City named a top place to live

August 13, 2009

By Tim Pfarr
Newcastle came in at No. 17 in CNN and Money Magazine’s 2009 list of the top-100 small towns in which to live in the nation.
The annual list takes school quality, home price, number of job opportunities, crime rate and other factors into consideration to determine what cities make the cut.
Newcastle’s description on the list recognizes The Golf Club at Newcastle as well as the city’s proximity to the facilities of Boeing and Microsoft as positive aspects of the town.
“I think it’s tremendous to get national recognition for something we already know, and that is that Newcastle is a tremendous place to live,” said John Starbard, city manager.
Newcastle Deputy Mayor Dan Hubbell said he was pleased as well.
“These are the sorts of surveys I read growing up,” he said, adding that he was happy the city was discovered in the nationwide search.
The list, which included cities with populations between 8,500 and 50,000, included four other Washington cities as well: Mukilteo (No. 10), Sammamish (No. 12), Richland (No. 51) and Silverdale (No. 92).
Newcastle residents were excited to hear the news, and many expressed positive feelings toward the city. Michelle Mix, who has lived in Newcastle for five years, was one who said she loves living here.
“Everything’s close to where I live,” she said, adding that she enjoys how the closeness allows her to walk to places instead of drive.
“Everything I need is convenient and accessible,” she said.
Resident Maddison Small, 17, said she also enjoys living in Newcastle.
“I really like it,” she said, “except for the construction.”
Reach Reporter Tim Pfarr at 392-6434, ext. 239, or newcas@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.

Newcastle came in at No. 17 in CNN and Money Magazine’s 2009 list of the top-100 small towns in which Read more

Hazen teacher uses school defibrillator to save a life

August 13, 2009

By Laura Geggel
Some quick thinking and a defibrillator saved the life of Hazen High School’s soon-to-be sophomore Henry Flores.
On the afternoon of June 17, physical education teacher James Landsverk asked his students to run one mile in laps around the track. During his second lap, Flores collapsed and did not respond when nearby classmates called out his name.
Landsverk rushed to his student and immediately noted Flores’ eyes had rolled back into his head. Flores was gasping but unable to breathe.
Landsverk took control of the situation. He began administering CPR and ordered three students to help, directing one to call 911, another to retrieve one of the school’s 38 automated external defibrillators located near the pool and the last to find the school nurse.
Using the defibrillator, Landsverk shocked Flores’ heart back into a regular rhythm before resuming CPR. The teacher had received defibrillator training in September 2008 from the Renton Fire Department and knew how to follow its instructions. Using audio and visual prompts, the defibrillator told Landsverk how to attach the adhesive electrode pads to Flores’ chest so the machine could determine whether a heart rhythm was present. The charge from the defibrillator likely restarted Flores’ heart.
Meanwhile, the student running to get school nurse Celeste Dillard found her in her office. Dillard didn’t know why Flores had collapsed, so she grabbed an EpiPen, radio and medical basket.
“I ran down the hallway, past the office on purpose,” Dillard said. “I said, ‘Guys, there’s something happening down on the field. Turn your radios on.’”
Dillard had to run across not only half of the school but also the entire football field, because Flores had collapsed on the south side, away from the main entrance. She took over CPR until the ambulance arrived.
Within minutes, aid personnel were on scene and able to get Flores to breathe on his own.
“At that point, I go into a different mode,” Dillard said. “We have a parent to call, we have distraught students, a distraught teacher and three kids who were standing there.”
School staff ushered students into the gym, where counselors and the school psychologist were waiting for them.
“We gave a quick heads up to the students,” Dillard said. “We said, ‘He’s in good hands now. He’s alive. We’ll give you more information.’”
Two chaplains affiliated with the emergency medical service also spoke with students.
Former McKnight Middle School Vice Principal Anita Jose, who will be working at Hazen this year, knew Flores’ younger siblings and took on the role of contacting his family. Jose called in a Spanish interpreter and communicated to Flores’ family that he was being taken to the intensive care unit at Seattle Children’s.
Dillard then transitioned into the role of liaison between the Flores family and the Renton School District. She and others at Hazen and McKnight raised funds for the family June 23, the last day of school. Knowing how hectic it can be to cook when a loved one is in the hospital, Dillard used the fundraising money to buy the family a $300 Safeway gift certificate.
Hazen students also made a large “get well” banner for Flores to hang in his hospital room.
“When he was waking up, he was able to see the sign,” Dillard said. “His mom liked it, too.”
When Dillard called him a few days later, she was able to talk to Flores himself. He had no prior health condition known to the school and had made the mile-long run before with no problem. Flores is now out of the hospital, but he could not be reached for comment.
Landsverk, who worked in the Renton School District for two years as a physical education teacher and assistant football coach, has since moved to Texas.
“I really just reacted and began doing what I’ve been trained to do,” Landsverk said in a press release. “I wanted Henry to be OK.”
Looking back on the incident, Dillard noted it was lucky she was in her office when the student runner found her.
“The way they usually get a hold of me is they get a runner,” she said. “I wish there was better communication. Maybe this is an opportunity to look at that.”
Still, she praised Landsverk and his students for saving Flores’ life.
“It definitely takes teamwork,” she said. “No one person can stand alone, you must be team oriented.”
Reach Reporter Laura Geggel at lgeggel@snovalleystar.com. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.

