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Soap Lake event pays tribute to town’s historic canoe race

Posted by on Jul 18, 2019

For some it will be a blast from the past. For some, it will be simply a blast. The Great Soap Lake Adventure Paddle not only will serve as another way the town will celebrate its 100th year, but also as a tribute to one of its most popular traditions of the 1980s and 1990s: the Great Soap Lake Canoe Race. “It’s kind of an homage,” said Alex Kovach, one of the lead organizers of the event, to be held July 20 on Soap Lake. The last Great Soap Lake Canoe Race occurred in 2006. “But there’s a lot of interest and people saying, ‘Oh, this would be great to have as a yearly thing,’ ” he added. Furthermore, many people have said they would like to volunteer and ensure the Great Soap Lake Adventure Paddle – or, Great SLAP – sticks around for longer than just one year. Kovach reins in his own optimism when talking about the race’s future, saying that a lot of decisions will hinge on how things turn out this year. The canoe races of the past sent paddlers through five lakes and included portage, which is a portion of the race where the competitors have to haul their canoes over land using nothing but their own strength. The Great SLAP will also have a portage, albeit a shorter one through the town of Soap Lake, so as to not scare away newbies. “We are sticking to it and keeping it this year,” Kovach said of the portage, adding that if the adventure paddle remains popular in a few years, “we might look into making it more accessible to people who just want to have fun and don’t want to grind too hard in a portage.” People might recruit friends to help out with the portage part, but that automatically drops them into the relay-teams category for the rest of the race. Categories are split into age groups and themed accordingly with the celebration (ages 1-25, 26-50, 51-75 and 76-100), although Kovach said the event discourages minors from participating, for safety reasons, so the first group is actually 18-25. The adventure paddle will have checkpoints along the way, where competitors may find water to drink as well as tokens with trivia questions about the history of the race’s predecessor. Correct answers will grant competitors time bonuses at the end of the race. The online signups deadline was set for July 14, and the webpage for registering states that there will be “limited spots available for day-of registration.” Kovach encouraged those who did not sign up to watch from the lake’s shores closest to the city. He also encouraged those who did and those who didn’t, to check out the town’s restaurants and bars post-race. Some establishments will feature videos from the early days of the canoe race in 1983. Motorized boats and pedal-powered boats are not allowed. People will have to have a life jacket and a whistle, for safety. Service animals are welcome. Consumption of alcoholic beverages during and before the race is prohibited. “There’s been a lot of interest from people who remember the great canoe race (at the beginning),” Kovach said. “That’s almost 40 years ago. Hopefully a lot of them are telling their kids, ‘Hey, we did this when we...

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Introducing science and technology through virtual reality

Posted by on Jul 16, 2019

On June 29, teenagers had an opportunity to come to grips with reality; virtual reality, that is. Marlene Bell, STEM outreach coordinator for the North Central Regional Library system, brought in the computer and virtual reality scenarios for the day. Programs such as these, which introduce science and technology to youth, are part of the NCRL summer repertoire. The idea is to provide these free experiences throughout the summer at the various NCRL libraries in the system. All of these summer events are part of a grant from the Washington State Library. “We will be adding more, because the grant was extended,” Bell said. Her job is to go all over the NCRL system and to serve Grant County specifically. Crystal Godoy, left, tries out virtual reality goggles with Marlene Bell at the George Public Library. Photo by Tammara Green/For the Post-Register On the day of the VR experience, Bell explained that there was a waiver, because VR can affect people differently. Virtual reality experiences can change moods, which can be a positive thing in some scenarios, but on the other hand, some experiences may be a little too much for some. Virtual reality is not recommended for people with seizure disorders for example. Bell presented several different experiences to the patrons of the library. One scenario involved turning into a giant bunny and meeting an alien. Another experience involved getting up close to a Tyrannosaurus rex. “It was pretty fun,” said Crystal Godoy. “You got to wave at a robot in friendship.” For more events to come this summer at either the George Public Library or the Quincy Public Library, go to By Tammara Green, For the...

