We may be nearing our first shot at triple-digit temperatures of the year. Local weather coverage is online here.
Were you busy this week? Catch up on some big stories.
Hundreds of people waited in long lines Wednesday to witness the historic opening of Vancouver’s first legal marijuana shop.
The store, Main Street Marijuana, 2314 Main St., opened shortly after 11 a.m. following a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt.
“I believe it’s been a long time coming,” Leavitt said.
Justin Dufour of the marijuana services company Viridian Sciences, which has offices down the street, was the store’s first honorary customer.
But Mark Edwards of Salem, Ore., was the first customer in line to buy pot in Vancouver. Edwards, 42, and a friend drove to Vancouver at 3 a.m. to secure their places at the front of the line.
“I think 100 years from now, folks will see my name — I’ll be part of that history, part of that story,” Edwards said.
They were alone until about 6 a.m., when the crowd started to fill in. He said he was especially impressed by the hospitality of local uptown businesspeople who walked by giving out water, doughnuts, coffee, American flags and other items to those waiting.
“We’re just kicking back taking it all in,” he said. “The prices (for product) are higher than you can get it on the streets. But we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to be a part of this and support it.”
By 10:30 a.m., about 200 people were waiting for the store to open. When asked, 14 of them said they were from Oregon.
Main Street Marijuana manager Chris Stipe said he was happy to see our neighbors to the south coming up to partake of the festivities.
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The C-Tran Board of Directors on Tuesday authorized spending $6.7 million in local funds for a bus rapid transit system in Vancouver, clearing the way for the project to secure a crucial federal grant and begin construction as early as next year.
The commitment burns more than two-thirds of C-Tran’s uncommitted capital reserves, now estimated at slightly more than $9 million. But having local funds in place completes the finance plan for the $53 million BRT project.
The board approved the plan by a 6-3 vote, with Clark County commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke and Washougal City Councilor Connie Jo Freeman in the minority. The decision came after more than two hours of deliberation — following two hours of public comment.
All three Vancouver City Council members on the board voted with the majority in favor of the project. Councilor Jack Burkman said his city stands ready to make BRT a reality “as soon as possible.” The system could open in 2016.
The BRT system would deploy 60-foot articulated buses, raised boarding platforms and other features to move passengers more efficiently on C-Tran’s busiest corridor. The line would run between the Westfield Vancouver mall and downtown, replacing the existing No. 4 and No. 44 buses along that stretch.
C-Tran has said BRT would be less costly to operate each year than its existing service on the corridor, producing an annual savings of $878,000 that would be reinvested elsewhere in the system.
The project has continued to advance since 2011 despite less-than-unanimous support from the C-Tran board. More recently, downtown business and property owners have raised worries about BRT’s planned terminus station at Turtle Place plaza, part of the property that used to house the Seventh Street Transit Center and became a magnet for unsavory activity.
C-Tran has said the proposed station there would serve only BRT, and would be something entirely different from the old bus mall that closed in 2007. But many downtown voices echoed their earlier concerns Tuesday.
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People will get a first look at the much-discussed but still-undisclosed design for a proposed third toll-free crossing over the Columbia River later this month.
The Clark County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday scheduled a hearing to discuss placing a countywide advisory vote for the east county bridge proposal on the November general election ballot. Preliminary designs from Figg Engineering Group, a Florida-based firm that specializes in bridges, will be presented at the hearing, Commissioner David Madore said.
In November 2013, county voters gave a nod to pursuing an east county bridge, approving a non-binding advisory vote to do so with 58 percent of the vote.
But while Madore has touted the project for the past year as a viable alternative to relieving bistate traffic congestion, the two other commissioners at a Wednesday meeting voiced apprehension about what the hearing would accomplish.
Commissioner Tom Mielke said he wanted more specifics about the project and questioned how another advisory vote would be any different from last year’s, while Commissioner Ed Barnes said he opposed the idea altogether.
The commissioners eventually reached an agreement to hear the proposal, which may include talk of financing, at their July 29 meeting.
Madore has been working on the project behind the scenes for months. Details about the project have not emerged at county meetings.
In a Facebook comment posted in April, Madore said he originally paid for Peterson Engineering to provide professional services for the project. Figg Engineering, meanwhile, is not charging for its work, Madore wrote in his April comment.
He has also said county taxpayers will not be on the hook for any of the preliminary costs.
On Wednesday, Madore said that while Figg’s work would be used to highlight the project and show people what it could look like, the firm wouldn’t necessarily receive a contract. The county will accept unsolicited proposals from other bridge design firms, Madore said, if voters give the go-ahead to pursue the project.
