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Council wraps up another year

  • Written by Don Mann
In its final meeting of 2011, the Woodinville City Council stayed late and covered quite a bit of territory.

First, the council confirmed the reappointment of Parks & Recreation commissioners Paul Cowles, Greg Fazzio, Hal Larsen and Al Strand.

What followed was a no-brainer: approving an agreement with the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) to accept a grant for $4.5 million to assist with the funding of the Woodinville- Duvall Road widening project. The overall $8.5 million project is expected to go to bid a year from now and be completed about a year after that.

Then, after some discussion, the council decided to take no formal position regarding a reduction in the state’s annexation sales tax credit program — a budget cut proposed by Governor Christine Gregoire that will affect neighboring cities but not Woodinville.

Next, the council approved an agreement for continued legal services with Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC Attorneys at Law, which has provided legal services to the city since its incorporation in 1993.

Greg Rubstello, who joined OMW in 1995, has been Woodinville’s city attorney for four years.

There was a question of conflict of interest regarding the recent election of Les Rubstello, cousin of Greg, to the city council.

In a memo sent to City Manager Richard Leahy after a request for independent legal advice, Pat Mason, senior legal consultant for Seattle-based Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington, stated the following: “In my opinion, the election of the cousin of the city attorney to the city council does not generally affect the ability of the city attorney to serve as legal advisor to the city or to the city council specifically. It is potentially possible that a specific situation could arise involving the city councilmember who is a relative of the city attorney that would make it preferable that the city attorney excuse himself from advising the city on a particular situation but it is not certain that this type of situation will ever occur and it can be easily dealt with if it does.”

Mason recommended that the city review its local ethics codes to make certain there are no local provisions that may apply to the situation, and council voted unanimously in favor of it.

Said the city attorney in a memo to the council: “I do not currently and have never had an attorney-client relationship with Les ... I trust that after Les is seated on the council you all will find I provide Les with no greater or lesser level of consideration, availability or deference than I do to all other members of the council.”

He added that he has had no business or financial relationships with his cousin, and none will be created.

The council then moved on to its continuing public hearing on Ordinance No. 524, which amends and clarifies development regulations for the downtown master plan. There were no public comments by the citizenry.

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders, apparently acting unilaterally, provided her colleagues with an updated version of her definition of Northwest woodland character in terms of her vision of what downtown development should look like.

“Woodinville has a brand, Woodinville values that brand and Woodinville incorporates that brand into its downtown design standards,” she said.

She added the work was a four-person collaboration, which included Councilmember Art Pregler, Mayor Bernie Talmas and a member of the city’s planning commission. The mayor, who said he hadn’t yet read Boundy-Sanders’ document, suggested it was more appropriate for the topic to be discussed at the first council meeting in January, when Pregler, who was absent, was back and Les Rubstello was seated. And so it was moved.

Moments later, during her report, Councilmember Liz Aspen said “I’m a little astounded that three council members have rewritten our design standards.”

Bothell’s ‘last great forest’ saved

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

NorthCreekForest_Map-2Last week, the City of Bothell purchased 35 acres of the North Creek Forest from The Boy Scouts of America (BSA), culminating years of hard work by citizen groups who have dreamed of protecting this important habitat for birds, fish and wildlife.

Often referred to as Bothell’s “last great forest,” North Creek Forest is located only one mile from Bothell’s city center.

Surrounded by an urban area projected to grow 30 percent in the next 18 years, the conservation of this forest comes at a critical time.

“The Bothell City Council, city staff and our citizens worked for years to bring together the public private partnership that has preserved this beautiful forest,” said Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb.  “The purchase of the North Creek Forest is a conservation legacy that Bothell is securing for generations to come.”

The land acquisition is fully funded through sources other than City of Bothell tax dollars, including grants through Washington State Department of Commerce, Snohomish County Conservation Futures and King County Conservation Futures and funding through the King County Proposition 2 Park Levy.

Under city management, the new parcel will be preserved as open space and be available to the public for passive use.

With several schools within walking distance, the forest has great potential to become an outdoor laboratory for education and research.

BSA property representative Bryan Zemp called the deal “the ideal way to sell Scout property, knowing that it will become a public space to benefit people for years to come.  This honors the spirit and tradition of Scouting.”

Jim Freese, interim director of Friends of North Creek Forest, described the purchase as “historic” and “the outcome of 10 years of grass roots efforts on the part of the Friends, and Help Our Woods (HOW) to showcase and protect the forest.

“You don’t find this kind of forest in a city. This is a game changing piece of property. When a city saves something like this it alters the future: for fisheries, for education and for all Bothell citizens.”

The entire North Creek Forest is 64 acres in size, consists of mature coniferous forest with large douglas fir, western hemlock and cedar trees.The forest is also home to a wide array of plants and animals, including the pileated woodpecker and band-tailed pigeon.

The forest is an integral part of the North Creek watershed, which filters water flowing into North Creek, an active salmon stream.

For more information, please visit www.friendsnorthcreekforest.com or www.ci.bothell.wa.us.

Kirkland Police file murder charges in Paxton homicide

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

The Kirkland Police Department has referred first degree murder charges to the King County Prosecutor’s Office regarding suspect Dakota M. Wolf, 19, in the Scarlett Paxton homicide investigation.

Subsequent to the filing of charges, an arrest warrant was issued for Wolf, a soldier stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Paxton died from a neck wound at her residence in Kirkland in the early morning of November 30, 2011.

Kirkland detectives had previously identified Wolf as a person of interest in the investigation.

Detectives are working in cooperation with the military to arrange an eventual transfer of custody.

The investigation is ongoing and detectives continue to explore a link between Paxton and Wolf.

Northshore fire chief retires

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

Weathers_photoAfter 11 years of service with the Northshore Fire Department, Fire Chief Tom Weathers will be retiring effective December 31, 2011.

Chief Weathers has dedicated himself to fire service for 34 years, having started his career in Douglas and Flagstaff, Ariz.

Since his first days as a firefighter in 1977, he has served in many capacities, including paramedic, company officer, deputy chief and chief. He has shared his knowledge and experience in the fire service by teaching classes at the National Fire Academy and at conferences and seminars across the country.

Chief Weathers has been instrumental in the growth and advancement of the Northshore Fire Department. Through his efforts and achievements, he consistently demonstrated a commitment and dedication to the protection of the residents of Kenmore and Lake Forest Park.

“His contributions have enhanced the professionalism and success of the Northshore Fire Department,” said Deputy Chief Jim Torpin.

With the departure of Chief Weathers, the Northshore Fire Department has announced the promotion of Deputy Chief Jim Torpin to the rank of acting fire chief.

Chief Torpin has been an employee of the fire district since 1993 and has risen through the ranks to his current position. Chief Torpin possesses a strong background in fire ground operations as well as fiscal responsibility. His goal is to maintain the high level of service provided by the district while negotiating the current and forecasted financial challenges.

Operation Christmas Child

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

Families who haven’t yet packed their Operation Christmas Child gift of hope, are packing shoe box gifts virtually through “Build a Box,” an online giving tool. Volunteers can visit the project’s website at www.samaritanspurse.org/occ, select a child’s age and gender, shop for gifts and  “pack” them in an empty shoe box.