2017: The Year in Review

In the past year Sequim seemed to see it all, from a booming housing market to major road and trail projects beginning and ending, athletic triumphs to family tragedies, a near-strike by local teachers while their administrative office undergoes major changes, invasive crabs and dangerous dogs, accolades from USA Today and record support for graduating high school seniors, an outpouring of community support for families in need to a peninsula gearing up for major catastrophes … and, yes, even a pack of mules running wild.

See photos of the year here.

Here’s a look back at some of the stories that made headlines in 2017:

January

Overcrowding at Sequim schools encouraged district staff to move fourth-and fifth-grade students from Helen Haller Elementary to a combined classroom at Sequim Middle School in early January. Overcrowding became an issue at Greywolf Elementary in the fall.

Mark Ozias, who represents the county’s eastern geographic area, was selected to board chair of the three-member Clallam County Board of Commissioners on Jan. 3. A week later, Clallam County commissioners lifted a 26-year-long ban on herbicide use.

In mid-January, two Sequim residents — Roy Carter and Bob Rains — were honored for their service and survival of the World War II Pearl Harbor attack with American flags that were flown over the USS Arizona.

Construction of a new bridge at Sequim Bay State Park began on Jan. 19, the creation of a new passage for park users and a boon for salmon migration. The bridge was completed and opened to the public in June.

On Jan. 21, area residents organized a women’s rights march in Sequim while several others took part in similar marches in Port Townsend, Seattle and New York City. Area residents also took part in the Jan. 22 March for Life in Washington, D.C., a day later.

City officials hosted a talk about discrimination and racism issues on Jan. 23 after artwork was posted at Sequim High School in December.

Clallam County Auditor Shoona Riggs said elections office officials on Jan. 25 found 125 unopened ballots that were returned during the 2016 November General Election. Elections supervisor Ken Hugoniot resigned on Jan. 26 and was replaced by Rick Wagner in May.

A final report from Fitch & Associates LLC released in January indicated Clallam County Fire District 3 could meet call capacity in about three years, encouraging fire officials to consider policy decisions to either add more resources, find ways to avoid expenses or reduce the call load.

February

Karla Najera was named the 2017 Sequim Irrigation Festival queen while fellow Sequim High students Alison Cobb, Abby Norman and Emily Straling were named princesses at a Feb. 11 pageant. Like previous royalty courts, the quartet is charged with representing the community at various events throughout the county and state in the coming year.

On Feb. 13, Sequim city manager Charlie Bush announced three large retailers — Coastal Farm & Ranch, Michael’s and Ulta — are planning to open stores in Sequim. Coastal opened on the east end of town in June, while Michael’s and Ulta are set for openings in early 2018 on the town’s west end.

Voters in the Sequim School District approved two district levy proposals — a four-year, $26.5 million Educational Programs and Operations Replacement levy, also known as Proposition 1, and a three-year, $5.75 million, Capital Projects levy, Proposition 2 — in a special election on Feb. 14. The EP&O levy pays for various programs like advanced placement classes, reduces class sizes and funds curriculum, books and technology, overall district maintenance and activities. The capital project levy pays for the removal of an unused portion of the Sequim Community School and expansion and renovation of the district’s central kitchen facility in the same building.

A 69-year-old Sequim man survived five days (Feb. 22-27) trapped inside his car after it rolled down an embankment off Sequim-Dungeness Way. Richard Jones was found by a man walking a dog on the morning of Monday, Feb. 27, trapped in his car about 20 feet down an embankment surrounded by brush, and rescued by first-responders.

On Feb. 22 in Long Beach, Calif., Greywolf Elementary School was honored for being one of 54 schools in the nation to be named a 2016 National Title I Distinguished School.

Dave Bekkevar was named the 2016 Citizen of the Year by the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 28, for helping start and continue numerous events and organizations in the community such as the Irrigation Festival’s logging show and various community contributions. Citizen of the Year finalists David and Patsy Mattingley became the fourth recipients of the chamber’s Humanitarian Awards. Other finalists included Deon Kaptean, a 16-year veteran of the Irrigation Festival, and fifth-grader River Jensen, nominated for her work to help those in the area in homeless situations.

March

After nearly a dozen years on the Sequim School Board of Directors, Bev Horan announced her resignation on March 7. She was replaced by Brian Kuh by appointment on March 22.

On March 15, friends and family came together to celebrate the life of Leo Shipley, who left Sequim’s Shipley Center and estimated $2.2 million in funds and real estate before his death in January.

