34th District Democrats endorse North Highline Fire District measure

July 10th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Election, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 5 Comments »

Less than a week until King County Elections sends out the August 5th ballots, which will include the North Highline Fire District benefit-charge ballot measure. Last night, meeting in West Seattle, this area’s biggest political organization, the 34th District Democrats, endorsed the measure. If you’re still getting up to speed on what it’s about, see the video in this WCN story from last month’s NH Unincorporated Area Council meeting.

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North Highline Fire District benefit-charge vote ahead August 5th: Presentation @ NHUAC

June 11th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Election, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 4 Comments »

Heard about the “benefit charge” for the North Highline Fire District that’ll be on the August primary ballot? If not, here’s your primer, from last Thursday night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting:

Lt. Ray Pettigrew stood in for Chief Mike Marrs, who he said couldn’t make it because of illness. With maps and a PowerPoint, he explained the money proposal, as well as some basics about the NHFD itself:

*Each station has 1 engine staffed with three firefighters at any given time, he said – sometimes a bit more because of volunteers.

*Vast majority of the job is going on aid calls

*278 false alarms – “almost one per day”

*42 hazmat calls

*526 “other” calls – illegal burns, barbecues mistaken for fires

About 12 calls a day between the two stations, so “they’re pretty busy.”

He says it’s a matter of financial need – “we’ve done everything we can to try to cut expenses
… we’ve used reserves … we’ve contracted to have Burien chief also be the North Highline chief,” but they’re about out of reserves if no new funding is found. In addition, he noted, the district has gotten smaller, with the 2010 Burien annexation, for example.

Proposition 1 on the August ballot needs a simple yes/no vote. If passed, it sets up a six-year run for the charge – with potential renewals thereafter. It’s not a tax, Pettigrew stressed, “it’s a fee,” and it’s charged based on factors such as square footage and whether a building has sprinklers or not.

For the average owner of a 2,000 square foot home worth $250,000, their tax/fee bill would go up $6/month, he said. It would only be charged for structures, not for empty land. Other districts with a “benefit charge” include Kent, Auburn, Woodinville, and Eastside Fire.

“It allows us to stabilize our funding so we’re not subject to property values going up and down, more ability to plan long range,” he said.

The NHFD commissioners voted at their April meeting to put it on the August ballot.

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Fire district’s future in the spotlight @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council next Thursday

May 30th, 2014 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

As the flyer shows, the next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting is less than a week away. And it’s a hot topic in more ways than one, as announced by NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin:

When: Thursday, June 5 – 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station – 1243 112th Street SW

Please plan on joining us for an important community discussion regarding the future of our North Highline Fire District (NHFD). The residents of North Highline will have an opportunity to vote in August on a “Benefit Charge” to provide much needed support our NHFD. Fire Chief Mike Marrs will provide information on the past, present and future of fire district and what impact the Benefit Charge will have on property owners as well as the fire district.

We will also have our White Center Storefront Deputy BJ Myers on hand to provide updates on crime trends – this is a great time to share your concerns regarding community safety.

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Early-morning fire guts 13th SW home; no one hurt

April 7th, 2014 Tracy Posted in Fire, North Highline Fire District, White Center news 5 Comments »

North Highline Fire District crews are still at the scene of a house fire on 13th SW south of SW Roxbury. The incident commander tells WCN that no one was in the house when it caught fire before dawn; there are residents in an RV on the property, and the house was full of items being stored. An investigator will be working in the hours ahead to find out what started the fire.

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Video: White Center Heights Elementary kindergarteners meet first responders

March 13th, 2014 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on Video: White Center Heights Elementary kindergarteners meet first responders

Thanks again to White Center Heights Elementary PTA president David Sonsteng for the alert about the WCH kindergarteners’ big day today – Emergency Services Day. The weather was perfect for them to meet their visitors outside – above, the North Highline Fire District; below, the King County Sheriff’s Office Air Support Unit and its famous helicopter Guardian One:
Listen to the excitement in our video clip recorded as the helicopter approached and landed:

Also on hand – an American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance crew. If public-safety crews respond to an injury/illness situation that is not necessarily serious enough to require a medic unit, the private ambulance crews of AMR are called in.
This was part of a “community helpers” module the kindergarteners were working on, Sonsteng explained. First graders were part of the event too.

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King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, North Highline firefighters visit Beverly Park Elementary School

October 19th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Helicopter, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter, North Highline firefighters visit Beverly Park Elementary School

(Also published on partner site The South Park News)

Kids at Beverly Park Elementary – just south of South Park – got a big thrill Friday when the King County Sheriff’s Office helicopter Guardian One came to visit. Our video shows its landing. Luckily the fog had lifted enough that they could keep their appointment.

That’s Deputy John Pugh, above, who flies Guardian One.

North Highline firefighters were there too:

The students were excited to meet the visiting law enforcers and get a look at their cars.

Later, a busy day and night resumed for KCSO’s air support unit – here’s a tweet with both their helicopters, Guardian 1 and Guardian 2:

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White Center house fire under investigation; no injuries reported

June 9th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Fire, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on White Center house fire under investigation; no injuries reported

King County’s fire investigator is working to find out what caused a house fire in the 10600 block of 17th SW; thanks to the readers who messaged us about it. It’s out now. Nobody home when it happened, and no injuries were reported, the North Highline Fire District incident commander told us.

Lesley recorded video while smoke was pouring from the house:

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Late-night house fire under investigation

May 8th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Fire, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on Late-night house fire under investigation

Fire did major damage to a house on 28th SW just north of Explorer West Middle School late Tuesday night. A King County fire investigator was on scene early this morning trying to find out what started the fire; the incident commander from North Highline Fire District told WCN that the homeowner wasn’t home when it started – though he had arrived by the time we got there – and nobody was hurt.

