Ellensburg monk Jampa Dorje’s art exhibit opens this week

Jampa Dorje, aka Richard Denner, with one of his smaller collages Monday in the 420 Loft gallery. Dorje is showing his collages and found art pieces in an exhibition at the gallery titled “Cowboy Funk,” which will run through the month. (Andy Matarrese/Daily Record)

Jampa Dorje, Ellensburg’s resident Tibetan Buddhist monk, leafed through one of his volumes in search of a poem.

He found one he wrote during a trip between his parents’ home in California’s Bay Area and his Buddhist retreat center in Colorado.

“I’ve already written my autobiography,” he said, rifling through one of the nine hand-illustrated and written volumes that comprise it.

Times have changed, he read, since people were out protesting China’s selection as host of the Olympics following outcry over its treatment of Tibet.

“I’m ordering a Grand Slam at Denny’s and the waiter says, ‘You guys are awesome.’ I’m checking into a Hotel 6 and the desk clerk asks, ‘Is there anything we can do for your people?”

Dorje, bespectacled and wearing his orange shirt and red robes, goes on:

“I’m taking a leak at a Shell station, the guy next to me goes ‘om.’ I mean, what is this? I’m only trying to relieve myself!”

He ended the poem laughing.

“As you can see, it’s not a totally serious religious path. I’m a bit of a renegade in a way,” he said. “I just feel that some of that seriousness is just so unnecessary. If you’re not having fun in your religion, I mean, why do it? … You’re burdening yourself with such unnecessary seriousness over things that should bring you joy and happiness.”

That’s part of Buddhism, he said, avoiding extremes in thought and action.

“It’s not as though people aren’t suffering, I mean they are! But part of it is, they’re not happy, and so much of that not-happiness is their own inability to be happy, and it’s the suffering on top of the suffering,” he said Monday in his small, simple house near Ninth Avenue and Water Street.

We all suffer, he said: It’s hot out; my butt itches; “I’d rather be fishing, but I can’t because I’m Buddhist.”

“Am I good enough? Will I have the security? I hate my boss. All of this is the unnecessary suffering that comes from attachments to ideas and forms and things that are impermanent, which in turn disappoint, fall apart, die.”

Read more here.

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CWU hosts 200-plus firefighters for training

Crew boss Devin Parvinen speaks with a group of firefighters gathered along a simluted fire line during DNR fire training in the Coleman Canyon area northeast of Ellensburg, Thursday, June 25, 2015. (Brian Myrick/Daily Record)

A few tufts of grass lingered after the recruits dug up a low trench, which needed to be clear of vegetation on down to the mineral soil underneath.

The group of new firefighters, all with the state Department of Natural Resources, were practicing the finer points of fire line digging Thursday morning as part of their training.

About 180 firefighters participated in the 11-day training program. Adding in instructors and support staff, about 260 people total were involved, with most activities conducted around Central Washington University in Ellensburg. The training wraps up Sunday.

 Devin Parvinen, one of the leaders with firefighters in Coleman Canyon Thursday, saw a learning opportunity.

A fire licking the sides of that not-quite clean trench could still cross over to the other side. The crew stopped to review their work.

They had talked about it in classes: how a quality, hand-built fire line ought to be free of debris.

Firefighters, often in groups of up 20 or so, walk in line and chip at the ground, each taking a small bit as they go.

But don’t get carried away, Parvinen told the group.

“You don’t need to take all the ground by yourself,” he said. “You hit, step. Hit, step.”

Read more here.

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Most of city’s power comes from renewable sources

mapLess than 2 percent of the Ellensburg’s electrical power comes from carbon-generating sources.

As part of discussions into restructuring the city solar project’s contribution, one question is why not go the whole way?

Almost 90 percent of Ellensburg’s electricity is generated from renewable, carbon-free resources, said Shan Rowbotham, the city’s gas and light director.

 The city of Ellensburg provides an electrical utility to city residents, and the city buys that energy from the Bonneville Power Administration, which generates the bulk of the energy it sells though hydropower. The breakdown is:

  • Hydropower: 88.41 percent
  • Nuclear: 10.25 percent
  • Fossil fuels: 1.34 percent

Rowbotham said BPA has maxed out its capacity for hydroelectric power generation. Power from the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant north of Richland and fossil fuel sources make up the difference.

graphMost of the energy from fossil fuels comes from coal, but Rowbotham said an increasing share of that is switching to natural gas, which burns cleaner.

“Basically, that’s what they’re purchasing on the market to meet load,” he said, adding that although demand for BPA power is growing, it’s growing slowly.

Locally produced solar power accounts for most of the 0.14 percent of power the city gets from renewable sources.

The city’s solar energy project generates 160,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

Click here for more, and here for more on the city’s solar project, specifically.

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Ellensburg tries new deal for solar park rates, maintenance

This 2010 drone photo provided by the city of Ellensburg shows the solar panels that make up Ellensburg’s 109-kilowatt community solar project. (Contributed)

The city of Ellensburg will take another crack at creating a new rate structure to pay for the city’s community solar energy park following complaints from local environmental advocates and solar energy customers.

City utilities staff proposed modifying the fee structure for the Community Renewable Park project in April to, in part, create a way to pay for facility maintenance and, possibly, growth.

