As we say goodbye to 2017 and hello to a brand new year, The Reporter looked back over the last 52 editions and gathered the top 15 headlines from the past year.
These stories cover an array of topics from homeless students to measures on the ballot, school district budgets and council member recalls.
There is no particular order for these stories, this year The Reporter decided to organize the top stories in the order they were published.
We hope these stories allow you the chance to reflect on the past year and look forward to what’s to come in the new one.
Thank you for your readership and here’s to 2018!
Homeless students still a problem in Kent and Tahoma school districts
In early 2017, both the Kent and Tahoma School Districts saw grants that would help lower the number of homeless students.
The Kent School District saw a 5 percent increase in the 2015-2016 school year and at the time of the article had a total of 340 students who were eligible for homeless services.
The Tahoma School District had a significantly lower number of homeless students with 39 in the 2016-2017 school year.
A number of different resources are available not only for the students but also for families affected by homelessness.
School districts to potentially lose millions from levy cliff
When the state Legislature made changes to the maximum levy authority, set to expire in 2018, it meant changes school districts needed to address.
In March 2017, the levy lid rolling back by 4 percent would mean the Kent School District would lose $10 million for the 2018 fiscal year and the Tahoma School District would lose $4.2 million.
The impact from this loss of money would not be seen immediately for Tahoma as it would for the Kent School District. The article in March said changes to programs in the Kent School District would be necessary.
Helping a dream come to life
Covington City Councilwoman Fran Hollum met then-66-year-old Sharon Schauer while volunteering at the Peace Lutheran in Covington.
Sharon is blind and at first Hollum would go to her home to help her but one day Hollum told Sharon she had checked off one of Sharon’s bucket list items. Hollum had a plan to help Sharon drive for the first time.
After months of planning, Sharon finally got the chance to drive with the help of a driving school instructor.
Maple Valley Fire & Life Safety fire benefit charge returns to ballot
For a second time, the fire benefit charge appeared on the August 2017 primary election ballot.
The measure had been on the August 2016 ballot but failed to make the 60 percent needed to pass. It was short by about 2 percent.
And in August 2017, the Maple Valley Fire & Life Safety benefit charge failed again. This time roughly 55 percent of voters were against it and 45 percent were in favor.
Following the benefit charge failing, the department had to make some changes to its staff and Fire Chief Aaron Tyerman said these changes would likely increase response times.
The next step for the department was a levy lid lift on the November ballot — and on Nov. 17 it was reported the levy lid passed with almost 60 percent.
Maple Valley couple part of second kidney swap on the west coast
Patrick Boatsman had known since he was a young boy that dialysis or a kidney transplant would be in his future because of a kidney infection he had gotten when he was 3 years old and again when he was 6.
About three years ago, he started dialysis and the only way to stop those treatments was to get a kidney transplant. His wife, Laurie, was tested and was a perfect blood type match for Patrick. While her kidney would have worked, the couple looked for an even better match and while doing so, they put her kidney on the national donor list.
Then in August 2016, the pair found out that a match had been made not only for Patrick but also for Laurie. The brother of the woman who was a match for Patrick was the match for Laurie.
The brother and sister lived in Whatcom County and on Jan. 4, 2017 the double transplant was performed by The University of Washington’s Medical Center. This was the second one performed on the west coast.
After waiting 90 days, the amount of time before donors and recipients could meet, the four got together on April 4.
Black Diamond residents file recall vote charges
After nearly a year of tossing around the idea of filing a recall against two city council members, a group of Black Diamond residents filed a recall charge with the King County Elections.
The targets of the recall were councilwomen Pat Pepper and Erika Morgan.
Nearly one month after the first reports of the recall, the King County Superior Court approved the recall petition against Pepper.
Because Morgan was up for election, the time frame to collect signatures for her recall was shorter than that of Pepper.
In late-September the King County Elections set a date for Pepper’s recall — the recall election would be held on Dec. 5, 2017.
The State Supreme Court approved three recall charges against Pepper, this was the fifth time in state history a recall was approved.
Due to some changes made to the charges against her, the signature gathering process had to restart.
Kent School Board bans student international travel
In May, the Kent School Board unanimously agreed to stop all student international travel for the foreseeable future — this included an upcoming trip to British Columbia for the Kentlake High School music programs.
The decision was made due to concerns about immigration and border control. However, this ban came only a few weeks prior to Kentlake’s trip — a 20-year tradition for the school.
While paperwork for the May trip was submitted in mid-February and went through the proper channels for approval in mid-March, the board waited to see how travel bans from the White House would make it through the court system.
U.S. attorney charges Maple Valley resident
A Maple Valley man, Tuan Van Le, along with three other men were charged by the United States Attorney Annette L. Hayes.
Le was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.
One of the other men charged alongside Le was 16-year-veteran Seattle police officer Alex Chapackdee. The two men are brothers-in-law.
According to an investigation, Le had made numerous trips from Seattle to Baltimore, Maryland from June 2013 until April 2017. During the April trip, roughly 200 pounds of marijuana was seized.
Conspiracy to distribute marijuana is punishable by a mandatory minimum of five years in prison and up to 40 years.
According to the charging documents, Le was arrested in 2002 for conspiracy to distribute marijuana and was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.
Surprise of a lifetime for Black Diamond boy
Hunter Coffman, 3, of Black Diamond had one of his wishes from the Make-A-Wish foundations come true in the summer of 2017.
