Archive | September, 2010

The really small chips at the bottom of the bag …

22 Sep

Sept. 20, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde through its Spirit Mountain Community Fund awards $32,000 to the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, among other Oregon tribes. Political foes over the issue of a Cascade Locks casino, they’re all family in other ways. Nice. …

Wine Country Weekends, a feature of Portland Monthly magazine, highlights the high life of the Hood. Read what their writer has to say about everything from South Bank Kitchen to Celilo to Nora’s Table to Syncline Winery to the Gorge White House to Wy’East Vineyards … oh, man, there’s just too much good stuff to DO out here. Get on it, would you? …

Pay attention to the new double-dip sign above the entry off 1st Street into the parking lot for Mt. Hood Railroad, featuring the railroad and Springhouse Cellars winery tasting room. Speaking of which, the railroad is running Friday Night Wine Trains with a single Gorge winery featured on successive nights. …

Hey, did I really hear there’s a possibility of woodfire pizza in downtown Hood River, to join the pies from Pietro’s, Andrew’s and Double Mountain? Lots of back and forth. Ask the potential tenant, says the landlord. Hmm. Proof positive that the world loves pizza, or the pizza-making world loves the idea that the world loves pizza. Oh, where might it land? What’s empty? What’s a prime location? What didn’t sell bicycles formerly, but did sell expensive round things? Look North, before you look South. Ran into the potential tenants the other day, and they were pulling their hair out at the inability of the landlord to provide precise monthly utility costs. Oh, somewhere between $200 and $6000. Huh? $6K for heat and light? How much pizza pays for that? ….

Confirmed, notice of services no longer needed delivered late Friday to (now) former Chamber executive Mary Closson. Chamber President Mark Brown informed members via e-mail on Tuesday. Closson brought some good things to the membership — networking and programs — but fell shy in other areas, to hear the insiders. Hell-oh. Phone log? Return the messages — they’re your members! And your staff. Best to all. Onward and upward. …

Ride a bike to benefit Residents Committee

20 Sep

Here’s from a press release provided by Hood River Valley Residents Committee:

“The Hood River Valley Residents Committee … is putting on their second Hood River Harvest Ride on September 25, 2010. Founded in 1977 to stop the creation of one-acre ranchette’s in the upper Hood River Valley, today (the HRVRC) are expanding their farm and forest preservation mission to include bike advocacy. The Hood River Harvest Ride is a natural blend of both missions.

“For bike riders, the Hood River Valley has unique topography. Shaped progressively by volcanoes, giant glaciers and the Columbia Floods, the terrain has tremendous variety. Low traffic farm roads designed for horse drawn travel (i.e. not too steep) meander through the valley and include flat stretches, moderate hill climbs and exciting descents. Superb riding conditions bring the elite Mt. Hood Cycle Classic, a professional road race, to the area every year. Often sunny, when Portland and Vancouver are cloudy, the bike riding is excellent here in the fall.

“The Hood River Harvest Ride features five loops, each with its own appeal. The loops — easy, moderate, and challenging — can be combined or done separately, as fitness allows. Along the way are points of interest: farm stands, two museums, a brewery and a winery. Any purchases made while on the ride will be delivered back to the starting point for free by a special courier. Non-bike riders can also get in the on action via the valley’s own Mt. Hood Scenic Rail Road, which stops in Parkdale, one of the rest stops for the Hood River Harvest Ride, and a good place to meet up with the bike riders.

“Regionally grown fruits and vegetables are being provided by five local farms for lunch and at rest stops. A sag wagon will pick up stranded or tired riders as needed.

“The Hood River Fairgrounds, located in the center of the valley, is the start and terminus point of the ride. A finish line party there will celebrate the end of the event. Quiet, overnight camping at the Hood River Fairgrounds, which has pay showers, will be available for $15 a tent or $20 for an RV on both Friday, September 24 and Saturday, September 25th. This camp out option allows participants to make a weekend trip out of the event and to rise on Sunday to ride again!

