2021 – Year In Review Pushing through the Pandemic


January 27, 2022

DAYTON–In this first month of 2022, the Dayton Chronicle again takes a look back at the stories which appeared in your community newspaper over the past 52 weeks

Due to space limitations, this “2021 In Review” is continued from the January 13 and will be included in the next few editions of the Dayton Chronicle.

July 1) Mayor Weatherford mum on recent firings, lingering questions about the June 16 firing of three City of Dayton officials remain unanswered this week after repeated attempts by the Dayton Chronicle to contact Mayor Zac Weatherford have been met with silence.

Columbia County Health System opened the Dental Clinic with a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house on June 30 beginning at noon.

The eighth annual “SWIM the SNAKE’ event will be held at Lyons Ferry Marina and Lyons Ferry State Park on Saturday, August 14, 2021.

Charges of third-degree assault and drive-by shooting received a not-guilty plea from Joshua B. Wilson, 25, of 104 Rose Gulch Road, Shangri LA R.V. Park, Dayton, stemming from an incident on Sunday, June 6, 2021, allegedly fired a shotgun that struck a 40-year-old man, causing his hospitalization.

8) In the aftermath of the yet undetermined blaze that severely damaged the Dayton Eagles Aerie N. 2618’s 222 East Main building, the membership of the local fraternal organization talked about options and appears to be favoring recovering the remaining structure.

Columbia Family Dental Clinic Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening. Attending Washington State Representative Skyler Rude, R-16, Dental Assistant Cheri Dean, Dental Hygienist Rand Nemeth, CCHS Board Chair Bob Hutchens, Director of Clinical Services Kim Emery, and Audra Morgan, DDS, and Cheryl Strang, wife of Michael Strang, DDS.

The decision to terminate employment of three City of Dayton employees on June 16 was Mayor Zac Weatherford’s alone, he informed the Dayton Chronicle, and those mayoral terminations were authorized in the contracts of each of those employees and did not require the mayor to consult with the City Council.

Local fire fighters were called out at 10:29 p.m. on July 4 to extinguish a grass fire tht burned a hillside below the Dayton City Cemetery at E. Jay and S. 6th streets according to District 3 Chief Jeromy Phinney.

15) The All Wheels Weekend “Extended” Demo Derby will be Saturday, July 17 at the Columbia County Fairgrounds.

The annual “Foodstock & Vintage at the Station” event held at the Blue Mountain Station July 17 at 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

The 2nd Annual Norm Passmore Golf Tournament, to benefit the Dayton/Waitsburg Community Health Foundation Fund, tees off at the Touchet Valley Golf Course.

The Corbeill family is new owners of Hubbard-Rogg Funeral Home. Craig and Nikki Corbeill of Colfax, Wash., recently purchased the Hubbard-Rogg Funeral Home here from long-time director, George Touchette. The funeral home, located in the heart of Dayton’s business district, has been continuously operated since its opening in 1905.

A July 7 thunderstorm sparks Blue Mountain fires. Firefighters working on the Green Ridge-Turkey Tail Fire, about 20miles from Dayton and some 30 miles from Walla Walla and are making Dayton its base of operations.

The Dayton School Board appointed Jeff McCowen to the open board position left by Kat ie Leid; approved the hiring of two teachers, one paraprofessional, laid plans for the third form and maintenance projects at the meeting July 7.

Van Ausdle Tire open for business. Family connections and family roots played a big part in Dru and Brooke Van Ausdle “coming home” to the southeastern corner of Washington. The plan is to offer a full-service car, truck and large equipment service center at their location on the west outskirts of Dayton.

The Dayton High School Class of ’71 joined the Class of 1970 to celebrate their 50th class reunion recently and alumni who attended deemed it a wonderful combined event with lots of visiting and shared memories.

22) A semi-tractor-trailer operated by KBC Transport, LLC of Kooskia, Id., lost its load of freshly sawn lumber on the sweeping curve where State Route 261 meets Highway 13, about eight miles north of Dayton, early Tuesday evening.

Public meeting of Green Ridge Fire reveals the extent of the fire lines. Member of the Northwest Incident Management Team 7 hosted a presentation of the Green Ridge Fire on July 15 at the Columbia County Fairgrounds Pavilion.

Residents of Dayton speculate as the mayor skirts question about terminations. The City Council heard a slight explanation of the reasoning for the special meeting held for public comment on June 30 after the termination of three senior employees, City administrator Trina Cole, Public Works, Manager Jim Costello, and Planning and Community Development Director Meagan Hayes, by request of Mayor Zac Weatherford.