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Just two nights till North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s next Public Safety Forum

April 30th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, Fire, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Just two nights till North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s next Public Safety Forum

Questions about crime prevention and crimefighting, fire prevention and firefighting? Here’s your reminder that you’ll want to be at the North Highline Fire District HQ this Thursday night (May 2) for the next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Public Safety Forum. From the original announcement:

We are pleased to be hosting King County Sheriff John Urquhart and North Highline Fire Chief Mike Marrs.

Sheriff Urquhart will be here to take our questions, and listen to community concerns about public safety and the sheriff’s department staffing levels for the North Highline area.

Once again our White Center Storefront Deputy position is in jeopardy, as the special funding allocated in 2011 expires at the end of 2013. Will the 2014 budget include funding for this essential position?

The North Highline Fire District, which is funded solely by property tax money from North Highline, is facing critical financial challenges. Chief Marrs will discuss the history of our North Highline Fire District, operational status, and future challenges and options.

Storefront Deputy BJ Myers is scheduled to be there too. The forum’s set to start at 7 pm Thursday, 1243 SW 112th – everybody welcome.

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North Highline fire crew gets kudos for helping ‘distraught grandma’

March 3rd, 2013 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline fire crew gets kudos for helping ‘distraught grandma’

This photo and accompanying report appeared today in the WCN inbox:

I was in White Center recently to welcome my sixth grandchild into the world. During this time I took the older kids on errands etc. On one trip to the Safeway I accidentally locked my 2-year-old granddaughter in the van. I was totally distraught and had someone call the police to help. During the time I was waiting on the police a firetruck answered a call to this Safeway. After the firemen/emt’s completed their initial call they noticed the distraught grandma in the green sweater standing by her van. They all came over, brought tools and after about 30 minutes were able to unlock my van. While they were working on the lock they were very positive and friendly. No one made me feel bad or commented on the situation I had created. These men came to my rescue and did it with grace and professionalism even when I was not the original call.

I have attached a picture of just two of the gentlemen but all of them need to get credit for the act of kindness they showed to the distraught grandma in the green sweater in the silver van. A big thank you is well deserved.

J.D. Curry
Odessa, TX

Good going, North Highline Fire District!

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Seattle City Council schedules ‘Annexations’ briefing next Tuesday

February 14th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline Fire District, South Park, White Center news Comments Off on Seattle City Council schedules ‘Annexations’ briefing next Tuesday

4:44 PM: Does Seattle have renewed interest in the bulk of North Highline, now that voters have said no to Burien? We might get a hint next Tuesday, when the Seattle City Council’s morning briefing – usually scheduled for Mondays, but delayed because of Presidents Day – includes an agenda item titled “Annexations.” The only supporting documents accompanying the agenda right now are two maps of the unincorporated area – this one (which appears oriented toward discussing fire services) and this one – which don’t give a hint as to the prospective discussion’s direction. One of the presenters is Council President Sally Clark, with whom we checked when the Boundary Review Board rejected Tukwila’s proposed annexation of the so-called “Duwamish Triangle” area in southern South Park. Seattle had been interested in pursuing both that area and South Park’s “Sliver by the River,” but when we had checked with Clark, she said there wasn’t yet a plan for what the city planned to do next. Once we get a response to our questions, we’ll add it; in the meantime, the briefing is toward the end of the 9 am Seattle City Council briefing meeting next Tuesday at City Hall.

9 PM: We have heard from Council President Clark, who tells WCN/WSB:

… we scheduled this briefing to bring councilmembers up to speed on both:

1. Area Y (North Highline) after the rejection of Burien by voters in November.
2. Sliver Q – the catchy new name for the Duwamish Triangle and the Sliver by the River together.

We’ll cover what may happen now after the Area Y vote and after the Boundary Review Board’s rejection of Tukwila’s petition.

If you can’t make it to downtown Seattle for the briefing, it’ll be live on the Seattle Channel’s website – seattlechannel.org – as are all the City Council’s proceedings. No votes are taken during “briefing” meetings, but we’ll keep an eye on the agenda to see if any additional documents turn up by Tuesday.

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North Highline fire commissioners say ‘Thanks’ to Local 1810

January 25th, 2013 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news 1 Comment »

The North Highline Fire District’s Board of Commissioners wants to make sure the community hears about this letter of appreciation for its IAFF Local 1810 firefighters – so they have shared a copy for publication. If you can’t read it in the Scribd format below – you can open it here as a PDF.

North Highline Fire Commissioners say thanks by

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North Highline Fire District board meeting, report #2: Dave Duff returns as commissioner

August 17th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Fire District board meeting, report #2: Dave Duff returns as commissioner

(Dave Duff, right, takes the oath of office, read by Ray Austin)
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The North Highline Board of Fire Commissioners has a new chair – who’s also one of its former chairs.

Last night, Dave Duff was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Wayne Alishokis resigned in May.

Wayne Alishokis had been on the board since 2006, when he succeeded … Dave Duff.

This probably explains why the public interview for Duff, the only person to seek the job, lasted less than 10 minutes.

The executive session in which commissioners Ray Austin and Liz Giba discussed Duff’s merits lasted a little longer. And then, when back in public session, they voted unanimously to appoint him, and then to make him chair, with Austin as vice chair.

Chief Mike Marrs had explained that a second potential candidate had expressed interest, but “pulled out,” leaving Duff as the lone applicant.

During the aforementioned brief interview, Duff recapped some of his history with the district, including leading a bond campaign to replace engines and upgrade stations, and ultimately so much involvement that he, his late wife Judy, and their daughter Deanna were, he noted, “voted as honorary members” of NHFD.