“With pre-registration the Hood River Harvest Ride costs $40 for adults, $15 for kids under age 14 and $120 for a family of six. The ride will start at 8 a.m. and finish by 5 a.m. on Saturday September 25, 2010. Reasonably priced, off site child care is available. For more information or to volunteer or register visit (the event web site).

Learn more about the Hood River Valley Residents Committee.

Washboard Eco Laundry is … cleaning up

20 Sep

A latte while you wash and wait? Yep, inside the new Washboard Eco Laundry in the Hood River Square shopping center, between Walmart and Weston Hood River. In addition to high-efficiency washers and dryers, the facility boasts a kids' play area and TV. It's open for business.

Washers, dryers and folding tables near the kids' play area inside the new Washboard Eco Laundry in the Hood River Square shopping center.

Colt brokers sale of two buildings on north Third Street

18 Sep

Two historic properties — one the current home to ANPC and the other home to Real Wind Board Sports — have changed hands in a deal for $1 million.

Bob Diener of DISD Hood LLC, a Florida resident and client of Greg Colt at Colt Listing Service, completed the purchase of the Davidson Building (1905, 3rd and Cascade), home to Real Wind, and the Apple Growers Association Building (1925, north of the Davidson on 3rd), home to Advanced Navigation and Positioning Corp.

Sellers were Larry Bowe, former Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital administrator, and Steven Bosch, owner of the Charburger, Colt said.

Colt will assume property management responsibilities for the buildings, previously handled by local property owner and manager Chuck Beardsley.

Colt said he has added property management services to his business, which previously focused exclusively on commercial property listings. The sale that closed today (Sept. 17) will add a third Hood River building to his portfolio, in addition to a property in Bingen, Wash. To inquire about availability, contact Colt at 541-490-1175.

Show NY Times editors what’s cool about the Hood

16 Sep

Make Hood River your co-star, and you could be a celebrity video tour guide on the New York Times web site. Their travel editors are seeking 3-minute self-produced videos, extolling the attractions of “your city.” Uh, that would be us. Interested? Details here. The first video up looks at Boulder, Colo. If you think you’ve got what it takes, let me know. I can help you produce and post the video.

99 bottles of news on the wall, 99 bottles of …

15 Sep

Congrats to Heidi McLennon, proprietor of Anana’s Boutique, who earlier this summer opened a companion store in The Dalles. Husband Steve, he of the rhythmic hands and medical acumen, tells us her store in The Dalles often does better than the Hood River store. When you expand, you gotta like a warm reception. Good for you, Heidi …

Uh-oh. I was sworn to secrecy by the person who shared the secret, but then I guess there was a lot more swearing to secrecy going on, because word on the street is that Mary Closson, executive director with the Chamber of Commerce, is out after 2.5 years. On “admin leave,” I hear, after new marketing director Kerry Cobb and two other new recruits walked out, and the Chamber just about lost another recent hire. …

From a source connected to the buyer, word that Hospice of the Gorge may be on track for acquisition by Providence Health Systems. I haven’t had time to pursue the official denials, but I will …

Guess who’s turning 100 next year? That’s right, the Hood River Hotel. They’re working on a cake big enough to hold all those candles. Happy b’day, early …

Port of Hood River becomes the first in the U.S. to deploy an electronic toll collection system, based on the … well, read the details in the press release. It involves wireless technology. Here’s another take on the news  …

Tourism promotion goes viral, thanks to one of the big dawgs. Maryhill Museum of Art has created what it calls 36 Hours in the Gorge, the first in a series of itineraries that point its guests at cool things to do on the way to or from the world-class museum. Thanks, MMA …

Ran into our friend Samantha Irwin, doyenne of The Balch Hotel — in Dufur, which isn’t far from Rufus, or Husum, for that matter — and learned of a cool promo she’s doing called Primp My Bride. Go to the website to learn more and enter. First time I read it, I misread it. Hey, that’s no way to treat a bride! …

Clip and paste here, from Kristin and Nick Walrod: Dancing Moon Farm at Gorge Grown, September 16. Stock up on the fall bounty of tomatoes, squash, melons, garlic, potatoes, strawberries, raspberries and much more, while helping a great cause! Dancing Moon Farm will donate 50% of the sales of its farmers’ market booth on September 16th to the Save Our Library Campaign which is working to reopen the Hood River County Library by supporting a ballot measure this November that will establish an independent Special Library District. For more information about the campaign. This donation would be valid only at the Dancing Moon Farm booth at the Thursday Gorge Grown market, from 4-7 at the Hood River Middle School.

