Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Bulletin Column: October 24, 2019


October 24, 2019

Clear sky followed a snowfall Oct. 10 west of Palouse, before days of rain around the county the next week as leaves fell at a higher pace.

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.


Six Colfax crossings for the former Union Pacific railroad line to Pullman have been removed and paved over. The work was done by a combination of state, railroad and city crews.

The project was launched on a format which called for removal of as many crossings as possible within a work week. State crews were able to commit a week to the project, according to Matt Hammer, city public works director.

The state now owns the long-idle line which was served by short line rail operators before it shut down in 2006.

Crossing planks were removed and in most cases replaced with rock fill and paving. Railroad segments between the crossings remain.

Work included crossings on each side of Main Street with those on the east side along the last segment of the line before the railroad exited Colfax on the way to Pullman.

Hammer said the lone crossings still in place are located at Last Street which actually has three crossings because the rail system included two sidings at that point.


Colfax City Council, which conducted a special budget meeting last week, met for nine minutes Monday night for its normal session. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Kackman again presided for the abbreviated session.

City Finance Director Chris Mathis reported the city budget will be posted on the city's website for 30 days as required by law. Deadline for approving the budget will be by the Dec. 2 meeting.

Kackman commented on traffic congestion at the north end of Main Street where the city has a "no left turn" zone for southbound traffic after the North Palouse River bridge. He noted motorists fail to see the sign, or possibly ignore it, while attempting to make a left turn.

The congestion starts where northbound traffic funnels into one lane and where westbound traffic needs to turn left to cross the other bridge to Highway 26.

Kackman suggested the city try something else to advise motorists of the "no left turn" zone.

Councilwoman Crystal Christopherson asked the identity of the "new" officer who was working a long shift during the heavy football traffic weekend. The officer was actually a dummy who was stationed in a squad car at the north end of Colfax.


Whitman County Association of Realtors has endorsed Francis Benjamin and Chris Johnson, the two challengers in the contested races for Pullman's city council. Benjamin is challenging incumbent Eileen Macoll for the Pullman city council at-large position, and Johnson is challenging incumbent Ann Parks for the ward one position.

Connie Newman of Palouse, vice president of the association and chair of the group's government affairs committee, said Benjamin and Johnson were endorsed because committee members generally felt they best adhered to the association's quality of life pledge. She noted all four candidates were interviewed by the committee.

The realtors association has approximately 75 members.

Benjamin served on Pullman city council from 2003 to 2015 and was former president of the Association of Washington Cities.

Johnson is the director of finance for the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.

The two Pullman races have generated heated campaigns with advertising and promotional videos on social media.

Newman, who is an agent with Coldwell Banker Tomlinson, said the association planned a reception this morning, Thursday, from 8:30 to 9 a.m at Thomas Hammer in Pullman to introduce Benjamin and Johnson.


Colfax city crews have started collection of leaf bags with the fall season underway. Rain and temperature dips over the weekend led to a big drop of leaves for residents to clear.

Public Works Director Matt Hammer said residents are asked to keep weight of the leaf bags under 70 pounds. Also, plastic bags should not be used for leaf collection because the plastic at some point would have to be separated out.

Hammer noted the city actually collects leaf bags throughout the year, but during the fall season they try to make the rounds daily.

Residents are encouraged to rake and bag leaves to help keep them from spreading into the streets where they have to be removed by city crews.


Jennifer Harlow, 31, St. John, was transported by Life Flight helicopter from the scene of an accident on the Lancaster Road just outside of St. John Friday. Sheriff's Sgt. Dan Brown said deputies responded at approximately 2:17 p.m. to a report of the accident at mile marker one. The report said Harlow was driving north-bound and lost control of the vehicle she was driving. The car went off a steep embankment and rolled down onto the railroad right-of-way.


Deeanna Marie Koker, 36, former Colfax resident, was sentenced to 90 days in jail Friday after she pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of heroin which stemmed from an arrest at Steptoe last December.

