Electricity, gas rates to climb

April 6, 2010

Puget Sound Energy customers will see electric and natural gas rates nudge upward soon.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission approved a rate increase for the utility April 2. The decision allows the Bellevue-based company to raise electric rates by about 2.8 percent and natural gas prices by 0.8 percent.

Officials expected the new rates to take effect on or about April 7.

The average PSE residential electric customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month will see a hike of about $2.80. The average natural-gas customer using 70 therms a month will pay about 87 cents more.

The commission also approved charges last week to fund conservation programs. The totals for the PSE programs amount to $1.78 more a month for residential electric customers and 45 cents extra for natural gas customers.

Including both increases, the monthly bill will rise to about $97 for electric and $80 for natural gas service for the average residential customer. Read more

DOT extends studded tire removal deadline to April 11

April 6, 2010

Due to the threat of wintry weather in the Cascades, state Department of Transportation officials have extended the deadline to remove studded tires beyond the original April 1 deadline.

Drivers must remove studded tires by April 11. Otherwise, the Washington State Patrol will enforce a $124 fine against motorists caught with the winter gear after the deadline. State law typically allows studded tires between Nov. 1 and March 31.

Officials said studded tires damage the highway. The tires also make it more difficult to stop on wet or dry pavement. In icy conditions, however, studded tires can help drivers gain traction.

Find driving tips, and learn about the agency’s winter roadway operations, snow and ice removal and avalanche control at the winter driving Web site.

Citizens are encouraged to be ready for disaster, quake drill

April 6, 2010

On Wednesday, April 21, between 9:45 and 10 a.m., there will be a statewide earthquake drill. The “Drop, Cover and Hold” exercise is part of Washington state’s observation of Disaster Preparedness Month.

“I encourage all citizens to increase their knowledge and awareness of proper safety measures to follow before, during and after a disaster,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire in a press release.

One local group leading the way is the Issaquah Citizens Corps, a team made up of volunteers that promotes and provides emergency response education and training to the public free of charge. Offerings include the Map Your Neighborhood program, which provides free trainers to visit local neighborhoods.

At these “parties for preparedness,” neighbors can learn what to do in the critical first minutes following a disaster, identify skills and plan how to work together, set up a neighborhood meeting location and map out hazards including natural gas and propane outlets.

In addition, the corps also teams with the national Community Emergency Response Team organization to offer classes, including first aid training, basic firefighting, light search and rescue, and how to turn off utilities. Space is limited, so it’s best to sign up early.

Aside from classes and seminars, there are basic, simple things everyone easily can (and should) do to make sure they and their families are prepared, because when a disaster happens, it may not be possible for emergency responders to reach you right away.

People “need to be able to rely on their own skills and training” and “become self sufficient,” said Josie Williams, spokeswoman for Eastside Fire & Rescue. Read more

Trash pickup continues despite strike threat

April 6, 2010

Garbage pickup continued as usual last week, although trash haulers and Waste Management failed to reach a deal for a labor pact.

The haulers’ contract expired at midnight March 31, and trash workers had authorized a strike. Although Waste Management and Teamsters Local 174 continue to work toward a final agreement, union officials said drivers should continue to report to work. Waste Management officials said the company plans to hire nonunion workers to continue trash service uninterrupted in the event of a strike.

Waste Management negotiators delivered what the company described as the “best, last, final offer” to Local 174 late last week.

If Local 174 strikes, members of Teamsters Local 117 will not cross the picket line. Local 174 members handle garbage; members of Local 117 pick up recyclables and yard waste.

Issaquah officials continue to monitor the situation. The city devoted a section of the municipal Web site to the labor talks, and city spokeswoman Autumn Monahan encouraged residents to check the site as negotiations unfold. Read more

Authorities charge man with forcing Issaquah runaway to work as prostitute

April 6, 2010

Prosecutors charged a Renton man with promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor last week after authorities said he ordered a runaway 15-year-old Issaquah girl to work as a prostitute.

Seattle Police arrested Deandre Gant, 22, at his Renton residence March 23, after the girl told detectives he had ordered her to perform sex acts so “they” could earn money, court documents state.

Gant will be arraigned April 8 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle.