How is Hood River real estate doing? On track to better 2009

13 Sep

Thanks to Joel Knutson of Don Nunamaker Realtors, for sending along some comparative info on real estate sales in the city of Hood River, and the broader Hood River County Market, from 2005 through August of this year.

In the county, we’ve had 114 sales so far this year, compared to 179 in 2009, which was just a tick more than in 2005.

The peak year was 2006, with 281.

Then things began to fall apart — dropping in successive years to 241, 204 and the 179 of last year.

Compare that to activity inside the city of Hood River. To date, we’ve had 61 sales this year, compared to 74 in all of 2009.

“It looks at this point, at least for residential sales, that more transactions will close in 2010 than 2009.” Knutson says. “Knock on wood!”

Average home prices (which can be skewed by a couple of big sales) for the county peaked in 2007, at $348,439. A more accurate gauge for some people is the median price trend. The median price means that half of all sales were priced above the median number, half below.

The median price peak was in 2008, at $303,500 — $27,500 above what it has been this year.

Now shift your attention to the pricing chart for the city of Hood River.

You’ll see that the average price peaked in 2008, at $346,588. The median of $318,500 that year was also the highest in the last six years, tailing off $38,500 to $280,000 this year.

What are we to make of all this? That prices have held better out in the county, compared to the go-go city?

Savvy reader Dick Swart pointed out that the county numbers are probably inclusive of the Hood River numbers. Bingo. Knutson confirmed that.

So, if you subtract city sales from county sales, you see an interesting deviation. The peak year for county-only sales was, indeed, 2006, with county-only sales of 129. Then the number started to drop, until last year. That’s when county-only sales jumped from 85 in 2008 to 105, before falling back this year.

So, while Hood River and overall county sales were steadily dropping, the proportion of county-only sales was rising. Draw your own conclusions, but I’m guessing it had to do with affordability — lower prices in places like Odell and Cascade Locks, which made those areas more attractive in a down economy and in the face of overvalued Hood River properties.

One thing’s for sure — whatever the “value” of homes as gauged by selling prices, the record-low interest rates are sure driving a lot of people to cut the monthly price they pay to fund their mortgages. And if you’re not trying to sell your home, just live in it, that’s a good thing.

Paving to close SR14 west of bridge on Monday

12 Sep

What’s new this week from Washington Department of Transportation for its SR 14 projects? Here’s they’re preview:

“Crews will CLOSE SR 14 near White Salmon on Monday, September 13, for paving work. The local detour through White Salmon and Bingen will be in place. This is the last scheduled full closure of SR 14 near White Salmon.

Traffic impacts for September 11-17:

Dog Mountain (milepost 54)

  • Saturday, September 11 – Sunday, September 12: No scheduled traffic impacts.
  • Monday, September 13 – Wednesday, September 15: Daytime traffic reduced to a single lane, alternating directions with flaggers and 20-minute delays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 16 – Friday, September 17: No scheduled traffic impacts.

White Salmon (milepost 64)

Monday, September 13: Daytime FULL closure of SR 14 for paving work. Local detour in place. Work is weather-dependent and may be rescheduled in the event of inclement weather.

Find this information on the Web by visiting our SR 14 Rockfall project traffic impact schedule.

Hood River’s Keenwire scores funding help for rural broadband projects

12 Sep

Everybody wants more of it, but nobody can get as much as they want.

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter.

I’m talking about broadband. Broadband is the common term for a wired or wireless link that can deliver large, larger and largest quantities of data. It’s the holy grail for people who want to move audio, video and graphic files to or from their laptops and smart phones.

