Year in Review 2020: Whoosh! A look back at a year that just was

Posted

January

• The Point Roberts Water District adopted a new rate structure designed to make users with the biggest impact on the water system pay the biggest slice of keeping it operating.

• Local firefighters started helping out at the library with story time.

• In her last meeting as a member of Whatcom County Council, Barbara Brenner unsuccessfully tried to get council approval for a review of charges at the Point Roberts transfer station. Brenner also pushed council members to undertake a full review of garbage service on the Point. Council also heard from several Point Roberts residents who asked that the minimum service level in Point Roberts established by county ordinance be reduced.

• After sitting vacant for several years the building that was home to Brewsters Fine Foods reopened as Brewsters Business Center with UNIQ Destinations as its first tenant.

• Dan Schroeder was appointed to the Point Roberts Parks and Recreation District board of commissioners to fill the space left vacant after the resignation of Arthur Reber.

• Registration opened for Point Roberts Race Week, the first year the event would take place on the Point after a 30-year stretch on Whidbey Island.

February

All Point Bulletin sources revealed a bulletin in which U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers were instructed to conduct enhanced vetting on individuals who had travelled to Iran, leading to up to 12 hours of questioning for up to 200 American citizens and permanent residents returning home. The whistleblower revealed the instruction came from local CBP managers.

• Incoming county executive Satpal Sidhu opted to delay any further appointments to the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) until he had a chance to meet with local groups and community members to discuss their concerns. about the advisory committee.

• Race Week organizers announced the July event, newly relocated to Point Roberts, would be host to the Corsair Nationals and International 6-meter North American Championship.

• The parks district started looking for another new board member after the resignation of Chwynyn Vaughan.

• Cando Recycling and Disposal started ramping up a new plastic film recycling program and county staff moved ahead with plans to replace the operations trailer at the transfer station.

• PRCAC continued to work with county staff to get 15 proposed changes to county code, developed during dozens of community meetings and work sessions in 2018 and 2019, ready to go before county council for approval.

• Rebranding itself as Sustainable Point Roberts, GarbageinPR.com collected 190 responses to a survey about environmental concerns, waste management and sustainable practices. There was strong support for community cleanup events and educational events.

• The Point Roberts food bank and the local fire department teamed up to begin delivering Meals on Wheels in Point Roberts.

March

• Representatives from Orca Shores, majority shareholder and developer of the Cottages at Seabright Farms, said they were making catching up on a quarter million dollars in overdue property taxes a top priority.

• Newly elected county executive Satpal Sidhu emphasized the need for community consensus at a town hall meeting on the Point attended by 40 people.

• Former Point Roberts resident John Lesow gathered signatures to get an advisory vote on the November 2020 ballot asking Whatcom County voters to support the sale of Point Roberts to Canada.

• The International Marketplace and local volunteers from Sustainable Point Roberts brought the Foster Love program to the Point, collecting luggage and backpacks for foster kids and youth in transition.

• The boards of the local voters and taxpayers associations pledged to work together more on common goals. Voters association president Allison Calder was already serving on the board of the taxpayers association and at their annual general meeting the voters association elected Mark Robbins, president of the taxpayers association, to their board.

• The Blaine school district’s $26 million maintenance and operations levy was approved by 58 percent of voters.

• Stephen Falk was reappointed to the parks district board, after choosing not to run for his position in order to run for a seat on the hospital district board. Candidates can only run for one position in any given election.

• The Point Roberts Historical Society began applying for funds to implement an interpretive signage program and self-guided tour.

• Whatcom County Council members agreed to put the mandatory service ordinance on the agenda for the public works committee.

April

• The Whatcom County Health Department reported 86 confirmed cases and four deaths as of March 26 from novel coronavirus. Fire chief Christopher Carleton started working on how to ensure the Point had access to needed supplies and services in the event the epidemic escalated.

• Governor Jay Inslee issued a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, shuttering non-essential business to on-site shopping and dining. Schools were also closed and the school district scrambled to provide online learning to students by March 30.

• The community center was closed to the public but the Point Roberts Senior Center and the local for bank continued to provide drive-up services.

• Fishing and shellfishing seasons were closed statewide in response to the pandemic.

• The U.S./Canada border was closed to all non-essential travel.

• As businesses closed down in the face of restrictions aimed at curbing the coronavirus epidemic, The All Point Bulletin turned to readers asking for financial support as advertising dollars disappeared.

• The Point Roberts clinic suspended wellness exams and routine checkups and discontinued walk-in visits

• Whidbey Telecom looked to the community for help in securing grant funding to bringing a gigabit powered fiber network to the Point.

