2017: A look back at the news, newsmakers

The Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune takes a look at just a few of the headlines from the Gazette-Tribune during the year that was, 2017.

January

  • Weight loss challenge – Eighty-four people greeted New Year 2017 with a Community Weight Loss Team Challenge.
  • Locals raise thousands in support for Standing Rock – More than $5800 was raised at the Song for Standing Rock fundraiser held at the Tonasket CCC.
  • NVH considers expanding surgery department – Ideas for renovation of North Valley Hospital’s surgery floor were presented to the board.
  • Grizzly bear restoration planned in North Cascades – The National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife invited the public to hear several proposals for restoring the bear. (Editor’s Note; Expansion was set on hold by Trump Administration last week).

February

  • Student enrollment remains up – Oroville’s student enrollment remained higher than budgeted which means higher than expected basic education funds coming to the district.
  • Rep. Short appointed to state Senate – Short has been tapped to fill the Senate seat of Brian Dansel, a move that will help maintain a slim 25-24 majority for the Republicans. (Editor’s Note: Democrats took back Senate in November general election.)
  • Landdeck fired after confrontation with teacher – Basketball coach confronts teacher in classroom in front of students, including one who took video the confrontation.
  • No valentine for local school bonds – Tonasket, Okanogan and Bridgeport bonds all go down in failure. Tonasket’s would have financed improvements and expansion of facilities to the tune of nearly $10,000,000.
  • Canadian suspected of human smuggling arrested – Oroville Border Patrol agents arrested six people involved in alien smuggling on Feb. 8 after five had crossed into the country near Molson. The six person arrested had picked up the other five in a rented pickup.

March

  • District wants Montejano as principal at OHS – Superintendent Jeff Hardesty told the Oroville School Board it was unanimous that staff wanted the district to offer the permanent position to Dr. Omar Montejano.
  • NVH gem Dixie Brown honored for service – Brown recognized by North Valley Hospital Commissioners and staff for her 36 years of service to the hospital district.
  • Narya Naillon a Nashville Country Star finalist – Naillon, a senior at Oroville High School, secured a spot asa finalist with her performance of “Brand New Key.”
  • Akins family purchases Prince’s Center – The Akins family purchased the property from the Prince Family. The center currently houses Akins Harvest Foods and The Country Store.

April

  • Citizens pack school board meeting – Many weigh in on decision to approve new club for gay students at Tonasket School District. Most take positive stance.
  • New road means NO Paws can resume business – It took the construction of a whole new road, but NO Paws Left Behind animal rescue has finally met all requirements of the county to operate a kennel just south of Oroville.
  • Gebbers Farms will pack company fruit only – Members of Gebbers Farms assured business owners and community members they plan to be in Oroville for the long run.
  • Bill for early wildfire suppression signed into law – Under legislation sponsored by Seventh District Rep. Joel Kretz much of the groundwork for the state’s next wildfire suppression will be laid months in advance.

May

  • Tariff adds level of ‘uncertainty’ to local business – The Trump Administration’s new tariff on softwood entering the U.S. has Oroville Reman and Reload, which manufactures dimensional wood products from wood imported from West Kelowna-based Gorman Brothers mill in BC concerned.
  • Open to negotiating VA Clinic contract – North Valley Hospital Interim CEO Ron O’Halloran stated he is willing to sit down and renegotiate the contract with the Veterans Administration in hopes of keeping the clinic open.
  • NVH doing better than other critical access hospitals – The hospital’s accounting firm reported NVH was leveling out at seven percent return, better than most other critical access hospital in the nation.
  • Councilman to run against Tonasket mayor – Dennis Brown has filed to take on popular incumbent mayor Patrick Plumb. (Editor’s Note: Plumb moved to Tacoma and Brown was elected.)

June

  • Plan to add another K-9 officer OK’d -Tonasket City Council approved a motion to allow the police department start the process of acquiring a new K-9 officer after Officer “Zeus” was retired.
  • OVGT and MVN partner to win county legal bid – The Gazette-Tribune and Methow Valley News will retain the title of Okanogan County Newspaper of Record after they were award the county legal contract.
  • THS and NVH put Career Connected Learning to work – Eight Tonasket High School students have graduated from a state endorsed Nurse’s Aide class and are ready to test for state certification and are ready to earn an income in their local community.
  • Osoyoos Lake group seeks Lake Management District – The Lake Osoyoos Association has proposed forming a district and taxing lakeside property owners to help ensure water quality, as well as treat the explosion of invasive weeks like milfoil and curly leaf pondweed.

July

  • A big splash – The Tonasket Pool Association signed over the new Tonasket Community Pool to the city, with the mayor singing the documents and pool opening to the public the next day,
  • Two challenge NVH Board of Directors incumbent – Primary ballots are due back to the auditor’s office and one important race to be determined is North Valley Hospital District Commissioner at-large position currently held by incumbent Helen Casey, who has served for 23 years. She is challenged by Marylou Kriner and Jean Pfeifer.
  • Review scuttles plan to expand NVH surgery unit – The hospital board and staff had been weighing the pros and cons of expanding the surgery unit upstairs or rebuilding in the basement. A construction review performed by the state said upstiars was not an option.
  • Oroville , PUD sign agreement for LED street lighting – The Oroville City Council authorized Mayor Jon Neal to sign on interlocal agreement with the Okanogan PUD to install LED lighting into the streetlights in the city.

