City to use contractor for engineering services

July 1, 2010

At its June 15 meeting, the City Council unanimously voted to allow interim City Manager Rob Wyman to enter into a contract with the firm Gray and Osborne Inc. for engineering services in the city. Wyman signed the contract — as not to exceed $148,000 — shortly after.

The city will work with the firm until it hires a new public works director — who will likely be a licensed engineer — this fall. Former Public Works Director Maiya Andrews was a licensed engineer.

The firm will help the city with closeout work with Coal Creek Parkway phases one and two, and the Downtown Transit Improvements project. Also, the installation of the new traffic signal at the intersection of Newcastle Way and 129th Avenue Southeast requires engineering expertise that the city does not have in-house.

The firm will also help with smaller projects that require design, engineering review and construction management.

The firm previously served as the city’s engineering consultant for more than eight years, until 2005.

This contract authorization came to the council in accordance with the new contracting and purchasing policies that were approved in March and stated that engineering contracts of more than $25,000 must be approved by the council before the city manager may sign them.

County Council proposes tax plan

July 1, 2010

The lawmakers representing the Issaquah area on the King County Council last week proposed raising sales tax and cutting property taxes to pay for criminal justice programs.

Kathy Lambert and Reagan Dunn offered a proposal to cut some existing property-tax levies and raise the sales tax two-tenths of a percent, to 9.7 cents per dollar, and 10.2 cents on restaurants and bar purchases.

“Citizens who are dealing with reduced salaries and job losses want their government to make cuts and reprioritize expenditures,” Lambert said in a news release. “These choices are hard, just like the cuts families make every day.”

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Laughing all the way

July 1, 2010

These questions need answers

I’ve always been far too inquisitive for my own good. At least that’s what the nuns used to tell me in Catholic grade school. I am not, however, so curious that I need to know what Ashton Kutcher is tweeting about on any given day; but I do have a natural interest in the place where I’ve lived for the past 20 years. I have questions, but I don’t have the answers. In fact, the answers may not exist. So let us call this:

Rhetorical Q & A

Q. What is that smell? It happens several times a month: a mysterious odor that’s faintly organic, like a distant pile of onions pulled from the ground and left in the sun. It’s not awful, but you can’t ignore it, either. At first, I thought it was just up here in Olympus, and believing that it might be The Sainted One, I apologized profusely to our closest neighbors. But then, I was in downtown Newcastle one day and got a whiff of it there as well. The prevailing winds come from the southwest. Is it possible that it’s the coffee roasting company near The Landing, and the smell of roasting beans wafts our way and mixes with Interstate 405 fumes and Eau de Seahawk Rookie Sweat?

Q. Why wait for the closest parking spots at the YMCA? Isn’t it all about getting exercise? And speaking of the Y…

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Newcastle’s officer named Detective of the Year

July 1, 2010

The King County Sheriff’s Office recently named Newcastle’s detective, Jeff Johnson, as Detective of the Year for southeast King County. He was selected from a pool of 12 detectives.

Officers in King County Sheriff’s Office Precinct 3 nominated Johnson. Precinct 3 serves southeast unincorporated King County, Covington, Maple Valley and Newcastle.

“It’s humbling,” Johnson said. “We just try to do our best with our cases.”

Johnson is assigned to the north district of Newcastle and its surrounding areas. He is in his sixth year as a detective and 17th year with the sheriff’s office. Prior to working as a detective, he was a patrol officer and a school officer at Tahoma High School in Covington.

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State project redesigning college, one course at a time

July 1, 2010

A new project aims to make college textbooks more affordable — and ultimately, prevent more students from dropping out.

The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has initiated a 15-month project to improve student success and reduce the price of textbooks by redesigning 80 high-enrollment first- and second-year college courses.

The project, the Washington State Student Completion Initiative, will be supported by grants of $5.3 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and $800,000 from the Ford Foundation.

