The Tri-Cities Airport reported nearly 440,000 passengers boarded planes in 2019, a new record for the Pasco facility.
Overall, the airport processed nearly 890,000 arriving and departing passengers.
The 11 percent gain was fueled in part by United Airlines’ addition of a nonstop flight to Los Angeles International.
The airline later announced it would discontinue the daily run for lack of interest.
The Port of Pasco, which operates the regional airport, credited Allegiant Airlines’ decision to assign larger Airbus planes to its Pasco routes with helping boost the numbers as well.
The four airlines serving the Tri-Cities all reported increases in 2019 passenger counts.
United boarded 75,445 passengers in 2019, a 25 percent increase.
Allegiant Airlines boarded 42,329 passengers, a 13 percent gain.
The airport’s busiest airlines, Delta and Alaska, both reported eight percent increases.
Delta boarded 181,781 passengers while Alaska Air boarded 138,568.
Despite the loss of the LAX flight, the Tri-City Airport is positioned to match its performance in 2020. United Airlines is offsetting its decision to cancel the Los Angeles with the additions of a second nonstop flight to San Francisco and a redeye flight to Chicago O’Hare.
The Chicago flight begins in June.
Go to flytricities.com for more flight details.
State regulators approved a settlement for Cascade Natural Gas resulting in a rate increase for customers on Feb. 3. The new rates are effective March 1.
The three-member Utilities and Transportation Commission approved an all-party settlement resulting in a $6.5 million, or 2.8 percent, increase in Cascade’s natural gas annual revenues. The settlement cut by almost half the company’s originally requested rate increase of $12.7 million, or 5.6 percent.
The average residential customer using 57 therms a month will pay $1.45 more, for an average monthly bill of $47.46.
The settlement allows Cascade to earn a 7.2 percent overall rate of return, instead of the 7.7 percent rate of return the company originally requested.
The commission received 17 public comments on Cascade’s rate increase proposal, all opposed.
In September 2019, UTC staff, Cascade, the Public Counsel Unit of the Attorney General’s Office, the Alliance of Western Energy Consumers, and The Energy Project filed the settlement agreement on the company’s request to raise rates.
Cascade’s last general rate increase was in 2018.
Kennewick-based Cascade Natural Gas Corporation serves almost 220,000 residential and business customers in 68 communities throughout the state, including Kennewick.
The Kennewick Man and Woman of the Year banquet is Feb. 24 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.
A social is at 6 p.m. and dinner is at 6:30 p.m. with the awards ceremony following.
Cost is $40 per person, or $400 for a table of eight. Reservations must be paid no later than Feb. 20.
For information or to RSVP, call 509-987-5822 or go to kmwoy.com.
WorkSource Columbia Basin’s apprenticeship 101 Career Fair is from 2-4 p.m. Feb 19 at the Byron Gjerde Center at Columbia Basin College, 2600 N. 20th Ave., in Pasco.
Nearly 90 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their apprenticeship and that their average starting salary is $60,000 a year, according to WorkSource.
There will be a brief presentation about the basics of apprenticeship and an opportunity to learn about local opportunities with Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 348, Northwest Laborers Training, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers National Electrical Contractors Association 112 Electrical Training Center, Southeastern Washington/Northeastern Oregon Sheet Metal Training, Construction Industry Training Council of Washington, and WorkSource Columbia Basin, among others.
For more information on registered apprenticeships, find WorkSource Columbia Basin on Facebook, or go to http://bit.ly/WorkSourceApprentices.
Columbia Basin College will conduct an agriculture-oriented camp for high school and college-age girls and women during spring break in April to promote farm-related careers.
The camp is supported by a two-year grant from the American Association of University Women to encourage women to pursue careers in agriculture. Up to 50 students are expected to participate over the course of the grant.
The 2020 camp takes place April 6-10 on CBC’s Pasco campus.
Campers will spend the week getting hands-on training in planting, transplanting, fertilizing and irrigation, working with GPS, geographic information systems and drones, touring local farms and agriculture companies, and hearing from guest speakers, including successful women in agriculture.
For information, contact the program director, Sandya Kesoju, at email@example.com or 509-542-4367.
Washington State University Tri-Cities is accepting donations to stock a new library with the 100 titles James Mattis said influenced his military career.
The books will be available to students through the General James Mattis Leadership Library in the WSU Tri-Cities veterans’ center.
Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general and President Donald Trump’s first Secretary of Defense, made the point that reading is important to leadership in his own recent book, “Call Sign Chaos.”
The aim of the campaign is to stock at least one copy of each of the 100 books Mattis included on his recommended reading list.
Local author C. Mark Smith is leading the fundraising effort.
Go to tricities.wsu.edu/give to make a donation and for a list of Mattis’ picks.
The AARP Foundation is providing free in-person tax assistance and preparation through April 15 through its Tax-Aide Program.
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers are trained and IRS-certified each year to ensure they know about and understand the latest changes to the U.S. Tax Code.
Assistance is being offered in the following locations:
For more information, including which documents to bring to the tax site call 888-227-7669 or go to aarpfoundation.org/taxhelp
The city of Richland is seeking citizen volunteers to fill openings on five boards and commissions.
The Arts Commission, Board of Adjustment, Code Enforcement Board, Parks and Recreation Commission and Planning Commission have openings.
The arts and parks board both have posts available for adults and youth.
The groups typically meet monthly or as needed.
Go to ci.richland.wa.us/government for details.
Richland’s famous son is supporting the Boy Scouts.
Former Secretary of Defense and Marine Gen. Jim Mattis will give the keynote address at the Boy Scout Leadership Breakfast honoring community leaders George Garlick and Ed Ray at 7 a.m. March 19 at the Pasco Red Lion.
The Blue Mountain Council will present Garlick and Ray with its North Star Award, given for their support of youth and families.
Mattis is a former Boy Scout and retired Marine Corps general who served as President Donald Trump’s first Secretary of Defense.
Tickets are available at blumountainscouts.org/2020breakfast. Tickets are $50, with sponsorships available from $100 to $10,000.
Call 509-735-7306 for information.
The Federal Trade Commission reports Washington residents filed nearly 57,000 claims representing losses of more than $29 million to scams and fraud in 2019.
The federal agency refunded about $2.7 million to consumers, less than 10 percent of the reported losses.
The most common complaints included imposter scams.
That was followed by complaints concerning identity theft, telephone and mobile services, online shopping and negative reviews and banks and lenders.
Nationally, consumers reported losing more than $1.9 billion to fraud in 2016. Of that, nearly $667 million in losses resulted from imposter scams.
The Better Business Bureau Northwest reported that Tri-Citians claimed to lose $138,000 in scams in 2019.
The FTC works to recover money from organizations that engage in illegal activity.
File complaints and learn more about protecting yourself and loved ones from scams at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
The U.S. Department of Labor has updated the Fair Labor Standards Act to clarify regulation governing when workers are covered by “joint employer status” for wage purposes.
Under the Fair Labor Act, an employee may have an employer and one or more joint employers that are jointly liable for the employee’s wages in certain situations.
The updated rules provide a balancing test to determine joint employer status in situations where an employee works for one employer while providing benefits to another entity or individual.
The test examines if the potential joint employer:
Go to dol.gov for more information.
Rachel Gorham-Fidino, an advanced practice registered nurse, opened New U Women’s Clinic to offer comprehensive health and primary care and aesthetic services in Kennewick.
Gorham-Fidino has more than eight years of clinical experience with expertise in breast cancer risk assessment, hereditary cancer syndromes, cancer genetics, cancer prevention and more.
The practice team also includes Patricia “Annie” Neuman, a physician assistant who will provide primary care and diabetes management, Rochelle Wilcox, an aesthetic nurse specialist, and Adrianna Boehler, master aesthetician.
The clinic opened in February at 35 S. Louise St., Suite A120, in Kennewick. Call 509-491-1944 or go to newuwomensclinic.com for information.
Beauty products retailer Sephora will open a second Columbia Center location in the outward facing section of the mall between Chico’s and Verizon Wireless, near Barnes & Noble at the south end of the retail complex.
Sephora also operates within the JCPenney store at the opposite end of the mall.
The new Sephora will open in the spring, Columbia Center announced on Feb. 5.
A quirky local nod to the 1922 Teapot Dome scandal is getting a new neighbor — a parking lot.
The city of Zillah is preparing to develop a park and ride on property next to the historic Teapot Dome Gas Station.
The $650,000 project, funded by the state, will provide much needed parking for commuters, the community center and the former Teapot Dome Gas Station, now a visitor center.
