Judge sworn in

February 4, 2010

Newcastle Municipal Court Judge Wayne Stewart was ceremonially sworn into office by the chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court at the Temple of Justice in Olympia recently. Stewart (middle) is joined by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander (left) and incoming Chief Justice Barbara Madsen (right). Contibuted

Public Works director, parks commissioner resign

February 4, 2010

Public Works Director Maiya Andrews submitted her resignation to then-City Manager John Starbard Jan. 11 in the form of a letter, and her resignation will take effect Feb. 10.

In an e-mail, Parks Commissioner Curtis Gray submitted his resignation to city officials Jan. 14, and his resignation took effect immediately. Read more

PSE offers heating aid to low-income customers

February 4, 2010

Puget Sound Energy and the federal government will provide almost $29 million to help needy PSE customers pay heating bills. Read more

Newcastle mayor creates two new committees

February 4, 2010

Mayor John Dulcich created two new committees for the city – the Library Development Committee and the Community, Communications and Outreach Committee.

The library committee, to be temporary and similar to the YMCA Committee, was created to facilitate and ensure groundbreaking of Newcastle library. Read more

Newcastle passes 2009 audit despite citizen concern

February 4, 2010

Newcastle passed its annual audit in 2009 without trouble, although individual citizens expressed concern to the state auditor regarding the city’s finances.

Last year, Giles Velte — a Newcastle Trails Board member and former member of the Planning Commission — and Garry Kampen — president of Newcastle Trails — sent a 15-page letter to the State Auditor’s Office expressing concerns about the city’s long-term financial stability.

“Newcastle’s government is lacking in responsiveness, transparency and accountability,” the men wrote in the letter. “Resources have been wasted and the city’s financial viability is at risk.”

In the letter, the men expressed various concerns about the Coal Creek Parkway Project, operations at City Hall and the sports park project slated to take place at Southeast 95th Way. The men also expressed concerns about the city’s work with consultants, and the city’s parks, trails, transit center, incoming library and new signage.

“Our finances long term are troublesome,” Velte said in an interview. “The trend — because of neglect — is bad.”

In its 2009 final budget, the city forecasted that its year-end general fund balance would steadily decrease until reaching negative $203,693 by 2014. However, Velte expressed concern about a prior version of the 2009 budget, which forecasted the city’s year-end general fund balance to decrease until reaching about negative $3.7 million by 2014. He said this previous version of the budget was more reflective of the city’s financial state.

Last month, Audit Manager James Griggs sent a response to the men on behalf of the State Auditor’s Office.

“The city appears to be adjusting actual expenditure levels to actual revenue,” Griggs wrote in his letter, noting that the city has not used any funds from its Cumulative Reserve Fund, which the City Council must unanimously vote to use. This fund has about $1.5 million in it.

Griggs could not be reached for additional comment.

Velte said he plans to submit a follow-up letter to the State Auditor’s Office addressing his concerns. He also said the City Council’s latest action in cutting more than $1 million from the 2010 budget is being done as emergency action.

Assistant Audit Manager Evans Anglin said it cost the State Auditor’s Office $3,200 in staff time to review the letter. The city was required to pay for this expense, as the cities are required to pay for their own annual audits.

The 2009 audit examined Newcastle’s finances and records from 2008, as well as meeting minutes from 2009. Although the audit did not yield any findings or management letters — which are reflective of more serious problems — it did report three exceptions, which are reflective of less serious problems or discrepancies.

Two of the exceptions were very minor and regarded an insurance contract and travel expenses, but one exception regarded the Open Public Meetings Act, which was more serious.

Specifically, the state auditor was unable to find meeting minutes for the Aug. 5, 2009, meeting and the Sept. 2, 2009, meeting. However, City Clerk Bob Baker said this exception was the result of a small mix-up that has since been settled. The minutes for both meetings can be found on the city’s Web site.

It was also unable to determine whether the city notified its official newspaper— The Seattle Times — of a public hearing that took place Feb. 13, 2008. Finally, it found that meetings on May 5 and Aug. 18, 2009 convened to executive session without giving an estimated duration, which is required.

Councilman and Finance Committee member Sonny Putter said he was pleased that the audit did not yield findings or management letters.

“Those are very positive results,” he said. “It shows that the city’s financial statements accurately portrayed the financial state of the city.”

Director of Finance Christine Olson also said the audit went well.

In the city’s 2008 audit, workers from the State Auditor’s Office filed a management letter because the city prepared its schedule of expenditures of federal awards incorrectly. That issue, as well as issues that resulted in three exceptions in the 2008 audit, were corrected in 2009.

