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Washington State News Archive

Below are archived news items for the current month. To view a previous month, choose it from the list below.

"Bellingham plan would help house homeless offenders, low-income people"--Bellingham Herald
At its meeting tonight, the Bellingham City Council will consider approving the 2011 Action Plan for spending two types of federal dollars that are both aimed at helping low- and moderate-income people. The plan calls for $2.6 million to be distributed to various programs and organizations. Less money is going to human-services organizations than in years past, with only one out of 42 organizations getting the funding amount asked for. Requests totaled $848,000 and the city plans to spend only $341,000. The Community Development Advisory Board reviewed applications and provided a recommendation on which should be funded. - 11/01/2010

"Commissioner's sale of property for Dungeness River project proper, audit finds"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
State auditors have found that Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger did nothing wrong when the county bought his Dungeness-area home as part of a dike setback project along the Dungeness River in 2009. An anonymous complaint alleging a conflict of interest prompted an examination of the transaction, which occurred as part of the 2010 audit of 2009 county finances. Auditors found that Tharinger did not purchase the house and intend “to turn around and sell due to the project,” he avoided causing a conflict of interest by removing himself from purchase discussions and voting, and finally, the property was correctly appraised. - 11/02/2010

"Benton Co. seat move fails to gain supermajority"--Tri-City Herald
Despite the fact that early returns show that the majority of Benton County voters appear to support relocating the county seat from Prosser to Kennewick, the measure still may not pass. This is because it requires a supermajority – 60 percent of votes – to succeed, and last night’s count puts the favorable vote total at just 56 percent. 38,000 ballots have been counted so far, but there are as many as 20,000 left to be counted, meaning that the true outcome won’t be known for days. The sponsor of the measure believes the county has to move the county seat because most of the county government, including courts, has been already moved to Kennewick. - 11/03/2010

"DNR ceremony seals Protection Island Aquatic Reserve"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark signed the management plan for the Protection Island Aquatic Reserve yesterday. The reserve covers 23,778 acres of state-owned tidelands and bed lands around the 400-acre Protection Island, which is between Sequim and Port Townsend near the mouth of Discovery Bay. The new boundaries will not increase boating restrictions or limit fishing, as the designation is largely intended to restrict development. The establishment of commercial operations such as fish farms, new marinas or docks, or alternative energy uses such as floating wind or underwater turbines will not be allowed on state-owned aquatic lands, but they, along with existing private uses, will be allowed on private lands. The hope is that increasing the number of aquatic reserves throughout Puget Sound will facilitate the gathering of more diverse, as well as allow for closer monitoring of the health of the sound. - 11/04/2010

"State awards Whatcom County, Lynden $9.6 million for bridge projects"--Bellingham Herald
The Department of Transportation has awarded a total of $9.6 million dollars to Whatcom County and the city of Lynden to help repair or protect four bridges. The awards include $7.1 million to Whatcom County to replace the Potter Road bridge, $2.1 million to Lynden to replace the Kok Road bridge over Fishtrap Creek, $274,000 to Whatcom County to protect the Hannegan Road bridge over the Nooksack River from scouring, and $196,00 to Whatcom County to protect the Mosquito Lake Road bridge over the north fork of the Nooksack, near Welcome, from scouring. Details concerning the conditions attached to the federal money, such as local matching requirements and when the money will be available, are not yet known. Award letters will be sent out this week. - 11/08/2010

"L&I proposes 12% average hike in workers' comp premiums"--Seattle Times
The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has announced its proposal for a raise in workers’ compensation premiums in 2011. Rates would increase by an average of 12 percent, or 6.5 cents per hour worked. The new rates take effect January 1st under an emergency rule that is effective for 120 days and public hearings are scheduled for January 4th in both Spokane and Tacoma. Rates were raised 3.2 percent in 2008, 3.1 percent in 2009, and 7.6 percent this year. A double digit increase was expected for next year due to steep declines in premiums collected and investment income, as well as higher medical costs and injured workers staying on benefits longer due to the lack of available jobs. - 11/08/2010

"Extended jobless benefits may expire"--Vancouver Columbian
Beginning November 27, a federal program that has allowed people to collect unemployment insurance payments for up to 99 weeks will begin to wind down. Congress temporarily extended the benefit payment period in 2008 and has voted several times to keep that extension, but it looks like they will not do so again. As a result, the state is preparing to tell 238,000 unemployed Washingtonians that their benefits may run out sooner than expected. People who have been unemployed for less than 6 months, or who become unemployed this month, will only be able to receive payments for 46 weeks, although some people will still be eligible for more assistance depending on where they fall on a multi-tiered state benefits system. The Employment Security Department is mailing letters to unemployment recipients explaining how they will be affected by the end of extended benefits. - 11/10/2010

