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Neita Cecil

Stories by Neita

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Hotel approved in TD

A Prineville family that owns five hotels in eastern Oregon has received city approval to build a sixth: an 80-room, four-story hotel at Sixth and Snipes in The Dalles. Rich Priday, a retired Les Schwab Tire Center executive, filed to build the motel through an entity called The Dalles LLC. He could not be reached for comment. The motel will face Sixth Street, and the city is requiring a 25-foot right of way be dedicated to the city so Sixth Street can be widened at that point to add a center turn lane, said The Dalles Planning Director Dick Gassman.

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Plane crash kills HR pilot

In what is believed to be the first fatality at the Columbia Gorge Regional Airport in Dallesport, longtime Hood River pilot Richard Sperling died Monday morning after his plane crashed on landing. The FAA responded to the crash from Hillsboro, and was on scene until about 9 p.m. Monday, said Rolf Anderson, an airport manager. Sperling was flying a Lancair 360, a type of home-built plane.

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Aftermath: Mopping up the mess

Barbara Nearing’s house and everything in it burned to the ground July 13. But it is a testament to both a giving community and her deep faith that she asked a reporter writing about the fire to please “keep it positive.” As she told a harrowing story of losing everything, the word “blessed” kept coming up. There was Joyce Powell-Morin at Mid-Columbia Medical Center, where Nearing works, who took on the task of getting her a replacement birth certificate, which she needs to replace her driver’s license.

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Guard adopts cemetery

The Pioneer Cemetery got some TLC from the National Guard during a drill weekend in mid-July, and the local unit plans to “adopt” the historic site and care for it.

Chronicle award list

The Dalles Chronicle netted seven awards in the 2016 Oregon Better Newspaper Contest for articles, editorials and graphics that were published last year. Reporter Neita Cecil received second place in the Best Enterprise Reporting category for a series of five stories in October and November written about the plight of a homeless mother and her five children. The articles unfolded as events occurred, including the removal of the children from motel room after the mother was arrested for a warrant involving methamphetamine use. The children, who were unable to attend school because of their situation, were sent to live with their father in Yakima.

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Champion dancer fires up viewers

A recent exchange of students from American Samoa visiting The Dalles was such a success that the local students – from Wahtonka Community School – hope to visit Samoa next year. The visiting group of students are part of a peer leader program that draws students from various local schools, said Moelilia Seui, executive director of the program, Intersections, Inc.

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Making the transition

In a wide-ranging interview that touched on everything from bras to bathrooms, a transgender woman who hopes to meet her grandchildren living in The Dalles quipped that she’s transparent about being transgender. Growing up in conservative Roseburg, Kim Mason was then 9-year-old Tim Mason when she realized she was different. She began playing dress-up, and once fashioned an old yellow rain jacket into a skirt. She’d steal her mother’s lipstick and paint her toenails.

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A life filled with secrets

Kim Mason has spent a lifetime living with secrets. First was the dawning realization during her childhood in Roseburg — she was a boy named Tim Mason then — that she was trapped in the wrong body.

Woman harasses dispatch center

In a rarity, the Wasco County 911 Center called police to report its own dilemma: a woman who incessantly called the dispatch center, perhaps 50 times over two days, last week.

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Two die in Dufur area crash

Two Dufur residents died in a single-vehicle rollover crash Sunday evening on Boyd Loop Road just outside Dufur, according to the Oregon State Police. Both the driver, Tamara Janine Kucher, 40, and Hunter William Reese Spears, 21, who was riding in the bed of the 1994 Chevrolet 1500 extended cab pickup, were ejected when the vehicle lost control on a turn and rolled down an embankment, said Sgt. Kaipo Raiser. Both died at the scene.

Two die in Dufur crash

Two Dufur residents died in a single-vehicle rollover crash Sunday evening on Boyd Loop Road just outside Dufur, according to the Oregon State Police. Both the driver, Tamara Janine Kucher, 40, and Hunter William Reese Spears, 21, who was riding in the bed of the 1994 Chevrolet 1500 extended cab pickup, were ejected when the vehicle lost control on a turn and rolled down an embankment, said Sgt. Kaipo Raiser. Both died at the scene.

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The Dalles group close to France attack

Five women from The Dalles on a month-long tour of Europe left a fireworks show in Nice, France, just 10 minutes before an attacker drove a truck into the crowd, killing over 80. After the Bastille Day fireworks show finished Thursday night, Paula Fairclo and her friends first headed to a café to get gelato, but decided against it because the crowds on the mile-long seaside promenade were too massive.

