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2013's top stories


File photo

NEW EYE AT THE PARK: One of the big stories of 2013 was the arrival of Lem Pratt, right, seen here with Steve Stout at the Goldendale Observatory, as manager of state parks in the Goldendale area.

2013 was a year of colorful stories, ranging from Wolves wreaking havoc in the county to meeting the new congressional district's representative. In this first part of a multi-part series, here are The Sentinel's top stories of the past year.

January, 2013

Parks get new manager

Lem Pratt, the new manager for the Goldendale area state parks, proposes revitalization and more community involvement for the Goldendale Observatory and other nearby state parks.

"We want to get the park back into the community and the community back in the park," says Pratt.

Pratt, who started at his new post on Dec. 1, is now managing the Maryhill State Park, Columbia Hills State Park, the Klickitat Trail Park, Brook's Memorial, Doug's Beach, Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, the Goldendale Observatory, and the old ski resort on Satus Pass.

"We want to reinstitute the relationship between Goldendale and the Observatory. We are going to give it a face lift," he says.

Pratt plans to improve the aesthetics of the Observatory and develop more community programs working within the budgetary restraints imposed by the Washington State Park Service. The statewide budget for the state parks for 2013 is approximately $19 million.

School meeting called on security measures

A group of school administrators, law enforcement officers, and insurance carrier representatives met at the Goldendale School District office Monday morning to discuss potential changes in its security measures in the wake of last month's Sandy Hook school shootings.

District Superintendent Mark Heid opened the meeting by saying it was to be an open forum for comments and suggestions for assessing security procedures. While few final decisions were reached in the meeting, a wide range of considerations were raised and noted for future action.

Herrera Beutler speaks for first time in Goldendale

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler spoke in Goldendale Friday morning at Ayutla's Restaurant in her first town meeting in Klickitat County since the county was officially included in the 3rd Congressional District on Jan. 3. Despite its sudden notice, a crowd filled the room to overflowing and drew faces not seen at a public meeting in Goldendale in at least months.

"We do these town meetings a lot," Herrera Beutler said. "We do a lot of them in this format because it's a little bit more functional to have the back and forth with the people that I serve. The largest that we've had is probably 150, maybe 200 people down to the smallest where we have 20, 25. This is a great turnout, and I'm excited to be here, now you're officially part of the 3rd Congressional District, even though we knew it was coming."

County assessor called on record number of appeals

"My problem is that these are small things, but they are becoming magnified by the way they are being handled," says local taxpayer Andy Ford, who has been trying to get the Klickitat County Assessors Office (AO) to make some corrections to his parcel information since last February.

Ford had noticed that something was wrong when Adam DeHart, a former county appraiser, came out to inspect his parcel last January and saw that there were out buildings showing on the map of his parcel that had been destroyed years ago.

"I put all our papers together in a nice binder. I took it in and gave it to one of the ladies in the office. She said that it would get to where it needs to be and that didn't happen. I went back in later, and they could not find it."

Ford claims that supervisor assessor Karen Reisenauer asked him to sign some blank Destroyed Property Forms, which he declined to sign. He says Reisenauer said that she would fill them out and mail them to him to sign, but that he never received them.

He went into the office a second time. Klickitat County Assessor Darlene Johnson sat down with him, and they filled out the Destroyed Property Forms. According to Ford, she said that she would take care of it. Ford also claims what Johnson told him that De- Hart had been in training and did not work for the AO as of Feb. 5, 2012. Dehart ran against Johnson in the 2010 election and worked for her until August 16, 2012.

"I feel like I am getting the run-around. They could not find any of our paperwork," says Ford. "I am not trying to single anyone out. I just want someone to get to the bottom of what is going on in that office. My dollars are just as good at theirs."

February 2013

Taking the Gray Wolf off the endangered species list

A group of Klickitat County members of the Washington Cattlemen's Association (WCA) yesterday attended the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee hearing in Olympia on House of Representatives Bills (HB) 1112, 1191, 1219, 1337, 1501 or "the Wolf Bills."

Goldendale rancher Clay Schuster, Glenwood rancher Travis Miller, and Executive Vice President of WCA Jack Field testified in strong support of the bills. As a group, these bills declassify the Gray Wolf as an endangered species in the eastern side of the state; provide lethal and non-lethal strategies for predator management for livestock producers and property owners that would not require a permit from Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW); creates a wolf license plate that would help fund non-lethal management and compensation for incidences of depredation; and would classify the Gray Wolf as a large game animal.

