2015 YEAR IN REVIEW
It’s always tough wrapping up the year, month by month, in only a few pages. That’s because the Quincy Valley is a busy community, full of interesting stories and the people who are a part of them.
This year was no exception. We saw the Wanapum Reservoir restored. Wildfires kept firefighters busy this past summer. And we ended the year looking ahead to new city and school projects.
About 10 months after the Grant PUD closed to the public the 75 miles of shoreline along the Wanapum Reservoir, the utility reopened the majority of the shoreline for recreational use. The entire shoreline and access points were closed to the public in March 2014 after Grant PUD had to draw down the reservoir in response to a 65-foot long fracture discovered on the Wanapum Dam spillway.
Local officials were at odds over a proposed bill in Olympia that would allow counties to put a $1 per ticket surcharge on outdoor amphitheaters such as the Gorge Amphitheatre to pay for emergency medical care. Quincy Valley Medical Center says non-paying concert-goers have caused it serious financial issues. However, Grant County Commissioner Carolann Swartz sent an email to local legislators, saying the bill was not needed because the issue is “currently being resolved locally.”
A Quincy man was arrested for allegedly stabbing another man in the back with a sharp object. Arrested was Jose J. Perez de Leon, 26. The victim was treated at the hospital.
A maintenance and operations levy was easily passed by Quincy School District voters. The four-year M&O levy will generate at least $7.7 million a year.
Two brothers convicted in the 2011 drive-by murder of Adan Beltran in Quincy failed to convince the Washington Court of Appeals to overturn their cases. Benjamin Lopez Jr., 20, and Abraham Lopez Torres, 19, argued that their 2012 conviction at trial for the gang-related shooting involved misleading jury instructions. The three-judge panel of the court’s Division III in Spokane disagreed.
Nonfarm job growth in Grant County this past year was the best since 2007. The 3.1 percent average annual growth rate during 2014, which equates to 850 new nonfarm jobs, was a little more robust than the state’s 2.8 percent pace of growth, said Don Meseck of the Washington State Employment Security Department.
With repairs at Wanapum Dam nearly complete, a second rising of the reservoir pool started in mid-March. The pool was raised at a rate of 3 feet a day to 569 feet.
Flags were lowered to half-staff at Quincy City Hall to mark the death of George Nutter, former city councilman and police officer and a longtime local leader. Nutter, 67, passed away on March 11.
Jack E. Jones, 73, passed away on March 13. The Jones family came to Quincy in 1954, and became one of the most successful farming families in the Quincy Valley. Jones was an entrepreneur who relished taking on new projects, including the award-winning Jones of Washington winery.
The total number of commissioned officers employed by the Quincy Police Department stands at 20 – the largest number of officers the department has ever employed.
Sabey Data Centers broke ground on its second data center in Quincy. The new facility will be about 135,000 square feet and have the ability to support 10.5 megawatts of IT load total.
Two former executives of Cold Train filed a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against BNSF Railway Co., blaming the railroad for the failure of the refrigerated rail service at the Port of Quincy’s intermodal yard. Officials with Cold Train said they were forced to shut down their rail service because BNSF failed to meet its promise for 72-hour delivery times. The case seeks $41 million in damages.
Sent to prison for life at the age of 16 without any chance of parole, convicted killer Donald Lambert has a chance at being placed on parole within the next eight years. Now 33 years old, Lambert was resentenced in April; his original sentence was changed to a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years. The re-sentencing follows a 2012 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled it is unconstitutional for juveniles to receive automatic sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Lambert was convicted of aggravated murder after murdering Homer and Vada Smithson in 1997 in their home.
Grant PUD employees were commended by a state agency for their response to the Wanapum Dam spillway crisis. The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation honored the PUD with an award for protecting historic sites along the Columbia River after the Wanapum Reservoir was drawn down to ease pressure off the spillway.
Five intentionally set haystack fires cost local farmers more than $400,000 in the span of a month. The county fire marshal is investigating the fires as related incidents; however, no suspects have been identified. The five fires occurred between about midnight and 3 a.m. between April 1 and April 12.
The city purchased the former Studio 90 building on 2nd Avenue Southeast for $420,00 to use as an activities center. The recreation department will use the building as an activities center to host a variety of programs, camps and classes.
A 16-year-old Quincy boy allegedly shot a man in the back in a gang-related incident in the parking lot of Quincy Market. Cesar A. Mendoza appeared in Grant County Superior Court on charges of first-degree assault and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm.
Teacher walkouts closed schools around the state as public teachers protested what they say is the state Legislature’s failure to fully fund education. However, the Quincy School District’s teachers union chose to put pen to paper, reaching out to local legislators through a letter-writing rally.
Work started the week of May 21 on the city of Quincy’s new $5.4 million municipal complex. The three-phase project will take two years to complete.
Depressed and high on illegal drugs, a California man drove an SUV through a crowded campground at a Gorge Amphitheatre festival over the Memorial Day weekend. The SUV ran over tents with festival attendees still sleeping inside them. Three of the four injured campers were hospitalized. Tanner A. Drayton Williams, 19, later was sentenced to nine months in jail in October.
Quincy High School’s Class of 2015 graduated 194 students June 5 at Jaycee Stadium.
