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.

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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.

This, that and the other … a mess o’ stuff you should know

2 Sep

Limited-edition poster by Portland graphic artist Aaron McConnell.

OK, I know it’s not Hood River, but it’s close, and world-class. I’m talking Maryhill Museum, and what’s got me excited is its coming fall exhibit, opening Sept. 18: “Comics at the Crossroads: Art of the Graphic Novel.” It features 33 artists and writers from the Portland comics scene, plus another dozen or so from Seattle and north.

The Museum has commissioned a limited edition print drawn by Portland artist Aaron McConnell, shown at left. You can buy one of the 100 prints at the Museum gift shop. McConnell will be showing his work in the exhibit, as well.

And, alongside their work, you can check out cool work by aspiring graphic storytellers who recently took part in a series of workshops held at branch libraries of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library system. One such effort is included at left, by aspiring artist Ian Sams. Personally, I think he’s got what it takes. Mark your calendars. …

Ian Sams created this wonderful cover art for his imagined comic about Moon Bear, who somehow winds up on the Moon and tries to figure out how it happened.

Nice review at Cocktail Enthusiast blog about Hood River’s own Pendleton Whisky. Produced, that is, by Hood River Distillers.   …

Interesting report by OPB with video about the fish screen technology developed by the Farmers Irrigation District and now being marketed by the Farmers Conservation Alliance around the Northwest. …

Quick chat with a local real estate appraiser, who is suddenly inundated with work, because super-low interest rates have all sorts of people refinancing their home loans. She says Hood River, relative to other beaten-down markets around the country, has fared relatively well. People who bought in 2005 or 2006, at the peak, may be even or a little behind purchase price. But if you bought earlier, your home’s value is likely greater than when you bought. How much greater? Don’t ask me. Call an appraiser. But I share that news, just in case you might be thinking of listing. Not that I would recommend that. Heck, I’m not a real estate agent, even though I do play one on TV. Sure, agents would love to list your home. But I’m also hearing that a lot of listings are just sitting. One agent told me that sales this year are behind what they were in 2009. …

Mt. Hood Railroad this weekend is featuring a … carnival? Yup. Junk food, rides and $5 train rides (short rides). From their web site: “Labor Day Weekend Carnival Extravaganza! The Mt. Hood Railroad along with Cascade Amusements Inc. will be celebrating Labor Day weekend offering $5 fares in honor of all you hard workin’ folk. There will be amusement park rides onsite along with games, food and of course Train Rides. Fare: (per person) $5. Carnival opens at 12:00pm. Tickets for games and amusement rides are $1.50 each or 15 for $20. Each amusement ride is 2 or 3 tickets each. Train rides: September 3, 4, 5 – 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m.”

Sept. 3 First Friday — here’s what’s on tap

2 Sep

Thanks to Tracy Kaiser of the Chamber, here’s a report from the Downtown Business community on what’s in store for Sept. 3 First Friday. Remember, it’s from 5 to 8 p.m., and involves a closure of Oak Avenue and connecting side streets during that period. Take it away, Tracy:

“Our next First Friday is September 3 and the street will be closed for the festivities. We extend a big thank you to Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital for sponsoring July, August and September’s street closing for our First Friday event. Providence will have its Mobile Health unit available to the public during First Friday, located at the corner of 3rd and Oak Street.

Here is your First Friday line-up:

  • Naked Winery will have Hood River’s local Tess Barr is true blues from 8PM to 11PM.  A power house voice and backed by a rock solid band.
  • Melika kicks of their HUGE Labor Day Sale, up to 70% off.
  • Parts + Labour will have musician KEVIN HOLMAN on acoustic guitar and Cor winery for tastings of their wine collections.
  • Small Planet Trading hosts artist Diane Gadway showing her unique line of jewelry made from re-purposed materials. Gadzoolry is fun, funky and functional. Meet the artist between 6 – 8 pm and enjoy Fair Trade and local munchies while you shop.
  • Columbia Center for the Arts will have Plein Air Gallery Show & Opening Reception: 6 to 8 pm – Free; Gallery Show: Daily, September 3-26, 11 am – 6pm; Artworks created during the five-day Paint-Out will be available for purchase and selections of writers’ works will be on display.
  • Waucoma Bookstore is hosting author Jack Nisbit for a book signing, from 5 to 8 pm at the bookstore (212 Oak St, Hood River).  Nisbet will be signing his book “The Collector: David Douglas & The Natural History of the Northwest.”
  • The Enchanted Alpaca is hosting Jose Marroquin, Peruvian Photographer, with his very special exhibit “Sharing the Magic of the Andes.”. Also hosting Patricia Shypertt, local Hat Milliner Extraordinaire!
  • Cascade Acupuncture will have its Grand Opening  of the new Chinese Herbal Pharmacy! The grand opening is from 5:30 to 8:00 pm at 104 5th Street, in Hood River. There will be raffles, free chair massages, free usable tote bag, free champagne, free Greens First and Dream Protein shake samples, appetizers by Knead bakery and 15% off selected products.

