City receives state recycling award

May 3, 2012

Recycling increased more than 22 percent last year

The city of Newcastle and Waste Management received a Washington State Recycling Association Recyclers of the Year award May 1 for their competitive project to increase neighborhood recycling last year.

Recipients are selected by a panel of association members representing several aspects of the recycling industry, including collectors and processors, government agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“Through innovative programs like the recycling challenge, cities and other organizations can assist in reducing environmental impacts,” Newcastle City Manager Rob Wyman said in a statement. “Newcastle is proud of the award and of its citizens who rose to the challenge.”

During Newcastle’s Waste Less, Recycle More, Win Big event, residents were encouraged to recycle more, reduce what they sent to the landfill and lower the community’s carbon footprint. Two neighborhoods competed for a $5,000 neighborhood improvement grant. The campaign resulted in a citywide 22.8 percent increase.

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John Starbard recognized as Public Employee of the Year

May 3, 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.

John Starbard

Starbard fulfilled one executive priority early in his tenure by moving to a fixed rate for each type of permit, instead of billing customers by the hours it took to process a permit — providing customers with predictable costs and, in most cases, reduced fees. A new pre-screening service helps customers ensure their application is complete before submission, which saves processing time.

Starbard enlisted staff to create a new over-the-counter service that now takes two hours instead of the two months it took previously. He also led reductions in the amount of time it takes to issue a permit for custom single-family homes — from 64 days last year down to about 38 days this year, and he says staff members feel they can do even better.

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Bond funds new middle school in Renton district

May 3, 2012

Voters pass school measure with 60.57 percent of the vote

Newcastle will be the home of a new Renton School District middle school after residents voted to fund the project as a part of a $97 million school bond that passed by 60.57 percent April 17.

More than 10,300 people voted in favor of the measure, which funds the school, improvements to the Lindbergh High School pool and other construction costs, while about 6,700 rejected it.

School district spokesman Randy Matheson said while the district has not yet begun laying out specifics of the school, it should open its doors by the 2016 school year.

The Renton School Board voted Feb. 29 to rerun the bond after its first run in the Feb. 14 special election originally came up two points shy — or about 300 votes — of the 60 percent needed to pass.

Of the $97 million requested by the district, $53.2 million will go toward building the new middle school in Newcastle and $5.5 million will go toward improvements of the Lindbergh High School swimming pool.

About $5 million will be used for the district’s land acquisition for future projects, $5.9 million will go for upgrading existing facilities, $8.8 million will go toward energy conservation district wide and $18.6 million will go toward building upgrades for existing structures.

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Newcastle to host open house at City Hall

May 3, 2012

The city of Newcastle will open its doors for an open house from 4-6 p.m. June 5 for the public to view the new City Hall and meet the City Council and staff members.

Visitors can learn more about city services and members of the Newcastle Police Department will be on hand to meet younger residents of the city.

City staff members will conduct a food drive and ask visitors to bring nonperishable food donations on behalf of Northwest Harvest.

City Hall is located at 12835 Newcastle Way, Suite 200. Learn more by calling Aleta Phillips at 649-4444.

Issaquah School District voters approve $219 million bond

May 3, 2012

Issaquah School District voters overwhelmingly approved a $219 million bond to fund construction and renovation projects on campuses across the district.

In the April 17 special election, 70 percent of voters — encompassing more than 15,000 yes votes of out more than 22,000 ballots cast — approved the measure. (The measure needed to receive a 60 percent yes vote from a minimum turnout of 12,229 voters.)

Despite the passage of the bond, local homeowners will pay less in property taxes to the schools than they do now because a previous bond issue is set to expire this year.

The retirement of the earlier bond will drop the local tax rate from $4.85 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $4.05. Passage of the new bond puts the rate at $4.42.

Compared to present rates, a homeowner with a home valued at $500,000, property taxes will drop by $215 annually, said Jake Kuper, district chief of finance and operations.

King County Elections is scheduled to certify the election results April 27.

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May 3, 2012

Community college   support helps Newcastle

I am a member of the Renton Technical Foundation Board. We raise scholarship monies for students who otherwise would not be able to complete their job training programs.

Until recently, I did not realize the important connection between Renton Technical College and the economic development potential of Newcastle.

The college offers 36 associate degrees, 11 associate transfer degrees and 61 professional certificates. It is an open enrollment school, has one of the highest student completion rates in Washington and tuition is about one-third the cost of a four-year public university.

Of those who attend the college, 74.3 percent are there for workforce training purposes. Most importantly, RTC graduates have a 76 percent job placement rate!

During this economic downturn, many have turned to the college for workforce training or retraining in new careers. Conversely, state government has reduced funding to community colleges for the fourth year in a row, requiring tuition increases.

Many RTC students are living in poverty and need job skills training to achieve living-wage jobs. Foundation scholarships enable many to complete their certificate or degree programs.