29) Columbia County Sheriff Joe Helm reaffirms a commitment to uphold the citizens’ rights outlined in the Second Amendment by signing a document along with several other sheriffs around the state.

The BOCC approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Dayton contracting out County planning services at an hourly rate for a period of six months unless terminated with a one-month notice.

Primary Election August: Three vie for Port Commission. Three candidates filed for the District 3 Port of Columbia Commissioner position, Jack Miller, Sean Milligan, Jonny Watts, necessitating a ballot for the primary in which the top two vote-getters will advance to the November 2 General Election.

The Green Ridge Fire is about 18 miles southeast of Dayton and has steadily grown to its 6,800 acre size.

Dumas Station Wines is excited to announce the addition of Dirk Brink as the Winery’s winemaker, who joined the team at Dumas Station in April of this year, bringing eo years of wine making and vineyard experience.

Table Rock Meat Co. refurbishes former Cut and Wrap facility. Butcher Cristobal Garcia was trained by Joe Nyce, former owner of Dayton Cut and Wrap, and Table Rock Meat Co. follows Nyce’s time-tested practices and recipes.

Upon her retirement, Cindy Harris was feted for her for over 15 years of service to the Columbia County Auditor’s Office. AUGUST

5) Incumbent Port Commissioner Sean C. Milligan bowed out of the race for Port of Columbia Commissioner in District 3, according to unofficial results from the August 3 Primary Election. Advancing to the November 2 General Election will be Jack Miller, Waitsburg and Johnny Watts, Dayton.

Delta variant is suspected here; numbers jump but people not nearly as sick.

Green Ridge Fire burning freely in rugged terrain. Oregon Umatilla Forestry (ORUMF) reported firefighters continue to fight to contain the ongoing Ridge Fire.

Conservatives hold Patriot Picnic. About 100 citizens attended the Patriot Picnic in the Park on July 24 at the Dayton City Park. They met up for a “Meet and Mingle” with the candidates supported by the local political organization Columbia County Conservatives (CCC) Members from the Columbia County Republican Central Committee and Common Sense Conservatives from Walla Walla also attended.

12) The Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) has awarded the Port of Columbia with a $2 million grant to improve broadband infrastructure. The $2 million grant is contingent upon the community providing $500,000 in matching funds.

The Green Ridge Fire grew to 24,091 acres and remains 15% contained, reports the Rock Mountain Incident Management Team Black.

Donated golf cart speeds Main Street flower care by Mountain Mike, Dayton’s plant-care pro, whose job is to regular water the hanging flower basket that line Dayton’s Main Street.

Columbia Pulp CEO John Begley will retire effective September 3. Begley has been CEO of Columbia Pulp since its inception and has led the Company through its development, financing, design, construction and startup phases including the time it was shuttered by the COVID 19 pandemic.

19) The City Council approved the use of $330,000 of the 340,000 American Rescue Plan Act 2021 (ARPA) funds at the August 1 meeting. To go towards the $500,000 match requirement for the $2 million Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) grant the Port of Columbia was recently awarded to construct a fiber optic broadband network.

Councilwoman Delphine Bailey read a letter she wrote to the mayor announcing her intent to resign her position as Chairman of the Finance Committee, effective immediately.

The School District held its final summer forums August 12, one for the elementary and one for middle and high school, addresses discipline and COVID requirements.

COVID cases down, locally, there are 16 COVID-19 cases, down from a high of 27 in recent weeks.

Harvest crew have been wrapping up the final acres in recent days, bring the 2021 small-grains harvest to a close.

The Eight Annual Snake River Swim, reinstituted following a year off due to corona-virus precautions, was met with hot temperatures, thick smoke and calm water at the open water swim event, Saturday, August 14. Thirty participants, which included a 16-year-old male youth, Dimitry Truesdale from Spokane Valley, WA. challenged Lake Bryan, the approximately one-mile gap from Lyons Ferry State Park to the Lyons Ferry Marina and KOA. (ed.33, pg.6, 8-19-21)

26) On August 13, employees of Chief Spring Pizzeria and Fire & Irons Brewpub received a mandate from owners Mike and Ann Spring to get their first dose of the COVID vaccination by August 31 or their “employment will end.”

The Dayton Kiwanis Club in its 99th year, welcomed new members David Hemphill, Darla Rowe and Dale Walling. (ed.34, pg.1, 8-26-2021)

A handful of local residents met with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers to review the issues of labor, forest management, rural broadband and Snake River Dams. (ed.34, pg.1, 8-26-2021)

Innovia funding allows the Port of Columbia to offer start-up business grants in Columbia County.