According to a report by the Federal Communications Commission in July 2010, up to 24 million Americans lack access to broadband. Most of them are poor, or live in rural areas, or both.

On Thursday (Sept. 9), I spent some time with the brain trust behind Keenwire, a cool Hood River company trying to close the gap between the haves and have-nots in the world of broadband. In Oregon, that means almost all of us.

Keenwire operates out of office space at the corner of State and 13th Street. Tricia Stevens is the president, and one of five owners, including Scott Perala, Jerry Anson, Laura McAllister and Dan Wahl. Stevens’  husband, Scott, is in charge of “strategic relations.”

He’s perfect for the rainmaker role, given his extensive background in broadband industry. The key thing to note is that Keenwire has been the point of the spear for three successful grant applications (out of 14 submitted) through the government’s $7.2 billion broadband stimulus initiative.

The stimulus act approved in February 2009 allocated that money in roughly equal shares for disbursal by the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA). The goal was to fund broadband projects that would serve rural areas and Native American reservations.

Keenwire prepared 14 grant applications for both Rounds 1 and 2. The three funded were $25.3 million to Rivada Sea Lion Broadband in Alaska; $30 million to the North Florida Broadband Authority, and $24 million to the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance.

“For us to have been a part of three rants of this size is pretty substantial,” Scott Stevens says.

Deadline for Round 2 awards is the end of this month (September 2010). Oregon didn’t do that well in Round 1. It got $10 million in broadband system grants, out of total U.S. awards of about $4 billion. When there’s money on the tree, pickers show up for harvest. That round saw 2,200 applications representing $28 billion in projects — obviously way more than the government was prepared to fund.

For Oregon, the USDA’s Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) awarded the Canby Telephone Association $496,090, and the city of Sandy $374,537. The Gervais Telephone Co. got a joint award of $314,430. And the Lane Council of Governments got $7.340 million through the Commerce’s Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP).

Keenwire shot for the moon in Round 2, pulling together Greenwire Broadband to push the Oregon Broadband Initiative. Designed to foster collaboration with public and private entities to deliver broadband to 28 of Oregon’s 36 counties, the Initiative is budgeted at $189 million. Keenwire prepared a grant request of $129 million to support that effort.

That said, “We’re not likely to be funded,” Tricia Stevens admits.

Even so, Keenwire is pushing Greenwire ahead in search of private investment, and positioning itself to provide project management, engineering and compliance help to the people it has helped get grants, and other applicants. Award recipients have three years to deliver.

Rural broadband is just one focus for Keenwire. The other is to help public safety agencies respond to an unfunded mandate that they get their communications systems so they call can talk together — what’s called “interoperability” — by Jan. 1, 2013.

Scott Stevens first saw the need — and opportunity — to serve rural markets when he was working a decade ago for Electro-Comm Distributing, a Denver wholesaler. He helped found its wireless broadband department. After moving to Aspen, he saw “an extreme demand for connectivity on a nationwide basis,” and helped an investment group raise $28 million to deploy National Broadband. It put wireless towers every 40 miles along 17,000 miles of fiber in 38 states.

“We put metro capacity and pricing to tier 2 and 3 markets,” Scott Stevens recalls. “Walmart wanted a tower at every store.”

Stevens later worked with the FCC to expand the wireless spectrum to rural areas, helped shape the Obama campaign’s broadband policy in 2008, consulted with CenturyTel and Insitu, and helped Vail, Colo., create a municipal broadband network.

Five years ago, he and Tricia met, married and left Aspen behind for life closer to her childhood home in White Salmon. They formed Keenwire in July 2009. It now has 13 employees, and figures to add more. They make a great pot of coffee, and everyone greets visitors with wireless smiles.

Not bad for a bouncing baby 1-year-old.

Clean Break: The Gorge Windsurfing

3 Sep

Check out webisode from Clean Break series, focused on windsurfing in the Gorge, with local host Katie Crafts of Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association, and Temira Wagonfeld, of The Gorge is My Gym.