2009 in Review - A Look Back At 2009

Published on Wed, Dec 30, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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January

• Jeffrey Lazenby was appointed to fill Meredith Riley’s position as finance director for the city of Blaine. Riley retired at the end of 2008 after 20 years with the city.

• Area port director Peg Fearon retired at the end of January, 2009. Fearon had worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since 2000 when she took over the post for what was then U.S. Customs Service, one of several agencies responsible for managing the border.

• When Blaine City Council discussed shutting down the city’s skate park, local youth and parents packed council chambers on January 12 to advocate for a safe and legal place to skate other than the curbs in the Cost Cutter parking lot. Neither the city of Blaine nor its parks board, however, had budgeted for maintenance because the park was founded with the understanding it would be kept up by the now-disbanded Blaine Extreme Sports Club.

• Blaine residents Herb and Shirley Leu signed an agreement in federal district court in Seattle that allowed them to keep a disputed retaining wall in the backyard of their West 99th Lane home. Authorities insisted it was located 30 inches too close to the international border.

February

• Citing a need for increased security, newly appointed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a comprehensive review of security strategies along the northern border. Napolitano, a former governor of Arizona, issued an action directive on January 23, just days after being sworn into office. The directive will require various DHS agencies along the northern border to review existing strategies and security efforts here.

• A dispute between the city of Blaine and members of Drayton Harbor Maritime threatened to shorten or eliminate the operating season of the popular Plover ferry after Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee’s (BTAC) proposed $5,000 of the city’s annual $30,000 grant to the Plover be allocated to publicity, in effect cutting operational funding by that amount. BTAC members said they thought the publicity would help increase patronage, raise more money and possibly even lead to a longer season or weekday operations. The DHM board, however, opposed the ticket requirement because they said it would leave people out who can’t afford it, especially families.

• Blaine high school freshman Jaclyn Adams was a part of history when she attended the inauguration of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America on January 20. Adams traveled with a group of more than 15,000 students involved in a 5-day program with the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference (PYIC).

• After much discussion and several public meetings, Blaine City Council approved $5,000 to rebuild a temporary skate park until staff and community can arrive at a more long-term solution. The council voted 5-2 with Scott Dodd and Jason Overstreet opposed.


March

• A Blaine couple, Bill and Shannon Rector, filed a lawsuit on March 6 in U.S. District Court in Seattle against the Kellogg company alleging that the company’s Austin brand peanut butter crackers made their family sick because it was tainted with salmonella.

• After a grueling series of lengthy discussions, Blaine City Council voted 4-3 to give Plover ferry operators the budget they asked for so they could continue operations. Council members Scott Dodd, John Liebert and Jason Overstreet voted no.

• A Coquitlam man with a second home in Blaine was pepper sprayed, handcuffed and held for three hours before being denied entry into the United States after asking for more courteous treatment from a border inspector at the Lynden/Aldergrove crossing.

• Facing a state requirement to pay back grants due on the closure of the municipal airport, the city of Blaine faced a quandary in how to repay nearly $400,000 to the Washington State Department of Transportation’s aviation division. Blaine was required to repay six grants totaling $388,349 which were used between 1991 and 2003 to purchase new equipment, runway improvements, tree removal and property acquisition.

• The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission said the gates of Peace Arch State Park would remain open despite a potential $22.9 million budget cut to Washington state parks. The announcement came just several days after the commission released a list of 40 state parks threatened with a July 1, 2009 closure.

• After reviewing six candidates, the Blaine school board hired acting principal Scott Ellis to replace Dan Newell as principal at Blaine high school.

• The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) selected Blaine elementary school as a recipient of their STARS program that recognizes a school’s total physical education offerings. Only 40 schools in the nation have earned STARS status.

April

• Plans to redevelop the former Blaine airport fell victim to the global economic slowdown after the developers informed Blaine city officials they were letting their purchase agreement lapse. In doing so, Dr. Patrick Rooney and Tom Hayes forfeited $125,000 in deposit money they had given the city to seal the purchase agreement. The two men had agreed to purchase the airport property for $6 million in June, 2008.

• A study completed by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund found that Drayton Harbor is widely contaminated with human, bovine and avian fecal coliform. The study examined fecal coliform levels in six Drayton Harbor locations as well as eight locations in California Creek tributaries and found “widespread occurrences” of human and ruminant waste.

• A top official for the U.S. Border Patrol’s Blaine sector arrested last October on child rape charges pleaded guilty in Whatcom County Superior Court. Joseph W. Giuliano, 55, formerly deputy chief of the Border Patrol’s Blaine sector, pleaded guilty to three counts of child rape, a Class C felony that carries up to five years in prison for each count after admitting to having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl who was living with him in his Sudden Valley home.

