Renton School Board opts to rerun middle school building improvement bond

March 2, 2012

NEW — 11:50 a.m. March 1, 2012

The Renton School Board voted Feb. 29 to rerun a $97 million building improvement bond that would fund a new middle school in Newcastle, among other projects.

The bond, which originally came up two points shy of the 60 percent needed to pass in the Feb. 14 special election, will run again April 17.

Citizens for Renton Schools Chair John Galluzzo said a major setback to gathering enough support for the bond the first time was giving residents a clear picture of what the bond would mean to them financially.

The election was about 335 votes short of the ballots needed to approve the bond, he said.

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House fire causes $500,000 in damage

March 2, 2012

Contributed by the Bellevue Fire Department This Newcastle home, in the 6400 block of Lake Washington Boulevard Southeast, caught fire Feb. 3 after a stack of cardboard boxes were ignited by radiant heat from the home’s fireplace.

A residential fire in Newcastle destroyed a home the afternoon of Feb. 3 and sent one of the occupants to the hospital with minor burns.

The home is located in the 6400 block of Lake Washington Boulevard Southeast.

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Redevelopment stressed in State of the City address

March 2, 2012

Newcastle Mayor Rich Crispo stressed financial responsibility and smart economic development — and redevelopment — during the city’s 2012 State of the City address.

The address, given before residents and the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce at its monthly luncheon Feb. 8 at Tapatio Mexican Grill, laid out big-picture goals for the city for the upcoming year and beyond.

The city must find a balance of opening its doors to new growth and redevelopment without losing its sense of identity, he said.

Rich Crispo

“The first thing we have to do is let people know Newcastle is open for business,” he said. “That may sound kind of trite, but when you think about the 17 years of this city and how many new buildings have been put up here in a commercial sense … you have Valley Medical Center, you have the library that is in construction right now and you have the professional building. That’s it.”

Crispo cited the City Council’s work to revamp Newcastle’s downtown business code last year as ways the city has tried to entice new developers to town.

Few major developable properties are left within city limits, he said. Instead, larger opportunities loom with a chance for redevelopment of existing properties, such as the Mutual Materials brick plant site off of Coal Creek Parkway.

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Renton School District voters defeat middle school bond

March 2, 2012

Operations, technology levies are supported

A Renton School District bond that would have provided funding for a new middle school in Newcastle came up 2 percent short of the votes needed to pass, but residents did support the district’s maintenance and operations and technology levies.

The Renton School Board  examined whether the district should run the bond again in an upcoming election this year, district spokesman Randy Matheson said.

It will be back on the ballot April 17.

“While there is great need for another middle school, board members are interested in hearing if there is consensus among parents and citizens about running the bond measure again so quickly, and if the community is willing to assist in the shortened campaign to communicate the measure,” he said.

The district’s building improvements bond required a 60 percent yes vote and a minimum turnout of 10,582 people. About 30 percent of registered voters cast their vote — or about 16,900 ballots — in the Feb. 14 election.

About 9,900 voters approved the bond, while about 7,160 rejected it.

The $97 million bond would have funded the new middle school at the former Hazelwood Elementary School site, now home to the Renton Academy.

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Before disaster strikes

March 2, 2012

Newcastle resident encourages emergency preparedness in homes, neighborhoods

For Newcastle resident Paula Spence, there is no such thing as too prepared.

Spence compiles and sells emergency preparedness kits as a home-based business. Taking the time to ensure you have the necessary supplies to endure something as small as a brief power outage or as big as long-term damage from an earthquake can mean all the difference for a family’s safety during a disaster, she said.

“I know some people don’t like to think about it, but I just feel a peace of mind is important to know that you have the supplies on hand that will ensure your safety,” she said.

Contributed Paula Spence, a Newcastle resident and American Red Cross volunteer, compiles materials for emergency kits as a home-based business and promotes emergency preparedness in her neighborhood.

After her now-grown sons began to attend St. Monica Catholic School on Mercer Island, Spence said she quickly began to realize how important emergency preparedness was. About 40 percent of the students lived off the island, and if a natural disaster were to occur, she said she wanted the school to be prepared in case parents were unable to pick up their kids due to an emergency.

“Paula’s passion for emergency preparedness grew out of her love for her children,” said Pam Raleigh of Mercer Island. “Our children went to a school on an island. In an emergency, Paula knew it might take some time before she would be able to reunite with her children. She wanted to insure her children had a plan for safety.”

She began to take emergency preparedness and first aid classes, and worked with the school to have the necessary supplies on hand to be prepared. She also took on a volunteer position with the Seattle-based Red Cross, where she responded to emergencies first hand.

