2001: The Year In Review | SierraSun.com

2001: The Year In Review

Nik Dirga and Erich Sommer, Sierra Sun
Grant Barta/Sierra SunThe formation of the Truckee Police Department in September was one of the year's top local news stories.
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At the beginning of the year “2001” might have evoked visions of Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie, of spacemen exploring the stars and futuristic cityscapes.By year’s end, the future had arrived, bringing with it both triumph and tragedy. The world saw some of the worst of humanity this year in the terrorist attacks on America and the war in Afghanistan. In the nobler reactions to it by citizens from around the world, we also saw some of the best of humanity.Closer to home, we saw our own heroes in action. They were firefighters battling the Martis Fire, they were locals giving of themselves to help the victims of Sept. 11, and they were high school athletes beating back all challenges to win state championships.As we look back at the top local stories the Sierra Sun covered in 2001, we see more to be proud of than anything. Truckee made it through 2001 with its heart and charm intact, and we all look forward to 2002’s news to see what might happen next.January* A new chief in town: The Town of Truckee hires its first police chief, Dan Boon, formerly the police chief for Pismo Beach, Calif., to head the new Truckee Police Department. Boon’s first day was Jan. 29, and he immediately began preparing for the Sept. 1 start of operations for the new police force.* Tragedy hits Nevada County: On Jan. 10, a mental patient kills three and wounds two in attacks in Nevada City and Grass Valley, one of the worst massacres in the county’s history. Gunman Scott Thorpe is later declared mentally incompetent and institutionalized.* Changing of the guard: Dennis LeBlanc, 57, retires on Jan. 19 as the principal of Tahoe-Truckee High School after 10 years at the helm at the high school and 35 years in education. Mike Finney took over as the new principal after LeBlanc’s departure.* World Champion: Truckee resident Daron Rahlves wins the men’s giant slalom, or super-G, at the World Alpine Ski Championships in St. Anton, Austria. It was the first gold medal by an American in the super-G since 1982. Rahlves will be going on to compete in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.* Sewer lawsuit: The cities of Reno and Sparks and the Pyramid Lake Pauite Tribe sue the Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency over their plans to expand their water reclamation plant. The plaintiff’s suit alleges that the environmental review of the project was inadequate.February* A new home for town government: The new Town Hall on Airport Road is dedicated on Feb. 1. Prior to that, town officials and staff leased office space from the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.* Donner Ski Ranch still for sale: The planned sale of one of the area’s oldest resorts fell through when Arizona developers backed out of an agreement to purchase Donner Ski Ranch, a 460-acre resort on Donner Summit, for $10 million. The ranch remains on the market.* Suspect in dog shooting: Josh Hunt, 20, of Truckee, is arrested for the Jan. 19 shooting of a dog on Deerfield Drive. Hunt was charged with three felony counts, including animal cruelty. Hunt’s attorney would later argue that the shooting was the result of a long-standing feud between the residents and their dogs. Hunt was sentenced in December to spend 60 days in jail.* Teens die in tragic accident: Two popular Truckee high school students are killed in a Feb. 21 avalanche in Olympic Valley. Brendan Allan of Prosser Creek Charter School and Bryan Richmond of Tahoe-Truckee High School, both 17 and best friends, died after being buried under 5 to 6 feet of snow while skiing out of bounds on Squaw Valley USA’s backside. Over a thousand people turned out at their memorial, and a foundation was established to remember them.March* Measure A renewed: Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District voters agree in a 71 percent to 28 percent vote to renew for another four years the parcel tax, Measure A, that provides funding for area schools.* The dead cat house: Animal control officers, after responding to reports of suspicious odors from a Tahoe Donner residence, find more than 100 cats and other animals both dead and alive in the house. More than 60 dead cats were later recovered. Home resident Caroleen Potter was charged with two felony counts of animal cruelty for reportedly trying to kill all the animals by carbon monoxide poisoning. Animal control officers said they found a BBQ burning inside the house.* Citizens of the Year: Truckee Interclub names Lisa Ann Abrahams and Al Pombo its 2000 Citizens of the Year. Abrahams, the school nurse for Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District, was recognized for her years of volunteer work, while Pombo was commended for his work on the Truckee River Legacy Foundation’s trail program.* Glenshire water woes: Glenshire Mutual Water Co. announces it will lose 40 percent of its water supply due to high arsenic levels. The company begins explorations into having the Truckee Donner Public Utility District acquire the Glenshire water system.* Flying high at the airport: After a lengthy search, the Truckee Tahoe Airport hires a new general manager, David V. Gotschall, who took over for Peter Soderquist, who resigned in June 2000. Gotschall previously worked at San Jose International Airport as an operations manager.* Skater succeeds: Truckee teen skateboarder Tyler Buschmann returns home after achieving his goal of skateboarding 3,400 miles across the United States, from California to Times Square. The journey took him five months and led him on many adventures. Buschmann’s stunning task was aimed at setting a world record; it also won him a spot as one of several local torchbearers for the 2002 Winter Olympics.April* Snowpack drops below 50 percent of normal: A California Department of Water Resources survey on April 1 shows the water content of the snowpack was at 45 percent of normal. The 2000/2001 winter would turn out to be one of the four driest in the last century.* Man arrested for child’s murder: Albert Jimenez, Jr., 29, of Truckee, is arrested on suspicion of murder and child abuse in the death of 1-year-old Kylie Ann Kirbis-Fernoff. Jimenez served over two years in prison on a prior conviction of child abuse in Sacramento County. He will go on trial for murder in Nevada City in March.