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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.

"Park-trespass ordinance may be used as tool to fight gangs"--Yakima Herald-Republic
During its meeting this afternoon, the Yakima City Council is slated to discuss a proposed ordinance that would ban suspected criminals from city parks. Under the ordinance, “police or park officials could issue a trespass warning to anyone suspected of having committed a crime in the park.” The person would be banned from specific parks for anywhere from 30 days to a year and a violation of the ban could result in a $250 fine and up to 90 days in jail. The police department’s Gang Enforcement Team requested the ordinance and the hope is that it will help combat gang activity. The council could vote on the ordinance later this month. - 08/01/2011

"Audit reveals 'very significant' accounting woes in Granger"--Yakima Herald-Republic
A state audit covering January 2008 to December 2009 found significant problems with the City of Granger’s accounting practices. According to the audit, the city did not report $500,000 in federal grants, failed to provide complete and accurate financial reports, lacks adequate policies to ensure financial information is accurate and properly reported, and has no way to ensure that the city prepares financial statements, notes and documents required by state and federal requirements. The audit also found that the City Council is not reviewing all city financial activity or verifying that the information is accurate. An audit for 2010 and 2011 will be conducted later this year and made public next year. At that time, auditors will determine if the problems noted in the 2008-09 audit have been fixed. If the problems are not fixed, the city may lose out on future federal grants. - 08/02/2011

"State sees surge in gay couples, especially outside Seattle"--Seattle Times
According to recently released data from the 2010 Census, the number of gay and lesbian couples living n the same household grew substantially in Washington over the last decade, while in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the acknowledged center of gay life in the region, numbers stayed about the same. West Seattle saw a 55% increase in same-sex couples, Vashon Island, which has a total population of 10,600 residents, has the highest concentration of same-sex couples in the state, and Yakima, Wenatchee, and domestic partnerships and the legalization of gay marriage in other states. The census first began widely reporting same-sex couple data in 2000 and last year, for the first time, data was collected on whether or not the couples were married. The marriage data will be released later this year. - 08/04/2011

"Funds awarded to help end vet homelessness on North Olympic Peninsula"--Port Angeles Peninsula Daily News
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has awarded a $648,000 Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant to the Northwest Washington Rural Project, which covers five counties in Washington and is led by the Opportunity Council of Whatcom County. Olympic Peninsula organizations that participate in the project include Serenity House of Clallam County, Olympic Community Action Programs, and Peninsula Housing Authority. The grant will help an estimated 275 extremely low-income veteran families who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing. The funding is expected to be available in September and help will be available to veterans through existing service locations. - 08/05/2011

"Turbine sound being tested on fish in Puget Sound"--Bellingham Herald
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s marine science lab in Sequim are conducting tests to determine how salmon and other marine life will respond to giant steel and fiberglass turbines that could be submerged in Puget Sound. The Snohomish County Public Utility District is set to formally apply to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission later this month for a license for a $25 million pilot project that would place the hydro turbines 200 feet down in Admiralty Inlet by late summer 2013. Washington voters approved an initiative in 2006 that requires large utility companies to increase the amount of electricity they generate from renewable energy sources to 15 percent of their supply and hydrokinetics, or the harnessing of energy from waves or tides, would add another renewable source to a list that already includes wind and solar energy. Snohomish County Public Utility District plans to spend $10-12 million on the project, with the rest coming from grant money from the U.S. Dept. of Energy. - 08/08/2011

"Audit slaps Eatonville for fire station project"--Tacoma News Tribune
When Eatonville leaders decided to use volunteer labor to construct an addition to their fire station two years ago, they violated state law and opened to the town to liability problems by circumventing the competitive bid process. Leaders claimed that using volunteers lowered the cost of the project enough so that following the process wasn’t necessary, but state auditors disagree. According to the recently released state audit, “The town put itself at risk ‘by providing labor on behalf of the town without securing a performance bond or evidence of insurance from the volunteer firefighters.’ ‘Further,’ it says, ‘the town did not give all interested parties a chance to bid and (was) not in compliance with prevailing wage requirements for public works projects.’ A new mayor and town administrator are now in place and neither is allowed to manage or provide labor for his own projects. - 08/09/2011