Some quick thinking and a defibrillator saved the life of Hazen High School’s soon-to-be sophomore Henry Flores.

On the afternoon Read more

City debates possible temporary skate park

August 13, 2009

By Tim Pfarr
The Newcastle Parks Commission held an open house July 14 to discuss potentially installing a temporary skate park on Renton Academy property at some point in the next several years.
City officials stressed that at the moment, the park — which would be located at the southeast corner of the intersection of 116th Street and Newcastle Way — is strictly an idea. No decisions have been made, nor have any funds been set aside for the potential project.
City Communications Manager Doug Alder and Parks Program Manager Michael Holly led the discussion and answered questions from community members and individuals from the skating community. Parks Commission member and Kent Risk Manager Christopher Hills was also in attendance to give his advice, as the city of Kent has three skate parks of its own.
Holly said the Parks Commission’s first choice for the location of the skate park was Lake Boren Park, but it was turned down due to its lack of visibility. The second choice was the Renton Academy location. The park would be open from dawn until dusk.
Opinions were split among attendees, and primary concerns regarded the park’s location, cost, aesthetics, security and liability. Some were also concerned that the park would be noisy when in use, as several attendees attested to the fact that temporary skate parks are noisier than permanent ones, which are often made of concrete.
Resident Molly Sandvick said one of her primary concerns is the aesthetics of the potential park.
Resident Robert Sloan said he is concerned with the cost of the park, as well as the possibly rowdy nonskating crowd it could attract from elsewhere. He said he was not at all concerned with Newcastle’s skating community, as he described the Newcastle skateboarders as good kids. He said that a skate park in Newcastle could be great under the right circumstances.
Several other city officials attended the open house.
“I know the arguments for and against every location,” said Councilman Steve Buri, who said he does not believe Renton Academy is the right place for the park, because the distance between the park and neighboring homes could be as little as 175 feet.
“I am concerned about disruptions in those neighborhoods,” he said.
He said other locations — such as the proposed Lake Boren Park location — better lend themselves to a skate park.
Diane Lewis, member of the Parks Commission, said she supports the park, comparing the facilities offered to young children to those offered to teens.
“We don’t do anything for our teenagers, and we need to keep them busy in safe places,” she said.
A group of teenagers with skateboards attended the meeting to support the skate park.
“We need a skate park,” said Mason Buregel, 15, member of the Newcastle skating community. “I see more kids doing drugs behind schools than in skate parks.”
One attendee voiced concerns about potential noise disturbances that could come from early morning skaters if the park were to open at dawn. However, Buregel quickly responded with, “the average skater doesn’t get up until noon.”
City officials said further public discussion is likely in the future.
Reach Reporter Tim Pfarr at 392-6434, ext. 239, or newcas@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.

The Newcastle Parks Commission held an open house July 14 to discuss potentially installing Read more