May

• The Whatcom County Health Department reported 304 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 28 deaths as of April 30. The county lagged behind the rest of the state in testing, with only 1.1 percent of the population tested compared to 2.4 percent statewide.

• Management at Cando Recycling and Disposal Services anticipated no interruptions in service following the sudden death of owner David Gellatly.

• The county health department recommended the cancellation of summer events. Race Week organizers announced the event, scheduled for Point Roberts after 30 years on Whidbey Island, would be cancelled for 2020.

• Point Roberts was slow to respond to the 2020 census, with only 18 percent of households responding by the end of April, compared to 62 percent in the county.

• The local fire department in cooperation with the clinic began to offer Covid-19 testing.

• Despite $10 million to hand out, Working Washington grants to help small businesses were only able to help a fraction of the businesses that applied.

• The Circle of Care “Our Finest Hour” program offered emergency funds to residents to cover small expenses government assistance didn’t cover.

• Lighthouse Marine Park’s new ranger Meghan Kelly had a lonely start to her assignment, with the campground remaining closed and the camp hosts let go for the year.

• Blackfish Resort was listed for sale at just shy of $8 million.

• Sally Roberts and Ernie Loreen both celebrated their 90th birthdays with friends and family treating them to drive-by parties.

June

• Asian Giant Hornets, dubbed “murder hornets,” were reported in Whatcom County.

• An anti-microbial coating product developed by Allied BioSciences, a company founded in Point Roberts, began to be used by hospital and transit systems to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

• With regional food banks changing procedures in response to Covid-19, the local food bank had to rely more heavily on local donations to ensure clients could continue to get a healthy variety of food.

• The closure of the U.S./Canada border to non-essential travel was extended for another month.

• Local clothing and costume designer Savilla Kress turned her talents to making cloth masks, selling them from her home as a fundraiser for local firefighters.

• Local groups and boards took their meetings online. At their May virtual meeting the board of the taxpayers association heard from Canadian property owners frustrated and not being allowed to come to the Point to check on their properties under the Covid closure of the border to non-essential travel.

• Local residents began circulating a petition to the governments of the U.S. and Canada asking that residents of Point Roberts, where there had been no reported cases of Covid-19, be allowed to travel to and from the mainland.

July

• The border closure was extended another 30 days. With three times more cases per capita in the U.S than in Canada, Canadian officials suggested the closure would likely continue to be extended.

• The Point Roberts hospital district board of commissioners voted against automatically renewing SuperTrack’s contract to operate the local health clinic on Benson Road. The move came in response to an offer to bid on the contact from the Shields Company recently formed by former clinic staff member physician’s assistant Deb Shields and husband John Childs, assistant  Point Roberts fire chief.

• Groups from both sides of the border collected signatures asking the U.S and Canadian governments to consider the unique situation of the Point and allow exceptions to the border closure. A petition from local resident John Beals to broaden the description of essential cross-border travel for Point Roberts gathered over 2,000 signatures and another one from a Ladner resident gathered over 1,000 signatures to allow dispensation to Canadians crossing the border to care for their property.

• Don’t bother seal pups.

• Water consumption on the Point was down by 50 percent since the border closure took effect.

• Breakwaters Bar and Grill owner Whitney McElroy moved ahead with plans for a Fourth of July celebration complete with fireworks.

• The local parks district prepared for the possibility of an abbreviated summer kids’ camp if the program could proceed at all.

• Dozens of Canadian boat owners contracted with local and cross-border companies to move their boats out of the Point Roberts marina in anticipation of a boating season with a closed border.

• Some Point Roberts businesses reopened as Whatcom County moved to phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start plan.

August

• Fire chief Christopher Carleton’s letter to President Donald Trump and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and other elected officials asking that Point Roberts residents be allowed to transit through Canada to access the rest of Whatcom County garnered media attention on both sides of the border.

• Border authorities reminded boaters that the border was closed on the water as well, and that the exemption for U.S. boats in transit to Alaska didn’t mean they could stop in Canadian waters.

• The Helen and Jose Colton Foundation awarded another $55,000 in grants to Point Roberts organizations.

• Management at the Point Roberts marina reported the 1,000 slip marina was now at 30 percent occupancy with the continued exodus of Canadian boats.

• Blaine school district announced the2020-2021 school year would start with a hybrid online/in-person plan.

• Ernie and Lola Loreen celebrated 70 years of marriage.

• The local parks district didn’t offer their summer kids program due to Covid-19 but they did reestablish the kayak program and start work on a pickle ball court.

• Fire district commissioners voted to extend chief Christopher Carleton’s contractby five years, to end in 2035.

