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Yakima County commissioners unhappy state agency OKs solar farms
Author: Phil Ferolito

Yakima County commissioners are unhappy with the Energy Facility Siting Evaluation Council's recent decision to expedite the approval process for two proposed solar farms east of Moxee.

The Chronicle - Centralia

In Loving Memory of Darlene Wisner: 1931-2022

Darlene Marie Wisner passed away on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, peacefully, at the age of 91, with her family by her side.  

Darlene is survived by her daughter Marisa Ham; daughter Kathy and Ralph Miller; and stepchildren Sam Wisner, Oscar Wisner, Barb Wisner and Gloria Wisner; as well as an abundance of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.  She is preceded by her husband Floyd Wisner, her daughters Joy Johnson and Sandra Cook, stepchildren Dwaine Wisner and Colleen Wisner, brothers Alan LaPlaunt and Donald LaPlaunt, and parents Margaret McCleod LaPlaunt and Auney LaPlaunt.  

Darlene was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on Sept. 6, 1931. She traveled with her family and finally settled in Washington in 1963. Darlene quickly went to college and became a nurse where she would spend the next 31 years working mostly in the baby ward. She was very active in the LDS church and loved to work on genealogy. Her and her husband would spend evenings out dancing, playing bingo, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. She spent the majority of her retired years reading, solving puzzles, traveling and working on genealogy in which she had composed a lengthy history of her family.  

The funeral service for Darlene will be held at 11 a.m. on Dec. 3, 2022, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2195 Jackson Highway, Chehalis, Washington There will be a luncheon for friends and family following the service at around noon.

Lewis County Budget in Final Review Phases; Sheriff's Office Doesn't Get Requested Boost; New Shelters Make Up Nearly 14% of Total Proposed Budget

Last Tuesday evening, at 5:30 p.m., Lewis County held a public informational meeting on its budget process with the hopes of allowing the working world a chance to come and ask questions on the expenditures and revenue of their government, according to Budget Administrator Becky Butler.

For the last few years, the budget process has been aided by a volunteer citizen commission along with county staff and the Board of County Commissioners. The process of projecting money in and out of the county every year and allocating the funds to departments and offices begins in May and the final pass on the budget heads to the board in December.

Butler took attendees through with a powerpoint on Tuesday, showing pie charts of the county’s revenue and expenses as she described work to increase transparency through an open-to-the-public page on the department’s website that breaks down the various pieces of the budget.

This year, the various department and office increase requests totaled over $2 million. Earlier this month, the board approved $913,645. Of note after frustration from Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza over budgeting last year, the sheriff’s office requested a budget increase of $496,921, whereas only $29,067 was approved.

As the county works to move its Community Development and Public Works offices closer to Chehalis and transform those buildings into a night-by-night homeless shelter and animal shelter, about 14% of the budget in 2023 is projected to go toward capital improvements. The current projection shows those improvements costing about $26 million next year. If all goes well with construction, the night-by-night shelter could open as early as April 2023, Butler said.

The largest chunks of the budget go toward salaries and wages for county employees and professional services, accounting for about 25% and 22% of the pie, respectively. Employee benefits account for another 10% on their own.

Repairs and maintenance, debt services, insurance, supplies, operating transfers, miscellaneous expenses and interfund services account for most of the rest of the budget.

Historically, Lewis County has budgeted for more than its spent, said Commissioner Lee Grose, adding “And that’s how it should be.”

He also praised the work of the citizen’s committee, who he felt accurately represented the feelings of county residents because when he looked at their budget proposal, he thought “That’s about how I would have done that.”

Read more about the breakdown of the 2023 budget at https://lewiscountywa.gov/departments/budget/lewis-county-budget/2023-budget/.

Loud, 'Magnificent' Trumpeter Swans Make Return to Lewis County

As Mary Oliver once wrote, the wild goose’s call is “harsh and exciting.”

