August 1, 2014

Dancing to the beat in Palouse

Music by the Palouse Subterranean Blues Band launched dancers Saturday at the Palouse Music Festival.

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Storm takes heavy toll on crops

By Sally Ousley
Gazette Reporter

The severe thunderstorm that rolled through Whitman County on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 23, caused a lot of damage in a short amount of time mainly in the eastern part of the county.
The National Weather Service in Spokane issued a severe thunderstorm warning that afternoon before the storm hit. Some parts of Colfax lost power during the storm. Reports indicate heaviest damage was in the Pullman-Colton area and even that was spotty. While one farm lost a crop, a neighboring farm didn’t. The worst storm damage was reported in the northern part of Spokane.
The hail hit standing wheat which was believed to be a week to 10 days away from harvest. The Ewartsville and Union Flat Creek areas and fields north toward Pullman were hit by the hail.
Mike Boone who farms in the Union Flat area estimated the loss on their fields could be in the 50 to 60 percent range. A better idea of the loss will be known when harvest gets underway.
The Avista website the next morning reported power to 1,583 customers was knocked out at some point in Colfax. Other outage counts were 1,286 in Pullman, 322 in Rosalia and 51 in Palouse.
County Commissioner Dean Kinzer, who farms south of Pullman, said his farm took a direct hit.
Kinzer, who resides on Ryan Road south of Ewartsville, said they lost all of their pea crop and possibly half of his wheat and barley crops.
“I’ve never seen this kind of damage,” he said.
Big tree limbs hit his home with damage severe enough that his front steps might have to be entirely replaced.
Kinzer said the storm hit between 3 and 3:30 p.m. July 23 and lasted less than 15 minutes. He said hail stones as large as quarters and bigger fell so hard and heavy that his wife, Barb, couldn’t see as far as their grain bins that are close to the house.
Kinzer said he has observed hail damage to crops from Round Barn Hill along Highway 195 to his place.
He said his crop loss will be felt not only this year, but for several years to come.
Colton farmer Art Schultheis said his farm didn’t get any hail, but the storm blew in a little rain and a lot of wind. He said a neighbor about a half mile north of his place sustained hail damage.
Commissioner Art Swannack who farms in the Lamont area said they received some hail but crops weren’t damaged too much from it. However, he said he recorded 61 mph winds and a neighbor recorded 69 mph winds during the height of the storm. He also said they received heavy rain, about three-tenths to four-tenths of an inch in about 15 minutes.
“That’s a fair chunk of rain in a short amount of time,” he said.
He said although his fields didn’t wash, he had heard of some farm fields in the area that washed from the sudden heavy rain.
A report from the LaCrosse area said the storm went around that region. They received a small amount of rain, enough to shut down harvest for a while. The area received no hail, but did get high winds for a short amount of time.
A Garfield resident reported pea-sized hail along with wind and believed there was some damage on the edge of town. He said a hard rain flattened some grain and damaged peas, garbanzos and lentils. He also estimated the region received about three-tenths of an inch of rain.
A farmer in the Thornton area said his crops weren’t damaged. His farm received no rain, but they had a lot of wind. He recorded a wind gust of 47 mph at the height of the storm.
According to a crop insurance agent in Pullman, the peas in that area were hit the hardest because they were combine ready. He also has taken reports of fall wheat damage. He said the damage was heavy in spots halfway to Colton from Pullman and north of Palouse. He also had reports east of Moscow which had hail damage.
The agent also said one farmer who lives about one mile west of Pullman reported hail damage to a vehicle’s windshield and windows in his home broken from the hail. Another client reported vehicle damage from the hail.

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State auditors begin review

By Sally Ousley
Gazette Reporter

Whitman County is facing a state audit for 2013 and county officials are hoping that this one will go better than the previous one.
The audit covers financial statements and federal grant compliance which the county already has passed, according to Auditor Eunice Coker. The state also does an accountability audit.
The work on the 2013 audit begins after the audit of the county’s 2012 books ended with the state reporting they were unable to issue an opinion on the county’s financial standing.
State auditors presented materials to the county commissioners Monday morning at an entrance conference. State officials told the county what their plan will be for the upcoming audit.
Commissioner Art Swannack said auditors noted the federal highway grant fund portion has already been done and approved.
“Thank you to our public works director Mark Storey and the department for doing a great job,” Swannack said.
He also said the financial statement portion has a federal requirement to be done by September of this year. The accountability portion will likely be completed later in the year because of a high workload at the State Auditor’s Office and their need to complete other entities’ financial statement audits by the September deadline, he said.
The financial statement audit report for 2012 did not flatter the practices of the auditor’s office. Although state auditors found nothing wrong with federal awards practices, there was a significant amount of findings about flaws in the financial statements.
Coker maintained through the audit that financial practices within the office are better and is hopeful the current audit will show the results.
The 2012 audit report was released in May. The state auditor’s opinion said that they were “not able to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion.”
The lack of an opinion was one of the factors which led Standard & Poor’s to drop the credit rating for the county last April.
In the county’s official response to the state’s report, county officials stated that the department is in the process of cleaning out old, misused and incorrect funds and accounts. The department also will begin training with the State Auditor’s Office.
In this audit session, state auditors will study the auditor’s selection and application of appropriate accounting policies, establishment and maintenance of effective internal controls over financial reporting, preventing and controlling fraud, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations and more regulations.
The audit likely will take several weeks and then an exit conference will be scheduled, Coker said.
Audit cost estimates are $36,400 for the financial statement portion, $5,100 for the federal grant audit and $28,300 for accountability, for a total of $69,800 the county must pay the state for these audits.
Changes cited by the audit includes open government training act effective July 1. Every member of a governing body of a public agency must complete training requirements on the Open Public Meetings Act. Every local elected official and every local government Public Records Officer must receive records training concerning the Public Records Act and Records Management and Retention laws.
Training must be completed within 90 days of assuming office, assuring their duties or taking the oath of office. In addition, every member of a governing body and the Public Records Officer must complete “refresher” training at intervals of no more than four years as long as they remain in office.

