Year in Review — Looking Back at 2009

January

Tonasket students heading to Washington D.C. - In June next of next year 22 eighth and ninth graders travel to the nation’s capital; four will participate in a wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Howling Ridge Rescue shutting down - After rescuing animals for 20 years for no fee, Wendy Steever is closing Howling Ridge Rescue and starting a new for-profit rescue business.

County budget reduced for 2009 - Okanogan County Commissioners passed the 2009 budget, reduced by just over $300,000 from 2008, without the need to reduce county employment.

Three seek title as 2009 May Festival Queen - Three young ladies, Serena Carper, Rachel Peters and Kayla McKinney are asking the Oroville community to select them as this year’s May Fest Queen.

State may close Osoyoos Lake State Veteran’s Memorial Park – The Oroville City Council learned that the state might have plans to close the local state park due to the “dire economic picture.”

School Board hosts public forums to aid in superintendent search - The Tonasket school board will be hosing a series of forums to help them in their search for a new superintendent of schools.

Kester named Tonasket ‘Citizen of the Year’ - Dave Kester, outgoing Tonasket Chamber of Commerce was named “Citizen of the Year” at that organization’s Officer Installation and Awards Banquet.

Timetable to complete updated county Comp Plan discussed – Work continues on the Revised Okanogan County Comprehensive Plan as the county attempts to combine the work of neighborhood teams from throughout the county with environmental and other requirements to get the final product.

Sully’s, a Loomis Landmark, destroyed by fire - Sully’s Café burned down on Thursday, Jan. 22 in a fast moving early morning fire; owner Chris Elder says she will rebuild.

McKinney selected 2009 May Festival Queen - Kayla McKinney has been chosen to represent Oroville as this year’s queen. Princesses Rachel Peterson and Serena Carper will accompany her.

Blackler named Oroville ‘Citizen of the Year’ - Hilary Blackler, described as the community’s “greatest secret weapon” was chosen this year’s “Citizen of the Year” by the Oroville Chamber of Commerce at their Officer Installation and Awards Banquet.

February

Oroville school Board selects officers for 2009 - Tedi Fletcher was selected as the new chairperson for the school board at the first school directors’ meeting of the year. Amy Wise will be vice-chairperson.

City of Tonasket will raise water and sewer rates - The city council decided on a 2.5 percent rate increase for water and sewer, their first increase in four or five years, says Council Member Joyce Fancher.

Oroville Council hears new annexation proposal - David Taber Sr. appeared before the council to request 2.1 acres east of Highway 97 on the south end of town be annexed into the city. The annexation will include Taber’s mini storage units, as well as parcels owned by two nearby business owners.

Request for stimulus money from Okanogan County over $1.5 million - Various organizations, agencies and city governments in the county want a share of the $1 billion in federal stimulus money the state expects to get for “shovel ready projects.”

Anglers try their luck at NW ice Fishing Festival - Although the number of anglers was down somewhat, the catch rate was up for participants at this year’s Northwest Ice Fishing Festival held the Saturday of President’s Day Weekend at Sidley Lake.

Opponents to Eagle Canyon Development present at meeting - Tonasket City Hall was packed at the beginning of the city council meeting as a group of concerned residents on Airport Road presented the Eagle Canyon Development to the council.

Oroville struggling with financing for city hall project - Kathy Jones, Oroville Clerk-Treasurer updated the Oroville City Council on the problems regarding financing the city hall expansion and remodel.

Eagle Canyon Development SEPA appeal denied - The State Environmental Protection Act appeal against the Proposed Eagle Canyon Development on Pine Creek Road was denied Feb. 17 during an appeal hearing with the Okanogan County Commissioners.

County plans to upgrade 911 System in May - The County will be upgrading the Communication Center’s 911 Emergency phone system to a new state-of-the-art VOIP-based system. Next generation technology allows text and video, as well as phone calls.

March

North Valley Hospital District doing well - Hospital officials report the district did well during the month of February. CFO Bomi Bharucha tells the board the district had good control of expenses in February and will be monitoring revenues and expenses “very closely” in the future.