Letter to the editor

February 4, 2010

City should return its sign code to original 2005 standards

The Newcastle sign standards pushed through by former City Manager John Starbard should be replaced by our original standards, adopted in 2005 after an extensive public process. The new signs lose by all measures: safety, information, readability, cost and appearance. Treat them like convicted felons: three strikes and they’re out.

Strike one: Park signs. The January Newcastle News said the city had removed six signs from near Windtree Park and Highlands Park because of size, “traffic visibility problems” and multiple complaints. Residents said the signs didn’t blend in, looked out of place, and were dangerous, with thin metal edges and corners “placed right at toddler eye level.”

Newcastle’s original standard is safer and more informative. It uses Bellevue’s design, with signplates held in an attractive rounded frame — no sharp edges. Moreover, small icons indicate park facilities: You can see at a glance if a park has restrooms.

Strike two: Street signs. The street signs on south Coal Creek Parkway use the new color — somewhere between chartreuse and bile green. The light background makes white lettering less readable: An out-of-town friend wondered why the “faded” signs hadn’t been replaced. These signs may not meet federal and state DOT visibility standards. Let’s stick with forest green.

Strike three: Trail signs. The original standard allows signplates on all four sides of a signpost; walkers from any direction can see their options (destinations and distances) displayed on the side facing them. The new standard uses at most two opposing faces of the signpost. The old signplates cost less than $5; the new ones cost about $200.

The hurried adoption of new sign standards erased years of work by citizens who voted for the original city logo (designed by a local artist), helped install trail signs and worked on park sign standards in 2004-2005. It says to them “your work, your opinions and your votes don’t count.”

Our new council has halted the replacement of existing signage. Perhaps they can restore the original signplates and historic logo and ask NBBJ, the consultant on the inferior new standards, for a refund.

Garry Kampen

Newcastle

Editorial: Library levy request misleads voters

February 4, 2010

Seattle Public Libraries are cutting costs by cutting hours at most of its libraries, while adding hours at other key library locations. The King County Library System should do the same. Instead, it is asking voters for more taxes, to return its maintenance and operations levy to the highest allowed levy rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Read more

Postal service denies city’s ZIP code appeal

February 4, 2010

Newcastle has been denied a ZIP code once again, this time through an appeal at the federal level. Read more

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

February 4, 2010

Help fight arthritis at Night of Indulgence

Salon Masoero owner Gina Masoero and Sandra Wixon, who owns chocolate shop Sweet Decadence, teamed up with resident Mauricia Spring to produce a Night of Indulgence, a benefit for the Arthritis Foundation. Read more

Calendar

February 4, 2010

Events

Newcastle Chamber of Commerce lunch meeting with Mayor John Dulcich is from 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Feb. 10 at Tapatio’s, 6920 Coal Creek Parkway S.E.

City Hall will be closed for Presidents Day Feb. 15.

Come watch the University of Washington and Washington State University in the lacrosse version of the Apple Cup at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at Eastside Catholic High School, 232 228th Ave. S.E., Sammamish. Admission is free. Both teams feature local high school talent playing at the collegiate level.

Public meetings

Parks Commission, 7 p.m. Feb. 10, City Hall, 13020 Newcastle Way

City Council regular meeting, 7 p.m. Feb. 16, City Hall

Planning Commission, 7 p.m. Feb. 17, City Hall

Youth

The following events take place at the Lake Heights Family YMCA, 12635 S.E. 56th St. Get more information by calling 644-8417 or go to www.lakeheightsymca.org. Signup starts for many of their camps begin Feb. 11.

  • Adventure Guides: Tahminawi Winter Campout — The Firs at Mount Baker, March 19-21, $85
  • Adventure Guides: Westerners Winter Campout, Feb. 19-21, $90
  • Kids Gym C: Spring — Wednesdays 11:15 – noon, March 17-May 26, $25 – $44
  • Rookies Indoor Soccer League, ages 3-4 and 5-6, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Saturdays, March 6 – April 17, $40 – $70

Clubs

Freethinkers United Network, Newcastle Chapter, meets at 7 p.m. every other Saturday in a Newcastle home environment. Freethinkers, humanists, agnostics and atheists welcome. There will be open discussion of wide-ranging topics of general group interest. Seating is limited, so call 206-228-7925.

The Society of Artists for Newcastle, an art organization, is seeking new members. Call 271-5822.

