Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Bulletin Column: October 17, 2019


October 17, 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.


Ballots for the Nov. 5 general election will be mailed out Friday. More than 20,000 ballots will hit the mail. Most of the ballots have been prepared by an insert company in Tacoma, and some of the ballots from newly registered voters will be mailed out from the elections office here.

The actual Nov. 5 sample ballot covers two broadsheet papers. It includes state, county and district propositions, and contested and uncontested races for city and town positions.

The $29 million levy proposal to finance a 40-year bond is back on the ballot for Pullman Hospital District.

The measure received the required approval edge from Pullman voters in the district last April, but it failed because the number of voters fell below the turnout requirements for validation.


Colfax City Council Monday night approved the proposed general fund budget after a special meeting. The budget covers city hall operations, police and fire departments.

Chris Mathis, city financial director and interim city administrator, pointed out the city's trend of draining reserve funds will continue with the 2020 budget's reserve now charted at $15,826. Last year's reserve figure was charted at $31,923. Total general fund revenues anticipated next year will be $1,367,679 and the total expenditures are $1,351,853.

The $15,826 difference is the net reserve. It compares with a state-recommended figure of a sum equal to operating expenses for three months, which for Colfax would be about $337,000.

Mathis noted one of the revenue pinches involves the state-mandated limit of an annual one percent increase in property tax revenue. Property taxes account for approximately 16 percent of the city's revenue.

Inflation, pay hikes and other factors for doing business have out-paced the city's revenue gains for several years.

Mathis noted the city hall budget now cannot cover the costs of hiring a new city administrator. Funds for wages and benefits for an administrator have now been budgeted to cover other city hall expenses.

Police Chief Rick McNannay in his report said he anticipates the department will have to fill 116 shifts in 2020 under the city's agreement with the sheriff's department to staff shifts when the city roster for the department cannot fully staff the shifts.

Council members expressed concern that the rate paid to the sheriff's department could change.

McNannay reported he also inserted a $10,000 sum for possible conversion to leasing vehicles for the department. He noted Colfax now operates with used vehicles which are acquired from other departments who lease the vehicles new.

Fire Department Administrator Tim Tingley said they will continue attempts to replace the department's 40-year-old ladder truck with the purchase of a newer truck. The department has been building a fund to make the purchase. Tingley noted weight restrictions for Colfax bridges is one of the factors involved in locating a replacement truck to fit Colfax. The department also aims to buy a ladder truck with its own water pump system.

The proposed city budget has to be posted for 30 days for public review before it goes back before the council for final approval.


Joel E. Hargin, 20, was allowed release on own recognizance Monday after he was booked in jail Sunday on probable charges of fourth and third-degree assault. Hargin is alleged to have pushed a male and female through a window at a residence in the 1000 block of NE Indiana in Pullman.

Pullman Officer Holden Humphrey's report said he responded to the residence at 9:24 p.m. Saturday and found a male with a scratch on his right hand and a female with a severe cut on her forehead. Both were alleged to have been pushed through the window. She was taken to the Pullman hospital for treatment.

Hargin was reported to reside at the residence with the alleged male victim.


A new charge of attempting to elude a police officer was filed Oct. 10 against Jessie Harrell, 23, the Uniontown resident who already faces three charges from an alleged chase down Steptoe Canyon Road and along the Snake River on Wawawai Road into Clarkston.

Harrell allegedly abandoned the Subaru Forester he was driving in Clarkston and was arrested later in Lewiston and booked into Nez Perce County jail.

He was charged Sept. 27 with reckless driving, reckless endangerment and being in possession of a stolen vehicle.

The charge filed last Thursday related a report by the Colton officer who was first notified Harrell was driving the Subaru up Steptoe Canyon grade.

The report alleged Harrell drove the car into Colton via Rimrock Road and was traveling at a speed of 60 mph when he passed the Colton School parking lot on McKinley Road. The report said the car actually flew when it crossed an intersection at Steptoe Street which has a crest and went through four intersections which were marked with stop signs.

The report said the car departed Colton via Schlee Road and then turned south on Steptoe Canyon Road and headed downgrade for the river.

The report on the first set of charges related allegations from the chase down Steptoe Canyon and upstream on the river road.

Bond for pre-trial release on Harrell was set at $50,000 surety or $5,000 cash. He has been scheduled for arraignment on the charges Friday.


Colfax, which was one of the terminals of the former Spokane & Inland Railroad line, never had one of the company's trademark stations. The railroad company at Colfax had a makeshift office and freight room at the end of its line across from the courthouse.

Thomas Hillebrandt, speaker at Saturday's Railroad Heritage program in Rosalia, said Colfax did not get one of the stations because Jay P. Graves, Spokane founder of the line, was running out of money by the time the company located in Colfax.

The Inland, which started with a Spokane-Coeur d'Alene link, operated a line south into the Palouse country as far as Spring Valley where one line split off to serve towns on the east side of the county and the other line went to Rosalia, Thornton and Steptoe before ending at Colfax. Most of the towns on the branches had stations with a trademark conical roof structure over the office area of the stations.

Remnants of three Inland bridges are located in Colfax along with segments of the rail line located behind Pearson Farm & Fence.

The covered bridge at Manning is probably the most photographed remnant of the line.

The railroad line was later operated as a freight system by Great Northern after passenger service ended in 1940.

Saturday's program at Rosalia concluded with a hike across the former Milwaukee Railroad concrete trestle at Rosalia, now part of the Palouse to Cascades trail across the state. The concrete trestle was built in 1914 to replace a timber structure which was first built across the Pine Creek valley by the Milwaukee.


Julian Cameron Lester, 37, former Pullman area resident, was booked in the jail here Oct. 9 after being returned from the state penitentiary where he has been serving a five-year sentence. Lester was ordered to be sent back here for a re-sentencing after a mandate was issued from the state's Division Three appeals court in Spokane. The July 24 mandate was issued after the appeals court ruled in favor of Lester on one of three arguments he filed on appeal.

Lester was assigned the long sentence because of a long record of convictions he had before he was found guilty here on a charge of being in physical control of a vehicle while intoxicated.

The conviction dates back to when deputies responded to a report of a disabled van parked off the Pullman-Albion Road Feb. 18, 2018. Lester was found at the scene and admitted he had been drinking beer, but said he did not intend to drive the disabled vehicle.

After a trial, a jury convicted him of being at the control of a vehicle when he was determined to be intoxicated. The jury also issued a special finding that he had been convicted of three or more felony offenses within three years. When he was sentenced the state listed 10 prior convictions going back to 1993, and that led to Lester being assigned an offender score of eight and sentenced to 60 months in prison.

He appealed to the Division Three court which rejected two of his appeal arguments, but found that one of the prior offenses listed on Lester's conviction record had actually been a deferred prosecution which did not lead to a conviction and could not be scored against him on the state scale.

The appeal ruling said the error did not void Lester's conviction, but it did invalidate the offender score he was assigned.

Lester made a brief appearance in court Friday morning, and Roger Sandberg of Pullman was appointed to represent him in the second sentencing round.


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