Community and technical college instructors and librarians will assemble a set of course materials from free or inexpensive resources. Ten Bellevue College instructors and staff members — including one from Newcastle and one from Issaquah — have been selected to work on the initiative.

A goal of the initiative is to reduce the cost of textbooks and other course materials to no more than $30 per course.

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National Night Out coming Aug. 3

July 1, 2010

National Night Out, a nationwide drug and crime prevention event, is from 7-10 p.m. Aug. 3 with neighborhood gatherings around the city.

The Hazelwood Community Association will hold a community picnic at Donegal Park, 7319 125th Ave. S.E., from 5:30-7:30 that evening, and all are welcome to attend. Other neighborhoods may hold their own gatherings as well.

Newcastle Police Officer Ryan Olmsted is organizing this year’s event. Call him at City Hall at 649-4444, ext. 120, or e-mail him at ryan.olmsted@kingcounty.gov if you are interested in setting up a gathering in your neighborhood.

Coal Creek Parkway phases two, three win project of the year

July 1, 2010

The Washington chapter of the America Public Works Association has recognized phases two and three of the Coal Creek Parkway project as the state’s project of the year for projects costing between $25 million and $75 million.

Phase two of the project stretched from Southeast 89th Place to Southeast 91st Street and phase three stretched from Southeast May Valley Road to Southeast 95th Way. Together, these phases of the project cost $41.31 million.

File The new May Creek bridge was part of the Coal Creek Parkway project.

Marshbank Construction Co. and C.A. Carey Corp. constructed the project, and CH2M Hill managed construction.

The project involved widening the old two-lane road into a five-lane arterial, replacing the 56-year-old May Creek Bridge, adding new landscaping and working around wetlands.

Construction on phases two and three began in fall 2007. Phase one of the project, from Coal Creek Parkway and Newcastle Way intersection to Southeast 89th Place, was done in 2003.

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City selects bands for Concerts in the Park series, continues fundraising for local events

July 1, 2010

The city is continuing its preparations for this summer’s community events, and it selected the bands that will perform at this year’s Concerts in the Park Series.

Magnolia Road will perform July 14, Diecast Players will perform July 21 and About Face will perform July 28. All concerts are from 6:30-8 p.m. in Lake Boren Park.

Each concert costs about $2,000, but Diecast Players will perform for free.

Parks Program Manager Michael Holly said a fourth band, Author Unknown, has been added to the lineup as well. Author Unknown will be sponsored by local business Porter Jensen Jewelers, and is scheduled to perform Aug. 4.

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Hazelwood Elementary School fourth-grader organizes charity run

July 1, 2010

Last Christmas, Newcastle resident Teresa Platin was frustrated. She said her three children, like all children, were focused on the material aspects of the holiday. In her frustration, she asked them what they were going to do to make the world a better place.

Her question was directed toward her daughters, Rachel, 14, and Lizzy, 10, rather than her son, Nick, 5.

“I didn’t put him on the charity challenge,” Platin said.

Rachel and Lizzy took the question to heart. Rachel organized and held two food drives earlier this year, collecting about 500 canned and boxed food items.

Lizzy said she wanted to raise money that could be donated to benefit whales. The plan was to wait until the weather warmed up and hold a charity run. When the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred, Lizzy had the perfect opportunity to help out.

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Police blotter

July 1, 2010

Leave the door open?

A man reported his wife returned home, in the 14700 block of Southeast 80th Court, to find the front door of their home open. The door opened between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. June 4, and nothing was missing or disturbed in the home. The man said he was not sure if the door had been left unlatched and came open on its own or if somebody had opened the door.

Homeowner’s best friend

A woman reported that somebody opened the rear sliding door of her home in the 7000 block of 121st Place Southeast between 12:15 and 12:25 p.m. June 7. She said she heard the door open slightly and shut quickly. Immediately, her dog began barking.

Crank text

A boy crank-texted his brother, who attends Newcastle Elementary School, between 9:36 a.m. and 12:12 p.m. June 8. A faculty member called the police.

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