China Falls to host first community garage sale

August 26, 2009

NEW — 6 a.m. Aug. 26, 2009

The China Falls neighborhood will host its first neighborhood garage sale from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Aug. 29.

Newcastle residents are encouraged to attend.

The China Falls neighborhood is located off the east side of 136th Avenue Southeast between Southeast 79th Drive and Southeast 71st Street.

Updated primary election results show Rich Crispo, Karin Blakely in lead for City Council

August 21, 2009

NEW — 2 p.m. Aug. 21, 2009

Rich Crispo and Karin Blakely look to be heading for the general election in the race for Newcastle City Council Position 5, held by Deputy Mayor Dan Hubbell.

As of 4:23 p.m. Aug. 20, Crispo collected 48.47 percent of the vote, Blakely collected 28.15 percent and Larry Betsch collected 22.83 percent in the Aug. 18 primary. There have been 1,482 ballots recorded at this point, 24.63 percent of Newcastle’s registered voters.

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Expect delays along Coal Creek Parkway

August 21, 2009

NEW — 6 a.m. Aug. 21, 2009

Coal Creek Parkway will be reduced to one lane from Monday to Sept. 8.

Left turns will be allowed, and crews will be working on the northwest corner of the Newcastle Way and Coal Creek Parkway intersection.

Commuters should expect northbound delays on coal Creek Parkway in the morning and southbound delays in the afternoon.

Police still investigating attempted burglary

August 20, 2009

NEW — 5:30 p.m. Aug. 20, 2009

Newcastle Police responded to an attempted burglary in Newcastle Windtree neighborhood. The burglar attempted to break into a shop building on the 12200 block of Southeast 91st Street.

The attempted burglary took place Aug. 19 or Aug. 20.

Officers are still investigating burglaries that occurred in the Olympus and China Creek neighborhoods. Residents are urged to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

Preliminary results are coming in for election primaries

August 20, 2009

NEW — 1:15 p.m. Aug. 20, 2009

Rich Crispo and Karin Blakely look to be heading for the general election in the race for Newcastle City Council Position 5, held by Deputy Mayor Dan Hubbell.

As of 4:10 p.m. Aug. 19, Crispo collected 49.12 percent of the vote, Blakely collected 28.37 percent and Larry Betsch collected 22.18 percent in the Aug. 18 primary. There have been 1,242 ballots recorded at this point, 20.64 percent of Newcastle’s registered voters.

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YMCA to host teen concert tonight

August 19, 2009

NEW — 5 p.m. Aug. 19, 2009

Seattle teen band The Terminal Velocity will perform with Shannon Leigh and Lions Ambition at the YMCA Teen Concert, at the Coal Creek YMCA from 6:15-8 tonight.

The concert is free and will take place in the facility’s parking lot.

Attendees can take a tour of the Coal Creek YMCA, as well as learn what the facility has to offer to teens. Samijon’s Hawaiian Shaved Ice and Sahara’s Pizza will be on hand to offer refreshments.

Planning, Parks commissions look to fill staff vacancies

August 17, 2009

NEW — 2 p.m. Aug. 17, 2009

Officials want to fill three vacancies each on the Newcastle Planning Commission and Parks Commission.

Newcastle residents 18 years or older can apply for the open positions. The application deadline for both commissions is Aug. 21.

The original deadline was Tuesday, but city officials moved the deadline due to a shortage of applicants.

The Planning Commission consists of seven members; they work with the City Council on land-use issues.

The Parks Commission consists of nine members; they works with the council on issues related to parks and recreation.

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Revenue shortfall shakes up city finances

