Colfax junior Chase Aeschliman and friends hosted a high school version of a tailgate party Friday with a front row view from the pickup on the parking lot at Rosalia. Fans in the back of his custom painted 2000 Ford pickup yelled it up for a TV cameraman who was at the game between the Bulldogs and the Tekoa/Rosalia Timberwolves.
By Garth Meyer Gazette Reporter In the latest in a series of disputes between a Tekoa property owner and the town, the city council on Monday requested Keith Andersson move a vehicle from an alley which he claims may be his. Andersson, owner of the former Dorsey Chevrolet building and the two lots on each side of it on Crosby Street and Broadway, appeared at the council meeting to speak. Last week, he painted a message on the side of a 53-foot semi trailer parked in the Dorsey lot which reads, Hate Crime? I Think So. “I’m feeling persecuted,” Andersson told the Gazette. “I’ve been harassed, harangued, intimidated. And the only thing that makes me different from my neighbors is I’m gay.” “There’s lots of smoke, but no fire, none whatsoever,” Mayor John Jaeger said. “I got ahold of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union),” Andersson said. “I’m at a point where I have to wait for another month or so until I know what they are going to do.” In February, the town removed a propane tank from the Dorsey property, after unhooking it to address a water pipe break in the basement. A city crew was sent to fix the pipe which Andersson contends broke because of faulty installation years ago. “They had used non-code spec pipe,” Andersson said. In the process of the repair, with the tank unhooked, the mayor thought about it. “It was on city property. We had decided, liability-wise, it was not in our best interest for it to be there,” he said. For his part, Andersson contends that the ownership of the land is unknown – whether it’s the city’s or his. “When you don’t know, all you can do is research,” said Andersson. “I will continue to do more research with all the plat maps.” On Monday night, the immediate matter at hand was Andersson’s brown Cadillac, which is blocking the asphalt alley along the Dorsey building and the former Hore Hardware lot. Now that lot holds old parked cars and the 53-foot semi Andersson bought to move his belongings to Tekoa in 1999. The asphalt alleyway connects to a dirt pathway behind residences, linking Warren Street to Connell. Jaeger indicated that all town alleys must be open for fire access. However, if Andersson owns the alley – possible through a vacation ordinance passed at some point since the town was founded – this may be an exception. “That whole block is open according to our records,” said Tekoa City Clerk Kynda Browning. “It’s never been vacated that we can see on any of our records. There are some ordinances missing though.” The term “vacated” refers to ground that the city returns to a private ownership while retaining the right to install utilities. “All he’s got to do is show us that he owns the alley,” Jaeger said, referring to a deed, tax records or other proof. Regarding the directive to move the car, Jaeger noted that would also change if Andersson indeed owns the ground there. “This isn’t written in stone,” he said. “But until you come back, keep the alley open. Most towns don’t vacate alleys anymore. I tried to get my own alley vacated.” The city council had requested in late spring for Andersson to remove the Cadillac. Propane tank and parking strip The matter of the propane tank initially came up three years ago as the city of Tekoa undertook its large-scale, under-the-streets water-pipe replacement projects of the summers of 2011 and 2012. In preparation for that, looking at maps, the city deemed that a parking strip next to the Dorsey building on Broadway was city property. Tekoa officials in turn asked Andersson to remove the cars he had parked there and he did. The area was then made available for parking for the Tekoa Grade School across the street. Next to the parking strip was the propane tank taken out in February. In a letter sent to Andersson on Aug. 20, the city concluded the matter, citing an “unreasonable risk” to pedestrians or others on Broadway – about 10 feet from where the tank was. Initially, after it was removed, Jaeger and the city told Andersson if he put concrete posts up and obtained more insurance, he could put the tank back in place. However, Andersson questions the city’s reasoning, noting propane tanks at the school across Broadway, and the Wilbur-Ellis fertilizer tanks at the bottom of the hill from the school. “The propane tank at the school is on school property,” Jaeger said. “It’s not a city matter. We just don’t want to have propane tanks on city property. He just needs to put it on his property.” “They took my propane tank away after 14 