City moves closer to new sign code

August 13, 2009

By David Hayes
The Planning Commission approved a final draft to update the city’s sign code July 17, moving closer to the end of a process in the works since 2006.
Essentially, the sign code determines the number, size, type and location guidelines for residences and businesses within the city limits.
“We’ve worked really hard, to get it this far,” said Steve Roberge, community development director.
The latest approval came with minimal input from a public hearing July 16. Roberge said city officials have hosted four other hearings to get input from the community.
The next step was a review by the City Council during a study session Aug. 4, after the News’ deadline. The code will then appear before the council for further deliberation at its regular Aug. 18 meeting. Roberge said the council could take action, if any, then or send it back to committee.
The move to update the sign code was put on the back burner for a couple of years while city officials first updated downtown zoning rules. The Planning Commission took up the debate again late last year. Roberge said sign codes can be controversial, trying to arrive at an agreement that satisfies residents and business owners.
“We wanted to make sure it fell in line with the vision we had for the downtown corridor,” he said.
That vision was to make Newcastle a pedestrian-friendly destination, similar to the Issaquah Highlands’ urban-village feel with its livable, walkable spaces, Roberge said.
Unfortunately, many of the storefronts are off the main strip of Coal Creek Parkway. Roberge said the trick was to reach a compromise that made signs easily readable by passing motorists, but not so large they would overwhelm someone walking past.
The other sticking point was enforcement. Roberge said another compromise the commission settled upon was essentially a grandfather clause that allows existing businesses to keep their signs as is. Any new buildings would be subject to creating signs that fell under the new guidelines.
Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.

The Planning Commission approved a final draft to update the city’s sign code July 17, moving closer to the end of a Read more

State funds to battle local DUIs

August 13, 2009

By Tim Pfarr
Newcastle officials recently received confirmation that they will receive funds from the Washington State Traffic Commission through the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed program, which runs from Aug. 14 to Sept. 7.
The city may receive up to $1,200.
The program works to fight driving under the influence by putting additional police units on the road during night hours, when such driving is most common. The funds from the program will be used to pay for the overtime of Newcastle Police officers during this time, as the additional units on the road will be Newcastle’s existing officers. The police force consists of six patrol officers and Chief Melinda Irvine.
Newcastle received funds from the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed program in 2006, 2007 and 2008, receiving just under $900, $800 and $200 each year, respectively. The program runs from mid-August through Labor Day each year.
“The WSTC grants are a great help to our agency,” Irvine said. “They allow us to put extra officers on the streets.”
This year, the commission will distribute $200,000 to law enforcement agencies statewide through the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed program.
Newcastle Police have also applied for the next session of the X52 program, which provides funds to local law enforcement agencies to battle speeding and driving under the influence.
The commission distributes funds for the X52 program, and the upcoming session will run from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2010. Like Drive Hammered, Get Nailed funds, X52 funds pay for the overtime of local law enforcement officers.
The title X52 represents the presence of extra units on the road all weeks of the year. Since beginning in February 2008, the program has had two sessions, and Newcastle has received funds in both. The city received $2,000 in the first session and $3,300 in the second.
For the 2008-2009 session, the commission set aside $800,000 to pay for officer overtime statewide. However, the commission has not yet announced how much money it will distribute in the 2009-2010 session, and Newcastle has not yet received confirmation that it will get funds.
Irvine said she is hopeful the city will receive funds again.
“Traffic safety is a high priority for the citizens of Newcastle,” she said.

Newcastle officials recently received confirmation that they will receive funds from the Washington State Traffic Commission through the Drive Hammered, Get Nailed Read more

Rotary Club sets goals for 2009

August 13, 2009

By Hunter Deiglmeier
Innovative changes are coming to the Rotary Club of Newcastle.
Club President Fred Boyns explained that the Rotary Club would have a new meeting venue, lower monthly dues and an increase in Santa Parade activities.
The club is moving its meeting location from The Golf Club at Newcastle to the Newcastle Medical Center, 7203 129th Ave. S.E., in the Newcastle Medical Pavilion.
The club holds meetings at 7:30 a.m. every Wednesday.
“The biggest change is being able to hold meetings for lower cost,” Boyns said.
The club has also lowered its monthly dues.
“We are hoping to attract more members when it’s more affordable,” Boyns said. “The real focus is trying to get members to join and participate.”
The club has nine members, and it would benefit by having more members join, in order to provide the maximum amount of outreach to the community.
The club holds its largest community activity in the winter: the Santa Parade. This year, club members are enhancing the quality of pictures of children and families with Santa. The Santa Parade has been in the Newcastle community for 10 years.
Reach Intern Hunter Deiglmeier at isspress@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.

By Hunter Deiglmeier

Innovative changes are coming to the Rotary Club of Newcastle.

