Year in Review: 2008

Looking back at 2008

The first six months

Editor’s Note: This week we take a look back at just a few of the stories that made the front page of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune during all of 2008. G.A.D.

January

Next 10 years critical for Okanogan County PUD – As John Grubich settled into his new job as manager of the PUD, he said ongoing negotiations of a sales agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration is “job one” for the utility’s health.

Most area stores see solid seasonal sales – It was a good holiday season for many local businesses leading up to Christmas 2007.

Oroville approves interim regs protecting ‘critical areas’ – Oroville approved interim regulations to protect critical areas while it hammers out a new ordinance required by the state.

Record apple sales, strong prices – It was the best of both worlds for apple growers with record sales and strong prices spurred on by holiday sales in the U.S. combined with booming exports for the Chinese New Years. 

Tonasket City Council has whole new look – The first woman elected to a city council in Washington State was in 1911, now Tonasket may be the only city in the state with an all-woman council.

Three seek title as 2008 Oroville May Fest Queen – Megan McKinney, Lacy Johnson and Ashley Porter expressed their desire to reign over Oroville’s annual community celebration.

Tonasket Chamber prepares for busy ’08 – Brad Wood named “Citizen of the Year” at the chamber of commerce’s officer installation and awards banquet. Newly-elected chamber president Dave Kester presents Steve Mattson the “Business of the Year” award.

Oroville Chamber installs officers for 2008 – Real estate agent Rich Solberg will steer the chamber of commerce for 2008.  Walt and Vicki Hart named “Citizens of the Year” and software designer BVisual is “Business of the Year.”

Second Street vacation approved – A packed house greeted the Tonasket City Council Jan. 22, all waiting to hear whether they would vacate a portion of Second Street for the North Valley Hospital Expansion. Vacation was approved.

February

Election 2008 comes to Okanogan County - Residents of the county will have their first chance to put in their say about who should take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at various caucusing locations county-wide.

Several new hires arrive at hospital – New doctors, an expanded building and a fresh nursing staff are all  part of North Valley Hospital’s advancement goals and progress is being made on all fronts, according to Hospital Administrator Warner Bartleson.

Taxable sales rise in Oroville, Omak and Brewster – While some areas of the nation were facing an economic slowdown, that didn’t appear to be the case for most cities and counties in North Central Washington.

Developer wants to build eleven $1 million lakefront homes – Yet another request to be annexed into the city was heard by the Oroville City Council as a developer discusses his plans to build several high-dollar homes on Lake Osoyoos. 

Tonasket Cub Scouts celebrate 80 years – Webelos, Bears and Wolf Cubs – oh my! Add in a few Tiger Cubs and the ingredients were right for the Blue and Gold Banquet honoring the 80th year of the Cub Scout program in Tonasket.

Bill would designate heavy haul corridor – Sen. Bob Morton sponsors a measure which would benefit his district’s local economy by designating part of SR-97 north of Oroville as a heavy haul corridor.

Tonasket native sends Iraqi girl home with healthy heart – Born and raised in Tonasket, Dr. Karla (Godwin) Christian was in the spotlight for an open-heart surgery she performed pro bono on a two-year-old Iraqi girl.

North County school districts seek M&O levy support – Ballots went out for the second time in as many months, this time covering local school levies in Tonasket and Oroville, as well as most other school districts in the county.

March

North County home prices nearly double - The average sales price of a home in town has gone up considerably over the past five years for those wishing to buy in Oroville and Tonasket.

Former Explorer graduates Border Patrol Academy – Casey Roloff, a founding member of Oroville’s Border Patrol Explorer Post, graduated from the Border Patrol Academy, joining his father Keith, who works for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, protecting the nation’s borders.

Heavy Haul Corridor bill in governor’s hands – Sailing through both houses of the state legislature, a bill designating SR-97 from the Canadian border to the railhead in Oroville as a Heavy Haul Corridor, has gone to the governor for her signature.

Local school districts succeed in passing levies – School districts in Oroville, Tonasket, Omak and Nespelem each collected enough votes to pass school levies in a special election March 11. Only Tonasket and Nespelem pass levies by the once-needed 60 percent super majority.

Eagles and hospital district end negotiations – Negotiations over the possible purchase of land by the hospital district from the Tonasket Eagles have ended amicably, however no deal was struck.