"Personal income rises in Whatcom County, but less than national average"--Bellingham Herald
Personal income in the Whatcom County area grew 2.3% last year, according to a report recently released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). 1.6% of the increase came in the form of transfer receipts, which includes government and insurance benefits,0 .4% came from net earnings from work, and 0.3% came from income received from dividends, rentals and interest. Nationally, of the 351 metro areas studied, private sector earnings grew in 301, declined in 46, and stayed the same in 4. - 08/09/2011

"C-Tran board approves CRC impact statement"--Vancouver Columbian
The CRC [Columbia River Crossing] Final Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the C-Tran Board of Directors last night and by the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council last week, but Oregon’s regional government for the Portland area, Metro, and transit agency TriMet have yet to consider it. The statement includes detailed plans and finances for the project to build a new Interstate 5 Bridge between Vancouver and Portland, rebuild the freeway on both sides of the river, and extend Portland’s light rail system into Vancouver. C-Tran’s board raised concerns about funding, particularly through tolling, but did not issues a formal statement or any changes with their approval. The approval is not a formal endorsement of the project, or any aspect of it, and the document must also go through the Washington and Oregon departments of transportation before it reaches federal authorities. - 08/10/2011

"UW coach No. 1 for pay; Gregoire at No. 956"--Olympia Olympian
The Office of Financial Management (OFM) has released the latest < a href="">state employee salary survey and University of Washington (UW) football coach Steve Sarkisian tops the list with earnings near the $2 million mark. UW and Washington State University athletic coaches fill five of the top seven spots and the UW had 35 of the top 40 salaries in state government. The OFM report points out that coaches are not paid by taxpayer dollars because the athletic departments are self-supporting. Also, many medical faculty and the UW and other institutions are paid by research grants, not taxpayer money. The first employee on the list that is not employed by one of the state’s research universities is the chief investment officer at the State Investment Board, who shows up at number 56 with gross pay totaling $303,581.79. - 08/10/2011

"More red ink for state?"--Tacoma News Tribune
According to the monthly revenue report released yesterday, tax collections in Washington were $9.4 million lower than was forecast in late June and Arun Raha, executive director of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, is pessimistic about the quarterly revenue forecast he will issue on September 15th. The national economy has weakened significantly since the last forecast, sovereign debt problems are spreading across Europe, the U.S.’s debt rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, and consumer confidence is low. In anticipation of a potentially grim quarterly revenue forecast, Gov. Gregoire has asked state agencies to start looking at ways to cut 5 or 10 percent of their budgets, should it become necessary. - 08/12/2011

"Liquor initiative to add revenue, analysis finds"--Seattle Times
A state budget analysis of Initiative 1183 by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) shows that the initiative, which would remove the state from the liquor business, could increase state liquor revenue by as much as $42 million per year and local liquor revenue by $38 million a year for the next six years. OFM cautions, though, that it is hard to estimate the impact of Initiative 1183 because retail prices would determine how much the state collects in fees and taxes. Two initiatives proposed last year could have cut revenue by $51 million to $146 million, but this year’s initiative establishes new fees that would act as replacements for the state’s current markup on liquor. - 08/10/2011

"New system speeds up emergency care"--Vancouver Columbian
New emergency medical response systems for stroke and cardiac patients are being implemented in counties across Washington. In the new systems, hospitals are categorized based on their stroke and cardiac care capabilities, with Level 1 centers able to provide highest level of care. According to the WA Dept. of Health, the cardiac center designation means the hospital has the ability to provide primary percutaneous coronary intervention around the clock and the stroke center designation means the hospital can diagnose and treat stroke patients who require intensive medical and surgical care, specialized tests, or intervention therapies. PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center is currently the only Level 1 stroke and cardiac center in Southwest Washington. - 08/14/2011

"Camping, hunting changes being mulled for Columbia National Wildlife Refuge"--Pasco/Kennewick/Richland Tri-City Herald
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft of a 15-year management plan for the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge. The draft plan outlines three alternatives for managing the refuge and it is expected that the final plan will be a combination of alternatives two and three. Alternative one keeps management the same, although it does end overnight camping at the refuge. Alternative two focuses more of the budget on research to promote wildlife and on replacement of invasive plants, while alternative three focuses on benefits for those who want to enjoy the outdoors, such as expanded hunting. Alternatives two and three also end overnight camping, which has been deemed unnecessary for the refuge to meet its six focuses for use – hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, environmental education, and environmental interpretation. Comments are due by August 28th and a final draft of the plan is expected to be released in the winter. - 08/16/2011

