Weather keeps city crews busy

February 3, 2012

Public Works employees slept in City Hall overnight during storm

By John Jensen Griffin Cour, a Newcastle resident, catches some air off of a snow pile near Newcastle Elementary School during the snowstorm that created havoc for city staff members for more than a week beginning Jan. 15.

While most Newcastle residents endured the brunt of January’s snow, wind, ice and consequential debris from the comfort of their own homes, five members of the Newcastle Public Works maintenance crew weren’t so lucky.

Despite 16-hour shifts, equipment malfunctions and no covered space to put chains on vehicles, Public Works Director Mark Rigos said the city staff “did an exceptional job under the circumstances.”

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Mutual Materials eyes potential redevelopment

February 3, 2012

Nestled back from a short, paved driveway off of Newcastle’s Coal Creek Parkway, the now defunct Mutual Materials brick plant still looms large.

Covered awnings still protect masonry products and other materials, stacked more than 10 feet high on pallets, from the rain.

A small stream meanders by the closed chain link fence gating its entrance and a quiet has essentially blanketed the plant since it shut down its day-to-day operations last spring.

But now a different kind of work is going on here — work that might lead to redevelopment of the site that would impact the city of Newcastle for years to come, a fact not lost on Mutual Materials executives and shareholders, Mutual Materials President Joe Bowen said.

“Given the sense of pride that we’ve had about what we’ve done there, we just want to make sure whatever the result of that property is … that we’ll be able to look back at what goes in there and still have that sense of pride,” he said. “The community of Newcastle has been very, very gracious to us for years. It’s important that we give this the consideration that this community deserves.”

Looking back to the beginning

The day was unseasonably dry for June in Seattle.

Little rain had been recorded. Temperatures were hovering steady in the 70s.

John Back was at work heating glue over a gasoline fire at Victor Clairmont’s downtown Seattle woodworking shop the afternoon of June 6, 1889.

But as the glue boiled over and caught fire, eventually spreading and burning about 25 city blocks in the Great Seattle Fire, Back would have more of an impact on Seattle history than he could have ever known.

The next day, nearly 600 businessmen in the Seattle area came together to determine how to rebuild.

It was mandated by the mayor that the downtown business core would be rebuilt with brick.

Residents receive a grand opening tour of the Newcastle brick plant in 1959.

With only brick.

Experienced bricklayer Daniel Houlahan traveled from California to help pave the city’s roads and sidewalks — a journey that would help rebuild Seattle’s infrastructure and eventually impact the city of Newcastle for years to come.

Houlahan located a clay deposit to use for a brick plant and found an ideal site at the base of Beacon Hill and went on to found the Builders Brick Co. — Mutual Materials’ predecessor — in 1890.

After Builders Brick went on to supply much of the brick that rebuilt and continues to build Seattle, the company purchased Mutual Materials, a local distributor that opened its doors in 1959.

After expanding its operations into the marketing and distribution business, Builders Brick officially changed its name to Mutual Materials Co. in 1966.

In 2003, the plant was boasting an output of about 25 million bricks per year.

Today, Mutual Materials is the largest producer and distributor of masonry and hardscape products for household and commercial uses in the Pacific Northwest.
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CCUD hikes water, sewer rates

February 3, 2012

Increase is due to rising water costs from Seattle Public Utilities

Newcastle residents can anticipate increases as they open their water and sewer bills this month. The Coal Creek Utility District Board of Commissioners adopted new water and sewer rates for 2012 at its Jan. 11 meeting.

The new rates take effect this month.

The average single-family household will see its monthly water bill increase $4.48 and monthly sewer bill increase approximately 80 cents in 2012, according to the district.

Water rates are scheduled to increase 12 percent in 2012 — with more than half of that increase due to the higher cost of water purchased from Seattle Public Utilities.

Water rates will continue to increase by 6 percent in 2013 and 3.25 percent in 2014.

Sewer rates are scheduled to increase 4.5 percent in 2012 and 2013 and 3.5 percent in 2014.

Those percentages also apply to the district’s commercial, irrigation and multifamily rate classes.

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U.S. representative meets with local leaders, constituents

February 3, 2012

Although congressional redistricting doesn’t shift the city of Newcastle’s representation from the 8th to the 9th Congressional District until 2013, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith says he’s already prepared to make his case of focusing on the still-sluggish economy, job growth, and needed tax and education reform to his new constituency.

The congressman — whose district now spans the area south and east of Seattle, including Newcastle, Federal Way, Renton and Bellevue — met with about 75 local government officials, business sector representatives and Newcastle residents at an informal gathering at Newcastle’s City Hall on Jan. 14.

While the physical boundaries of his district may change, the regional focus of his work — which includes supporting higher education and technical colleges to teach skills needed to maintain manufacturing and other skilled-labor jobs — will not, he said.

By Christina Lords U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (left) speaks with members of local and regional government and members of the public at an informal meeting at Newcastle City Hall in the Newcastle Professional Center on Jan. 14.

“There is nothing there illogical at all about my representing Newcastle, Bellevue, Mercer Island, the central district, the international district,” he said. “It fits perfectly with the issues that we’ve been working on.”

Smith’s district will become the state’s first majority-minority district, with more than 50 percent of the district’s constituents made up of racial or ethnic minorities.