A Portland man died June 28 while being treated after collapsing at the weekend Paradiso Festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre. Beau B. Brooks, 22, was one of 53 concert-goers brought for emergency room care at Quincy Valley Medical Center over the course of the two-day festival. Dehydration and drug intoxication are suspected.
A fast-moving fire on Monument Hill, fueled by a southwest wind late June 30, covered 2,100 acres and destroyed five outbuildings and abandoned buildings; however, it was on its way to being contained.
The 2015 George Citizen of the Year is Mike Wallace, Quincy High School teacher and FFA advisor.
As of July 1, the Port of Quincy will be the new owner of the Quincy Community Center, which will be renamed the Quincy Valley Business & Conference Center. Plans are to turn the community center into a state-of-the-art business facility. The port also is purchasing the former Heartland Pharmacy building, which is beside the community center, to include in the new facility.
A second person who attended the Paradiso concert at the Gorge Amphitheatre in June died. The Grant County Sheriff’s Office was notified that Vivek Pandher, 22-year-old Vancouver, B.C., man, died in a Vancouver hospital. Dehydration and drug intoxication are suspected in Pandher’s death.
Several wildfires that ignited on July 4 are being treated as suspicious and potentially human-caused, the Grant County Fire Marshal’s Office reported. The fires, called the Hills Fire, started in isolated areas. The fires burned 1,796 acres. No homes were damaged and no one was injured.
A July 8 fire at Captain Ron’s destroyed the popular Sunland Estates market and an adjacent garage also owned by the business owner, Ron Kreger.
A composting company that operates at Ovenell Farms in Quincy was forced to halt hauling unprocessed organic waste from Seattle on July 7 after inspectors discovered apple maggot larvae at the Quincy operation. The state Department of Agriculture issued the suspension to PacifiClean, which was transporting covered containers of Seattle-area organic waste to Ovenell Farms.
Grant PUD commissioners voted to authorize the execution of a settlement agreement between the utility and Crescent Bar Island leaseholders. The settlement ends a five-year battle between the utility and leaseholders. The utility’s leaders also voted to direct staff to begin designing an on-island recreation plan that maintains the Crescent Bar Golf Course.
The city of Quincy signed a nearly $20,000 settlement agreement with police clerk Diana Gonzales. Gonzales filed a lawsuit against the city and its police department earlier this year for not turning over in a timely fashion public records that she requested.
Thelma Vargas of Quincy is $1 million richer after purchasing a scratch ticket on a whim from Akins Harvest Foods.
The Orondo-based Auvil Fruit Company notified the Port of Quincy that it wants to purchase 42 acres of industrial property near George.
The Quincy School Board has decided to put a $108 million bond measure before voters in February. If passed, it would provide upgrades at every school in addition to a new high school.
Following an internal investigation, the Grant County Sheriff’s Office fired Deputy Corey Linscott of Quincy. Linscott had been employed by the sheriff’s office since 2011 but was on paid administrative leave since his arrest in April on a domestic violence charge.
The 2015 Farmer-Consumer Awareness Day honored the family of Darrell Van Dyke and Ann Van Dyke as the Farm Family of the Year. Wilf Woods, chairman emeritus of the Wenatchee World, was honored as the Honorary Farmer.
Several local leaders have invited Confluence Health to visit the community to talk about what the Wenatchee-based medical provider can do for Quincy. A spokesman with Confluence Health confirmed the medical provider has an interest in serving Quincy.
Yahoo announced it is expanding its Quincy data center, doubling the size of its current operation. The expansion will add about 300,000 square feet to Yahoo’s operation.
Six Grant County PUD workers were injured in an explosion at Priest Rapids Dam. The explosion happened inside the powerhouse when a circuit breaker, which acts as the “on-off” switch for one of the dam’s 10 turbine/generating units, malfunctioned. All the workers were treated at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, with the last one released in mid-November.
Quincy police nabbed a man who they believe is a suspect in at least three of a string of burglaries that have plagued businesses.
George will have a new mayor come January 2016. Gerene Nelson defeated longtime Mayor Elliot Kooy.
The Quincy City Council also will see three new faces. Sonia Padron defeated Warren Lybbert; Josey Ferguson defeated Scott Lybbert; and David Durfee Jr. defeated Manny Guerrero..
Mehdi Merred, CEO of the Quincy Valley Medical Center, handed in his resignation because he is returning to his home country of France. Merred had been with the hospital nearly 10 years.
The Quincy City Council passed a $9.5 million budget for the coming year. The city budget projects nearly $5.3 million in operating expenditures, up $300,000 from 2015.
On-island leaseholders at Crescent Bar will have to pay a total of nearly $850,000 a year to continue to lease property there. Leaseholders also are responsible for back rent to June 1, 2012, which amounts to $2.5 million.
Grant PUD Commissioner Larry Schaapman was presented the Washington PUD Association’s Good Samaritan Award for his actions in helping to prevent the spread of a wildfire threatening his neighbors this past summer.
Longtime pharmacist and orchardist Mark Call, 98, passed away on Dec. 13 at Quincy Valley Medical Center – the same hospital that he helped establish 56 years ago.