Atheist Church of Truth meets at 7 p.m. every other Saturday in a Newcastle home environment. Open discussion of wide-ranging topics of general group interest. Seating is limited, so call 206-228-7925.

MOMS Club of Renton meets for play dates at parks and other locations. New activities are planned daily. This nonprofit, nonreligious organization provides daytime support for moms and their families. Call 260-3079.

Bridge players are wanted, evening or daytime. Games take place at various homes in the Hazelwood area. Call 255-0895.

Newcastle Rotary Club meets at 7:30 a.m. Wednesdays at The Golf Club at Newcastle, 15550 Six Penny Lane. Call 206-947-5741 or go to www.newcastlerotary.us.

Newcastle Historical Society meets at 4 p.m. the first Thursday at City Hall, 13020 S.E. 72nd Place. Call 226-4238.

An international dinner, sponsored by Bahai Faith of Newcastle, is at 6:30 p.m. the third Friday. Call 430-8047.

Drinking Liberally, an informal progressive social group that discusses politics, meets at 7 p.m. the first and Third Thursday of the month at Angelo’s Restaurant, 1830 130th Ave. N.E., Bellevue. Go to www.drinkingliberally.org.

Eastside Mothers & More, a social network for mothers, meets from 7-9 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month in the North Room at East Shore Unitarian Church, 12700 S.E. 32nd St., Bellevue (not church affiliated).

Hill’N Dale Garden Club, meets at 6 p.m. the first Monday of each month September through June at the Newport Way Library, 14250 S.E. Newport Way. Call 255-9705

Seniors

Lake Heights Family YMCA Seniors Program has drop-in time Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the YMCA, 12635 S.E. 56th St. in Newport Hills. Have lunch, socialize and have fun. Call 644-8417.

Library events

The following events are at the Newport Way Library, 14250 S.E. Newport Way, Bellevue, unless otherwise noted. Register by calling 747-2390.

The library will be closed for Presidents Day Feb. 15.

Newport Way Library Association meeting — 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8

Computer class: “Microsoft Word Level 2,” 9:30 a.m. Feb. 13

Game On! — Play video games at 3 p.m. Feb. 17

Auntie Lena’s African Stories, 7 p.m. Feb. 17

Computer class: “Internet Level 2,” 7 p.m. Feb. 18

Newport Way Book Group discusses “Eat, Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia,” by Elizabeth Gilbert, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22

Opera preview: “Falstaff,” 7 p.m. Feb. 23

Computer class: “Excel Level 1,” 9:30 a.m. Feb. 27

Talk Time — Improve your English-speaking and listening skills, 10 a.m. Mondays

Study Hall — Drop by the meeting room to work on your homework at 3 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

New — Study Zone Online, for grades K-12. Use a library computer to connect with a Study Zone tutor online at www.kcls.org/studyzone.

Tiny Tales Story Time, for ages 1-3 with adult, 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays

Toddler Story Times, for ages 2-3 with an adult, 10 and 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays

Preschool Story Time, for ages 3-5 with an adult, 1 p.m. Tuesdays and 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays

Baby Rhyming Times, for newborn-12 months with an adult, 9:30 a.m. Wednesdays

Young Toddler Story Times, for ages 12-24 months with an adult, 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. Thursdays

Health

Angel Care Breast Cancer Foundation-trained survivors offer free emotional support to the newly diagnosed, enhancing emotional recovery while going through treatments. Go to www.angelcarefoundation.org.

Volunteers

Start the New Year off right and help homeless and abused animals. Help build a great sanctuary. The King County Shelter is closing this month and there is a need for more sanctuaries and no kill shelters. We are brand new and need a lot of help to get up and running. Presently we are in desperate need of an experienced fundraiser for an upcoming walk. Also need help for upcoming charity and fundraising events. Call 891-5869. Leave message or email storybookfarm01@gmail.com.

Eastside Bluebills, a Boeing retiree volunteer organization that provides opportunities to help others in need and assist charitable and nonprofit organizations, meets from 10 a.m. – noon the third Wednesday at the Bellevue Regional Library. Call 235-3847.

King County Library System’s Words on Wheels program needs volunteers to select and deliver library materials to homebound patrons. Training is provided. A one-year commitment is required. Volunteers must be at least 18, have their own transportation and be able to pass a Washington State Patrol background check. Call 369-3235.

Places to go

Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, on Lakemont Boulevard Southeast, is a 3,000-acre park with more than 30 miles of trails and the site of the 1880s coalmines. Go to www.metrokc.gov/parks.

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