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Looking back at 2011

The West Linn Tidings reflects on its top 10 news stories of 2011
by: VERN UYETAKE Alice Richmond and Bill Hill celebrate Nov. 8 after hearing that Measure 3-377 — which will fund a new public safety facility for the West Linn Police Department — passed.

* West Linn voters approve new police station

It was a close call, but West Linn voters approved a bond measure to fund a new police station in the Nov. 8 election. The new public safety facility will be located in the Willamette neighborhood at Eighth Avenue and 13th Street.

After citizens shot down a $10.8 million bond measure to fund a new public safety facility on Parker Road in May 2010, city officials credited the success of the latest bond measure to the efforts of the 16-member Community Police Facility Development Committee.

The group reviewed more than a dozen potential sites, alternative design and finance options and crafted an outreach and communication strategy for passing the bond measure. It presented its formal recommendations to the West Linn City Council in December 2010.

City staff said the $8.5 million bond will finance the cost of land acquisition and the building's design, construction, as well as outfitting the new police department facility. During its Nov. 28 meeting, the West Linn City Council authorized the sale of $8.5 million in general obligation bonds with a 20-year term.

The current police station - located at 22825 Willamette Drive near the West Linn-Oregon City arch bridge - was built in 1936, is crowded but can't expand past is current footprint, has little parking and isn't seismically safe.

The Willamette neighborhood site required the city to acquire four parcels at the northeast corner of the intersection of Eighth Avenue and 13th Street, tucked on land between Les Schwab Tires and the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue's Station 59.

Measure 3-377 will cost taxpayers about $46 a year for a $285,000 home over 20 years, or about $3.80 a month.

City council approved a motion to appoint members to a newly formed Police Station Steering Committee at its Dec. 12 meeting, which will act as a go-between for the contractors and the city council during the design and construction process, making recommendations along the way.

The oversight committee will then form a larger design committee with up to 20 neighbors, stakeholders, police department employees and other community representatives. This group will provide input on what the building will look like inside and out, as well as the surrounding landscaping.

* Blue Heron closes

The employee-owned Blue Heron Paper Company abruptly went out of business in February, shutting down its plant with 175 workers in Oregon City and stopping use of a 39-acre parcel with a lagoon in West Linn. The company couldn't pull back since filing for bankruptcy protection in Dec. 2009 and attempting to produce less newsprint and more of an environmentally friendly, commercial-grade towel material.

Company president Mike Siebers said that mills like Blue Heron were 'where the actual recycling of the collected wastepaper you set out at the curb' took place.

Metro has expressed interest in the old mill site and Water Environmental Services (WES) wants to take over its West Linn property. However, the deadline for submitting bids on the parcels passed Dec. 14, and no official announcements or transactions were made.

If WES secures the property, the city of West Linn may develop and restore the property as parkland, which was formerly used as a wastewater treatment and discharge facility. The property sits along Volpp Street in the Willamette neighborhood.

* Walmart arrives

In June, Walmart, the world's largest corporation, announced it would open one if its 'neighborhood markets' in the space formerly occupied by Bales Marketplace off Willamette Drive in West Linn, spurring controversy among city residents.

Walmart's 'market' stores typically measure about 42,000 square feet and feature groceries, a pharmacy, paper goods, health and beauty products and pet and household supplies - a similar range of products to what is available at most Fred Meyer stores.

West Linn's store, which will likely open in 2013, will employ between 75 and 100 people, and hiring is tentatively scheduled to begin in summer 2012.

City of West Linn staff announced Sept. 19 that the building permits for the property at 19133 Willamette Drive had been approved and were available for the applicant - Walmart.

The city stated that it anticipates minor improvements will be made to the outside of the building as well, such as repainting and repairing cracked window trims. The square footage of the store will not increase. According to the Walmart website, the company does not have any of its neighborhood markets in Oregon yet, although it has permits filed for similar stories in Gresham and Beaverton. Another market is also planned for Lake Oswego off Jean Road. These stores will join Walmart's 17 supercenters, 14 discount stores and a distribution center in Oregon.

* Aquatic center still on the agenda for next year

Supporters for an aquatic and recreation center in West Linn are still optimistic they can get the job done with a November 2012 vote for a $22 million capital bond.

Having tabled the push for the pool earlier this year to make room for the police station measure, aquatic center backers started gearing up again in December.

The proposed pool and recreation center would be built on 7.5 acres off Parker Road near Tanner Creek Park and would include a recreation pool, room to add a competition pool, indoor sport courts, an elevated running track, a fitness center with studios and amenities such as patio seating, a snack bar and recreation space for teens.

The hope is to work with a financial or operational partner.

The city parks and recreation department is seeking requests for information (RFI) to identify potential partners.

