2008 Retrospect

By: Compiled Shoni Jones
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Editor's Note: With a new year beginning, we’re presenting a glimpse of Lincoln's top stories of 2008. And looking ahead, the Highway 65 bypass story and City Hall’s efforts to balance the budget story featured in this week's issue will most likely be covered throughout 2009. While these two articles symbolize huge challenges this coming year, we will surely find many stories that highlight the achievements and triumphs of Lincoln residents. Wishing you a happy new year. – News Messenger staff JANUARY Lakeview Farm hunt club closes The Web site of Lakeview Farms made the hunt club look idyllic. Beautiful bird dogs romped in golden fields. Smiling hunters displayed their trophy birds. One page of the site – which has been taken down in the last week – featured an architectural rendering for a beautiful 6,000-square-foot hunting lodge, with promises that the lodge would be built in the fall of 2007. But the stark reality of the hunt club was anything but idyllic. Late Friday afternoon, the gates stood locked with signs posted from the landlord and disgruntled club members. By Monday morning, the situation at Lakeview Farms had improved. Employees of Sundance Properties, the owner of the land leased to the hunt club, had driven out with bales of hay to spread on the muddy ground. They planned to feed abandoned, starving birds and clean out the pens, hoping to salvage the remaining pheasants. But the outlook for the future of Lakeview Farms – and the hundreds of members who already had paid for the season – remains murky. Aftermath of the storm The storm that started Thursday evening caused quite a few headaches in Lincoln, due to downed trees and heavy wind. By 12:22 a.m. Friday, wind had downed three telephone poles and a power line on Athens Avenue, closing the road between Industrial and Fiddyment through most of Friday. According to PG&E spokeswoman Nicole Tam, approximately 8,000 homes in Lincoln lost power at some point during the multiple days of storms, “literally spread throughout” town. Casino expansion depends on environmental study Proposed resort would bring 1,200 jobs, millions in tax revenue. It won’t exactly be the Vegas strip but Highway 65 is poised to get a lot more glitzy. If an environmental study turns out to be in Thunder Valley Casino’s favor, work on the gambling house’s planned Las Vegas-style resort could start this summer. City considers update to home-based business ordinance Maher Elslakhi had successful run a wholesale car company out of his Lincoln home. So when his wife, Elizabeth, decided to start her own cleaning business for some extra income, the couple was surprised to find out it wouldn’t be allowed. Under current city code, Lincoln only permits one home-based enterprise – including nonprofits – per residence. “My wife has the right to have her own business,” said Elslakhi, who submitted a request to the city to change the rule. City officials agreed its code was outdated. “We realize technology has grown over the years and it’s spawned a lot of home-based businesses,” said George Dellwo, assistance community development director for the city. Lincoln has proposed amendments to its zoning ordinance that would allow as many as two home occupations but would also tack on some stricter guidelines. Hundreds honor Little’s memory There was a big birthday cake and there were bouquets of balloons. But on Stefan Little’s 18th birthday, hundreds of teens and community members gathered instead to commemorate his life. Little, a Lincoln High School senior and a defensive end and running back for the football team, died unexpectedly at his home Jan. 23. Little reportedly had been ill for several days; an autopsy has been performed but results are pending. A memorial service was hastily organized by family friend Brenda Tate and her worries that the community would not hear of the event in time were without foundation. By 5 p.m. Sunday, a line stretched out the door at the McBean Park Pavilion, where teens lined up to sign a memory book and pay their respects. Inventor James Sorenson, former Lincoln resident, dies at 86 One of the nation’s richest men had Lincoln roots. James LeVoy Sorenson, whose success as an entrepreneur, real-estate magnate and inventor of numerous medical devices made him Utah’s richest man; died of cancer Jan. 20, at a Salt Lake Hospital. Sorenson, whose wealth was estimated to be $4.5 billion last year by Forbes Magazine, was 86. He was listed as the 68th wealthiest man in the nation. Sorenson, who was born in Idaho, moved with his family to Yuba City during the Depression. Eventually, the family relocated to Lincoln, where Soren-son attended grammar school and where he