Animal deaths, police service, border, top issues of 2007
• The year 2007 was off to a dismal start when rampaging dogs killed four alpacas and seriously injured four others at the Wildwood Alpaca farm on Sweet Road early in January. Two of the alpacas died despite hours of treatment by veterinarians who responded at 3 a.m. to the owner’s call.
• After nearly two years of back-and-forth negotiations between the city of Blaine and the residents of Blaine’s Semiahmoo neighborhood, city police officers began enforcing the 20 mph speed limit inside Semiahmoo's gated community on Monday, January 15.
Prior to the decision, Semiahmoo and other gated communities were on their own, responsible for enforcing speed limits themselves.
• In a January 16 meeting of the Port of Bellingham, officials voted to deny a request from Blaine city officials Mike Myers and Gary Tomsic to outline alternative uses to the Blaine airport property. Port commissioner Scott Walker said because the port had already helped fund the alternative land use study proposed by Makers BST Associates consulting firm, he didn’t understand why a second proposal was needed.
• Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo announced that he would assign sheriff deputy Cliff Langley as the new resident deputy for Birch Bay. Elfo said the officer's presence was important to help curb speeding and other traffic violations, adding that Birch Bay Drive is one of the most likely spots in Whatcom County to catch drunk drivers.
• Blaine City Council decided once again to vote whether to keep the Blaine airport after the possibility of federal funding for an expansion outlined in the city’s airport master plan is looking increasingly unlikely.
The move came after an email from Mary Vargas, the state aviation planner for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Seattle district office to city officials, that cited an “unrealistic” possibility of the availability of funds necessary to proceed with the city’s airport expansion plan.
• Blaine seventh-grader Andrew Dahl, 12, in part of a campaign promise to his fellow middle school students, set a new world record for inflating balloons with his nose after he was elected as student vice president.
With the help of his parents, Andrew set out to inflate 100, 9-inch balloons in one hour.
• A Sedro-Woolley man died after falling from the Hughes Avenue overpass January 29. State patrol officials said Cameron Meinert, 31, was driving a tractor-trailer rig on the overpass from Yew Street when he put the trailer portion of the vehicle in the ditch. When Meinert was contacted by Blaine police officers, he reportedly left the scene and jumped off the overpass into the southbound lanes of I-5 where he suffered fatal injuries.
Meinert was an employee at TS Trans in Blaine.
• James G. “Andy” Anderson, former Blaine mayor and city councilman, died on January 22, at the age of 86.
Anderson opened the former Border Cafe, later called the New Border Cafe, located near the old Bordertown Tavern. He built buildings downtown with his Anderson and Peterson Construction Company and for many years ran Anderson Jewelry.
Locals who remember Anderson said he was definitely one of Blaine’s more colorful characters.
• A joint wharf district redevelopment plan unveiled by the city of Blaine and the Port of Bellingham sparked a protest by many residents concerned the plan would close the Blaine harbor pier to vehicles.
At a public meeting February 7, a handful of adamant Blaine residents told Blaine city staff and port officials the pier should remain open to vehicles citing the town's high population of retirement aged individuals who had a history of “cruising the dock.” Port of Bellingham officials, however, said the pier is in need of serious upgrades and would be expensive to repair.
• U.S. Consul General Lewis Lukens visited Western Washington University on February 15 to tell border communities that fighting new border crossing regulations under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative is a futile battle.
“Fighting WHTI is not going to help,” he said during a presentation at an international conference organized by WWU's Border Policy Research Institute (BPRI). “Putting your head in the sand and pretending it’s not there is not going to make it go away.”
The statement came in response to several skeptical remarks made from U.S. and Canadian business leaders such as Bellingham/Whatcom County Chamber of Commerce president Ken Oplinger concerning the potential economic impact the legislation may have on cross-border commerce – especially with regards to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
• After a final showdown between airport supporters and opponents, Blaine city council voted 4-3 to close the Blaine municipal airport by the end of 2008. Council members Jason Overstreet, Bonnie Onyon, John Liebert and Ken Ely constituted the majority opinion. Mayor Mike Myers, along with council members Charlie Hawkins and Bruce Wolf voted against the resolution.
• Despite the lack of visible progress in recent months the Peace Arch port of entry redevelopment project is right on schedule, according to Bill Lesh of the Government Services Administration (GSA) Portland office.
The original time table for the project that was presented at some of the initial scoping meetings two years ago called for a design phase to begin in December 2005 and last through July of 2006, for construction to begin in September of 2006 and be completed in a little over three years, just in time for the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games in February of 2010.
• Retirees Shirley and Herb Leu found out the hard way that international law prohibits any kind of construction within ten feet of the Canadian border, after officials from the International Boundary Commission told them they would have to move a $15,000 concrete retaining wall in their front yard 30 inches or pay to have it destroyed.
The couple filed a lawsuit the following month in U.S. District court in Seattle to keep the IBC from demolishing their wall.
The official with the IBC who ordered the wall removed was later fired by order of President George Bush. The wall still stands.
• On March 23 DHS secretary Michael Chertoff visited Olympia to sign papers allowing the state to test the country’s first pilot project involving a cheaper alternative to the passport.
The enhanced licenses will show proof of citizenship, state residency, allow the search of federal databases such as criminal records and provide a less-costly alternative to $97 passports required under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) expected to be implemented at all land and sea crossings as early as July 2008.
• Blaine native Ben Mallahan catapulted into the big time last March on the strength of a 16-minute pilot episode for a new TV show. Called “Gamers,” the show revolves around people immersed in playing video games.
His website, www.benmakesmovies.com. has a number of those videos and others from high school and college available for viewing.
• After mounting problems with vandalism and maintenance issues, the city of Blaine temporarily closed the Blaine Skate Park.
The move came after an individual threw an object, breaking the window of a sport utility vehicle parked near the park.
The park was opened the following week after a special meeting with city officials, in which skaters and community members vowed to ensure the park was well-maintained and monitored in the future.
• The Whatcom County Council passed an ordinance that created the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District despite the concerns of some county residents who felt they would be taxed for storm water management programs in an area they don’t live in.
• In an effort to increase efficiency, Blaine’s planning and development department created additional funds to hire part-time planner Alex Wenger to a full-time position, the city also hired Tom Black, a former planning director for the city of Ferndale, after he was recently fired in an alleged backlash over a letter criticizing Ferndale mayor Jerry Landcastle.
He joined Blaine’s planning department on May 1.