* Robinwood neighbors have a water fight

The city of Lake Oswego plans to double the amount of drinking water treated at a plant it owns in West Linn's Robinwood neighborhood, expanding its capacity from 16 million gallons a day to 32 million gallons, with the potential to handle up to 38 million gallons. 

Neighbors have been vehemently fighting all year against an expansion of the West Linn plant, but the expansion could provide vital emergency water to the city of West Linn while servicing Lake Oswego and Tigard, which have partnered up to install a larger pipeline from the river to the plant and increase the size and capacity of the plant.

This plant expansion is one element in a $200 million water supply partnership between Lake Oswego and Tigard.

The timeline for the project includes submitting the application for the plant at the beginning of 2012 and submitting the pipeline application in April. Design and permitting is scheduling to extend into 2013, with construction from 2013 to 2015 and completion set for 2016.

* City cuts ties with Willamette Falls Media Center for cable access

West Linn cut cable television ties with Oregon City and the Willamette Falls Media Center (WFMC) this year, making a move to the larger Metropolitan Area Communications Commission (MACC).

After the city questioned the media center's financial responsibility, the center temporarily shut down in the spring for an investigation. No wrongdoings or mismanagement were found, but that didn't satisfy some officials' concerns.

West Linn's agreement with Oregon City dissolves in June 2012.

Both cities jointly share the public access facility in Oregon City, where public, education and government (PEG) shows are created, edited and aired. WFMC is governed by the Clackamas Cable Advisory Board (CCAB), which is composed of three volunteers from West Linn and three volunteers from Oregon City. Backers of the the media center are working to keep the center open and running as a nonprofit.

* Arch bridge closes for two years for maintenance

In mid-January, the Oregon Department of Transportation closed the arch bridge between West Linn and Oregon City for two years as it completes a $10.6 million rehabilitation project.

Prioritizing historic preservation and commuter safety, the two-lane bridge - which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and opened in 1923 - is half way through its rehab. Workers have used hydrodemolition - a high-powered pressure washing process - to strip the bridge of its coating of Gunite, a concrete mixture, which has cracked and leaked in recent years.

Water from West Linn's water supply is being used and runoff is directed into the sanitary sewer in Oregon City. New concrete will be recast on top of the bridge's steel frame, and its railings and pylons will be replaced.

Because roughly 13,000 cars a day traveled on the bridge before, by June the traffic was still getting pretty backed up by drivers confused when trying to steer clear of the construction.

Despite installing a wide array of signs and adjusting road striping and signal timing to improve traffic flow, officials said some congestion was unavoidable.

ODOT scraped together grant money to help the West Linn Police Department add about 20 hours a month to its traffic detail.

In late November, consultants from Crandall Arambula reccommended that the arch bridge area, including the Bolton neighborhood, should be at the top of the list for development in the next 20 to 30 years because of its transit access, proximity to the river and scenic views once the rehabilitation is complete.

Because the U.S. Secretary of the Interior's standards for historically registered structures prevents changing the 'look and feel of the bridge,' special restrictions have been placed on the rehabilitation project. The bridge is scheduled to reopen to traffic in late 2012, work on the overall rehabilitation project will continue through March of 2013.

To learn more about the rehabilitation project and shuttle services, visit www.archrehab.com.

* Men plead guilty in Gery Boyle kidnapping

In the spring, three Beaverton men - Nestor Gabriel Caballero Gutierrez, Ramon Alberto Midence and Jose Luis Arevalo - pleaded guilty to the violent Nov. 10, 2010, kidnapping attempt of Gert Boyle, 87, and the chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear, at her home on Wildwood Drive.

Caballero Gutierrez approached Boyle with a gift basket as she returned home from work, forced her inside the house and instead of disarming her security system, she sent off a silent panic alarm to alert authorities.

Midence, 42, dropped off Caballero Gutierrez, 40, before the crime and Arevalo, 47, admitted to driving in the ransom plot and allowing the use of his van in exchange for $20,000. A grand jury contended the trio planned to hold Boyle for $300,000 ransom and began hatching their plan more than a year prior. Midence's cut would be $50,000, Arevalo's $20,000 and the rest would go to Caballero Gutierrez, according to police.

A five-page victim's statement revealed how Boyle was shoved into a wall before being forced to the ground face first, how the robber shoved a necktie in her mouth and held a gun to her head. Boyle's hands were tied behind her back with rope and she was forced to her bedroom where she was ordered to take off her clothes. Police arrived before that happened but just as Caballero Gutierrez fled out the back and jumped off a high deck and ran until being apprehended on Highway 43. Later, the other two men were arrested as accomplices.