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Pokémon invades The Dalles

Anyone over a certain – rather youngish ─ age is probably baffled with the sudden international phenomenon that is the virtual reality game “Pokémon GO.” But not CheyAnne Lynn. A lifelong Pokémon fan, the 21-year-old The Dalles resident said, “I got it literally three minutes after it launched in the United States. That’s how long it took it to download.” That was clear back on July 6. In the mere week since, as Pokémon has taken over the airwaves and social media feeds, she’s been playing the game practically every waking minute. “I just got a Pokémon while walking in here,” she told a reporter as she came for an interview at the Chronicle.

TD police honor 5 fallen officers

Four officers from The Dalles Police Department have gone to Dallas to pay respects to the five police officers slain there last week by a sniper.

Schools test low for lead levels

While high lead levels were found in drinking water in some Portland schools, tests done on schools here produced results significantly below actionable levels. Testing was done in mid-June, with 74 samples taken at Chenowith, Dry Hollow and Colonel Wright elementaries, Wahtonka Community School, The Dalles High School and Mosier Community School. The EPA recommends that school water supplies showing lead levels above 20 parts per billion (ppb) be taken out of service.

Officers react to Dallas shootings

Wasco County Sheriff Lane Magill said he was in a daze this morning, trying to process what happened in Dallas, where five police were killed and seven wounded by sniper fire at a protest Thursday night against recent killings by police. “It’s tragic that people would target law enforcement, who are sworn to protect and serve the citizens,” he said. “I just don’t get it. I just don’t understand it in my mind; it’s too raw, it’s too new.”

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Armed robbery details emerge

The robber who stole an undisclosed amount of cash from Jack’s Mini Mart Wednesday was in the store for just 40 seconds, said a store manager who came upon the scene just as the man was running away.

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Quilt a ‘work of love’

A new quilt hanging in Doris Smith’s bedroom at The Springs at Mill Creek has some old material in it: handkerchiefs she received during her student nursing days in World War II. In 1943, at age 18, Smith joined the Army Nurse Corps, signing the required pledge to stick with the corps for the duration of the war, plus six months afterward.

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Armed robber hits food mart

A man armed with a shotgun made off with an undisclosed amount of money Wednesday night after holding up Jack’s Mini Mart by The Dalles Bridge. Police are looking for a vehicle that was stolen from Hood River at around the same time, which may be connected to the robbery. It is a dark colored 1993 Ford Explorer with Oregon plate UNW 254, said The Dalles Police Sgt. Jamie Carrico.

A growing concern

Starting off a homeless summit last week was Kevin Moynahan, who lives by the Community Meal site on Pentland Street that is seen as “ground zero” for the homeless problem. He wrote a sharp letter to the city a year ago, expressing frustration about hearing, day and night, screaming and fights going on by their house on Second Place. They also had litter and human waste left behind by people of all ages, from babies to toddlers to teenagers to older people.

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Homeless ideas aired at summit

Group eyes volunteer-run clearinghouse that would direct people to services

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Slide fire case ends

The older of two teens who admitted setting fire to the slide at Sorosis Park earlier this year was sentenced Monday to two years of supervised probation.

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Hill, former chief, sheriff, dies

Darrell Hill, former longtime The Dalles police chief and former Wasco County sheriff, died Wednesday night at his home after long outliving a medical prognosis for a rare form of dementia. He was 77.

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Full slate for Fourth of July

Parade, fireworks and fountain dedication planned for holiday

On Waterbury

Several people were asked share their thoughts on The Dalles Police Chief Jay Waterbury, who retires Thursday, June 30 after 41 years with the department. Here are their comments:

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A changing of the guard

Police work has improved over his 41 years of service

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Historic Brexit vote rocks Britain

An expat views historic results from U.S. home

Action urged on school plan

Like more formal polling done earlier, a handful of surveys taken at last Saturday’s school facilities symposium found almost equal support for a variety of new building options. The school district paid for a survey of 300 likely voters that found top support for a new high school, with a middle college a close second.

TDHS seeks mentorships

The Dalles High School is working with the grassroots community group on building a mentorship program, the school board heard last Thursday.

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Dedicated to Bernie

Solea Kabakov, a lifelong peace activist and resident of The Dalles, will be a delegate for Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July. She is one of two pledged delegates for Sanders from the Second Congressional District, which covers much of eastern Oregon.

New info in sex abuse case

A police interview with the senior pastor of First Christian Church showed that church officials had “expressed concerns” about the behavior of a youth leader who was eventually convicted of sexually abusing teen girls. Michael Cele Stephens, 20, was sentenced to 15 years in prison early this year for sexually abusing six teen girls. He met his victims through the church youth group and 4-H.

Poll shows school tax support

In welcome news for school officials, a poll of 300 likely voters found 55 percent were willing to pay more taxes to repair or replace schools if the money is spent accountably and ensures access to a high quality modern education.

