Sewer Rehabilitation Construction Project.The funding is contingent on a final state supplemental budget and final federal appropriations. It becomes available at the start of the state’s next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014.

 
State financial managers calculate that 11 jobs in Washington are created for every $1 million spent for construction and design funding. That would make this proposed round of funding support more than 2,200 jobs. Over half of these are likely to be local construction jobs.
 
The funding will be directed to water protection on agricultural lands; upgrades and expansions of sewer plants and collection systems; septic system improvements; water protection and cleanup projects; efforts to manage stormwater; streamside restoration projects; and more.
 
Here are highlights of the proposed funding:
 
Port Angeles, Spokane, and King County are proposed to receive $62 million in Revolving Fund loans to correct combined sewer overflows (CSOs). CSOs are discharges of untreated sewage that overflow directly to nearby streams, lakes, and harbors when wastewater collection systems are overloaded by large stormwater flows.
 
Ecology proposes $1.1 million in grants for projects on both sides of the Cascades to protect clean water on agricultural lands. Of this funding:
  • The Palouse Rock Lake Conservation District proposes to enhance streamside areas of the Palouse River and create cost-share programs for no-till, direct seed programs.
  • Okanogan Conservation District wants to implement practices to help landowners protect waters from livestock access.
  • Benton Conservation District proposes to work with the public to understand and prevent nitrate pollution of drinking water.
  • Lewis County Conservation District plans to work on a project to prevent polluted runoff from irrigation practices.
  • In King County, American Farmland Trust plans to field-test strategies to improve water quality in farm areas along Newaukum Creek. 
 
In addition, $190 million is proposed to boost 39 wastewater treatment facility projects. Eight of these are proposed for communities that qualify for financial hardship status. They will receive grants, forgivable principal loans (loans that do not need to be paid back), and loans with interest rates as low as zero percent. The communities are:
  • Chehalis
  • Deer Park
  • Ilwaco
  • Morton
  • Sacheen Lake area of Pend Oreille County
  • Sun Acres in Spokane County
  • Shelton
  • Illayee/Oyehut area in Grays Harbor County
 
Project descriptions and proposed funding amounts can be found online
 
Ecology invites comments about this proposed funding. Email comments to Daniel Thompson at daniel.thompson@ecy.wa.gov or mail them to Department of Ecology, Water Quality Program, P.O. Box 47600, Olympia, WA 98504-7600, Attn: Daniel Thompson. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. March 24, 2014.
 
Ecology will hold a public meeting to discuss the proposed list at 1 p.m., Friday, March 7, at the Pierce County Library, PAC – Processing and Administrative Center, 3005 112th Street in Tacoma.
 
The funding is contingent on a final state supplemental budget and final federal appropriations. It becomes available at the start of the state’s next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014.
 
Funding for Ecology’s integrated loan and grant program comes from a combination of dedicated state and federal monies.
 
Of the $202 million total, $180 million comes from the Washington State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund. Another $20.3 million comes from the state Centennial Clean Water Program. And $1.6 million comes from the Clean Water Section 319 Nonpoint Source Fund. Read more about these funds and where the money comes from online.   

All local school levies now passing as Oakville pulls within 1 vote

With a new batch of ballots counted Thursday, the Grays Harbor County Auditor’s Office reports Oakville School District is now passing their multi-county M&O Levy, by one vote. In Lewis County, the levy is failing 8-3, but Grays Harbor’s stronger support pushed yes votes over the top; 207 to 206 – total for the two counties.
The new ballots brought Grays Harbor’s voter turnout up to 36% for the February Special Election. Hoquiam is among 12 area school districts showing support for their levies School Superintendent Mike Parker said “I’d like to thank the Hoquiam community for supporting our school levy again, with a strong 66% “Yes” vote, we will continue to make you proud, thank you.”
School Districts in Aberdeen, Hoquiam, North Beach, McCleary, Elma, Quinault, Cosmopolis, Wishkah, Ocosta, and Mary M Knight are all passing their M&O Levies.
Elma Voters are rejecting the 8.4 million bond measure to replace the grandstands at Davis Field. Election results will be certified on the 25th.

WSDOT: Cleaning of three southwest Washington bridges could affect traffic

It’s not quite spring, but starting Monday, Feb. 3, Washington State Department of Transportation crews will be doing some heavy cleaning on three steel bridges in Cowlitz and Lewis counties.

The State Route 4 Peter Crawford, State Route 433 Lewis and Clark, and the northbound Interstate 5 Cowlitz River bridges will all get a scrubbing over the next two months.

Over time, bridges accumulate various substances that can damage the structure, including dirt, mildew, road spray, chemicals, and bird and animal feces. A regular washing cycle can reduce damage and help improve the efficiency of WSDOT’s rigorous bridge inspection program.

“Cleaning off the grime means we get less rust, paint lasts longer and the bridge stays in better shape overall,” said WSDOT Bridge Supervisor Mike London. “Clean bridges are also easier to inspect, which helps us keep them in good repair and safe for drivers.”

Bridge washing timelines and traffic impacts

SR 4 Peter Crawford Bridge
   • Mondays-Thursdays, Feb. 3-20
• Single-lane closures from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

SR 433 Lewis and Clark Bridge
   • Mondays-Fridays, Feb. 10-March 20
• Narrow lanes, no over-width loads from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Delays of up to 30 minutes

Northbound I-5 Cowlitz River Bridge
   • Saturdays and Sundays, March 1-16
• Single-lane closures from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The 63-year-old Peter Crawford Bridge carries SR 4 over the Cowlitz River in Kelso. Crews will clean debris from the structure by hand and then use a low pressure, high volume water hose to wash the bridge from top to bottom.