Deanna, a journalist, was in attendance last night as her father was appointed and sworn in.

But obviously this is a far different time for the NHFD than when Duff served a decade ago. Most of the remaining unincorporated area is less than three months away from deciding in the November election whether to approve annexation by Burien.

During the interview, when Giba asked Duff what he would like to see happen with the district, he acknowledged this is a “transition” time, and that if the annexation proposal should be rejected, it would mean “hard changes,” but whatever happened, he wanted to be part of it, “to ensure that services are provided here, no matter which way it goes.”

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North Highline Fire District board meeting, report #1: On the Central Washington firelines

August 16th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Fire District board meeting, report #1: On the Central Washington firelines

First, and shortest, of three reports from tonight’s North Highline Board of Fire Commissioners meeting, led by newly appointed (more in report #2) commissioner Dave Duff, a former board chair who was elected tonight to serve in that role again:

Chief Mike Marrs told board members Duff, Ray Austin, and Liz Giba that both districts he leads are participating in the state’s mobilization to the Taylor Bridge Fire in Central Washington – with one firefighter from NH, two from Burien. They are expected to be there at least a few more days, he said. There may be future needs, the chief said, with the possibility that more “type 1 structural engines” would be requested.

(Here is the latest on the fire from our partners at The Seattle Times.)

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North Highline Fire District Commissioner Wayne Alishokis resigns

May 22nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news 2 Comments »

This was announced at last night’s board meeting, and confirmed today in a news release we just received from the North Highline Fire District:

Wayne Alishokis, retired North Highline firefighter and current commissioner, resigned his position at last evening’s regular board meeting. Mr. Alishokis served as commissioner since 2006 and as board chair for the past three years. He stated in a letter to the board, “I believe the board has dealt with most all issues in preparing for the potential annexation by the City of Burien so this is a good time for me to move on.”

Because of this resignation, North Highline Fire District is now accepting letters of intent for Mr. Alishokis’ vacant fire commissioner position in accordance with RCW 52.14.050. Interested persons must reside within and be a registered voter of the Fire District. The interim position will begin immediately after appointment and end upon certification of the November 2013 election.

Letters of intent will be accepted through Friday, June 15, 2012 and may be mailed to North Highline Fire District, 1243 SW 112th St., Seattle, WA 98146.

The other two commissioners currently serving are Ray Austin and Liz Giba.

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North Highline Fire District board meeting tonight

January 24th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Fire District board meeting tonight

Continued from its regular third-Monday time slot, the North Highline Fire District Board of Commissioners meets tonight, 7 pm, NHFD headquarters. Read on for agenda details: Read the rest of this entry »

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North Highline Fire District board talks about 2 annexations, and more

December 22nd, 2011 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Fire District board talks about 2 annexations, and more

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The week before Christmas is usually low on public meetings, but the North Highline Fire District Board of Commissioners had some hot topics to discuss tonight, in a meeting that lasted just under an hour:

BURIEN ANNEXATION: The board voted to authorize a letter supporting the “Area Y” annexation that Burien is pursuing. The main impacts, if annexation is approved, the board was told, involves the areas that it covers now but are not included in the annexation, such as the “sliver by the river.” So as a result, they would ask for agreements ensuring that those areas would still have fire protection after the annexation, regardless of their governance status. The letter of support “has to be filed tomorrow,” they were told. Commissioner Liz Giba, elected to the board last month, said she’d like to see it more focused on support for the annexation than on concerns – and offered a cover letter she drafted, “which talks about why this is a good thing,” before it’s sent to the Boundary Review Board, which considers the annexation proposal on January 9th. The letter was the result of a decision to write a letter showing support, while also noting concerns. Discussion between Giba and Commissioner Ray Austin focused on whether it was OK as written by the board’s lawyer – six pages. “I just want it to be clear that this is a letter of support,” Giba said. In the vote, most of her “cover letter” was approved for incorporating into the documentation they would turn in. They also decided that Giba will speak briefly on the commission’s behalf at the January 9th hearing.

SEATTLE ANNEXATION: Commissioner Wayne Alishokis says he met with reps from the Seattle Mayor and Council to talk about the “sliver on the river” annexation. He says they told him the council is fully in favor of it while the mayor is neutral, so they are hoping to move it ahead next year, and to have that annexation completed by January 2013 via the “interlocal agreement” process that wouldn’t require going before the Boundary Review Board. The only complication – not expected to cause a problem, though – is the maintenance agreement involving the now-under-construction South Park Bridge. (He also made it clear he met with them as “an individual,” not as an official representative of the NHFD board.) “Sounds like tremendous progress,” remarked Commissioner Giba.

CONTRACT RATIFIED: The board voted to ratify a new contract with IAFF Local 1810.

CHIEF’S REPORT: 2 firefighters are off on injury, Chief Marrs commented. He also talked about participating in recent multiple-department training/testing exercises, one at the Burien Park & Ride simulating a multiple-casualty incident (shooting), as well as a recent haz-mat training exercise (simulating a tanker truck hitting a jersey barrier and splitting open). He briefed the board on an ongoing situation over sprinkler/fire-lane access concerns at Seola Gardens, which he says is trying to “get some variances or do something different,” with a County Appeals Board meeting being the latest development. The disagreement with the King County Housing Authority apparently includes their contention that someone was allegedly given a verbal agreement in the past saying the development didn’t need sprinklers, with which NHFD disagrees.

PUBLIC COMMENT: In this period at the start of the meeting, Pat Price asked if there were any updates from the committee to spend the inheritance. Chief Marrs says it’s “on (his) list of things to do” after the first of the year and they’ll figure out where things stand. Gill Loring expressed appreciation for the meeting being held at night – previously many meetings were on weekday mornings – and wished everyone “Happy Holidays.”

