Year in Review: A look back at the year that was (July-December 2019)

Posted

(Continued from last week’s issue)

 

July

• A deal for part of Blaine’s Gateway parcel closed in early July. IK Truck Repair, owned by Ivan and Marina Kovtun, acquired about four acres on the south end of the city-owned Gateway parcel, in order to expand their business.

• On July 2, it was announced that Blaine-Birch Bay Park and Recreation District 2 received two state grants to allow the district to buy and conserve 11.5 acres of wildlife habitat at California Creek.

• Blaine’s Old Fashioned Fourth of July celebration featured a pancake breakfast, car show, arts and crafts street fair, live music and a parade. More people attended the festivities than ever before. Carroll Solomon, a Blaine Chamber of Commerce director, said 98 vendors signed up to sell goods, 200-plus people registered their car for the car show and there was a full house for the pancake breakfast.

• The Canadian government was ordered to fund the legal defense of Bob Boule, the owner of the Smuggler’s Inn Bed and Breakfast in Blaine who was alleged to have helped people enter Canada illegally. During a July 5 court appearance, Boule’s application to have his defense funded by the Canadian government was granted.

• The Blaine Harbor Music Festival, a week-long celebration of music, returned for its 17th year. From July 7 to 13, a hand-picked selection of faculty from across the country gathered in Blaine to educate the next generation of young musicians.

• The city of Blaine held a public hearing on July 8 seeking to declare the old city hall building as surplus property, so that it could be sold and redeveloped into a contributing part of the city’s downtown.

• The Birch Bay Water and Sewer District held a public hearing on its new water and sewer comprehensive plans. The public hearing took place on July 11.

• The Ragnar Northwest Passage relay race was held at Peace Arch State Park on July 12. In the annual race, relay teams run an approximately 200-mile route from Blaine to Langley, on Whidbey Island.

• The Bay Breeze Restaurant and Bar in Birch Bay reopened, seven months after it was badly damaged in a powerful storm. On July 12, the restaurant reopened with a soft opening and limited menu.

• Advocates of an Amtrak passenger rail stop in Blaine had a meeting, but organizers cautioned that much work remains to be done before it becomes a reality. A meeting hosted by rail advocacy group All Aboard Washington took place on July 13 at the Semiahmoo Resort.

• On July 15, the city of Blaine hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for phase one of its east Blaine infrastructure project. The full project will extend water, sewer and electrical infrastructure towards new housing developments in east Blaine.

• The Milwaukee man accused of killing Blaine High School alumna Shannon Mani and her unborn child in April 2018 pleaded guilty to two first-degree homicide counts. Quentin Neal, 28, was scheduled to stand trial in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on July 15. Instead of proceeding to trial, Neal decided to plead guilty to the two felony counts and took a plea deal.

• A public meeting was held to discuss the East Maple Ridge housing development planned for east Blaine. The meeting took place on July 17 at the Blaine Harbor Boating Center. It was hosted by Bellingham-based APC Engineers and Invictus Global Group.

• Three individuals came onto Blaine school district’s campus on July 18 and left behind evidence of a small fire, according to the Blaine Police Department. The fire didn’t cause lasting damage and police did not have any suspects.

• The Birch Bay Rollback Weekend and Sand Sculpture Competition took place on July 20 and 21. Rollback Weekend and the sand sculpture competition are annual Birch Bay events that were held separately in the past. In 2019, however, the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce decided to combine the two events into one. The celebration featured a car show, sand castle contest, BMX bike stunts, food vendors, live music, beer garden, craft fair, kids’ activities and more.

• A Chinese citizen considered “armed and dangerous” by international authorities tried to cross into Blaine from Canada on July 20, but was apprehended by border agents who chased him through a residential neighborhood.

• The Blaine school district board of directors narrowed its pool of superintendent applicants down to semifinalists at a public meeting on July 22 in the district office.

• The Blaine Chamber of Commerce launched a new website with an array of features. The new website went live on July 22 and replaced the old Blaine Chamber of Commerce website, which had not been updated in years.