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Sports

Swim season finale will mark 50th

Swimmers from around the area are again expected to roll to Colfax Saturday for the all league meet for novice swimmers. The swim meet is expected to draw between 200 and 300 swimmers to compete in age divisions from eight and under through high school.
This year’s edition of the giant meet is believed to be the 50-year edition of what has become the Knights of Columbus Jerry Cluckey Memorial Swim Meet.
Mr. Cluckey, who died in 1974, was credited with starting summer swim competition in the county as a result of his employment with the Whitman County Health Department. While making rounds of inspections at county pools, he noticed an absence of swim teams and urged lifeguards in different towns and city officials to start competition swimming as a summer activity for youngsters.
Mr. Cluckey, who was a member of the Knights of Columbus at Colfax, convinced the group to help pay for the costs of the medals which are presented to the event winners. The event started as the Knights of Columbus county meet, but the competition has expanded to include Dayton and Pomeroy.
Pomeroy swimmers have dominated the all-league competition in recent years and will be aiming at bagging the Cluckey Cup win for the eighth straight year when the action starts Saturday at 10 a.m.
Pomeroy Coach Shelly Slaybaugh, who has been part of the program for 16 years, reported they had 64 youngsters turn out for the team this year. The Pirate swim crew qualified about half of the crew for the county finals. Again this year, Pomeroy has booked a strong campaign through the league’s preliminary meets. They have been topped twice by the Pullman swimmers who bring a large entry to the league meets and compile a stack of points.
Slaybaugh said the defending champs are counting on the entry limit of three swimmers per team for each event. The limit puts the best swimmers in the league in pursuit of the points and for the past seven years Pomeroy has had the best swimmers. Slaybaugh said winning the top trophy at the Colfax meet is an honor, but she still finds the most reward in watching youngsters progress over the year from tentative starters to solid competitors who enjoy the sport and competing with other youngsters around the league.
Slaybaugh again this year is assisted by Don Fairbain and Don Eldred, two retired coaches who provide tips for the Pomeroy crew. Other teams at the meet will be host Colfax, Dayton, Endicott/St. John/LaCrosse, Tekoa/Oakesdale, Garfield/Palouse. The meet will again net awards for the boys and girls who stack up the most overall points. The awards go to the top point winners in the two youngest age divisions and the top points in the senior divisions which include more events.
One footnote for the Cluckey Cup this year involves Simon Brannon of Pullman who will attempt to bump the 100 freestyle record set by his father, Gabe Brannon, who posted the mark in 1989 when he swam for the Colfax team. Gabe Brannon is a grandson of Mr. Cluckey, Simon is a great-grandson. He has posted better times than the 1:01.1 record in the prelim meets, but the clocking at the league meet is the one that goes into the books.
Meet organizers hope to have the competition finished by 4 p.m. Saturday with final presentation of awards in the park to wrap up the day.

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Opinion

Gordon Forgey

It is hot.
And, it is going to be hot for a while longer. Forecasts indicate high temperatures will continue.
Heat advisories have been periodically posted. They are a warning to take it easy and a reminder that this weather can be life threatening.
The inside of closed vehicles on hot days can rise very quickly and reach as high as 140 degrees.
There are always tragedies in hot spells like this one. Kids and pets are particularly vulnerable if left in vehicles. The inside of the family car can be a death trap.
Recently, the father of a toddler left his boy in a car while he went to work. He is facing murder charges.
Shoppers at a mall recently broke out a window of a vehicle to rescue two children from a sweltering SUV. The mother had gone to get her hair done.
Any number of pets die in cars as well. These often go unreported.
When ferrying kids and pets, one idea is to put something you will need in the back seat. One women said she routinely puts her purse there. Another said she takes off her shoes and puts them on the back seat.
Then, when they arrive at their destination, they are forced to look there to retrieve their items, perhaps discovering children or pets they had momentarily forgotten.
It is not uncommon to forget a sleeping child or pet when rushed and distracted.
Even the most important thing can be forgotten. Don’t let it be part of the family.
Check the back seat.

Gordon Forgey
Publisher

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