Fifth annual Peace Festival in Tonasket – Supporters of peace cross mountains, rivers and prairies to gather in Tonasket, hoping to celebrate peace through nonviolent demonstration at the Community Cultural Center.

Top speller competes for chance at National Bee – For many her last name might be hard to spell, but for Oroville’s Haley Montowski her spelling abilities were good enough to get her a chance to compete for a shot at going to Washington, DC for the National Spelling Bee.

Oroville Council approves Hoffman-Gold annexation – After reviewing planning commission recommendations, the Oroville Council approved a four acre annexation along the eastern shores of Lake Osoyoos.

April

Time to make decisions on hospital construction - Initial cost estimates for expanding and refurbishing North Valley Hospital are way over budget, forcing the board and employees to whitt
le down their requests.

Governor signs bill creating Heavy Haul Corridor – As many as 100 new jobs may result from the formation of the special corridor allowing heavier trucks to travel between the Canadian border and the railhead at Oroville.

Oroville Council discusses city hall expansion – The city council decided the demolition of a building to make way for city hall expansion will not include trying to salvage that building’s cement blocks.

Alternative energy fair in Tonasket – As energy costs rise and experts world-wide look for alternatives, an Okanogan Valley group intends to do their part for the planet. The first Green Okanogan Alternative Energy, Housing and Agriculture Fair (GO) set for April 19.

Judge rules Tonasket must rehire fired policewoman – After 11 months, a judge overruled the Tonasket Police Chief and Civil Service board and ordered Janet Story, a Tonasket Police Officer fired in 2007, be given her job back.

Senior bus discussed at Tonasket Council meeting – Tonasket is asked to fulfill a $1000 obligation to the senior bus program which allows seniors to ride for free. The city had only given $200 to that point, but agreed to increase its funding to $1000.

Settlement clears way for gold mine – After nearly two decades at impasse, mining interest and environmental groups have reached a settlement clearing the way for gold mining on Buckhorn Mountain. Mine could produce as much as $1 billion in gold.

City Planner discusses Shoreline Master Plan update – Law says city must use “best available science” when updating plan, says Chris Branch, who tells the council a biologist is doing an update of all shorelines of the state within the county.

Tragedy for Tonasket family – A trip home from college has left two students, Brady Freeman of Tonasket, and his girlfriend Jocelyn Durham, dead from a fatal car accident. Freeman’s twin brother, Boone, was injured in the accident. The Freemans were co-valedictorians and 2005 graduates of Tonasket High School.

Flagpole rededicated at McDonald Cabin – Community members gathered to rededicate a flagpole that once graced the U.S. Port of Entry north of Oroville, raise the American Flag and plant Oroville’s Centennial Tree in honor of Arbor Day. The rededication took place at the historic McDonald cabin which served as U.S. Custom House in the late 1800s.

May

Cinco de Mayo celebrated at state park – 2008′s Cinco de Mayo Celebration attracted about 350 people to Osoyoos Lake Veteran’s Memorial State Park. The event featured lots of music, dancing and good food.

Lindauer stands down from standing guard at border – He’s seen many changes in his 33 years working at the U.S. Port of Entry, but Mel Lindauer says he’s looking forward to his retirement – his second. The former Oroville teacher and one time Justice of the Peace, plans to do some traveling with his wife. 

Weather couldn’t dampen May Fest – Queen Ashley Porter and Princesses Megan McKinney and Lacy Johnson reigned over the 74th Annual May Festival celebrating Oroville’s 100th Birthday. The event featured a coronation, parade, fun run, three-on-three basketball tournament, kids games, bass tournament and much more.

Assessor says property values will increase – Okanogan County Assessor Scott Furman met with members of the Oroville Chamber and said most property owners in the area could expect 40 to 80 percent increases in property values, with 100 to 200 percent increases on waterfront property, in the county’s latest assessment. 

Over 350 motorcycles and riders roar into Oroville  – Some 308 riders and their machines left Wenatchee for the sixth-annual Run for the Border. They picked up several more riders along the way as they arrived at their destination in Oroville. The charity ride raised several thousand dollars for kids in need.

No loss of life or serious property damage in flooding – Although high waters hindered Memorial Day plans for many in the area, last week’s flooding had little impact on property owners or public safety. The Similkameen River and Okanogan Rivers crested towards week’s end and began dropping dramatically.

Fallen veterans honored on Memorial Day – The flags of two countries, the U.S. and Canada, joined together to honor those who gave their lives in service of their country at the Memorial Day Ceremony held at Oroville’s Riverview Cemetery.