• The Paddle to Lummi tribal canoe journey, also called “Sqweshenet Tse Schelangen/Honoring Our Way of Life,” took place from July 24 to 28. It honored the relationship that tribes up and down the west coast have with the land, water and each other.

• On July 26, the Blaine Police Department launched a new Facebook page in order to post notices, invite feedback and build connections with the Blaine community. The new initiative, led by new police chief Donnell Tanksley, was part of an effort to engage in what he called “21st century policing.”

• The Blaine school district board of directors voted on an update to a policy about public access to school facilities at a July 29 meeting. The district’s “Use of School Facilities” policy governs how the community and outside groups can use sports fields, playgrounds, gymnasiums, theatres and other school district property.

• A Vancouver, B.C. man, 62-year-old Michael Kong, pled guilty on July 29 to human smuggling offenses in B.C. provincial court, after being accused of running an elaborate scheme that may have helped hundreds of Chinese citizens illegally cross the border at Peace Arch State Park.

August

• North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) extinguished an overnight dumpster fire that came close to destroying a popular restaurant in downtown Blaine. At 2:36 a.m. on August 2, NWFR was dispatched to a reported fire in the alley and parking lot behind Peace Arch City Café.

• To celebrate the opening of their new office in Blaine, Nimbus Real Estate hosted a launch party on August 3 at the G Street Plaza. The event featured free hot dogs and popcorn and live music by the Mike Mulder Band. It also marked the opening of the new location of the Wildbird Treasure Nest boutique, part of the Wildbird Charity.

• The Drayton Harbor Days Maritime Festival took place on August 3 and 4. The event was held at the Blaine Harbor Boating Center. The celebration featured arts, crafts, food vendors, kids’ games, a scavenger hunt, a pirate parade, model boat displays, a pet contest, live music and more. Attendees had a chance to climb aboard the tall ship Lady Washington for tours and adventure sails, and there was also the Prestigious George Raft Race featuring homemade rafts.

• A series of free concerts took place in August at Peace Arch State Park featuring international music and dance groups. The free one-hour concerts took place each Sunday in August, beginning on August 4. The concerts were presented by the Washington State Parks Folk and Traditional Arts Program, with additional support from the city of Blaine’s tourism advisory committee.

• Blaine dentist Patrick Rooney departed on August 5 to board the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, in order to provide dental care to residents of countries affected by the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. After joining the mission in Panama, Rooney visited Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Saint Lucia, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Haiti.

• A primary election was held on August 6 for various local and county positions including Whatcom County executive, Whatcom County Council district 5, Blaine City Council, the Blaine school district and Fire Protection District 21. The top two finishers in each race proceeded to the November general election.

• The Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office hosted an opportunity to meet local law enforcement and first responders on August 6 at Birch Bay Beach Park. A local installment of the National Night Out initiative, the event included free hot dogs, face painting and other activities. The goal was to promote camaraderie between first responders and the community, as well as between neighbors.

• Healthy Youth Coalition North County (HYC) put on its first-ever PeerSide Gala on August 8. The fundraiser took place at the Birch Bay Village Clubhouse, and featured dinner and live music, as well as a live auction. The goal of the event was to raise funds for Teen Nite, ArtScape Teens and the Blue Beat Bike Program among other HYC initiatives.

• Blaine Community Theater performed The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) from August 9 to 18. Originally written in 1987, the script was adapted to modern times and cultural references were updated, said director Nick McDonald.

• At a public meeting on August 10, the Blaine school board interviewed each of the three superintendent candidates for an hour. There were originally four candidates but one candidate withdrew. The meeting was followed by an open discussion and a closed executive session.

• The Whatcom Transportation Authority provided free rides on all bus trips within Whatcom County from August 11 through 17.

• The Blaine school board voted unanimously on August 12 to hire Christopher Granger as the new school district superintendent.