"Clark County has highest property tax levy rate in state"--Vancouver Columbian
A combination of a significant drop in property values and an increase in voter-approved levies has resulted in Clark County having the highest average property tax levy rate in the state. Data released by the WA Dept. of Revenue shows that the county’s average levy rate increased from $11.60 to $13.17 per $1,000 of assessed value between 2010 and 2011. Last year, the county’s levy rate ranked 10th statewide. The average single-family residential property tax bill in Clark County increased by $134 from 2010 to 2011, and the average tax bill of $2707 is on par with the state average of $2,718. The county’s levy rate is higher than the state average of $11.14 per $1,00 of assessed value, though. Property tax revenues go to the county, cities, junior taxing districts, and K-12 schools. - 08/18/2011

"State phasing out vehicle-emission testing"--Seattle Times
Beginning in July 2012, vehicles with a model year of 2009 or newer will not have to undergo emissions tests. The new rules, which were adopted by the WA Dept. of Ecology this week, also eliminate some tests made unnecessary by increased fuel-efficiency and they allow for private testing stations that would be allowed to set their own fees. The state does not expect to see a drop in the number of vehicles tested until 2014 because current rules already exempt vehicles five years old or newer, but in that year they expect to test just 88% of the state’s vehicles. The testing program is scheduled to end in 2019 because it is believed that by then cars should be clean enough that air quality will no longer be a problem. - 08/18/2011

"So much WA schools information, so little clarity" - Please Ask a Librarian for a copy of this article.
The Washington Achievement Data Explorer (WADE), a new education data portal released by the University of Washington’s (UW) Center for Education Data and Research last week, offers parents a third way to get information about schools or school districts they are considering. Once it is fully functional in a few weeks, WADE will look across time at “whether school districts are improving math and reading scores, if they are closing the achievement gap between students of different ethnic groups, and how their progress compares to other districts across the state.” The UW’s goal is for its system presents data in a way that is easier for parents, and other not well versed in the language of education statistics, to understand. Other sources for education data are the Washington State Report Card from the WA Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which provides year-by-year data on student achievement at every school, and the Achievement Index from the State Board of Education, which may provide the most detailed and useful achievement-related information for parents. - 08/20/2011

"Wash. rule requires chemical-reporting for toys"--Seattle Times
A new law went into effect this week that will require manufacturers of toys, cosmetics, jewelry and baby products to report to the state when their products contain one or more of 66 harmful chemicals. Large manufacturers will begin reporting in August 2012, while the law will be phased in more slowly for smaller manufacturers. The new law applies to manufacturers of products intended for sale in Washington. Retailers who sell, but don't make or import, children's products will not have to report. - 08/22/2011

"Website shows DUI patrols in King, Snohomish, Pierce counties"--Seattle Times
Drivers in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties can find out where law enforcement officers will be conducting DUI patrols in their area by checking a new website from the WA Traffic Safety Commission. The goal of the website is to help reduce DUI deaths by making people stop and think about drinking and driving when they know patrols are in their neighborhood. While only three counties are part of the special two-year project so far, the state hopes that eventually information about patrols in all counties in the state will be posted to the website. - 08/23/2011

"Farmers sought for biofuel crop"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., was in Spokane Valley on Tuesday to promote a new U.S. Agriculture Department program called BCAP (Biomass Crop Assistance Program). The program is the “first commercial-scale farm initiative to jump-start the creation of a camelina-to-fuel industry” and Cantwell was encouraging Eastern Washington farmers to sign up before the September 16th deadline. Camelina is a seed-crop that can be turned into biodiesel and “green” aviation fuel. A selling point used by Cantwell and others is that its ability to grow easily in dry land and its resistance to disease make it a potentially perfect rotation crop. Farmers in Eastern Washington could be paid up to $4.5 million in crop support over five years to grow camelina on their land, although some are worried that the program is not a straight-support system and there are too many strings involved. - 08/24/2011

"The catch really is the deadliest job"--Spokane Spokesman-Review
According to preliminary Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of fatal work injuries in 2010, 4,547, is about the same as the total of 4,551 during the previous year. The rate of fatal work injuries, 3.5 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, was the same for both years. Mining fatalities were up 74% in 2010, fatalities in farming, fishing, and forestry were up 9%, and fatalities among fishers and related fishing workers declined.. Washington saw 104 workplace fatalities last year, up from 76 in 2009. - 08/25/2011