I attended a recent seminar about strategies to attract and retain economic development in cities. The presenters surveyed businesses and scored factors that were most important in choosing cities for new business placement. One of the top four factors was the availability of an appropriately trained labor force and the importance of nearby community colleges in providing that labor force.

Newcastle is in the RTC service area. Our economic development potential is enhanced by the availability of these trained graduates: workers for new businesses, such as restaurants, dental, medical, ophthalmology and accounting offices, auto repair shops, banks and daycare centers; in the fields of computer consulting and appliance repair; and to work as electricians, legal assistants, office assistants, etc.

By helping RTC students we are advancing our own community. The Newcastle economic development team should champion the quality workforce provided by RTC as one reason businesses should locate in Newcastle.

Support the Foundation in providing scholarships by calling Susanna Williams at 235-2356, or donate at

Carol Simpson, Newcastle

Renton Technical Foundation Board member

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King County voters to decide $200 million property tax hike

May 3, 2012

King County voters could decide to increase the property tax rate to construct a juvenile detention facility, county leaders decided April 16.

In a unanimous decision, King County Council members placed a $200 million property tax levy on the Aug. 7 ballot to fund a replacement for the aging Youth Services Center, a juvenile detention facility in Seattle. The facility is a collection of decaying buildings. Officials said the electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling infrastructure is beyond repair.

If the nine-year levy is placed on the ballot and passed, homeowners should pay about 7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $20 per year for a home assessed at $350,000.

Judges and commissioners at the juvenile court on site handle 3,700 cases per year at the detention facility. The complex houses about 65 children and teenagers from throughout the county.

Councilman Reagan Dunn, Newcastle’s representative on the council, said the proposal reflects the lean economic reality.

“I think that it is proportionally and appropriately sized given the need,” he said before the council decision. “We all know the facility is desperately in need of repair.”

(Dunn represents rural areas south of Issaquah and Newcastle on the council.)

In 2010, voters rejected a broader sales tax package meant to raise dollars for criminal justice services and replace the Youth Services Center.

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Fourth annual USO Happy Hour event will honor area veterans

May 3, 2012

Newcastle residents will have the opportunity to join The Golf Club at Newcastle and Regency Newcastle in saying thank you to area military veterans.

The fourth annual USO Happy Hour event, which takes place from 4-6 p.m. May 21 in the Wooly Toad at The Golf Club at Newcastle, is open to anyone who has served in the military or civilians who would like to thank someone who has served.

“There’s never a complaint about this thing,” event organizer John Jensen said. “There’s always nothing but appreciation.”

Veterans are encouraged to RSVP either on the event’s USO Happy Hour for Veterans Facebook page or by contacting Jensen at or 206-241-5774 to ensure their drink ticket.

Each veteran will receive a “red, white or brew” ticket good for a glass of red wine, white wine or beer.

The event has grown from 45 attendees in its inaugural year in 2009 to more than 100 guests last year.

“There’s a warmth and appreciation in the room that’s hard to explain unless you’re there,” he said.

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In defense of The Electric Slide

May 3, 2012

By the time you read this, I will have married my daughter.

Please do not call the Vice Squad! What I should say instead is that I will have been the officiant at her wedding. This will be my first gig, although The Sainted One has been in high demand ever since he married Newcastle Niece last year.

We can be sure of several things: Someone will cry, the bride and/or groom will get tongue-tied while repeating their vows, one of the groomsmen will have too much to drink, small children will prance and spin on the dance floor, and my two sisters and I will do The Electric Slide.


Some people hate The Electric Slide. I have a girlfriend who so detested it that she declared a ban at her reception, but it broke out anyway. (Note to wedding planners: If you don’t want attendees doing The Electric Slide, it might be a good idea to ask your disc jockey to refrain from playing the song “The Electric Slide.”)

There was no line dancing in my Illinois youth, although there was plenty of high-stepping at big oompah-pah family weddings where if you weren’t careful, you might be suffocated by the soft beer bellies of great uncles as they held tight during a polka turn. You could also end up dancing with a broom, but I don’t remember the criteria for being so chosen. I always assumed that this was a German custom, but everything that I’ve read about brooms and dancing at weddings defines it as either African-American or Cajun in tradition, making me wonder once again at the true nature of my heritage, something I’ve pondered before while gazing at childhood pictures of me that appear to have been lifted from a National Geographic article about the lost tribes of the Amazon.

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Get free blood pressure, glucose screenings

May 3, 2012

The Bellevue Fire Department will offer free blood pressure and blood sugar checks during Heart Week.

Screenings will be from 10-11:30 a.m. May 5 and 8, and from 5:30-7 p.m. May 9, at the Coal Creek YMCA. The same services will be offered from 1:30-3 p.m. May 10 at the Newcastle City Hall in the Newcastle Professional Building.

During Heart Week, firefighters will provide screenings for high blood pressure or high blood glucose, which are associated with heart disease and diabetes.

Heart Week allows firefighters to help residents avoid or treat illnesses that are leading causes of death in the United States, and gives residents a chance to meet with firefighters in a nonemergency situation, according to the department.

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