Two years after he had to shut down the Columbia Court Club in Hermiston due to a fire, Steve Watkinds has sold the building and started a new business inspecting and selling fire extinguishers.

Watkinds didn’t disclose the buyer of the club at 80903 S. Highway 395, but said in the near future they should be announcing plans to renovate and reopen it as a fitness center once again.

The building served for 38 years as a workout center, gymnasium, indoor track and Hermiston’s only indoor pool, until a fire broke out upstairs in the summer of 2016. The fire, thought to have been started by an electrical short in a power strip, charred the upper floor of the building and put holes in the ceiling that have since led to further water damage.

Watkinds said he spent two years and thousands of dollars in legal fees fighting with the insurance company. They have finally reached a settlement, he said, but not one that would pay to rebuild everything the club had before, up to current building codes. And once the club opened it would take months of hard work to try and re-attract customers that have been “absorbed into the market” elsewhere.

“I did that once when I was 25 and that was fine, but I’m too old to take on that challenge again,” he said. “I’m going to leave that to the younger generation.”

Instead, Watkinds is conducting required yearly inspections of fire extinguishers and selling new ones through Fire Pro, a local business he has begun with former court club manager Mary Marsing. For more information about the business, or to schedule an appointment, call 541-567-9451.

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Sen. Ron Wyden will hold a town hall in Hermiston Tuesday.

He plans to hold five town halls at schools in central and Eastern Oregon counties the week of Oct. 22-24, including Tuesday’s at Hermiston High School, 600 S. First St., at 9:20 a.m.

Wyden has held 44 town halls in 2018, meeting his promise of holding at least one annual town hall in each of the state’s 36 counties. He has already made stops in each of the five counties earlier in the year.

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Fun Fashions Boutique is hosting a Fall Fashion Show.

The free event is Sunday at 2 p.m. at 165 W. Coe Ave., Stanfield. Owned and operated by Kathy Baker, the boutique features trendy fashions for women and teens.

Refreshments will be served and those who shop will receive a 10 percent discount. For more information, search Facebook or call 541-571-6388.

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Registration for the Hermiston Youth Basketball Association is open online at,

The program is for boys for boys and girls in grades 3-6. Deadline for registration is Oct. 31. For more information, contact Lacey Cleveland at (406) 490-8950 or

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The city of Echo recently expressed appreciation for generous donations received from several of its citizens.

Those giving to the Echo Public Library included Jean Johnson (108 books and 10 DVDs) and Frankie Sewell (four books).

Also, Pat & Merle Gehrke gave $50 each to Echo Beautification and Echo Historical Projects. And, money was donated to Echo Public Art, including $50 each in memory of Penny Spike Shepherd, Carol Correa, Bea & George Luciani, Gene Berry and Charlets Berry; and $75 in memory of Velma & Marv Laughlin, and Murl & Mildred Berry.

For more about making donations to Echo programs or projects, contact 541-376-8411 or To learn more about what’s happening in town, visit

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An Honor Tree ceremony recently sprouted up at Good Shepherd Medical Center, said Bob Green, executive director of the Good Shepherd Community Health Foundation. A special tree has been designated and a plaque was unveiled Oct. 12 in honor of John & Janet Spomer of Hermiston.

John is a member of Kiwanis, a running enthusiast and retired from his dental practice a decade ago. A former educator in Portland and Hermiston, Janet was active in her church and P.E.O. Chapter CV before she died Oct. 14, 2017.

The Honor Tree program at Good Shepherd allows people to recognize someone special in their life. They can be designated as a Tribute Tree to honor someone who has made a significant difference in your life or as a Memorial Tree on behalf of a deceased love one. For more information, contact 541-667-3419, or visit

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