Oroville woman’s death being investigated as a homicide - The sheriff’s department is working around the clock to solve the homicide of Michelle L. Kitterman. The 25-year-old was found stabbed to death at the end of a driveway on Stalder Road in the Pine Creek area on March 1.

Increase in railroad crossing fees has some upset - The fees to use private railroad crossings on the Cascade and Columbia River Railroad have gone up recently, upsetting some local residents.

Legislators meet with Oroville reps about State Park - The state may be willing to transfer ownership of Osoyoos Lake State Veterans Park to Oroville rather than closing it, but the city still has its concerns.

Sidewalk project may benefit from stimulus money – Just when it seemed Oroville’s Pedestrian Project along Highway 97 had stumbled due to lack of state funding, the recently approved stimulus package could get the project back up on its feet again.

Oroville schools trying to decide how to weather financial storm - Financial circumstances find the school district, like most in the state, struggling to find where to cut in order to ride out the current financial crisis – but Oroville, which lost several thousand dollars in Levy Equalization, is a special case.

Oroville named Tree City USA by Arbor Day Foundation - Oroville has been named a Tree City USA to honor its commitment to community forestry. The town applied for the recognition last year and has met the four standards required by the Arbor Day Foundation.

Planning commission adds more conditions to dock permit - After the Oroville City Council kicked a request by Sundalia Resort for a dock permit back to the planning commission for another look, the commission came up with a couple more conditions for council’s consideration.

April

Two arrests made in Kitterman homicide investigation – Two arrests have been made in the fatal stabbing of a pregnant Oroville woman. Arrested were Tansy Fae Mathis of Spokane and Brent L. Phillips of Seattle. At the time law enforcement was still trying to piece together a motive.

Oroville school board terminates all coaching positions - With scant warning and little chance for public comment, the board terminated all coaching contracts for next school year as part of a multi-item consent agenda. The district cites revenue shortfall; one coach says it’s a reprisal against the union.

Tonasket School Board chooses Turner as superintendent - The board chose Paul Turner as the new superintendent following an executive session on Thursday, April 2. Turner is currently the superintendent of Columbia School District in Hunters, Wash. He has been in
education since 1994.

Tonasket woman allegedly paid $500 to have pregnant woman killed - Lacy K. Hirst-Pavek was arrested March 31 for her alleged involvement in the stabbing death of Michelle Kitterman of Oroville. Also arrested was David Eugene Richards, bringing the number of suspects arrested to four. 

Surveyors begin prep for Oroville Pedestrian Project - A new sidewalk following the east side of Highway 97 and connecting Oroville’s northern and southern city limits will be built thanks to more than $1 million in federal stimulus dollars.

Kitterman murder suspects plead not guilty - Four suspects in the murder of Michelle Kitterman of Oroville pled not guilty in the Okanogan County In-custody Courtroom. Lacy Hirst-Pavek, 33, Tonasket pled not guilty and was released on $250,000 bond. Brent L. Phillips, 38; Tansy Fae Mathis, 29 and David Eugene Edwards, 33, also plead not guilty, but remain in jail on $1 million bail.

Festival still seeking former May Day Royalty - Oroville’s May Festival Committee is seeking former May Queens and their attendants to help the community celebrate the 75th anniversary of the town’s annual event.

Drug Free Zone ordinance goes into effect for Oroville Police Chief Clay Warnstaff shared a map with the city council that plots out Oroville’s new Drug Free Zone. The new ordinance doubles penalties and fines for drug dealers arrested within 1000 feet of city-owned property such as parks and other facilities, much like the zones already established around Oroville’s schools.

Tonasket School Board looks at budget worst-case-scenario - The board looked at worst-case-scenario budget savings goals for the 2009-2010 school year due to uncertainty about state funding.

Oroville School Board hears suggestions for potential cuts - Shay Shaw, business manager for the district, went over potential ways to trim next year’s budget in anticipation of deep funding cuts by the state.

