2016 in review | Issaquah addresses water concerns, deals with growth and swoops in for senior center

A look back at the people and events that made news in Issaquah over the last year

The year in Issaquah was marked by many recurring themes. These included, clockwise from left, the city’s traffic problems, the Issaquah Valley Senior Center, a persistent package thief and the water contamination, of which the Eastside Fire and Rescue Property was determined to be the source. Traffic, senior center and EFR photos by Nicole Jennings/staff photo; package thief photo courtesy of Frieda Chan

Times article fuels water concerns

A Jan. 6 article in the New York Times Magazine entitled “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” mentioned Issaquah as one of four water districts across the nation with a concerningly high level of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The article made residents, in particular those in the Talus neighborhood, worried as to the safety of the drinking water. The city of Issaquah responded to the article on Jan. 14, assuring residents that Issaquah’s water meets all Environmental Protection Agency standards.

City cuts Issaquah Valley Seniors loose

The Issaquah City Council voted unanimously on Feb. 1 to end the city’s contract with IVS, cutting all funding to the organization. The decision came after nearly a year of controversy at the center, which began with then-Executive Director Courtney Jaren filing civil trespass orders against Regina Poirier and David Waggoner. In December 2015, the council had allowed funding to continue to go to IVS on probation. However, at the Feb. 1 meeting, council members said that recent changes to IVS bylaws showed that the organization was not willing to work with the city.

Well shut down while city awaits chemical analysis

The city temporarily shut off the city’s Gilman Well No. 4 during the first week of March to look at treating the well for perfluorochemicals in light of the PFC concern fueled by the New York Times Magazine article. Issaquah participates in voluntary testing of unregulated chemicals, and through this testing, PFOS had been found in Well No. 4 at a level of 0.6 parts per billion in 2013 and 0.472 parts per billion in 2015. Council members were surprised that the decision to deactivate the well was done without notifying the council beforehand. The following month, the city invested $1 million in a water treatment system to clean the water in Well No. 4.

Issaquah mayor hospitalized

Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized at Swedish Issaquah on April 10. Council President Stacy Goodman took Butler’s place as acting mayor during his absence. At the April 18 City Council meeting, council members held up signs reading “Get well soon, Fred!” Butler had a successful recovery and returned home the following week.

Man falls to death at Issaquah construction site

A construction worker died after suffering a tragic fall from scaffolding at the Atlas Apartment construction site on May 16. The man, who was identified as 46-year-old Philip J. Rumsey, left behind a wife and three children. Rumsey’s employer, Fairweather Masonry, set up a GoFundMe account to aid his family with funeral expenses.

Museum solves 30-year family history mystery

The Issaquah History Museum solved a 30-year genealogical mystery, providing a couple from Calgary, AB with information about a long, lost grandfather. For years, all Marianne Clark knew about her grandfather, Per Erickson, was that he sailed from Sweden to America in 1909, apparently abandoning his sweetheart and young daughter. Thanks to the information from the museum, the Clarks found out that Erickson had been a hardworking man who had settled in Issaquah, and that he had hoped to bring over his Swedish family. His sweetheart decided she did not want to go so far away from home, and remained in Sweden.

Council sends $50 million transportation bond to November ballot

The Issaquah City Council voted on July 18 to send a four-project, $50 million transportation bond to the ballots of Issaquah residents in November. The bond was to cover improvements to Newport Way Northwest, East Sunset Way and the Providence Point intersection. Although the council members lauded the bond as an answer to the city’s major traffic congestion issues, residents criticized the bond’s projects for not actually providing congestion relief. The bond did not receive the required 60 percent majority in November.

Brazen thievery in broad daylight

Cougar Mountain residents who were the victims of a package thief on Aug. 13 said that they believed the thief was following postal carriers, due to the rapidity with which packages were stolen from front doorsteps after being delivered. Bellevue police later said that they believe the Issaquah package thief is the same man who has been hitting Bellevue and Redmond doorsteps over the past year. During the holiday season, the Issaquah Police Department loaned out video doorbells in the hope of catching and deterring package thieves.

EFR a likely source of water contamination, firm says

The question of where the PFOS found in Issaquah water has been coming from was answered by Geosyntec, the Seattle-based firm hired by the city of Issaquah to study the water. Experts told the council that the contaminants were likely originating at the Eastside Fire and Rescue headquarters, located at 175 Newport Way NW. Soil samples taken at the headquarters on Sept. 8 showed the presence of PFOS. Geosyntec also noted that PFCs have been used in the past in the production of firefighting foams.

Moratorium hurts business, small developers tell council

At the Oct. 17 council meeting, the majority of 23 speakers at a public hearing to discuss the emergency city-wide moratorium enacted by the council on Sept. 6 begged the council for an exemption. The speakers said that they were small developers whose life savings and ability to put food on the table were threatened by the sudden moratorium.

The council had originally enacted the moratorium to put a stop to development that does not fit the standards of the 2012 Central Issaquah Plan. After hearing the pleas of the small developers, the council voted at the Nov. 7 meeting to amend the moratorium to exempt some small projects.

City of Issaquah to take over troubled senior center

After postponing the regular meeting in favor of a 45-minute executive session, the IVS board announced on Nov. 8 that the city of Issaquah would be taking over the senior center at the beginning of 2017. Most of the gathered seniors expressed happiness that the city would be managing the long-troubled center, but did express concern over the fate of senior center assets. The board members said that they did not wish to leave major senior center property, such as the van, pool table and baby grand piano, to become city property, and added that these items would be donated to other senior centers. Seniors were outraged to learn that items that had been donated to IVS would be given away without their consent.

Issaquah Valley Senior Center president, vice president served with temporary restraining orders

On Dec. 9, senior center member David Kappler served IVS Board President Craig Hansen and Vice President Carmen Llewellyn with temporary restraining orders. Kappler said that he took this action to ensure that the board members complied with state law before the dissolution of IVS; chiefly, he wanted the board to call a meeting of the general membership, as had been requested by 55 seniors, and to prepare a plan of distribution of assets with senior center member approval. A settlement was reached out of court on Dec. 22 that allowed the senior center van, pool table and piano to remain at the senior center. However, the board still maintained that members did not have voting rights and therefore no plan of distribution of assets was needed.

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