2) Columbia is experiencing an exaggerated number of COVID cases (35) locally and is considered a community spread right now, but they are not linked together. Columbia County Public health Administrator Martha Lanman said this is a true community spread and it is very contagious.

Columbia County Health System CEO Shane McGuire and Chief Human Resources Officer Laura Stevens discussed with Board members the recent CoViD-19 vaccination mandate for healthcare employees at the August meeting, requiring them to be fully vaccinated by October 18 or be terminated.

The Dayton School District announced, Monday, August 30, the School board would be calling an emergency Zoom meeting in lieu of the regular work session meeting scheduled Wednesday September 1, in response to increased COVID-19 cases. The purpose of discussing the situation and approve the decision for middle and high school students grades 6-12 to move to remote learning.

The Patit Valley Grange #1039 has awarded a $500.00 scholarship to Alex Jenkins, the son of Jeff Dena Jenkins and a 2020 graduate of Dayton High School and is attending the University of Idaho.

9) Fair Hostess Kiley Curran, welcomes all to the 2021 Columbia County Fair, “were back in the saddle again”. The 133rd edition of the Columbia County Fair is to be held Friday, September 10-12, with the theme of “A-Blue Ribbon A-Fair, is getting a second time around following 2020’s COVID-altered event. Hostess Curran is the seventeen-year-old daughter of Krisy and Jason Taylor of Waitsburg and is serving her second consecutive year as hostess. (ed.36, pg.1, 9-9-210

Class-action lawsuit looms for Washington Counties after drug law is voided. I the wake of the ruling in Blake vs State of Washington, which invalidated the felony drug possession law last February, counties that held up the law as it was written are facing questions about the process of paying back fines and fees as well as clearing records of people convicted under the statute.

Port Commissioner Earle Marvin succumbs to medical complications attributed to his “untimely” death. (ed.36, pg.1, 9-9-21)

Bluewood general Manager Kim Clark died Tuesday August 31, of an apparent heart attack. Clark was working at the ski area at the time and significant rescue efforts were attempted but were unsuccessful. (ed.36, pg.1, 9-9-21)

Columbia County Fire District 3 crews responded to a motor vehicle accident on Hardsock Grade Tuesday morning. An unidentified vehicle, allegedly driven by Justin A Grimes, 41, left the roadway and was swallowed by the brush in the ditch. (ed.36, pg.5, 9-9-21)

16) The Port of Columbia Board of Commissioners voted to appoint Commissioner Shawn Brown as Chairman, then discussed plans to advertise the vacancy for District No.3. (ed.37, pg.1, 9-16-21)

Dayton Misses reign with reins at 111th Pendleton Round Up, as the 2021 Pendleton Round Up gets underway this week, its mounted royalty-Queen Josilyn Fullerton and Princesses Kaleigh White, Kayla Fossek, Lyla Lindquist and Lauren Makin—are finally realizing their life-long dreams of representing the foremost world famous rodeo of them all. (ed.37, pg.1, 9-16-21)

Commissioner Rundell: “The need for a vaccine of any kind should be self-evident” Commissioner Chuck Amerein replied first to say that the BOCC has a written statement opposing the mandates of any kind including masking and vaccinations by Commissioner Ryan Rundell which hasn’t been made public yet.

23) Dayton School Board meeting recessed then postponed over mask mandate. The Dayton School board met for the regular meeting on September 15 in the high School Auditorium, but after a lengthy public comment made by School Board candidate Aneesha Dieu, Chairman David Bailey asked her and Columbia County resident Kraig Horlacher, who were not wearing the required masks to mask up. Both refused and Dailey proceeded to ask them to leave, they refused and Bailey chose to recess the meeting for ten minutes to give them time to comply. Bailey also asked everyone present, including staff and Board members, to leave the Auditorium.

Sheriff Joe Helm states POSITION ON MASK ENFORCEMENT. During a contentious Dayton School District board meeting September 15, two individuals in the audience allegedly refused to wear masks when requested to by Chairman David Bailey. Sheriff Helm responded, “I am not the vaccine or are we not the mask police either”.

The Columbia County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) made a decision to change the bimonthly Monday work session meeting to Tuesdays beginning the second Tuesday in October.