graduated from Lincoln High School in 1940. FEBRUARY Lincoln man convicted of elder abuse Gayle Coulter’s mother, Rachel Moore, needed more care than they could give her but she was unhappy being in a nursing facility so far from home. But a local man, Bruce Armstrong, brought into Moore’s home to take care of the frail woman was sentenced in an Auburn courtroom on charges of elder abuse and being under the influence of a controlled substance. The charges of elder abuse reflected the theft of painkillers from Moore, not physical abuse. Lincoln Arts survives major shakeup on board Faced with a budget shortfall and dissension over the direction of the nonprofit arts group, there has been a shakeup on the board of Lincoln Arts & Culture Foundation. In a surprise move, five board members, including President Nancy Stark, tendered their resignation in late January. An emergency meeting, chaired by member-at-large Bill Cass, was held on Jan. 21 to announce the resignations and seek new board members. The other members who resigned are Kathy Russeth, Jean Labadie, Marilyn Anhalts and Randy Graham – half the 10-member board. Two chains close their doors in Lincoln Wendy’s and Hollywood Video are two of the latest tenants to leave the Raley’s shopping center in Lincoln. Low sales led to the closure, said Denny Lynch, a spokesman for Wendy’s International. Just across the parking lot from the shuttered burger joint, Hollywood Video’s door also bore a closed sign. Wildlife foundation opens Lincoln office The Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a Woodland-based nonprofit, celebrated its move to Lincoln on Friday. The foundation has oversight responsibilities for open space in Sun City Lincoln Hills and the Orchard Creek area. MARCH Jury deliberates for about 3 days in Olsen case After nearly three days of deliberation, a jury found former planning commissioner Dennis Olsen not guilty on seven of eight charges in his sexual-battery trial. A mistrial was declared on one sexual- battery charge, with jurors deadlocked 10-2 against conviction. Olsen, 69, was arrested in December 2005 and charged with six counts of sexual battery, one count of sexual penetration with a foreign object and one count of furnishing a dangerous drug after several women alleged Olsen touched them inappropriately. Lincoln Police promote Kennedy, Ibarra As of this year, there are two new police lieutenants in town. In January, Lincoln Police Chief Brian Vizzusi promoted Lt. Terry Kennedy and Lt. David Ibarra to their new positions. Kennedy, formerly a detective sergeant, now heads support services, the division that manages areas such as dispatch, detectives, records, SWAT and evidence. Ibarra, formerly a patrol sergeant, leads the administration division, including budgeting, finance, facilities, IT, training and hiring. Lincoln hires city manager The City Council appointed James D. Estep as Lincoln’s new city manager on Tuesday. Estep, 50, will replace retiring city manager Jerry Johnson, who will step down May 1 after nearly seven years with the city and 40 years in public service. “It’s a bittersweet kind of thing but I don’t have any regrets,” Johnson said. Estep will ease into his new role, starting April 28, and take responsibility the day Johnson retires. Since September, he has served as interim city manager for Elk Grove, where he was hired as assistant city manager in February 2006. He has also worked as assistant city manager for Folsom and San Ramon. Placer County Land Trust buys Lincoln preserve Placer County Land Trust recently took a big step toward preserving Lincoln’s roots. Oak roots, that is. In December, the Auburn-based land conservation nonprofit purchased its largest property to date, the 912-acre Garden Bar Preserve located northeast of Garden Bar in rural Lincoln. APRIL Blaze destroys three planes A blaze at Atkin Air’s hangar at Lincoln Regional Airport March 26 destroyed three planes and a truck, causing an estimated $2 million in damage. Lincoln Police officers initially responded to a burglar alarm at 1420 Flightline Drive at approximately 10:50 p.m. and discovered heavy smoke coming from a hangar in the back, Lincoln Fire Chief David Whitt said. Budget cuts cause buzz at school board meeting Concern over looming budget cuts led to a full house at the Western Placer Unified School District’s board of trustees meeting Tuesday. Dozens of parents and staff showed up to offer support for Sheridan Elementary School. Closing Sheridan is mentioned on a list of possible cost-cutting measures compiled by a district budget committee to manage education cuts in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s January budget proposal. Free community forum to focus on gang awareness Following a recent increase in