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In brief: Early office closures for Social Security

Beginning Aug. 15, Social Security offices nationwide, including those in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, will close 30 minutes earlier as a result of budget cuts approved by Congress.

For the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene offices, the change means the agency will be open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays.

Employees will continue to work their regular shifts, a news release from the Social Security Administration said. But the shorter window for dealing with the public will allow them to complete customer service work without the need for overtime.

Congress set the Social Security budget for this year at nearly $1 billion less than requested by the president, increasing the need to reduce overtime, the release said.

Most Social Security services do not require an office visit, the news release said. Those wishing to apply for benefits, set up direct deposit, replace a Medicare card, or change address or phone number may do so at or by calling (800) 772-1213/ (800) 325-0778 TYY.

Staff reports

Missing woman’s body identified

LEWISTON – Idaho State Police say DNA tests have determined that a body found May 1 on the edge of the Snake River is that of a missing grandmother from North Idaho.

The Idaho State Police laboratory confirmed Friday that the body is that of 72-year-old Lavina Hietala.

The Kamiah, Idaho, woman went missing April 1.

Police say they are waiting for the medical examiner’s report on the cause of death.

Associated Press

Park Service to allow private cabin permits

Special use permits will continue to be issued for private vacation cabins in the Sherman Creek and Rickey Point areas of Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, National Park Service officials say. 

This decision was announced Friday by officials in Grand Coulee after months of deliberation.

An environmental assessment suggested the cabins – some upgraded to large homes – did not significantly impact the shoreline.

However, the permit plan contains new criteria for upgrading septic systems and protecting the shoreline environment. The permits include criteria to minimize the appearance that the public beaches by the cabins might be private.

Rich Landers

Rules to stop weeds take effect Aug. 20

BOISE – Federal land managers say new rules in Idaho to battle invasive plants blamed for choking out native species will take effect next month.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials proposed the new rules last year, saying the spread of invasive weeds reaches more than 2,300 acres of federal lands each day.

Animal feed and straw used in restoration efforts on public lands in Idaho will have to be certified as weed-free, under rules that take effect Aug. 20.

Associated Press