Thumbs up to our small-town, big-hearted ways

There must have been a few Tri-Citians who saw the headline on the front page Dec. 16 -- "Local man gets new septic system" -- and wondered just how small of a town do I live in?

But of course, there is more to the story.

Jimmy "Woo-Hoo" Butcher, 46, of Kennewick, who is developmentally challenged, couldn't afford to replace his failing septic system. He spent the past six months showering at an athletic club to limit the stress on the system.

Butcher is something of a local celebrity in Kennewick and a noted Tri-City sports fan. He's known for his dedication to the Americans, whom he cheers on with his signature "Woo-Hoo" yell. The team commissioned a bobblehead statue of him in 2011 that was handed out to fans.

He's also known for his community service. He serves as a volunteer crossing guard and reading aide at local elementary schools, coaches youth hockey and sings in a church choir.

The Benton-Franklin chapter of the American Red Cross gave him a "Good Neighbor" award in March for his volunteerism and positive attitude.

His aunt Earleyne Baze approached Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg about helping Butcher early this fall. Hohenberg, a big fan of Butcher and what he does for the community, reached out to Dave Retter, owner and broker of Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities to see if he had any ideas to take care of the problem.

As a result, work to replace Butcher's septic system is under way, thanks to a $5,000 donation from Retter and the efforts of the Benton-Franklin Health Department and contractor Ray Poland & Sons.

"It just seemed like the right thing to do for someone who does so much and asks for so little," Retter told the Herald.

Butcher was moved to "happy tears" when he learned about the gift.

So how small of a town do we live in? Small enough to appreciate the treasure it has in Jimmy Butcher, and for that we all can be thankful.

Congressional inaction

Thumbs down to Congress for failing to approve a pair of amendments that would have advanced two of the Tri-Cities' top priorities for Hanford's future.

One would have created a new Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which would include Hanford's historic B Reactor.

The second would have the Department of Energy release 1,641 acres of unneeded Hanford land for industrial development.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, attached the amendments to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, and has vowed to push to get them on the 2015 act.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., led efforts to introduce similar amendments for the Senate version but it was passed without either amendment.

The compromise version approved by Congress last week didn't include either amendment.

Plans for the new park remain alive but it will be at least next year before any progress is made.

The proposed park would include facilities at Hanford and in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., where scientists, engineers and workers raced to develop an atomic bomb during World War II.

Hanford's B Reactor was the nation's first production-scale reactor. It created plutonium for the world's first atomic explosion and for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, helping end the war.

The land transfer and proposed national park are still alive despite the setback. Hastings said he is undeterred by the lack of progress in the Senate.

Two paths remain available in 2015 to create a new park that includes B Reactor.

Cantwell will continue working with Hastings, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Jared Leopold, Cantwell's communication director told the Herald.

Both amendments are crucial to the community's transition away from dependence on Hanford cleanup money. The continued efforts of the Northwest's congressional delegation are essential.