gang-related violence, Lincoln police have scheduled a town forum on gang awareness for Wednesday. Though planners said the event had long been in the works, last month’s crime wave makes the meeting particularly timely. Since early March, Lincoln police have handled four alleged gang incidents. MAY City prevails in wrongful termination lawsuit After six days of testimony, a jury took less than six hours Friday to find for the defense in a wrongful termination suit against the city of Lincoln. Kathy Kirsan, a former building inspector for the city, was seeking more than $2 million in damages for wrongful termination, discrimination and retaliation for making a complaint. “They found for the city of Lincoln,” said Robert Henk, Kirsan’s attorney. “They read through the jury instruction and they found she had not been discharged. They concluded she retired, that her retirement was not forced by the city of Lincoln.” School board trustees consider budget cuts Trustees of the local school board were faced with the reality of trimming fat on an already lean budget when they were presented with a budget committee’s final recommendations on Tuesday. According to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s current state budget, the Western Placer Unified School District expects a shortfall of $2.4 million for the 2008-09 school year. At a May 20 board meeting, trustees will vote to approve the proposed cuts, the most controversial of which eliminates more than 20 employee positions, including the full-time principal position at Sheridan Elementary School and faculty staffing multiple programs at Lincoln High School. Suit against school district gets under way A wrongful termination and discrimination suit against Western Placer Unified School District got under way Wednesday after several lengthy delays. Christina Conn, a special education teacher, initially filed the suit in February 2006, alleging she was not rehired by the district because she advocated for her own children, who have special needs. Conn was hired by the district in August 2003 as a full-time probationary teacher whose probation would have ended in August 2005. Conn alleges that she discovered that her children were not receiving the educational services mandated by state and federal law. JUNE School district fights off lawsuit by former teacher A jury did not take long to decide in favor of Western Placer Unified School District Thursday, coming back with a verdict less than three hours after closing arguments. The district was facing a wrongful termination and discrimination suit filed by former special education teacher Christina Conn. Two Lincoln Hills men die on Tahoe camping trip Tom Hylton was “like a little boy,” he was so happy to be planning a camping trip with his best friend, neighbor Jerome “Jerry” Smith. The two set out June 2 for what was to be a two-day backpacking trip to prepare for a longer, 12-day trip later this fall. But when the pair did not return on June 4, their wives grew worried and called for help. Early Friday morning, El Dorado Search & Rescue volunteers discovered the body of Hylton, 70. Smith’s body was located at approximately noon Saturday near the steep shores of Eagle Lake. It appeared that Smith, 78, fell in his attempt to hike out and obtain help for his friend. Autopsies revealed that Hylton died of a heart attack while Smith likely died of exposure. District files suit against TBMS architect, builder Western Placer Unified School District – long dogged by allegations that it mismanaged its recent building project – has filed a lawsuit against the architect and builder of Twelve Bridges Middle School. The civil suit, which was filed in Riverside County, alleges that NTD-Stichler and Edge Development presented false claims for payment to the district while building the middle school, which was completed in 2006. City Council adopts final $128.9-million budget The Lincoln City Council adopted its 2008-09 budget Tuesday, despite an ongoing disagreement over whether to include monetary contributions to nonprofits. The final budget includes the contested funding – $35,000 from the general fund and $32,500 from the redevelopment agency – to groups including the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Volunteer Center, and Lincoln Arts and Lincoln Community Foundation. JULY Grand jury report critical of WPUSD Western Placer Unified School District made many errors and misjudgments in facilities construction and financing during the last decade, the Placer County grand jury said in a report released Friday. The district’s ongoing financial troubles, including an unexpected budget shortfall discovered in 2006 and approximately $189 million in facilities-related debt, had forced the postponement of the