May

Drummonds are May Festival Grand Marshals - This year’s choice of members of the Drummond family May Festival Grand Marshals is a tip of the hat to the late Bob Drummond, who started Oroville’s premier annual celebration 75 years ago.

North Valley Hospital breaks ground on addition - NVH officially broke ground on the hospital addition during a special ceremony on Wednesday, April 29. 

Leonard Hedlund retires from Hedlund Chevrolet - After nearly 36 years in business, Leonard Hedlund retired from the business he bought in 1973. He described that purchase as “the best move of his life.”

Prosecutor’s office seeks to elevate charges against murder suspects - The Okanogan County Prosecutor’s office has filed motions to elevate the charges against three of the defendants in the Michelle Kitterman murder case. He asks for “Aggravated Murder” which carries a minimum sentence of life in prison.

Jeweled Past, Sparkling Future - The 75th Annual May Festival Celebration took place last Saturday with Queen Kayla McKinney and Princesses Serena Carper and Rachel Peters riding the community float in the Grand Parade. 

New TSA rules mean Oroville’s airport could get a lot busier - New federal rules requiring all airplanes leaving the United States clear U.S. Customs means Oroville’s Dorothy Scott International Airport is in for a lot more traffic, according to Airport Service Manager Steve Johnston.

Colberts are Founders Day Grand Marshals - Ray and Rhonda Colbert are the Founders Day Grand Marshals for this weekend’s events which include a rodeo, Grand Parade and much more. Among other things, the Colberts are known for their volunteer help with rodeo grounds keeping and the youth events.

New plan may allow state park to stay open through 2011 - The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission approved a budget implementation plan last week that keeps all state parks, including Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial in Oroville open in 2009-11, provided a new donation program tied to vehicle license tabs brings in enough revenue to operate state parks.

June

New border crossing rules take effect - As of this month travelers crossing at U.S-Canadian Ports of Entry like the one near Oroville will need a valid passport or in the case of some Washington State drivers, an enhanced driver’s license. The new TSA rules will be enforced at all land and sea crossings, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

Oroville graduates Class of 2009 - With all the pomp and circumstance Oroville graduated a class of 44 students in a ceremony held at Coulton Auditorium on June 6. Ashley Porter was awarded the coveted Glover Cup, which goes to the person that “most demonstrates the spirit of Americanism.”

Tonasket graduates prepare to take off into the world – “Every single one of us has the enormous potential of an unbridled rocket, engines running to shoot into the vast expanse of the stars, into our dreams, never to touch down,” said Bodie Cabiyo, Tonasket Class of 2009 valedictorian at their graduation June 6  

Oroville Council denies permit for 80-foot cell tower - Siding with neighbors over Verizon Wireless, the city council denied a request for a Conditional Use Permit for an 80-foot cell tower at 2019 1/2 Highland Drive during a closed testimony public hearing.

Jump from old train bridge proves fatal for Oroville man - The dead body of a man who jumped from the old Great Northern Railway bridge over the Similkameen River Friday, June 12 was found by family and friends after a two day search by them, law enforcement and search and rescue personnel.

Tonasket businesses still open during Janis Bridge closure - The Chamber of Commerce heard a presentation about the reasons for the Janis Bridge closure and construction during their June 9 meeting. The presentation given by WDOT engineer Dustin Vaughn, also included the efforts the agency has taken to ensure travelers know Tonasket businesses are still open despite the detour to County 7.

Three-way race for Tonasket Mayor’s seat - With Patrick Walter calling it quits, three candidates have filed for a four-year term as Tonasket Mayor – two with council experience, Patrick Plum and Joyce Fancher and the third a new comer, Eric D. Griffin.

Oroville Council gives go ahead to 80-foot cell tower - The Oroville Council approved Verizon Wireless’ request for a new 80 foot cell phone tower despite objections of some who live nearby. Verizon agrees to make the tower cylindrical like a flag pole with no outward branching arms as originally planned. The antennas will be hidden within the cylinder itself.