The phrase also aptly described the fanfare of the trumpeter swan, which can be heard from miles away, as many Lewis County residents may have noticed over the weekend. Seeking dairy farm fields and wetlands, the swans, like clockwork, show up in late November and can be seen in the area through early March.

Over the weekend, swans appeared in droves on ponds along the Willapa Hills trail, off Pleasant Valley and Bunker Creek roads near Adna, along the fields beside Scheuber Road in Chehalis and could be seen soaring above Thanksgiving traffic on Interstate 5.

Margaret Smith, executive director of the Trumpeter Swan Society, headquartered in Minnesota, called them “magnificent birds.” Her Minnesota accent also fit perfectly with her description of how the society works with “swans all over the continent.” 

Trumpeter swans are the heaviest flying bird and the heaviest waterfowl native to North America. Watching the population in Western Washington over the years, they may seem like they’ve made a huge comeback. However, Smith said populations haven’t increased all that much. Instead, the birds are exploring new areas for the winter months.

“You can’t miss them because they’re huge and they’re white and they’re beautiful. They have a wingspan anywhere from 6 to 8 feet,” Smith said.

Most of the swans in Washington are migrants who breed and spend the summers in Alaska and British Columbia, Smith said. They fly south to escape extreme cold weather.

One threat to swan habitat in Washington has been the transformation of dairy, corn and potato farms into fruit and berry farms, Smith said. The society has worked with Jay Gordon, policy director for the Washington Dairy Federation, to increase awareness on the benefits of dairy land for the swans. Gordon farms along the Chehalis River near Elma.

A contract with the society requires him to graze, burn or mow 35 acres of land each winter for swan habitat. His efforts also recently gave way to a family of wintering sandhill cranes, thought to be the farthest-northern wintering flock of the bird anywhere in the world.

“I think trumpeter swans are really fun to watch. Their behavior is just really fun to watch, they get into little fights and displays,” Smith said. “The families travel together.”

According to the Audubon Society, nesting pairs of the swans typically mate for life. 

Juvenile swans, called signets, can be told apart from their nearly all-white parents by their gray feathers, Smith said. In a field or pond with dozens or hundreds of swans, groups of three or four swans usually signify families. After breeding and raising the young over the spring and summer, the parents will stay with the signets for the first winter of their lives. 

That they all stay together also makes it easier to identify sick or injured swans, Smith said. If a swan is isolated for a long period of time, she said it’s likely to be ill. 

In Whatcom County, efforts to care for sick or injured swans go a long way — literally. After the Whatcom Humane Society rehabilitates a swan, the bird is marked with a tag around its neck. Last year, Smith said bird watchers reported seeing one of the tagged birds in North Pole Alaska. 

“That’s really cool. That gives feedback to the Whatcom Humane Society that (after they spend) all this time and money, (the swan) is able to fly successfully,” Smith said.

Bird watchers are encouraged to report tagged swans on the Trumpeter Swan Society website at https://www.trumpeterswansociety.org/welcome.html. To report a sick or injured swan, call the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife at 360-902-2936.

Photo: Sunset Over the Willapa Hills From Chehalis

Lewis County Sees Slight Increase in Unemployment Rate in October

Lewis County’s unemployment rate rose in October, increasing 0.2% from September’s 4.7% to 4.9%, according to new data released by the Washington State Employment Security Department. 

The October unemployment rate is Lewis County’s third lowest of the year, behind September’s 4.7% and July’s 4.6%.

The rise in the rate was driven by an increase in the number of unemployed workers in Lewis County. While the number of employed individuals increased in the county in October, the number of unemployed people increased at a higher rate. 

The number of unemployed individuals increased by 105, from 1,630 in September to 1,735 in October, an increase of 6.44%. 

At the same time, the number of employed individuals increased by 569 people, from 33,007 to 33,576, an increase of 1.7%.

Overall, Lewis County’s workforce increased by 674 people in October, rising by 1.9%. 

Elsewhere, Grays Harbor and Pacific counties also saw their unemployment rates rise by 0.2% from September to October, rising from 5.8% to 6.0% and 6.7% to 6.9%, respectively. 

