What’s news in the Northwest today:
OLYMPIA – A South Sound mom says she’s furious that a Pleasant Glade Elementary School teacher taped her son to a chair in a classroom Tuesday. The 7-year-old boy told his mother about it when he got home from school. “He said, ‘My teacher taped me to my chair and called it a seat belt,’” said Jennifer Foux of Lacey. “He said, ’And kids laughed at me, and made fun of me and made me embarrassed.”’ Foux said her son admits to standing up during class when he should have been sitting down. But she doesn’t think the teacher’s actions were appropriate. Foux reported the incident to school officials, who investigated. “Most likely the teacher will be given a letter of direction,” said district spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve. “It’s a summary of what was found out and directing some actions for the future.” Foux said she doesn’t think the district is going to do enough to right the situation. “I felt that it was child endangerment. It’s imprisonment. It’s bullying. What if there was an earthquake, or a fire or an emergency? It’s a safety issue.”
Sonics fan files Sonics song initiative
OLYMPIA — A hardcore Super Sonics fan has filed an initiative with the Secretary of State that would change the state’s official song from “Washington my Home” to the former Seattle NBA franchise’s fight song. Kris Brannon says that he filed the initiative on Thursday to raise awareness about the Sonics departure. The initiative says that once a professional basketball franchise returns to Seattle, the song will revert to “Washington my Home.” In order for an initiative to get on the ballot, organizers need at least 240,000 signatures. Brannon says he’ll do his best to gather the signatures needed. The Super Sonics left Seattle amid bitter dispute in 2008. The team is now in Oklahoma City, where it has become a playoff contender.
North Idaho man jailed for firing shotgun over Census worker
COEUR d’ALENE — A North Idaho man has been found guilty of disturbing the peace for firing a shotgun over the car of a U.S. Census worker. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports 55-year-old Richard Powell of St. Maries was sentenced to five days in jail and ordered to pay $437 in fines and court costs. Benewah County prosecutors say Powell fired the shotgun as a way to chase Raymond Stanis from his property. Powell testified during his Feb. 23 trial that he was in a hurry to visit his sick mother and was frustrated that Stanis wouldn’t leave. Investigators say when Stanis told Powell he would leave the questionnaire outside, Powell went into his house, came out with a gun and fired it about 15 feet over the worker’s car. The jury deliberated 15 minutes.
Explosives to bring down Hanford towers
SEATTLE — A number of tall industrial structures at the former Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Eastern Washington will come down in a spectacular fashion Friday, courtesy of federal stimulus funding. U.S. Department of Energy contractor CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. will use explosives to demolish the 284 East Power House’s two 250-foot-tall exhaust chimneys, two 90-foot-tall air filter structures, a coal silo, and a 140-foot-tall water tower. On Feb. 18, similar structures at the 284 West Power House were demolished in the same manner. The low-rise power houses will be demolished using conventional means. The $1.6 million cost is being paid for with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money. The power houses were built in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, burning coal to provide steam for chemical processes that were part of Hanford’s plutonium-processing mission in support of national defense, as well as space heat for nearby offices and other facilities. The air filter structures, known as baghouses, were added in the early 1980s to reduce pollution from the stacks.
Caldwell man charged in student’s crosswalk death
MIDDLETON, Idaho — An 89-year-old Caldwell man has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the death of a 15-year-old Middleton High School student who was struck by a pickup while walking to school. KBOI-TV reports the Idaho State Police cited Harold Sharpe in mid-February. His trial is set for May 4. Police say Sharpe was eastbound on Highway 44 on Sept. 10 when his pickup struck Colton Mackey, who was in a crosswalk. Mackey died early the next day. At the time, police said the rising sun could have affected the driver’s vision.
Montana woman guilty in death of motorcyclist
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A 27-year-old Montana woman has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a Tennessee motorcyclist near Glacier National Park. The Great Galls Tribune reports Ronda Renee Bird of Browning pleaded guilty Wednesday in a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong in Great Falls. Federal prosecutors allege Bird had been drinking on July 24 and was traveling 46 mph around a sharp curve north of East Glacier when her pickup went over the center line and struck an oncoming motorcycle. The crash killed 58-year-old Fred Childress of Oak Ridge, Tenn. Court records say Bird’s blood-alcohol level was 0.06 four hours after the crash. A person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered legally drunk. Bird’s sentencing is set for June 13.