The Fall Family Festival will be held at Blue Mountain Station in Dayton on Saturday, October 9, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The 2021 Columbia County Fair’s theme was A Blue Ribbon A-Fair and local 4-H and FFA members celebrated that with a display in the Youth Building featuring those youthful participates. This year the Fair welcomed people to enjoy a jackpot rodeo, a demo derby, unfettered access to show ring competitions, music and entertainment. (ed.38, pg.1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9; 9-23-21)

Columbia Pulp LLC and Ag Energy Solutions, Inc. have announced an agreement to partner in the processing of wheat straw from the Columbia Pulp facility through the Ag energy Solutions biomass processing platrform.1

30) Covid numbers falling on in Columbia County and personnel vaccinations are up 95% in compliance with Governor Jay Inslee’s timed mandate.

Columbia County Undersheriff Robbie Paterson is recovering at home after spending a few days in a Lewiston, Id., hospital following a motorcycle accident on State Rout129, e5 miles south of Asotin, Wash. on September 21. He suffered six fractured ribs and a broken vertebra. (ed.39, pg.1, 9-30-21)

Local members of Dayton Eagles Aerie No. 2618 continue to work inside the water-and-smoke-damaged structure at 222 East Min while awaiting resolution of inspections by a realtor adjustor and insurance adjustors, according to Lupe Benevides, Trust.

Public invited to hear long-term recommendations for Lewis & Clark Trail, Palouse Falls and Lyons Ferry. Washington State Parks will share recommendations for long-term recreation and land use for three southeastern Washington state parks at a public meeting to be held virtually at 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 5.


7) THE Columbia County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) accepted Pubic Health Administrator Martha Lanman’s resignation. Lanman, who served in the Whitman County Public Health Department and an eleven-year veteran with the Columbia County Public Health Department, gave a 30-day notice terminating her employment agreement here, with her last day will be November 4. (ed.40, pg.1, 10-7-21)

Washington State Parks has rescheduled its public meeting to share recommendation for long-term recreation and land use for three state parks in southeastern Washington. The meeting originally scheduled for Oct. 5, will take place virtually on Tuesday, Oct. 19. Additionally, two in-in-person meetings will be held next month in two southeastern Washington.

The Green Ridge Fire within the Wenaha-Tucannon wilderness remains at 61% contained over a 43,694-acre area.

14) General Election Ballots are in the mail for the November 2 election with numerous local candidates in races for City Council, School Board and Port Commission.

School Board member Justin Jaech resigned his position. There are individuals interested in being appointed to the vacancy.

21) The Port of Columbia Commissioners appointed Genie Crowe to the District 2 vacancy left by Earle Marvin during the October 13 meeting. Crowe is currently serving on the Port’s Touchet Valley Trail Steering Committee and the Touchet Valley Art Council.

Columbia Pulp has resumed production after being halted by the pandemic between April ,2020 and June ,2021. The company used its downtime to implement various improvements allowing for better quality for delivery to customers the company is also steadily increasing wet lap production. Upon opening back up the company created over one hundred family wage jobs while also boosting revenue for farmers and businesses.

28) Hospital district breaks ground for assisted living units, local residents will be able to reside in residential units specially designed to accommodate for their need of extra attention a step below skilled nursing facilities. The units will be placed a few yards north of the hospital in an area large enough for five units

Judge Scott Marinella announced his retirement to begin in January after 20 years. During his announcement of retirement, he provided commissioners with his recommendations and discussed the conditions to fill his position which has one year of current term.


4) County Clerk Sue Marinella to retire in December, 2021 with one year left of her two-year term. A replacement will be appointed by the commissioners for the remaining year. Sue Marinella started working for Columbia County in 1995, moving from Deputy Clerk and Chief Deputy Clerk to her current position.

Three incumbents currently serving on the Dayton City Council, Port of Columbia Commission and the Dayton School Board have been out polled by challengers in local races on the November 2 ballot, and a race for Port Commission No.3 between Jack Miller and Johnny Watts is too close to call as of election night.

11) Orozco appeals convictions; new trial granted on basis of dismissed juror’s ethnicity. The peremptory dismissal of a juror during the jury selection in the August 2019, murder trial of Benjamin Orozco was potentially based on racial discrimination. The court reversed Orozco’s conviction and ordered the case to be retired. During the trial and after Prosecutor Slack had dismissed th juror in question, Orozco’s defense attorney, Jane E. Richards, stated for the record that one of the jurors the State dismissed appeared to be the only African American Female in the entire pool. Richards raised a challenge under a requirement under Batson v. Kentucky and GR 37.

