Articles written by Jonathan Olsen-koziol


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  • Three remain for Cheney Superintendent Job

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 21, 2022

    CHENEY – The Cheney School District’s (CSD) superintendent position has been whittled down to three finalists. Those remaining in the hunt are Sean Dotson, superintendent of the Tumwater School District, Ben Ferney, superintendent of the Valley School District south of Chewelah, and Donald Vanderholm, superintendent of Lind-Ritzville Cooperative Schools. Each interviewee took questions from the Cheney school board in front of curious community members in the Cheney High School auditorium last week. After a short int...

  • ARPA spending challenged

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 21, 2022

    CHENEY – On April 12, Derek Beziotis, owner of Bene’s, a breakfast spot located on West First Street, told the Cheney City Council he feels “left behind” with their American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding allocation. Beziotis said the city should inject additional ARPA funds into the small business economy instead of using them on infrastructure projects like replacing water pipes and expanding its broadband systems. “Ninety-seven percent of Cheney’s ARPA funds are for infrastructure—only .004 percent of Cheney’s ARPA funds a...

  • School district may join vaping lawsuit

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 21, 2022

    CHENEY – The Cheney School District (CSD) is considering joining a nationwide mass tort lawsuit against Juul Labs. The company is a maker of e-cigarettes that accounts for approximately 40% of the e-cigarette market. The Juul brand is said to be more popular for teens and adults than other types of vaping because of flavor and easy access to products. Garret Williams spoke at the district’s April 13 meeting on behalf of the Stevens-Clay law firm to discuss the mass action lawsuit. Over 700 school districts from around the...

  • Renovations and repairs coming to Cheney schools

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 21, 2022

    CHENEY – The Cheney School District (CSD) is preparing for a slew of renovations and repairs to schools all over the district. Board members met on April 13 to discuss the Information and Condition of Schools (ICOS) capital project with incoming maintenance and operations manager Rich Brown at the April 13 board meeting. Brown is replacing Jeff McClure who is retiring at the end of the month. His first day on the job is May 1. The ICOS reports are a series of reports that rates each school’s condition based on a 30-year lif...

  • Easter on the West Plains

    Matthew Stephens and Jonathan Olsen-Koziol|Updated Apr 21, 2022

  • City to spend $58,000 on well fencing

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 21, 2022

    CHENEY – The city council is allocating $58,000 of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to put fencing around wells No. 2 and 3. A unanimous vote sealed the council’s decision at their April 12 meeting. The $48,698 bid by Columbia General Contracting awarded the company the contract to perform the work. While the council debated the legitimacy of spending the money on fencing, councilman Paul Schmidt said, “It’s just a minimum-security issue.” According to council, the fencing will secure a 100-foot radius around th...

  • Cheney City Council approves sidewalk repair project

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 14, 2022

    CHENEY – Walking the streets of Cheney is about to be much safer. The Cheney City Council has approved a plan to repair damaged sidewalks around the city during the regularly scheduled city council meeting on April 12. The sidewalk project attracted two bidders; Five-Star concrete and WM Winkler Co. A third bidder, Cameron Reilly, was non-responsive. Five-Star was awarded the contract. The company submitted a bid of $135 per square foot, putting the total price of repairing 300 yards of sidewalk at $44,105.50 (including 8...

  • Cheney Shoe Barn going out of business

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 11, 2022

    CHENEY – The Cheney Shoe Barn is closing its doors after two successful years of operation. Owner Kimberly Howard is moving back to Arizona to care for her mother, who recently turned 98. Despite her mother's age and her business's success, Howard feels she's making the right decision. "It was definitely growing and growing well, so it's nice to go out on my terms," Howard said. "But I wish I didn't have to go out at all." Howard was a first-time business owner. She and her h...

