Morning Press: Benton job and foe, CRC, fatal wreck, co-op

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

Environmental services director job description altered

photoClark County Commissioners Tom Mielke, from left, David Madore and Steve Stuart

The job description for Clark County environmental services director — the position state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, was hired to May 1 — was altered on Clark County’s website in September, and county officials are currently working to figure out why that occurred.

The changed job description came to the attention of Democratic Commissioner Steve Stuart last week when a county resident queried the county on why the changes had been made.

Stuart said he’s looked into the matter and said former County Administrator Bill Barron requested the changes be made in his final weeks before his Sept. 10 retirement.

Stuart said he asked Barron on Monday why he made the request for the changes, but that Barron told him he couldn’t recall the reason.

Stuart said he intends to take the current job description to the board to “be clear if the updated job description is what the board expects.”

Read the full story here.

Benton critic receives outpouring of support

photoEd Barnes, center, checks the time with Ron Goodman, right, before the start of a Tuesday night meeting of the Clark County commissioners. Barnes and a large group of supporters gathered in front of the county's Public Service Center before the meeting, many with signs decrying the Republican majority on the board of commissioners for their decision to hire state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. The bottom line of the Benton sign at left says "Crony?"

(/The Columbian)

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A crowd of more than 200 people, many emotional and clamoring, sat or stood at Tuesday night's meeting of Clark County commissioners. And most of them wore stickers, carried signs or joined in rounds of applause to indicate they were there in support of Ed Barnes.

Barnes, a retired leader of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48 and engaged community volunteer, received a letter earlier this month from an attorney for Clark County Environmental Services Director and state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver.

The letter states Benton is considering legal action against Barnes for continually speaking negatively to county commissioners about their hiring of Benton to his county role.

After about an hour of public comment on the matter, mostly from folks in support of Barnes and wearing name tags that stated "I am Ed Barnes," the real Ed Barnes stood up and took the microphone.

"This isn't about Ed Barnes," he told the commissioners. "This is about freedom of speech in this community."

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Oregon action on CRC unlikely this year

photoThe current Interstate 5 Bridge, seen here looking toward the Oregon shore from under the lift span, is actually two bridges. The upstream bridge is older.

(/The Columbian)

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It's been almost a month since Oregon leaders formed a special legislative committee on the Columbia River Crossing, at which time a top state official declared immediate action was necessary to keep the project on track.

Yet here's how state Sen. Chuck Thomsen, a member of that committee, responds when asked about the latest on the CRC.

"I haven't heard a word," said Thomsen, a Republican from Hood River. "I have people ask me this all the time."

The committee hasn't scheduled a single hearing. As lawmakers return to Salem for informal meetings today, legislative action on the revised Interstate 5 Bridge replacement appears increasingly unlikely this year. If it happens at all, many believe it will wait until the next regular legislative session in February.

The delay means the CRC's schedule may be out the window, again. An Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman acknowledged Tuesday that planners are now looking at a 2015 construction date, pushed back from 2014.

Read the full story here.

Spirited outcry over man's hoped-for hobby

photoBruce Barnes stands with other residents from the Daybreak Demesne neighborhood, who are concerned about a neighbor who is applying for a craft distillery license.

(/The Columbian)

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BATTLE GROUND — James Schefers wants to distill hard liquor made from grain and fruit at his rural home near the East Fork of the Lewis River.

In his quiet neighborhood of Daybreak Demesne, people's worries about the prospective distillery are working their way through the grapevine. Schefers' application to operate a craft distillery on his 33-acre parcel elicited a spirited response among longtime residents.

"We just don't want this to end up being a destination," said neighbor Bruce Barnes.

Daybreak Demesne is a neighborhood of more than 40 homes in a rural cluster development. Schefers' property is zoned agricultural, as is a 13-acre property across the street, while the rest of Daybreak Demesne is zoned rural, said county planner Terry Brooks.

Schefers points out that there are other permitted uses on his land that don't require licenses and can be disruptive; having cattle, for instance, requires trucking in feed.

Read the full story here.

'There's always lice' — and treatments

photoJanet Kennedy Unitan, director of the lice removal company Lice Knowing You, checks a boy's head for lice Tuesday in the company's Portland clinic. The company performs "wet checks," which is when the hair is dampened with conditioner, to check for head lice and nits.

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Here’s one itch that requires more than a scratch to relieve: head lice.

These tiny bugs — adult lice are no bigger than a sesame seed — can create a big headache for parents. The bugs infest the scalps of 6 million to 12 million U.S. children ages 3 to 11 every year, estimates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And while back-to-school time seems to yield more lice discoveries, the bugs can take up residence on human scalps any time of the year.

“There’s always lice,” said Nancy Gordon, owner of Lice Knowing You, a lice -removal company with six clinics in the Northwest, including one in Portland.

Head lice infestations may cause stress levels to rise, but treatment options — both professional and do-it-yourself — are available, Gordon said.

“Lice is not the worst thing in the world,” she said. “It’s no different than colds or the flu. It’s just a bug you can see versus one you cannot.”

Read the full story here.

Vancouver Food Co-op votes to continue operations

photoClaire Ghormley, new manager at the Vancouver Food Co-op store, adds grocery items to an end display featuring Thanksgiving favorites. The co-op has voted to remain open.

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The membership of the Vancouver Food Cooperative, invigorated by a flood of new volunteers and sales at the nonprofit downtown grocery store, has voted to keep at it.

At a housekeeping meeting on Tuesday night, 48 votes were cast against dissolution of the member-driven corporation. There were two abstentions and no votes in favor of dissolution, according to co-op board president Kirk Wright, who spoke to The Columbian on Wednesday. The meeting was held at the YWCA Clark County on Main Street.

“We’re on a good path,” Wright said. “I think everyone had a chance to be heard.” There were questions about financial details and plans, he said, but in the end the feeling was “really positive.”

The co-op’s store at 1002 Main St. has struggled this year to stay afloat in the face of insufficient sales and volunteerism, Wright has said. Earlier this year, a split board of directors endorsed a plan to dissolve the corporation and shut the store’s doors — but publicity about the crisis has resulted in a welcome flood of new energy and sales.

Read the full story here.