A look back at the year that was 2012
New mayor takes over
Chris Christopherson became the mayor of Grand Coulee Jan. 3. after winning the popular vote in November. He and former mayor Tammara Byers traded seats, as she took his old spot on the city council.
Sewage plans explained
Engineers for Coulee Dam detailed in a public meeting plans to revamp the town’s wastewater treatment plant for nearly $5 million to be financed with a near doubling of sewer bills. The plan drew criticism and is still controversial.
Raider takes championship
Orrin Gross won the state high school wrestling title at 138 pounds in Tacoma.
Golf course won’t open
The majority shareholders of the Banks Lake Golf and Country Club announced the course was insolvent and would not open in 2012 as they handed ownership over to Port District 7.
Major settlement reached
The Colville Business Council approved a $193 million settlement with the federal government over alleged mismanagement of tribal assets for decades, one of the largest such settlements in the country.
Port takes on golf course
Port District 7 commissioners pledged to a banquet room full of patrons that they would keep the local golf course open in 2012, having had the course unexpectedly given to them by its former owners.
State funds new school project
The school district’s long quest to find money for new schools was mostly fulfilled when lawmakers in Olympia parceled out $17 million to bring state funds to a total of $31 million marked for Grand Coulee Dam schools. The measure was inserted in the capital budget by State Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee.
State auditor blasts city
The State Auditor’s Office found that the city of Grand Coulee had overspent its budget in 2009 and failed bill for ambulance services in 2010 to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Towns meet on sewer plant dispute
Coulee Dam and Elmer City representatives met at the Elmer City Town Hall to discuss issues involved in a multimillion dollar upgrade to Coulee Dam’s wastewater treatment plant, then took a tour of that plant.
Hundreds participated in the Colorama Rodeo, marking a turnaround for the event that had been fading in recent years.
LRHS scientists awarded
A Lake Roosevelt High School team of young scientists took awards in a four-state Imagine Tomorrow contest at Washington State University. Taking the Global Impact Award and fourth place in their division were Rickyna Sam, Abe Batten, Amanda Palmer, Andrew McClure and Tanecia Stancsak for their “Scrap Power” project.
Park district gets grant
The Coulee Area Park and Recreation District learned it would get a $50,000 federal grant that would help it maintain North Dam Park, which it took over after the city of Grand Coulee abandoned it.
LR grads petition feds for local school support
In a letter read at their commencement ceremony, high school graduates argued for federal support of local schools, whose district cannot raise enough funds through property taxes because of untaxable federal lands. The letter was read by state Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, whose leadership at the state level brought funding for a new academic K-12 building but not associated structures.
WTF plant plans defended
Even as a petition gathered for reconsideration, and despite criticism from Elmer City, its biggest wastewater treatment facility user, Coulee Dam vowed to move ahead with plans to update the plant with a loan the Department of Ecology said ranked fairly high on a list for state financing.
In a wave of continued discontent, tribal voters turned out six of seven Colville Business Council members up for re-election.
Tribal council compromises on settlement
On the same day they took office, tribal council members voted to put to referendum of the membership whether to pay up to 50 percent of a $193 million federal settlement directly to members, instead of their previously planned 20 percent.
State honors landowners
Leroy and Betty Sanderson were named landowners of the year by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Wind storm hits region hard
A wind storm ripped through the region, reaching speeds estimated at 100 miles per hour in some areas, downing trees and miles of power lines, closing roads for days and causing millions of dollars of damage.
New laser show to come
Golf course eating funds
The golf course it took over in the spring had eaten up $100,000 of Port District 7’s reserve funds, commissioners learned.
Study: Community center very feasible
A consultant hired to study whether a local community center would be feasible to build and sustain gave a resounding yes to that question. He said the community could sustain a 19,000-square-foot facility and 17 jobs for the operation of a center that featured an aquatic center, meeting areas and more.
Firefighters fight big wildfire
An electrical storm and high winds kept firefighters busy saving homes in and near Elmer City and Coulee Dam and would eventually burn 11,000 acres on the Colville Indian Reservation.
City taxes vehicles
The Electric City Council voted to level a $20-per-vehicle fee to help bolster the street fund.
Tribal members take the money
In a referendum, Colville Tribal members voted to pay directly to members half of $193 million gained in a settlement with the federal government.
School gets million-dollar grant
Lake Roosevelt High School learned it will benefit from a $1 million federal grant to revamp its science, technology, engineering and math approach and increase higher education success among American Indian students.
USBR endorses Banks drawdown
The Bureau of Reclamation said after studying the problem of diminishing groundwater in the Odessa Sub-Area for seven years, it prefers a solution that includes drawing down Banks Lake an extra 3.1 feet in August each year to irrigate 70,000 acres of potatoes.
Wildfires stretch firefighters thin
Six fires broke out in the area following an electrical storm that swept the state and started 100 blazes. The complex of local fires eventually burned 82,000 acres of sage and pastureland and prompted evacuations in Douglas County and in Grand Coulee and evacuation notices in Coulee Dam. It took $1.65 million of state and federal money to fight.
Trees become art
Two trees toppled in a July windstorm at Mason City Memorial Park were carved into big sculptures by a chainsaw artist, paid with taxes collected on lodging fees.
Jobs get a boost
The Bureau of Reclamation said it would boost by about 40 the number of permanent jobs at its Grand Coulee Dam facility, currently employing 484. Power Manager Mark Jenson said a similar number would likely be added in a more temporary manner as a new continual maintenance process gets underway. But he said a lack of local housing is a problem he hopes the private sector will address.
Tourism dollars not spent
Some $434,000 meant to promote tourism goes unspent in reserve accounts held by the three cities that levy hotel/motel taxes, a Star study found.
Parks levy defeated
Approval of 57 percent of the voters was not enough to give the Coulee Area Park and Recreation District a 15-cent tax it sought for operations and grant matching. The measure needed 60 percent approval.
Food bank back
Two months after cutting back operations for lack of food, the Care and Share Food Bank was back up to speed, thanks to a massive community effort.
Spot picked for center
A group pushing for a new community wellness center chose land made available by Coulee Medical Center when it bought the land just across SR 174.
Elmer City to seek own sewage plant
After months of wrangling between the two towns, Elmer City’s town council voted to seek a way to build its own wastewater treatment facility, saying Coulee Dam’s planned upgrades would be too expensive for its residents.
Volunteer of the year chosen Eloise Bowman, who organizes the second-hand shop that keeps the Grand Coulee Dam Senior Center afloat financially, was recognized as The Star’s volunteer of the year by popular vote.