Morning Press: Frontier student, streets, stormwater, Doernbecher boy, abuse suit, Grayson



This week's top stories and news you may have missed:

Boy in Frontier gun case can stand trial

photo11-year-old Quincy Tuttle makes his first appearance in Clark County juvenile court on Thursday October 24, 2013, on charges that stem from allegedly bringing a firearm, ammunition and knives to Frontier Middle School on Wednesday.

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A Clark County judge Wednesday found a 12-year-old boy competent to stand trial for attempted murder. Quincy J. Tuttle is accused of bringing 400 rounds of ammunition and a pistol to Vancouver’s Frontier Middle School to kill a peer who may have bullied his friend.

Superior Court Judge Scott Collier rejected an argument by Tuttle’s attorney, John Lutgens, that under law, the 12-year-old’s age makes him incompetent to assist in his defense and stand trial.

Tuttle, a Frontier sixth-grader, was 11 when he allegedly brought the gun to the school on Oct. 23.

“It (his competency) may not be perfect, but you are never going to have it perfect for a 12-year-old child,” Collier said.

Lutgens said because of his age, forcing Tuttle to go trial at his age would violate his rights.

An evaluation by defense expert Christopher Johnson, a psychologist from Vancouver Guidance Clinic, found that Tuttle understands most legal proceedings. However, Johnson reported that Tuttle showed some shortcomings: He didn’t know what a plea bargain meant and had some confusion about whether the judge was unbiased or on the side of the prosecution.

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Vancouver picking the road ahead, how to pay for it

photoThe Vancouver City Council learned Monday that to keep streets from deteriorating further, it needs to find a way to come up with an extra $6.75 million a year to spend on maintaining and reconstructing pavement.

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In how good of a condition should Vancouver keep its streets?

The city councilors did not make any decisions Monday. They were told that if they want to keep streets from getting worse, they'll need to find at least $6.75 million a year.

The council knows the city has a total of $520 million in street needs, the bulk of which involve bringing old county roads up to urban standards. Monday's workshop, however, focused on money needed to maintain and reconstruct streets during a six-year period, 2015 through 2020.

Next year, the council will begin discussing a new possible revenue source, such as a sales tax increase, a license tab fee or a special levy. If Monday's meeting was any indication of how those discussions will go, city staff members will tell councilors they need to have money to fix streets before they fail and have to be completely rebuilt at a greater expense. Councilors, meanwhile, will squirm at the idea of asking residents to support any type of fee or tax increase.

Councilor Jack Burkman said there's a tendency in government to have things fail before they are fixed, while Mayor Tim Leavitt said talking about fixing roads "is not as sexy as talking about parks and trails and fire stations or K-9 units."

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Clark County to pay $3.6 million for violating Clean Water Act

photoClark County Environmental Services Director Don Benton announces terms of settlement over federal litigation related to violations of the Clean Water Act on Wednesday at the Clark County Public Service Center. At right is Clark County Commissioner David Madore.

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Clark County will pay $3 million over six years for violating the Clean Water Act, according to terms of a settlement announced Wednesday that ends years of litigation.

The county will also pay $600,000 to the plaintiffs to cover attorney fees, said county Administrator Mark McCauley.

The $3 million will be paid to an independent third party, the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board, which will “oversee projects to protect and restore Clark County rivers and streams harmed by stormwater pollution,” said Lauren Goldberg, staff attorney for Columbia Riverkeeper, one of three plaintiffs.

Under the Clean Water Act, offenders can face financial penalties based on the number of violations per day, but offenders can also be asked to fix damage caused by projects that were permitted in the time it was in violation.

The annual $500,000 payments will begin in June 2015.

The county will be eligible to apply to the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board to do restoration work, if it wishes to compete against local conservation groups.

McCauley said it hasn’t yet been determined which fund the money for the settlement will come from, but under the terms of the settlement, it has to be “new money.” In other words, it cannot come out of the county’s existing budget for clean water projects.

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6-year-old raises money for other Doernbecher kids

photo Six-year-old Cole Merle shows off his stuffed cat named Scratchy that he received when checking into Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland for chemotherapy treatment. Cole — with the help of his dad, Tim Merle, sister, Magaidh Merle, and mom, Ann Hackman — is raising money to purchase stuffed animals and other toys for kids receiving treatment at Doernbecher.

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Cole Merle has always had a heart for service. But the kids the 6-year-old is choosing to help with his latest effort are a little closer to his heart.

Cole's Christmas Furry Friends Fund is raising money to purchase stuffed animals for "sick kids" at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland. Specifically, the children in Doernbecher's 10 South, the inpatient oncology wing.

Just last month, Cole was one of those sick kids on the 10th floor.

During his frequent stays there, Cole found comfort in the furry friends given to every child who enters the hospital. Stinky the skunk and Scratchy the cat still sleep with Cole every night.

"They're some of his most cherished stuffed animals now," said Cole's mother, Ann Hackman.

So now that he's home, Cole wants to make sure kids at the hospital have plenty of cuddle buddies.

"When you get toys you feel better," Cole said. "Sometimes maybe they'll feel like they're at home for a little while."

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Abused children file $54 million claim against DSHS

photoSandra and Jeffrey Weller enter Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson's courtroom March 20 to be sentenced for starving and beating their adopted twins. Sandra received a sentence of 20 years; Jeffrey received 21 years. The couple's five children have filed a claim against the state.

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Five children who were abused by their parents in Vancouver have filed a $54 million claim against the state that alleges a failure to adequately respond to at least 26 separate complaints about their welfare over an eight-year period.

Sandra and Jeffrey Weller of Vancouver each were sentenced March 20 by Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson to two decades in prison for imprisoning, starving and beating their adopted twins. A Clark County jury found Sandra Weller guilty of nine separate counts related to the twins' abuse; Jeffrey Weller was found guilty of 13, related to both the twins' abuse and assaults against his biological children.

"DSHS (the Department of Social and Health Services) received multiple warnings from a variety of sources that these kids were being victimized in the home," said David Moody, the children's Seattle attorney. He added, "the warnings were clear and unrelenting for years and years. DSHS completely botched its job."

Chris Case, a DSHS spokeswoman, said she was not authorized to comment on the children's claim. The agency has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation, she said.

DSHS removed the children from the Weller home Oct. 7, 2011, after one of the twins left a note about their abuse at her therapist's office.

The claim reads "by all appearances, it seemed to be a typical suburban home. … However, the facade crumbled as soon as the social workers ventured beyond the front rooms and discovered the horrors within."

The claim requests no less than $15 million for each twin and $8 million for each of the three biological children.

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Heritage grad Grayson is Colorado State's 'gunslinger'

photoColorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson said he came around when the Rams played Cal Poly. Center Weston Richburg provided some inspirational words and Grayson completed 21 of 30 passes for 297 yards in an easy win.


Colorado State's players erupted in cheers upon hearing they would play in the school's first bowl game since 2008.

Garrett Grayson's adrenaline really started pumping when he heard they'd play Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl.

"It's personal," the junior quarterback said. "I definitely want to win this game."

Pullman was among the campuses Grayson visited after a stellar career at Heritage High School.

Grayson was the 4A Greater St. Helens League offensive player of the year in 2008 and '09, surpassing 10,000 career passing yards. But on his visit, he learned WSU coaches wanted him to play defensive back.

"I said 'With all due respect, I'm going somewhere else,' " Grayson said in a phone interview last week. "I know I can play quarterback at the next level."

His belief in himself is now supported by proof. Grayson set a Colorado State record for single-season passing yards with 3,327, breaking a mark that stood since 1983.

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