Koker was booked into jail Oct. 10 after she was arrested on a warrant in Grangeville, Idaho. Three arrest warrants had been issued after she failed to appear in court here on scheduled dates.

Koker was arrested after deputies responded to a report of a woman who was allegedly taking items out of a fifth-wheel trailer which was parked in the lot at the Steptoe RV park.

According to the report, Koker told deputies she had been cleaning out the trailer, but they found no sign that any cleaning had been underway. Items from the fifth wheel had been placed in the vehicle Koker was driving and a baggie of heroin was located at the scene.

Noting the outstanding warrants, Judge Gary Libey sentenced Koker to 90 days which was the maximum under the state's standard range. She was also placed on community custody for one year and ordered to undergo evaluation for substance abuse and undergo treatment.

Charges of possession of methamphetamine and third-degree theft were dismissed as part of a plea bargain agreement.

She was also ordered to pay $400 in restitution and $500 to the crime victims' fund.


Nicholas S. Rhuby, 25, Steptoe, pleaded not guilty Friday in superior court to a charge of taking a motor vehicle without permission. Rhuby was arrested Oct. 10 after his grandfather reported at 7:13 a.m. Rhuby had taken his 2002 Ford Explorer without permission from his residence on Stevens Street in Steptoe. The report noted Rhuby subsequently drove the Explorer back to the residence.

The report said after Rhuby was arrested at Steptoe, deputies determined three outstanding warrants for his arrest and when he was brought into jail they determined six warrants were outstanding.

After Rhuby pleaded not guilty Friday to the vehicle charge, he was allowed a furlough from jail for Monday to keep an appointment with Palouse River Counseling in Pullman in preparation for an application to participate in drug court.

He was set for a Dec. 16 trial date on the charge of taking the Explorer.


Thursday's edition of the Dayton Chronicle reported the Columbia Pulp Mill at Lyons Ferry on the Snake River running with production of strawboard panels expected to begin this week. The mill, a $184,000,000 investment, at one time had been targeted for a May opening and the date was later slipped back to September.

Columbia has been stockpiling wheat straw, including shipments from this area, which are projected to be consumed by the mill's production. The huge inventory of straw is located on table land above the mill on the Lyons Ferry Road south of the mill site.

The mill is located near the river downstream of Little Goose Dam along Highway 281 with railroad connection from the Snake River line which spans the river upstream from Lyons Ferry.

Mill production was projected to consume one of the oversize straw bales from this area and other locations per minute.


Whitman County Coroner Annie Pillers last Thursday issued a finding for the investigation of the unattended death of Brian Gregory Edwards, 26, Pullman. Edwards died at his residence Sept. 2.

The coroner said he died of asphyxiation due to aspiration from ingested medications with intoxication The manner of death was determined to be suicide.

Mr. Edwards had a history of bipolar disorder and severe anxiety, Coroner Pillers reported.


A formal charge of residential burglary was filed Monday in superior court against Raymond H. Lowley III, 42, Plummer, Idaho. Lowley was charged with entering a residence on Cove Road in the Tekoa area last March 24.

According to the investigation report, surveillance camera video at the residence showed a man entering the house. The man was identified as Lowley by Sheriff Sgt. Michael Jordan. It was additionally confirmed with the use of Lowley's photo on an expired Washington driver's license, the report alleged.

Lowley had been believed to be in custody of the Coeur d'Alene Tribal police for a violation of probation there. A warrant for his arrest was filed here with the charge and noted he was on federal parole from the violation.

Among items said missing from the residence are a John Deere riding mower, a 40-inch television set, chain saw and power washer.

The report said Lowley had been contacted by telephone during the investigation and admitted he had been at the residence, but said he knew nothing about the whereabouts of the missing items.

The warrant for his arrest was issued to any police officer in the area.

Bond for release on the warrant was set at $50,000.


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