The 97-space park and ride will be built next to the teapot-shaped structure on vacant land at West 113-115 First Ave. The project was advertised to contractors in January, with bids due Feb. 11.
The project includes driveways on West First Avenue, charging stations for electric vehicles, landscaping and pedestrian/bicycle amenities.
Jack Ainsworth created the Teapot Dome Service Station in 1922, inspired by the Scandal involving the illegal transfer and leasing of oil fields and centered on the Warren G. Harding Administration.
The gas station structured moved to its current location in 2012.
Cityofzillah.us/Teapot.html has more on the scandal and the gas station it inspired.
The Washington Department of Commerce and the Department of Children and Youth Families awarded $17.2 million in grants to support expansion of early learning facilities, including two in the Tri-Cities.
The grants provide financial support to allow those who serve families through the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and the Working Connections Child Care program to plan, expand, remodel or purchase facilities and classrooms. The awards announced Feb. 6 will serve more than 1,270 children.
Pasco’s Rainbow River Childcare LLC received $560,000 and will add 30 spaces.
Kennewick’s Bilingual Learning Center received $200,000 grant and will expand by 70 spaces.
The plant that produced two-thirds of the nation’s Cold War-era plutonium has been demolished. Crews recently finished demolishing the Plutonium Finishing Plant’s main processing facility at the Hanford nuclear reservation.
The main processing facility was nicknamed Z Plant, because it was the last stop of plutonium production at Hanford. It operated from 1949-89 and contained two processing lines where workers working through gloveboxes would create hockey puck-sized plutonium “buttons” for shipment to weapons-manufacturing facilities. Plutonium production left gloveboxes and other pieces of plutonium processing equipment highly contaminated.
Two decades of demolition preparations included decontaminating and removing about 200 pieces of plutonium processing equipment like glove boxes, 1.5 miles of ventilation piping, contaminated process lines, asbestos and other hazards. In some instances, such as cutting and removing two highly contaminated glove boxes, workers performed some of the most hazardous work anywhere across the DOE complex.
Four main buildings that anchored the plant were torn down since demolition began in 2016, an americium recovery facility (242-Z), fan house/ventilation stack (291-Z), plutonium reclamation facility (236-Z), and the main processing facility (236-Z).
DOE contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Co. is responsible for the demolition of PFP.
The final activities at PFP include packaging and safe disposal of the rubble, core sampling soil beneath the building pads and stabilization of the site with soil cover. The Plutonium Reclamation Facility was demolished in 2017, and crews will be removing rubble that has been under the cover of fixatives and soil. This work was scheduled to begin this month and be completed this summer.
A 45-day comment period began in mid-February on proposed modifications to the Hanford Emergency Plan and other aspects of Hanford site management and operations.
The Washington State Department of Ecology issued a 30-day advance notice of the upcoming comment period on Jan. 9.
The permits are held by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection and Richland Operations, Mission Support Alliance, Bechtel National Inc., Washington River Protection Services LLC, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company.
A public hearing will be scheduled if there is enough interest. Submit requests to Hanford@ecy.wa.gov.
The Northwest Rural Health Conference will be March 23-25 at the Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane.
The annual conference is an opportunity for professions from around the region to share experience and knowledge to advance rural health.
There will be opportunities to network as well as speakers and breakout sessions covering policies, skills and emerging technology.
Go to nwruralhealth.com for registration information and program updates.
The Internal Revenue Service cautions taxpayers to avoid using “ghosts” to prepare their taxes.
A ghost preparer does not sign a tax return they are paid to prepare. Paid preparers are required by law to sign federal tax returns and must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN.
According to the IRS, ghosts typically print a return and tell the client to sign and mail it to the IRS. For e-filed returns, the unscrupulous preparer will refuse to digitally sign as the paid preparer.
Taxpayers should be suspicious if they’re asked to pay the preparer in cash and don’t receive a receipt, if the preparer invents income to qualify the client for tax credits, claims fake deductions to boost the size of the refund or directs refunds to the preparer’s bank account rather than the taxpayer’s account.
Some taxpayers are eligible for free preparation services.
Go to irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers for information.
Lucinda “Cindy” Fazio has been appointed director of the Washington State Department of Financial Institution’s Division of Consumer Services.