Club President Fred Boyns explained that the Rotary Club would have Read more

Reagan Dunn faces two challengers in Aug. 18 primary

August 13, 2009

By Warren Kagarise
Candidates in the race for the District 9 County Council seat are touting their credentials as reformers ahead of the Aug. 18 primary election.
Incumbent Councilman Reagan Dunn, elected to the post in November 2005, will face challengers Beverly Harison Tonda, a Maple Valley corporate trainer, and Newcastle playwright Mark Greene, as he seeks a second full term.
Dunn was first appointed to the post in February 2005 to serve the remainder of outgoing Councilman Rob McKenna’s term. McKenna was elected state attorney general the previous November.
District 9 includes large swaths of unincorporated King County south of Issaquah, as well as Bellevue, Newcastle and Renton.
Council positions are nonpartisan posts.
County officials face a $56 million shortfall in a budget of about $627 million. Metro Transit also faces a $200 million deficit over the next two years.
Dunn emphasized his record as a councilman and his willingness to slash spending to fix the budget problem.
“I am the No. 1 reformer in King County government,” he said.
The incumbent said officials should consider cutting county employees’ salaries and benefits in order to confront budget woes. Dunn, a former U.S. Justice Department official, said the county should focus on and protect existing services, such as courts, law enforcement and public safety.
“We need to get back to the basics,” he added.
Dunn also emphasized his opposition to raising and levying taxes. In 2007, he was the sole member of the nine-person council to vote against a countywide property tax to pay for foot ferries. The plan to add ferry service to Lake Washington has since run aground in the tough budget climate.
“I want to ensure the county can manage its budget by living within its means,” Dunn said.
Tonda said she could use her corporate background to mediate between King County officials and taxpayers. She described herself as an effective communicator, and said her skills as a corporate negotiator could help her bridge the divide.
“It’s time for a change in King County, and I’m the type of person who can do that,” she said.
She also addressed transportation issues; Tonda said King County officials should focus on improving transportation infrastructure to improve the quality of life for residents and to make the area more attractive to businesses.
As part of her plan to attract jobs, Tonda said the county Department of Development and Environmental Services should be restructured in order to streamline the process for businesses seeking to relocate to King County.
She highlighted a concern of local and state leaders seeking to retain major employers amid the recession.
“If Boeing moved out, we’d have to entice people to come in,” Tonda said.
Greene has campaigned unsuccessfully for several political posts. His most recent bid was for Washington secretary of state last year.
He blamed incumbent council members for budget problems.
“The county is in a financial mess and this is basically the result of the King County Council and other officials being unable to manage the budget,” Greene said.
He suggested levying a specialized sales tax on luxury items, such as limousines and yachts, as a way to generate revenue for struggling King County. He also proposed the creation of a Department of Grievances, Solutions and Whistleblowers to audit county finances and generate ideas to raise revenue.
“We need ways to get more revenue from the more affluent members of our society,” he said.
Though council posts are nonpartisan, Greene is running for the seat as a member of a political party he founded, the Party of Commons. The group “is economically progressive, generally culturally traditional, pro-Bill of Rights, non-interventionist and believes in common sense defense, not policing the world,” according to a statement on the party Web site.
“I think that the public deserves choices,” Greene said.
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.

By Warren Kagarise

Candidates in the race for the District 9 County Council seat are touting their credentials as reformers Read more

State adopts revised math requirement

August 13, 2009

State adopts revised math requirement
The State Board of Education has adopted a revised math rule for the class of 2013.
Students from that class are the first required to earn three credits of math to receive their high school diploma.
The original Washington Administration Code mandated that students who elected to take a high school level mathematics course without credit as an eighth-grader were required to repeat that same course for credit in high school.
The amendment allows them to use that math credit and take another mathematics course instead or repeat the same math course for credit.
The revision allows students greater flexibility in scheduling their coursework and empowers them to choose the best courses to meet their educational goals.
Board members adopted the new rule at their July 17 meeting.

The State Board of Education has adopted a revised math rule for the class of 2013.