proposed new Twelve Bridges High School. Questions regarding district construction projects – compiled by district director of maintenance and facilities Frank Nichols and assistance director Mike Thornbrough – prompted Steve Pounds and Darly Sanbeck to file an official request for investigation with the Placer County grand jury in September 2007. Ground broken on Thunder Valley project Construction is poised to start within two weeks on the United Auburn Indian Community’s new 650-room, 23-story hotel and 3,000-seat performing arts center at Thunder Valley Casino near Lincoln. The construction projects, which will expand on the current five-year-old casino, is expected to be completed by summer 2010. As well as the hotel and performing arts center, the project includes completion of three new restaurants, more gaming space and a new poker room, a parking structure capable of holding 5,000 cars, and spa. AUGUST Mold problem temporarily closes fire station The Twelve Bridges fire station doors have been closed for weeks now but the situation is temporary, said Lincoln Fire Chief Dave Whitt. The station was closed after mold was discovered in several locations. According to Whitt, the fire station, which opened in 2001, has had some minor mold issues related to moisture in the past. Grant funds new Lincoln youth center A long-deferred dream for Lincoln youth has come to fruition, thanks to the generosity of Maloof Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Sacramento Kings and Monarchs. A youth center targeting middle-school students is taking shape at the vacant fire station on H Street and will be unveiled after an “extreme makeover” renovation Sept. 2. Marine recruiter arrested for sex with teen A Stockton Marine Corps recruiter was arrested Aug. 20 on suspicion of having sex with a Lincoln High School student, Lincoln police reported. Victor Sanchez-Millan, 23, was taken into custody at approximately 4 p.m. Aug. 20 in Sacramento County and charged with unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and unlawful communication with a minor. Sanchez-Millan was booked into the Placer County Jail with a bail of $75,000. SEPTEMBER Rainbow Market calls it quits It’s official – Rainbow Market is closing its doors within 30 days. After months of negotiating with the building’s landlords, the parties were unable to come to terms. Rainbow Market has operated in Lincoln since 1969, when the owners purchased Creer’s Market in what is now the Ace Hardware store. Rainbow moved to its current location on Highway 65 in 1983. Gladding fire torches three homes At least three homes were destroyed as wind-whipped flames ripped through 500 acres of dry ranchland in rural Lincoln on Monday. Approximately 10 other structures and multiple vehicles and pieces of farm equipment also were lost in the fast-moving blaze, which was first reported off Gladding Road at approximately 12:40 p.m. Monday. OCTOBER Creekside Village project receives go-ahead The Creekside Village project was approved by the City Council in a 4-1 vote after much debate. The project will consist of 23 single-family homes and will be situated across the street from Fire Station 34, on the corner of First Street and Joiner Parkway. NOVEMBER Lincoln voters decide Paul Joiner, Tom Cosgrove and Spencer Short will fill the three contested seats on Lincoln’s City Council while Stan Nader and Allen Cuenca came up short. Lincoln facing deep cuts to balance budget In the Nov. 20 budget workshop, city government officials determined that $1 million from the General Fund and $350,000 from the development fund needs to be cut by the beginning of 2009 to keep the city’s budget balanced. Mayor Primo Santini said the purpose of the meeting was not to make cuts but rather to give city staff an idea of the scale of cuts as well as where to recommend cuts be made. DECEMBER Santini gets a big sendoff Two-term member guided Lincoln through eight years of various growing pains – Former Mayor Primo Santini was honored at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, after eight years in office. The meeting started with the swearing-in of the four recently elected city officials, Paul Joiner as a councilman, Tom Cosgrove as mayor-pro-tem, Spencer Short as mayor and Sheron Watkins as city treasurer. School bond considered The Western Placer Unified School District will move forward in placing a bond measure on the ballot in the state’s next election. The board determined at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting that the district needs to raise as much as $222 million for school improvements and the planned Twelve Bridges High School. District officials and board members decided that issuing a general obligation bond is the best way to raise the funds.