July

Time capsule from St. Martin’s Hospital opened - A time capsule found in the original cornerstone of St. Martin’s Hospital was opened during a North Valley Hospital Board Meeting. Items found within included a newspaper from Sept. 17, 1957, a pamphlet on the Dominican Order and several photos.

Oroville officer in critical condition after patrol car hits cow - An Oroville Police office sustained serious injuries when his patrol car hit a cow in the northbound lane of U.S. Highway 97 approximately nine miles sou
th of Oroville on June 24.

Tonasket businesses faring better than expected during detour - Businesses on the south end of Tonasket are doing better than they thought they would during the Highway 97 detour while Janis Bridge is being renovated.

Skate park finished - Local skaters say they like the new B3 Skate Park, finished June 30 and dedicated in the memory of Jerry Allstot, member, contributor and friend of the B3 Skate Park Project.

Dorothy Scott Airport Day this Saturday, July 25 - The second annual Dorothy Scott Airport Day honoring Oroville’s own Dorothy Scott, one of the first 25 women to serve as a WASP during World War II, will be held at the airport named after her this weekend.

Janis Bridge set to reopen on schedule - The Janis Bridge construction project, which detoured much of Highway 97 traffic around Tonasket, is almost done and set to reopen on Monday, July 27.

Over 300 show support for Oroville Officer Patterson - More than 300 people participated in a benefit dinner for Officer Chris Patterson who was injured when his patrol car collided with a cow on Highway 97 a month earlier.

August

Gazette-Tribune remains official Tonasket newspaper - The Tonasket City Council awarded the bid for their legal advertising to the Gazette-Tribune, saying they “feel the Tribune is the local newspaper .”

Tonasket School Board adopts $11.8 million budget - After a special hearing to discuss the budget for the 2009-2010 school year, the Tonasket School Board approved a resolution adopting a budget of nearly $12 million.

Primary election to narrow field of Tonasket mayoral candidates – Three candidates are vying for the position of Tonasket mayor - Joyce Fancher, Eric Griffin and Patrick Plumb – and the upcoming Aug. 18 by-mail election will whittle that number down to two.

Growers upset over federal labor inspections - Orchardists met in a special meeting of the county Farm Bureau to listen to fellow growers who recently underwent federal inspections by the U.S. Department of Labor only to face hefty fines.

Tenth annual Garlic Festival bigger and better - The 10th annual Garlic Festival, hosted by the Community Cultural Center, was bigger and better this year than last and featured a wine tasting with all four of Oroville’s wineries offering samples of their vintages.

Opponents of Shanker’s Dam suggest ‘No dam option!’ - More than 120 people packed the Old Oroville Depot to express their concerns over the feasibility study of water storage at Shanker’s bend on the Similkameen River.

Fancher leads in mayoral primary election results - Joyce Fancher led in the primary election results for Tonasket mayor with 46.88 percent of the vote; Patrick Plumb takes the second candidate’s slot.

September

Four spend several cold nights lost in high country near border - The combined efforts of several agencies and search and rescue aided in locating three adults and a child lost in the high country near the Canadian border. Navel Search and Rescue helicopter crew lifts four who strayed across border to safety

Oroville Ambulance asks for IV Tech training - Dr. Doug Thrasher appeared before the Oroville Council to discuss the value of having IV Techs on the Oroville ambulance. He says early intravenous treatment “can make it easier than trying to raise Lazareth from the dead” after they get to the hospital.

Steel construction on North Valley Hospital addition begins - With the steel construction on the hospital addition beginning last week, the construction project is coming along, despite being nearly two weeks behind schedule.

Tonasket girl new Okanogan County Fair Queen - Elizabeth Cleman of Tonasket is the 2010 Okanogan County Fair queen receiving her crown the final day of this year’s fair.

New owners breath new life into condo project in Oroville - Languishing for over two years, the Desert Breeze condominiums in downtown Oroville not only have new owners, but a new name – Senora Shores – and a new attitude.