Caballero Gutierrez accepted a sentence of 14.5 years after pleading guilty to first-degree burglary, first-degree kidnapping, second-degree robbery and fourth-degree assault. Midence is serving 9.5 years in prison and Arevalo is serving almost six years. Boyle lived in the Wildwood Drive home for 24 of her 57 years in West Linn and, since the night of the crime, hasn't returned except to gather her belongings and put her house up for sale.

* Bill Rhoades becomes WL-WV superintendent

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District board of directors announced in March that William B. Rhoades would become the district's new superintendent. He took the post Sept. 6 after superintendent Roger Woehl retired after 18 years at the helm.

Rhoades was previously the assistant superintendent for the Office of School Performance in the Hillsboro School District and before that he was the chief academic officer for the Bend-LaPine School District and served in various administrative roles for the Woodburn School District for 10 years.

In September, Rhoades told the Tidings that the WL-WV School District has 'a culture of excellence in everything that we do' because of the talent it attracts and the accountability it holds to high standards.

'We want to be good instructional leaders. I want the district to pay really close attention to their own vision, which is a really high level of teaching and learning,' he said. 'That's an attractor for people who really appreciate high-quality work, opportunities to learn - being in an intellectual learning community where all of us as professionals can grow.'

Rhoades said that this school year would be filled with opportunities - such as new learning options at the two new schools opening in the fall of 2012, Trillium Creek Primary School in West Linn and Lowrie Primary School in Wilsonville. Rhoades - who said he has participated in nearly 40 marathons and used to play in the United States Tennis Association league - said he also enjoys his active lifestyle and being outdoors.

'I am excited to be here. I chose to be here,' Rhoades said. 'I'm looking forward to being here for a long time. I couldn't be more pleased.'

* Trillium Creek Primary School construction begins

On June 11, crews officially broke ground on the construction of Trillium Creek Primary, West Linn's soon-to-be newest school.

The school, which is set to open in September 2012, is the centerpiece of a $98 million construction bond approved by voters in 2008. Construction is expected to be complete by June 2012, and costs are expected to total $28 million.

Trillium Creek Primary sits on a 16-acre site at 1025 Rosemont Road, which includes the Trillium Creek protected wetland. Once it is open, the 67,000-square-foot school will hold up to 500 students and 50 faculty members.

The West Linn-Wilsonville School District's greenest building yet - which will be submitted for LEED gold certification - its design will include rainwater funnels from rooftops to refill flushing toilets; storm runoff filters through bioswales; a combination of solar panels and a wind turbine to help power the building. An unlit, multi-use sports field will sit northwest of the building. New school boundaries will be drawn within the district in anticipation of its opening to alleviate overcrowding at other schools, such as Stafford and Willamette primaries.

You might also recall...

Loud and clear: The city council conducted a series of town hall meetings this fall to gather community opinions of the city's assets and deficits.

A big stink: This fall, Clackamas County approved a composting facility owned by S and H Logging in the Stafford area despite neighbors' concerns about traffic, noise and smell.

Road to the future: The city conducted surveys and held meetings to determine the future direction of Highway 43 and Willamette Falls Drive.

Developing concern: The county began a series of forums to explore ways for the Borland-Stafford area to grow and develop.

Dirty water: A pump station failure in October resulted in 300,000 of spilled sewage into the Willamette River.

Coming clean: Parents came out in full force in October to attend a meeting about teen drug and alcohol use hosted by the West Linn Community Task Force.

Lions, tigers and bears: A bear was reportedly seen but never found near West Linn High School in September.

Bag lunch: In a cost-saving measure, The West Linn-Wilsonville School District has foregone hot lunches at primary schools and offers sack lunches in the classrooms instead.

Shared finances: The city started outsourcing its finance directors to Milwaukie in February.

Dazed and hazed: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began hazing sea lions with firecracker guns below the fish ladders at Willamette Falls in January to keep them from feasting on federally protected salmon and steelhead.

Streetcar stress: West Linn residents found more drawbacks than benefits to a regional effort to improve mass transit along Highway 43 after a Metro meeting in January. West Linnians said a streetcar line would be an inconvenience.

Text-a-Tip: West Linn launched its Text-a-Tip program this year, a service that allows citizens to report anonymous tips to the West Linn Police Department by sending a text message from a mobile phone or online.

Timber: In March, Stafford residents lamented the loss of Fantasy Forest, a tree farm that sat for decades in the rural area between Lake Oswego, Tualatin and West Linn.

Bandit: In June, police nabbed the notorious 'Beastie Boys Bandit,' suspected in numerous bank robberies throughout the Portland area, including incidents in Lake Oswego and West Linn.

New board: Cheri Zimmerman, Kristen Keswick and Betty Reynolds joined the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board after being elected in May.

Down for the count: Chael Sonnen, an Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter and one-time candidate for a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives, pleaded quilty to a federal money laundering charge in January.