"State ferry system increases fares 2.5 percent Oct. 1, another 3 percent May 1"--Everett Herald
The approved a 2.5 percent increase in ferry fares on Wednesday that will take effect Oct. 1. Another 3 percent will be added May 1. The increase is needed to help the ferry system raise the money it needs to operate through June 2013 and the plan phases in a new fare category for smaller cars. The current standard vehicle size of 20 feet or less will be redefined as 14 to 22 feet, and drivers of smaller cars will start paying 90 percent of a standard-size car fare on Oct. 1, then 80 percent next May 1, and 70 percent in 2013. A capital surcharge of 25 cents will be added to fares to help pay for replacing the ferry fleet and a fuel surcharge may be added if fuel prices spike. - 08/25/2011

"Elwha River hatchery to hurt recovery, critics say"--Seattle Times
Many scientists and wild-fish advocates are raising concerns about specific pieces of the fish-restoration plan for the Elwha River. Once the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams are removed, the fish in the river are not going to be left alone to recover on their own. Instead, hatchery fish will be planted in the middle and upper river and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has announced plans to plant a nonnative run of steelhead, with the goal of shortening the wait for fishable runs. Concerns about the plan to stock the river with hatchery fish have been voiced from many sectors and disagreement with the tribe’s plan to stock nonnative fish has been unanimous. The tribe requested comments from the National Park Service, the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, and all of them advised against proceeding with the plan. Scientists will be monitoring the recovery closely and there are provisions in the plan for discontinuing or lowering the number of stocked fish as the number of native fish increases. - 08/25/2011

"State promises toll system by year's end"--Tacoma News Tribune
Glitches in the state’s tolling system have been fixed and drivers who crossed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge since July 7th without paying the toll should expect a ticket in the mail after Labor Day. Electronic Transaction Consultants Corp. (ETCC), the contractor in charge of the tolling system, has resumed issuing $52 tickets to non-toll paying drivers, although starting in December drivers will be mailed bills for $5.50 tolls instead. December is also the new deadline for tolling to begin on the State Route 520 floating bridge. Leading up to the deadline, the statewide tolling system will go through a month long dress rehearsal, ending with the start of the pay-by-mail system on the Narrows Bridge and then, up to two weeks later, tolling on the 520 bridge. The dress rehearsal was suggested in a review of the tolling system that was recently released by a panel of experts. - 08/26/2011

"State health department pushes effort to clean up Samish Bay"--Bellingham Herald
Earlier this year, in response to the Dept. of Health downgrading the health status of 4,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds in Samish Bay due to high fecal bacteria levels, Gov. Gregoire declared a September 2012 deadline for efforts to cleanup the bay. In response, more than 20 organizations have banded together in an attempt to meet the deadline. The Puget Sound Partnership, a state agency created in 2007 to spearhead the cleanup efforts, released a 10-point-plan for Samish Bay in May that calls for, among other things, “stepped-up inspections, portable restrooms for recreationists, more fencing and more education of dairy farmers and other landowners.” It is believed that the work in Samish Bay will help predict the success of efforts to cleanup the rest of Puget Sound. - 08/29/2011

"Many area schools fail to meet federal benchmark on standardized tests"--Longview Daily News
State standardized test scores released this week show that more students in the Longview/Kelso area are passing the tests, with many grade levels showing double-digit percentage gains in reading, writing, math, and science, but 19 schools still failed to meet federal adequate yearly progress (AYP) standards for 2011. The pattern is mirrored across the state, with a mix of increased scores and more schools that don’t meet AYP standards. To reach the standards, a certain percentage of students at each school must pass reading and writing tests and ethnic and socio-economic subgroups must also meet standards. The standards rise each year, with the goal of all students in all schools passing the tests by 2014. While applauding the progress Washington students have made, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn also criticizes what he calls unrealistic federal goals. - 08/30/2011

"$1.3M federal grant for Port Townsend-Seattle ferry"--Seattle Times
Thanks to a $1.3 million federal grant, tourists will have the option of taking a 49-passenger ferry between Port Townsend and Seattle, hopefully as soon as 2013. The Port of Port Townsend will use the grant to pay for the ferry boat itself, but the money will not cover operating costs. The ferry will be privately operated and fares will be set by the operator, probably in the $20-25 range each way. The trip will take 75 minutes, compared to the 2 ½ hours it takes to drive from one city to the other. Unlike other ferries that focus on commuters, the Seattle-Port Townsend run will cater to tourists and hopefully boost the $50 million-a-year tourism industry in Port Townsend. - 08/31/2011

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