Getting pedestrian friendly - Work on $1.5 million Main Street Pedestrian Project, spanning Oroville along the east side of US97 from north to south, has started in earnest and the contractor has begun cutting the old pavement in preparation of the addition of sidewalks and curbs.

October

Trail making recreation connections - A trail approaching the old railroad bridge over the Similkameen River is being built. It will skirt the Copper Mountain Vineyard to complete the Similkameen Connector Trail on the old Great Northern Railroad bed from Oroville to just below the powerhouse at Enloe Dam. 

Enrollment at Oroville schools unexpectedly on the rise - Supt. Ernie Bartelson told the school board that enrollment had increased by about 85 students over last year. “That’s a lot,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be a pattern as to why.”

Parks Commission agrees to transfer Veteran’s Memorial to Oroville - A small delegation travelled to Spokane to ask the state Parks Commission to transfer Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial State Park to the city. One of 13 parks slated to close because of the state budget, the commission agrees to the transfer.

 New assisted living facility planned for Oroville - Cheryl Lewis with the Oroville Housing Authority discussed that agency’s plans to construct a 24-unit assisted living facility near their migrant workers camp off Sawtell Road..

Tribe threatens lawsuit over park - Saying they hadn’t stuck to their own criteria, the Colville Confederated Tribe said they would take the state to court over the transfer of Veterans Memorial State Park to Oroville, rather than the Tribe.

Hospital hoping to pass $7.5 million bond - In order to completely finish the hospital addition, North Valley Hospital is hoping to pass the bond issue in the Nov. 3 election.

Heavy Haul Corridor results in more jobs - When part of US97 north of Oroville was designated as a Heavy Haul Corridor last spring it brought the promise of new jobs and business – for at least one company the promise is proving to be true.

School board agrees to widen search for superintendent - After a public backlash over a decision to search for a new superintendent from within the district, the Oroville School Board agreed to expand the search to a wider range of candidates.

November

If you’re sick stay home - The Oroville and Tonasket School Districts are asking for anyone who is sick to be kept at home. In the last two weeks both districts have experienced higher than normal levels of absences – many students are out with the flu.

Plumb will be Tonasket’s mayor; hospital bond fails - With no more votes to count it appears former Tonasket Councilman P
atrick Plumb will now step into the mayor’s position. The $7 million hospital bond has failed to gain 60 percent of the vote.

Property rights meeting draws big crowd - The first Coalition for Property Rights meeting was successful, with 850 people in attendance at the Okanogan County Agriplex. Most have concerns about the proposed updates to the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

Grant awarded for development of trailhead - Okanogan County has received a $106,000 federal grant for the development of the trailhead at Oroville for the Similkameen Connector Trail along the old Great Northern Railway bed.

Swine flu claims first victim in Okanogan County - The Okanogan County Health Department confirms the first H1N1 flu-related death in the county occurred earlier this month.

Meet Oroville’s new Postmaster - New Oroville Postmaster Dwight Grimmer arrived quietly in mid-September, marking the first change in the leadership at the top spot at the P.O. for more than 25 years.

December

Oroville School Board accused of meeting illegally - Steve Colvin told the Oroville School Board that they were holding an illegal meeting as there was not a quorum because the terms of two board members had ended the day before and a third position remained vacant.

Prince’s Foods to sell to Akins Harvest Foods - The owners of Prince’s Foods in Oroville announced the sale of their grocery store to Akins Harvest Foods of Quincy last week. The sale marks the first change in ownership of the store in 76 years.

Commission won’t make decision on park until summer 2010 - While it’s back to square one on the decision as to who will get Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial Park, the state has agreed to open up its registration system to campers in 2010.

Oroville School Board sets $1.5 million M&O Levy – the board approved a resolution to send to the county asking the maximum amount in the upcoming special election. The amount to be collected will only increase slightly to $2.33 per $1000 in assessed valuation due to the fact total property valuation in the district has nearly doubled.

Hospital asks Oroville to sponsor block grant application - Representatives of North Valley Hospital appeared before council to request the city sponsor a state CBDG grant to help pay to complete some of the new construction at 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 the 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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