  • Search goes on for Roettger's replacement

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 11, 2022

    CHENEY – The Cheney School District (CSD) is in the middle of its search for superintendent Rob Roettger’s replacement. Roettger has formally accepted a new position as superintendent of NorthEast Washington Educational Service District (NEW-ESD 101). It’s up to the school board to select CSD’s newest leader. “The board of directors will be the ones handling the hiring process,” Jamie Weingart, finance director, said. The job vacancy is posted on traditional online job boards such as LinkedIn and Indeed. But, the best place...

  • Betz Elementary PTA looking for sponsors

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 11, 2022

    CHENEY – The Betz Elementary School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) needs sponsorships for their initial Color Run event. Lisa Tollett is coordinating the Run. Her goal is to make it an annual event and raise $10,000 through individual donations and business sponsorships. The PTA will use the money to pay for school activities, equipment upgrades, and anything else that could enrich the student’s experience at Betz Elementary. Past fundraising money paid for upgrades on playground equipment, rewarding classes with Popsicle p...

  • Recycle center door installation begins this summer

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 11, 2022

    CHENEY – Cheney’s recycle center is getting a new overhead door. Cheney city council unanimously voted on Tuesday, March 22 to approve resolution F-018 that allows Big Timbers Contractors to begin work on an overhead door installation project that is estimated to cost $27,890. The city has allotted $33,700 for the project to account for 10% of contingencies according to the project’s proposal. “We’ve been attempting to do this for two or three years now,” Todd Ableman, Cheney public works director, said. The 14-foot doo...

  • Nelson Athlete of the Week

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 8, 2022

    CHENEY – Eastern Washington University's (EWU) Maggie Nelson was named the Big-Sky Conference's female field Athlete of the Week for her heptathlon performance during the Buc Scoring Invitational on March 24 and 25. Nelson also set a EWU heptathlon record by scoring 5,130 points through seven events: The 100 meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin and the 800-meter run. "To me it just means that all the hard work that I've put in that last f...

  • Unified Sports Program champions inclusivity

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Apr 8, 2022

    CHENEY – Parents and children gathered at the Crunk's Sports Complex in Cheney on Wednesday, March 30, to watch the spring season's first unified sports soccer game. The unified sports program allows students with intellectual disabilities to participate in team sports and discover how sports can enrich their daily lives. The program is an extension of the Special Olympics. "We have to give kudos to our parents, our athletes, admin, high and low, and last but not least, my c...

  • Cheney High School hires new principal

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 31, 2022

    CHENEY – Two candidates entered the Cheney High School auditorium on Thursday March 24 and one left as it's new principal. On Friday, March 25, Brett Hale was named to replace outgoing principal Troy Heuett after what was described as a rigorous interview process according a press release put out by the Cheney School District. Hale is touted as having extensive experience in student leadership and support programs. He's spent his career teaching in Washington with stints at a...

  • Eastern receives funding for Cybersecurity programs

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 31, 2022

    CHENEY – Eastern Washington University has been awarded $2.8 million to bolster their Cybersecurity program. The money will be used to create an undergraduate degree in Cybersecurity as well as a master’s program for Cyber operations. Eastern not only focuses on Cybersecurity as a whole but how rural communities such as Cheney need to prepare for Cybersecurity breaches just like large corporations do. Any business that houses information can be a target. Cybersecurity issues can be anything as small as credit card phi...

  • Prom returns to Cheney High School

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 31, 2022

    CHENEY – Prom is finally returning for Cheney High School (CHS) seniors (and juniors) this year after two years of COVID-19 lockdown and protocols. This year’s dance is at the Spokane Convention Center on May 14 from 8 to 11 p.m. The theme is Dancing with the Stars. “We’re super-duper excited to hold prom for the high school,” CHS ASB President Jackson Redder said. “Excited for a sense of normalcy.” Redder said they started planning this year’s prom immediately after the state mask mandate was lifted. He said they’ve compare...

  • Bi-County Honors Band and Choir take over Fox Theatre

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 31, 2022

    SPOKANE – Talented student musicians from Eastern Washington performed in front of a packed house in Spokane's Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. Bi-county Honors Band and Choir featured the best high school and middle school musicians from Liberty, Almira-Coulee-Hartline, Reardan, Davenport, Wilbur, Creston, Odessa, Sprague, Lamont, Harrington, Lind, and Ritzville. Senior musicians had to audition for their spots while juniors were selected by their respective musical d...

