By Polly Keary, Editor
Here is a recap of the major news stories that occurred in the upper valley in 2012, complete with updates on ongoing stories.
The historic Startup church, then the Parallax Gallery, burned down Christmas morning. The building was constructed as the German Baptist Church in 1901, and was known as the Lighthouse of the Valley.
Gold Bar was down to only two planning commissioners out of seven available seats and was no longer able to conduct planning business.
*Update: The city has since decided to eliminate the planning commission and instead use a hearing examiner to help with city planning.
Volunteers pitched in to shovel the snow off the roofs of mobile homes in a 55+ mobile home court in Sultan. The homes were at risk due to a very heavy snowfall.
Kay George, a Sultan city councilwoman, led an effort to privatize the city’s garbage service, arguing that it would save residents money.
*Update: The council did not follow up on the effort, and the garbage utility is still run by the city.
Caitlin Ferry, 23, of Sultan was arrested on charges of child molestation after her former boyfriend was found to have molested several children over the course of years and stored thousands of photos of the acts on his computers.
*Update: This month, Ferry was released from jail. The slightly developmentally delayed woman pleaded guilty to molesting a child in relation to a nude photo in which she was featured along with her then-boyfriend’s son, 7. Her ex-boyfriend contacted media from prison to insist that Ferry had only intended to be in what he told her was an artistic photo. The son was not featured in any of the man’s other, more graphic photos.
An apartment fire in Sultan that nearly killed the resident inside was apparently started by a candle that the occupant had lit for light and heat, as her power was out during the worst of the cold spell. The woman was taken to Harborview.
The Sultan Lions Club celebrated their first anniversary with 14 members. The club was busy, helping out with gift program The Giving Tree, town cleanup for Shindig, weeding at Fisherman’s Park, buying a computer cart for the Sultan School District and creating backpacks with necessities for kids taken from their homes by police in the event of crisis or the arrest of caregivers.
Marianne Naslund, a former Sultan city council member, was the subject of a Reader’s Digest story on her family’s adoption of a boy teen from a troubled family in her neighborhood. The story, part of a series called “Hometown Heroes,” detailed Naslund’s offer to Andy Livasy, then 16, to come and live with her family after she’d noticed loud disturbances several times at his home. He eventually went on to join the Navy, and considers Naslund’s family his own.
*Update: Naslund said that Livasy is doing quite well in his military career.
Sultan’s Youngs Creek Dam, the first hydroelectric dam to be built in Western Washington in 20 years, was named Hydro Project of the Year by environmental organization Renewable Energy World.
An attempted recall against Gold Bar Mayor Joe Beavers was struck down by a judge, who found that the petition brought forth by five citizens didn’t meet legal requirements. The citizens alleged that the city council and mayor improperly made a decision in executive session.
Other charges include a charge that Beavers had wasted city money by withholding old emails they believe aren’t protected from public records laws, and that the mayor used public money by using the services of the city attorney for personal defense. In order for a recall petition to go ahead, a judge has to find that the charges are in fact grounds for recall, and that supporting facts are serious enough to merit concern.
The century-old Whistling Post Tavern in Skykomish was destroyed by a fire that investigators later found to be arson, an apparent attempt to cover up a burglary in which an ATM was sawn open and about $3,000 taken. Owners Teddy Jo Ryder and her husband Charlie Brown vowed to rebuild.
*Update: A suspect in the arson was arrested several weeks ago. He is suspected in a large number of arsons, and didn’t live in the area or know the pub’s owners. According to police, he cut himself while sawing into the ATM and hoped the fire might destroy DNA evidence.
The Whistling Post is slated to reopen sometime this month.
The restaurant at the Blue Boy Golf Course was reopened by experienced restaurateur John Bechtel as the At the Tee Cafe. Bechtel’s ambition was rendered rather remarkable by the fact that he is legally blind. Family members and friends working with him at the restaurant helped him navigate, and he is experienced enough to cook well with his other four senses.
Gold Bar residents and city leaders discussed the possibility of disincorporating in order to avoid the possibility of bankruptcy. The city, while running in the black otherwise, incurred high legal expenses and staff costs due to a high number of public records requests and lawsuits. Eventually, the citizens decided against disincorporation, but in November also rejected a levy that would have helped the city pay some of those legal expenses.
*Update: The city has won every lawsuit that has so far been ruled on. One lawsuit, that brought by Susan Forbes, was ruled against in appellate court, but she is seeking to appeal to the state supreme court. Forbes believes the city is illegally withholding emails incriminating a former mayor from public records requests. There is one other lawsuit that was stayed pending the appellate ruling, and that case hasn’t yet been settled. One other case that dates back to 2009 has not yet gone to trial. Gold Bar is finishing 2012 in the black, said Mayor Joe Beavers, but he anticipates difficult financial times in 2013.
