Safety Role Familiar face checks meters on Saturdays

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

July 8, 2006

Kristi Viuhkola will stroll through the downtown business corridor today with a ticket book in hand — and a huge smile on her face.

“At the end of the day this job just fits my personality. I love people and I love being out there and not behind the scenes,” said Viuhkola, the city’s new Community Service Officer.

She is undaunted by the fact that some people might not be pleased about having to now plug parking meters on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Viuhkola will alternate weekends with parking officer Ronda Gimlin.

Viuhkola is used to dealing with irate members of the public after six years as an administrative assistant with the Hood River City Police Department. Plus, she is the daughter of a retired police chief from Clatskanie.

“Believe me, this is a realm I’m already familiar with. I think of this as an opportunity to be an ambassador and, hopefully, help people not feel so negative about parking enforcement,” she said.

Her $37,500 annual salary will be partially funded by the average of 90 parking citations she issued each weekend. She will also collect fines from violators of city codes, including health, nuisances, signage, sanitation and weed reduction.

Viuhkola is not at all worried about the one-year probationary status of her new position. She believes that enough money will be found to keep the program going — and it will increase the quality of life for area residents.

By enforcing parking limits on busy streets, she said merchants will have more opportunities for sales. And by enforcing city codes, many residential conflicts will be eliminated and the viewscape protected.

“I think it is very proactive for citizens to have our ordinances enforced,” she said.

But Viuhkola is especially pleased with the educational element of her role. She will instruct community members and service organizations about how to reduce crime in neighborhoods. In addition, she will hold public seminars on the correct use of child car seats and restraint systems. And provide information on traffic, bicycle and pedestrian safety.

While helping Chief Bruce Ludwig develop criteria for the position, Viuhkola compiled a thick notebook of materials for these programs. Since she assisted in defining the perimeters of the job — and is already familiar with police functions — Viuhkola said becoming the Community Service Officer was just a natural career move.

“I’m so in favor of this. I think it has so much potential and I’m so excited — I am probably over the top with optimism about the whole thing,” she said.

Ludwig said another important element of Viuhkola’s role is to supervise the storage of evidence. He said having only one person handling items will preserve the chain of custody in criminal cases.

The remainder of her duty roster is filled with tasks such as processing minor crime scene for latent fingerprints, and assisting with municipal court functions.

“Kristi is good with people and this is just a natural fit. She always enjoys a challenge and this job will definitely give her plenty of variety,” Ludwig said.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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