Mielke said the idea that people would vote for a bridge concept and design, even though the county intended to accept other proposals later on, was confusing.
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Backers of a plan to transform Vancouver’s former industrial waterfront into a place to live, work and play said Thursday they’re making progress on multiple fronts, including negotiating the construction of restaurants, advancing key road improvements and planning a public park studded with attractions.
“I just can’t wait to get going,” Barry Cain, developer of the $1.3 billion, 32-acre project, said to more than 110 attendees of a morning panel discussion held by Vancouver’s Downtown Association at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.
Cain was joined on the panel by Teresa Brum, the city of Vancouver’s economic development division manager, Julie Hannon, the city’s parks and recreation director, and Jane Jacobsen, a consultant on the waterfront project.
When the panel took questions, one person asked about the potential impacts on waterfront plans of the proposal by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies to build an oil-by-rail transfer terminal at the Port of Vancouver. The oil terminal, capable of handling 380,000 barrels of crude per day, would be built less than 2 miles west of the waterfront development, which is next to port and BNSF Railway tracks.
Cain, who opposes the oil transfer operation and has said it imperils his waterfront effort, didn’t respond to the question. Hannon replied that backers are moving the waterfront venture forward. The Vancouver City Council, she said, has been “very clear” about its position — an apparent reference to the council’s resolution, approved last month on a 5-2 vote, opposing not only the Tesoro-Savage plan but any proposal that would result in an increase of North Dakota’s Bakken crude oil being hauled through Clark County.
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Missing Camas teen Angelic “Anji” Dean was found safe by police Wednesday afternoon at the Clackamas Town Center in Oregon. The 17-year-old had been missing since she left her home near Southeast 192nd Avenue on June 23.
Investigators said they received about 150 phone tips about the girl’s whereabouts, and numerous tips through social media. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office’s Major Crimes Unit was able to locate Dean at the mall in Clackamas County, interview her and reunite her with her family, according to a news release from the agency.
“This is an active investigation that includes the crime of human trafficking,” Sgt. Kevin Allais said in the new release.
Dean’s mother, Lynda Jorgensen, spoke with reporters Wednesday at the family’s home in Camas shortly after getting the call from Detective Scott Kirgiss that her daughter had been found.
“We’re very, very thankful that she’s OK,” Jorgensen said.
Michelle Bart, president of the National Women’s Coalition Against Violence & Exploitation, said that heavy media attention led to Dean being found. After the story was first reported in The Columbian and on KGW NewsChannel 8, the story received national media attention, and her case also was publicized by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“Today’s a good day. Today’s a great day,” Bart said as she put her arm around Jorgensen. “This doesn’t happen too often. (The coalition) has been to more funerals than happy times like today.”
Before Dean vanished, she wrote a chilling message in her journal: “If you’re reading this, I’m either missing or dead.” It was those words, Bart said, that drew the public’s attention to her case. As more people heard about Dean’s story, more and more tips came in to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
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Clark County residents will have one fewer swimming spot to enjoy as temperatures climb. Health officials closed Vancouver Lake to swimming and wading Thursday after detecting elevated levels of the E. coli bacteria.
Clark County Public Health announced the closure after learning three of the six water samples taken earlier in the week showed elevated levels of the bacteria, said Gary Bickett, a program manager at the health department.
Public health officials will test the lake daily and will reopen it to swimming and wading as soon as tests show E. coli levels do not exceed state and federal guidelines. The earliest the lake could reopen is Friday afternoon, Bickett said.
“There’s a good chance, with as big of a body of water, it could be flushed out by tomorrow,” he said Thursday afternoon.
Vancouver Lake Regional Park will remain open to the public, and visitors can continue to eat fish caught in the lake after thoroughly cleaning and cooking the fish.
Clark County health officials reopened Vancouver Lake to swimmers Friday afternoon, just one day after closing the lake due to elevated E. coli bacteria levels.
Clark County Public Health announced the closure Thursday after learning three of the six water samples taken earlier in the week showed elevated levels of the E. coli bacteria. But by Friday afternoon, bacteria levels had dropped within “acceptable limits,” according to health officials.
“We strongly urge parents not to take diapered children or those who haven’t been potty trained into the water,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer/administrator, said in a news release. “We also advise people who catch fish at Vancouver Lake to always cook the fish completely, whether or not a health advisory has been issued. Any body of water can become contaminated.”