Budget discussion continues at County Commission. Preliminary budget review meetings continued for the Board of County Commissioners during their regular meeting on November 1. Columbia County Extension office for WSU interim Director Stephen VanVleet requested a budget increase of $2000 for communications for internet and phone services. The budget was also reviewed for the Flood Control Zone District and administrator Charles Eaton reported that a grant from FEMA is due to be accepted later in the week which will affect the final budget. The cash balance and revenues going into 2022 currently is at $620,000.

18) Port’s 2022 Budget approved. A public hearing was held on November 10 to review the Port of Columbia 2022 Budget with commissioners and Executive Director Jennie Dickinson. The beginning reserve listed is $100,000 and the beginning cash balance is $225,000. Total projected revenues are $817,865 plus $2,475,000 in grants and loans. Total projected expenses are $3,368,328 with an ending reserve anticipated at $249,537. Following the hearing during the regular meeting, the budget was approved.

Two Dayton veterans were honored for their service with the presentation of quilts of Valor from local Quilts of Valor seamstresses Debbie Bailey and Sylvia Demaris during last weeks Veterans Day observance. Retired Teacher and coach John Stockton, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and the Dayton Teacher Jeff McCann, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Innovia Foundation hosts data walk to follow-up on community survey. The purpose of the gathering was to present data compiled as a result of the survey together with other statistics mainly from the Healthy Youth Survey, the American Community Survey, the U.S. Census and reports from Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) During the meeting several small groups of attendees were formed to go over the information on five data boards set up around the room with a facilitator from one of the organizations to discuss the data, and make notes of reactions questions and any gaps regarding the information represented.

25) Burglary hits Moose Creek. On November 21 a burglary of the Moose Creek Café, and Bakery is under investigation by Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies. An employee of the bakery discovered the burglary at 6:23 a.m. Sunday morning when the back doors were discovered to be kicked in. A cash drawer with an estimated $200 in cash was reported to be taken. A Columbia Resident traveling on the Upper Hogeye Road noticed the cash drawer discarded alongside the road.

WDFW lethally removed an adult, male wolf from an area in Columbia County that is north of the Touchet pack territory and west of the Tucannon pack territory on Thursday, November 18, 2021. This action was taken by the WDFW was in response to 5 reports of wolf depredation events in the area since August 25. The latest report came on November 15 when WDFW staff received a call from a livestock producer who reported a 400- to 500 pound calf was dead behind their house in a private pasture adjacent to their home.


2) Golf Course reservoir project underway; Columbia County Public Works equipment has been busy on the Touchet Valley Golf Course digging a nearly one-acre irrigation reservoir as part of a plan to renovate the course’s sprinkler system. This part of the project is hoped to be finished and operational when the irrigation season starts in spring of 2022. In prior years, irrigating the course was labor intensive and the rate of water usage was limited by the Irrigation system.

Commissioners support rural fiber extension west of town; Port of Columbia Executive Director Jennie Dickinson received a letter of support drafted on behalf of the Columbia County Commissioners in support of Washington State Department of Commerce grant to the Port for the rural extension west along Highway 12 of the Fiber broadband project.

9) Missing teen safe; suspect apprehended in Spokane Valley; the subject of an Amber Alert issued last Monday and the individual suspected in the disappearance of the 15-year-old female from Lewiston, Idaho, is in custody her Tuesday Evening. According to the Washington State Patrol, the vehicle involved, was tipped to law enforcement and located with a man fitting the description of Jonathan Wayne Bowles, 36 in the driver seat and a female in the passenger seat.

County Departments and BOCC getting closer to next year’s budget; The Columbia County Commissioners hear budget plans for the Flood Control Zone District 2022, and the Annual Construction Project plan at the meeting December 6, 2021. The Flood Control Zone District 2022 budget was adopted at a public hearing held prior ro the BOCC meeting on December 6. The budget reported an ending cash balance of $8400 with $478,000 in expenditures which were reduced on the Dayton Rehab levee extension rehabilitation from $250,000 to $100,000.

16) Local Funeral Home to undergo name change; Craig and Nikki Corbeill, owners of three area funeral homer including Hubbard-Rogg Funeral Home here, have announced plans to change the names of their businesses to not only reflect their local family ownership but also to reassure each community served that the very same people who cared for the local community’s funeral needs over the past 2- years or so are still here and will be in the future.

Commissioner Crowe assumed Chair of Port; The Port of Columbia Board of Commissioners appointed Genie Crowe; District No. 2 as board chair; approved the release of $3250 to the Friends of the Dayton Community Pool and the $2 million broadband CERB grant contract and the Pacificorp pole agreement at the December 8 meeting.


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