Hospital board approves design plan – The North Valley Hospital Board approved a design plan with a final construction cost estimate of $7.5 million for hospital facilities expansion and rehabilitation.

June

Founder’s Day Parade-goers enjoyed the sunshine – Warm weather and clear skies helped bring out the crowds Founder’s Day weekend. The annual event featured a parade and rodeo, fun run and much more.

Effort to fight homelessness gears up – Although many people don’t see it, Okanogan County does have a homeless population. At least 326 people were counted seeking shelter in the county in 2008, according to Lael Duncan, executive director of  the Community Action Council.

Oroville receives FAA funding – Oroville will use federal funding for perimeter fencing around Dorothy Scott International Airport, as well as constructing two helipads.

New sign and donation for gazebo at Centennial Park – A check for nearly $500 was presented to the Centennial Park Committee to help pay for a gazebo at the new park under construction. The money had been raised through several dinner theater events designed to pay to build a gazebo at Henry Kniss Park, but the efforts stalled several years ago. A new park sign has also erected at the park.  

Superior Court Judge talks about case load – Judge Jack Burchard came to speak with the Oroville Chamber of Commerce about the court’s mission, as well as the successes being seen in Drug Court.

Fly or cruise on in – Engines of any variety were welcome in Tonasket for the annual Father’s Day Fly-in. More than 100 free airplane rides were given to children and 45 classic cars from car clubs from the Okanogan Valley on both sides of the border were on display.

Much to do at Molson Midsummer Fest – There were probably fewer people inside the Grange Hall and Old School Museum this year, but that could be because it was so nice outside and there was so much to do. Activities included a parade with Gran
d Marshal Vivian Emry, kids games, fun walk and run, horseshoe tournament, Frisbee golf and decorating and dancing around the May pole.

Darlene Owyn chosen Chesaw Rodeo Grand Marshal – “Flabbergasted” that’s how Darlene (Kidwell) Owyn said she felt when informed that they wanted her to be this year’s Chesaw Fourth of July Grand Marshal.

NVH plans to lease CT Machine – State-of-the-art technology may be coming to Tonasket as the hospital board approved a feasibility study and will draft a lease plan for a GE CT scanner. The scanners, which combine x-rays and computers, are one of the most popular diagnostic tools for medical professionals worldwide.

Council advised to retain fire hall property – Ongoing discussions about the future of the old fire hall in Tonasket ended with a report from permit Administrator Christian Johnson. The building is assessed at $170,000, which is $110,000 more than the EMS District, which leases the building, has offered to purchase it. For now, the council will continue the lease to the EMS.

July

Committee reports progress on park project – Members of the Oroville Streetscape Committee gave a glowing report on the Centennial Park project saying they believed the park would be finished in time for Oroville’s August Centennial Celebration.

Ty Olson construction a total loss to fire - The building housing the business south of Tonasket burns in a July 1 fire. Lightning caused many fires in the north county, but the cause of the Olson fire was still under investigation.  

Powerful winds cause damage throughout the north Okanogan  - The north half of the county took the brunt of an unusual summer windstorm with gusts recorded as high as 74 miles per hour in Oroville.

Cayuse Fire mostly over - Cost estimates as high as $3 million for 1768 acre fire that continued to burn 12 miles east of Tonasket.

Wolves returning to Washington State - Wolves are officially back in the state and two gray wolves, their DNA tested as being 100 percent wolf, have been captured and collared in Okanogan County. A remote camera also records photos of several wolf pups in the county.

Council bans skateboards and bikes from some sidewalks - Despite the pleas of some 30 kids, the Tonasket council votes to ban riding bikes and skateboards on large portions of Whitcomb Avenue and Fourth Street.

Seattle area artist brings new colors to mural wall – The visiting artist is finishing up painting the last three historical murals on a Main Street wall in time for the Centennial Celebration.

Let’s get this party started – Music, pie and ice cream are featured at the Centennial Celebration Kick-off Party held at Madeline Wells Park behind the Oroville Public Library.

August

Firefighters make progress on area fires – Authorities report that the Green Lake Fire, which started about six miles northwest of Okanogan, was about 75 percent contained. The fire is just one of several big blazes this summer.

A big cake for a big birthday – Oroville celebrates its 100th centennial with a historical places volkswalk, cake and music at Madeline Wells Park, dedication of Centennial Park and a street dance.

