Be careful, responsible with fireworks

July 4, 2009

NEW — 6 a.m. July 4, 2009

In 2008, there were 518 fires in the state caused by fireworks over the Independence Day holiday.

People using fireworks must remember that there are legal consequences to damages caused by the irresponsible use of fireworks.

Consequences range from being charged with malicious mischief to assault or a gross misdemeanor for possession of illegal explosive devices such as fireworks that have been tampered with or altered.

A gross misdemeanor can bring a fine of up to $5,000 and/or one year in prison. Possession of illegal explosive devices, such as M-80s, M-100s and larger, altered fireworks, and public display mortars, is a federal offense.

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Issaquah grew by 139 percent since 2000

July 3, 2009

NEW — 11:35 a.m. July 3, 2009

Through annexations and influxes of new residents to Talus and the Issaquah Highlands, Issaquah grew by 139 percent since 2000. Between April 2000 and April 2009, the city swelled to nearly 27,000 residents. The population explosion made the city the fifth fastest growing in Washington.

Issaquah added 15,678 residents due to annexations and growth in the hillside urban villages. State figures show the April 2009 population at 26,890.

Figures released Monday by the state Office of Financial Management showed Issaquah trailing four smaller cities on the list of fastest-growing cities. Snoqualmie — the fastest growing — ballooned by 8,099 residents to 9,730 people.

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Development commissioners weigh medical building, Station 72 proposals

July 2, 2009

NEW — 12:23 p.m. July 2, 2009

City development commissioners raised questions Wednesday night about a pair of high-profile projects — a medical building along Interstate 90 and Eastside Fire & Rescue Station 72.

Before developers can begin work on the proposed medical building, designers must soften the “fortresslike” facade and ensure easy access to the site, city development commissioners said.

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City celebrates 4th of July

July 1, 2009

The Fourth of July is right around the corner and so are the festivities.

From the Heritage Day Parade to Providence Point’s annual barbecue, you can stay busy in Issaquah all day long.

But remember, when it comes to private events, you need a city permit to use or possess fireworks, since they are banned within city limits. Issaquah’s fireworks ban includes things like sparklers, cones, fountains and roman candles. Anyone caught in possession of or caught using fireworks will be cited. The city passed the ban in 1993.

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Many memorable mayors managed Issaquah

June 30, 2009

mayor-history-20050519cPortraits of Issaquah’s mayors can be found in a display case on the stairwell leading to the second floor of City Hall. The photos tell a great deal about the people and times of the fledgling city.

Some of the city’s early mayors were doctors, including Issaquah’s first mayor, Frank Harrell. During the Great Depression, Stella May Alexander was elected the first woman mayor, campaigning on the Taxpayers’ Ticket.

She was elected to a two-year term, defeating the Progressive ticket candidate, M.H. Clark. Ninety-three percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots and Alexander won 195-136. She lost in a recall election the following year.

In the last half of the 20th century, mayors such as Bill Flintoft and A.J. Culver had to grapple with the emerging growth of the quiet little burg on Lake Sammamish into a thriving bedroom community to Seattle.

Harrell came to the area as the surgeon of the Seattle Coal and Iron Co. He was elected mayor of Gilman without a dissenting vote in 1892. Seven years later, the town was renamed Issaquah, after the original Indian name Is-qu-ah. Read more

Bike, board a bus or telecommute to avoid I-90 hassles

June 30, 2009

State transportation officials urged Eastside commuters to consider bikes, buses or telecommutes ahead of the July 5 shutdown of the westbound Interstate 90 floating bridge. DOT officials believe fewer drivers on the road will mean a less congested commute when the bridge shuts down for two weeks.

Travel times between Issaquah and Seattle could balloon beyond 60 minutes during the shutdown. During the morning commute, all westbound traffic will be funneled to the express lanes — reducing the number of available lanes from five to two. The westbound afternoon commute will be cut from three lanes to two.

Engineers predict the worst traffic will be from 6-11 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. on weekends.

