Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877


Bulletin Column: June 20, 2019


June 20, 2019

These reports are from the previous four issues of the Daily Bulletin in Colfax. They are reprinted here for the benefit of Gazette readers who reside outside of Colfax. Some accounts have been updated.


Sale of the former Pullman Ace Hardware building in the Wheatland Mall on S. Grand was listed at $3.1 million in a real estate transfer tax affidavit filed last Thursday in the county treasurer's office. The building was sold by Sawrus LLC, Dayton, to Pullman RE LLC, Seattle, according to the affidavit.

Paul and Jan Strohbehn of Dayton operated the Pullman Ace for more than 10 years and announced plans to close the business down last October. At the time, he said they had received a substantial offer for the building and decided to sell it and retire.

The Strohbehns commuted from Dayton to Pullman during the time they operated the Pullman Ace. They purchased the building in 2007.

The building, which measures 27,000 square feet, was formerly the location of Pullman Safeway which moved to a new building on Bishop Blvd.


“A Ghost Adventure” show on the Travel channel Saturday, which again featured the former St. Ignatius Hospital building on the south hill of Colfax, has generated a flurry of calls to Colfax Chamber of Commerce director Val Gregory who points out the chamber no longer has any connection with the former hospital building.

Gregory, who appeared in the show, said the Chamber conducted their last tour of the hospital building about a year ago before they were shut down without any standing agreement with the present owners of the building.

She noted they had hoped the latest show would be broadcast while the chamber still had the ability to book tours, but the lag between when the program was recorded here and when it was broadcast Saturday was too long.

Colfax Chamber did have a contract with the former owner of the building, Derrick Fincher, a Spokane Valley resident who was sent to prison after a ruling in federal court on a swindling conviction in Spokane last September. The conviction was not related to St. Ignatius.

St. Ignatius, twice this year. was slated for public auction at the courthouse steps with the first session halted by a bankruptcy filing in Spokane and second one ending without a bid.

Gregory, who estimates 9,000 people went through St. Ignatius on the chamber tours over the last five years, said she was required to send the key to the building to the Winston Cashatt law firm in Spokane which acted as bankruptcy trustee. Possession of building went back to the prior owners in California, who sold it to Fincher.


Colfax Public Works Director Matt Hammer reported to the city council Monday night removal of the former railroad crossing at Wall Street was scheduled to start Tuesday by city and WATCO Railroad crews. The Wall Street crossing on the former Union Pacific railroad line has deteriorated over the years and has generated complaints to the city and the railroad.

Mayor Todd Vanek Monday night reported he has been informed by Bob Westby, manager of the state's PCC railroad system, that five other crossings on the former line will be removed later this year.

Vanek noted Colfax marked progress in getting the crossings removed after Pullman had crossings removed. The Pullman crossing, including one on North Grand, served the same Union Pacific Railroad line which departed Colfax.

Work on removing the Wall Street crossing is expected to take three days, Hammer informed the city council.


Colfax officials and the state's PCC railroad manager are considering a partial discontinuance for the former Union Pacific Railroad line which runs along South Fork of the Palouse River flood channel in Colfax. Mayor Todd Vanek told the city council Monday night the move would apply to the segment of railroad line where it intersects with Main Street and continues to Island Street.

Vanek pointed out the need for the railroad segment was essentially ended when the Main Street crossing was paved over. That separated it from the remaining unused line between Colfax and Pullman.

Vanek said Bob Westby, manager for the state PCC system, believes action by the legislature would be required for a discontinuance of the line. The mayor added he had a chance meeting with state Rep. Joe Schmick who said he would look into what it would take to officially discontinue the line.

The rail line was operated by short line companies in its last years. It has been out of service since the 2006 Risbeck fire destroyed a trestle about three miles east of Colfax.

Colfax Arts Council plans to mount custom painted fish designs of sintra plastic along the fence which separates the flood channel of the South Fork of the Palouse. Approximately 1,500 of the 3,744 fish have now been painted.