"New code enforcement teams get results in Lakewood"--Tacoma News Tribune
Lakewood’s Community Safety Resource Team has been getting results since its formation in February. The team pairs community service officers (CSOs), who handle community outreach for the police department, and code enforcement officers (CEOs), who are in charge of enforcing the city’s zoning codes, with each pair assigned to two of the city’s six police districts. The CSOs handle parking and other nuisance complaints, freeing CEOs to handle major problem areas. A legal adviser and paralegal assigned to the team offer advice when needed, and armed police officers, the Lakewood Fire Department, the state Department of Labor & Industries, and the Liquor Control Board are all available for assistance. A progress report released by the team offers details about what the team has accomplished. - 11/15/2010

"Audit questions pace of Hanford work"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
According to an audit by the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Inspector General, Hanford's Plutonium Finishing Plant may not be torn down by 2013. The Tri-Party Agreement provides a teardown deadline of 2016, but DOE and CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. have planned to have the work finished by Sept. 30, 2013. Safety concerns have slowed work on decontaminating 174 glove boxes and hoods, a project that was expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2011. Less than 12 months remain to decontaminate, remove, and ship 86 glove boxes from the plant, which saw more than half the nation’s supply of plutonium pass through it. The audit also raises concerns about the cost of work at the plant, which DOE expects to increase about 13 percent, due in part to increased labor rates and additional work that needed to be done. - 11/16/2010

"Comment sought on county plan"--The Olympian
The Thurston County Commission will take public comment at 3:00 p.m. today on its proposed six-year capital facilities plan. The 2011-2016 plan is part of the county’s annual amendment to the comprehensive plan and it provides a “forecast for what departments and the commission feel are necessary projects and also how much those projects could cost.” The county is forecasting to spend $180 million on roads, buildings and other infrastructure needed support growth, although just because a project is in the plan doesn’t mean it will happen. Often projects end up with no funding or they are not approved by the commission. The plan allows for prioritizing of projects so funding can be sought. - 11/16/2010

"Washington higher ed panel: Budget a ‘disaster’"--Vancouver Columbian
The proposed two-year, $3.34 billion budget plan adopted by the Higher Education Coordinating Board (HEC Board) on Tuesday asks that legislators keep total higher education funding at 10 percent of the state’s general fund, at a bare minimum. Since 1987, funding has averaged 12 percent, ranging from a high of 16 percent to a low of 10 percent in 2011. The HEC Board’s proposed 10 percent of the general fund asks for an additional $32.9 million to cover 4,400 of the estimated 18,000 students eligible for State Need Grants who are not receiving aid, hoping that the additional grants will help ease the blow of any tuition increases that may be instituted. Despite research indicating that our state is losing ground in the battle to raise a well-educated workforce and create jobs, board members realize that nothing in their budget request is going to reverse that trend. - 11/17/2010

"North Whatcom Fire and Rescue gets clean audit for 2009"--Bellingham Herald
According to audit reports released on Monday, state auditors found no problems with North Whatcom Fire and Rescue's finances and public accountability for 2009. The agency provides fire and EMS services for Blaine and areas surrounding Lynden. In addition, the audit found that North Whatcom Fire and Rescue has corrected a problem that was discovered during the previous year’s audit and they now have a policy in place to check a list to see if a prospective vendor has been barred from doing business with the federal government. - 11/16/2010

"Raising retirement age would hurt the poor, GAO says"--Seattle Times
According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), raising the age where workers qualify for full Social Security benefits would save money, but raising the age where workers can get early benefits would hurt the program’s finances because of an expected increase in disability claims as a result of the change. The GAO report also concludes that raising the retirement age would disproportionately hurt low-income workers and minorities. The report was done at the request of the Senate Special Committee on Aging and it comes a week after leaders of President Obama’s deficit commission proposed a gradual increase in the full retirement age to age 69 in about 2075 and an increase in the early-retirement age to 64 the same year. - 11/18/2010

"State revenue $1.2 billion worse"--The Olympian
State revenue forecaster Arun Raha has announced a $385 million drop in short-term revenues through June and an additional $809 million drop for the following two-year budget, prompting calls for a special legislative session next month. Governor Gregoire says she cannot make more across-the-board cuts to cover the short-term gap and she has asked legislative leaders to submit ideas on how to address the shortfall no later than November 29th. The budget situation will dominate the 105-day legislative session that begins January 10th, if not every legislative meeting before then. Raha says that a slower-than-expected recovery in the housing-related part of the economy is partly responsible for the forecasted drop in revenue, although the reduction also includes $281 million in revenue repealed by voters when they approved Initiative 1107 November 2nd. The new taxes repealed by Initiative 1107 will end effective December 2nd. - 11/19/2010