years,” Andersson said. “The mayor, the polite way to say it, is a bully. Just to say this is all something about an alley is one-half of one percent of it.” Retaining wall A third issue he has with the city government is a retaining wall. A piece of it was removed during water pipe construction and wasn’t closed back up again. “We’re probably going to have to take a look at it and see what needs to be done,” said Jaeger. At one point at Monday night’s city council meeting, Andersson said that Jaeger had “bullied” the council on these matters, suggesting that the town’s representatives vote in “lockstep” with the mayor. “So the council is a bunch of bobbleheads?” Jaeger asked the Gazette later. “No.” “I just didn’t even want to dignify that with a response,” said Councilman Roy Schulz. “Everything we do we’re trying to look at the implications on both sides.” The matter ended Monday with the council directing Andersson to remove the Cadillac from the alley. “If you own (that ground), show us. Otherwise, let’s get it over with, ” Jaeger said as he explained the city’s position to the Gazette. The mayor said he expects Andersson will move the car. If not, the city could send over their Code Enforcement Officer. “I want everything corrected, everything put back, and to leave me alone for eternity,” Andersson said. “They want me out that bad, buy me out. But it’s going to be extremely expensive.” As for the car, Andersson suggested he’ll honor the council’s directive. “I can move it down into the lot,” he said. Andersson vows to continue his research. “I like this town,” he said. “I like the people. I like the weather. It’s just too bad you can’t be left alone.”
The Walla Walla District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began reopening the Illia Dunes beach and adjacent shallow waters on Monday after crews cleaned up the area that morning. The dunes had been closed to the public since Sept. 7 because of environmental damage and potential public health and safety concerns after an unexpected crowd of about 1,800 people on Sept. 6 left significant amounts of trash and human waste. The corps received offers of volunteer cleanup assistance. The Corps’ Natural Resources Management staff coordinated with two organized groups of volunteers, the Associated Students of Washington State University and WSU’s Center for Civic Engagement, using a limited number of people during the cleanup to maintain safety and efficiently manage work efforts. Student groups for WSU also assisted the corps two years ago when the dunes were trashed at the beginning of the school year. Following completion of trash cleanup and a safety inspection of the area, Illia Dunes was reopened. The corps is reviewing the incident and management policies with an eye toward preventing future similar problems. Corps staff plans to monitor visitors’ use of Illia Dunes and encourage them to enjoy their visit without breaking laws or offending other visitors. Illia Dune parking is restricted to two nearby corps parking lots. Because of the size, configuration of available space and limited maneuverability for larger vehicles, no busses are allowed to park in these lots. The two parking lots hold about 120 cars. Although not a new requirement, it should be noted that tour and school buses must contact the dam at least 24 hours in advance for crossing authorization. Public parking is not allowed on the adjacent 50-mph Almota Ferry Road. No Parking signs have been placed along the roadway. The corps has the option of banning alcohol consumption on corps lands at any time and such bans are in place at several locations in the region. While alcohol consumption at Illia Dunes is not banned at this time, underage drinking is not allowed. State laws prohibit driving or boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drugs are prohibited on federal lands. Operation or use of any sound-producing equipment in such a manner as to unreasonably annoy other visitors is prohibited. Glass containers are not allowed on the dunes and the corps provides free trash bags for visitors to use for “pack it in, pack it out” trash removal. Before Monday’s cleanup water elevation was lowered between three and four feet on Lake Bryan, the reservoir upstream of Little Goose Lock and Dam on the Snake River to facilitate in-water and shoreline trash cleanup. Terri Haas, who operates Boyer Park and Marina with her husband Leo, said lowering the lake won’t affect the marina because the water level is very high now. “We’re probably three feet higher than normal,” she said, adding that the higher water level has been affecting the lake since Labor Day weekend. She said the level is so high that some of the beaches have disappeared. Lake Bryan is 37.2 miles long and has 565,200 acre feet of water at full reservoir level, 638 feet.