King County task force says new schools should go in urban areas

April 11, 2012

NEW — 5:30 p.m. April 11, 2012

A 30-member task force unanimously agreed to recommend that new school sitings in King County be done in urban areas and rural towns, not in areas designated as rural.

King County officials announced the decision April 11.

“These are thoughtful recommendations that will help deliver educational excellence for our children without sacrificing the environment of our rural areas,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a press release.

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Newcastle selected as a Tree City USA community for fifth straight year

April 10, 2012

NEW — 3:15 p.m., April 10, 2012

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is recognizing 83 cities — including Newcastle — that have been chosen as a Tree City USA for their efforts in keeping urban forests healthy and vibrant. It is the fifth year Newcastle has been recognized as a Tree City.

Washington celebrates Arbor Day on April 11. There are events in communities throughout the state during the month of April to celebrate Arbor Day.

To be acknowledged as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, a city must designate staff to care for trees, appoint a citizen tree board to advocate for community forestry, establish a tree ordinance, spend at least $2 per capita on tree care and celebrate Arbor Day.

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Councilman proposes additional tools to combat gangs

April 9, 2012

NEW — 4:50 p.m. April 9, 2012

Reagan Dunn, Newcastle representative on the King County Council, outlined additional tools Monday to combat gang-violence.

Reagan Dunn

The proposed legislation calls for establishing anti-criminal street gang emphasis areas and allow judges to prohibit people convicted of gang-related crimes from entering areas of high gang activity.

In 2011, officials recorded 802 gang-related incidents countywide.

“Illegal gang activity is on the rise and has put our communities at risk,” Dunn said in a statement. “These ordinances will give law enforcement another tool to use against those suspected of gang-related activity. It’s a giant step in the right direction and I urge my colleagues to support its immediate adoption.”

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Former city manager John Starbard recognized as Public Employee of the Year

April 6, 2012

NEW — 12:25 p.m. April 6, 2012

King County Executive Dow Constantine praised former Newcastle city manager and director of the Department of Development and Environmental Services, John Starbard, for being named Public Employee of the Year by the Municipal League of King County.

“It wasn’t that long ago that our permitting department was the most maligned of our agencies, with good people struggling with old ways of doing business,” Constantine said in a statement. “I gave John a mandate to reform the agency, and since then he has instituted reforms that have increased efficiency, reduced fees and shortened the time to process permits.”

The award was presented April 5 at the 53rd Annual Civic Awards Celebration Dinner at Herban Feast in the SODO area of Seattle. Newcastle City Council members fired Starbard in January 2010. The council attributed the decision to tense relationships between Starbard, elected officials and city residents.

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Earth Day event promotes water management, eco-friendly habits

April 5, 2012

The third annual Newcastle Earth Day will play host to some highly anticipated and somewhat unusual guests this year — and they’re not even human.

With the help of Rent-a-Ruminant LLC, 15 goats will make their way from Vashon Island to their Newcastle debut to prove that getting rid of invasive plant species need not be harmful to the environment or be backbreaking work.

“People might not realize it, but the goats are a good alternative to herbicides and manual labor,” said Grace Stiller, Newcastle Earth Day event chairwoman. “Instead of having to clear all of that debris of the blackberries, you have to the goats do it for you.”

The city of Newcastle, the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce and the Newcastle Weed Warriors will provide speakers, seminars and activities for Earth Day 2012 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 21 at Lake Boren Park.

This year’s event will focus on responsible storm water management.

“This event celebrates our community’s love for the environment,” Stiller said.

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Council OKs $6,000 raise for city manager

April 5, 2012

After evaluating City Manager Rob Wyman’s performance on the job, the Newcastle City Council has approved a $6,000 raise for the position.

The raise — increasing Wyman’s annual salary from $110,000 to $116,000 — will be retroactive to Jan. 1 and includes two additional days of merit leave for 2012.

Wyman was hired as interim city manager in January 2010, and the council selected him as the permanent city manager that August. This is his first raise since taking the position.

The council also assigned Wyman seven goals to work on this year.

Rob Wyman

The goals include demonstrating efficient use of expenditures while maximizing revenue sources, accomplishing objectives set by the council in the 2012 budget, promoting economic development in town, maintaining a positive staff performance for employees and developing a communication strategy with residents.

Wyman’s performance was evaluated in several executive sessions prior to the resolution amending his contract being placed on the council’s March 20 consent agenda — a series of items bundled and voted upon without discussion.

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Police nab two suspects in home burglaries

April 5, 2012

The Newcastle Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies located two suspects after a home burglary was reported Feb. 29 on Forest Drive in Bellevue, just outside of Newcastle city limits.

The house was occupied during the incident, Police Chief Melinda Irvine said in a statement.