Officials with the Sequim Library took a big step toward addressing overcrowding issues when Margaret Jakubcin, director of the North Olympic Library System, detailed the library system’s expansion plans to NOLS board directors on March 23. Officials work throughout the year on plans to add space to the 6,000-square-foot Sequim Library and could put a bond measure to voters within the next two years, Jakubcin said.

Researchers in March looked to western hemlock trees on the Miller Peninsula to collect data that could help save hemlock trees on the East Coast from dying at alarming rates. Funded by the U.S. Forest Service, the experiment imported natural enemies of an invasive insect from the area that feeds and predates on hemlock trees. Left unchecked, insects called hemlock woolly adelgid could drive hemlocks to extinction on the East Coast.

In late March, advocates of Olympic Peninsula Special Needs Housing broke ground on its first house for residents with disabilities, a four-bedroom home that aims to give young adults more independence.

Clallam Transit’s Strait Shot, first proposed in March, was given the go-ahead by its board on March 20. The service that provides locals with direct transportation from the peninsula to the Bainbridge Island ferry dock — a ferry ride away from downtown Seattle — saw its first run completed in June. The service proved popular enough that Clallam Transit added extra rides for the holiday seasons in late 2017.

On March 31, Sequim High School youths capped a successful campaign to collect and recycle shoes — and earn some funds for Sequim High in the process — through the Angel Bins organization. Led by Cathy Dao and Abigail Hansted, the effort saw more than 1,000 pairs of shoes, sandals, boots and other footwear collected in four weeks.

For the first time since 2005, each Sequim student that competed in the the annual Washington State Science and Engineering Fair was awarded a first-place honor in their category. Washington’s 60th state science and engineering event was held at Bremerton High School on March 31-April 1, where eight Sequim students entered six projects; they returned with six first-place awards.

April

Bill Jevne, a founder of Five Acre School, died at the age of 72 in his Sequim home on Saturday, April 1, after a 22-year-long battle with prostate cancer.

Sequim native Bristol Marunde and wife Aubrey kicked off “Flip or Flop Vegas,” a spin-off of the popular HGTV show “Flip or Flop,” on April 6.

On April 8, “The Viola” — a hand-carved canoe that was on display at Sequim’s Pioneer Memorial Park for decades — was returned to Viola Penn Riebe of the Hoh Tribe and her family. The canoe, made by Riebe’s uncle William E. Penn in the early 1960s, was moved closer to the family’s native ground, housed at the Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks.

Sequim native Bailey Bryan released “So Far,” her first full-length album, on April 14. The 19-year-old was a finalist in the Grammy Awards’ Artist of Tomorrow competition and now tours nationally.

Clallam County Sheriff’s deputies arrested 29-year-old Rischelle Lea Heaton of Port Angeles on April 14 for allegedly writing herself $9,715 in checks from the Sequim Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4760, $2,900 of which had come from the VFW’s Veterans Relief Fund, court records say. Heaton was charged with one count of first-degree theft, 31 counts of forgery, and was charged in late October with one count of bail jumping after being arrested on a warrant issued in June.

In mid-April, an invasive crab species scientists and locals feared to find on the North Olympic Peninsula was discovered in traps last week in Dungeness Bay. Staff and volunteers at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge found at least 13 European green crab in Graveyard Spit, across from Dungeness Landing. Native to the Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea, the species of crab is known for damaging the soft shell clam industry in Maine. By mid-September, the count rises to 93 crabs found.

State and local leaders hailed the installation of a modular building housing four kindergarten classrooms at Greywolf Elementary School on April 24. The event highlighting use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) drew, among others, state Rep. Steve Tharinger and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer. Community members and staff celebrated the classroom’s opening on June 28 with a ribbon-cutting. On Oct. 11, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray stops by to view the CLT classrooms and talk with Greywolf staff about their academic practices.

Sequim earned bragging rights as the nation’s Best Northwestern Small Town after taking top honors in USA TODAY’s “10 Best Reader’s Choice” travel award contest; winners were announced April 28. Port Townsend came in fourth place.

Eleana Maria Christianson, 49, of Sequim pleaded guilty to second-degree theft for taking at least $775,000 from Donald and Pilar Tucker, owners of Park Manager LLC, and Donald’s mother. Judge Christopher Melly sentenced Christianson to 45 days in jail. Her husband Bret W. Christianson, 50, pleaded guilty on Aug. 31 to second degree theft as well and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. However, he faces a bail jumping charge with a tentative trial on Feb. 7. Court documents state the Christiansons paid nearly $641,000 in restitution leading up to Bret’s sentencing.