May

• Blaine developer Joel Douglas and the city of Blaine settled their differences in an agreement, marking the end of a four-year struggle over Douglas’ Seascape Condominium project on Peace Portal Drive.

• The body of Robert George “Bobby” Schoening, a Blaine native and Korean War vet, was recovered nearly 60 years after he was declared missing in action. Schoening was identified by his remains in December of 2008 through DNA collected almost 10 years ago from Schoening’s brother Bill in Salem, Oregon, and sister Mary “Emma” Schoening Spiegel of Seattle.

• Whatcom County Council unanimously adopted a year-round speed limit of 25 mph for all of Birch Bay Drive, from Point Whitehorn to the Birch Bay Drive-Shintaffer Road intersection. Permanent 25 mph speed limits were also adopted for sections of Harborview, Shintaffer, Anderson, Alderson and Jackson roads.

June

• Whatcom County assessor Keith Willnauer announced he plans to institute annual property assessments ahead of a state-mandated deadline. Willnauer, a long-time advocate of annual assessments, says he plans to adopt the new system during the 2010 assessment year for property taxes that will be due in 2011.

• Goff’s Department Store, a downtown landmark for 110 years at 674 Peace Portal Drive, announced plans to close its doors permanently on August 31. Greg Goff and his wife Jo said the business has always been in the black but the two would like to be able to take more vacations and spend more time sailing aboard their Catalina 30 sailboat named Selena.

• Following requirements by the Washington State Growth Management Act (GMA) Blaine community development director Terry Galvin unveiled a proposal that would cut the city’s urban growth area (UGA) by two-thirds. The proposal would remove 2,549 acres from the total 3,725 acres in the existing UGA, which county officials say is the most “significantly oversized” UGA in Whatcom County.

• Commercial traffic was re-routed to Sumas and Lynden border crossings June 24 after an unidentified briefcase was found in the NEXUS enrollment center on the American side of the Pacific Highway border crossing. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials called in a bomb detection dog and X-rayed the briefcase. It was later determined the owner had simply forgot it.

• Kyle Dhanani, a 2005 graduate of Blaine high school, was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers of the American League last week. Dhanani, 21, has been a student at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., where he played shortstop for the WolfPack.

Dhanani was chosen in the 43rd round by the Milwaukee Brewers, who also have Blaine graduate Joey Paciorek
playing for them. Dhanani spent some time in Milwaukee being evaluated by the Brewers, who are considering him as a third baseman.

• State Department of Transportation (DOT) officials said plans for a $13 million roundabout project are moving ahead at full speed during a Blaine City Council meeting. Of the two single-lane roundabouts planned, one will replace the two stoplights at the intersection of Peace Portal Drive and Marine Drive. The other will replace the stoplight on the east side of the freeway at the intersection of D and Second streets.

July

• Former Blaine Border Patrol agent Joseph W. Giuliano was sentenced to four years in prison for three counts of child rape. He was arrested last October on child rape charges and pleaded guilty after he admitted to having sex at least 24 times with a 14-year-old girl who was living with him in his Sudden Valley home.

• A U.S.-Canadian citizen with a valid passport reported he was told by border officials that he would be taking a parking space away from an American during his Fourth of July visit to the United States. The Canadian citizen told the border guard he was going to stay at his vacation property at Beachwood Resort in Birch Bay and celebrate the holiday with his American neighbors.

• Greg Alvarez was appointed as the new Blaine port director for Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Alvarez, 38, grew up in McAllen, Texas. He served in the Marine Corps for seven years after graduating from the University of Texas and was in Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, when he was offered a job with the old U. S. Customs Service.

• Law enforcement agencies were baffled by a string of local burglaries believed to be responsible for more than $50,000 in losses. Whatcom County sheriff’s deputies believed a person of interest broke into nearly two dozen homes in the Birch Bay area between March and July and stole jewelry, money, coins and other easily concealed items. Most of the burglaries occurred in rural areas between Blaine and Birch Bay, along Harborview Road, Drayton Harbor Road, Birch Bay Drive and Blaine and Bay roads. Entries were generally made by entering through unlocked doors or kicking the door into the residence.

• More than 30 people crowded Blaine city council chambers July 26 to show support for city staffer Debbie Harger following a string of negative attack ads that accused her of getting her current position by dating a fellow city employee.

The accusations were made by former city council candidate John George who ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Charlie Hawkins for his at-large position. Several speakers received a loud applause from the audience as they characterized George’s accusations as “heinous,” “underhanded” and “deeply distasteful.” Others questioned his business ethics.

• Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano visited the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine and said she felt confident the border will function smoothly during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. even if construction of the new port of entry facility won’t be completed in time. The tour was one of several stops for Napolitano during her trip to Washington state. She was accompanied by state and local officials including Governor Christine Gregoire and U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-Everett).

• After a long-standing debate over property rights and environmental protections, Blaine City Council approved a revised version of the critical areas ordinance (CAO) that increases protections for wetlands, as required under the state growth management act (GMA). The council voted 4-3 with Jason Overstreet, John Liebert and Scott Dodd voting no.

August

• State officials said sculptures at Peace Arch Park must be removed before the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Washington State Parks and Recreation public affairs director Virginia Painter said the decision was based on the agency’s desire to maintain fairness under recent policy changes that included religious displays.

• After waiting more than three years, Herb and Shirley Leu have finished their yard that sits right on the Canadian border with the blessings of the International Border Commission (IBC), even though litigation is still pending between the former courtroom adversaries.

• An international manhunt came to a head in Blaine when reality TV show celebrity and murder suspect Ryan Jenkins drove his black BMW SUV to Blaine and launched his boat at Blaine Harbor marina on August 18. Jenkins had been charged with one felony count of murder and faced a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison if convicted. A $10 million warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Once in Blaine, he launched the boat and crossed Boundary Bay to the Point Roberts marina where he abandoned it. Jenkins had been as a contestant on the reality show Meagen Wants A Millionaire, which airs on VH1.

• A cross-border manhunt for former Point Roberts resident Ryan Jenkins ended with the discovery of his body in the Thunderbird Motel in Hope, B.C. Jenkins had been sought by police from California to Canada after his ex-wife’s defaced body was discovered Saturday, August 15 in a Los Angeles dumpster. Jenkins was found dead when the motel manager checked the room in the afternoon.

September

• Blaine City Council voted to authorize a separation agreement with Terry Galvin who has served as the city’s director of community development for nearly 10 years.

Galvin, who was appointed by city manager Gary Tomsic in July, 2000, spearheaded and helped implement many improvement projects in Blaine including the boardwalk, which would be funded through impact fees from development downtown; park and trail improvements along Semiahmoo spit and a pedestrian and bicycle path along a dangerous section of south Peace Portal Drive. He also negotiated with Trillium to concentrate development at the end of Semiahmoo spit in order to maintain unbroken open areas.

• After eight years, 1,076 calls, many arrests and detections including a year in which he found over a quarter ton of drugs, Blaine’s police dog Yoschi, 10, is retiring.

• The Blaine school district Readiness To Learn coordinator Jessie Burton reported that she identified 22 Blaine students who are homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act guidelines. Burton said that last year’s total broke down into eight students living in shelters, 35 “doubled up” with family or friends sharing a single family house, eight “couch surfing,” technically unaccompanied youth (UAY) staying with a sequence of friends, and another 23 in temporary foster placements.

October

• A Bellingham-based non-profit environmental group has filed a lawsuit against the city of Blaine following city council’s approval of its critical areas ordinance. City attorney Jon Sitkin told council members Monday that the group RE Sources has argued that the city’s critical areas ordinance does not meet minimum wetland setback requirements based on “best available science” as dictated in the state’s growth management act (GMA) and enforced by the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE).

• After months of debate, Blaine City Council voted 4-3 to remove developer impact fees city-wide as requested by
developer Ken Imus. The council also eliminated all water and sewer connection fees within city limits in order to spur economic development.

November

• Blaine incumbents Charlie Hawkins and Bonnie Onyon kept their positions on the city council according to election results released by the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.

• Reconstructed southbound lanes of I-5 at the Peace Arch were opened to traffic eliminating, for the time being, a detour through the Blaine exit that has been in place for over 18 months while the federal General Services Administration (GSA) builds a new customs facility to replace the current 1970s era building.

• Thousands of Whatcom County residents and well-wishers showed up Thursday, November 12, to honor fallen soldier Spc. Aaron Aamot, 22, of Custer. Aamot was a Custer resident and 2006 Ferndale high school graduate who was killed in Afghanistan November 5 after the vehicle he was traveling in drove over an improvised explosive device in the road. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in Fort Lewis.

December

• Semiahmoo Company filed an application for Semiahmoo West, a large-scale planned unit development (PUD) on 624 acres southwest of the Blaine city limits. The project, which would stretch from Birch Bay Village to Semiahmoo Drive, is projected to have 1,246 residential units, all but 97 of which would be single family houses, divided into seven neighborhoods. It would also include 60,000 square feet of commercial space and multifamily housing.