BOARD COMMENT: Giba thanked everyone in attendance and expressed hopes they will come to more meetings, with the scheduling change.

SPEAKING OF SCHEDULING: The board decided to meet on the third Monday of the month – most months – but has to choose an alternate date for next month’s meeting, since that will be a holiday (King Day).

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Annexation, library, remembering Deputy Cox …

December 1st, 2011 Tracy Posted in Businesses, North Highline Fire District, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Annexation, library, remembering Deputy Cox …

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s meeting began with a moment of silence in memory of King County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Cox, murdered five years ago. Here’s what else happened:

ANNEXATION AND OTHER BURIEN UPDATES: City Manager Mike Martin took to the podium, as he does during most NHUAC meetings. “Nothing going on, as usual,” he joked. Annexation update: He noted that the governor’s budget now “gradually phases out” the sales-tax credit but would eliminate it for future annexations. “I’ve had conversations with the executive’s office as recently as last night,” he said, and mentioned that he went to Olympia “where I was mistaken for a member of the 99 percent,” he joked. He said he had talked to “a couple members of the House Ways and Means Committee” while there, explaining that it’s vital to keep the sales-tax credit. But even if they do, “that’s not enough,” he said, because of “the cloud of fear of having this taken away every year” — he said that’s the point he’s stressing to legislators. He says even though there is often the warning that “you can’t bind future legislators,” there are “ways of skinning that cat.” Bottom line, he says, “We’re working this very actively … Don’t despair; this is a long fight … we’ll hang in there and do what we can.” He doesn’t expect to know the outcome until next year, since “it’s all wrapped up in the whole budget proposal.” Burien isn’t the only city “in the same boat,” he acknowledged, when asked by NHUAC member Rebecca Lopes.

Also regarding annexation, Martin mentioned the Boundary Review Board hearing coming up January 9th. (You can see the board’s file on the Burien annexation proposal here.) Then that board will make its decision some weeks later. Asked by NHUAC member Ron Johnson if the board meeting is public, he affirmed that it is. (As it was back when the Boundary Review Board met to consider the previous Burien/North Highline annexation.) This time around, one big difference – the public hearing will be in this community, rather than elsewhere like last time.

Martin also mentioned that “despite all this budget drama all around us,” the City Council passed its budget in just two sessions. (You can find the budget documents on the Burien website, here.) And he says it’s the first time in his career that property-tax revenues are dropping because assessed valuations have dropped (which also means property-tax bills have dropped for residents). Cuts from the governor’s budget could mean as much as $400,000 in revenue lost for Burien, he said, but nonetheless, they have adopted a budget with no layoffs, among other things. He also congratulated NHUAC for its presence at the King County Library Board meeting (WCN coverage here) and getting the board to delay its vote. However, he said he wasn’t quite sure what the board was thinking in tying its action to whatever the Boundary Review Board is doing – since he’s sure that the board will approve the annexation. He says he still is hoping to sit down with the Library System “to fashion a solution that is acceptable to you and this community … we want to talk about it (with them).” He says it’s also important to not dig in, to have an intelligent discussion about solutions; without using the word “compromise,” he was clearly suggesting that may be needed. He mentioned the Lake Burien situation as an example. “It’s always helpful to take a wider view of these things.”

Burien Councilmember Rose Clark noted that in conversation after the Library Board action earlier this week, they also seemed to be waiting to see what would happen with the sales-tax credit as well as with the Boundary Review Board.

Rachael Levine of the White Center Library Guild said at that point that she agrees with Martin regarding finding an acceptable solution, but that she also appreciates all the support they’ve received (including the Burien Council letter read by Councilmember Clark during the meeting). She said she wished she could have gotten everyone to do a “mike check” as is done at Occupy demonstrations and chant “Save Our Library,” adding “I think the library problem has brought a lot of us together … strengthened us as a community, and helped us focus on what’s important.” People from other library districts, she said, advised her, “You’ll have to hang in there, as (the board’s) strategy is to wait you out.” She expressed optimism that a solution will be found. Martin then said, “The way this community has rallied around the libraries” was reminiscent of stories he had heard about Burien back in the third-runway-fight days: “We can organize, we can get together, we do have a voice, we are not helpless.” Giba said she was proud that the city of Burien had turned out to support them, as did County Councilmember Joe McDermott and a representative from County Executive Dow Constantine‘s office. “It felt good to have representation.”

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: New storefront deputy B.J. Myers took the podium; he’s collected crime stats in a new format. Since other reps from the Center of Attention operation weren’t present, he summarized that “I haven’t heard much over the past month – a lot of what they’re doing has moved to the prosecution side.” He says Papa’s Pub is still appealing its liquor-license suspension, which apparently is now not scheduled to happen before next year. Also, he said, “we had several incidents at the GAME (medical-marijuana lounge)” this month, referring the DEA raids that happened in November. He says it appears that GAME has moved out of its White Center location, saying he has not seen the “open” sign nor has he seen “much left inside.” On the 17th, he says, deputies on foot patrol caught the Sorensen Marine business being broken into, “nice bit of work done by people just walking around our business district.” And he mentioned semitrucks parked on 4th SW long-term just south of Roxbury, some with refrigerated trailers “making noise all night long,” and says the deputies have been “out aggressively ticketing those” and hopes that will help take care of that problem. Back on the marijuana issue, councilmembers asked about the marijuana “farmers’ market” storefront on 16th SW supposedly having a “big (holiday) event” – he wasn’t aware. … Later in the meeting, Major Jim Graddon from KCSO talked about the commemoration tomorrow of Deputy Cox’s death. The major acknowledged that things are quiet.

