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A Year Of News In Review: 2005

What happened in the area from July thorugh December

Editor's note: The following are capsule summaries of the top news stories covered by The Enterprise in 2005. This week, in Part Two, we look back at July through December of 2005.

JULY

Consideration of using the city-owned Community Youth Center in White Salmon to house the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department sparked controversy. Police Chief Rich Cortese explained that the department was located in cramped quarters in the Park Center building, and needed to find a more suitable location because the Park Center was reverting to the control of the White Salmon School District, and the department would eventually need to find a new facility.

"We have to find more room, and we're going to have to move out of the Park Center," said Mayor Linda Jones.

With the city of White Salmon exceeding its allotted water rights, the Washington Department of Health warned the city that it cannot provide water hookups for any new housing subdivisions. White Salmon Public Works Director Wil Keyser said the city has water rights of 224 million gallons annually, but was using about 312 million gallons.

"There are not likely to be any subdivisions approved until the water issue is resolved," Keyser said.

The Bingen City Council considered adopting an additional one-half of one percent of sales tax for retail sales within the city limits. Under the proposal, the sales tax rate would climb from 7.0 percent to 7.5 percent. Mayor Brian Prigel said if the council approved the increase, the extra revenue would be set aside for community development projects.

AUGUST

Two fires sparked by a passing train burned through Dallesport, underscoring the growing hazard related to the dry weather conditions. The fire, which started just west of Dallesport, burned between 300 and 400 acres and threatened homes and trailers. Crews from 12 mid-Columbia River Gorge firefighting agencies responded, and residents and structures escaped unscathed.

A tribal fisherman discovered a homicide victim floating in the Columbia River near Roosevelt. When law enforcement authorities arrived on the scene, they found a second victim in the water. The two were identified as Janine D. Piccolo, 26, and Kenneth D. Debord, 26. Both had been shot. Evidence at the scene indicated the victims had been murdered elsewhere and transported to the spot where they were found. The next day, authorities arrested Patrick A. Piccolo, Sr., 52, the husband of the deceased female.

White Salmon Mayor Linda Jones, who was elected to serve as mayor in November 2003, resigned from her office, explaining that she had taken a job in Portland with Safeway Corp. and would no longer be able to handle the city's business.

"It's very clear that I will not be able to give the city sufficient time and attention. This has not been an easy decision, but I know it is the right thing to do," Jones wrote in her resignation letter.

SEPTEMBER

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and its destruction of oil refineries and related infrastructure in the Gulf Coast, the price of gasoline rises sharply in the local area. The price per gallon climbs over $3. Stations in Bingen were charging $3.07 per gallon for regular unleaded, $3.27 for premium, and $3.31 for diesel. Motorists were warned to expect fuel costs to continue to rise.

Roger Holen, former two-term mayor of White Salmon, was selected by the White Salmon City Council to serve as the city's interim mayor in the wake of the resignation of Linda Jones. The council voted 3-2 to appoint Holen to serve until the Nov. 8 election results are certified. Holen had been narrowly defeated by Jones in his bid for a third term in the 2003 election.

Developers unveiled a proposal for a "pocket neighborhood" featuring cottage housing at the site of what is currently Columbia Crest Trailer Park (formerly known as Timm's Trailer Court) in White Salmon. The envisioned development would be guided by renowned architect Ross Chapin. Smart Development Corp., based in Hood River, initiated the proposal.

OCTOBER

All three of White Salmon's public schools -- Columbia High School, Henkle Middle School, and Whitson Elementary School -- were burglarized in an overnight crime spree. Approximately $1,700 was stolen from the schools, as well as one digital camera.

"Somebody was after some quick cash," said White Salmon Valley School District Superintendent Dale Palmer. "They were not after equipment."

After many years of dreaming, planning, and fundraising, the Klickitat County Pioneer Center opened in White Salmon. The 24,500 square foot facility, which cost nearly $5 million, relocated agencies of county government in one building, including the Sheriff's Office, Assessor's Office, Senior Services, Health Department, Probation Department, a west end service help desk, and the West District Court. The building also provided ample space for a senior center, complete with kitchen and dining facilities.

The White Salmon City Council considered an odd request as a local resident asked for approval to place a goat or two on his residential property. Jonathan Blake said he wanted the approval to buy the goats in the hope the animals will eat excess weeds and brush to help prevent a wildfire.

The city of Bingen agreed to serve as the go-between in a deal that will make a Bingen-based business, Mountain Home Biological, eligible to obtain a $50,000 loan from the Washington Department of Community Trade & Economic Development. The business planned to use the money to expand into a new, larger facility, which would result in the eventual hiring of several more employees. The business supplies living science products and lab glassware to schools.

NOVEMBER

The Bingen City Council voted unanimously to boost water and sewer rates for customers served by the city. Residential water rates were slated to go up by another $1 per month, with sewer rates also going up by another $1.

"We're trying to keep rates as low as we can, but still recover our operations and maintenance costs and maintain a reserve fund for capital replacement," explained Mayor Brian Prigel.

Voters in White Salmon returned Roger Holen to the mayor's office in a special election to fill the remaining two years of former Mayor Linda Jones unexpired four-year term. Holen topped challengers Penny White Morris and Douglas Charters. In City Council races in the city, challenger Timi Keene defeated incumbent Susan Gookin, and Brad Roberts topped Larry Spencer in a race for an open seat. In Bingen, incumbent council member Barbara Hylton was defeated by political newcomer Timothy Hearn.

In a series of break-ins over the Thanksgiving holiday, thieves used a vehicle to ram the doors of two local businesses to gain entry. McCoy's Video suffered the worst damage, with the front door smashed in by a vehicle and the business ransacked. A vehicle was also employed to get into Nanny's Bakery. On the same evening, the Alpine Veterinary Clinic was also broken into and burglarized.

DECEMBER

The Klickitat County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 to impose a one-quarter of one percent real estate excise tax on the selling price of real property in the unincorporated areas of the county. The move comes despite two public hearings in which 14 citizens spoke out against the proposed tax increase.

"We heard from 14 people, and all but three of them were from the real estate community," said Commissioner Don Struck.

The city of White Salmon's "water system master plan" listed eight major water system upgrades the city needed to meet projected water demand. According to Stoner Bell, an engineer for Bell Design Co., the cost of the improvements will be approximately $19 million over a 20-year period.

A parade of trucks hauled rock through White Salmon as Burlington Northern Santa Fe's Lyle Siding Project geared up. The rock will be used to provide a foundation for the roadbed of a new 1.6-mile long rail siding, which was slated to be built between Lyle and Doug's Beach. Railroad officials pointed out that with record volumes of freight moving through the Columbia River Gorge, the new siding will increase efficiency.

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