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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Region in brief: Community college waives tuition for veteran’s widow

The widow of an Army sergeant who was killed in Iraq has regained her tuition waiver at Spokane Community College after providing evidence that Washington was her husband’s legal residence while serving in the 4th Infantry Division.

“I am elated to be able to continue my education without any more stumbles,” said Natalie Craig, whose husband, James E. Craig, was killed by a roadside bomb in Mosul, Iraq, on Jan. 28, 2008, one day short of the couple’s six-month wedding anniversary.

Under a 2007 law, state colleges must waive tuition and fees for dependents of deceased or disabled military veterans who are “domiciliaries” of Washington. Natalie Craig, who hopes to attend nursing school, was obtaining her prerequisites at SCC when her husband’s legal residency at the time of his death was called into question.

On Monday, she was able to provide the college with his Washington birth certificate and their Spokane County marriage license, proving his ties to Washington.

Kevin Graman

Natural gas rates expected to drop in Idaho, Washington

Avista Utilities natural gas customers in Idaho and Washington can expect a double-digit price cuts when the Spokane utility submits new rate filings to regulators later this month, spokeswoman Debbie Simock said Monday.

Avista on Monday asked the Oregon Public Utility Commission to cut rates by 21 percent for its 95,000 customers in that state. Simock said the company is still calculating the reductions it will seek in Idaho and Washington to account for the plummeting cost of gas.

She noted rates were cut about 3 percent in January and 8 percent in June as slack demand and new supplies pushed gas prices downward.

As of Aug. 28, prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange had fallen by two-thirds compared with Aug. 1, 2008.

If approved by regulators, Oregon customers will save an average $16.22 per month on the gas portion of their utility bills, Simock said.

Bert Caldwell

Child immunization rates rise but still lag behind average

Childhood immunization rates in Washington rose last year in what state officials called important momentum to ward off disease.

The state, however, along with Idaho, continues to lag behind the national average when it comes to giving children a regimen of six vaccines that require multiple doses to guard against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, polio, chicken pox, meningitis and pneumonia.

A federal report showed 73.5 percent of Washington children between 19 and 35 months old received a complete vaccination series in 2008. That’s up from 69 percent in 2007.

In Idaho the immunization rates fell, from 65.6 percent in 2007 to 60.4 percent in 2008.

The national average is 76 percent.

John Stucke

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