Officials warn of second local measles case
VANCOUVER, Wash. – Clark County Public Health issued a warning late Wednesday night that it is investigating a second case of measles in a school-aged child. “This child was exposed two weeks ago at the same medical facility that the first case visited following a trip to India. This second (child), unrelated to the first (child), was unvaccinated when exposed,” the department said in a press release. Health officials are urging persons who may have been exposed and who are unvaccinated and susceptible to measles to get vaccinated, but to avoid going out in public for 7-21 days following exposure. The child visited a 7-Eleven Grocery Store Feb. 27 while contagious.
Oregon SolarWorld plant wins $32 million contract
PORTLAND, Ore. — The SolarWorld plant in Oregon has won a $32 million contract for a system that could power more than 2,000 homes in Los Angeles. The Oregonian reports the German-based company is working with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to develop the 11.6-megawatt system. The utility will also help install the solar panels, which will be manufactured at the SolarWorld plant and U.S. headquarters in suburban Hillsboro. The solar array will be located at a high-desert switching station that serves as the southern end of a transmission system that links Southern California with wind farms and with coal-fired plants in Utah. The project is being financed with federal energy-conservation bonds through a stimulus program that subsidizes interest payments.
Oregon lawmaker says vacant jobs cost state money
SALEM, Ore. — A Republican state lawmaker says Oregon can save some money by eliminating jobs deliberately left vacant in state agencies. State Rep. Gene Whisnant of Sunriver has proposed a bill that would force state agencies to eliminate any position held open longer than six months. The Oregonian reports that as of Jan. 31, the number of vacant but budgeted positions in state government stood at nearly 4,500. That’s about 11 percent of the total workforce and does not include seasonal positions. George Naughton, the main budget analyst for Gov. John Kitzhaber, says the governor is studying the proposal but that some open slots are the result of retirements or specific requirements that make the job difficult to fill.
Olympia seniors growing moss for researcher
OLYMPIA — Some senior citizens in Olympia are helping grow moss for an ecology professor from The Evergreen State College. The Olympian reports that finding a way to grow moss in a controlled setting could lead to commercial production for the floral industry, taking the pressure off moss in Northwest forests. The volunteers at the downtown senior center are monitoring growth rates for two species of moss in 100 test pots filled with either potting soil or bark. The professor, Nalini Nadkarni, says he likes bringing science into society and making it real for people.
Oregon man challenges medical marijuana denial
MEDFORD, Ore. — An Oregon man convicted on marijuana charges claims that courts are practicing medicine without a license by denying him access to medical marijuana while he’s on probation. The Mail Tribune reports that 22-year-old Joshua Brewer of Medford has an Oregon medical marijuana card but was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years on probation for growing more marijuana than his card allowed. Brewer said he is appealing the conviction. But he said the Jackson County Community Justice Department does not recognize medical marijuana as a legal treatment, even though it was prescribed by doctors to treat chronic pain from an injury. Jackson County officials say marijuana is still listed as an illegal drug under federal law, and anyone on probation cannot violate any law.
Mountain Home airmen ready to deploy to Asia
BOISE — More than 400 airmen from the Mountain Home Air Force Base are getting ready to deploy to Southwest Asia. Air Force officials said Wednesday the airmen from the base’s 366th Fighter Wing will take part on combat operations as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Fighter Wing Commander Col. Ron Buckley says crews from the 389th Fighter Squadron “T-Bolts” will conduct F-15 support and combat missions, as well as a variety of non-aviation roles. Officials did not provide a specific date for the deployment.
Oregon bus driver suspended for Confederate flag
MEDFORD, Ore. — An Oregon school bus driver has been suspended for refusing to remove a Confederate flag from his personal vehicle. The Mail Tribune reports that 28-year-old Ken Webber of Medford said he’s worked four years for First Student School Bus Transportation Services, a contractor for the Phoenix-Talent School District in the Medford area. Webber said he began displaying the Confederate flag in the bed of his pickup truck a year and a half ago after his father gave it to him for a birthday gift. A spokeswoman for the school bus company said Webber was asked to remove the flag because it violates school district policy. Webber said his suspension violates his free speech rights and he plans to hire an attorney.