Removal of rocks and debris from the flood control channel for the S. Fork of the Palouse River started Tuesday morning. City Administrator Michael Rizzitiello told the city council Monday night that the city had finally received all the permits required to go into the channel and remove the material. Mayor Todd Vanek told the council the city will be required to submit a billing to the state Department of Transportation to receive payments for the cost of the excavation project. The state DOT has approved up to $20,000 in payments to cover the cost of the rock removal from the channel. Estimated amount of debris in the S. Fork channel is 695 tons of rock. Rain in recent weeks led to growth of a new crop of grass on some soil which had collected on top of the rocks. The rocks landed in the channel when runoff washed through a DOT construction site along the Palouse Highway grade last winter. The debris entered the channel from the large street drain culvert which runs under Mill and Main streets from the Highway 272 drain entry near the back of the United Methodist Church. One hitch in the city's plan to remove the rock was a snag in the permit process to take the rock from the channel in Colfax and haul it to the Glenwood area where the city plans to install three erosion control rock barbs in the North Fork of the Palouse River. Council members on Monday night questioned whether the lack of a permit for building the N. Fork barbs could lead to depositing the channel rock at a temporary site and then loading it again for hauling to the N. Fork project.
By Sally Ousley Gazette Reporter After a two-hour workshop Tuesday morning, Whitman County commissioners believe they have a balanced budget for next year. Commissioners faced a more than $170,000 deficit when they began dealing with the budget that morning. Other factors bumped the deficit to more than $286,000. The commissioners eliminated the deficit by cutting $48,000 which had been charted as staff additions and $200,000 from capital improvement and an operations contingency fund. Another $40,000 in property tax adjustments was added to the revenue side of the budget. They spent the most time discussing the auditor’s budget which had an increase to accommodate an additional staff member and a promotion of a staff member. County Auditor Eunice Coker had not discussed the proposed staff additions with the commissioners or with human resources. The commissioners decided to cut the $48,000 request from the budget and wait on recommendations from the agency that is evaluating the auditor’s department. The auditor is the only department that requested additional staff. “We understand her needs but we don’t have the funds for additional staff,” board Chairman Art Swannack said. With a carryover of $100,000 from this year, the preliminary budget began with a $171,498 deficit. An additional $115,000 payroll in union contracts led to a projected $286,498 total deficit. A property tax adjustment of $40,000 was added along with subtracting $48,000 for the auditor’s request to whittle the deficit to $198,498. The commissioners’ main priority is maintaining staff levels, and they decided to cut $100,000 from the $300,000 listed for capital improvements projects fund and $100,000 from the operations contingency fund to balance the budget. Swannack said he wants to put away a little money each year for capital improvement projects such as fairground improvements, maintenance of the Public Service Building and the courthouse elevator. The county’s list of proposed capital improvement projects for next year totals $3.8 million. “Part of what we’re trying to do is put a little away every year,” Swannack said. The county must submit its final budget by the end of December. Still to be incorporated in the county’s budget will be the budgets submitted from junior taxing districts.
By Garth Meyer Gazette Reporter If you can’t see in front of you, follow the screams. It’s something to keep in mind this weekend as the dark pathways of two haunted buildings beckon at the 13th Haunted Palouse, which opens Friday for the first of four sessions. On Shady Lane, the annual fundraiser’s other main attraction, the screams might follow you — on a ride which patrons sit in trailers pulled by utility vehicles along a darkened path above the river. This year’s dirt lane, which has revealed hillbillies and zombies before, is rumored to hide clowns. “I just know it’s going to be kind of freaky,” said longtime volunteer Scott Beeson. The 13th edition of Haunted Palouse picks up after a record run last year raised $57,189 for the Palouse Community Center, Chamber of Commerce, Roy M. Chatters Printing Museum and other local causes. The Main Street museum is one of the two haunted buildings, along with the old firehouse – which will be orchestrated again this year by the Palouse Skate Park Committee, with an assist from Palouse Area Robotics Team. “We’re really excited. From what I’ve heard it’s great stuff,” said volunteer Janet Barstow. “Every year I think we’re going to run out of ideas, but once we sit down and talk, new ideas come.” Inside the firehouse, an urban legends theme is taking shape. Once people make it to the exits, food options will include hamburgers benefiting the Community Center, baked goods from the Xenodican Club, kettle corn from Garfield-Palouse Young Life and hot and cold drinks. Each of Haunted Palouse’s four nights, Oct. 24-25 and Oct. 31-Nov. 1, begins at 7 p.m. with the ticket booth closing at 10 p.m. The town will remain open until everyone has an opportunity to go through each attraction. Admission is $15 with no one under 12 permitted. Credit cards are not accepted. “It’s going to be awesome,” said Barstow. “We’re excited to put all this on for people.” Those attending are reminded to dress warmly since the lines to wait in are outside. The first four-night run of the event, in 2001, brought in $3,050 from ticket sales. After 12 years, the town has raised $369,552.37 from their annual two weekends in October. The total counts only ticket sales, not additional revenue made from food and drink receipts. For more information call (509) 595-1129 or see Frequently Asked Questions at www.VisitPalouse.com.