August 13, 2009

Cuts made, general reserve fund raided

By Tim Pfarr
Newcastle Director of Finance Christine Olson is predicting the city will collect $496,197 less in revenue than expected this year. She also predicted city officials will spend $78,000 on items they had not budgeted for this year.
To account for these changes in revenue and expenditures, the city has cut about $477,000 worth of items from its 2009 operating budget, and officials anticipate they will draw a total of about $229,000 from its general fund reserve by the end of the year.
Items the city has cut from the 2009 budget range from funds for office supplies and City Council retreats to funds for sales tax audits and some funds for landscape maintenance.
Olson predicted early in the year that the city would bring in less money than it would spend, and the city then began making cuts to expenses in the second quarter. There have been three rounds of cuts.
“A budget at this level means if something breaks we put ‘broken’ on it and wait until we can afford to repair it,” said John Starbard, city manager.
The city’s general fund reserve is made up of unused funds from previous years. Prior to 2009, its balance was slightly more than $2 million.
Initially, the city planned to take a $97,035 draw from the general reserve fund in 2009.
“We’re still making quite a draw for what we budgeted,” Councilwoman Jean Garber said about the predicted change in the general fund reserve draw.
However, Olson said the city’s history of being conservative with its budget has helped tremendously during this tough economic time.
“For a small city, we’ve got a great reserve,” she said.
In the first round of cuts, $5,000 for printing expenses was cut, as was $20,000 that had been allocated to updating the city’s development plan. Also, a vacant city engineer position was frozen. A total of $305,000 in expenses was removed from the budget during the first round of cuts.
In the second round of cuts, funds for sales tax audits, computer hardware, temporary staff, training and office supplies were cut, as were many other funds. A total of $79,000 in expenses was cut from the budget during the second round.
During the second round, Starbard commented on the current state of the city in the midst of the cuts.
“The city we’re becoming is impoverished,” Starbard said. “We’re getting less and less able to fund other services.”
In the third round of cuts, the city reduced its state and federal lobbyist contract and cut some of its landscape maintenance funds.
Council members voiced concerns about several of the proposed cuts in the third round, including cuts to emergency funding, which were ultimately not made, and cuts to landscape maintenance.
“It’s pretty basic that we provide safety to our residents,” Garber said about cutting the 2009 emergency funding.
Several council members voiced concerns about the cuts to landscape maintenance, so those funds will only be partially cut. City officials are still discussing the amount of landscape maintenance funds that will be cut from the budget. These cuts will involve reduction in mowing and watering lawns.
Olson said that if the city had not made any cuts, officials would need to draw more than $700,000 from its general fund reserve.
She also said that while the most recent cuts may help solve the problem for 2009, the 2010 budget is a completely different issue.
“Costs are going up, but it doesn’t look good for revenue at all,” she said.
Olson will begin work on the 2010 budget this month.
Newcastle’s revenue comes from three primary sources: sales tax, property tax and fees from development.
Property tax is in accordance with its projected amount, but sales tax is down 20 percent from what officials projected. The lack of sales tax revenue is due to a decline in individual spending and the lack of development in the city, as the city takes in tax revenue from construction projects.
In terms of development, the city has only received two building permit applications during the first seven months of this year. Development has been in decline during the past two years; in 2007, the city had received 67 building permit applications by the end of July. In 2008, the number of applications received through July dropped to 15.

Newcastle Director of Finance Christine Olson is predicting the city will collect $496,197 less in revenue than expected this year. She also predicted city officials will Read more

Community marks parkway completion with ribbon cutting

August 13, 2009

By David Hayes
Gary Cole has lived on May Valley Road for the past 45 years. He recalls vividly the hazard that walking down the street was to cross May Creek Bridge.
“There used to be 10 or 11 inches to walk across on the old access,” he said. “A passing semi was a real danger to a person walking across.”
Cole and dozens of other locals and dignitaries celebrated a ribbon cutting mid-span of the new 290-foot May Creek Bridge July 16 that made those hazards a thing of the past. City residents like Cole can now enjoy an additional four feet on each side for pedestrians to safely cross the creek.
The occasion marked the official opening of the bridge and the completion of Phases 2 and 3 of the Coal Creek Parkway expansion project.
Mayor Ben Varon said it was a day 15 years in the making.
“This was a vision, since the city incorporated in 1984, to expand Coal Creek Parkway,” Varon told an assembled crowd of about 125 sitting mid-span of the May Creek Bridge. “This has been a labor of love that benefits both the citizens of Newcastle and those throughout the region.”
The improvements of Coal Creek Parkway in Newcastle involved widening one mile of Coal Creek Parkway between Southeast 84th Way and Southeast 95th Way/City limits and included replacing the May Creek Bridge.
The project involved two construction contracts: Phase 2, which extends from Southeast 84th Way to Southeast 91st Street, and Phase 3, which extends from Southeast 91st Street to Southeast 95th Way. These projects extend the Phase 1 improvements recently constructed between Newcastle Way and Southeast 84th Way.
The net cost of Phase 2 and 3 was $44 million, with the city being responsible for $3.4 million. After delays in securing funding, designing and acquiring the land, Doug Alder, city communications manager, said the project still came in on time and under budget.
Even the cost for the ribbon-cutting ceremony came under scrutiny, with the city budgeting $5,000. Greg Alder, city communications manager, said thanks to community members donating chairs, printing services, awards and their time, the cost for the ceremony was nearly cut in half to $2,800.
While traffic was allowed to trickle past the area throughout construction, Alder said Thursday was the first day that all four lanes were finally open on the parkway and on the bridge.
“It’s fabulous,” said Dennis Alexander, an 18-year resident of Coal Creek Parkway, who attended the ceremony with his wife Jann. “What an amazing difference. This has gone from a country road to a main arterial. It’s a relief that it’s over and we’re done with detours.”
The day culminated with the entire City Council participating with Varon in cutting the ribbon.
With the project now complete, the arterial provides commuters with a route parallel to Interstate 405 all the way from Renton to Bellevue.
Reach Reporter David Hayes at 392-6434, ext. 237, or Comment on this story at

