East Sunset Way interchange construction concludes

October 26, 2010

Contractor steered clear of planned road closures

The completed East Sunset Way approach to Interstate 90 features wider lanes, road shoulders, curbs and a sidewalk. Photo by Greg Farrar

The state project to remake the cramped East Sunset Way approach to Interstate 90 has been completed on time and under budget to the delight of drivers and transportation officials.

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Cashiers put state grocery title in the bag

October 26, 2010

Issaquah man competes in bag-off

The champions came from checkout lanes at mega-chains and from behind cash registers at mom-and-pop stores in every corner of the Evergreen State.

Dressed in uniforms of aprons and plastic nametags, the contenders stood poised for the signal to start the competition.

Nathan Frerker (right), a cashier at the Issaquah Trader Joe’s, smiles as judges inspect a grocery bag he packed during the annual Best Bagger Contest Oct. 21. By Greg Farrar

Ready. Set. Bag.

Forget, for a moment, the self-scan checkout lane. The annual Best Bagger Contest celebrates the skill — nay, the art — of packing groceries into paper, plastic or canvas.

The contenders included Nathan Frerker, 22, a cashier at the Issaquah Trader Joe’s. Before the Oct. 21 competition inside a SeaTac hotel ballroom, the Issaquah resident and Skyline High School alumnus packed a couple of bags as practice.

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Darigold fined $10,000 for 2009 ammonia spill

October 26, 2010

The state Department of Ecology has imposed a $10,000 fine on Darigold for a 2009 ammonia spill into Issaquah Creek.

The state announced the fine — the maximum penalty under state law — a little more than a year after the spill killed salmon and other fish in the midst of salmon-spawning season. Darigold has 30 days from the Oct. 19 announcement to appeal the penalty to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board.

The spill occurred Oct. 7, 2009, during maintenance and repair to the refrigeration system at the downtown Issaquah dairy. State investigators said a crew draining part of the refrigeration system allowed a toxic ammonia solution to flow onto the roof of the creekside building and down a storm drain.

Under state law, the Department of Ecology had until October 2011 to issue a penalty against Seattle-based Darigold. The state agency conducted a follow-up investigation to determine how the spill had originated. Then, investigators sent the findings to the state Attorney General’s Office for review.

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Independent streak defines Eastside voters

October 26, 2010

The sprint — or slog — to Election Day has a familiar storyline: The angry electorate is poised to rebuke Democrats for a far-reaching agenda and choose a roster of penny-pinching Republicans to slash spending.

The reality is more nuanced — and more complicated.

“There’s always talk about the angry voter and how everybody’s really mad and they’ve got their torches and pitchforks out,” Seattle independent pollster Stuart Elway said. “We’re really not seeing that here, at least statewide.”

Eastside residents from Newcastle to North Bend exhibited different shades of the national mood — in the form of fired-up Republicans and dispirited Democrats — but experts said the local electorate could not be pigeonholed. Read more

Peek behind the scenes in the life of a ballot

October 26, 2010

In the lifecycle of a ballot, voting is the easy part. Before, during and after the election, a behind-the-scenes effort unfolds to assemble, count and store ballots.

King County Elections mailed more than 1 million ballots in mid-October. Ballots must be postmarked or slipped into a drop box by 8 p.m. Election Day, Nov. 2.

The process starts about three weeks before Election Day, as elections staffers assemble ballots at the printer in Everett. The packet includes a precinct-specific ballot, security and signature envelope, plus any election-specific inserts. Read more

Faiths find common ground at Habitat build

October 26, 2010

Christians, Jews and Muslims unite

The common threads in Christianity, Islam and Judaism emerged as lunchtime conversation at a Habitat for Humanity jobsite in the Issaquah Highlands.

The builders, gathered around a table of halal sloppy Joes, had stopped for a midday respite in the middle of the annual Together We Build effort. The faith organization brings together Christians — both Catholics and Protestants — Jews and Muslims at Habitat for Humanity of East King County projects.