• The president of Family Care Network (FCN) delivered a presentation to Blaine city council at its August 12 meeting, revealing further details of a proposal to build a new medical center in Blaine. FCN president Dr. Rodney Anderson said that his healthcare organization anticipated investing $2.5 to $3.5 million into the project, which would feature a new 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot medical office building on the Gateway parcel, formerly the site of the Blaine Municipal Airport.

• At the August 12 city council meeting, city manager Michael Jones presented a draft request for proposals (RFP) to city council for consideration. Through the RFP, the city planned to solicit proposals for either the revitalization of the old city hall building with new uses or a complete redevelopment of the site.

• Blaine city council voted unanimously to accept the cost of the demolition of a dilapidated downtown building, despite a last-minute protest by the building owner’s widow. During a public hearing at the August 12 meeting, Blaine city council accepted the public works department’s expenses of $283,178 and directed that a lien be placed on the property located at 665 Peace Portal Drive.

• A new sushi kitchen opened in Birch Bay’s Beachwood General Store, featuring a take-out menu of traditional and contemporary sushi rolls. The new eatery, SKAI Sushi, was opened around August 14 by Shinae Kim and her husband Doune Inthavong.

• On August 15, Whatcom Land Trust stewardship director Jennifer Mackey led public officials on a tour along the newly created trail near California Creek. The recently acquired property was mowed and weeds were removed to make way for the trail. The Whatcom Land Trust had plans to develop a kayak launch in addition to the trailhead.

• The city of Blaine received an offer for a five-acre commercial parcel that was owned by the city and located on the Gateway property. On August 16, Larry Leasure of the Boise, Idaho-based White-Leasure Development Company wrote to city manager Michael Jones enclosing an offer to purchase the land for $950,000.

• An event that draws thousands of Seahawks fans to the Pacific Northwest each year came to Birch Bay. Called Fan Fest Northwest, the event took place in Birch Bay on August 16, 17 and 18, joining Discover Birch Bay Days. Organizers of the event partnered with the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce and local businesses to offer a variety of fun activities for all ages.

• More than 120 people enjoyed free hot dogs, a potluck buffet, live music, a water balloon fight and a line dance demonstration at the Salishan Neighborhood Association’s 29th annual community picnic on August 18 at Salishan Park.

• Kids received free haircuts at a back to school fair that was hosted by the Blaine school district on August 21. The event also featured free vaccinations, $20 sports physicals and an array of community resources and services. This was the first back to school fair hosted by the school district, and organizers Julie-Anne Butschli and Jodi Greene planned to make it an annual event.

• The heavy equipment used to maintain city utilities and improve city streets was on display at the fourth annual Roadeo in Blaine on August 23. Kids had the opportunity to climb aboard a variety of equipment at the event, which took place behind the Blaine public library.

• The third annual Summer Fun in the Park event took place on August 24 at the Blaine Marine Park playground. Sponsored by Windermere Real Estate agents Jen Freeman and Leah Crews, the free event featured live music, food trucks, a beer and wine garden and an outdoor showing of The Sandlot.

• Home Farm UPick & Events hosted its first sunflower festival on August 24 and 25 in Birch Bay. The event had local vendors and several kid-friendly activities such as face-painting, pony rides and a petting zoo.

• The Blaine school board honored Ron Spanjer at its meeting on August 26. Parents, students and community members were invited to join the board at the beginning of the meeting to recognize Spanjer for his 13 years of service to the district as superintendent.

• A public hearing on August 26 focused on a new comprehensive water system plan prepared for the city of Blaine. CHS Engineers, LLC prepared a new plan that considered the city’s water needs for the next two decades and what system improvements should be made to ensure a safe and reliable supply of water for Blaine residents.

• Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon made a proclamation at the August 26 city council meeting calling attention to the importance of youth mental health.

• Landon Larson, 30, was booked into Whatcom County Jail for two counts of second-degree arson, after he allegedly tried to burn down the same unoccupied Birch Bay house twice. On the first attempt, he used Molotov cocktails – glass bottles filled with gasoline – and on the second attempt a few days later, he sprayed gasoline onto the same building and tried to light it on fire.