Thurston and Cowlitz counties both saw their unemployment rates rise by 0.1%, from 3.8% to 3.9% and 4.7% to 4.8%, respectively. In Wahkiakum County, the unemployment rate rose from 5.8% to 6.1%, an increase of 0.3%.

Statewide, the unemployment rate rose 0.1% from 3.6% to 3.7%.

Friends of Aron Christensen Protest in Chehalis, Ask for Justice, After Another Month Passes Without Charges Filed in the Case

Another month has passed since Aron Christensen and his dog, Buzzo, were found dead on a hiking trail near Walupt Lake in East Lewis County. 

With no clear answers yet on what happened to the two and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office’s investigation at an apparent standstill, Christensen’s friends and family joined Lewis County community members on the corner of West Main Street and Southwest Chehalis Avenue in Chehalis on Sunday to again publicly demand justice for Christensen and Buzzo. 

The family and friends of Christensen have told The Chronicle they are frustrated with a lack of information from authorities and the failure to arrest a suspect in the case following Christensen’s death.

A hiker found Christensen, 49, of Portland, dead next to his 4-month-old puppy on the 101 trail 3 to 4 miles away from Walupt Lake just after 3:55 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 20.

Two months later, on Oct. 26, the Lewis County Coroner’s Office ruled Christensen’s death a homicide, caused by a gunshot wound to the chest. The next day, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office referred first-degree manslaughter and animal cruelty charges against two suspects — Michael Asbach, 20, of Tenino, and a 17-year-old girl from Rochester. The prosecutor’s office referred the case back to the sheriff’s office on Nov. 2 for further investigation.

As of Monday morning, no charges have been filed and no arrests have been made.

“We are confused, disheartened and exasperated by the handling of this case and fully believe that by now, over 90 days after Aron was killed, arrests should be made,” wrote family and friends of Christensen in a GoFundMe.com post last updated on Nov. 15. 

The crowdfunding campaign, accessible at https://gofund.me/cdfb6252, is collecting funds to cover the family’s legal fees and “subsequent investigations” associated with the case. 

“We are grateful and appreciative of the continued overwhelming support and kindness our family has received from people across the country,” wrote family and friends in the GoFundMe post. “We know that an entire community hopes to help us press for the truth, gain closure, foster healing and find justice for Aron and Buzz.” 

The demonstrators told The Chronicle they received a positive response from the Lewis County community from their first protest in Chehalis on Nov. 5. 

Christensen’s family and friends are asking anyone with information pertaining to Christensen’s and Buzzo’s deaths to contact them via the GoFundMe page. 

Lewis County Sheriff’s Office asks anyone with information pertaining to the case to contact the office at 360-748-9286 or contact Lewis County Communications at 360-740-1105.

In Focus: March to Christmas Is Officially on Following Centralia Tree Lighting Celebration

Death Notices: Nov. 29, 2022

• BRENT THOMAS NEFF, 63, Centralia, died Nov. 23 at his residence. Arrangements are under the care of Funeral Alternatives of Washington. 

• ANTONE SYMANSKI, 90, Centralia, died Nov. 22 at his residence. Arrangements are under the care of Funeral Alternatives of Washington. 

• HAROLD EUGENE BROWN, 70, Morton, died Nov. 18 at his home. Arrangements are under the care of Brown Mortuary Service.

• LUIGI DOMINIC ROSAL, 77, Morton, died Nov. 12 at home. A service will be held at 1 p.m. Dec. 16 at Brown Mortuary in Morton. A graveside service will follow in the Morton City Cemetery. Arrangements are under the care of Brown Mortuary Service.

• JOYCE ALENE BOYCE, 72, Chehalis, died Nov. 11 at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia. Arrangements are under the care of Brown Mortuary Service.

NYT Politics

G.O.P.-Controlled County in Arizona Holds Up Election Results
Author: Charles Homans
Republican local officials are threatening to disrupt the final tally of midterm votes in one more sign of the politicization of elections.

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