The 84-year-old SR 433 Lewis and Clark Bridge between Longview and Rainier, Ore. was recently painted and does not need to be hand-cleaned. WSDOT crews will wash all of the steel elements in and below the bridge deck. The superstructure – the latticed steel above the roadway – will not be washed this year.

Two side-by-side structures carry I-5 over the Cowlitz River in southern Lewis County. This year, crews will wash only the northbound bridge. Like the Peter Crawford Bridge, the 61-year-old northbound I-5 Cowlitz River Bridge must be hand-cleaned before it can be washed.

Through its comprehensive bridge program, WSDOT cares for nearly 3,500 bridges and structures statewide. Crews regularly inspect and perform spot cleaning and repairs, and regular overall cleanings help further protect taxpayers’ investments in our state transportation system.

Brake/gas confusion drives couple off landing in Pacific County, killing passenger

DOTY, Wash. – Confusing the gas for the brake sent a couple over a landing in Pacific County, killing the passenger. The Pacific County Sheriff’s Department tells us the driver, a 70 year old man had to be extricated, and was life-flighted from the scene, a female passenger did not survive the accident. Lieutenant Jim Bergstrom tells us the 2013 Ford F150 appears to have rolled several times before striking a tree over 1500 feet from the road.

On November 11th, deputies with the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a vehicle that had driven off the end of a landing. The first report indicated the accident may have occurred in Lewis County. Lewis County Sheriff’s Office responded to the location and determined the accident had occurred in Pacific County. 

The Pacific County Sheriff’s Department tells us Raymond aid and Lewis County volunteer Fire/Aid responded to the scene. The driver, age 70, had to be extricated from the vehicle, and was life-flighted from the scene. A female passenger did not survive the accident and was later removed by members of the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State DNR Officers and Washington State Patrol Officers.

The Pacific County Sheriff’s investigation shows that the driver had driven down to the end of a landing, had attempted to hit the brake, however hit the accelerator driving off the end of the landing. The vehicle appears ho have rolled several times before striking a tree and coming to a stop. The distance the vehicle travelled after leaving the roadway was estimated to be in excess of 1500 feet before it came to a stop.

The vehicle a 2013 Ford F-150 was determined to be a total loss. The driver is recovering from the incident in a hospital, he is expected to survive.

Search and Rescue Teams Search for Missing Man in Packwood

The man is an experienced mushroom picker but was not equipped to be outside for more than a few hours. The man was wearing street clothes and had a small amount of food with him.

The weather on Saturday and Sunday was heavy rain and winds. Monday and Tuesday had light rain. The temperatures have reached the 40’s, in that area, over the past few days.

Updates will be provided as information become available.

Senate Passes Extension of Cantwell-Championed Rural Schools, Roads Program


 

SRS expired at the end of fiscal year 2012, and the last payments went out in December 2012. During 2012, Washington state received about $20 million in SRS program funding to help fund schools, roads, search and rescue, and other important county programs. That was the fourth highest total after Oregon, California and Idaho.

                                                                                                     

“Secure Rural Schools is a lifeline to communities all across Washington state,” said Cantwell. “These payments invest in the schools and roads that are necessary for communities and businesses to thrive. I applaud the Senate for taking bipartisan action to continue this key program for rural communities and look forward to a debate on a long-term extension of the program.”

 

In 2012, counties in Washington state received about $20 million in SRS payments, including: Chelan County, $1.6 million; Grays Harbor County, $400,251; Jefferson County, $953,725; Kittitas County, $680,350; Lewis County, $2,165,436; Skagit County, $639,849; Skamania County, $3.9 million; Snohomish County, $737,202; Whatcom County, $908,504; and Yakima County, $1.4 million. The full list of SRS payments to Washington counties can be found here.


Cantwell has been a leader in pushing for a long-term continuation of SRS. In March during a U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee hearing, Cantwell called for an extension of SRS and mandatory full funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, while also making them simpler, more transparent, and more responsive to the needs of rural communities.

 

At the hearing, committee members heard testimony from Paul Pearce, president of the National Forest Counties and School Coalition and a former Skamania County Commissioner.

 

“My own county, Skamania County, is a county of 11,000 people,” said Pearce during his opening statement to the committee. “I was the commissioner there until just the beginning of this year. If we were to lose this funding, two of the four school districts will in fact close.”

 

Skamania County was the highest recipient of SRS payments in Washington state in FY 2012, receiving nearly one-fifth of the state’s total SRS payments.

 

In 2012, Cantwell supported an amendment (S. Amdt. 1825) to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (H.R.4348) that extended the SRS payments and mandatory full funding of PILT for one year. She joined 26 other senators in May 2012 in sending a letter to the Senate conferees negotiating a final transportation reauthorization agreement with the House urging the extension of both county payment programs. Cantwell also cosponsored the bipartisan County Payments Reauthorization Act of 2011, which would extend SRS for five years as well as fully fund PILT for five additional years.

 

Under federal law, national forest land cannot be taxed by counties or other state and local jurisdictions. In place of taxes, a 100-year-old U.S. Forest Service policy shares revenue generated by timber harvests on federal lands near forest communities. Funds can be used for schools, roads, search and rescue, and other essential services. As timber harvests declined during the 1990s, hundreds of counties experienced a severe revenue loss. Since 2001, the SRS and PILT programs have helped areas hit hardest by declining timber sales, providing funding for schools and roads in communities nationwide.