• Debbie Harger, the city of Blaine’s community development and tourism coordinator, retired after 20 years with the city. Harger was instrumental in organizing events and initiatives in Blaine that boosted tourism and contributed to a shared sense of community.

• An invasive crab species was detected in Drayton Harbor, worrying experts who were concerned about the potential impact to marine ecosystems in the region. In August, two citizen scientists found the shell of an invasive European green crab while walking along the beach in east Drayton Harbor, between Dakota Creek and California Creek.

September

• Volunteers with the Community Assistance Program and the Interfaith Coalition sponsored the annual winter clothing drive, which lasted from September 1 until September 30.

• On September 6, the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce hosted a groundbreaking ceremony – or rather, a sand pouring ceremony, since no ground was broken – to celebrate the beginning of construction on the Birch Bay berm project.

• The Yakima County Department of Corrections notified the city of Blaine that it would be terminating an inmate housing agreement at the end of the 2019 calendar year.

• The city of Blaine and Family Care Network (FCN) reached an agreement for the purchase of about 2.5 acres of property owned by the city and located on the Gateway property, formerly the site of the Blaine Municipal Airport. FCN intends to build a new medical center on the property, including an outpatient family medicine clinic, a medical laboratory and an urgent care center.

The 18th annual 9/11 memorial service at Peace Arch State Park took place on September 11. The public was invited to attend the event, which featured short speeches by dignitaries and officials from Washington and B.C. Four first responders from New York City were the honored guests.

• The city of Blaine and the White-Leasure Development Company reached an agreement for the purchase of about five acres of the Gateway property, formerly the site of the Blaine Municipal Airport. At a special city council meeting on September 12, Blaine city manager Michael Jones presented a draft purchase and sale agreement to councilmembers, who voted to authorize Jones to enter into the agreement.

• The inaugural Picklers Palooza Pickleball Festival took place on September 14 at the Birch Bay Activity Center. The festival featured hamburgers, hot dogs, a beer garden and plenty of pickleball on three outdoor courts and two indoor courts.

The Northern Light reported that Steven Tojek, a candidate for Blaine City Council, was charged with obstructing Blaine police officers during a late-night traffic stop in 2017, after the officers impounded his vehicle, which was being driven 111 m.p.h. by an intoxicated driver before it was pulled over.

The case against Tojek was dismissed on October 31 in Whatcom County District Court for insufficiency of evidence.

• On September 21, Extinction Rebellion Bellingham and Extinction Rebellion Fraser Valley hosted a cross-border climate rally at Peace Arch State Park. The theme of the rally was “One Planet – A Future to Look Back On.”

The Northern Light reported that U.S. border guards were issuing five-year bans to Canadians and other non-citizens at a higher rate than before. Five-year bans, formally called expedited removals, used to be issued in cases of egregious conduct, but immigration lawyers said that lately, the bans were being issued more liberally, including when visitors lacked the right documents or were simply unaware of the rules.

• As of September 20, Wildbird Charity’s Starfish Weekend Food Program officially began its second year. The local charity provides kids with a bag of food to take home on weekends, containing two breakfasts, two lunches, two dinners and snacks.

• The owner of the demolished building at 665 Peace Portal Drive offered to transfer the land to the city of Blaine in lieu of foreclosure. The offer was announced by city attorney Jon Sitkin at the September 23 city council meeting, and councilmembers voted to authorize city staff to accept the offer and proceed with the deal.

• On September 24, three Birch Bay residents were arrested for their alleged involvement in a burglary that was interrupted by the victim when he returned home from work. According to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, the individuals had tried to steal four firearms, ammunition, tools, a TV, stereo equipment and clothing.

• The Lummi Nation organized a Blaine gathering of tribal leaders, environmental groups and faith organizations to encourage greater protection of the Salish Sea and the southern resident orca population. On September 27, the Lummi Nation hosted the event, which was titled Netse Mot: One Mind for Xw’ullemy (the Salish Sea).