  • Eastern president salary: $400,000 annually

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 24, 2022

    CHENEY – The Eastern Washington University trustees on March 17 approved a $400,000 annual salary for new president Shari McMahan as part of her three-year employment contract. The contract was approved by unanimouis vote. “The president agrees to respect and obey all laws, rules, and regulations of the state of Washington and the United States of America and behave at all times in a thoroughly professional manner to elevate the positive profile of the university and so as not to bring discredit upon the president’s posit...

  • Planning Commission opposes Blackhawk Ridge

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 24, 2022

    CHENEY – After discussing a proposed housing develpment March 14, the Planning Commission is recommending against Blackhawk Ridge. The proposed single-family home development would cover 9.11 acres between Irene Place and Summit Drive. SynTier Energy, on behalf of Steve Emtman, are seeking approval of the project. “Concerns were geology/soil, steep slopes, drainage, traffic, water density, public interest, vehicle emissions and green space,” Senior City Planner Brett Lucas said. Public comments discussing faults of the potent...

  • Cheney school names 'Employee of Year'

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 24, 2022

    CHENEY – Charlie Pyke was named School District Employee of the Year on March 16. He came to the School District two years ago in 2019 as a substitute bus driver, and is now a painter for the district. However, due to COVID-19, Pyke answered a call to action that allowed him to flourish in a variety of different rolls. "In this short amount of time, I've done lots of different things for the school district and it's been fun to try out different things and do lots of different...

  • This is the first spring practice slate in two years

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 24, 2022

    CHENEY – The Eastern Washington University (EWU) Eagles are gearing up for their first spring practice schedule in two years. EWU put out a press release on Friday March 18 stating the entire spring practice schedule as well as announced the team’s pro days at Roos Field. The red-white game returns on to signify football is officially back at EWU. The team’s first practice is Tuesday, April 5. Pro days are when the team’s seniors return to their alma mater and work out for NFL scouts on their home field to see if they can con...

  • City Well No. 5 contaminated

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 17, 2022

    CHENEY – They city of Cheney sent notice to residents on March 2 that potentially harmful chemicals known as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were found in Well No. 5. The well is a seasonal water source located on Presley Drive used to compensate for additional water use during the summer months. According to the notice, the city's water division collected PFAS samples from the well on Oct. 7, 2021. A second set of samples taken on Dec. 6 confirmed the initial test r...

  • Cheney Police to wear body cameras

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 17, 2022

    CHENEY – Patrol officers with the Cheney Police Department will be sporting body cameras come March 21. The news of the addition to their apparel was announced during a city briefing on Tuesday, March 8. "The implementation of body-worn cameras is an example of the police department's commitment to being transparent with our community," Chief John Hensley said. Additionally, the officers of the Cheney Police Department have overwhelmingly embraced the use of the cameras and u...

  • Cheney receives ARPA Grant

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 17, 2022

    CHENEY – The city of Cheney is the recipient of a $3.49 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant. The government funding intends to help communities of all sizes across the country get back on their feet following the economic devastation left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The ARPA fund provides relief for cities, towns, and communities in the United States through State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLRF). Communities with over 50,000 people receive direct funding. Smaller communities, considered n...

  • Eastern names new defensive coordinator

    Jonathan Olsen-Koziol, Cheney Free Press|Updated Mar 17, 2022

    CHENEY – Former Eastern defensive line coach Jeff Copp is taking on the defensive coordinator role for the Eagles. Copp has taught every defensive position on the field during his tenured career and is familiar with the Big-Sky Conference competition, having spent time coaching with UC Davis, Northern Arizona, and Idaho State before coming to Eastern in 2020. “I’ve coached every position on defense at some point in my career,” Copp said. “Coming to Eastern Washington and coaching the defensive line again, which I hadn’t do...

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