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North Kitsap Herald's Top 10 Stories of 2012
The top 10 stories of 2012, as selected by the staff of the North Kitsap Herald.
No. 1: One dead in shooting at Les Schwab Tire Center
On Feb. 8, Poulsbo Police shot and killed an armed man who had fired a handgun inside the tire center. Prosecuting Attorney Russell Hauge determined the shooting was justified. The man, Joseph Matthew Henninger, 24, was a North Kitsap High School graduate and sometime Olympic College student who lived near the tire center. His family said he was being treated for depression and that his doctor had recently changed his medication from Wellbutrin to Paxil. They said Henninger may have taken a wrong dose of the stronger medication.
No. 2: Poulsbo Police told to tighten evidence handling
On Feb. 28, the State Auditor’s Office issued a fraud investigation report that determined the Police Department must tighten its evidence-handling procedures. The investigation was conducted after several items were discovered missing from evidence, including two handguns that were supposed to be destroyed but were found in the possession of a former police evidence clerk. A gold necklace was also reported missing from evidence. And $2,000 from a fund used for drug investigations was unaccounted for and written off as a loss. The department has since adopted a new software system and new procedures for tracking evidence.
No. 3: $7 million set aside for acquisition of Port Gamble Bay shoreline
On April 24, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a supplemental capital budget that includes $7 million for acquisition of Port Gamble shoreline targeted for conservation. The two miles of shoreline is among the blocks of land, totaling 7,000 acres, that Pope Resources wants to sell in North Kitsap. The shoreline is the priority for the coalition of conservation groups, including the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe; all see the shoreline conservation as critical to continued recovery of the health of the bay. The money’s use for acquisition, however, hinges upon Pope Resources’ completion of a cleanup plan near the old mill site.
No. 4: Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe buys Heronswood
On June 15, Port Gamble S’Klallam had the winning bid for Heronswood, a 15-acre estate developed by renowned horticulturalist Dan Hinkley. The gardens once displayed 3,000 plant species from around the world. The Tribe immediately began exploring uses for Heronswood, and announced in December it would be used as a wedding venue beginning in spring 2013. Other potential uses: Native plant gardens, horticultural education, and retreats. Heronswood hosted five same-gender weddings on the first day same-gender marriages were legal in Washington state.
No. 5: North Kitsap hosts Babe Ruth World Series
The best 13-year-old baseball players in the U.S. were welcomed to the area for the Babe Ruth World Series; 10 teams competed in the series Aug. 15-22. According to organizers, the series was expected to pump about $1 million into the local economy. North Kitsap Babe Ruth Baseball raised $50,000 for visiting teams’ expenses, recruited local host families, and provided other support. Players were welcomed with a downtown parade and dinner at Kiana Lodge. Bryant, Ark. won the series, played at the Kitsap Fairgrounds.
No. 6: SoundRunner service ends
Passenger ferry service between Kingston and Seattle ended Sept. 28. The Kingston Port Commission voted to stop subsidizing SoundRunner after the passenger ferry showed no signs of significantly narrowing its budget deficit. At the end, the service averaged 34 daytime and 47 evening passengers, and had recovered only a quarter of its $1.02 million cost in fares. The port district began transferring SoundRunner’s two boats, purchased with federal grants, to other agencies. Meanwhile, advocates said passenger ferry service is important as an alternative means of transportation, and suggested forming a North Kitsap transit district to support service for the area.
No. 7: Fred Hill Materials closes
On April 20, the regional concrete materials supplier closed after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The company was 66 years old, had been operated by the Hill family for three generations, and at one time had 130 employees. The company blamed its downfall on the decline in new construction. Doug Weese, company spokesman, said, “In the grand scheme of things, Fred Hill provided a whole lot of livelihoods for 66 years.”
No. 8: Prosecuting attorney rules Suquamish shooting justified
On Feb. 3, Prosecuting Attorney Russell Hauge determined that the fatal police shooting of a Suquamish man in December was justified. Thomas Anthony Black, a non-Native man living on the Suquamish reservation, was shot and killed Dec. 8 when officers tried to serve an arrest warrant on another man at Black’s home. Black, who was sitting on a living room couch, refused to comply with officers’ orders that he raise his hands; he reached under a pillow and pulled out what turned out to be a toy gun. He was shot and killed by a Port Gamble S’Klallam Police officer.
Among the evidence reviewed by Hauge: Footage from body cameras worn by Suquamish police officers. Blood tests showed Black had methamphetamine in his system, according to Hauge’s report.
No. 9: Bockus resigns from Poulsbo Port Commission
Arnie Bockus resigned from office effective March 31, ending three months of questions about the legitimacy of his appointment to a commission vacancy. Bockus, defeated for reelection in November, voted before his term ended to appoint himself to another commission vacancy. Commissioner-elect Jim Rutledge said the Board of County Commissioners should make the appointment in accordance with state law. And, in an informal opinion, state Assistant Attorney General Christopher Lanese said a sitting commissioner is ineligible for appointment if the appointment is made during the commissioner’s term.
After three months in the disputed position, Bockus resigned, as did Port Attorney Greg Norbut, who had found there was no wrongdoing in Bockus’ appointment.
No. 10: Harrison Medical Center plan of correction accepted by CMS
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services “accepted” Harrison Medical Center’s plan to correct deficiencies that led to a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. The plan was filed after CMS determined the medical center failed to identify a couple’s injuries from a vehicle collision and provide adequate care. It was the medical center’s second violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act since 2000, according to CMS.
Doctors failed to diagnose Joseph Snowden’s broken right foot and Debra Snowden’s four broken ribs and a fractured sternum. The Snowdens complained to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and on the department’s behalf, the state Health Department investigated Feb. 8 and found the hospital “failed to enforce policies to ensure compliance” with the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act and “failed to provide an appropriate medical screening exam.”
Harrison CEO Scott W. Bosch responded, “We are responding to this aggressively. We have a very strong commitment to patient safety and obeying the laws of the land. We do not turn anybody away based on their ability to pay. From May 1  through February , we have provided $17 million worth of free care to those who don’t have the ability to pay. That demonstrates a massive commitment to all patients.”