• Rajeev Majumdar, Blaine’s prosecuting attorney, was sworn in as the new president of the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) on September 27. He became the first state bar president of South Asian heritage in the U.S., according to WSBA.

• The Whatcom County Health Department hosted an event providing information on opioids and preventing overdoses on September 28 in the Blaine Library.

• On the morning of September 29, an elderly woman from B.C. was found dead in a vehicle that was fully submerged in water at the boat launch in Blaine Harbor. Blaine police said she was likely disoriented, accidentally drove down the boat launch into Drayton Harbor at low tide, and was unable to get out of the car.

• A groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 30 for a new Crisis Stabilization Facility in Bellingham. When it is completed, the facility will provide services to adults who are experiencing a mental health crisis or who are in need of withdrawal management services.

• The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) conducted a “rapid response” in Drayton Harbor in late September, setting traps in areas of the harbor that could potentially be inhabited by invasive European green crabs. Seventeen live European green crabs were trapped by WDFW in just a few days, representing the highest number of green crabs trapped in such a short period of time from any one area along Washington’s inland shoreline.

October

The Northern Light reported that nearly 47 million prescription opioids flowed into Whatcom County during a seven-year period starting in 2006, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration database published by the Washington Post.

• A fall festival in downtown Blaine featured pumpkin painting, a cake walk, live music, food vendors and other family-friendly attractions. The second annual Rocktoberfest took place on October 5 in downtown Blaine.

• Whatcom County Council held a public hearing on October 8 regarding a proposed no shooting zone that the city of Blaine is seeking to establish in Drayton Harbor. About 25 people addressed county councilmembers during the hearing, giving varying perspectives on the city of Blaine’s request.

• On October 13, a father and son who were denied entry into Canada for their alleged ties to the Ku Klux Klan were arrested by Blaine police officers after they were found to be in possession of stolen heavy equipment.

• Candidates for Whatcom County, Port of Bellingham and Blaine school district positions attended an October 14 candidates forum at Birch Bay Bible Community Church, where moderator Terry Terry asked a series of questions, including some from the audience.

• On October 14, the city of Blaine was presented with an award from governor Jay Inslee’s office, recognizing the city’s efforts to engage its residents in key decisions about proposed projects and programs.

• On October 15, the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS) board of trustees asked executive director Christine Perkins to research and plan for a Library Capital Facilities Area (LCFA) that would encompass the Blaine school district minus Point Roberts. The proposed taxing district would help build a new library in Birch Bay and expand the existing Blaine Library.

• The Blaine school district held an open house at the newly remodeled high school on October 18, before the homecoming football game. The event included a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting.

• The Blaine school district’s search for a property in Birch Bay started with a school board special meeting on October 21, when the board met with FLO Analytics, which it hired to identify potential properties for a future school, to learn more about the consulting company’s work and what it could expect from the process.

• A workshop helped local businesses prepare for the increase in the minimum wage that went into effect on January 1, 2020. The free workshop was held on October 22 at the Blaine school district conference room, and was presented by the city of Blaine, the Blaine Chamber of Commerce and Western Washington University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

• Another 765 acres was approved, effective October 22, for commercial shellfish harvesting in Drayton Harbor, following years of pollution prevention efforts that improved water quality.

• New Tesla charging stations opened at the Birch Bay Square shopping center. Situated in the parking lot between Woods Coffee and Jack in the Box, the new station is the northernmost Supercharger site in Washington state.

• Friends of Birch Bay Library hosted its Dine Dance Donate fundraiser on October 26 at Loomis Trail Golf Club. The event featured dinner, drinks, a silent auction, raffles, music and dancing, with proceeds supporting the Birch Bay Vogt Community Library Project.

• The city of Blaine held two public hearings at its October 28 meeting. The first public hearing focused on 2020 revenue estimates and a proposed one percent increase in property tax revenue, while the second public hearing focused on a proposed city resolution opposing Initiative 976, which limited car tab fees to $30 per year. At the meeting, Blaine city council passed a resolution opposing I-976.