Solar project investors and the Our Environment environmental advocacy group argued the April plan would create an unfair rate structure between those paying for power and those investing into the system for power credits at a later date, and that the city wasn’t adhering to its stated goals for sustainability.

The council sent the original proposal back to the city Utility Advisory Committee for further review and discussion with Our Environment and other stakeholders.

City Power and Gas Director Shan Rowbotham presented the new ordinance as a compromise, and said Our Environment had valid concerns, most of which the new ordinance addressed.

“We want to be responsive to customers but support the more expensive renewables, instead of all of our customers paying extra costs,” he said. “So we’re trying to strike a balance here, and that is between the customers who want renewable energy and are willing to pay a little bit more for it, and the other subset of customers, that we haven’t really heard much from. They’re the ones who want the lowest cost of power.”

The plan

The proposed rate plan offers those interested in using or advancing solar energy in the city three options.

The plan is fairly similar to what the city originally proposed, but now would allow ratepayers to opt out of any plan at any time:Customers can buy power generated at the solar park in 100 kilowatt-hour blocks at 2.5 cents per block, or $250 per month, but that number of blocks is limited to 130 due to the amount of power the panels can produce.

The 109-kilowatt system at the project generates 160,000 kilowatt-hours per year, according to the city.

Customers who participate would receive a credit on their electric bill.As a second option, interested buyers can make a $2 per month unit contribution to maintain the renewable energy park, with no limit on units.

The money spent on either option is in addition to normal electricity bills.Third, the city has a mechanism to accept donations directly toward the cash fund that maintains or expanding the facility.

Read more here, and more about Ellensburg’s power situation here.

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Initial Morgan Middle School design OK’d

An artist rendering of the proposed design for the remodeled entry and new wings for Morgan Middle School. (NAC Architecture)

After picking a general geometry for the building and deliberating over the arrangement of program space, a schematic design team for Morgan Middle School OK’d a general floor plan and rough-draft design on Tuesday.

The meeting was the last of the schematic design committee, a group of community members who have been advising the district’s architects, NAC Architecture, on general design issues.

The architects and group’s deliberations next go to the school district and board for further deliberation before a final design is chosen.

Little else changed since the group discussed site layout earlier this month. The site plan includes two smaller additional wings along the older 1929 building, creating a plaza-like area that leads into the building’s main entrance and west facade.

An artist rendering of the proposed design for the secondary entrance to Morgan Middle School. (NAC Architecture)

The architects revisited the main entry and offered a slightly different look.

Instead of building the sides of the addition that face the entry area with a lighter-colored material, the new proposal has them made with brick.

Keith Colmes, the principal architect for NAC Architecture, said using brick instead of a light masonry framed the entrance better.

The group agreed. There were several oohs and ahhs from the group when the architects presented a 3-D model of the draft designs.

District voters approved a $31.6 million bond in February to remodel the school. The full project cost is $45 million, with the rest being made up by a $13 million matching grant from the state. The hybrid construction would renovate the core, historic section of Morgan, tear down the 1960s and 1990s wings and build new additions for classrooms and educational space.

Read more here.

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Council unanimously rejects beer at ball games

The Ellensburg City Council unanimously voted Monday night against allowing beer at professional baseball games at Rotary Park.

An ordinance working its way through council would have allowed professional ball leagues to serve beer in a closed, restricted, beer garden-like area during baseball games.

The unanimous decision was a reversal from previous votes.

The council voted 4-3 in favor of having city staff research and create an ordinance after Keith Marshall, the general manager for the Ellensburg Bulls baseball team, asked to serve beer at the park for games.

The council also voted in favor, 5-2, on a first reading of the ordinance earlier this month.

Public comment was limited, except for a handful of members from the Kittitas County Community Network and Coalition reading a letter again from the substance abuse prevention group.

Allowing beer in Rotary Park increases youth exposure to alcohol, and increases the perception that alcohol is needed for community celebrations, they said.

Read more here.

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Local man descendant of Magna Carta writers

John Celius

Forty English barons angry over their king’s endless wars coerced the approval of the Magna Carta 800 years ago Monday.

County resident John Celius, after a lot of digging, found he’s a distant descendant of four of the barons; and of King John, who the barons forced into agreeing to the Magna Carta’s terms.

The Magna Carta is considered the founding document of English law and civil liberties and was an inspiration for the U.S. Constitution. Magna carta is Latin for great charter.

“You’re like a cheap detective,” Celius, 53, said of genealogy research. “Nobody really cares about this except for you.”

But it helps create context for history.

“It’s a connection toward things in the past,” he said.

Celius has always been interested in history. He grew up around it in Virginia, and for a while lived near Pearl Harbor — places where history was a part of daily life, he said.

“It’s that immediacy of history,” he said.

His college degree is in historical preservation, earned while he was in the Army.

It wasn’t until much later, around 2000, when Celius, who was adopted, would try to find his parents. He did — he was born in Moses Lake — and started digging for the rest of his family.

Celius said he works at it on and off, and when he’s really going, he can uncover a new ancestor monthly.

“What I find is the concept of a brick wall,” said. “Because you can’t go any further.”

Read more here.

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