That’s when she started to compile the Emergency-Pac, a red backpack with a three-day supply of food and materials that could help a person respond and get through any emergency.

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Eastside Select hosts fundraiser for tourney

March 2, 2012

Eastside Select Sports is hosting several fundraisers to get players on four of its teams, including Torey Anderson of Newcastle and Justin Tucker of Renton, to the 2012 Latin American Baseball Classic in August in the Dominican Republic.

The first is a jazz dinner March 31 at Carpenter’s Hall, in Renton, featuring live music by pianist Deems & Co., a barbecue chicken dinner, silent auction, raffle and other activities. Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for ages 5-12 and children under age four are free.

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Property taxes due in to assessor April 30

March 2, 2012

King County residents started to receive property tax bills in February and, although property tax collection in the county is up 1.71 percent from last year, property owners should see a drop in bills and a decline in property valuation.

The total value of property in the county continued to decline for the 2012 tax roll, but the drop is slightly less than 2011. Officials said property values declined in almost every area in King County last year.

The median assessed value in rural Southeast King County, for instance, declined from $304,000 for the 2011 tax roll to $259,000 for 2012 — or a decrease in the tax bill of $470.

“Bank foreclosures and other distressed sales continue to be a drag on property values overall in King County,” King County Assessor Lloyd Hara said in a statement. “This is driving property values down through most of King County, and is resulting in property tax reductions for some.”

Washington operates under a budget-based property tax system, meaning local taxing districts — including fire, library and school districts — submit annual adopted budgets to the county assessor. The county assessor then has the responsibility to determine the necessary taxing route to meet the adopted budgets.

Hara and other county assessors statewide establish property values.

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The Ant that could

March 2, 2012

First steam engine made the Newcastle-to-Seattle coal run more efficient

The successful export of coal and the early success of this town called Newcastle are, quite simply, inexorably linked.

But exactly how the coal was extracted from deep within the coal seams of Newcastle and transported to the awaiting economic lifeline of Seattle’s shores — especially as full mine operations started in Newcastle in September 1871— was far from easy. The loads were transferred a whopping 11 times from start to finish.

Photo courtesy of the Renton Historical Society and Museum The Ant, the first steam engine in the Puget Sound area and second in the state of Washington, was shipped from San Francisco to the Seattle area in the winter of 1871 to enable the transfer of Newcastle coal from Lake Union to the Elliot Bay area.

The coal from Newcastle was generally San Francisco bound after being loaded onto ships in Seattle, but the Puget Sound area would get something in return from the Bay area — its first steam railroad system.

The Ant, brought up from San Francisco in the winter of 1871 to enable the transfer of coal from Lake Union to the Elliot Bay area, would be a major improvement to further Newcastle’s ability to export coal, local train expert Russ Segner said.

Until the addition of the first edition, coal was transported by a series of various modes of transportation, including hauls by mules, horses, trams and flatboats.

“Mules were the sole motive power underground,” writes Richard K. McDonald and Lucile McDonald in “The Coals of Newcastle: A Hundred Years of Hidden History.”

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Brick plant revamp is key to city’s future

March 2, 2012

Talk to anyone with a vested interest in the potential redevelopment of Newcastle’s Mutual Materials brick plant site and you’ll hear the same word time and again — opportunity.

It’s no exaggeration that as the city faces a $300,000 shortfall in 2013, and similar deficits in coming years, the redevelopment of this critical Coal Creek Parkway property may have an unprecedented impact on Newcastle for years to come.

With redevelopment comes the potential for much-needed revenue in the form of real-estate excise tax, sales tax, permitting fees, impact fees, review fees and any combination thereof.

Simply, this project matters.

It must be done efficiently, competently and in a way that benefits Newcastle. With this much at stake, it must be done right.

With a 52-acre site and a developer that has been in the community for more than 50 years and seemingly wants what’s best for the city, Newcastle arguably won’t have a chance like this again.

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Police seek home burglary, lighting theft information

March 2, 2012

Police are seeking information after a house was burglarized Feb. 15 in the 8200 block of 117th Avenue Southeast.

Prior to the burglary, two males came to the door of that house and said they were raising money for earthquake relief, according to Newcastle Police Chief Melinda Irvine. The men were driving a black four-door Lexus.

The first man is described as a skinny Asian male who is about 5 foot, 9 inches tall. The second man is described as an Asian male, 5 feet, 9 inches tall with a medium build and short hair. He was reportedly wearing a white shirt and tie.

Call Detective Christy Marsalisi or any other member of the Newcastle Police Department at 649-4444 if you have been contacted by these men or have any other information regarding the burglary. Residents can also email the department at or provide an anonymous tip through the anonymous tip page at

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