Two male suspects fled into the heavily wooded area toward Newcastle-Golf Club Road. Due to the proximity of the incident to Newcastle, police are looking into possible connections to burglaries in the city.

Newcastle officers, King County Sheriff’s Office deputies and detectives, and K-9 units from Kirkland and Federal Way assisted Bellevue police.

The suspects were hiding under a foot of leaves in a ravine and were located by the K-9 units.

“We will continue a thorough investigation of the burglaries that have occurred in the city to determine if these men are responsible, and work to locate any stolen property,” Irvine said.

The suspects may be responsible for several burglaries in Newcastle over the past few months.

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April 5, 2012

Renton bond invests in students’ future

The Renton School District passed both levies in the Feb. 12 election. However, the bond, which requires a 60 percent yes vote, received only 58.08 percent, falling short of approval by 335 votes out of 17,000.

Because of that narrow margin and the significant value that passing the school bond will have on students in the district, the Renton School Board decided unanimously to seek approval of the bond again, and I agree.

The bond accomplishes two essential components for the district. First, it provides the funding for a new middle school in the district. Why is this important? The average middle school in Washington has 609 students per school. Renton’s three middle schools rank in the state as follows, McKnight: third (1,150 kids, almost double), Nelsen: ninth (1,050) and Dimmitt: 24th (890).

If the bond is passed, it means a fourth middle school, which could open in four years, allowing the school district the ability to lower the average number of children per school down to 891 in 2016 (this number includes adjusting for anticipated growth). As you can see, a fourth middle school really just helps the district hold the line.

In addition, the bond provides capital for improvements, upgrades and modernizations to other schools and the renovation of the Lindbergh pool. These improvements will save the district money by lowering operating costs of these facilities.

The Renton School Board understands the concerns of taxpayers and balances those concerns with the essential needs of the district. This will help balance the concerns about school size for now. Your yes vote goes a long way for the children of the Renton School District.

Newcastle residents in the Renton district would see an increase of $5.83 per month on average if the bond is approved (defined as a home in Newcastle with average assessed value of $388,000). Less than $6 per month for all of that seems like a great investment to me.

Vote yes for the Renton school building improvements bond on April 17!

John Galluzzo, chairman

Citizens for Renton Schools

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Controversial bond deserves a yes vote

April 5, 2012

We wish the Issaquah School District had been more conservative in its request to fund the long list of items on the April 17 construction bond, but we get why it was not.

With another school bond ending its 20 years of tax collections, this is a good time to get a lot of catch-up work done on our school facilities, while still giving taxpayers a couple hundred dollars’ reduction in property taxes next year (an estimated $215 drop on a $500,000 assessed valuation home.)

Volunteers for Issaquah Schools, the group pushing a yes vote, say this is the biggest campaign it has ever mounted. It’s no wonder. With so many questions and a $219 million price tag, the proposed bond has raised a lot of eyebrows.

There are a lot of questions voters are asking, as we did. Do the middle schools really need artificial-turf fields? Does it really make sense to tear down Clark Elementary School? Does Tiger Mountain Community High School, population 80, really need to be relocated at a cost of $4 million? Isn’t $75,000 for clocks at Beaver Lake Middle School rather excessive? And so on.

First, recognize that the extensive repairs, remodels, permanent classroom additions for 500 students, rebuilds of the five oldest schools, stadium upgrades, safety and energy-saving additions is so extensive that it will take eight years to get it all done — although taxpayers will pay for the next 20 years.

Equality in school facilities will come closer to reality if these projects are completed. Consider that the slower economy makes it a great time to get the best construction bids.

For many voters, this bond request is a stretch. But just like the committee of volunteers who studied the issues and drafted the bond plan, we believe the facilities bond keeps Issaquah schools in tip-top shape and designed for changing educational needs.

Vote yes.

Newcastle Trails prepares for upcoming projects

April 5, 2012

Newcastle Trails is looking to complete and explore possible projects in coming months.

The East May Creek Trail is walkable from Coal Creek Parkway down to the “picnic site” (logs make ad hoc benches and tables) just down May Creek from the mouth of Boren Creek.

From there, a rough trail exists all the way to the existing May Creek Trail. The section along the creek is being steadily improved by Newcastle Trails volunteers working closely with the city of Newcastle.

The final sections up to the existing trail will be completed as a series of Eagle Scout projects.

Working with officials from Newcastle and Renton, the trails organization has identified a possible route and bridge location for the extension of the May Creek Trail west into the city of Renton.

The group is also examining the prospect of resuming work on the East CrossTown Trail when the Newcastle Vista subdivision goes in later this year.

Many volunteers will be needed to help to get the trails finished quickly.

Email Peggy Price at to volunteer.

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