DES MOINES MEMORIAL DRIVE: Burien Councilmember Rose Clark took to the podium to talk with the council about the road from 156th (Sunnydale Elementary) to 188th – regarding the Lake-to-Sound Trail that was planned for one side of it, and keeping improvements consonant with its historical status (which means even tree plantings, for example, need to be American Elms). “We are working very positively on the trail,” which is levy-funded, Lights are planned, and funding is still in the process of being obtained, like commemorative bollards, perhaps poppy plantings reminiscent of World War I, so they are forming a 501(c)(3) to help with that process. When they’re ready to raise money for the historical elements, Clark said, she is hopeful that people will join in and support the effort. Other areas of the drive, she added, are targeted for historical kiosks. Work on this section, she said, is expected to start in 2013.

KING COUNTY COMPREHENSIVE PLAN: Karen Wolf from King County said they’re currently in the once-every-four-years process of considering “major amendments” to this plan. She said they have come up with a “public review draft” of the plan – it’s a “pretty thick document” but it’s available in libraries and it’s online, “which is how most people apparently look at it these days.” She says North Highline is not proposed for any zoning changes or other kinds of changes in the plan overhaul that’s on the table right now (she did mention the new “tiered” system under which King County roads are being managed). “What if somebody wanted to come along with a major development?” asked NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin. Wolf explained that if a development required a zoning change that would change the comprehensive plan, it would have to wait till this type of process every four years, but they haven’t had any requests for anything along those lines so far. She also explained that unlike some jurisdictions (Seattle, for example), the county doesn’t have “single-family” and “multi-family” zoning; instead, its plan focuses on density. With that sort of classification, she explained, a piece of land that might allow three units could either have them evenly spaced, or all clustered together on one side (or something inbetween). Dobkin explained that she was inquiring about a 30-unit development that was categorized as three separate projects but was really one, in her view. Gill Loring asked how land zoned for “office” could be changed into residential, and Wolf said the code did have a way to accommodate that – if it were developed mixed-use, with office and residential in a single development. Wolf says the rules don’t count offices so much as square footage, in saying what percentage of the buliding could be used for office or residential.

LIBRARY CONSOLIDATION: Early in the meeting, community member Gill Loring described the King County Library Board meeting earlier this week as “fascinating.” He also noted that some NHUAC members had left early last time. Later in the meeting, Karen Freeman from the County Executive’s staff said that they are hoping to talk more with the Library Board in the coming weeks. Giba asked about the process for being appointed to the Library Board; Freeman said that nominations/potential candidates’ names often come from staff, but in this case, there is an online application form for anybody interested. And she mentioned the discussion sparked by the last meeting about possibly making it an elected board instead of an appointed board. (There’s more information about the library board here.) The question of a board vacancy has some urgency now because Judge Richard Eadie, who is the current board president, is expected to leave at the end of his term. Freeman said she didn’t know that anyone had expressed interest in joining the board. (According to the county website, board members serve five-year terms.) There was a general murmuring around the room that board terms “are too long.” Clark noted that Burien’s advisory boards have four-year terms. Freeman said she would get more information about the timeline for making an appointment. … Later in the meeting, Dobkin said another library petition will be started during this Saturday’s White Center Summit (see below).

TRANSITIONING: NHUAC is transitioning out of being a county-funded group, so had some financial logistics to discuss tonight. They have liability insurance for next year, it was reported. …Later in the meeting, there was discussion of how to handle council elections in the future, whether district positions or at-large positions would be best. Johnson also suggested, “I think we should make more of an outreach to the Boulevard Park area,” because it didn’t seem to be as well-represented as it used to be; even though some of it has been annexed to Burien, it still comprises 25 percent of the unincorporated area, it was noted.

DEALING WITH HOMELESSNESS: The new coalition of business and nonprofits was brought up briefly; so was the matter of younger homeless people being seen in the downtown WC area. Major Graddon says he has seen that in other areas of the country as well but is not sure why.

COMMITTEE REPORTS: Regarding Parks, Christine Waldman said the tennis courts at Steve Cox Memorial Park are open now. Also mentioned, the Seola Gardens area has a prospective development offer from Quadrant Homes, to build 60 for-sale homes in stages, said Pat Price – maybe 10 or 12 a year. There was also some discussion of the status of the existing for-sale homes in the area. Dobkin said some property behind those sites had been acquired to keep it from falling into blight that might affect the sales of those homes. Greenbridge, though, is waiting for a developer, according to Price. There was also some discussion of the apparent tax-exempt status of the existing Seola Gardens homes; Dobkin said she checked the King County Parcel Viewer and that shows the homes are tax-exempt even though they have been sold – she says they were told the homes “would be taxed at normal rates” once they had buyers. … When the Transportation Committee’s update came up, Elizabeth Gordon from Uncle Mike’s Superlicious BBQ talked about trouble on the downtown 16th stretch, involving the light sequencing backing up traffic, so people are avoiding 16th and using 15th instead. “And as a business on 16th, that’s bad,” said Gordon. Dobkin also wondered about the relatively new raised divider in the middle of the street; Johnson said they might bring someone out from the county to talk about that at a future meeting.He also mentioned that cables are being laid for sequencing changes in the lights, involving some cameras that will help with that, which could lead to an “improvement in traffic flow … within the next month or two.” Also on the transportation front, the NHUAC letter to Metro asking for a review of the zone boundary has drawn a response – saying that the change could result in higher fares for many people. (Here’s the response letter, as posted to the NHUAC website.) Dobkin mentioned a traffic problem that could affect some area drivers – the closure, as of this week, of the Airport Way bridge in Georgetown. “It’s pretty horrible what they’ve done on this side of town,” regarding so much construction at the same time, she noted. … Dobkin says they’re still working on the planting beds (might not be able to get plants into them till after winter), including trying to find a way to keep people from driving over them, which she said has already happened once.