Hunter has brain cancer and has had an up hill battle with it for a while now. He wanted a puppy to call his own, but not just any puppy, he wanted a puppy that looked like a “Snoopy dog” from the Peanuts comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz.
Hunter originally wanted to go to Disney World, but his cancer made it hard to do so.
In June, Hunter got his wish for a puppy, a beagle, and named it Scout.
Lake Wilderness gets life jacket station
Last year was time to team up and prevent drownings from happening. The city of Maple Valley and Maple Valley Fire & Life Safety began the life jacket loner station program on June 30.
This program provides donated life jackets to lakes, like Lake Wilderness, so every person, young, old, big or small, have the opportunity to have one of these life saving devices.
The current life jackets at the Lake Wilderness loner station were donated by the fire department and the public has the opportunity to donate as well.
This program is based on the honors system according to Kyle Ohasi, spokesman for Maple Valley Fire. Those who take the life jacket, will put it back once they’re done.
Distracted Driving law takes effect
The new distracted driving law was put in place on July 23 and has provided citizens with a few new rules while they drive including secondary offenses like drinking and eating while driving.
Black Diamond, Covington and Maple Valley took different approaches to this law when it was first enacted.
Larry Colagiovanni, commander for Black Diamond Police Department, said once the law took effect officers began ticketing drivers for distracted driving.
Police Chief Andrew McCurdy of Covington said he and his officers approach to the law has not changed significantly because the city of Covington passed a similar law to the distracted driving law back in 2013.
Chief D.J. Nesel of the Maple Valley Police Department said the distracted driving laws clarify what is already in place and makes it hard for people to get out of tickets. For 30 days after the law was enacted, Nesel said he and his officers were to focus more on educating people about the new law rather than ticketing right off the bat.
Kent School District faces budget shortfall
During the year of 2017, the Kent School District took a hit to their estimated budget. They faced a $6.9 million shortfall.
The school district spokesperson, Chris Loftis, said multiyear trends of increasing costs have led to a steady decrease in the fund balance of the school district. This caused the district to go through a hiring and spending freeze through the fiscal year, which ended on Aug. 31.
Officials worked with the Puget Sound Education Service District and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop a recovery plan which included reductions of expenditures, increase in revenues, increased monitoring of variables in revenues, enhanced accounting procedures and increased frequency of reporting.
Council majority files lawsuit against Black Diamond mayor
This past year, we saw many headlines coming out of the Black Diamond council chambers. One of the biggest pieces of news was the council brought a legal suit against Mayor Carol Benson. The city council hired Anne Bremner, of Seattle-based Frey Buck P.S., on Oct. 11 in a 3-2 vote.
They hired her to investigate Benson’s actions as mayor over the past two years and to potentially file a lawsuit. The complaint alleges Benson didn’t have the authority to appoint a city attorney and that she’s skirted the Black Diamond Municipal Code, which requires all contracts more than $15,000 to be approved by the council.
Local group questions pollution affects from SR 169 asphalt plant
An asphalt was proposed to be placed on state Route 169 this year by Lakeside Industries, an asphalt plant company based in Issaquah.
The community according to a local resident, Angela Flick, is concerned about pollution levels in the Cedar River, since the plant would be right across the road from it and she said they are also concerned about increased traffic on the highway.
Karen Deal, the Environmental and Land Use Director at Lakeside said there is nothing to worry about as far as the community’s concerns go. She and Bill Dempsey, the production manger at Lakeside said the process of making asphalt is simple and does not involve using a lot of pollutants.
Deal also said there will be no need for mitigation as far as traffic goes, meaning there won’t be an impact on traffic according to Deal.
Reagan Dunn, King County Councilman, said there is a moratorium that has been placed on the asphalt plant plans, meaning nothing more can happen until further notice. The council has scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 8.
Trapped in Las Vegas
The October shooting in Las Vegas hit home for a Maple Valley couple and a Kentwood student.
Maple Valley residents Jennifer and Mike Morrison were in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 when the shooting took place at the Mandalay Bay hotel.
“It was a crazy night, one you’ll never forget,” Jennifer said.
Shots began shortly after Mike got up to get a drink, leaving Jennifer alone. The guy next to her mentioned the sounds of gunfire could be fireworks, but she went with her gut, she knew they were gunshots. She said she got down and began to crawl to safety. She and Mike found each other, and that’s when Mike started yelling for people to get down. They ended up making it out safely, returning to Maple Valley shortly after the incident.
Jennifer said she and her husband aren’t going to let this shooting get in the way of life.
Ashley Brooke-Tingey, goalkeeper at Kentwood High School, was also in Las Vegas during the time of the shooting with her mom. She said they were going to go to the concert the night of the shooting, but decided not to.
“For some reason I didn’t want to see Jason Aldean,” she said. Instead, they went to see a 9:30 p.m. showing of Michael Jackson at the Mandalay Bay’s theater. In the middle of the show, Ashley said the performers stopped performing and that’s when she knew something was wrong. She said cops came “busting” into the theater.
During this time, she said everyone started to look at their phones and that’s when they found out there was a shooter. Once considered safe, Ashley said everyone was escorted out of the theater.
Ashley and her mom made it home safely and she said she is not going to let this unfortunate event affect her life so much that she won’t have fun at concerts anymore.