Students from that class are the first required Read more

City Council green lights street overlay program

August 13, 2009

By Michael Bayless Rowe
Work on the city’s street overlay program will begin in a month after being approved at the City Council’s July 21 meeting.
“We know the condition of our streets is a top priority for residents,” city Communications Manager Doug Alder said. “The city keeps a close eye on streets that need to be repaved, as well as maintaining those that are already in good shape.”
In an overlay project, streets are repaved to improve driving conditions. The streets that will be overlaid include Newcastle Way from 129th Avenue Southeast to 125th Avenue Southeast; Southeast 75th Place from 119th Court Southeast to 122nd Place Southeast; and 120th Place Southeast from Southeast 76th Street to Southeast 75th Place.
Newcastle has given top priority to future overlay projects under its yearly Transportation Improvement Plan. The 2010-2015 plan was approved at a July 16 council meeting, with an amendment adding $100,000 to the overlay projects.
Transportation Improvement Plans and Capital Investment Programs are approved yearly by Washington cities. The planning documents lay out priorities looking forward five years.
Other projects in Newcastle’s 2010-2015 Transportation Improvement Plan that are at the top of the priority list include a traffic signal at the intersection of Newcastle Way and 129th Avenue Southeast; replacing and upgrading a retaining wall and sidewalk on Southeast 118th/75th in Lake Washington Ridge; downtown improvements; and pedestrian walkways. The plan can be modified at any time, depending on council priorities and the city’s budget.
One issue that did arise at a Town Hall meeting June 9 was a citizen’s request for the city to improve 118th Avenue Southeast. The citizen requested widening the asphalt base of the road, adding gravel shoulders and installing speed bumps.
However, city staff members reported that a speed study of the road indicates that most people drive at about 25 miles per hour, appropriate for the rural roadway. Staff also said that the condition of the road was “fair” in the city’s pavement rating system.
In June, the City Council also approved the Capital Investment Program, which prioritizes and plans for improvements and maintenance for parks, facilities and surface water utilities that the city plans to undertake in the 2010-2015 period. This plan was approved 4-3 on June 16. Councilwomen Lisa Jensen and Carol Simpson, and Councilman Steve Buri voted against the program, favoring to move some projects from 2010 to 2011. The Capital Investment Program can be modified and the council will discuss projects in the plan at upcoming meetings, according to city reports.
The top item on the 2010-2015 Capital Investment Program is the expansion of Southeast 84th Street. The expansion will require the city to purchase 800 square feet of land to complete the realignment of the road.
The cost of the land acquisition is $12,000 with an additional $4,000 for appraisal services. The project is contingent on whether a private development southeast of the site receives permits.
Other projects in the 2010-2015 investment plan include new pedestrian walkways at various locations and a traffic signal and other improvements at the intersection of Newcastle Way and 129th Avenue Southeast.
Reach Reporter Michael Bayless Rowe at 392-6434, ext. 248, or mrowe@snowvalleystar.com. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.

By Michael Bayless Rowe

Work on the city’s street overlay program will begin in a month after being approved at the City Council’s July 21 meeting.

“We know the condition Read more

City officials await word on new ZIP code; not optimistic

August 13, 2009

By Tim Pfarr
City officials recently sat down with United States Postal Service officials — including Katherine Nash, USPS Seattle district manager — to discuss the possibility of Newcastle getting its own unique ZIP code.
However, according to those who attended the meeting, USPS officials said their primary concern is that Newcastle does not have a high enough population to warrant a new ZIP code.
“They heard our issues, and they know it’s frustrating for residents,” said Doug Alder, Newcastle communications manager.
Although the city has not yet received a definite answer, Alder said the outlook is not good, as USPS officials said Newcastle would have to annex a large portion of land to get its own ZIP code.
“When they told us Newcastle would have to annex half of Renton to even be considered, we knew it was going to be an uphill battle,” Alder said.
USPS Communications Program Specialist Ernie Swanson said the USPS usually grants ZIP codes to areas with populations of 30,000 or more. Newcastle’s population is less than 10,000. He also said that if Newcastle were given its own ZIP code, the new district would not have a post office, which is not typical.
Swanson said giving Newcastle a unique ZIP code would be expensive, because updating the postal service’s records would involve manual labor.
According to a recent survey of Newcastle residents, 98 percent of the more than 170 people who responded said they wanted a unique ZIP code, and 52 percent said they have experienced issues with delivery of mail and packages. As of now, the city is split between two ZIP codes: 98056 and 98059.
Newcastle previously applied for a ZIP code twice — once in 1994, when the city first incorporated, and again in 2004. Both requests were turned down. Because a city is required to wait five years between ZIP code requests, Newcastle was not able to make a request again until this year.
Reach Reporter Tim Pfarr at 392-6434, ext. 239, or newcas@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.newcastle-news.com.

City officials recently sat down with United States Postal Service officials — including Katherine Nash, USPS Seattle district manager — to discuss the possibility Read more

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