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS: First, from the council: The White Center Library Guild‘s Holiday Bazaar is this Saturday, Pat Price reminded everybody, 11 am-3 pm: “It’s a small little bazaar, but please try to support it.” At 2 pm, a magician will perform in the meeting room at the Library, for the kids who are in attendance … This Saturday also is the White Center Summit at WC Heights Elementary School, 10 am-3 pm … She also reminded everyone of the December 8th meeting of the White Center-South Delridge Community Safety Coalition meeting at 6 pm … Then from the audience: Gill Loring reminded everyone of the next North Highline Fire Commissioners’ meeting next Tuesday (including newly elected commissioner Liz Giba), 10 am at NH Fire District HQ (which is where NHUAC meets) … Aileen Sison also wanted to remind everyone of the business groups presenting the White Center Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration on Sunday, December 11th, 5 pm at 16th and Roxbury (as reported earlier today on WCN) … There will be an Ugly Sweater party Saturday at Company, and White Center Heights Elementary students are making art for ornaments on the tree, she said, also during the sweater party/contest … She also told everyone about the “door-decorating contest” that is under way in White Center, using a polling feature on Facebook – you’ll be able to vote as the door photos go up. The deadline is December 23rd, she said.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council to discuss its future next Thursday

September 30th, 2011 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council to discuss its future next Thursday

The agenda is up for next Thursday’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, including a discussion of the council’s own future – since the county has cut funding for UACs, it’s up to them to decide how they want to go forward. Here’s the full agenda for the meeting; it’s at 7 pm Thursday (October 6th) at the North Highline Fire District station on SW 112th.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: KCSO updates, Fire District changes, transportation news galore – and, what do you think about NHUAC’s future?

September 1st, 2011 Tracy Posted in North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Tonight’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council was packed with enough information for a year’s worth of meetings, from updates on some of White Center’s recent major news – like the plan to bring back the WC storefront deputy – to briefings on major transportation issues from the Alaskan Way Viaduct construction work to a new plan for handling road maintenance if a “tiered system” emerges from the next county budget plan. Here are the key points, noted as they happened, though not necessarily in this exact order:

KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE REPORT: Capt. Joseph Hodgson delivered this month’s update. He apologized for not bringing crime statistics, saying the analyst has been temporarily reassigned. “I don’t know if there’s anybody in the room that’s not aware of the really big news, but thanks to some great work from the community … we’re getting our storefront deputy back; it’s going to be tremendous. I’m really enthusiastic about the possibilities.” He said it’s generating a lot of interest from deputies and they’re certain they’ll find someone “immensely qualified” for the position. He says they are still looking for two other suspects in the Sweetheart Failautusi murder.

Asked about the Club Reventon/ex-Club Evo situation, Capt. Hodgson says he’s been in touch with Liquor Control Board officials, and mentioned the “secondary club” application (East Marginal Way, as previously reported here). “It surprises me a little bit he would open two clubs under the same name so close together,” Capt. Hodgson observed. “I don’t know what that means to the effort that was occurring here … but it seems as though it is a separate application for a separate location.” Noting its industrial location, he observed it wouldn’t likely have the same kind of impact that the prospective club would have in White Center. He says KCSO has shared some information with the city of Seattle, in whose boundaries the other potential Club Reventon lies.

Major Jim Graddon, also in the room, shared more information about speaking with the city, saying “we’ve offered our assistance, the same information we prepared for DDES in King County. … We’ve already made the offer to share whatever information (Seattle) may want from us.” NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin asked for more elaboration on one line in the letter denying Reventon’s business-license application, mentioning a 64 percent reduction in crime. Capt. Hodgson said he looked at two areas, including one immediately around the club. “In looking at that data, whether you compare periods immediately before and after the club’s closure, or different years … there was approximately a 64 percent reduction in police activity when the club was closed.” That didn’t only involve crime, he clarified, but other requests for law-enforcement assistance. “I was really surprised .. but the numbers kind of speak for themselves.”

NHUAC councilmember Patrick Mosley asked about Deputy Jeff Hancock possibly returning to the storefront deputy position; Capt. Hodgson said he hadn’t talked with him, but he did know that Deputy Hancock had been pleased in working “closer to home”. Major Graddon said he gets to make the final call, as precinct commander, and “certainly understand(s) the desires of the community to have someone who knows what’s going on.” Mosley said he’s concerned about somebody “starting” (from scratch) regarding a rapport from the area; Maj. Graddon said lots of officers already do have that, from working in this area. Capt. Hodgson added, “I see a lot of value in a new perspective. … We’ll see how it plays out.” NHUAC councilmember Rebecca Lopes wondered about the deputy who lives in White Center and has been working in Greenbridge, whether he had applied, and Capt. Hodgson reiterated that they haven’t even opened the application process yet; Maj. Graddon added that they expect to keep that deputy in that position for a while, as part of the contractual responsibilities with the King County Housing Authority. Capt. Hodgson and Maj. Graddon both said they hope to get the new WC storefront deputy in place by October 1st and will open the application process within days. The major said the community-service officer (Peter Truong, currently) should be staying in his role in downtown WC as well. Dobkin asked about specific hours and duties for the deputy; Capt. Hodgson said that’s “still up for discussion” right now, depending on “what’s going to work best for the community.” The Boulevard Park-area deputy works four 10’s, Tuesday-Friday, he noted, and “we would look at that as a possibility,” as well as whether a five-day, 8-hour-a-day schedule would work. (Later in the meeting, NHUAC members talked about the deputy restoration, and their appreciation for the business community and other residents for signing the petition that the council had been circulating since July to get the deputy back. Those petitions will still be submitted, for the records – “they were hard-earned signatures,” NHUAC president Dobkin noted.)