• A new Adopt-a-Block program in Birch Bay allowed concerned citizens to adopt a section of road, beach, stream or park within the Birch Bay and Terrell Creek watersheds. The program provided them with equipment in order to conduct regular cleanups of their adopted areas, keeping them free of garbage, debris and other contaminants.

• A man alleged to have assaulted and raped two young girls was captured by the U.S. Marshals in Blaine with assistance from the Blaine Police Department. On October 30, the U.S. Marshals Service’s Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force arrested 36-year-old Justin Ortega, who was wanted by the Yakima Police Department on four counts of first-degree rape of a child, two counts of child molestation and one count of third-degree assault of a child.

• In October 2019, 645,299 people crossed the border southbound into Blaine. That was about 3.3 percent less than the same month in 2018, when 667,505 crossed southbound into Blaine.

November

A Blaine man was charged with first-degree arson and resisting arrest after he allegedly set fire to a mobile home on November 2 and drew a knife on fire personnel who responded to the scene.

A general election took place on November 5. Following a switch in lead, Satpal Sidhu pulled ahead in the race for Whatcom County executive and won the election against opponent Tony Larson. Other notable results included the passage of I-976 limiting car tab fees to $30 per year.

• Michael Knapp, Lynden’s interim police chief, died from injuries sustained after he was struck by a vehicle in Lynden on November 5. Knapp, who previously served as Blaine’s interim police chief, passed away at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on November 6, one day after the accident.

On November 9, a Blaine man was located, arrested and charged with theft after he allegedly stole an ATV from a Lynden farm in September and accidentally dropped his cell phone at the scene of the crime.

Veterans, U.S. Naval Sea Cadets, Blaine city leaders and members of the public gathered for a Veteran’s Day memorial service in Blaine on November 11. The event featured a prayer, speeches, a rifle salute and a wreath ceremony. The names of soldiers from Blaine who were killed in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam were also read aloud, each one followed by the ringing of a bell.

On November 12, a public hearing was held concerning the Gateway Regional Storm Facility, a stormwater pond that is currently under construction near the Gateway parcel. Following the hearing, Blaine city council voted to form a Local Improvement District in order to pass some of the project’s costs along to nearby property owners.

At the November 12 city council meeting, Blaine City Council voted to authorize a one percent increase in property tax revenue for 2020.

• In a November 12 ruling, a federal court in Boston ruled that suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronic devices by federal agents at airports and other U.S. ports of entry are unconstitutional.

A woman and her dog died in a single-vehicle collision on northbound I-5 near the Peace Arch border crossing on the morning of November 14.

• The Department of Homeland Security published a proposal to make substantial increases to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services fees. The notice was published in the Federal Register on November 14 and allowed public comments until December 16.

Upstanders United, a Blaine High School club formed in 2017 to address difficult topics like mental health, consent and healthy relationships, was honored at the 17th Annual Peace Builder Awards Gala on November 15 in Bellingham.

• Whatcom County announced that it awarded Granite Construction with an $8.7 million contract to build the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility project, commonly called the berm. Granite Construction, a California-based company with a Bellingham location, made the winning bid out of 11 total.

During a public input meeting at the Blaine Senior Center on November 18, 37 people shared their hopes and dreams for an expanded Blaine Library building with a team of architects.

A procession and memorial service were held on November 20 for Michael Knapp, Lynden’s interim police chief, who passed away on November 6 after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the street a day earlier. Knapp had previously served as interim police chief for the city of Blaine. The memorial service took place in Bellingham and was preceded by a law enforcement procession.

The Blaine United Church of Christ, the Healthy Youth Coalition and the American Legion Riders came together to bring back the Community Thanksgiving Meal. Members of the public were invited to enjoy a free turkey dinner prepared by community volunteers. The event took place on November 23 at the Blaine Senior Center.

The city of Blaine planned to spend up to $140,000 as part of a county-wide signage program intended to help tourists and visitors find their way to various attractions within the city. At their November 25 public meeting, Blaine city councilmembers voted to authorize city manager Michael Jones to participate in the program with Whatcom County and other cities in the county.