May

Sequim, a cougar found in Joyce, made its public debut at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minn., in early May. The male cougar was found as an orphaned kitten weighing 13 pounds with his 11-pound sister named Olympia in October 2016.

Also in early May, Sequim received the newest four-legged officer in the Sequim Police Department’s K-9 program — Mamba, a 16-month-old German Shepherd.

Sequim farrier Chris Niclas flew to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, Colo., to provide customized rubber shoes he built for a most unusual client: a giraffe named Twiga. The 16-year-old giraffe born in human care suffers from arthritis and osteoporosis. Niclas and a team of zoo staff attempted to fit and glue the shoes on Thursday, May 4, and the result was a success — or as Niclas refers to it, “a small miracle.”

Sequim resident Cynthia Little was found dead at her Sunland home on May 5. Benjamin G. Bonner, an 18-year-old from Bainbridge Island, confesses to killing the 71-year-old Sequim woman.

Locals turned a vacant lot on East Washington Street into a temporary public park, Whimsy Park, with a grand opening on May 5.

Sequim native Jessica R. Brooks, 26, received a posthumous degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Washington State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine on May 6, following her death in a car wreck on Dec. 27, 2016, near Colfax.

Sequim residents Lori Christie and her boyfriend Dean Flowers found a Columbian mammoth molar weighing in at just over 10 pounds. After finding the rarity in late April, they received confirmation of the find by Ronald Eng, Paleontology and Geology collections manager at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum in Seattle, on May 9. Eng estimated the molar was 19,000-20,000 years old and came from a 35-40 year-old adult Columbian mammoth.

Sequim High band director Vern Fosket served selected grand marshal for the Sequim Irrigation Festival Grand Parade.

Second to just one: Sequim 10-year-old Paige Krzyworz sold 3,036 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in this year’s drive, the second-highest total in Washington state. The Helen Haller Elementary fourth-grader received the news in class on May 17.

Sequim High graduate Elise Beuke, a sophomore at the University of Washington, helped the UW’s women’s rowing team become the first school to sweep all three grand finals, earning the Huskies an NCAA rowing title on May 28 at Mercer Lake, New Jersey.

Community organizations helped Sequim High School graduates-to-be set a new school record for scholarship funding. Seniors received more than $4 million in scholarships at an awards event on May 31, with more than $350,000 from local groups. More than $1.5 million worth of college funds went to 10 Sequim High seniors from military service groups, also a new school record.

June

On June 9, Sequim High School set another school record after graduating 238 seniors.

Sequim city councilors unanimously approved the major subdivision Bell Hill Estates on June 12 to allow Bill Barnett of Barnett NW Enterprises LLC of Tenino to construct a proposed 103-unit housing development by US Highway 101.

Shipley Center representatives announced plans for construction of a 3,600-square-foot health and wellness facility across from their main campus at 921 E. Hammond St. The center still has plans for a new center on the east end of town, but this structure would help ease over-crowing at the well-used senior-focused center, officials say. In late September, the center saw more than $42,000 go to the effort after community backing helps the center win the Home Instead Senior Care Foundation’s GIVE65 campaign challenge.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in mid-June began a US Highway 101 safety project in Blyn that is 10 years in the making, realigning Chicken Coop and Zaccardo roads. The project, which adds turn lanes and a culvert for salmon, was completed in December.

Sequim businessman Mike Reichner announced in June he’s putting Purple Haze Lavender LTD, an iconic area business up for sale.

On June 24, Nina Fatherson, director and key figure with the Sequim Food Bank for nearly three decades, died.

July

Jeri and Fran Sanford, owners of the Sequim’s downtown business Over the Fence, announced they’ve put the business up for sale.

In early July, the Carlsborg sewer project wrapped up the majority of the $9.22 million, year-long project allowing water to travel through piping from the Carlsborg pump station to the City of Sequim via the Dungeness River Bridge over US Highway 101 to the City of Sequim’s Water Reclamation Facility.

On July 10, the McDonald Creek Bridge closed for reconstruction, rerouting traffic on Old Olympic Highway for up to nine months.

Dungeness Valley Lutheran Church officials in early July began exploring options for constructing a homeless shelter on church property.