DOT officials encouraged commuters to plan ahead for the closure. With the shutdown only a few days away, transportation officials suggested employees and supervisors talk about working alternate schedules or telecommuting to avoid peak travel times. King County Metro and DOT officials also advised for commuters to consider mass transit and car- and vanpools as options.

Though the westbound mainline will be closed for around-the-clock construction until July 20, cyclists and pedestrians will be able to use the bridge. Crews constructed two temporary bridges at each end of the floating bridge. Cyclists will have to dismount and walk across the temporary bridges.

“If we had to close the bike lane, that would only put more people on the roads,” DOT spokesman Jeff Switzer said.

Switzer urged commuters to check a DOT project Web site for frequent updates.

DOT officials initially said the shutdown would last three weeks, but the agency paid about $500,000 to the project contractor as an incentive to finish the $8.5 million project in two weeks. The contractor, General Construction Co., of Poulsbo, completed work on the bridge in May ahead of schedule.

Switzer said lessons learned during the May shutdown allowed DOT officials and the contractor to negotiate a compressed schedule for the July closure.

In May, during the first phase of construction, commute times from Issaquah to Seattle doubled from the usual 30 minutes during peak times.

About 71,000 vehicles cross the bridge each day. Officials warned drivers that congestion would be severe during the shutdown. Expect bad weather and accidents to swell commute times as well.

During the shutdown, crews will install a pair of new expansion joints weighing 65 tons each. Joints — some of the largest in the world — allow the bridge to bend with traffic, weather and the water level in Lake Washington.

When the westbound span is closed to vehicles, four 12-person demolition crews will work 10-hour shifts to remove the existing, cracked joints and install new joints. Crews are already cutting into the concrete roadway to prepare for the project. The westbound span will be reduced to a single lane nightly from 11:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. through July 2.

Other construction preparations will cause daytime lane closures. Crews will close the express lanes from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. through July 2. The northern express lane will also be closed from 3-10 p.m. through July 2 near East Mercer Way.

During the full-fledged shutdown, two temporary bridges will allow cyclists and pedestrians to bypass the construction zones at the eastern and western ends of the roadway.

Cascade Bicycle Club launched the Bridging with Bikes initiative to educate commuters about getting across the bridge by bike. John Mauro, director of commute programs for the organization, said the shutdown presents a chance to get more commuters out of gridlock.

“Cascade’s Bridging with Bikes program is about making the physical connection for people during the construction to avoid major gridlock,” Mauro said. “But it’s also about making a longer-term and healthy lifestyle connection to the bicycle. Programs like Bridging with Bikes help us all stay fit and save money while building a stronger sense of community and having a lasting impact on the region.

“And it starts with a simple decision,” he added. “Begin the morning with a smile on a bike — and beat traffic on the bridge.”

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

Bear facts educate highlands residents

June 30, 2009

Whenever her Issaquah Highlands neighbors reported a black bear sighting or bear activity last year, Cathy Macchio marked a highlands map with a paw print. She recorded 15 bear sightings last year.

Macchio works to make sure humans and bears stay safe — no small feat in a sprawling neighborhood with nearly 7,000 residents. Bears, after all, are attracted to everything from garbage to backyard bird feeders.

“We’re creating these big buffet tables in our own backyards,” she said.

As part of the effort to protect bears and her neighbors, Macchio leads Neighborhood Wildlife Stewards. The group discusses wildlife sightings in the highlands and works to educate residents about how to share habitats with four-legged neighbors.

State wildlife officials estimate the black bear population in Washington ranges between 25,000 and 30,000 animals. Agents receive hundreds of black bear complaints each year. The calls range from sightings to property damage to livestock attacks. A few calls each year come as a result of confrontations between humans and bears.

Macchio said the best bet is to call wildlife agents about nuisance bears instead of local law enforcement agencies.

Humans moving into black bear habitat complicate the contact between the species. Bears use a keen sense of smell to track down food. Bears are omnivores, and they consume a variety of plants — berries and grasses, for instance — and insects, such as ants and grubs. But they also have a taste for garbage, pet food and the contents of bird feeders. After bears discover food, chances are they will return. The animals have excellent memories.