Boxing great Sugar Ray Seales, originally from Tacoma, announced that he and Mike Hattersly, an old boxing friend who lives near Lake Roesiger, planned to try to create a homeless shelter in the Sultan area. Seales, an Olympic gold medalist, was inspired to help by the hardship experienced by Hattersly, who contract hepatitis C while boxing in the military. Hattersly’s health declined and he has teetered on the edge of homelessness.
Update: Seales did visit the area in September. So far the shelter remains in the idea phase.
A woman who was sexually exploited for nearly a year by Sultan High School assistant coach Randall Floyd Boyce McElveen, who was sentenced to prison for the crime, sued the Sultan School District for not doing an adequate background check on the man before hiring him.
The woman, 20 at the time of the suit, also sued Hillcrest Baptist Church, where the man had served as a youth pastor. The man had a record of misbehavior in Tennessee, where he had lived previously, something that the school and church could have discovered with a thorough background check, the woman’s lawyer contended.
*Update: The lawsuit was recently settled out of court for an amount that is at this point undisclosed.
Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick and former Sultan High School ag teacher Chuck Donaldson announced plans to wed. The two got to know each other while members of the same Toastmasters Club, and had a first date at a bowling lane. June 1, the two married in a private ceremony in Sultan.
A Burien boy, 13, fell in the Wallace River and was swept to a rock just above the 270-foot main falls, where he spent the next eight hours huddled as rescuers attempted to reach him. One rescuer was only saved by a backup rope when his main rope snapped and he fell in the river, coming even closer to the falls than did the boy. At about 1:36 a.m., after the boy had been in the river for more than eight hours, rescuers got him to the river bank.
Sultan City Administrator Deborah Knight resigned in order to take a job as the city administrator of Stanwood. She came to Sultan from Woodinville in 2006.
An electric car charging station was installed in Sultan next to the Visitor Information Center. It was one of 10 such stations that opened in June as part of the West Coast Electric Highway project, which aims to make travel down the coast and across the mountains possible for electric cars without having to use any fuel.
After extensive negotiation and consideration, the city of Sultan decided to opt out of a potential three-way lease agreement between the city, the Volunteers of America and the Boys and Girls Club. The lease was for a piece of land on the Volunteers of America campus in Sultan upon which the city was to build a new Boys and Girls Club to replace the one that burned down Christmas Eve of 2010. The lease agreement was too complicated, city officials concluded. Instead, they decided to turn over the cash settlement the city had gotten for the destruction of the Boys and Girls Club building to the Boys and Girls Club.
*Update: The Boys and Girls Club is in the process of hiring an architect and beginning the building process.
Sultan sculptor Kevin Pattelle, known primarily for his work in bronze, was named 2012 Artist of the Year by his Snohomish County peers. An important theme in his 30-year body of work has been the human form, particularly that of athletes and dancers. As a result of his award, his art was shown at an Everett museum in an exhibit called “Celebration of the Human Form.”
After a 37-year career with the Sultan School District, Bernadine Fox retired. She started as a volunteer in 1975. Eventually she moved to the Sultan Elementary School office, where she kept track of attendance. Upon retiring, she planned to go on a cruise, but also planned to be a frequent visitor at the school.
HIstory buff Tim Raetzloff discovered the site of the historic railroad and timber town of Alpine in the woods along the Foss River. The town, while abandoned in the 1920s, is nevertheless well-known nationwide, as it is the scene of a series of mystery novels set in a modern-day version of Alpine.
Former town residents remember it as a nearly magical place, with a very strong community and a benevolent founder in the person of Carl Clemens, a colorful character who once helped build Stanford University’s fraternal system while a football hero there and eventually a team coach. Clemens built the mill around which Alpine grew, and is credited with fostering the town’s enormous sense of community. Raetzloff hopes to lead a drive to excavate Alpiine and make a park of it.
Index photographer Denny Strimple, a long-time figure at the Evergreen Speedway whose racing images where published nationally, died of complications of an infection. Racecar drivers honored him with a memorial lap and a salute to his life and work.
Reiter Foothills opened on a limited basis once again for dirt bike riders. Reiter Pit, as it is known to local riders, was closed to off-road usage in 2008 in order to repair damage to the land, particularly in a watershed, and to improve and formalize the trail system. The budget woes of Olympia set the reopening back considerably, but supporters have been working doggedly to get the park reopened. Dirt biking was allowed on a limited basis in August to allow the DNR to collect information and feedback on recent improvements.
Skykomish Mayor Fred Black resigned two and a half years into his first term in office in order to move away and marry. Cascadia Inn owner Henry Sladek served as interim mayor until the council could appoint a new mayor.