Darald Gesinger (left), a parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church and a member of Together We Build, helps other Habitat for Humanity volunteers build framing for a wall of a home in the Issaquah Highlands. By Greg Farrar

Together We Build focuses on shelter, but the program also aims to build bonds among disparate faith communities and foster dialogue.

“What I’ve learned is that we all believe in one almighty God, that we are all to serve humanity and that’s how we serve God,” Jawad Khaki, Ithna-asheri Muslim Association of the Northwest president, said last week.

The group hammered through the highlands jobsite in mid-October. Habitat for Humanity plans to house up to 10 families in the highlands homes.

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Issaquah graduates fare better at the UW

October 26, 2010

Issaquah Dawgs are earning better grades than their counterparts at the University of Washington.

From 2004 to 2008, the average grade point average of an Issaquah student at the university was 0.07 points higher than the average student.

During those four years, the average university student got a 3.17 grade point average, while the average Issaquah School District student at the university earned a 3.24 grade point average.

“I was not surprised to see that, in general, Issaquah School District students do better, with regards to grade point average, than the general student body at the University of Washington in their freshman year,” district Executive Director of Secondary Education Patrick Murphy said. “That also proves to be true when compared to the state in other areas, like SAT scores, ACT scores and other measures.”

The district does not collect grade point average data about its graduates at other colleges because the trend data would be too small, Murphy said. About 10 percent to 12 percent of Issaquah graduates attend the University of Washington, amounting to 120 to 140 students per year.

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Consultant hired to lead food bank director search

October 26, 2010

Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank leaders have decided to search the Pacific Northwest for the next leader of the food pantry.

The nonprofit organization has hired the recruiter behind the successful search for a city administrator to conduct the effort. Headhunter Greg Prothman has plans to recruit candidates throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The job opening is also posted online, so the search could attract candidates from beyond the region.

The position requires “someone who is really good with board members, who is really good at understanding the numbers and seeing the picture as well having the passion for helping folks,” he said. “Those are really the key characteristics that came forward.”

The food bank has not had a manager since longtime Executive Director Cherie Meier departed at the end of August — less than a year after a Seattle consultant offered a long list of recommendations meant to improve service.

The report suggested that the executive director role be redefined to focus less on food donations and more on fundraising and community outreach.

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Issaquah company generates buzz for Coffee Fest

October 26, 2010

The state convention center is due to transform into a colossal coffeehouse soon, as hundreds of baristas, coffee roasters and entrepreneurs cram the downtown Seattle space for Coffee Fest.

“If it looks like coffee, smells like coffee, tastes like coffee or is coffee, you’ll find it at Coffee Fest,” David Heilbrunn, president of the organization behind Coffee Fest, said in a pre-convention interview.

Coffee Fest is the handiwork of Issaquah-based Lifestyle Events Inc. The company has produced 59 of the coffee tradeshows since 1992.

The upcoming event runs Oct. 29-31 at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center. The last Seattle tradeshow, in late September 2009, attracted about 8,000 attendees and exhibitors.

The lineup includes coffee vendors aplenty, classes and a latte art championship — a chance for sure-handed baristas to turn out elegant patterns in the steamed milk atop espresso drinks.

Other highlights include a coffee origin challenge — a taste test to determine if beans sprang from the ground in Kona, say, or Ethiopia — and a similar aroma test.

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Suspicious person prompts Sunny Hills lockdown

October 26, 2010

School administrators put Sunny Hills Elementary School under lockdown for about 25 minutes Oct. 22 after students reported a suspicious person on school grounds.

Students reported the person — with what they believed to be a weapon — in a school parking lot at about 11:30 a.m., Principal Sarah White wrote in a message e-mailed to community members. The school lifted the lockdown at about 11:55 a.m.

The school was placed into lockdown, and the afternoon kindergarten class was re-routed to Pine Lake Middle School as Sammamish police investigated.

Chief Nate Elledge said police found no evidence of anything dangerous. Police believe the suspicious person to be a construction worker holding a nail gun across the street from the school.

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