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New teacher at GES comes with impressive accolades

Posted by on Jul 16, 2019

Gabriela Sorto will teach third grade at George Elementary next school year. But if you ask her, she will tell you she hopes to teach a little more than that. A Quincy product, Sorto said she wants the students in her first-ever teaching job to learn that if she could do it, they can, too, no matter the circumstances. “I want to show kids in a Title I school that it’s possible,” she said, using the federal government’s descriptor for schools with a large population of low-income students. Gabriella Sorto, center, and her parents, Oscar and Berta Sorto, celebrate on graduation day. Submitted photo Sorto said she started out as a student in the Quincy School District and then moved on to Big Bend Community College and Central Washington University, where she graduated cum laude with a degree in elementary education on June 8. CWU also named her the best student-teacher of its College of Education this year. Her career as a teacher will begin in September, but for Sorto, the journey to the front end of the classroom started a few years back. “Children were always close to my heart,” she said, adding that it wasn’t until she finished her first year at Big Bend that she decided to become a teacher. “Every time I thought about doing something else, I would tell myself, ‘who are you kidding? Just go with it,’ ” Sorto said. She did, and then some, making the Dean’s List 11 times between BBCC and CWU, graduating with honors and as the best student-teacher among 500 fellow graduates. John Bartkowski, a teacher at CWU whom Sorto refers to as her mentor, nominated her. Bartkowski called Sorto a “natural-born teacher” who is “always ready to meet the challenges of each school day.” Bartkowski’s nomination and praise “moved me to tears,” Sorto said, adding that she found out about the honor in April. Now that the start of her career looms ahead, Sorto has lofty goals for her first year staring back at all those sets of eager third-grader eyes. “I think a good year would be one where I develop relationships with the students,” said Sorto, 23. “A year like that would just be a dream for me.” By Sebastian Moraga, For the...

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Independence Day means family fun in George

Posted by on Jul 15, 2019

Hundreds and hundreds of people enjoyed Independence Day at George’s Community Park, the 62nd annual George, Washington, Fourth of July celebration. Kicking off the day’s events was the 30th anniversary of the Cherry Bomb Run. The race director, Elliot Kooy, said there is a lot of work leading up to the race, partly because he gets as many runners registering on the day of the event as before it. Explaining, Kooy said some people want to see the weather on the morning of the Fourth and how they feel before committing to enter the race. It was about 70 degrees at race time with a lightly overcast sky. The temperature rose to the mid-80s later in the day. At 8:30 a.m., about 140 runners waited at the start line on West Montmorency Boulevard. After some last-minute instructions from Kooy, at his signal the runners bolted east and quickly turned right, down South Washington Way. They would loop clockwise back to the park, some with big smiles, others with more focus on reaching the finish line. Ginny Omlin crossed the finish line in 32:33, not bad for the 79-year-old from George. Afterward, Kooy introduced Omlin as the oldest participant in the race. Blanca Barajas, right, sports colorful headgear at the George Fourth of July with her mother, Reynalda Ruiz, left. Barajas is from Moses Lake and has been coming to George for the Fourth since she was a child, she said. Now she brings her children for the fun every year. Photo by Dave Burgess/Post-Register After the Grand Parade up and down West Montmorency, the patriotic observance began at the stage. Dale Hille sang the national anthem again this year. With the flag raised, Debby Kooy stood at the microphone and talked about the George Community Hall roof project. Work on replacing the entire roof structure might begin in a few weeks if all goes well, she said. “We are profoundly grateful for those who have been pulling for us along the way,” she said, referring to everyone who donated or helped raise funds. Kooy then introduced state Sen. Judy Warnick, who had a part in getting some state funding for the roof project and had ridden a horse in the parade earlier. She passed along greetings from Rep. Tom Dent, who couldn’t attend the Fourth in George. In her speech, Warnick related meeting an immigrant in Washington, D.C., who exemplified an admirable patriotic spirit. The man, from Cameroon, loves America, works two jobs and is an Uber driver – working hard to bring his family from Cameroon to the U.S. Warnick concluded with, “Thank you for celebrating George.” Kooy added a short speech also, recounting how George was founded initially with the idea to make it like an American colonial town. It would have given people a glimpse of American history. She introduced the George Citizen of the Year, Courtney Felder, and said Felder brings a lot of energy to her volunteer work in George. Kooy then introduced Rep. Alex Ybarra, who gave a few remarks. He had run the two-mile race that morning and said he has probably missed the race only three times in its 30-year history. That day, he came in second among men in his age group. Over at the pavilion, a long line was...

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City Council OKs letter of interest on industrial wastewater discharge

