Our wishes for Woodburn as we begin a new year
2017 has picked up the baton from 2016 and delivered another year of growth, development and controversy. Looking back on our wish list from last year, much of it remains the same, with only some slight adjustments.
Many events in 2017 have laid the groundwork for some potentially great things to happen in 2018. Here are a few of those things we hope to see this year.
• A new community center. This item was on our wish list for 2017, and though it hasn't exactly come to fruition (Rome wasn't built in a day, after all), the wheels have definitely been set in motion to accommodate this wish. Most notably, the city of Woodburn recently purchased land adjacent to the Woodburn Aquatic Center to allow for adding onto that building to open a community center. Will 2018 bring a bond issue on the ballot, making the community center that much closer to being a reality? We hope so, because having a community center will mean a gathering place for Woodburn's residents of all ages and ethnicities, and it will contribute to a vibrant downtown.
• More development. There is so much on the horizon as far as residential development (which we're not exactly excited about, with overcrowded schools and potential loss of the small-town charm) and potentially new businesses, both industrial and retail.
There's a new owner of the old City Hall, and we hope he will make good on his plan to develop the historic building and transform it into a centerpiece of downtown. Downtown development would also mean utilizing set-aside money to finally fix First Street, something we've been wishing for longer than most of the newspaper's employees have worked here.
This wish also includes the continued dirt-pushing being done on Woodburn School District properties as a result of the bond that was passed in May 2015. We hope that there are no interruptions and the current construction is completed as planned in the fall, making way for the remaining projects.
And speaking of bond projects, we anxiously anticipate what the future has in store for the North Marion School District. With its recently passed $42 million bond, the district is working on upgrading its nearly 70-year-old high school and increasing security, among other improvements. The two neighboring properties will also play a part in the district's growth in the coming years. We're excited to see what's in store for the district in general as it is now in the seemingly very capable hands of new Superintendent Ginger Redlinger.
• Sports success continues. This was an item on our wish list last year, and 2017 did not disappoint. With the Stigall brothers clinching two state wrestling titles, Bishop Mitchell winning three state titles in track and field, Emily Scanlan winning one, and, of course, the dynastic Bulldog soccer team claiming its fifth state title in eight years, there was much to get excited about in athletic news this past year. With many strong and talented athletes in northern Marion County, we believe there will be many more successes in 2018, despite three local districts having to move to a new classification in the fall. (Woodburn will drop to the 4A level, Gervais to 2A and St. Paul back to 1A.)
• Healing for Hubbard. The past year has been one of transition for Hubbard. Much of the city staff has changed, not to mention the city council and mayor. After a controversial decision to take a look at permanently contracting with Marion County Sheriff's Office, something the city council decided not to pursue further after months of debate, a recall campaign against then-Mayor Thia Estes and then-Councilor Brad Williams was initiated by upset residents. Both Estes and Williams, as well as Councilor Shannon Schmidt, eventually resigned in the fall. With a new mayor, Charles Rostocil, and two new city councilors, as well as new police Chief David Rash, Hubbard has a lot of repairing to do of relationships and morale. Hubbard's strength is in its volunteer base and loyal residents, and we hope the town can move on from 2017's headaches and become an even stronger and cohesive city in the new year.
• Resolving criminal cases. In 2017, there was some legal resolution — perpetrators of violence pleaded guilty, a yearslong legal battle between Woodburn Police Department employees and the city was dismissed, to name a couple — and we hope that resolution continues in 2018. Foremost in our minds is that Cynthia Martinez, the 26-year-old Woodburn woman who vanished in July, is found. We hope those responsible for the death of Gervais' Kenny Kalugin, 37, are brought to justice, regardless of the seemingly dubious circumstances surrounding his murder.
And we know there are trials on the horizon this year, including that of WPD officer Dan Kerbs, who's accused of child sex abuse, sodomy and online corruption of a child. He's scheduled to go to trial in February. The accused murderer of Brenda Bautista, whose body was found in a rural Marion County field in October 2015, is scheduled to be put on trial in September. We wish for justice to be delivered in these and other local cases.
• Community togetherness. In 2017, the Woodburn community came together to raise more than $11,000 for the Woodburn Police Department to equip every vehicle in its fleet with an automated external defibrillator. The success of this campaign, thanks largely to Woodburn Proud, is just an example of how great things can happen when a community works together. We hope there's another initiative like this that can bring Woodburn residents and employees together in improving the place we live and work.
With the close of an eventful year, we hope 2018's headlines are less controversial and tumultuous, instead announcing more successes and positive contributions to the Woodburn area.
Here's to a fulfilling, peaceful and successful 2018.