Sequim businessman Robert Streett and 16-year-old son Robby died in a car wreck while vacationing in Colorado; wife Josslyn and son Sawyer were severely injured but survived the crash.

Owners of Cameron’s Berry Farm in mid-July announced they will close the business after the berry season completes, ending a 45-year operation.

Housing sales soared: The Sequim-Dungeness Valley area had the lowest second quarter housing inventory since 2015, an average of 270 homers available per month (per Team McAleer at RE/MAX Prime).

August

A proposed 55-and-older retirement community with 73 manufactured homes in Carlsborg won’t be going forward as is in the near future, after Clallam County Hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves announced on Aug. 16 that he denied an application for the proposed Atterberry Landing development. Reeves listed multiple issues leading to his decision including a lack of information on multiple concerns particularly on the development’s impact on Matriotti Creek and local habitat.

Sequim resident Jerry Pino got a visit from Rachel Mills, a daughter he never knew existed until she made the connection using DNA data through ancestry.com.

Auditions for the Sequim High School’s All-School play were suspended after Sequim School District officials chose not to renew longtime instructor Robin’s Hall’s contract in late August. School administrators said they are following federal guidelines under Every Student Succeeds Act, anticipating that federal standards will require after-school programs with public performances such as in theater and science fairs be led by staff holding teaching certificates to lead the programs. The district later agreed to contracts with Sequim teachers John and Laura Lorentzen and David McInnes to lead the SHS drama program.

September

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency on Sept. 2 because of wildfires in Central/Eastern Washington. The haze drifted across the state and triggers an Air Quality Alert throughout the region, including the Olympic Peninsula.

Byron Nelson, who finished a 34-year police career as Sequim Police Chief, died Sept. 2 in Port Angeles. Nelson led the Sequim Police Department from 1996-2002, overseeing the modernization of department equipment and vehicles, and enhancing several community policing programs.

The Sequim School District mulled moving students from Greywolf Elementary School in Carlsborg to Helen Haller Elementary near downtown Sequim after an enrollment bump of 50 students — the second in as many years at Greywolf — forced the issue. Later in the month, the district added sections of first and third grades at Greywolf to relieve the overcrowding.

On Sept. 13, members of the Sequim Education Association — the Sequim teachers’ union — voted in favor of authorizing its elected officers to call for a strike if an agreement is not met with Sequim School District. A strike is averted on Sept. 25 when the union and district officials agreed on a one-year contract; the school board approved the contract on Oct. 16.

Clallam County Fire District 3 fire commissioners on Sept. 19 opted not to accept a $1 million federal grant that would have added six full-time firefighters to the workforce. The grant came with too many strings attached and is not good for the long-term economic health of the district, fire commissioners said, particularly at a time when revenues and reserves are limited.

Terry Moore was attacked by three pit bulls on Sept. 23, sending the Sequim resident to the hospital. The dogs were detained nearly two days after the incident on Monday, Sept. 25, and put into a 10-day quarantine for rabies inspection at Olympic Peninsula Humane Society. In mid-October, the dogs are euthanized. On Oct. 23, the Sequim City Council updated its “dangerous dogs” policy that states dogs declared “dangerous” will no longer be allowed in Sequim city limits in 2018.

October

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is moving forward with a long-proposed resort and anticipates having the first of three hotel towers finished before summer of 2020, tribal officials said on Oct. 9. The resort includes a spa, event center, RV park and a parking garage, though it isn’t yet clear when each would be built. The first phase is a five-story tower that will house the hotel lobby and 100 rooms, 25 on each floor above the lobby, with construction expected in 2018 and 2019.

New peninsula residents Diane and Jim Luoma made a splash in the community when they moved a 1916 Sears craftsman kit house from Shelton to Sequim via barge; the curiosity drew several onlookers to Dungeness’ Cline Spit on Oct. 9.

Ann Renker, Sequim School District’s assistant superintendent, announced in early October she is resigning her position. It was the first of several major changes in the district’s administration office; later in the year, Heidi Hietpas, Executive Director of Finance and Operations, resigned and Paul Weineke, Executive Director of Human Resources, left his position for retirement purposes.

A local group of skaters and cyclists in October looked to ramp up efforts to redesign the 17-year-old Sequim Skate Park at Carrie Blake Community Park; they hope to raise as much as $750,000 over five years through donations and grants to add multiple elements and fix the existing park.