Posted by on Jul 13, 2019

The city of Quincy signaled its interest in talking with the Port of Quincy about industrial wastewater at the July 2 meeting of the Quincy City Council Council members David Day and Tom Harris were absent. After the motion to approve the letter of interest, there was no discussion and the council voted in favor. The letter states: “ … The City of Quincy is willing to enter negotiations with the Port of Quincy to determine if the City and the Port can come to mutually agreeable terms for the City to transfer to the Port the City’s interest in the Industrial Wastewater that is currently being discharged into the Potholes Reservoir via the United States Bureau of Reclamation wasteway … . It is the City’s understanding the Port is initiating engineering and feasibility studies on discharge and permitting options at its own expense.” The city must end discharge into the wasteway by 2022. The port commissioners at their meetings have begun discussions about taking industrial wastewater and moving it north of the city, where the treated water could be used to irrigate crops. After the meeting, Quincy Port Commissioner Brian Kuest, who was at the council meeting, as was Commissioner Curt Morris, explained that the letter from the city was needed for the port to engage the state Department of Ecology on the subject. The next step is to meet with the city, Ecology and industrial water users to determine what the costs are and what comes next, Kuest said. As usual, most of the measures on the council’s agenda had to do with engineering and water. The council approved about a dozen such motions. In the Public Works Department, the retirement of Maintenance Supervisor Dave Reynolds has left substantial extra work for the working foreman, Roy Echavarria. The city is in the process of hiring a replacement for Reynolds, as well as a public works director and an administrative assistant. Recognizing the temporary added load on the working foreman, the council approved a motion to add some pay, a stipend of $9,634. The council also approved a motion to adopt a procedural handbook for the Quincy Animal Shelter. The 65-page document details duties and policies for shelter staff. In the mayor’s report, Mayor Paul Worley said, “I want to thank the police … they’ve been catching vandals and doing a lot better job than some people think they are.” Chief Kieth Siebert told the council about a meeting of key members of the community, including Siebert, on July 18 at which housing issues in Quincy will be discussed. He said the group might have ideas to present to the city. After the meeting Siebert said the group meets on the third Thursday of each month and it includes people from local organizations. He said they are trying to find a way to get more equitable housing in Quincy, address the issues and look for solutions. “We are just trying to find answers,” he said. By Dave Burgess,...

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Roundabout intersection closes for construction

Posted by on Jul 12, 2019

With a plan for accelerating the roundabout construction project in place last week, the city of Quincy expected to close the intersection of State Route 28 and 13th Avenue SW on Monday, July 8, and keep it closed until July 19. After the intersection reopens, work will continue. The project is expected to be substantially complete by the end of the month. The city’s move pleased Mike McKee, owner of Mike’s Barbecue and Smoked Meats, one of the businesses near the intersection that has been affected by the roundabout project. “It has had a disastrous effect on our business here,” McKee said last week. The intersection has been open in three directions during construction, but vehicles get backed up as they slow down and sometimes wait for a left-turner. The city’s plan was to keep the intersection open during the project, allowing vehicles to access 13th, where there are numerous businesses, two schools and a large city park. Some motorists have been avoiding the intersection, and signage on highways 28 and 281 directs traffic to avoid the intersection and use White Trail Road instead, bypassing Quincy. McKee said the project has substantially reduced his customer volumes.t “It has devastated our lunch crowd, because no one on a 30-minute lunch break is going to wait 15 minutes at the intersection,” he said. “Dinner traffic depends and whether people want to brave that intersection.” McKee said he has heard that other businesses in the shopping area, at the southeast corner of the intersection, have laid off employees because of the slowdown. He has had to cut back hours for his employees, he said, and he has not filled two positions that came open. “It has been a tough few months,” he said. “These are my busiest months of the year – or should be, and they are not.” The project was also lengthened after unidentified utility infrastructure in the ground was found at the site, according to the city of Quincy. In response, McKee started and circulated a petition supporting closure of the intersection in order to speed up the work. Pat Haley, Quincy’s incoming city administrator, said all the businesses in the area signed the petition. The option of closing the intersection and speeding up construction was discussed at length at the June 18 meeting of the Quincy City Council. McKee attended and spoke in favor of it. Highlighting how much better for his business it would be to close the intersection for about two weeks, he told the council that he might opt to simply close his business during that time. But, last week he said he hoped to keep the business open, at least partly because there was still some question whether there will be alley access to 13th, which would allow customers to reach his business. “We will just have to see if there is business to stay open,” he said. Closure will be an inconvenience for many, but at least it will happen after the regular school year, Haley said. “The traffic at the intersection has been significantly reduced” since school was out, he said. The contractor on the project, Tommer Construction, worked out the plan with the city, including the ability to pay overtime for workers to work five 10-hour days or even six 10-hour...

