Issaquah school officials fight proposed county ban on rural campuses

August 2, 2011

Local school officials worry an 80-acre plot bought for $3.3 million in 2006 will become largely worthless to the district if King County officials move forward with a proposed ban on new school buildings in rural areas.

Known as the Winterbrook Farm site, the undeveloped land sits at 21207 S.E. May Valley Road, outside the city’s designated urban growth area.

At the time the school board approved the property purchase, school officials indicated the farmland could become home to an elementary and middle school. The idea was to alleviate foreseeable crowding in the attendance area of Liberty High School. Still, the board did not anticipate a need for new schools feeding into Liberty prior to at least 2014.

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Hollywood debut awaits local author

August 2, 2011

Storyteller Sarah Gerdes is force behind upcoming films

By Greg Farrar Lucas Foster, Hollywood producer (left), and Sarah Gerdes, local author, discuss their collaboration as they prepare to transform her books into films.

Sarah Gerdes, author and mother to Conor, Porsche and Mercedes, balances motherhood and Hollywood.

The longtime local author is nearing a milestone in a lifelong effort to tell stories to the masses: films based on the books she spent years to create.

The lineup includes “The Kim Sisters” — a musical about a trio transplanted from Korea and hurtling to success in the United States — and adventures based on “Chambers” — a series about time-traveling teenagers. The initial e-book in the “Chambers” series came out in May.

“I am truly excited to see it come to film — and it’s not because of any financial gain, although that would be nice, not to be a starving author forever,” Gerdes said late last month. “It’s because I can’t wait to see it through somebody else’s eyes. I’ve written this work that has all of these characters. I have a theme and I know where it’s going.”

Lucas Foster — the producer behind “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and other action-packed films — refers to Gerdes as “the Terminator” for the perseverance and passion she delivers on each project. Foster’s Warp Entertainment is producing “The Kim Sisters” and “Chambers” films.

“The amount of money we spend to make a movie, and then market and distribute a movie, is colossal. So, we have to do some thinking about who our audience is very early on and who we’re trying to reach,” he said. “Are we capable of reaching them with whatever it is we’re building? I think Sarah — she doesn’t have to think that way — but I think she’s inclined to think that way as well.”

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City launches $50,000 study to determine how departments coordinate, collaborate

August 2, 2011

Ava Frisinger

Consultants started interviewing employees at City Hall last month, as leaders embark on a $50,000 study to determine how municipal departments function and the city delivers services to businesses and residents.

Mayor Ava Frisinger selected Seattle consultant Moss Adams to examine the Building, Planning and Public Works Engineering departments, in addition to economic development efforts. The focus is on organization and a still-nascent effort to anticipate future service needs.

“It’s always beneficial for organizations to say, ‘How are we doing? Might there be places we could improve?’ Because we want to do the very best that we can at providing services,” Frisinger said. “That’s our mission — we want to do it effectively, not just efficiently.”

Construction in Talus and the Issaquah Highlands — urban villages and the impetus behind the Major Development Review Team — is slowing after a construction boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In addition, the city is refocusing planning efforts on the Central Issaquah Plan — a redevelopment outline for the 915-acre commercial core along Interstate 90.

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Issaquah City Council balks at joining regional fire authority

August 2, 2011

Issaquah is all but certain not to participate in a regional fire authority, due to concerns about higher property tax bills for city homeowners.

On July 26, City Council members indicated Issaquah should not proceed in the formation of a regional fire authority. Unlike Eastside Fire & Rescue, a regional fire authority could tax residents to fund emergency services.

Officials from Issaquah and rural fire districts formed a planning group in late 2009 to consider a regional fire authority in the EFR service area.

“We did that so we were at the table and could participate in the discussion as we went through a process,” Councilman Fred Butler said at a Committee-of-the-Whole Council meeting. “We’re at the point right now where, I think, it’s fairly obvious which way we want to go. It’s not to our benefit or to our citizens’ benefit.”

Contributions from member cities and fire districts fund EFR. Issaquah contributes about $5 million per year to the agency.

Issaquah homeowners contribute 76 cents per $1,000 in assessed value for emergency services under the existing arrangement.

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Issaquah School District budget saves teachers, but increases fees

August 2, 2011

Overall, thanks in part to a voter-approved levy lid lift, the Issaquah School District is doing better financially than many other Washington school systems.

That’s the message Issaquah school board members will hear from district financial staff Aug. 9.

The board plans a public hearing on the 2011-12 school budget that evening during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. in the district administration building.