Gary Cole has lived on May Valley Road for the past 45 years. He recalls vividly the hazard that walking down Read more

Newcastle has grown 28 percent since 2000

August 13, 2009

By Warren Kagarise
Fueled by a housing boom, Newcastle added more than 2,000 residents since the start of the decade. Now, as the burgeoning bedroom community looks toward a second decade of growth, city officials said the next phase would be more measured, with a focus on bringing more jobs to Newcastle.
Figures released in late June by the state Office of Financial Management show the city’s April 2009 population at 9,925. In April 2000, Newcastle was home to 7,737 people. State officials use the population data to determine how dollars will be allotted to municipalities.
Newcastle grew by 43 percent during the time period, the result of residents flocking to the Eastside city for new housing. Unlike other Eastside cities that expanded limits — and populations — through annexation, Newcastle grew entirely as a result of an influx of residents.
Ensuing population growth made the city the 43rd fastest growing in Washington. Yet, the growth still caused Newcastle to outpace expectations.
“We’re small, so percentage-wise, it wasn’t huge, but it was significant,” city Community Development Director Steve Roberge said.
Roberge said regional planners set 20-year growth targets for Newcastle in 2002. Planners predicted the city would add about 700 households and 500 jobs by 2022. Roberge said the city easily met the jobs target and had closed in on the household target as well.
Newcastle is the 75th largest city in the state; the city ranked 81st in 2000. Seattle, with 602,000 residents, remains Washington’s largest city.
Snoqualmie — the fastest growing city — ballooned by 8,099 residents during the first year of the decade to 9,730 people today.
When state officials released the population figures, they noted how the recession would impact Evergreen State population growth.
“The continued housing contraction nationwide and poor economic conditions appear to be limiting the mobility of the population usually influenced by labor market opportunities,” Theresa Lowe, the state’s chief demographer, said in a news release. “Many job seekers are finding it difficult to sell their homes or to relocate to accept employment at the price of paying two mortgages for an extended period.”
Roberge and city Communications Manager Doug Alder said city officials and staffers were taking steps to position the city for growth once the recession turns to recovery. Alder said attracting new businesses to Newcastle is key to the next phase of growth.
Planners are exploring ways to remake the downtown into a pedestrian-friendly urban village.
“We’re going to be in a better position when the economy fully turns around,” Alder said.
Newcastle was buoyed last month when Money magazine listed the city at No. 17 in the Best Places to Live 2009 issue. Newcastle was lauded for its proximity to major employers Boeing and Microsoft. The magazine also noted the favorable real estate market.
“Homebuyers can find properties at a great variety of prices, from $350,000 3-bedroom, 2-car-garage ramblers to brand-new $6 million estates,” the magazine said.
Roberge and Alder said another part of Newcastle’s prestige relates to the 350-acre Golf Club at Newcastle.
Roberge said the city could add about 1,200 additional households, a roughly 50-50 mix of single-family homes and multifamily units. Newcastle also has the capacity to add about 875 more jobs, though creating space for new employers would probably require more dense redevelopment, Roberge said.
Growth by way of annexation is bound to be limited, however. Property that could someday be annexed into the city consists of a small, six-acre parcel along the north side of Southeast May Valley Road near 148th Avenue Southeast.
Roberge said although housing construction was slowed by the recession, potential residents and developers remain interested in the city.
“There’s going to be growth,” he said. “We know that, we understand that.”
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment on this story at

Fueled by a housing boom, Newcastle added more than 2,000 residents since the start of the decade. Now, as the burgeoning bedroom community Read more

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