By Polly Keary, Editor
The year 2013 has barely begun, but already it is possible to make a few predictions about what lies ahead in the next 12 months.
One thing that is surely in the cards is some political foment. There are four city council seats and the mayor’s position coming up for election this year in Monroe, as well as key races elsewhere around the valley.
Legally, it will be an important year, with the Walmart lawsuit still awaiting resolution and with the death penalty trial of the man who killed corrections officer Jayme Biendl likely to be completed this year.
And in the business world, new development will change the face of Monroe to some extent; how much depends on the outcome of the Walmart lawsuit, as well as the success of the city in selling land.
And in the upper valley, at least, an emerging tourism industry based largely on outdoor recreation will take yet greater shape, with the possibility of some help from the state.
Here is a look at what is in store in 2013 for the Sky Valley.
This will be a lively political year in Monroe. Four city council seats are up for election this year, as is the mayor’s position.
The four city council members who will reach the end of their terms this year are Kurt Goering, Kevin Hanford, Patsy Cudaback and Tom Williams.
Of those, only Hanford replied to a query from the Monitor on whether he planned to seek re-election, saying that he has not yet decided.
Hanford was elected to a two-year term in 2011. His position, that of council member at-large, is the only two-year position on the seven-seat council. The rest are four-year positions.
Kurt Goering is legally unable to run again for his council seat due to term limit laws in Monroe. Council members are limited to serving eight years consecutively, and by the end of 2013, when his term expires, he will have served six years (his first term was as council member at-large, which is a two-year term). That does not preclude him from seeking another position, however, such as planning commissioner or mayor.
Tom Williams, a computer programmer, was elected in 2009, never having held political office prior to that.
Patsy Cudaback, director of the Monroe YMCA, was elected in 2009, as well. Neither she nor Williams has announced a decision about seeking reelection.
Robert Zimmerman, too, was elected to the mayor’s seat in 2009, defeating former mayor Donnetta Walser and former council colleague Mitch Ruth. He did not respond to a message asking if he planned to run again.
There will also be at least one high-profile levy this year. Valley General Hospital, which recently entered into a partnership with EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, will run a levy that hospital leaders say is critical to the economic well-being of the hospital. The hospital currently has the lowest levy rate in the state, while providing more unpaid care than most other hospitals in the state.
Three members of Monroe’s school board will face races this year, including Greg Accetturo and Jim Scott, as well as current president Tom McIntyre.
Up valley, Steve Slawson and Kristina Blair are both up for re-election in Sultan.
In Gold Bar, Elizabeth LaZella’s seat is up for re-election, as is Davi Martin’s, who has a two-year position. There is also currently a vacant position.
Family and friends of corrections officer Jayme Beindl, who was murdered by an inmate in early 2011, may get justice this year. The trial of inmate Byron Scherf will begin in May, and the judge overseeing the case has been adamant that the date will stand.
The case will likely be a two-phase case. If Scherf is found guilty, there will be a second phase to determine his sentence. The three-strikes lifer could face the death penalty.
And a lawsuit appeal attempting to force Walmart to more closely comply with city design standards for the North Kelsey subarea is supposed to go to court early this year. So far it hasn’t been placed on the January docket, but could come up before March.
Monroe will get at least one very large new business in 2013. Providence Everett has broken ground on a $22 million, 42,000-square-foot medical center scheduled for opening in fall of 2013.
But if a lawsuit against Walmart is decided in favor of the city, Walmart will begin construction and could conceivably open by year’s end.
And if the city council affirms a hearing examiner’s decision in regards to the new cable park at Lake Tye, that, too, could be complete this year.
There are some other possibilities that could impact business in Monroe this year, as well. If the city successfully closes the land deal with Walmart, the city could begin looking for a place to locate a “festival lot,” or a large open space that could double as a parking lot and an event space, somewhere near downtown Monroe, said economic development manager Jeff Sax.
Also, the city is working on possibly putting way-finding signs, or attractive signs directing visitors to different attractions and sections of town, around Monroe.
And the city council is currently discussing the possibility of making the hill behind Beta-Kelsey Station, the strip mall that includes the Mongolian grill, available for development.
The hill is the site of the old city dump, and as such, may require clean-up before it can be used. The council will decide whether to clean it up and sell it, or whether to sell it as-is. Of the 11 acres of hill, about two are in right-of-ways, leaving about nine acres available for development.
Transportation will have a big year in Monroe, as well. Fremont Street is getting an upgrade that will include sidewalks and trees. And the city’s transportation plan is due for an update, meaning the council will decide what street and road projects to prioritize in the coming years.
The city is also working with Representative Dan Kristiansen to find grant money to resurface Lewis Street from the railroad tracks to south to Fremont Street.
And the long-sought, east-west connector across town could get closer to completion this year.
“We will try to get into the engineering phase to push Tjerne Place through to Oak Street,” said Sax.
The Chamber of Commerce will soon roll out a new website featuring member businesses on an interactive map, and is continuing with the strategy of increasing Monroe’s electronic media profile.
But the chamber is also planning on organizing town events, as well, including a spring wine walk and a possible polar bear swim at Lake Tye next winter, similar to the popular Lake Chelan event.
And one thing that is unique to Monroe that the chamber wants to support this year is Mexican rodeo.
“We are really going to get behind that,” said Chamber Director Annique Bennett. “Working with the Hispanic community can only be a good and positive thing.”
The promoters of the rodeos had to work very hard to bring the events to the fairgrounds, and now that the rodeos are turning out to be very successful, other communities with fairgrounds are trying to lure the promoters to their communities, said Bennett.
“They are our guys and we need to make sure they are centered here,” she said, saying there are opportunities for other Monroe businesses to get involved and profit.
There aren’t big changes in store this year for the school district, beyond the school board elections, and the district has no plans to run a levy this year.
But there will be a few changes.
In the fall, the dual language kindergarten program at Frank Wagner Elementary will expand to include a first-grade option, as well.
New courses under discussion to come to the high school include astronomy and AP environmental science.
And in the fall, a new state system for evaluating teachers and principals will go into effect. Currently, evaluators only have the option of grading educators as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. “In the new system there are four options; unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished,” said school district spokesperson Rosemary O’Neil.