Investigators said relatives reported the girl had been missing from Issaquah on March 12. Relatives suspected she might be with Gant — who she called Dre — but when the girl’s stepfather contacted Gant, he refused to provide her stepfather with her mobile phone number, court documents state.

Investigators said the girl had been exploited as a prostitute in 2008, and suspected she might again be a victim. Read more

Grants, volunteers help city maintain trails, open space

April 6, 2010

Invasive blackberry, holly, Japanese knotweed and Scotch broom proved to be no match for the hundreds of people who volunteered to maintain city-owned open space and trails last year.

Volunteers focused last year on maintenance in the open spaces and parks cleared in 2008. Teams cleared 12 to 15 acres of the invasive plants from the Park Hill Open Space in the Overdale Park neighborhood, Timberlake Park along Lake Sammamish and other sites in 2008, and kept the unwanted plants off the site in 2009.

Volunteers returned to the sites last year to plant native shrubs and trees where invasive plants used to grow, city Open Space Steward Matt Mechler said in a presentation to City Council members late last month. The work will continue in the months ahead, he added.

Mechler detailed efforts to preserve open space and maintain city trails in a March 23 report to the Committee-of-the-Whole Council. The city owns about 1,300 acres of open space.

“We worked on getting those invasives under control and then just maintaining them last year, with the hopes that once the invasives are under control then we’ll be doing some native planting at these sites,” Mechler said.

Besides invasive plant removal, the city worked with conservation groups last year to maintain the network of trails crisscrossing Issaquah.

Issaquah Alps Trails Club volunteers helped complete a quarter-mile section of the Talus Bridge Trail to connect the urban village with the Bear Ridge Trail on Cougar Mountain. Read more

County Councilman supports program to assess threats against police

April 6, 2010

King County Councilman Reagan Dunn offered support last week for efforts by the King County Sheriff’s Office to create a task force to investigate threats against police officers and elected officials.

Dunn — who represents unincorporated King County south of Issaquah, as well as Bellevue and Newcastle — introduced a motion April 1 in support of the program, Risk Assessment, Deterrence and Referral, or RADAR.

The effort aims to help law enforcement personnel identify and track people who exhibit violent tendencies and threaten officers and officials. The plan also aims to develop strategies to be used by officers to help offenders receive mental health treatment.

“While King County has been making significant steps to be proactive when it comes to dealing with people engaged in criminal activities by not just incarcerating them but finding other avenues to provide help and counseling, it is time we take a broader regional view of these issues,” Dunn said in a news release. “This is another tool in our arsenal to help protect our law enforcement personnel, elected officials and the public.”

Officers could input information — such as criminal history — into a computer program to help determine whether a person is likely to act on threats. Read more

Roundabout will close April 11 for paving

April 6, 2010

The roundabout at East Lake Sammamish Parkway and Southeast 43rd Way will close at 3 p.m. April 11 until 5 a.m. April 12 for paving. The entire roundabout will be shut down for the duration of paving.

Check the city Web site or 1700-AM radio station for updates. The latest information — as well as detour routes — will also be located on electronic message boards near the roundabout.

The city planned to close the roundabout for paving March 21, March 28 or April 4, but weather delayed the project.

New principal chosen for Apollo Elementary

April 6, 2010

Apollo Elementary School has a new principal who will take the helm this summer.

Susan Mundell will begin working at Apollo in July as Marla Erath goes to begin a new chapter at Newcastle Elementary School.

Issaquah School District Superintendent Steve Rasmussen announced Mundell’s hire in a letter that went to families March 26.

She is “a strong instructional leader who is eager to return to a school community she knows and loves,” he wrote. Read more

Crews will replace Sycamore water line

April 6, 2010

Workers will replace a water line in the Sycamore neighborhood, city officials announced last week. Crews will break ground on the project in May or June, and construction could last up to three months.

Workers will replace the aging water line with a ductile iron line near Issaquah Creek. The city approved a special permit for the project March 19.

The waterline runs beneath Southeast Sycamore Creek Lane, Sycamore Drive Southeast from Southeast Sycamore Lane to Brookside Place Southeast, Southeast Sycamore Lane and Brookside Place Southeast.

Construction hours will vary between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays. The work will require some temporary lane closures. Access to residents will be provided during construction. Residents will be notified 48 hours in advance of anticipated water shutdowns.

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