Morning Press: Homicide at fire, Ilani resort, sidewalks, mechatronics, political divide

By Susan Abe, Columbian staff writer



What’s on tap for this week’s weather? Check our local weather coverage.

In case you missed them, here are some of the top stories of the week:

Homicide victim found dead in house fire is identified

The man found dead inside a burning Woodland home Tuesday morning has been identified by a coroner.

Donald William Howard, 62, was a residence of the home where his body was found, according to a press release from the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office. Howard died of blunt-force trauma, and his death was a homicide, according to the Cowlitz County Office of the Coroner.


Ilani resort, still under construction, opened for a preview

COWLITZ INDIAN RESERVATION — After nearly a year of construction and even longer in planning and legal proceedings, the Ilani Casino Resort is taking shape.

The $510 million, 368,000-square-foot casino sits west of Exit 16 on Interstate 5, with three Cascade peaks in the distance. A newly dubbed road, Cowlitz Way, cuts in front. But the imposing center remains surrounded by gravel and construction crews.

“We are close to 75 percent completed,” Ilani president and general manager Kara Fox-LaRose said.

The project, jointly developed by the Cowlitz Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe of Indians in Connecticut, broke ground in January. Tribal representatives now say the project, plus a $32 million upgrade to the nearby freeway interchange, is on pace for a scheduled April opening.


Rough sidewalk a problem without a home

When Cara Cottingham walks down one particular stretch of Fairmount Avenue, she regularly sees things that alarm her.

On Fairmount, between East Fourth Plain Boulevard and East 20th Street, which runs adjacent to a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, a line of tree plantings have partially sunken the pavers. The planters are in the middle of the sidewalk, and on the side with the sinking bricks — the side farther from the street — there’s not a lot of room for pedestrians to safely walk.

Cottingham has seen people nearly roll ankles navigating that stretch of sidewalk. She’s seen people with wheelchairs who don’t fit on the sidewalk and have to go in the street to get down Fairmount. If there’s a car parked on that part of the street, it sends people in the middle of the road.

“The curbs are set up to let wheelchairs on there,” she said. “Once you go up just that strip, it’s really bad, and it’s kind of out of sight. For the people who live in the neighborhood, it’s a risk. You can’t even take a grocery cart through there.”


Clark College plans courses with eye on employers

At 22, Jordan Mazi is still studying for his mechatronics degree at Clark College. But he’s already got a job.

Mazi, who was drawn to the “hands-on work” the program offers, is doing maintenance and repair work on wafer manufacturing machines for Linear Technology in Camas. It’s the kind of success story that highlights the growing demand for skilled workers in 21st century manufacturing sectors.

Clark College has singled out these types of programs in its Academic Plan, a five-year look at how the campus plans to grow programs and improve its curriculum. The Academic Plan, which was adopted in April, points to six goals for the college through 2020.


America’s divide is reflected in the county

AMBOY — Thom Rogers can tell you exactly how many homeless veterans live in the Amboy area.

“Twenty-nine,” he said.

Rogers is a cook at the Countree Kitchen & Timbers Saloon in rural Amboy. He’s also a veteran. He paused from grilling chicken sandwiches and Tater Tots recently to explain why he voted for Donald Trump for president.

“What are we doing to help the veterans? Nothing. Except what the community steps up to do,” he said.

He believes Trump will focus more on helping the people who live within the nation’s borders.

In the week since the election, it’s become even more evident the country is divided. In Clark County, like much of the nation, the split falls along a stark urban-rural divide. If you look at a map of the region’s voter precincts, along the waterfront and downtown Vancouver is solid blue. It’s covered by a large halo of red that reaches into the outer edges of the county.