Problems arise when bears become “food-conditioned” and associate humans with food rewards. As a result, bears can become unafraid of humans. Emboldened bears can be a danger to humans, and these bears could become aggressive as they search for food.

State Wildlife Officer Bruce Richards said bears are active from late spring until early fall. Most reports of human contact with bears come during the summer months, he said.

Issaquah residents have reported several bear sightings during the past few weeks. At about noon June 3, a black bear was spotted on Issaquah-Fall City Road near Endeavour Elementary School. Over Memorial Day weekend, wildlife agents captured and released a black bear found roaming through an Issaquah neighborhood. Lat Sunday a bear was reported in the Four Lakes neighborhood south of Issaquah.

Richards and his colleagues have specialized training and equipment to deal with bears.

Officers respond to bear sightings when the animal poses a threat to public safety. A sighting alone does not constitute a threat, and wildlife agents would not typically respond to reports of a sighting.

Nuisance bears can be trapped by wildlife agents and relocated. But bears with a taste for garbage are likely to seek out other sources. If relocation fails, a nuisance bear may have to be destroyed.

Richards works with Mishka, the first Karelian bear dog in the nation used for wildlife enforcement. Richards and Mishka track nuisance bears. Mishka also assists in “hard releases” — a process to make bears fear humans again. During a hard release, wildlife officers fire rubber bullets and create loud noises to frighten a nuisance bear. Richards estimates the procedure was successful in 80 percent of the black bear hard releases last spring and summer.

Mindful that nuisance bears often return or seek other sources of garbage, Macchio posted signs with bear safety tips at community mailboxes throughout the highlands. Moreover, she said another bear would often move in to fill the vacuum after wildlife agents relocate a nuisance animal.

Macchio checks out the neighborhood for signs of bear activity. On her rounds, she also passes out fliers to residents on streets where bears dumped garbage bins. Her goal is to remind people how bears can become a threat once they lose their fear of humans.

Macchio recently began working with Heather Swift, principal and owner of Cohabitats, a Seattle company that developers and planners use to identify conservation areas and educate residents to prevent conflicts between humans and wildlife.

“Instead of increasing alarm, we want to increase harmony across species,” Swift said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

Issaquah doc has eye for aiding the sightless 7,000 miles away

June 30, 2009

An elderly Nepalese woman covers her left eye during a free vision-screening test. The screening is part of a traveling clinic that temporarily sets up in remote regions of Asia, Africa and Nepal. Photos By Tracy Prescott, and Daniel and Jodi Karr

An elderly Nepalese woman covers her left eye during a free vision-screening test. The screening is part of a traveling clinic that temporarily sets up in remote regions of Asia, Africa and Nepal. Photos By Tracy Prescott, and Daniel and Jodi Karr

If you could give someone sight, how far would you go to do it?

Joining with the Himalayan Cataract Project, Dr. Janet Barrall, an ophthalmologist for Virginia Mason in Issaquah, traveled nearly 7,000 miles to give the gift of sight to 158 people in need.

“It’s profoundly deep and completely life-changing to give sight,” she said. “It is so necessary to their way of life.”

Today, there are 37 million blind people throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization. Many suffer from cataracts. Read more

Two Wheelin’

June 30, 2009

motor-cycles-event-20090600

By Michael Johnson/New Era Photography
Two Wheelin’
Hundreds of bike enthusiasts ride under an Issaquah overpass June 28 during Children’s Ride 14, a fundraising ride for Seattle Children’s Hospital. The long line of bikes was escorted by Washington State Patrol troopers from Safeco Field to Emerald Downs for an afternoon of horse racing and barbecuing.

Hundreds of bike enthusiasts ride under an Issaquah overpass June 28 during Children’s Ride 14, a fundraising ride for Seattle Children’s Hospital. The long line of bikes was escorted by Washington State Patrol troopers from Safeco Field to Emerald Downs for an afternoon of horse racing and barbecuing. By Michael Johnson/New Era Photography

Geraldine Boyce

June 30, 2009

Geraldine Boyce

Geraldine Boyce

Geraldine Boyce, of Issaquah, died June 23, 2009, in Renton. She was 83. Read more

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