The U.S. must continue to remain viable in the global market of manufacturing and technology-related jobs, especially when those sectors continue to expand rapidly in countries like China, Smith said.

“When you think about this economy, when you think about people who are desperate for jobs who have been unemployed for two years, and they don’t have the right skills to match … we have to fix that,” Smith said.

Technical and community colleges must receive adequate funding that allows students to be workforce-ready with applicable skills within one or two years, he said.

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King County sheriff’s deputies receive cardiac arrest equipment

February 3, 2012

Local public health officials said equipment and training for King County Sheriff’s Office deputies to respond to cardiac arrest could mean the difference between life and death.

King County Emergency Medical Services, a division of Public Health – Seattle & King County, plans to distribute 53 automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, to deputies interested in the training. Trained deputies can then be dispatched to a cardiac arrest call alongside emergency medical responders.

Equipped deputies arriving first at the scene of a cardiac arrest can start resuscitation and deliver the initial defibrillator shocks and, as soon as emergency medical responders arrive on the scene, they can take over resuscitation duties.

Officials announced the initiative Jan. 4.

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Parks Commission seeks input on the future of parks, city recreation

February 3, 2012

Updates to PRO Plan will enable grant opportunities for city

The city of Newcastle’s volunteer Parks Commission is reaching out to residents for feedback as it looks to update the city’s parks section of its Comprehensive Plan — a document that could shape the city’s park space and recreational aspects for years to come.

Parks Program Manager Michael Holly said the commission will conduct four to five online surveys asking questions about what residents would like to see in the city’s recreational future to better shape the city’s Park, Trail, Recreation and Open Spaces Plan, a major component of the Comprehensive Plan updates.

The PRO plan encompasses guidelines for environmental stewardship, park design, natural planting, trail systems and other recreational elements.

“Having recreation available to all types of community users is a part of this process,” he said. “The PRO Plan is the driving force behind what we do.”

The feedback will guide the commission’s recommendations to the City Council, Holly said. The commission hopes to have its PRO Plan complete within a year, he said.

“A long-range plan is important,” Holly said. “Not necessarily everything you want to do gets done within the next year. It does provide sense of direction, and maybe the direction has changed since the last time you looked at the plan. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to get a sense of what’s important to the community.”

The updates also have financial implications for the city, he said.

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Broker certified as home marketing specialist

February 3, 2012

Newcastle resident Greg Lussier, of Choice One Realty Group and Better Properties Real Estate, has been awarded the Certified Home Marketing Specialist Designation from Martha Webb, the woman credited with launching the staging industry.

Brokers have recognized Webb’s designation across the country as one of the best real estate marketing certifications available.

Lussier has achieved professional certification as a home marketing specialist.

“The CHMS designation is about much more than staging a home,” Lussier said. “Rather, it is designed to give brokers the insight and tools necessary to put a seller’s property first in line among the properties buyers will consider.”

The CHMS designation is a marketing course, with an emphasis on finding ways to present a home that attracts the best buyers at the best price for sellers, Lussier said.

Lussier is a member of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce and is active with the Newcastle Historical Society.

Learn more about Lussier by going to

State of the City address set for Feb. 8

February 3, 2012

As a part of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon series, Newcastle Mayor Rich Crispo will deliver the State of the City address at 11 a.m. Feb. 8 at Tapatio Mexican Grill.

Lunch for chamber members is $20, and $25 for nonchamber members. The lunch includes food, tax and gratuity.

Attendees are asked to RSVP by emailing

Rapid Response

February 3, 2012

Has the city’s response been adequate in light of the first major ‘snowstorm of the season?’

Yes! Days before the storm, I went for a run through Lake Boren and I saw the preparations of the trucks, equipment and all. They were ready. When the storm came on Sunday, the plows were hard at work and didn’t stop until it was over days later.

— Trina Sooy

The city has done a really good job in my part of Newcastle keeping the roads as passable as possible under difficult conditions. I live on a neighborhood arterial, and the plow and sander are constantly going by. I was amazed on Monday morning that they had been working all night, the results being the road was very clear. It has remained so all week.

— Valerie Young

Excellent, I saw them out there at 2:30 in the morning!

—Lee Strom

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Juvenile criminals’ names should be public

February 3, 2012

The Legislature is now considering two bills that would restrict access to records of crimes committed by minors, only allowing disclosure in the case of “serious violent offenses” as defined by law. Lesser violent crimes and property crimes would remain confidential.

The bills are bad ones, and should be stopped.

When a juvenile commits a serious crime, nobody involved takes the matter lightly. From the prosecutors to the courts, to the media that reports on crime, everyone weighs the value of punishing an individual against the needs of society.

The policy at Newcastle News is to report the names of juveniles only when they are charged with a felony. We did not arrive at this policy lightly. We’re glad to say it is infrequent that we come across minors charged with felonies. We do understand the implications when we choose to publish the name of a minor. But we stand by the public’s right to know.

If you were the victim of a string of home burglaries or neighborhood arson fires, you’d want to know who did it. We believe you’d want to know regardless of whether it was an adult or a teen — especially if the suspect lived next door.

It is just as important to ensure that the wrong people are not accused of a crime. Too frequently, the school-based gossip mill implicates an innocent person. Reporting in the media can make clear who is actually the suspected criminal.

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