Officials are expected to finalize the budget at a subsequent meeting Aug. 24.

Perhaps the biggest piece of the school financial puzzle was settled in May. That’s when state officials finally passed a two-year budget plan, and school districts here and elsewhere around the state learned what sort of support Olympia would be sending them in the next few years.

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Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery is fishing for volunteers

August 2, 2011

Jane Kuechle

Onlookers teem to the bridge across Issaquah Creek and Issaquah Salmon Hatchery grounds each fall as coho and chinook salmon complete a long journey from the Pacific Ocean.

In order to share information and tales about the salmon species’ life cycle, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery needs volunteers to serve as guides. The spawning season stretches from September through November.

FISH, a nonprofit organization, conducts educational tours for school groups and other hatchery visitors on weekdays each autumn, as traffic transforms the quiet hatchery grounds into a bona fide tourist destination.

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Construction starts on 17 Talus townhouses

August 2, 2011

Talus developer Intracorp is building 17 townhouses, shown in the artist's rendering above. Contributed

Talus developer Intracorp is building 17 townhouses in the 630-acre urban village on Cougar Mountain.

Construction is under way in the Centerra at Talus neighborhood and Intracorp expects sales on the three-level units to start soon.

“These homes are being built for the homeowner who wants to live in a community that offers easy access to the vibrancy of urban living and the serenity of the outdoors,” Jeff Smallwood, Intracorp vice president of marketing and sales, said in a news release. “There’s no better value in today’s residential marketplace.”

Centerra at Talus offers townhouses from 1,186 square feet to 1,920 square feet. Plans call for the homes to feature garages wired for electric-vehicle plug-in terminals.

The sales center for the project is on track to open in September.

The project includes environmentally sound materials and home-building practices.

“This Centerra at Talus project will provide a number of full-time jobs for construction workers, and help to boost the local economy — which is something that we’re very proud of given today’s economic climate,” Smallwood said.

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FBI seeks help to identify Issaquah robber

August 2, 2011


The Seattle office of the FBI is asking for help in tracking down a suspect in two bank robberies, including the holdup of the Issaquah branch of Sterling Savings Bank on July 22.

According to the FBI, the suspect who robbed the Issaquah bank also is believed to have robbed a Washington Federal Savings Bank about 10:35 a.m. July 21 in Bellevue. Authorities said surveillance video captured the suspect in the course of the Issaquah robbery.

People with information on the suspect are asked to call the FBI at 1-800-222-TIPS. Calls are kept confidential. Information leading to an arrest could lead to a $1,000 reward.

The man is described as a white male, heavyset, in his mid 40s and roughly 5 feet, 10 inches tall.

When he robbed the Sterling Savings, he was wearing a white baseball cap, white T-shirt and blue jeans. He also was wearing a dark-colored backpack.

Inside the Issaquah bank, according to local police, the suspect presented the teller with a note demanding money. He did not show any evidence of carrying a weapon. The man left the bank with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Issaquah Police Sgt. Bob Porter said local officers responded to a sounding alarm at the bank, but the suspect was gone before they arrived. Based on witness statements, officers could not determine in what direction the suspect fled.

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Hikers map future of mountaineering

August 2, 2011

Janet Wall searches in Issaquah’s Berntsen Park for invasive plants that she can electronically mark. Photo by Tim Pfarr

“Are we there yet? How much farther?”

If you’ve gone hiking with a child, you have surely heard these migraine-inducing questions thousands of times. As you take left and right turns up a mountainside, there is often no good answer to give the tired youngster.

After all, how much farther is it to the top? Where in the world are you on that map you brought?

If only you had a map created with GPS data. Every twist and turn on the trail would be recorded with surgical precision.

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City honors nonprofit Providence Marianwood on 25th anniversary

August 2, 2011

Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger said a key factor in the city’s decision to recognize the Providence Marianwood Skilled Nursing Community is the fact that the facility is a nonprofit organization.

During a council meeting July 18, Frisinger and the Issaquah City Council honored Providence Marianwood on the occasion of their 25th anniversary. The city declared Aug. 13 as “Providence Marianwood Day” in Issaquah.

In comments made after the meeting, Frisinger said Providence Marianwood can help care for people who otherwise might not be able to afford nursing home services.

“We will continue to take those who have outlived their resources,” said Karla Heath, executive director of Providence Marianwood, which is in Issaquah on Providence Point Drive.

Heath added that at any given time, greater than 50 percent of the population of Providence Marianwood is receiving Medicaid.

“By virtue of its time here,” Frisinger said, “Providence has served the community well.”

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