Some of the fish will be mounted on other fence segments around town, according to Debbie Stinson, Arts Council president.


Jeremy West, 43, Troy, Idaho, was sentenced to 60 days in jail Friday after he pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree theft of cash from the Bud Hut marijuana store on the Moscow-Pullman highway. The jail term matches the sentence of Kory M . Schneider, 21, Moscow, who was the first suspect arrested in the theft.

Schneider was initially charged with robbing West at the Bud Hut early April 8, when West was opening up the store, but investigators later determined West and Schneider were acquainted and West arranged with Schneider to execute a mock robbery.

The investigation report on West's arrest said deputies learned he had commented to friends and others as early as last Christmas that the Bud Hut needed to be robbed to cover up a cash shortage allegedly caused by West taking funds from the store.

The original Bud Hut theft account said Schneider threatened West with a pistol and departed the scene in West's 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer which was found later along Sunshine Road.

West originally pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree theft, but he opted to change his plea Friday to guilty to amended charge of second-degree theft.

The investigation report said Schneider in police interviews mentioned West's name in his account before investigators told him the name of the victim. The report also noted Moscow Police obtained telephone records which showed West and Schneider talked on the telephone three times the day before the theft.

Schneider was arrested at Moscow after a day-long investigation at his residence on West Palouse River Drive in Moscow, and he waived extradition to Washington and was jailed here April 10. He was credited with time served in jail and allowed release.

At the time Schneider was sentenced, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Merritt Decker told the court the actual amount of funds taken from the store was undetermined. He noted several thousand dollars were found in Schneider's room after he was arrested, and a June 28 hearing was set to determine the actual amount of funds lost.

Schneider was ordered to pay $5,000 with the actual amount due to be determined at the June 28 hearing.

Friday, the court noted the sheriff was in possession of $3,175 which was ordered released to the owner of the business.

West, like Schneider, was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to the Bud Hut.

The initial reports of the theft said West told officers he handed over a 10-inch stack of $20 bills to Schneider during the mock robbery.

The $3,175 will be credited to the amount due from West.

West was ordered to begin serving the 60-day sentence no later the July 1.


Crews working on the Highway 26 bridge just west of Colfax have removed all the asphalt layers and are now in the process of repairing the deteriorated concrete deck surface of the bridge.

Segments of the deck have been marked out and are being removed and replaced with pours of concrete.

Shamrock Construction crews were working on the north side of the bridge Thursday with alternating one-lane traffic on the south lane of the bridge. Flagging at the ends of the bridge is being done by a Northstar Traffic Control crew.


Plywood panels which were placed on the front of the Whitman County Public Service Building to block off part of the entrance received a coat of WSU crimson paint Thursday.

The temporary framing and plywood were installed to block off a part of the building which has suspect flooring due to deteriorating floor supports.

Poe Asphalt crews were at work Monday morning paving an alley behind the Public Service building. Asphalt was also being applied to the lot which adjoins the alley behind the county's IT building which faces Mill Street.


Gustavo E.Silva, 25, Pullman, pleaded guilty Friday in superior court to a charge of possession of methamphetamine and was sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for time served. Silva entered the plea with the assistance of an interpreter who was hired to come to court and sit next to him while he went through the arraignment and sentencing.

The court last week began the same procedure with the use of a telephone connection to an interpreter, but midway through the process Silva, who speaks Spanish, said he could not understand. The court closed down the hearing until Friday when an interpreter could be hired to come to court and sit next to Silva during the session.

Silva was credited with time already served in jail which exceeded the 30-day sentence. He was charged after a Feb. 24 stop in which a drug pipe was observed in the vehicle he was driving and a subsequent warrant search led to discovery of two pipes.

Silva was placed on 12 months of probation and ordered to undergo an evaluation for drug abuse and comply with recommended treatment.

Silva was also prohibited from owning a gun as a convicted felon, and he inquired, through his interpreter, if that would include a nail gun which he uses doing construction work. The court replied that the order applied to the word firearm.


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