In mid-October, officials with the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory announced they have received funding to investigate making seaweed, or macroalgae, into biofuel from a new autonomous rope system that floats along the ocean. “It’s exploring the last frontier,” said Dr. Michael Huesemann, lead researcher for the algae biofuel program in the Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim. The Nautical Offshore Macroalgal Autonomous Device (NOMAD) system is set to be designed and produced in 2018.

Tricia Billes, former state History Teacher of the Year Award winner and longtime Sequim educator, died Oct. 14 from pneumonia related to her cancer treatment.

A fatal car collision near the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge on Oct. 18 killed 61-year-old Sequim resident Andrew Courney; Vance Mattix of Joyce is charged with vehicular homicide.

Best friends of 55 years, Charlotte Carroll and Didi Ryall of Diamond Point were contestants on the popular game show “Wheel of Fortune” on Oct. 25.

Volunteers and advocates of Sequim’s Welfare for Animals Guild celebrated the opening of WAG’s new Half Way Home Ranch near Old Olympic Highway, on Oct. 28.

November

In the Nov. 7 general election, Brian Kuh and Brandino Gibson were elected to Sequim School Board director positions while Colleen McAleer retained her Port of Port Angeles seat, as did Fire District 3 commissioner Steve Chinn. A countywide juvenile justice tax measure passed to generate an estimated $1.1 million per year for equipment, repairs, maintenance and operations of the Juvenile and Family Services facility in Port Angeles.

Willow Creek Manor, a 128-home subdivision, got the approval for construction from Sequim City councilors on Nov. 13 — despite safety concerns from neighbors and the Sequim Planning Commission. The 128 single-family homes on lots ranging from 5,400-14,500 square feet are planned to go on 44.62 acres near Carrie Blake Community Park.

Sequim octogenarian Chuck Milliman ran 85 miles on his 85th birthday on Nov. 14 and 15, raising funds for the Sequim Food Bank.

In mid-November, Sequim Food Bank officials announced they have purchased property adjacent to their Alder Street campus with the intention to increase operations, programs, storage and parking.

Also in mid-November, Sequim High School announced a school-record 20 students were selected to participate in Washington State’s All-State Choir.

In late November, plans came together to open a warming center at inside the Serenity House Resource Center at 583 W. Washington St. in downtown Sequim. The center is designed to be open for adults and accompanied minors during stretches of cold weather. More than four-dozen volunteers agree to help staff the center, though by the end of the year expected funding for an on-site paid staff member is running well short of what organizers had hoped for.

John Miller, Sequim city councilor, died on Nov. 29. He was elected in 2015 to city council seat No. 7 for a term of service through Dec. 2019, and served on the city’s Finance Committee, the Clallam Transit System Board of Directors and the Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

December

On Dec. 4, realignment of the Sequim School District’s administrative office continued: Randy Hill shifted to take over the human resources department on an interim basis while Mark Willis took Hill’s position as lead administrator for Sequim Options School and Olympic Peninsula Academy. Tom Anderson and Mary Ann Unger were hired to job-share vice principal duties at Sequim High School.

“The Great Mule Roundup of 2017,” as locals are calling it, saw 28 mules found loose trotting in and around Sequim on Dec. 15. Owned by Olympic National Park and residing in Sequim during the winter, the mules traveled about 8 miles and were rounded up and returned to their pasture without major incident.

Trail supporters, elected officials and representatives celebrated the official opening of a pair of newly-completed Olympic Discovery Trail sections on Dec. 15, including a three-quarter-mile stretch from the Clallam County/Jefferson County line to just past Knapp Road along US Highway 101, and another 0.75-mile section of trail near Discovery Bay that includes the culmination of a habitat restoration effort.

Locals turned out to help with preparation for major disasters, with more than 300 residents participating in Community Emergency Response Teams in 2017. Officials with Clallam County Fire District 3 reported in December that they’ve seen locals contribute about 13,000 volunteer hours toward training for potential disasters such as wildfires and catastrophic earthquakes, specifically the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a predicted 9.0 magnitude earthquake.

The Korean Women’s Association, in partnership with the Olympic Peninsula Special Needs Housing and CCH Individualized Support Services, opened on Dec. 18 in Sequim a new supported living facility catering to adults with developmental disabilities.

Donations continued to roll in for the proposed expansion of the OMC Cancer Center on Sequim’s Fifth Avenue. The Olympic Medical Center Foundation on Dec. 20 presented $79,193 to Olympic Medical Center’s board of commissioners for the center, pushing the total of monies raised or pledged to $511,000. OMC officials have a $1 million goal for the project.

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