Schuster and Miller urged the committee to develop management tools for ranchers in the western part of the state where the Gray Wolf is still under Federal Protection.

WorkSource office may be closing

If the business of creating jobs and improving the economic health of Washington State has never been more acute, does the potential closure of WorkSource offices in Goldendale and Stevenson, make sense? This is the discussion local and regional workforce decision makers, influencers and citizens are having with Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) officials, in a variety of venues.

Under discussion now is the future of the two local offices in Goldendale and Stevenson. The Goldendale WorkSource office was scheduled to lose its contract in April of this year and only just received a six-month extension, according to a Jan. 7 letter from ESD Regional Manager Ignacio Marquaz to Patric Baldoz, Executive Director of the South Central Workforce Council.

FEMA media conference held in Goldendale

"Remember the bridge, the five Ws plus one, and take a deep breath." These instructions and more were given out repeatedly Monday, March 11, by Mitch Baker, the Rural Domestic Preparedness (RDP) Trainer, to the overflowing room of area first responders and other local organizational representatives who might wear a communication hat at some point during their professional workday. The attendees, who spent most of their first workday of the week absorbing basic first responder communications skills, will earn a certificate entitled, "Dealing With the Media."

The national training was brought to Goldendale by Ed Powell, Klickitat County Emergency Management Coordinator, and held in the Klickitat PUD public meeting room, which proved to be almost too small for the nearly three dozen attendees.

March 2013

Local officials express surprise at Friends of Gorge-BPA settlement

The Big-Eddy Knight Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) transmission line and substation project is a six-year -old project filled with both predictable and unexpected twists and turns, not surprising for a project which traverses the scenic Columbia River Gorge, winds over private properties, and uses public funds. The latest development of the multimillion-dollar transmission line and substation project-the request to purchase properties by non-profit environmental activist group, the Friends of the Columbia Gorge (FOCG)-is one which has local officials surprised, while project principals with the BPA and FOCG view the project and its operational processes as going well. The large-scale BPA project has a history which is lengthy and complex, leading up to recent conversations with local officials.

Gun right rally fills town hall meeting

A Second Amendment town hall meeting in Centerville Saturday packed the Grange Hall to overflowing, provided a PowerPoint on the history of gun laws over the millennia, gave a forum for frustrated Republican legislators to make their case, and enthralled gunrights enthusiasts.

"I've never seen anything like this," said one participant at the event from Portland. "A prayer, the pledge of allegiance, standing up for our rights-it was great."

Enthusiastic estimates on the size of the crowd ranged as high as 300, though most agreed the number was closer to 200. Nonetheless, it was standing room only inside with some additional spillover people on the steps and grounds outside listening to the speaker mounted on the front of the Grange building.

Cemetery leaves casket unburied for days

A burial last week at I.O.O.F. Mountain View Cemetery in Goldendale left a casket exposed to elements for days and drew the dismay of stunned family members.

Julia Hart, sister-in-law of James Randall, who died April 2 and whose funeral was April 6, says the situation was unbearably botched by the cemetery staff. Cemetery staff and a trustee at present refuse to comment on the record, though the Washington State office of the I.O.O.F. says it is looking into the matter.

File photo

WOLVES IN THE NEWS: Wolves and their impact on the county, represented in this art shot by photographer Penny Bailey, were among the major news stories of 2013.

"Jim was supposed to be buried on Saturday," Hart recalls. She says Derek Krentz at Columbia Hills Memorial Chapel told the family some minor modifications were required at the grave site, and she and the family left assuming everything was being handled. "But we got out to the cemetery. And I guess this should have been our first clue-you know when you go out there, they're going to put the casket into the grave site, it's all laid out, with the carpeting and the winch to put it down. Well, there was just a piece of green carpet laid over a couple boards on top of the hole."

Centerville education icon honored by her community

"The air was more alive with possibility when Mrs. Sarsfield was there with us."

– Amber Liddell, Centerville fifth grade student

Six months and one week ago the community of Centerville lost one of its greatest contributors, Marilyn Sarsfield, in a single-car accident just outside of the town she loved so deeply. In the ensuing months, the small unincorporated community has been simultaneously grieving, stricken, paralyzed, and busy. It's been very difficult for most to process the sudden passing of the vibrant 78-year-old teacher, who retired twice and stayed retired the second time.


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