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Microsoft pays forward its conservation rebate from Grant PUD

Posted by on Jul 9, 2019

Grant PUD’s board of commissioners recognized Microsoft Corp. officials June 25 after the technology leader agreed to contribute a $480,000 energy conservation rebate toward initiatives to benefit Grant County residents as part of the utility’s Pay-it-Forward Partnership. Microsoft has data center operations in Quincy and is a customer of Grant PUD. “I would like to recognize Microsoft for having the generosity of seeing needs that can be met through using their conservation credit for the betterment of the county,” Grant PUD commissioner Thomas Flint said in a press release. Fellow PUD commissioner Nelson Cox echoed Flint’s appreciation. “It’s great to see that it’s countywide support,” Cox said in a press release. “That’s a big kudos.” Grant PUD will make a $470,000 contribution to the Columbia Basin Foundation on behalf of Microsoft. Microsoft will then work with the foundation to have $400,000 of its rebate go toward completion of Big Bend Community College’s Workforce Education Center, according to information from Grant PUD. From the left are: Terry Lees and Leanne Parton, Big Bend Community College; Nelson Cox, Grant PUD commissioner; Gigi Lowry, Microsoft; Tom Flint and Larry Schaapman, Grant PUD commissioners; Patrick Medaglia and Lisa Karstetter, Microsoft; Tom Moncrief, Columbia Basin Foundation; Dale Walker, Grant PUD commission president; Judy Wilson, Grant PUD commissioner; Leslie Taylor and Corrine Isaak, Columbia Basin Foundation. Submitted photo North Central Washington, including Grant County, is one of six regions chosen for Microsoft’s TechSpark initiative to foster economic opportunity and investment. “Sustainability is a core value for Microsoft, and that drives efforts to make our operations more energy efficient and environmentally friendly,” said Mike Egan, senior director of Microsoft’s TechSpark program, in a press release. “Our focus on sustainability can also be found in our work to help make communities more sustainable, and this contribution to Grant PUD’s Pay-it-Forward Partnership supports that goal. As part of our TechSpark initiative, Microsoft is working to foster new economic opportunities in North Central Washington. We see Big Bend Community College’s new Workforce Education Center as an investment in the future of the region where people can get the education and skills that are in high demand by employers.” Another portion of the rebate, $50,000, will help the foundation direct locally grown produce to healthy-eating programs for families in Grant County, and $20,000 will help school districts participate in an environmental-education program at Grant PUD’s Visitor Center at Wanapum Dam. The remaining $10,000 will go directly into Grant PUD’s Share the Warmth fund, which helps families in need pay their power bills, according to a press release. Microsoft entered into a partnership with Grant PUD to make significant energy-efficient upgrades to equipment at its data center operations in Quincy and have them audited by a third-party verifier. This helped Grant PUD fulfill the requirements of Washington’s Energy Independence Act (I-937) by achieving cost-effective conservation requirements. As part of this law, qualifying utilities must report their energy conservation achievements to the state of Washington every two years. Grant PUD has established a conservation goal for the 2018-2019 biennium of 32,149 megawatt-hours, according to a press release. “Microsoft’s participation in this program contributed to a significant savings in energy and also dollars for Grant PUD’s customers,” said Terry McKenzie, senior manager of Customer Solutions, in a press release. “We were able to...

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Quincy school board member tapped for leadership role at WSSDA

Posted by on Jul 8, 2019

Tricia Lubach, the longest-serving member on the Quincy School District Board of Directors, has been named the Washington State School Directors Association’s new director of leadership development services. A press release from the WSSDA described Lubach’s new role as ensuring “a continued focus on high-quality services and further development of special projects to support the work of Washington’s 1,477 school board members.” Commenting in an email, Lubach said: “I’m truly honored to have the opportunity to continue to provide training and professional development to school directors across the state. When I ran for the Quincy School Board fourteen years ago, I never imagined that it would lead to a new career working with board members and superintendents. I absolutely love working with people who believe so strongly in the need for an outstanding public education system that they are willing to run for office and donate hundreds of volunteer hours to the work. My role is to support them and provide the tools they need to do that work.” Lubach has served on the Quincy school board for 14 years, and she has worked as a training specialist for the WSSDA since 2014. She replaces the retiring Colleen Miller, who worked in public education for 41 years. “I am thrilled to continue the momentum Colleen and I have built for the leadership development branch during our years of working together,” Lubach said in the press release. “During my tenure we have increased outreach to and participation from school directors across the state.” In the press release, WSSDA’s executive director called Lubach “a natural fit for the position.” Quincy public schools chief John Boyd had high praise for Lubach as well, calling her “the dream board member for a superintendent.” “She’s just been a force in our district,” he said, later adding, “She’s just somebody who commands respect because she has integrity and follows through on everything she does.” Lubach, Boyd added, is a steady force, providing support for new board members, and she’s been a leader, “not just when it came to us passing our bond but also when thinking about the package we wanted to put together,” he said. Lubach will continue to make an impact and support board directors across the state. “I hold her in the highest regard of all the leaders I can think of in my 26-career in education,” Boyd said. By Sebastian Moraga, For the...

