2007 Year In Review
Continued from last issue. Click here to read January - April 2007 Year In Review
• State lawmakers allocated another $500,000 from the Washington state Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) surface transportation program enhancement funds to help add “visual relief” to the plain gray cement walls currently lining Blaine’s Pacific Highway truck crossing. Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said the decision was an excellent outcome. “So instead of just being plain, butt-ugly concrete we now have some options to do something a little more interesting,” he said.
• The United States/Canada Peace Anniversary Association missed an opportunity to represent the city of Blaine at Seattle’s Folklife Festival after a dispute over the allocation of tourism funds between USCPAA president Christina Alexander and Blaine Tourism Advisory Commission chair Gary Tomsic. The annual four-day festival celebrates music, dance, food and traditional arts of ethic and cultural communities, and attracts an average of 250,000 people from around the world.
• Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo assigned Birch Bay with its first resident sheriff’s deputy Cliff Langley. Prior to the assignment, Langley was stationed in the east Whatcom County community of Kendall, where he had received much positive feedback from residents.
• Blaine Post Office closed their facility for three hours after mail sorters discovered a package containing an unidentified powder. Officials with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service later learned the powder was residue from a disintegrated rubber roller from a mail-sorting machine.
• Organizers of the Blaine Community Garden tilled a 600-square foot garden patch early in the week of May 14. The garden occupies the Seventh Street right-of-way on the south side of G Street immediately west of the Blaine Senior Center.
• In a brief, two-page final decision, Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig said that the city of Blaine was in error when it issued stop work orders on Bellingham contractor Joel Douglas’ Seascape condominium project in October of 2005. The decision marked the end to a two-year long legal dispute between Douglas and the city of Blaine.
• The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) awarded a $1.3 million construction contract this week to replace a rusting culvert under Blaine Road at Terrell Creek, project to improve salmon habitat and visibility for drivers. The culvert hung almost a foot above the surface of Terrell Creek, creating a difficult jump for fish and created a long, narrow channel, that forces water through quickly and leaves no place for fish to rest in high stream flows.
• Blaine school teachers Kerry Munkres and Molly Mitchell-Mumma were honored as teachers of the year by the Blaine School Board. Munkres teaches high school special education and life skills transition. Mitchell-Mumma teaches seventh grade language arts and social studies as well as middle school PE.
• Some familiar faces retired from the Blaine school district, including two teachers, a counselor and a school nurse who have a combined 83 years in service. They were: school nurse Mary Baker, fourth-grade teacher Jan Burton, high school secretary Carole Liebert, and counselor Leaf Schumann.
Another familiar face, Gary Classen, retired from his postition as athletic director.
• The city of Blaine announced it would be looking to pursue a public-private partnership to develop a mixed-use development concept to replace its crumbling city hall. The project would replace the current building, which is laced with black mold and lacking in space. Shortly after, the city was contacted by Tony Melnechuk of T-Square Construction Management Company in Ferndale with a proposal to construct a new city hall and library in exchange for the air rights on the property.
• Birch Bay took a serious look at incorporation with a grant from Whatcom County that the Birch Bay Steering Committee used to hire incorporation consultants Berk and Associates of Seattle. The draft results from the study were presented at a public meeting in December.
• Faced with an unexpected volume of passport applications the U.S. State Department announced its plans to hold off on current passport requirement for all air travelers entering the country. The department had previously issued new requirements in January 2007, but after passport applications jumped by more than 37 percent, it could not keep up. The ruling allowed individuals who have already applied for a passport to travel out of the country by air with a government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license and proof of their application from the state department.
• An appeal filed by two Drayton Harbor Road residents contested the county’s approval of shorelines permit needed for the long-awaited reconstruction of Drayton Harbor Road, effectively postponing the project and angering many residents who want a shorter route to Semiahmoo.
• Blaine community development director Terry Galvin proposed an amendment that would have streamlined the public planning process by expanding the role of the city’s hearing examiner to review most development proposals, eliminating the need for a project’s final approval by city council. The proposal was ultimately defeated under intense public pressure to maintain the seven-member planning commission.
• Blaine City Council approved its six-year road plan, calling for a total of 16 improvements to Blaine roads between 2008 and 2013. Those improvements include wider lanes on H Street, a smoother railroad crossing on Marine Drive and the completion of the planned pedestrian bridge downtown.
• The Birch Bay Steering Committee submitted commercial design guidelines for the possible adoption by the Whatcom County Council. The design standards could help protect its natural habitat, preserve character and quality of life. They will be reviewed for possible incorporation.
• BP’s Cherry Point refinery announced it would shelve plans for a long awaited cogeneration plant. Meanwhile, Birch Bay developer Bill Grant, who built the Sandcastle condominiums among other local projects, announced his plans to build an ethanol plant on 20 acres of land near the BP Cherry Point refinery.
• The U.S. General Service Administration told residents it would be routing freeway traffic through downtown during the first phase of their scheduled reconstruction of the Peace Arch Port of Entry as crews install a number of utilities under the current southbound lanes of I-5.
• The Washington State Liquor Control Board told Nicole Perry, the woman they picked to operate a contract liquor store in Blaine that she must either open her contract liquor store in the International Mall on H Street or lose the contract, despite thousands of dollars in unanticipated costs added by mall owners after she was chosen. Perry, who owns the Custer General Store, fought the requirement but ultimately forfeited the contract.
• Blaine City Manager Gary Tomsic proposed two ammendments that allowed city officials to defer certain fees for utility, water and sewer connections to commercial and residential developments for up to two years or until the projects were completed. Blaine City Council approved the ammendments the following week.
• Blaine finance director Meredith Riley won the Professional Finance Officer award from the Washington Finance Officer’s Association for the ninth consecutive year.
• Professional folk singer and concert promoter Jon Pfaff, of Seattle, organized the One Oar Music of the Sea festival, of which he hopes will become an annual event. The festival, was held in conjunction with Drayton Harbor Days and includes the “prestigious George Raft Race” of which Blaine’s Tommy Ryser won last year’s race around the marina in a boat that should never be deemed legal.
• Populations of western grebe and common murres in both Semiahmoo and Drayton Harbor are decreasing faster than ever - 80 and 90 percent, respectively — although it is not yet clear why, according to a Western Washington University study released in August.
• The health of the Terrell Creek may have improved, but the Birch Bay and Terrell Creek watershed is facing serious threats, according to an August study released by several Whatcom County agencies. The watershed has experienced a decline in dissolved oxygen levels, higher water temperatures and increases in fecal coliform levels since 2004.
• The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it would seek public comments for an extension of the passport requirement implementation scheduled to begin as early as January 2008, after trade and business groups on both sides of the border raised concerns about the legislation’s economic impacts.
• Blaine City Council’s second ward representative Bruce Wolf resigned at the beginning of a regular council meeting, citing a desire to spend more time with his family after being diagnosed with prostate cancer two months ago.
• A Blaine resident captured a horrifying image of a hot air balloon engulfed in flames falling nearly 50 feet with two Langley, B.C. women inside. The accident, caused by improperly filled fuel tanks, killed the women and left another 11 passengers injured.
• The Peace Arch Port of Entry was featured in a mock newscast on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report in a six-minute interview with U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Mike Milne and Andrew Feldmar, a Hungarian-born psychotherapist who permanently banned from entering the United States after he admittedly used LSD during the 1960s.
• Blaine resident Christina Alexander was one of several delegates to speak at the first international conference on peace parks in September at the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park between Alberta and Montana.