Capt. Hodgson mentioned the call at 16th/Roxbury last night first went out as a shooting, “but it was not .. it was essentially a bar fight.” They located “possible suspects” but the individual “did not want to participate in charges,” and everybody was “cut loose” .. the prosecutor could pursue charges, he said, adding, in response to a question from community member Gill Loring, that it did not appear to be gang-related. A community member then asked if there’s an overall increase in gang activity; Capt. Hodgson said, “It does seem as though there may be,” but has no numbers to quantify that. “It’s certainly rising to a higher level of public awareness.”

NORTH HIGHLINE FIRE DISTRICT CLOSE TO A CONTRACT WITH BURIEN/NORMANDY PARK (FIRE DISTRICT 2): Chief Steve Marstrom briefed NHUAC on the state of the district, after apologizing for not having been as visible as previous chiefs. “My charge has been to stabilize the organization and help set a course for the future of the organization, and that’s where my focus has been.” He said he felt he had inherited last year “a ship full of holes,” and people trying desperately to plug those holes while there was “nobody holding onto the rudder and steering the ship.” He said the problems had included the previous chief’s departure, the annexation by Burien, a failed attempt to get an administrative contract with another district – “the organization needed desperately for somebody to grab hold of the helm and right the ship.” He felt that has now happened, to some degree. And that’s led to a big decision ahead on one big issue: The Burien-Normandy Park contract is up for renewal at the end of this year, but they had told NHFD last year they didn’t intend to renew it as it stood, so an evaluation of options regarding what’s next for the fire district has been under way. One: “Become a completely independent fire district,” he said, operating out of one fire station, “becoming increasingly dependent on volunteers” and with service levels resembling those of 25 years ago. That was a “not very positive option,” he said. Another option: Contract with the City of Seattle. Or, change the terms for the contract with District 2. Or – get annexed. NHFD can’t control the latter, of course, he said, so they had to look at “what we could have some control over – and that was, contracting was the next best option, we felt.”

They talked with Seattle, considered briefly “until they told us how much they wanted us to pay them, and it was so far out of reach,” it was infeasible. Regarding renegotiating with District 2, he said that’s pretty much the only option, and they are “coming close to … negotiating an improved agreement from the current contract. This new approach combines the administration of both districts into one.” The District 2 fire chief would become the NH fire chief. It would be a four-station department, with a chief responsible to the citizens of both districts, and NH sharing in the cost of administration and support. Two NH battalion chiefs “would transfer employment to district 2,” as would one member of the clerical staff. He says that agreement “is expected to save the NHFD more than $200,000 a year over what we expect to spend in 2011. That’s pretty significant in my view.” Overall, he believes, “everybody comes out a winner.” He says “the timing is good” because the county assessor had recently said the assessed value in the district is dropping almost 10 percent, which would mean a drop in revenue for the district as it stands now – about $250,000 worth, in fact. He says the negotiations with District 2 have been under way for several months, and both districts’ boards will take their first look at the draft contract next Tuesday. It then would be an action item on the September 20th agenda, and the contract could take effect October 1st. No formal public hearing is scheduled but “interested citizens are welcome to attend either or both meeting.” The meetings will both be at North Highline FD HQ, 10 am for next Tuesday’s meeting, 6 pm for the Sept. 20th meeting.

NHUAC councilmember Ron Johnson asked Chief Marstrom, “So (if this all takes effect) you would get to retire again?” He said, after a brief transition period, yes – possibly as short as a week. North Highline FD would still have its own Board of Commissioners, and would be an autonomous district, Marstrom stressed.

ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT UPDATE: Matt Preedy, a West Seattle resident who is running the Alaskan Way Viaduct South End Replacement Project, briefed NHUAC and the standing-room-only audience on where things stand. In particular, Preedy wanted to make sure everybody knows about the upcoming 9-day Viaduct closure (October 21-31) as well as the Central Waterfront tunnel project. He went over the details of the south-end viaduct replacement, and also pointed out where the tunnel work will start at the south end. (You can check this all out through a series of graphics on the Alaskan Way Viaduct website.) If you haven’t already heard all about the 9-day closure – after which, the Viaduct’s speed limit will be decreased, 40 mph overall except for a 25 mph “advisory speed” through a detour replacing the section near the stadiums – we rolled video on the briefing and will add it once it’s uploaded. He also mentioned the answer to a frequently asked question – since the tunnel doesn’t have a mid-downtown exit, how will people from West Seattle get downtown? – it’s the King Street-vicinity exit, before the tunnel. Construction for the tunnel has officially started as of about nine days ago – no dirt turned yet, “about a month out,” said Preedy, but “we’re not that far away from a groundbreaking ceremony.”

SPOKANE STREET VIADUCT UPDATE: Paul Elliott from SDOT followed Preedy by discussing this project, involving the section of the West Seattle Bridge known as the Spokane Street Viaduct – between Highway 99 and I-5. He mentioned that the new lanes will be 11 feet wide, with a 7-foot shoulder, compared to the current 10-foot-wide, no shoulder lanes. Elliott also mentioned the relatively new 4th Avenue South ramp that has plenty of capacity for folks to use. (We can vouch for that, having used it almost daily for the past month, heading to the County Courthouse for a trial on behalf of our partner site West Seattle Blog.) Elliott reiterated that the 1st Avenue South on- and off-ramp on the westbound half of the Spokane Street Viaduct should be done by the end of the year, and the entire project by sometime next spring. But even once construction is done, he said, the old structure needs some work. The timing/sequencing of those hasn’t yet been worked out, he said, but for the duration of any closures, at least one eastbound offramp (either 1st or 4th) will remain open. In response to a question later, Preedy said that the new tunnel will not have any cargo restrictions beyond the ones that already exist for the Battery Street Tunnel. NHUAC councilmember Rebecca Lopes asked if there’s a tolling amount yet for the tunnel; Preedy mentioned that a Tolling Advisory Committee is being assembled, and will start work later this year to “study the correct method/rates for tolling” – enough to raise the funding that the project is relying on, but not so much as to discourage tunnel usage. Whether it will be a temporary or permanent toll, Preedy said, has not yet been determined.