"Wheels turning on county bike plan"--Vancouver Columbian
Clark County’s proposed 20-year Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is the topic of a public hearing scheduled for tomorrow. The plan, which “outlines ways to improve biking and walking conditions, prioritizes routes, and suggests funding ideas,” was created by the 23 members of the Bicycling and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Ideas introduced in the plan include: integrating bike lanes and walking paths into new road construction; encouraging grocery stores and farmers markets to locate along existing bike and pedestrian corridors; developing an east county scenic tour; and providing trails that link downtown areas with schools and parks. The plan is the first the county has ever dedicated to safer pedestrian routes and it is the first plan since 1996 that addresses the need for safe bicycle routes. - 11/22/2010

"State backs findings MLK housing agency misspent public funds"--Tacoma News Tribune
A state audit report released on Monday supports the findings of an accountant who said, nearly a year ago, that the Martin Luther King Housing Development Association misspent nearly $1.8 million in public funds meant to help it build a Hilltop business center that was never constructed. The audit also, for the first time, attributed some blame to the state’s Commerce Department, the agency that administered the state and federal grants award to the housing nonprofit, for failing to adequately monitor the organization’s spending. The report recommends that Commerce officials meet with state lawyers to determine how to recover the $1.8 million and confer with federal grantors to figure out what action should be taken about $500,000 misspent from a federal loan. - 11/23/2010

"$12M federal grant to expand Farm Workers clinics"--Yakima Herald-Republic
The Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic was recently awarded a $12 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funding may help the clinic expand three of its facilities in the Yakima Valley this spring to serve an expected increase in caseloads. The projects include a $2.3 million addition to the Grandview Medical-Dental Clinic; $1.3 million for the Lincoln Avenue Medical Clinic; and $8.7 million to erect and purchase computer equipment for the new data center in Toppenish. Some of the money will be spent on purchasing medical equipment and the nonprofit clinic will pay a portion of the cost. - 11/22/2010

"States put end to smelt-dips"--Vancouver Columbian
On Tuesday, Washington and Oregon closed the final remnants of the commercial smelt season in the Columbia River. The move comes after the National Marine Fisheries Service listed smelt as endangered in May. According to the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, there are records dating back to 1888 that show a landing of 150,000 pounds of smelt and the industry once saw annual harvests in the millions of pounds. This year, commercial operators only landed 3,600 hundred pounds from the Columbia River. Sport smelt dipping is already closed under permanent rules in Washington and commercial dipping in the Washington tributaries is also closed permanently unless opened by the state. Historical records show tremendous swings in Columbia River smelt populations, but the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife says it is not clear how strongly smelt will have to return to be removed from the endangered species list. - 11/24/2010

"Pierce County schools bank federal money for painful times ahead"--Tacoma News Tribune
School districts in Pierce County are eligible for millions of dollars in federal money now, but many say they plan to use it to save jobs in the next school year, where they expect reductions in state funding and other losses. The federal funds comes from “edujobs” legislation that was passed this year with the goal of saving teacher jobs, but the money can also be spent on salaries and benefits for any positions that involve services to students, including librarians and bus drivers. According to the WA Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington schools districts will receive $208 million of the $10 billion that is available nationally. The money will be parceled out to local districts based on a formula that includes enrollment and staffing mixes in each district. Statewide, 216 of the 298 school districts have submitted their grant requests. - 11/24/2010

"Map of BPA's proposed transmission line available online"--Longview Daily News
The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) has created an online map of its proposed 70-mile-long high-voltage transmission line from Castle Rock to Troutdale, Oregon. The map shows locations of towers and proposed new rights-of-way for the transmission line. Print maps are available for those without Internet access and BPA plans to develop a final map in 2012. If the agency moves forward with the planned route, the new $340-$360 million line could go online in 2015. - 11/28/2010

"State won't agree to national immigration program"--Seattle Times
The Washington State Patrol, the state's clearinghouse for fingerprint data, has declined to sign an agreement that would make the state part of Secure Communities, a federal program that allows the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be checked against a national immigration database. The program is in 788 jurisdictions across 34 states and it has led to the expulsion of some 46,800 individuals from this country. The state has also not granted permission for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to work with local jurisdictions to activate the program on a local level, something other states who have not signed the agreement have done. Gov. Gregoire has not yet made a final determination on the matter, but officials from ICE say that by 2013 they will have the ability to activate the program everywhere, even in state that have no signed agreements. - 11/29/2010

"Wash state finds some inaccurate price scanners"--The Olympian - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
When the WA Dept. of Agriculture’s Weights & Measures inspectors checked 14,000 items at 148 stores across the state in October and November, they found that scanners were accurate more than 97 percent of the time. The survey ">found that consumers are overcharged about 1 percent of the time and undercharged 1.4 percent of the time. The average overcharge was $1.96 and the average undercharge was $3.11. - 11/30/2010

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