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Port of Quincy close to starting on industrial building

Posted by on Jul 6, 2019

Commissioners of the Port of Quincy are close to completing a deal that would have the port construct a building to house Raceway Technology., which would be a new employer in Quincy. At the June 26 port meeting, commissioners discussed the port’s industrial properties and gave some time to a deal with Raceway, a deal that the port has been working on for a couple of years. Raceway is interested in 9 acres in the port’s Industrial Park 4. Involved in the deal is Washington Trust Bank, which is expected to advance funds from a bond issue for the building for Raceway. Before the bank will advance funds, Raceway must give a deposit and rent, Kuest explained later, and sign the lease with the port. Then construction can begin. The building has been designed, and the port has selected a contractor to build it. If all goes as planned, Raceway will be in the new building and have 45-60 people working in Quincy by the end of the year, according to Kuest. Port commissioners also heard a report from Sarah Hawes on tables, chairs and a wedding coming up in the main hall of the conference center. Asked about the new sound system in the hall, she said she informs renters that the system is ready to use. Catalina Blancas updated the board on marketing the conference center, a new role for her. Blancas also works at Quincy Valley Chamber of Commerce. Commissioner Brian Kuest gave an update on dealings with the industrial water users group and the city of Quincy regarding handling discharge water from local industries. Kuest said the subject would be on the agenda at the next meeting of the Quincy City Council. The board voted in favor, with conditions, of engaging Landau Associates, an environmental and geotechnical firm, at a cost of $25,000 to perform an assessment, which will be paid for by the water users group. Kuest relayed to the port board a summary of ongoing talks between the leaders of Quincy Valley Medical Center and of Samaritan Healthcare of Moses Lake. Commissioners tabled an item of new business regarding a service agreement with Grant County Economic Development Council. By Dave Burgess,...

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Hospital finances hold steady, show small profit

Posted by on Jul 5, 2019

Financial numbers for May show a small profit for Quincy Valley Medical Center. The results are “pretty startling” compared to the center’s year ago numbers, said Commissioner Don Condit at the June 27 meeting of the board of Grant County Public Hospital District No. 2. Commissioner Anthony Gonzalez was absent from the meeting. Condit, giving the financial committee report, introduced Jim Heilsberg, whom he called “interim CFO.” Heilsberg generates some of the financial information presented at board meetings, Condit said. “We’ve done what we can to keep costs under control,” Condit said reviewing the report. Commissioner Randy Zolman added that the small profit is due to levy income. CEO Glenda Bishop agreed. The maintenance and operations levy has “done for us what we said it would … it filled in the gap.” “Your team has done a heck of a job reining in expenses also,” Zolman added. In QVMC’s income statement covering May, net income is about $15,600. In April, net income was $19,800. Comparing the year-to-date numbers, 2019 still looks significantly better than 2018: net income January through May this year is negative $58,800 compared to negative $507,600 in 2018. If the depreciation and amortization figure is removed, then 2019 to date shows a profit of $52,800, compared to a loss of $391,500 a year ago. Also during the June 27 meeting, the hospital district’s auditing firm, Dingus, Zarecor & Associates, presented its audit report covering 2018, and discussion followed. Luke Zarecor said the audit went much more smoothly than in the first year the firm did the district’s audit. A visitor from the state auditor’s office was also present. Bishop said later that the auditing firm routinely invites the state auditor to each of its presentations. Moving to the administrator’s report, Bishop expressed gratitude for her administration team for keeping things under control while she was away for a family emergency. While Bishop was out, Newton Moats, QVMC’s general services director, handled a scheduled meeting with Collins Woerman, an architectural firm studying QVMC’s physical facility, and he reported that the meeting was productive and that Samaritan Healthcare’s CEO, Theresa Sullivan, attended. Bishop also informed the board of laws passed that will significantly change how QVMC does its staffing in nursing and tech, starting in 2021, she said. An impact will be seen in wages, and “rather than have folks on-call, we will probably will have to add some personnel.” She took some time also to note the death of Ben Lindekugel, executive director of the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts. Lindekugel was a major cheerleader for Quincy, she said, as QVMC sought its way forward and held meetings with community members, some of which Lindekugel attended. Other matters addressed in the meeting included: • Kelly Robison made a very brief introduction to her quality improvement report for the board. The board voted to accept the report. • A motion carried to surplus out an older piece of equipment. • A motion passed to apply a grant to a technology purchase. Tom Richardson, QVMC’s director of information systems, said the board had approved purchase of six laptops with docks and 27-inch monitors for the clinic. The purchase is funded by a grant of $10,000 from the Lauzier Foundation. By Dave Burgess,...

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