September

• Hospital district commissioners voted 2-1 to award the service provider contract for the clinic to current operator SuperTrack Urgent Care Clinic rather than the Shields Company.

• Temporary ferry service to the Point began August 25. The service, funded by the Port of Bellingham, was initially offered once a week to and from Blaine and free of charge.

• Washington governor Jay Inslee joined other local officials in asking federal officials to come up with a plan to alleviate the isolation of Point Roberts residents under the ongoing closure of the border to non-essential travel.

• PRCAC gave conditional approval to plans to expand In Out Parcel Service on Tyee Drive pending approval of a landscaping plan.

• Fire commissioners unanimously approved using $20,000 of reserve funds to keep up regular Covid-19 testing for all firefighters.

• Point Roberts students enrolled in schools in B.C. got the unwelcome news they would not be exempt from a 14-day quarantine requirement. Unable to “reasonable comply” with this requirement, students would be denied entry, said Canadian officials. While people crossing the border for work were exempted from the quarantine requirement, the exemption would not extend to students.

October

• Race Week organizers announced they would be looking for another venue rather than moving forward with planning for the 2021 event on the Point.

• Sales were down 70 percent at the Point Roberts Marketplace but owner Ali Hayton reassured the community they had no plans to close. Banner Bank announced it would close its Point Roberts branch.

• The Emergency Volunteer Air Corps flew two planes full of 400 pounds of supplies for the local food bank and Point Roberts Emergency Preparedness (PREP) group to the Point.

• Responding to demand, the Port of Bellingham increased ferry service to two days a week to and from Bellingham instead of Blaine.

• County planning staff began their review of changes to county code specific to Point Roberts being proposed by PRCAC after a three year review process.

• Southern resident orca J35, nicknamed Tahlequah, was seen off of Point Roberts with a new calf. Tahlequah drew international attention in 2018 after she carried her dead calf for 17 days.

• Circle of Care volunteers baked 64 blackberry pies to raise funds for the local non-profit.

• Local businesses responded to a survey by Western Washington University’s Border Policy Research Institute showing the dramatic impact of the border closure on the local economy, reporting a 72 percent drop in employment and over 50 percent average drop in revenue.

• Senator Patty Murray introduced legislation that would provide forgivable federal loans to recreational small businesses in areas whose only land access is through Canada.

• The Canadian minister of public safety announced a sixth extension to the border closure.

November

• The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) approved a tariff revision for Cando Recycling and Disposal that will result in a small drop in garbage rates.

• Fire chief Christopher Carleton and wife Pamela asked for help from the community after Pamela suffered from liver failure.

• Whatcom County Council pushed back the last-minute introduction of an ordinance to reduce the minimum service level for mandatory garbage collection on the Point from twice a month to once a month. The item was put on the agenda after a split vote at PRCAC to recommend the change.

• County executive Satpal Sidhu proposed the county cut spending by 17 percent in 2021 in his annual budget presentation to county council.

• Lukas Svejkovsky became the first hockey player from Point Roberts to be drafted into the NHL, chosen as a draft pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

• The Tsawwassen Boundary Bay Lions Club donated $2,000 to the Point Roberts Food Bank to ease the impact of the border closure.

• The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized Whidbey Telecom for its commitment to extending high-speed internet and awarded the company over half a million dollars to get started on a fiber project for the Point.

• Brian Calder led a new slate of officers at the Point Roberts Chamber of Commerce and reported a growing membership.

December

• A proposed amendment to the ordinance establishing mandatory garbage collection in Point Roberts that would have decreased the minimum service level from 2 cans a month to one was held in committee after county council members did not agree to its introduction. Council members will look for more information about public support for the reduction and the potential impact on rates.

• The November election results showed Point Roberts remains a blue community, with local voters favoring Democrat candidates in every race. Joe Biden won the support of 74.4 percent of Point Roberts voters.

• Blaine school district saw a decrease in enrollment of 75 students.

• County council voted to retain funding  for two deputies in next year’s budget after an initial proposal to decrease spending projected cutting one position.

• The Port of Bellingham confirmed funding remained to run the ferry to the mainland into the new year.

• The parks district hired Ina Carare as their part time coordinator.

• Whatcom County Council unanimously approved changes to Point Roberts zoning code put forward by PRCAC, which the committee acknowledged was the beginning of a more comprehensive review of local development regulations.

• PRCAC members agreed to ask the county to give them a limited budget to facilitate better community outreach.

• The Point Roberts Library opened to patrons by appointment while continuing with curbside pickup services.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment

OUR PUBLICATIONS