Orlando vigil set Thursday

A vigil for the victims of the Orlando, Fla., mass shooting is set for Thursday, June 16, at 6:30 p.m. in Lewis & Clark Festival Park at the foot of Union Street. Early Sunday, a lone gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

TD church sued over sex abuse

The mother of a sex abuse victim has sued First Christian Church in The Dalles for $5 million, alleging the church did not adequately supervise the youth leader who abused her teen daughter.

Symposium to address learning

An education symposium titled “Where our Children Learn,” which will focus on school facilities and has state Rep. John Huffman as special guest, is set for Saturday, June 18, at the Mid-Columbia Senior Center, 1112 W. 9th St. The symposium will have two sessions, at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., with the same panelists speaking at both sessions.

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Oil train debriefings in Mosier

The Mosier train derailment was caused when an unknown number of large screws, used to provide extra stabilization to rail ties on curves, sheared off — something a railroad official said he’d never seen before in a derailment. Jason Rea, chief engineer for the western region of Union Pacific Railroad, described at a community meeting Friday in Mosier what had caused the June 3 derailment of 16 oil cars.

Citizens air rail concerns

Exhausted panelists took sharp questions from a standing-room-only crowd at a special Mosier City Council meeting Thursday about the handling of the June 3 oil train derailment.

Vet groups request city funding

The Dalles City Council will be asked Monday to provide $90,000 in funding for each of the next five fiscal years for veterans services. The request has been made by Les Cochenour, president of the Mid-Columbia Veterans Memorial Committee and Andretta Schellinger, facilitator for Home Fires Burning, a local group that supports female vets and military families.

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Buy Mom Prom tickets

The second annual “Mom Prom” — a chance to get dolled up and help a good cause at the same time — is set for Friday, June 24 at the Civic Auditorium. Some 40 items will be auctioned, considerably more than last year, and a dinner spread with plenty of options from Italian to Mexican will be on offer, as well as a candy “bar” where people can load up on sweets.

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Oil from Mosier stored in TD

With the roughly 280,000 gallons of oil remaining in the 16 derailed train cars in Mosier finally offloaded Wednesday morning, and stored in The Dalles, work began right away on removing the cars themselves.

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Cleanup continues in Mosier; oil stored in TD

With the roughly 280,000 gallons of oil remaining in the 16 derailed train cars in Mosier finally offloaded Wednesday morning, and stored in The Dalles, work began right away on removing the cars themselves. The derailed cars, which were decontaminated first, will be taken to Portland and scrapped, said Greg Svelund, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

D21 suspends ‘zone waivers’

Ever since School District 21 was formed 12 years ago, it has allowed grade school students to attend a school in the district other than their “resident” school, if they chose.

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Mosier students evacuated to TD

Stephen Schwiff was in a meeting in Hood River Friday when he first saw the smoke. Others took to their phones and quickly had news about the huge black plume: “They said, ‘Oh, there’s a railroad disaster in Mosier. They closed the highway,’” Schwiff recounted.

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Friend of the forest

If you ever come upon a clean campsite in the woods, you might have “Billy Yoté” to thank. Yoté spent the day after Memorial Day scouring six campsites, a passel of large garbage bags in tow. He filled about four of them full of trash, from dirty diapers to pizza boxes. One of the six sites was clean. “Yoté” isn’t Yote’s real name: He’s a lifelong resident of Wasco County who loves the woods but doesn’t think much of publicity. He merely made the mistake of chatting with a reporter Tuesday and sharing his day’s activities.

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Second party for TDHS Class of ‘17

In a first, two senior parties are being planned for The Dalles High School class of 2017, after a trip to Disneyland was announced and met with resistance from parents who wanted a less costly, local option.

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Homecoming for Ashmore

Patrick Ashmore was looking forward to retiring and getting involved in the community after a 29-year career with the Oregon State Police that saw him rise to the No. 2 post in the agency. Then he got a call from retiring The Dalles Police Chief Jay Waterbury, asking him to apply for the vacancy Waterbury was about to create.

Sugar drinks banned

Students were crabby for about the first week after The Dalles Middle School eased in a ban on bringing sugary and caffeinated drinks to school. But then they got over it.

School survey seeks dreams

The school district is encouraging citizens to take a new survey — either online or a meeting coming up — to share their hopes for what they want public education to look like in Oregon.

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ALS claims local woman

An inspiration to all she met, MariAnne Sansour has succumbed to ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, after a six-year battle that she fought on her own terms, with faith, grit and humor. Ironically, her death, on May 13, occurred during ALS Awareness Month. She was 69.

TD juniors aim for Disneyland

A group of parents with students in next year’s graduating class at The Dalles High School have an ambitious plan for boosting 2017 graduation rates: a three-day trip to Disneyland. The senior party was announced last month, giving the class of 2017 extra time to fundraise.