*Update: The Skykomish council appointed school teacher Tony Grider to the mayor’s office. Grider will serve until the end of the year. If he wants to remain the mayor after that, he will have to run for election this fall.
The Sky Valley Historical Society Museum, located above the Sultan Post Office in a 1954 building that once served as the city hall and fire station, was found to be so far out of code that it was deemed a safety hazard following an inspection in the spring. Because doors leading to fire escapes were too small by current code, the museum was closed until the problem could be addressed. Townspeople rallied and took up a collection to bring the exits up to code.
*Update: Last week, an architect, a friend of former planning commissioner Bart Dalmasso, came to Sultan to perform a pro bono assessment of the building. “We have received an indication that it might be a relatively simple fix,” said city administrator Ken Walker.
The Sultan Bank of America declared intentions to close in October. Several years earlier, a similar plan was averted by a vigorous petition drive, but this year the effort to retain the bank was not as strong and the bank eventually closed.
Stacey Broyles, 47, of Index, was struck and killed by a hit and run driver on the shoulder of the Index-Galena Road, where he was walking with his dog, which was also killed. An Everett woman eventually stepped forward as the driver, and last month the Sheriff’s Office confirmed her vehicle matched evidence found at the scene. Charges have not yet been filed.
Donna Rice of Sultan was presented with the 2012 Roger Bouck Award for Volunteerism in Action on Volunteer Appreciation Night at an Everett AquaSox game. Rice was recognized for serving meals to the homeless, caring for seniors and helping as a midwife, delivering 350 babies over the past 50 years, all as a volunteer.
A city employee was fired in Gold Bar for taking money from utility payments. She said she had used the money to pay a bill and that she had planned to replace it. She was captured on camera trying to replace the money after learning that the missing funds had been noticed.
Edwina Hargrave took over as superintendent of the Skykomish School District. Hargrave has a history of leading small school districts; her last position was superintendent of the Onion Creek School District near Colville, which had just 35 students. She took over for former superintendent Jeff Long, who is still a school teacher in the district.
A group of citizens sued the city of Sultan, alleging that the city was overcharging for utilities and inappropriately using the money to subsidize budgets in other city departments. The case was initially dismissed by a judge, but the judge later granted an appeal for reconsideration. The matter remains to be resolved.
GROW Washington, a store featuring the products of local entrepreneurs, opened in Sultan. It is the second store of its kind; the first opened in Snohomish the previous year. The GROW Washington project was started by Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick as a means of promoting the local economy and supporting local business.
Ken Walker, formerly a city manager and controller in Vidalia, Louis., was chosen to take over as city administrator of Sultan. Walker holds an all-but-dissertation PhD in accounting, and most of his professional career has centered around that skill.
Sultan School District test scores were up significantly in several areas. Sultan Elementary outpaced the state average in every single subject at every grade level tested. Middle school students also did verity well, but Gold Bar Elementary and high school math scores lagged. The overall scores for the district appeared lower than state average across the board, but much of that was due to a large alternative school program in the district.
Sultan’s teachers signed a new three-year contract with fewer furlough days and 28 more hours of classroom instruction.
Chris Wright abruptly resigned from the Gold Bar City Council, citing a return to school. Once he had stepped down from the dais, he demanded that his political opponents, a group of people who have filed a number of lawsuits and other legal procedures against the city, desist. He denied that he was being forced out of the city council, however.
Mysterious helicopters occasionally flying around Sultan at night were identified as military helicopters from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which were using a little-used but viable airstrip near Sultan for night-ops practice.
Sultan got a $500,000 grant to fix Alder Street, a street once considered to be in such advanced disrepair that it didn’t qualify for repair dollars from the state. Representatives Kirk Pearson and Dan Kristiansen both worked to reclassify Alder in order to qualify it for funding.
A $100,000 levy that would have helped Gold Bar meet daily expenses while handling legal and staff costs associated with a series of lawsuits, recall petitions and public records requests, failed.
A house fire on Fir Street in Sultan appeared to be due to a faulty extension cord. Three dogs and two cats died in the fire.
The county doubled the amount of funds budgeted to help create a long-anticipated shooting range on Sultan Basin Road. The county allocated $200,000 of Real Estate Excise Tax funds to the project to turn a 187-acre parcel of land into a large shooting facility. The money will go toward planning and design.
The Sultan Turks football team went to the District Tournament, where Lynden’s competitive team bumped them out of competition.
Sultan held the first town Christmas Tree lighting in six years. The mayor and her husband appeared as Santa and Mrs. Claus, and there were additional holiday festivities, including musical groups and dancers.
The Skykomish School District won a $10,000 award for having state test scores significantly above average.
A four-car collision near Skykomish that seriously injured one man may have been alcohol-related, police said.