Users can transfer state recreation pass between vehicles

March 30, 2012

NEW — 4:30 p.m. March 30, 2012

Users can transfer the Discover Pass for state parks and recreation lands between vehicles, under legislation Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Friday.

Gov. Chris Gregoire

The change to the 1-year-old Discover Pass took effect immediately. The legislation allows users to transfer the annual pass between two vehicles at no additional cost.

State lawmakers acted after Discover Pass users complained about the inability to transfer the pass between vehicles.

“Customer survey results indicated that pass transferability between two vehicles could boost support for the Discover Pass,” State Parks Director Don Hoch said. “We are optimistic that the change will lead to greater public support and participation. We now depend on the Discover Pass to keep state parks and other state recreation lands open for public use and enjoyment.”

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Issaquah Chamber of Commerce is neutral on proposed plastic bag ban

March 29, 2012

NEW — 10:30 a.m. March 29, 2012

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce leaders decided to remain neutral as the City Council considers legislation to outlaw plastic bags, but entrepreneurs raised concerns about possible impacts on local businesses due to such a ban.

Matthew Bott

The council is considering legislation to ban plastic bags for most retail uses and require stores to collect 5 cents for each paper bag provided to customers. The fee is meant to help retailers offset the cost.

The proposed ordinance reaches the council for discussion and a possible decision April 2. If enacted, the legislation calls for the ban to start in 2013.

In a letter to council members, chamber CEO Matthew Bott outlined the organization’s position and asked leaders to consider unintended effects.

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City combines planning, building functions to speed up permitting

March 28, 2012

NEW — 5:30 p.m. March 28, 2012

The reorganization of City Hall entered a more intense phase Tuesday, as officials announced a plan to bundle municipal departments into a Development Services Department — a super-agency meant to streamline planning and building functions.

Bob Harrison

The change is accompanied by a more muscular effort to attract and retain businesses. Leaders said the Development Services Department is meant to smooth the process apply for a permit to construct a project or open a business in Issaquah.

The centerpiece is a plan to offer applicants the option to pay additional fees to expedite the evaluation a project receives. The setup is akin to Disney’s Fastpass. Only, rather than theme park guests standing in line for shorter stretches, permit applicants choose a speedier permitting process.

City Administrator Bob Harrison said frequent questions from permit applicants influenced the project.

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King County mails ballots for April 17 election

March 28, 2012

NEW — 12:10 p.m. March 28, 2012

Ballots should start to appear in Issaquah School District voters’ mailboxes in the days ahead.

The electorate faces a choice on a $219 million school construction bond in the April 17 election. (The school district stretches from Preston to Newcastle, and from Sammamish to Renton.)

Issaquah School District officials opted not to pay to include a voters’ pamphlet alongside ballots.

“Vote and return your ballot as soon as possible,” Elections Director Sherril Huff said in a statement. “The earlier voters return their ballots to the elections department, the better. We check every voter’s signature before opening the ballots and have a limited amount of time to contact voters if there are any issues to correct.”

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City Council to decide plastic bag ban soon

March 27, 2012

The proposal to ban plastic bags from Issaquah stores reaches the City Council for a public discussion April 2.

The city could join Bellingham, Edmonds, Mukilteo and Seattle to ban plastic bags at local retailers — a step designed to limit garbage headed for the King County landfill and reduce pollution in Puget Sound.

Issaquah council members could decide to vote on the measure or continue the discussion at a later meeting.

“The goal isn’t just to get everyone to switch from plastic to paper, it’s to get people to switch from bags that you use once to bags that you reuse,” Councilman Mark Mullet said.

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Man robs Issaquah bank at gunpoint

March 27, 2012

Issaquah KeyBank robbery suspect

Police said a man robbed a KeyBank branch along a bustling Issaquah street March 24, and then escaped.

Police said the man showed a bank employee a gun and passed the employee a note demanding money at about 10:51 a.m.

Officers responded to the bank at 405 N.W. Gilman Blvd. moments later, but could not locate the suspect.

