2002: The Year in Review

Published on Fri, Jan 3, 2003 by Meg Olson

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2002: The Year in Review

By Meg Olson

Another year flew by and a flock of changes with it. For our first issue of the new year we’re taking a look at the past 12 months and the events that stamped themselves on our pages and memories..

January
• Hordes of thick-skinned swimmers hit the water running at the annual Birch Bay Polar Bear Swim. They came out even faster.
• Washington state appealed a county decision that disallowed historic use of a boat launch facility in Birch Bay State Park.
• Installation of 37 surveillance cameras stretching from Blaine to 45 miles east began as border agencies jacked up security.
• Border staff transferred to the northern border to help with lengthy backups went home with no replacements in sight.
• Reg and Vivian Campin celebrated 65 years of marriage at Stafholt Good Samaritan Center.
• U.S. Representative Rick Larsen took the school bus from Point Roberts to Blaine to experience for himself the rigors of cross-border travel in post- September 11 days.
• Bruce Wolf and returning members Mike Myers, Bonnie Onyon and Marsha Hawkins were sworn in as Blaine city council members. Dieter Schugt was unanimously selected to continue on as mayor.
• A 72-year-old California man engaged in luring young girls to send him sexually explicit photographs was snagged thanks to the work of Debra Hertz, Blaine police specialist on sexual abuse.
• Gas tax dollars came back to Blaine in the form of a $315,000 grant to help with the reconstruction of Sixth Street.
February
• Eighteen restaurants made up the Bite of Blaine promotion, which drew a sell-out crowd of 250 happy eaters.
• Snohomish legislator Hans Dunshee introduced a bill to name state route 99 after William Stewart, a black Civil War veteran. He suggested the marker beside the Peace Arch dedicating the old highway to Confederate president Jefferson Davies be removed.
• Surveyors and technical teams hit the local borders trying to come up with ways to ensure the NEXUS border commuter program got installed before the summer rush.
• The INS announced plans to bring 55 new inspectors and nine support staff to local borders but said it was unlikely they would be here before six to ten months had elapsed.
• Plans to bring ARTrain and its Art in Space exhibition to Blaine during the summer were announced.
• Tyler Glahn captured third place in the 125-lb wrestling class at the 2002 State Championship.
• Jon Landis was named Blaine police officer of the year at a special city council presentation.
• State fish and wildlife officers make more arrests of Canadian crabbers fishing illegally in state waters.
March
• INS officials announced that the National Guard would be deployed at local borders to help officers process border crossers more efficiently.
• While the weather looked like spring with clear, sunny days, the temperature remained distinctly winter-like.
• Border officials announced the NEXUS commuter program would only cost participants $50 for five years.
• Whatcom County voters gave the thumbs up, albeit by a small margin, to an increase in the sales tax. Funds raised will go to support mass transit through the Whatcom Transportation Authority.
• Birch Bay State Park got its boat launch back after appealing to the county hearing examiner.
• A local flotilla of boat owners announced plans to offer boating safety checks as part of plans to create a local Coast Guard Auxiliary for Blaine.
• Senator Patty Murray made a lightning trip to the local border to talk about border security and the local economy.
April
• Birch Bay Water and Sewer District and the city of Blaine signed a 30-year contract that would govern sales of city water to Birch Bay.
• Blaine elementary principal Deb Cummings was selected as one of two Washington state finalists in the National Distinguished Principals race of 2002.
• U.S. Representative Rick Larsen was onhand as the Border Patrol flipped the switch on 32 surveillance cameras that line the streets and border from Blaine to the Cascades.
• Blaine city council slashed red tape and dropped development fees in what city manager Gary Tomsic promised to be a far-reaching reviews of city fees.
• Blaine airport celebrated its 55th anniversary amidst glowing plans to expand the runway and infrastructure.
• Port of Bellingham officials met city officials to discuss the renovation of the breakwater and public pier at the end of Marine Drive.
• The annual influx of artwork for the international sculpture exhibit began being installed in sites across the city.
May
• The first ever Oyster Fest, held to drum up support for Drayton Harbor cleanup efforts, became a slurpingly good affair.
• Birch Bay completed a comprehensive community plan after 18 months of work.
• Two juveniles were arrested as they tried to take two cars back to the airport hangar from which they had been stolen.
• A note threatening a shooting at the high school was found in a science class, which led to the student responsible being expelled.
• The annual Blessing of the Fleet and prayers for Blaine fishers lost at sea took place May 5.
• Actor Danny Glover appeared at the Peace Arch to commemorate Paul Robeson’s appearance there 50 years ago.
• At least half a dozen local teens landed in jail after
allegedly trying to bring 40 lbs of B.C. marijuana across the border.
