Grays Harbor now has 2 new Washington State Patrol Troopers. At a ceremony held in the Capitol on Friday, 44 Troopers were sworn in by and presented their commission cards by Governor Christine Gregoire.
“Today we celebrate these fine men and women who successfully completed the tough and demanding training we required of them to be a Trooper,” said Chief John Batiste.
After completing 26 weeks of training at the State Patrol Academy, Justin Blake of Hoquiam and Kelli Howes of Elma joined the 99th Washington State Patrol class.
Historically, only about three percent of the total numbers of applicants make the grade to become WSP Troopers.
Grays Harbor Community Hospital announced on Friday a plan to restructure its workforce that will impact 50-60 jobs and force a 10% salary cut for all administrators, managers, and salaried staff.
A statement from GHCH stated the hospital is facing a $4 million budget gap as of first quarter of 2012. “We do not see these conditions improving in the near future,” said hospital CEO Tom Jensen.
High unemployment of over 13% in Grays Harbor County means GHCH is seeing more and more patients who are not able to pay for their medical care. In 2010, GHCH had to cover a total of $15,987,545 in write-offs due to charity care and bad debt. In 2011, $19,676,280 was written off, which is a 23% increase from the previous year.
“To continue providing healthcare in our community, we must face this transition head on and adjust our operations,” said CEO Tom Jensen. “Everyone is tightening their belts, but we have to do more.”
This restructure affects union and nonunion jobs.
“It will not be 50 to 60 people (laid) off, but they will be affected with schedule changes, potential hours cut, and some will be laid off.” Public Relations Director David Quigg tells KXRO “They will be coming from lots of different departments, from the top levels and down.“
Former Aberdeen doctor Antoine Johnson and his mother Lawanda Johnson were sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for more than two dozen federal felonies connected with their operation of four health care clinics in Western Washington, said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. The Johnsons were convicted in November 2011, following a three week jury trial.
Antoine Johnson was sentenced to 151 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $1,281,873 in restitution for 24 counts of health care fraud, four counts of filing false income tax returns and five counts of illegal drug distribution.
Lawanda Johnson was sentenced to 87 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $1,227,746 in restitution for 24 counts of health care fraud and six counts of filing false income tax returns.
Sentencing them to the high end of the guidelines range, U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton said the Johnsons “manipulated the standard of care for patients, they have manipulated the rules of reimbursement, they manipulated the Hippocratic Oath, they manipulated the Justice system….They have invented more excuses than they distributed pills.”
In 2008 Grays Harbor County Drug Task Force and the Washington State Medicaid Fraud Control Unit found that the clinics were dispensing a high number of prescriptions such as Oxycodone and Methadone without examining the patient. Johnson was the only medical doctor employed at the “Broadway Clinic” in Aberdeen and the “Johnson Family Practice” clinics in Tacoma, Lakewood, and Lacey.
The Johnsons closed their clinics and left the United States shortly after search warrants were executed at the four clinics and the residence of Lawanda Johnson in January 2009. The pair fled the United States, driving to Canada, from where they flew to Scotland, and then to Madagascar. The United States State Department worked with the FBI and Madagascar authorities resulting in the return of the Johnsons to the United States, where they were arrested and held for trial.
Former Hoquiam teacher Wesley A Phillips plead guilty to 2 counts of Communicating with a Minor for Immoral Purposes this week after sending sexually inappropriate messages to 12 year old Hoquiam Middle School students. The charge was dropped from a class C felony to a gross misdemeanor as part of his guilty plea.
Grays Harbor Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda tells KXRO that Phillips was sentenced to 364 days in jail, but will only serve 30 days at Grays Harbor County Jail pending his successful completion of 2 years probation. Phillips will also surrender his teaching license, attend sexual deviancy treatment, and will have to register as a sex offender for the next 10 years.
Class C felonies carry a 10 year registration for sex offenders, while Class A felonies require indefinite or lifetime registration.
Svoboda says that 2 computers seized by Hoquiam Police and sent to the Washington State Patrol to be searched did not return any new evidence.
The City of Hoquiam will hold an informational meeting at City Hall tonight at 6:30 p.m. to inform the public about the creation of a Local Historic District for downtown Hoquiam and what to expect in the coming months. Anyone with information to share with the planning team, or that would just like to learn more, is encouraged to attend the workshop.
“An important part of our ongoing Hometown Hoquiam efforts is to continue to celebrate our history through preservation. This project will ultimately help boost local commerce and tourism,” said Mayor Jack Durney.
In 2009 the City of Hoquiam was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to create the district.
An informational packet will be prepared for property owners later this year with more information about the process.
Above, a preliminary map of downtown was developed to aid in the fieldwork in early 2010. As
indicated by the boundaries the initial area was larger than the final recommended historic district.
The map above shows the refined study area in light yellow, and the recommended boundaries of the historic district
and individual properties within it.
Hundreds joined Representatives Steve Tharinger and Kevin Van De Wege on a telephone town hall meeting Wednesday night. During this call, a Grays Harbor resident asked the representatives about the recent string of teen suicides locally.
Tharinger called the incidents “…very, very tragic.” and spoke of the 1/10th of one percent funding available to the county for mental health that Grays Harbor has taken advantage of. Grays Harbor County Commissioners approved the tax last year as a way of providing relief to the court and corrections system that was over burdened and ill equipped to provide treatment to the people the newly formed Dependency/Therapeutic Court Fund.
Van De Wege said it was a “disturbing issue” but commended Grays Harbor to take steps to get funding to prevent the problems facing local youth.
In October of last year, Pacific County Commissioners also considered a sales tax increase to pay for mental health and substance abuse programs.
In the 2011 Coroner’s Report, Coroner Dan Burns said that despite the added public attention to suicides locally, 2011 saw a drop in the suicide rate through the coroner’s office, and a drop in the 5 year average.
Locally, a group called ‘Prevent Teen Suicide in Grays Harbor’ has scheduled a meeting Thursday night starting at 6pm at Aberdeen High School. The meeting is free and open to anyone interested. For more information you can visit their page on Facebook.
Former Aberdeen City Councilman Paul Fritts announced that he will place a measure on the November 2013 ballot to reduce the size of the Aberdeen City Council from 12 members down to 7.
Fritts says “Over and over I saw the same council members doing the lion’s share of the work with others just tagging along. It became frustrating watching some council members who never prepared themselves for the meetings by educating themselves on the issues they were voting on.” Fritts declined to point out specific members.
Fritts and fellow council member Tim Alstrom introduced a resolution to place the issue on the 2008 ballot. That resolution was voted down 8-4.
“It was somewhat disheartening to see how some members took the issue as an attack on them as opposed to a difference of opinion about an issue,” Fritts said.
To place a proposition on the ballot signatures must be collected from at least 15 percent of those who voted in the previous general election. Fritts tells KXRO that numbers received from Grays Harbor County Auditor Vern Spatz show 567 valid signatures will need to be collected.
Aberdeen and Hoquiam are the only cities in the state with 12 council members. Aberdeen has roughly 17,000 residents and consists of 12 square miles. By comparison, Seattle, with a population of 608 thousand and consisting of 142 square miles, only has nine council members.
A Facebook page has been set up for more information and upcoming petition sites at Reduce our Council on Facebook.