The employee described the man to police as a white man in his 30s, 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and weighing 200 pounds. Police said he wore a beige hooded coat, jeans and a dark-colored baseball cap, and carried a motorcycle helmet.

The suspect used dark clothing to conceal the lower portion of his face during the robbery. Police said he then fled eastbound from the bank.

The case remains under investigation by the Issaquah Police Department and the FBI.

What to know

Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect. Call 1-800-222-TIPS toll free.

The last bank robbery to occur in Issaquah unfolded at the same KeyBank branch.

In October, a thief robbed the bank and fled. FBI agents arrested the suspect, a former Snoqualmie resident connected to other thefts in the area, days after the robbery.

Investigators said the suspect, Christopher Isaac Titian, approached a bank employee, handed the employee a demand note and then fled.

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Swedish/Issaquah does not expect layoffs amid budget crisis

March 27, 2012

Swedish Medical Center executives defended the decision to open a $365 million Issaquah hospital as the health care system loses $250,000 per day and girds for possible employee layoffs.

Systemwide, Seattle-based Swedish lost $16 million so far in 2012. Executives attributed the loss to higher health-insurance deductibles and the anemic economy. Both factors cause commercially insured patients to delay health care.

Swedish is also treating more uninsured and underinsured patients as the state and federal governments cut health care funding.

Swedish has more than 11,000 employees at hospitals in Edmonds, Issaquah and Seattle, plus a network of standalone emergency rooms and clinics in the Puget Sound region.

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Few changes for patients in Providence-Swedish affiliation agreement

March 27, 2012

The partnership between Providence Health & Services and Swedish Health Services should not affect services at Issaquah health care facilities, officials said as the organizations completed a groundbreaking affiliation agreement.

Through the affiliation, Providence and Swedish plan to operate as the Western Washington Region of Providence Health & Services. The organization encompasses all Swedish operations in King and Snohomish counties, plus Providence operations in King, Snohomish, Thurston and Lewis counties.

The entities operate Providence Marianwood, a 25-year-old nursing home, and 8-month-old Swedish/Issaquah in the city.

“Swedish/Issaquah is a community hospital focused on the community needs here,” Chuck Salmon, chief executive for Swedish/Issaquah and ambulatory care, said after the Feb. 1 announcement. “At this point, my direction is, ‘Don’t change a thing. You guys are doing fine.’ There should be really no change at all as perceived by the public.”

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Salmon Days promises ‘thrills’ in festival theme

March 27, 2012

Salmon Days Festival 2012 theme

Salmon Days Festival organizers dipped into local history to craft the 2012 festival theme — “Thrills & Gills,” a hat tip to the Issaquah Rodeo from a century ago.

The logo sports a cowboy astride a leaping — or bucking — salmon. Organizers said the theme is meant to reflect the excitement of salmon returning to Issaquah Creek to spawn each autumn.

In the early 1900s, long before Salmon Days, a Fourth of July celebration and a rodeo at modern-day Veterans’ Memorial Field served as the main attractions in the coalmining and farming community. By 1910, the celebration shifted from Independence Day to Labor Day.

In 1970, the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce presented the inaugural Salmon Days Festival as part of Labor Day festivities.

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Sheriff candidate picks up council members’ support

March 27, 2012

Outgoing King County Sheriff Sue Rahr’s handpicked successor received support from King County Council members March 22, as the council prepares to appoint the next sheriff.

Steve Strachan

Councilwoman Kathy Lambert — Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee chairwoman and the Issaquah representative — joined Councilman Bob Ferguson and Councilwoman Julia Patterson to introduce legislation to name Chief Deputy Steve Strachan as interim sheriff after Rahr resigns March 31.

“I look forward to welcoming Chief Deputy Strachan as King County’s interim sheriff next month,” Lambert said in a statement. “I am particularly interested in the strategic plan he has developed for coordinating the many regional as well as local law enforcement and investigative functions of the sheriff’s office. I also look forward to increased collaboration with our 12 contract cities as we provide them with the best possible service.”

Rahr plans to step down as the top law enforcement officer in King County on March 31 after a long career in local law enforcement to lead the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission.

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