2014 was a year of change for Newcastle

January 2, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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In 2014, the city of Newcastle celebrated a birthday, lost an icon and set the stage for the future. Here are some of the top stories of the year, in no particular order:

Newcastle pioneer Milt Swanson passes away

Family, neighbors and community leaders gathered Jan. 25 to honor the life of Milt Swanson, a titan of Newcastle history and a man with an unceasing, warming smile.

The Newcastle pioneer, born and raised in this community, spent all of his 95 years in the same area, 90 of which were in the same company house that still stands at the edge of town near the Cougar Mountain trailhead.

Swanson died Jan. 20 after a Jan. 14 fall sent him to a hospital, where he lapsed into a coma.

He knew more about the city’s vast coal-mining history than anyone, because he actually lived it. He worked in the mines, as his father and grandfather did before him, and it was vital to him to tell his story, making sure the history of Newcastle never died.

“It was important to him to allow as many people who were interested to understand the beginnings of the city they live in,” Newcastle City Councilman Rich Crispo said. “He loved this community.”

Council elects new mayor, deputy mayor

The Newcastle City Council ushered in 2014 with elections for the mayor and deputy mayor positions at its Jan. 7 meeting.

Steve Buri was elected mayor, while newcomer John Drescher is the new deputy mayor. Both will serve two-year terms.

Buri was elected to the City Council in 2007 and re-elected in 2011. He served as deputy mayor from 2008-2011.

Drescher was the new face on the council, having defeated opponent Mark Greene to fill the seat vacated by retiring Councilman Bill Erxleben in the November election.

Prior to that, he served on the Newcastle Planning Commission for four years, and as the board’s chairman for the past year and a half.

Neighbors voice concerns about Energize Eastside

A Puget Sound Energy project to bring higher capacity electric transmission lines to a growing Eastside caused controversy across affected cities, including Newcastle, in 2014.

Olympus residents in particular voiced their concerns about Energize Eastside at City Council meetings and public forums.

PSE’s Community Advisory Group recently presented its recommended routes, and both include a line that goes through Newcastle.

This story appears far from over though, as affected cities, led by Bellevue, come together to hire an independent consultant to research the project, and work through the Environmental Impact Statement process.

Old Hazelwood comes down to make way for middle school

The Renton School District demolished the old Hazelwood Elementary School in 2014 to make way for a new middle school.

The district’s fourth middle school comes at an important time, given that Renton’s middle schools are among the largest in the state.

The new school is slated to open in fall 2016.

Newcastle Days celebrates 20 years

The city of Newcastle celebrated its 20 years as an incorporated city with a special Newcastle Days celebration.

New to this year’s annual festival was a parade featuring youth groups and individuals dressed as coal miners in a nod to the city’s history.

“Really, when you think about it, 20 years isn’t old for even a tree, but there’s been a huge amount of change here in Newcastle in the last 20 years,” said Community Activities Commission Chairwoman Diane Lewis, one of the festival’s organizers.

Newport Woods community concerned about proposed development

A proposed multifamily, mixed-use development along Newcastle Way, just beside City Hall, has Newport Woods neighbors wondering how much longer the city will remain the quaint Newcastle they fell in love with.

The application calls for a 76-unit, 64-foot mixed-use building set on just under an acre of land in what is now a wooded area next to Newcastle City Hall. A trail along the Olympic pipeline is about the only thing that would separate it from homes on the edge of the Newport Woods community.

If approved as is, the six-story building would be the tallest in the city.

Renton History Museum features Newcastle exhibit

The Renton History Museum partnered with the Newcastle Historical Society to create an exhibit dedicated to Newcastle’s past.

“Newcastle: Little Giant of the Eastside,” feature pictures, maps and objects from Newcastle’s coal-mining past. The exhibit has information about the cemetery, as well as the Baima House, a still-standing Pacific Coast Coal Co. house, considered among the oldest buildings in King County.

The exhibit will be on display at the Renton History Museum through February 2015.

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