Local news

In brief: Woman identified after fatal Priest Lake house fire

Bonner County officials have identified a woman who died last week in a house fire near Priest Lake.

Shirley McDonald, 73, perished in the Dec. 30 fire, which destroyed the home she shared with her husband, Ron. They operated the McDonald Logging Co., which had a business office attached to the home along state Highway 57.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, the Bonner County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday. Neither foul play nor arson is suspected at this time, Detective Sgt. Gary Johnston said.

Charities rally to save Camp Goodtimes

Camp Goodtimes, the weeklong camp for children affected by cancer, will return to YMCA Camp Reed this summer.

Funding for the camp and others like it nationwide was discontinued by the American Cancer Society in March. The nonprofit decided to redirect those funds to its main mission of research.

Nonprofits in the region took up the challenge of keeping the camp open, with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Spokane, Coaches vs. Cancer, Cancer Care Northwest and others providing support.

Camp Goodtimes will be held at Camp Reed, 30 miles north of Spokane, from Aug. 3 through 9. The camp is free of charge to children living with cancer and their siblings, according to the YMCA of the Inland NW.

Council approves Kegley to run water department

Spokane once again has a permanent leader for its water department.

The Spokane City Council approved Mayor David Condon’s appointment of Dan Kegley as the water director.

Utilities Director Rick Romero said he waited to fill the job because he considered merging the position with the wastewater director. But after leading the department himself, Romero said, he determined the water department needed its own leader.

Kegley, 54, has worked for the water department for nearly 23 years. He will earn about $110,000 a year. The city’s water department has about 170 employees. It operates the Upriver Dam, which powers the city’s water system.

Eyman presents plan to slash state budget

OLYMPIA – Initiative promoter Tim Eyman is pushing a new measure that would cut billions of dollars from the state budget unless the Legislature moves forward with a constitutional amendment that would make it harder for lawmakers to raise taxes.

Eyman proposed the new initiative Monday. The Seattle Times reported that the proposal would reduce the state sales tax by a penny, cutting the state sales tax from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, about $1 billion a year in lost revenue. Under the measure, the tax cut could be avoided if the Legislature advances a constitutional amendment to the ballot requiring a two-thirds vote to approve new taxes.

The measure is in response to a state Supreme Court ruling last year that found requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes is unconstitutional. The court said a constitutional amendment would be needed to put in place such a restriction.

Gay educator says he was fired, didn’t resign

SEATTLE – A former vice principal at a Catholic school said he was fired for marrying his male partner and that the school’s leader suggested he could get a divorce to keep the job.

Mark Zmuda said in a YouTube video posted Saturday that he did not resign his position, as officials at Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish have reported.

He said he was terminated and the head of the school, Sister Mary Tracy, even suggested that he could get a divorce and keep his job.

“It was a piece of paper, they said, that was the reason that I was being let go,” Zmuda said in the video, an interview conducted by one of his former students. He said he was shocked that divorce was an option on the table and rejected the idea.

Tracy didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

School attorney Mike Patterson recalled having two conversations with Zmuda in December, one in a meeting and one by phone. He said Zmuda confirmed in both conversations that he was resigning from the job, not being fired.

Patterson said the divorce suggestion from Tracy was a hypothetical that was never seriously explored.

“I think it was asked in a hypothetical fashion out of frustration more than anything else,” Patterson said.

Bus hits building, dangles over garage

BOISE – A public transit bus crashed into a downtown Boise office building on Monday, leaving the front of the vehicle dangling over an underground parking garage.

About 12 people were on the ValleyRide bus, and police said most were uninjured. ValleyRide spokesman Mark Carnopis said the crash was under investigation after the driver reported the brakes weren’t working when he approached an intersection near the nine-story Idaho Power building.

Initial estimates suggest the bus was traveling about 20 mph, Carnopis said.

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