Mayor names Clay Warnstaff Police Chief - Oroville Mayor Chuck Spieth asked and received approval of a new chief of police. Clay Warnstaff has been interim chief since his predecessor, the late Randy Wheat, was diagnosed with cancer.

NVH to open clinic in Tonasket - North Valley Hospital District will open Tonasket Family Clinic bringing additional health care choices to the area. The district also plans to hire several new physicians to man the ER at the hospital. 

Oroville Heritage Days focuses on 100 year centennial - Among the activities at the annual Heritage Days were a tour of the 100-year-old Samson house, tractor races and art in the park, music and homemade ice cream. 

Columbia River Road Fire grows to 22,155 acres – Although considered 100 percent contained, high winds passing through the Colville Reservation were testing the integrity of the fire lines. The Tribe and WeTip offer $100,000 reward for information leading to arrest and conviction of arsonist responsible for starting the fire.

Ed Naillon appointed to Oroville City Council – The Oroville High School Career and Technology teacher was sworn in as the newest council member. He takes the place of Jason Blotsky who resigned because he and his family were moving out of state.

PUD releases license application – The public utility has sent the application to license Enloe Dam to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as one of the first steps toward rehabilitating the Oroville area dam on the Similkameen River. Enloe hasn’t been used to generate electricity since the 1950s.

September

Expansion of public library discussed - The Tonasket City Council discussed a possible addition to the library, which Chris Zaferes, a member of the North Central Washington Regional Library system describes as “a much needed project.”

Hospital set to demolish buildings for expansion – Approval of construction contracts and financial budgets were the focus of the North Valley Hospital Board meeting, as well as setting a timetable to demolish the business office and other buildings to make way for the hospital expansion and new parking lots.

School year off to good start at Tonasket – The school board and principals agree, the school year is off to a good start. Attendees at the board meeting take an impromptu tour of remodeled portable classrooms.

It’s all happening at the fair - The Okanogan County Fair, one of the best-attended events of the year, attracts young and old alike. Students bring home many awards for their livestock and other projects.

Centennial Storytelling Fest held – The Friends of the Library hosted a Storytelling Festival as part of the Oroville’s year-long celebration of its hundredth birthday. The festival included guest storytellers, as well as workshops on storytelling. 

Council discusses need for new city planner - The Tonasket City Council is looking for a new city planner, now that so much of shared-planner Chris Branch’s time is devoted to Orovi
lle which is experiencing rapid growth with the addition of several new developments on the east side of Lake Osoyoos asking to be annexed into the city.

Oroville grad is Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer - Darren Hicks was one of only two members of his class of 24 to complete the elite program. Training included jumping 10 feet from a helicopter into waters where the waves can quickly double or triple the distance of the jump.

New perimeter fence will include automatic gates – The fence around Oroville’s Dorothy Scott Airport is designed to keep out unwanted visitors, including wandering deer off the runway. The security gates will allow access with a keycard.

October

Oroville area overtakes the Methow for new construction - For the first time the area within the Oroville School District had the most new construction in the previous year, overtaking the Methow Valley School District which normally leads the county.

State report paints bleak future for school funding – Superintendent Ernie Bartelson tells the Oroville School Board the state is recommending districts cut 10 percent from their budgets because it is projecting a huge budget deficit.

Wauconda for sale on eBay – A search for “town for sale” on the online auction site brings up Wauconda as the owner of the town’s entire business district — the café (which houses the post office), store and gas pumps — has it listed for just over $1 million.

National Forest Forum ignites into heated discussion - After starting out on a calm note, the forum became heated when the County Commissioners asked when they and the public would be able to review and comment on the new forest plan.

Gold mine celebrates grand opening - After nearly 20 years in the making, the Buckhorn Mountain Project, the state’s first new large-scale mine to open in over a decade, held a grand opening ceremony at the mine site with local, state and federal dignitaries in attendance.

Candidates appear at Oroville Chamber – The two candidates for Okanogan County Commissioner Position 1, incumbent Andy Lampe and challenger Larry Campbell, appeared to say why they should be elected to the county’s top government office.

Meeting held to discuss public transportation - A committee is forming to study the county’s need for a public transportation system. The meeting included a specialist from the state Department of Transportation.

Gallas crowned Tonasket Rodeo Queen – The 2009 Miss Tonasket Rodeo Queen is Kelsey Gallas. She was crowned queen during a coronation held at the Tonasket Eagles, which included a farewell speech from the outgoing 2008 queen, Kieann Teall.