August

  • Rate hike to pay for PUD upgrades – Okanogan County PUD Commissioners approved a two percent rate hike in a special public meeting, the increase is effective Sept.1.
  • Challenges from rivals held off – Incumbents out ahead after first and second ballot counts completed – Early primary election results show the two incumbent candidates seeking a return to North County offices, Helen Casey for hospital board and Ernesto Castillo for Tonasket School Board, way out ahead in the first ballot count.
  • Mayor Plumb wants to keep serving – Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb tells the G-T that despite taking a job in Tacoma he wants to continue on as mayor. His name will continue to appear on the ballot (Update: Plumb lost to challenger Dennis Brown in the November General Election.)
  • Tumbleweed Film Fest rolls in for 8th season – The event featured short films from around the world presented at two venues — Vickies Backdoor Club and Esther Bricques Winery,
  • Perfect weather for Rally at the Border Blues Fest – Hometown boy Willy Straub was among the six blues bands that played before 250 people at this year’s blues festival held at Oroville’s Deep Bay Park.

September

  • NVH board pressed for answers – The board room was packed as Marcus Alden asked several questions including if rumors that the hospital was for sale were true. Chairman Helen Casey said it was not. In addition the board hired Ken Archer as CEO.
  • Suit against Oroville School District, former superintendent dismissed – Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Henry Rawson ruled against a former Oroville school teacher who claimed he was unfairly dismissed by former Superintendent Steve Quick and the school district.
  • NVH Commissioners told to ‘start acting like a board – The board was told they were operating in a “legal grey area: Joanne Dagnon asked the whereabouts of newly hired CEO Kenneth Archer who had yet to attend a board meeting.
  • Celebrating 25 years of ‘Helping One Student to Succeed’ – In the fall of 1992 a new program was started at Oroville Elementary called HOSTS which teamed community members with students struggling with reading.

October

  • Districts plan prescribed burning – Over the next several weeks, communities along the east slope of the Cascades may see a different type of smoke column rising above the treetops; a column that heralds the return of prescribed fire to the land in an attempt to curtail the wildfires that have plagued Eastern Washington over the last few summers.
  • New NVH CEO: ‘I believe all change is good’- North Valley Hospital’s new CEO Ken Archer stepped into work full time after moving up from Wyoming with his wife Tammy.
  • First suspected West Nile Virus case in county – Okanogan County Public Health is investigating a suspected case of West Nile Virus in a county resident, the first human case found in the county if confirmed.
  • Where they stand: Candidates tell you about themselves – Candidates for North Valley Hospital Board, Tonasket School Board and Tonasket Mayor or profiled prior to the November General Election.

November

  • Oroville Police Officer arrested on suspicion of DUI – The police officer finds himself on administrative leave after being arrested by fellow officers for suspicion of DUI. (Update: Officer Deiss has since resigned from the OPD and moved out of the area.)
  • Getting out on NVH’s new bus – Residents of North Valley Hospital’s Extended Care enjoyed a leisurely ride in their new bus cruising to Loomis and enjoying the fall colors and three lakes.
  • General Election results sprinkled with surprises – The Okanogan County Auditor’s officer posted new numbers to the Thursday, Nov. 7 election results Thursdays. In possibly the most watched races, those for North Valley Hospital Board there are two incumbents who appear to be losing their seats.
  • New NVH CEO cites health reasons for resignation – The hospital district’s latest CEO, Ken Archer turned in his resignation, having been in on the job just long enough to attend two regular board meetings.
  • Oroville School Board sets M&O Levy amount at $1.5 million – After much discussion and some explanation, the board approved the two-year levy amount, which will have a collection rate of $2.72 per thousand of assessed valuation. This is the same as it was for the previous levy, however it may prove to be controversial if the state legislature sets the maximum at $1.50.

December

  • Oroville Housing Authority offers Winter Emergency Camp – With the help of community members the Housing Authority has opened the camp to provide temporary housing for a small fee to those who need housing during the winter months.
  • Legacy Founders receive award – A Community Impact Award was presented to U.S. Armed Forces Legacy founders George Frank and Roger Castelda.
  • NVH exec resigns, cites personal reasons – Chief Financial Officer Julie Leonard resigned from her position at North Valley Hospital coming closely on the heels of the appointment of John McReynolds, who had been hired as Chief Operating Officer this fall being appointed interim CEO.
  • Oroville secures funding for 16th Street upgrades – The Oroville City Council has learned the state has approved a $748,761 grant to make improvements to the street which goes by Riverfront Park. Work could include pavement upgrades, as well as sidewalks connecting the park to existing pedestrian ways.
  • Officer Aguilar on the streets with Taz – Police Officer Javiar Aguilar is back in town with his new partner K-9 Officer Taz after completing the six week Canine Training Program.
  • Okanogan woman suspected of killing husband – The Okanogan County Sheriff’s office has arrested Sharon Allard, 54, on suspicion of killing her husband, Daniel C. Allard, 47 with a .357 caliber revolver. (Update, the suspect, who had health problems, has since died in the hospital).

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.