• In a joint presentation to Blaine city council on November 25, Blaine police chief Donnell Tanksley and Washington Traffic Safety Commission manager Doug Dahl presented detailed statistics about crashes and traffic violations in Blaine and Whatcom County.

The Blaine school district’s board of directors voted unanimously at a November 25 meeting to put a replacement property tax levy on a February 11, 2020 special election ballot. The four-year levy will replace one that expires at the end of 2020.

• William John Elfo, 28, the son of Whatcom County sheriff Bill Elfo, passed away on November 28 due to complications from injuries sustained in a single-vehicle crash that occurred in December 2018.

• Through the commitment of volunteers and the generosity of the community, 1,332 people (824 adults and 508 children) enjoyed a Thanksgiving dinner through the Thanksgiving Baskets Program. In 2019, the program provided baskets for Thanksgiving dinners to 230 families in Blaine, Birch Bay and Custer.

December

• The Community Assistance Program (CAP), a non-profit organization supported by local churches, launched an effort to construct a new building for its clothing bank, which is currently housed in a shipping container.

• The city of Blaine’s public works team cleaned up a sewer spill on December 3, and their quick response prevented any impact to marine life in Semiahmoo Bay.

• At Whatcom County Council’s December 3 meeting, councilmember Rud Browne proposed a compromise in the debate over a proposed no shooting zone that the city of Blaine is seeking to establish in Drayton Harbor. The compromise envisioned a 1,000-foot buffer around Drayton Harbor’s shoreline in which no shooting would be allowed; hunting would be allowed to continue in the middle area of the harbor under county jurisdiction.

• A Seattle man faced a possible charge of reckless endangerment after he hid his Glock pistol in some bushes on Marine Drive on December 4 in order to cross the border into Canada, which restricts handgun imports.

• At the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 15th annual awards dinner on December 5, Blaine resident and community leader Jim Jorgensen received a lifetime achievement award recognizing his career as an educator, business owner and port commissioner.

• A 43-year-old man allegedly trapped a 13-year-old girl in a bathroom in Blaine and sexually molested and raped her on multiple occasions in November. Jeremy Michael McDaniel was arrested and booked into Whatcom County Jail on December 5 on suspicion of second-degree child rape, second-degree child molestation and unlawful imprisonment.

• After decades in the works, preparatory work on Birch Bay’s long awaited beach restoration project began on December 9. Whatcom County officials called it a rolling start: the contractor, Granite Construction, moved equipment to Birch Bay Drive and put erosion control measures in place at the beach.

• Blaine City Council voted on December 9 to adopt a 2020 budget for the city of Blaine. The budget totaled $51 million, a 10 percent decrease from the 2019 budget, and it raised utility rates for Blaine residents.

• Blaine Library users had another chance to influence the design of a future Blaine Library at a second public input meeting on December 10 at the Blaine Senior Center. The meeting was titled “Developing Character” and it focused on the look and design of the building rather than specific library features.

• About 40 law enforcement officers and professionals from Whatcom County and surrounding areas attended a four-hour training session about fair and impartial policing on December 11 in the Blaine city hall council chambers. The participants included police officers, sheriff’s deputies and border patrol agents.

• At a Blaine event celebrating healthy waters and fresh shellfish harvest, attendees enjoyed free oyster samples courtesy of the Drayton Harbor Oyster Company. The fourth annual Drayton Harbor Shellebration took place on December 13 at the H Street Plaza in downtown Blaine, and also included a presentation of watershed steward awards.

• Bay Medical Clinic, which was set to close at the end of December, announced that it would remain open following an acquisition by SuperTrack, a group of Whatcom County medical clinics. SuperTrack planned to operate the Blaine clinic starting on January 1, 2020 and will eventually expand the practice to include urgent care services.

• On New Year’s Eve, the annual Ring of Fire and Hope event took place along the shore of Birch Bay. Participants lined the shore and lit road flares as a symbol of peace and hope.

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