Plan to allow taller building sent back to drawing board – The Oroville City Council approved two of three new zoning changes to aid developers in getting more use from their commercial property, but said no to an increase in building height, at least for now.

Student enrolment remains flat – Oroville School Board hears that enrollment is holding, but the normal October increase has not materialized, causing concern that budget cuts may result if future enrollment drops below projected numbers.

November

Preliminary budget hearing held at council meeting - The Tonasket City Council held a public hearing as it shapes the 2009 budget. Water rates will be going up for the first time since 2005 because expenditures are outpacing revenues.

County and cities have Emergency Management Plan - A newly completed Emergency Management Plan will mean the cities of Okanogan County, as well as the county itself, will be eligible for FEMA funds should their be a disaster, natural or otherwise. 

County breaks with state on presidential election – Conservative Okanogan County, once a bellwether for presidential elections, slightly favored Republican John McCain, rather then Democrat Barack Obama, the victor in last Tuesday’s election. 

Oroville plans to expand sidewalks south  - Oroville wants to become even more pedestrian friendly, with nearly one and a half miles of new sidewalk planned following the east side of Main Street/Highway 97 south to the city limits. The projected cost is nearly $1 million, with monies coming from federal and state grants.

Gold Digger partners with Gebbers Farms, Chelan Fresh - Gold Digger Apples announces it has entered into a strategic alliance with Gebbers Farms of Brewster and Chelan Fresh Marketing. The agreement is expected to bring greater stability to the Oroville-based growers’ co-op with more fruit and greater market presence.

Tonasket approves CDBG resolutions - The city council will act as lead agency paving the way for North Valley Hospital District to receive a Community Development Block Grant to supplement a bond for hospital expansion and modernization.

Oroville’s 2009 budget nearly $7 million – The city council learned at their preliminary budget hearing that the city’s budget for 2009 is $6,898,288, about $50,000 more than spent in 2008, after the addition of amendments approved throughout the year.

Councilman reports on transportation meeting – The scope of the area being looked at for a new public transportation system is all of Okanogan County to Republic, Bridgeport and Chief Joseph Dam, says Oroville Councilman Ed Naillon, a member of the newly formed transportation committee.

December

Tonasket approves 2009 budget items - The council approved several funding requests for the 2009 budget, as well as wage adjustment of $250 per month for the superintendent of public works and clerk/treasurer and $150 a month for all other full-time employees.

Oroville School Board looking at ways to cut budget - In anticipation of deep cuts in basic education funding from the state, members of the school board were trying to decide where they could make cuts of their own while continuing to pursue their goal of smaller class sizes.

Lighting up with holiday spirit – Oroville and Tonasket hold their Christmas Lighting Ceremonies at their new downtown community parks. Oroville lights up Centennial Park and Tonasket has their ceremony at the Day Park as part of their annual Winter Fest.

Immaculate Conception celebrates centennial - Like the town, Oroville’s Immaculate Conception Parish celebrated its 100th birthday this year, but the area’s connection with Catholicism predates the town by nearly seven decades.

Hospital District suspends entry work – In light of letters from the Colville Confederated Tribes and from Tonasket Permit Administrator Christian Johnson, North Valley Hospital District has stopped entry work on its expansion project until a study can be made on whether the work would disrupt “a known cultural resource of the Okanogan Tribe.” The suspension will allow the Tribes time to review SEPA documents and provide comment on the district’s proposed measures to reduce adverse impacts to the cultural resources.

Superintendent Hauff to retire - After 17 years as superintendent of the Tonasket School District, Randy Hauff announced plans to retire effective June 30, 2009. Hauff, in his 39th year in education, as a teacher, principal and superintendent, plans to move with his wife to be closer to his kids who live on the west side of the state.

Colville Tribes to temporarily close both mills - The Colville Confederated Tribes announced they will close both of their Omak area mills, Colville Precision Pine and Colville Indian Plywood and Veneer, from Dec. 19, 2008 to Jan. 3, 2009. The cost cutting measure will affect some 380 employees, according to CTEC.

Prepare your self for snowy winter – The first major snowfall of the year and freezing temperatures around the county mean residents should prepare themselves, their homes and their cars for winter conditions. County Sheriff Frank Rogers says the best piece of advice he can give drivers is to “slow down.”  

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 is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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