Fazio is a 15-year veteran of the department, which is tasked with protecting consumers from illegal and fraudulent lending practices by regulating consumer loan companies, mortgage brokers, money transmitters and currency exchangers as well as payday lenders.
She most recently worked as its chief of regulatory affairs. In that role, she directed rule writing and legislative review for statutes implemented by the division. Prior to working in state government, Fazio was a criminal trial attorney and business attorney.
She graduated from Boise State University and earned her law degree from Seattle University Law School.
Grandview-based Kenyon Zero Storage Inc. has settled two complaints by the Environmental Protection Agency that it violated the law at its cold storage facilities in Grandview and Prosser.
The cases were settled in late 2019 and announced in January.
Kenyon Zero storage agreed to pay a penalty of $34,000 to resolve a complaint about a Jan. 13, 2018, ammonia release in Grandview. The EPA charged it with violating the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act as well as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act when it failed to immediately report the incident to the National Response Center as well as local agencies.
In the second incident, Kenyon Zero Storage was charged with violating the Clean Air Act for failing to update its risk management plan on a five-year cycle for its Prosser facility.
The violation was corrected the company paid a $1,200 penalty.
Kenyon Zero Storage operates cold storage facilities in the Lower Yakima Valley and Pasco, where it is expanding its footprint with a new project.
The Tri-Cities Cancer Center and Red Mountain Kitchen are collaborating on a series of cooking classes in even-numbered months.
Chef Kyle Thornhill of Professional Food Services will lead the classes, which will meet from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Red Mountain Kitchen, 212 W. Kennewick Ave. Cost is $50 per class, which includes supplies and an apron.
Participants will prepare health meals to eat or take home.
The series continues with sessions on April 16, June 10, Aug. 12 and Oct. 14.
Call 509-737-3413 or go to tccancer.org/cuisine to register.
The JA Bowling Classic is seeking volunteers to work 2.5-hour shifts during the Feb. 25-March 6 event at Atomic Bowl in Richland and Spare Time Lanes in Kennewick.
The JA Bowling Classic is one of the primary fundraisers for Junior Achievement, which provides hands-on business education to students.
Volunteers will help run the prize table, assist at an auction and handle incoming donations.
Call 503-783-7222 for information.
Northwest Farm Credit Services will pay $145 million in cash “patronage” dividends to its customer-members in February, the highest amount since the program began in 2000.
The money represents nearly half of the Spokane financial cooperative’s 2019 earnings and translates to 1.25 percent of customer-members’ eligible average daily loan balances.
Northwest Farm Credit Services is a $12 billion financial cooperative that provides financial services to farmers, ranchers, agribusiness, commercial fishermen, timber producers, rural homeowners and crop insurance. It operates in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Alaska
Washington Trust Bank reports assets topped the $7 billion mark for the first time in company history in 2019.
Washington Trust Bank is a regional financial institution based in Spokane and operating in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It has a Kennewick branch at 3250 W. Clearwater Ave.
In its yearend report to shareholders, Washington Trust reported net income of $83.3 million, comparable to 2019, or $32.56 per diluted share, slightly above 2018’s $32.42. Shareholder equity stood at $696 million at the end of 2019, more than double the $305 million reported a decade earlier, during the Great Recession.
It reported $7.16 billion in assets at the end of 2019, compared to $6.8 billion in 2018.
In 2019, investor-owned energy companies received more complaints than any other regulated industry, followed by landline telephone companies, according to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission.
In its annual analysis of consumer complaints, the UTC found 44 percent of the 899 complaints closed in 2019 were against regulated energy companies.
Regulated companies issued more than $73,000 in bill credits and refunds to customers as a result of 2019 consumer complaint investigations.
Consumers filed 396 complaints against regulated electric and natural gas companies, which led to about $23,500 in bill credits or refunds. The most common complaints involved disputed bills, disconnections, customer service and deposit concerns.
Of the 294 complaints against telephone companies, customers received more than $39,000 in bill credits or refunds. The most common complaints involved disputed bills, quality of service, customer service, and disconnections.
Regulated water companies, solid waste companies, and moving companies accounted for 204 complaints in 2019. Customers of these companies received over $10,000 in refunds or credits.
In addition to resolving complaints, the UTC’s Consumer Protection Help Line received more than 5,800 phone calls, letters, and emails from the public. Staff helped consumers find utility assistance, provided information on consumer rights, and assisted consumers in locating permitted residential moving and passenger transportation companies.