AIRPORT WAY BRIDGE CLOSURE: Elliott was asked about this (officially the Argo Bridge Closure); it looks like it’ll start within a few months, and the bridge will be closed for at least a year. Simultaneous with the Viaduct closure timing? it was asked. Preedy said that regional transportation authorities are looking that to see if that should be delayed, if it doesn’t look like there is enough “capacity” to replace what’s being lost on 99 during the 9-day closure, though he stressed that there are reasons it’s not a good idea to delay the Airport Way work further.

KING COUNTY DOT: The next transportation person to go on the agenda was DeAnna Martin, a planner from Metro. She invited questions about Metro. NHUAC president Dobkin asked about bus service and the 99 closure. She stressed the importance of bus riders signing up for e-mail alerts. She noted that while some buses are getting additional service (as we reported on West Seattle Blog earlier this week), the West Seattle Water Taxi will remain at its current service levels (King County Councilmember Joe McDermott’s staff, though, tells us they will be working on accessibility issues – perhaps surrounding parking for the water taxi, which is challenging at its Seacrest Pier terminal in West Seattle). She also spoke about the “right-sizing” of bus service – possibly replacing fullsize buses in some areas with DART service, for example. She didn’t think that was going to have much effect on this area of the county, though. She noted that Metro will be out in the White Center area (we know this is also the case for West Seattle) starting in October to talk about future potential route changes as the West Seattle RapidRide Line kicks in one year from now. There was also discussion of the Congestion Relief Charge – $20 added to car tabs – approved by the County Council recently. CM McDermott rose from the audience to speak to an attendee’s question, saying they’ve always been clear that while the service hours won’t be cut, it doesn’t mean status quo for service – there may be changes, but not cuts in hours. A side discussion erupted over whether the county might consider reviewing whether to change the zone line – right now, it’s the Seattle city limits, and everyone south of them pays for two zones to travel to and from downtown.

KING COUNTY ROADS: Strategic Planner Jay Osborne brought a presentation with which he says they’re making the rounds. He says unincorporated King County has a million daily trips on its roads – with only half of that by residents who are paying taxes for them. Osborne noted that they are affected by the mentioned-earlier drops in property assessments – his own home, he noted, is worth $60,000 less than its assessed value a year earlier, on the notice that he just received. Overall, he says, they’re now working with a “Strategic Plan for Road Services” (you can see it here), which sets out the division’s priorities. He says the cameras/signal regulation going in on 16th, by the way, are funded by a grant. He says White Center and Skyway are getting sidewalk projects because there is funding based on “social equity” – asked by NHUAC councilmember Liz Giba exactly where they are, Osborne admitted he didn’t have that information handy. The county has 1,552 miles of roads, and has had to project potential bottoming-out of revenues, which means they would have “tiered service levels.”

Theresa Canfield stepped in at that point to explain which North Highline road (out of about 54 miles of them) fits on which tier. Osborne then said that some roads may even have to revert, if they are determined to be Tier 5, to gravel. But principal roadways like 16th SW and the south side of SW Roxbury are Tier 1 and will always be kept in “good condition,” he said. Tier 2 roadways will get attention too (SW 107th is in this category). Tier 3 roadways might have to be allowed to deteriorate, he said. Other examples sown: 26th SW is Tier 3; 24th SW is Tier 4; 28th SW is Tier 5. There will be less ability for snow/ice removal in the future, he noted, as revenues decline. Interesting stat: From 1996 to 2006, there was 1 event that qualified for federal assistance regarding King County roads, said Osborne; since 2006, he said, there have been 12. (Wind, snow, ice, etc.) Osborne said they’re out talking about this now because it’ll be part of the budget process that is coming up this fall – and the tiered system theoretically would kick in next January. Regarding the current work on 16th, Osborne was asked about the sidewalk cleanup following the current work, and he said that since the paving has just been finished, the cleanup should follow. For the next 20 years, he said, there are about $1.3 billion dollars worth of needs – and funding projections falling about $1 billion short of that.

NHUAC’S FUTURE: President Dobkin wants to hear from the community how they would like to see the council continue – given that the county’s way of dealing with UAC’s, and funding, will change as of the end of the year. “We have a lot of things to think about,” she said, adding that, “since we’re a community council, we want to hear from the community.” Dobkin says she believes the council should continue, even without formal county support/financing. She asked other members to talk to the people they encounter, to find out what they think. (If you would like to chime in via e-mail, contact information is on the NHUAC website.)

GRAFFITI PROGRAM REMINDER: NHUAC councilmember Christine Waldman reminded all present about the NHUAC Graffiti Management Program, with resources for fighting it – there’s more information on the NHUAC website (scroll to the lower left), if you know of graffiti that needs to be taken care of.

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS: FALL RECYCLING EVENT on September 10th at Evergreen High School (info link is on the NHUAC website) … North Highline Fire District Commissioners meet at 10 am Tuesday, September 6th (and as noted above, they’ll have a big issue on their agenda).

PUBLIC COMMENT: None tonight.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets the first Thursday of each month, 7 pm, North Highline FD headquarters.

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