• Governor Gary Locke got a whistle-stop tour of local border facilities as he made his way to Point Roberts for a town hall meeting.
• U.S. Representative Rick Larsen visited the site of Blaine’s current wastewater treatment plant to get a first-hand look at the stalled expansion project.
June
• Nexus enrollment got rolling with the first applications available on the Internet.
• United Helicopter began operations at Blaine airport.
• Thousands of scouts, veterans and onlookers gathered at the Peace Arch for the annual Hands Across the Border celebration.
• Blaine high school awarded diplomas to 106 graduates.
• Blaine staff set a deadline of next summer to get construction rolling on the city’s proposed boardwalk.
• Utilities, infrastructure and the economy dominated neighborhood forums organized by the city to hear community concerns.
•Port staff invited tenants to a preview of plans to replace the harbor breakwater and upgrade the fishing pier over the summer.
• Dallas based Orix Capital Markets acquired Peace Arch Outlet Mall from Marquis properties.
• A border runner led police on a chase through downtown Blaine, nearly running down an officer on a motorcycle, before busting back into Canada and being apprehended.
• State road crews got working on the wobbly stretch of I5 running through Blaine.
• Federal bigwigs celebrated the opening of the first NEXUS lane at Pacific Highway, which was soon followed by lanes at Peace Arch and Point Roberts.
July
• Chambers of commerce from both sides of the border met at the Peace Arch to toast their countries’ anniversaries.
• Blaine police chief Bill Elfo joined other Whatcom county law enforcement bosses asking congressman Rick Larsen for help getting federal dollars to pay some of the costs associated with border-related crimes.
• Border agencies worked out the bugs in the NEXUS enrollment system, buried under 30,000 applications only weeks after it opened.
• The WTA provided bus service for two days to link the ARTrain in Blaine and Discovery Days in Birch Bay.
• Blaine city council voted to put a special tax for street maintenance to the voters.
• The Blaine senior center broke flapjack records, dishing out 200 breakfasts on the Fourth of July.
• Foreclosure proceedings got underway for the Aerie at Semiahmoo and Doug Connelly’s properties at Lincoln Green and Blaine Business Park.
• The BP Cherry Point proposal for a cogeneration power plant drew fire from the audience at a Blaine open house.
• Trillium announced plans for a new development on Drayton Harbor Road and gave Drayton Harbor Maritime $137,000 as matching funds for a state grant to renovate the Plover’s original boathouse at Semiahmoo.
• Airport consultant David Ketchum outlined his scope of work for city council, evaluating the feasibility of future options for the airport, from the status quo to expansion or relocation.
• Blaine’s crime rate dropped but remained high for communities in the state.
• Eric Mikelsen, 34, turned himself in at Blaine police station following allegations he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year old boy. He was charged with rape in Superior Court.
August
• Birch Bay and Custer residents were alarmed by a rise in cougar sightings but state wildlife officials said the cats were not likely to be a threat to the community.
• A 33-year-old woman ran to a Blaine home for help, claiming she had just escaped from a man who had kidnapped her in Bellingham and raped her repeatedly. She later recanted her story, which she made up to cover a weekend of partying.
• The Lady Washington and some tall ship friends sailed into Drayton Harbor for Blaine’s growing maritime festival, which includes the Plover swim, George raft race and steamboat festival.
•Blaine high school principal Dan Newell, arrested in May for drunk driving, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of negligent driving.
• Two British Columbia men were charged with alien smuggling after they were caught leading 19 Koreans across Semihamoo Bay.
• Blaine’s Harbor Café celebrated 20 years dishing out acclaimed fish and chips on Blaine’s waterfront.
•Lummi tribal members blessed three totems poles at the Semiahmoo site now home to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Two of the poles will make the site their permanent home as part of a planned heritage center and memorial.
• Blaine Bay Refuse applied to the state for a 13 percent rate hike after a decade of unchanging garbage rates.
• The CBC radio show The Early Edition broadcast live from the Peace Arch.
• A local coast guard auxiliary unit was officially dedicated.
September
• The Birch Bay Steering Committee suffered another delay over a zoning sticky point.
•Plans for a regional wastewater system fizzled as hopes for federal funds evaporated.
•Construction got rolling on the new Blaine fire station.
• Blaine voters gave a slim approval to a new city street maintenance levy.
• The state parks commission voted to start charging parking fees for day use of all state parks.
• Blaine police issued trading cards featuring local officers.
• The community remembered the events of September 11, 2001 at a ceremony at the Peace Arch.
•State test scores were up across the Blaine school district.
•Blaine held its first fundraising auction for downtown beautification.
• The INS kicked off a review of the NEXUS system that led to expanded hours.