Consumers can file a complaint against a regulated company by calling the Consumer Protection Help Line at 1-888-333-WUTC (9882), emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting www.utc.wa.gov/fileacomplaint.
Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco and Trios Hospital at Southridge in Kennewick announced they have acquired robotic guidance and navigation technology to aid surgeons during spinal surgery.
The new technology enables more precise surgery, leading to less invasive procedures, decreased surgery time, and radiation exposure to those working in operating rooms.
“It’s a win-win, offering benefits to both patients and our staff,” Rob Monical, chief executive officer of Lourdes, said in a news release.
The Washington State Department of Commerce reminds anyone earning up to $55,952 that they may be eligible to receive the federal Earned Income Tax Credit.
To take advantage of this benefit, taxpayers must file a federal income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service even if they owe no income tax, or are not otherwise required to file a tax return. Last year the average EITC was $2,205.
Many people are eligible for this tax benefit, but it often goes unclaimed, according to a Department of Commerce news release. The IRS estimates 20 percent of those eligible either do not claim the benefit on their taxes or do not file a tax return at all. Seniors, those with low incomes and non-English speaking taxpayers account for much of the unclaimed credits because they don’t realize they are eligible. The credit reduces the amount of taxes owed and results in a lump sum refund payment for most people who are eligible to claim it.
In 2019, 388,000 Washington residents applied for the credit, claiming $856 million in refunds. This year, individuals can receive a tax refund of up to $6,557 if they meet eligibility requirements.
“The earned income tax credit is a triple win for families, businesses and communities,” said Lisa Brown, director of the Department of Commerce, in a statement. “EITC dollars strengthen family finances and also strengthen communities when those dollars flow into the local economy.”
The Department of Commerce and Department of Social and Health Services work with many local agencies and nonprofits across the state to raise awareness about the EITC and free tax preparation services.
To learn more, go to wa211.org or call the Washington information line by dialing 211 and ask for free tax preparation services. The IRS has a one-stop “EITC Central” website with information in multiple languages and alternative formats at eitc.irs.gov.
Washington State University Tri-Cities is exhibiting works of art created by 16 members of the WSU faculty from across university through Feb. 28 at the art center on the Richland campus.
The exhibit includes interactive and electronic sculptures, ceramics, photography, painting and more.
The art center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.
Visit tricities.wsu.edu/art-center for more information.
Banner Corp. (NASDAQ GSM: BANR) reported it set a new earnings record in 2019 with net income of $146.3 million, or $4.18 per diluted share, a
7 percent increase over the prior year.
Walla Walla-based Banner is the parent company of Banner Bank and Islander Bank.
Banner attributed the record year to loan and deposit growth.
It held $12.6 billion in assets at year end, $9.2 billion in net loans and $10 billion in deposits.
Banner operates 178 branch offices. It announced it completed its acquisition of California-based AltaPacific Bancorp in November.
It will pay a fourth-quarter dividend of $1.41 per share.
Benton County reports it was the victim of a phishing scam that led it to deposit more than $740,000 in an incorrect bank account in late 2019.
Fortunately for the county, the bank froze the account shortly after the deposit, but not before $23,000 had been taken out.
The county said it was asked to update the payment information for a contractor working on county construction projects in October.
In November, after receiving legitimate invoices, it deposited the money in the account. It discovered the scam in December.
Federal authorities have seized the $717,000 left in the account after it was frozen. Benton County said it is working with authorities to have the seized money returned.
It has not identified a suspect.
The county has paid the invoice of the actual contractor.The theft occurred as the county was transitioning to new administrators following the retirement of its longtime manager. It said it is reviewing internal policies and procedures to avoid being vulnerable to similar scams.
The Tri-Cities posted the lowest year-end jobless rate in recent memory, according to figures released by the Washington Employment Security Department.
The local jobless rate was 5.9 percent in December, compared to 6.5 percent in 2018, 6.7 percent in 2017 and 7.3 percent in 2016.
The December rate was half a point higher than November, reflecting the seasonal mid-winter trend upward when construction and agricultural activity slow down for the winter.
There were 147,420 people in the Tri-City civilian workforce in December. Of those, 8,755 were looking for work.
The Washington state unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in December.
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