Wanted: Whoever bought John Rand’s Christian rock treasures

1 Sep

Missing: Classic Christian rock albums. John Rand would like to swing a deal with you to get them back.

Rand, who moved to Hood River in 1989 and lived here up until about 1996, now lives in Gresham. When he moved, he left a load of his stuff in a storage locker at Secure Storage, 1400 Tucker Road.

“When I moved to Portland, it was out of sight, out of mind,” he says.

He apparently missed the notice that he was past due, and his stuff would be sold. If you read the classifieds like I do, you know that people occasionally fall behind on their storage rent. And owners of the storage units occasionally have to go in and put the abandoned stuff up for sale.

I see those ads, and I think, Man, I wonder what sort of treasures you might find in those lots? But I’ve never needed or wanted anybody else’s crap that badly to bother attending an auction. It must be like a huge garage sale. You can’t buy just one item — you get the whole shebang.

Tammy Brennan, manager at Secure Storage, confirms that’s pretty much how it works. When people rent storage, they sign a contract that spells out what happens when they fall behind on rent. After 10 days, they face a $10 late fee. They also get a late notice. After 20 days, they’re locked out.

When you’re a month late, the manager can cut the lock, take picture of the unit’s contents from the outside in, relock it, send you a certified letter and hope you respond in 30 days. If not, it goes up for auction.

Secure Storage typically has two auctions a year, and each attracts 20 to 50 people. Brennan says they may be looking for eBay inventory, or stock for second-hand stores and garage sales.

After that much time has passed, the owner might get themselves a deal if they bid on their own unit, rather than paying late fees.

On auction day, every interested buyer gets to eyeball the locker’s contents from the door. No rummaging through boxes. You bid on what you see.

“We encourage buyers to return any clearly personal items, wedding pictures, social security cards, things they don’t need,” Brennan says. ” But it’s not a requirement.”

Rand didn’t return, didn’t bid, didn’t get his albums in the five boxes of personal papers that the buyer left behind. So he placed an ad:

“Wanted Information: Looking for person who purchased my record collection from Secure Storage. Please contact John, 209-765-7005.”

That’s all he wrote in the Hood River News after he learned that his stuff was gone.

“I had some early Beatles records,” Rand says. “I don’t mind that they got that. But I had some early Christian rock music from the ’80s. It’s hard to replace some of the stuff that hasn’t gone from vinyl to CDs.”

Acts like Stryper, Bloodgood and Anthem. “That’s my favorite album,” Rand says. “It’s kinda like Joss Stone.”

He figures the collection had hundreds of albums in it. “One group I couldn’t find on CD was Vision,” he says. “They had a beautiful version of the 23rd Psalm.”

His collection also had a couple of old concert VHS tapes. He hopes whoever bought the albums will give him a call and work out a trade.

“I have a Nike golf club, and I’d be willing to trade that.”

Watch for changes to I-84 exits in central Hood River

31 Aug

As you know, the extensive modifications at Exit 64 are causing significant traffic impacts, including the dangerous backup of traffic in the eastbound off-ramp and merge lane.

Oregon Department of Transportation is about to close off traffic merging between Exit 63 and Exit 64.

After the change, eastbound traffic that wants to reach the bridge or Hwy 35 will leave I-84 at Exit 63, pass through the light and continue into the (former) merge lane to Exit 64.

I asked Mark Baker, consultant with Oregon Bridge Delivery Partners, when the merge lane would close. Here’s answer as of Monday afternoon:

“Stu, it’s a construction job, so I’m afraid dates of that nature are often a bit of a moving target. We’re hoping to turn on the traffic signals this week, then change the traffic flow early next week, but I can’t authoritatively give exact dates right now. I might have more clarity by this time tomorrow and will definitely let you know if I do.”

So, stay tuned. I’ll post updates when I get them, to make sure we all do what we can to avoid an injury — or worse — accident at that interchange. Meanwhile, here’s a clip from the ODOT project website:

** I-84 at milepost 64 (Hood River): The contractor is preparing to shift traffic and demolish the old eastbound bridge. Expect new traffic signals at the freeway ramp junctions beginning Tuesday, Aug. 31. Expect single-lane closures westbound around the clock. The westbound right lane must exit. The speed limit is reduced to 55 mph. Watch for roadside work crews and equipment around the clock. Watch for vehicles entering and exiting the travel lanes. Please drive safely through the work zone.

** Button Bridge Road at I-84: Expect new traffic signals at the freeway ramp junctions beginning Tuesday, Aug. 31. Watch for changing traffic patterns and traffic controlled by flaggers. Watch for roadside work crews and equipment around the clock. Watch for construction vehicles entering and exiting the travel lanes.