• A five-year-old boy was found with his mother after siblings reported him missing, kicking off a massive search.
October
•A lot on the west side of Peace Portal Drive owned by planning commissioner Brad O’Neill was added to the state’s list of contaminated sites needing cleanup, joining close to a dozen other sites in the city.
• Blaine band members and supporters started fundraising for a trip to Japan in February 2003.
• State Senator Georgia Gardner asked Blaine chamber members to support referendum 51, which asked voters to approve a gas tax increase to improve transportation infrastructure.
• The tanker Overseas New York arrived at BP Cherry Point with a 60-foot whale draped across the bulbous bow, apparently struck at sea.
• Blaine city council chose a curved design for the boardwalk planned for the west side of Peace Portal Drive.
• The Northwest Drug Task Force busted two local labs manufacturing methamphetamine.
• The Custer school celebrated 111 years of local education.
• The Giving Tree program kicked off with several dozen motorcycles roaring into town bearing gifts with Santa in the lead.
• City council endorsed the issuance of state tax-free bonds for an expansion of the Nature’s Path cereal plant.
• A proposed house appropriations bill earmarked $250,000 to help find a solution to Blaine’s sewer treatment woes.
• City council turned down an airport commission proposal to cut down the trees at Skallman Park.
• The state slapped a stop work order on Trillium logging operations at Birch Point pending an environmental review and evaluation of the potential for bluff destabilization.
November
• Blaine city council pulled together a combination of tax increases and staff cuts to balance the budget for this year and prevent a dive into the red in years to come.
• Habitat for Humanity announced plans to build two homes for Blaine families who couldn’t otherwise afford them next year.
• Annie Magner and her turkey patrol delivered Thanksgiving dinner to over 100 needy families.
• When a fish boat owner abandoned two of his boats on the Drayton Harbor mudflats the vessels and the oil and gas they carried ended up in regulatory limbo. The U.S. Coast Guard eventually took off hundreds of gallons of fuel and oil and dozens of batteries but the boats stayed where they were.
• Georgia Gardner lost her seat in the state senate to county sheriff Dale Brandland and voters said no to a state gas tax increase to pay for transportation infrastructure.
• A handful of new housing subdivisions in Birch Bay started moving through the regulatory approval process.
• In a travel advisory Canada warned its citizens born in Arab countries that travel to the United States could be risky.
• At the ribbon-cutting for the recently rebuilt Sixth Street Blaine state officials announced Blaine would get another grant to help rebuild Marine Drive.
• Police warned residents to watch their vehicles after a series of downtown car prowls.
• Blaine asked the railway if they could work out an arrangement to use the old railway station as a museum and visitor center. The answer was maybe, but only if the city moved the building and fenced off the property.
• School superintendent Gordon Dolman announced plans to retire at the end of the school year.
• The Drayton Harbor community oyster farm got the state requirements for the part of the harbor where oysters are growing to be open for shellfish harvest in two years: prove highly polluted water from Blaine Harbor doesn’t get there or prove fecal coliform pollution isn’t from human sources.
December
• President George W. Bush signed the Homeland Security Act into law, which will mean one agency monitoring the border rather than a dozen.
• The Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and the county parks started work towards a new park for Birch Bay.
• In a flurry of pot busts U.S. Customs intercepted 360 pounds of southbound marijuana in a week.
• The trees in Skallman Park got a reprieve after city council endorsed a parks board recommendation that the trees stay unless the Federal Aviation Administration specifically identifies them as a hazard. The also approved reaffirming the park’s status as a city recreational asset.
• Two months after his initial arrest North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services chief Mike Campbell was charged with rape of a child and child molestation in Superior Court. Campbell had been on paid administrative leave since his arrest and had continued with some duties. With his arraignment on charges he was placed on unpaid leave and his duties taken over by interim chief David Crossen.
• Fire District 13 took years of unused tax increases and chose to apply them all at once, translating to a 19 percent tax hike for Birch Bay and Custer property owners.
• County council appointed Bill Elfo as the replacement for county sheriff Dale Brandland, recently elected to the state senate.
• In his preliminary report to city council airport consultant David Ketchum concluded expanding airport facilities only made sense if economic opportunities around the airport were developed.
• As a response to budget and staff cuts Blaine police shortened office hours.
• Hostelling International closed the Birch Bay hostel after 20 years serving budget travelers to Blaine and Birch Bay..

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