* It’s official, Truckee is growing fast: The United States 2000 Census figures show Truckee has gained more than 5,000 residents since 1990. The population increased from an estimated 8,848 in 1990 to 13,864 in 2000, a 56.7 percent increase.* Donner Lake residents vote for PUD takeover: Initial results show that Donner Lake residents overwhelmingly support the takeover of the decrepit water system owned by the Donner Lake Water Co. According to ballots sent out by the TDPUD to Donner Lake property owners, 86.7 percent supported the district’s acquisition of the system.* East West buys Featherstone: East West Partners announces it is purchasing Featherstone, a golf course and fractional ownership community under construction just north of Interstate 80 near the Prosser Village exit. With the earlier purchase by East West of Planned Community 2, the combined acreage owned by East West Partners within the Town of Truckee grew to roughly 1,700 acres, or 10 percent of the town’s land space.May* Water levels drop: An unusually dry winter is going to turn into an unusually dry summer this year, say officials with the state Department of Water Resources. As of early May, Prosser Reservoir holds just over a third of its water capacity, and storage at Boca Reservoir is less than half of the historical average. Water levels continued to drop throughout the summer.* Glenshire votes for the PUD: Glenshire residents vote overwhelmingly to abandon the Glenshire Mutual Water Company and have the Truckee Donner Public Utility District take over the system, which had high arsenic levels in several wells.* Drake retires: The last remaining member elected to the original Town Council following incorporation in 1993 announces he is stepping down. Robert Drake stepped down from the council at the end of May to spend more time with family. In June, the council selected Ted Owens to fill Drake’s seat.* Donner Lake Water Company folds: The Donner Lake Water Co. abruptly abandoned any legal claims to its failing water system, which the Truckee Donner Public Utility District sought to acquire. The move ended months of legal maneuvering to determine how to repair and who would manage the lake’s failing water system, which had led to a boil water order being declared by the state Department of Health Services in June 2000.* Town and county settle lawsuit: The Town of Truckee and Nevada County agreed to drop two lawsuits that have plagued both agencies for several years. Litigation between the Town of Truckee and Nevada County over property tax allocations and the formation of the town’s Redevelopment District were mutually dropped, announced county and municipal officials May 18.June* The Martis Fire: On the night of June 16, two local teens were camping in the Juniper Hills area east of Truckee when their campfire escaped its boundaries. Within a day, that small fire erupted into an inferno that burned for weeks between Truckee and Incline Village, eventually consumed more than 14,000 acres and required more than 3,000 firefighters to battle it.* Blamey is guilty: In a Nevada City courtroom filled to near capacity, Truckee’s Ronald D. Blamey is convicted of second-degree murder in the March 27, 2000, killing of his wife Michiel. Blamey was accused of killing his wife Michiel after an early morning argument. Blamey admitted to killing his wife, but said he did so in self-defense, fearing she was trying to pull a gun out of her purse. Michiel Blamey was a special agent with the California Department of Justice. In August, Blamey was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.July* Prevention focus of fire meeting: Nearly 40 Truckee residents and a panel of fire officials meet July 10 at Town Hall to air their concerns about the present fire conditions, then worked together to find possible solutions. The two-hour session was called by Nevada County 5th District Supervisor Barbara Green in hopes of addressing concerns that have risen from the ashes of the Martis Fire.* Brickelltown buildings demolished: After nearly four years, local developer Tom Grossman’s efforts to demolish two dilapidated historic structures in the old Brickelltown area of Donner Pass Road ends when the two buildings are torn down. Construction on a new development on the site began this fall.August* Gap Fire erupts: The second major local fire of the season burns more than 2,400 acres in the Emigrant Gap area, and leads to the closure of Interstate 80 for days, backing up traffic as far as Carson City. A troop of Boy Scouts was safely evacuated from the Marin Sierra Campground to the Sierra Mountain Middle School.* County, town reach jail agreement: The Nevada County Board of Supervisors unanimously approve an agreement that will provide round-the-clock jail and dispatch services for the Truckee Police Department, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and Placer County Sheriff’s Office at the existing NCSO substation in Truckee. The agreement effectively brought months of negotiations between the Town of Truckee and Nevada County officials over jail services to an end.* Meet the police: The Truckee Police Department is officially sworn in Aug. 28 during a public ceremony at Truckee River Regional Park. The ceremony was attended by approximately 150 family, friends and officials from over a dozen agencies across California. The new department began operations Sept. 1, giving the town its first official police force in its 130-year history.* More fires: As if the region hadn’t been hit hard enough, several more fires flare up in late August, including the 100-acre Bear Fire west of Sugar Pine Point State Park, and the Star Fire, which began in the deep wilderness of the American Canyon river southwest of Truckee. The Star Fire, in steep, inaccessible terrain, burned for weeks and eventually consumed 16,000 acres of near-virgin woodlands. The skies in Truckee were choked with smoke for days, causing health problems in some people.September* A nation in shock: Tuesday, Sept. 11 dawned as another ordinary fall day in Truckee. But by day’s end, the tragedy that hit New York City and Washington, D.C. was common knowledge to all. Even if one didn’t know a soul on the East Coast, not a person in Truckee was unaffected by the events. Blood drives were planned, benefits were held, the Tahoe-Truckee Airport was silent and mostly, we all mourned, watched the news and waited to see what would happen next.* Affordable housing needs: Sierra Village Homes, a 72-unit housing complex, officially opened in September. But in a sign of the area’s affordable housing needs, most of the units, including all 56 of the apartments deemed affordable housing, were already occupied or reserved for months. A waiting list is now in place for the affordable housing apartments. Many area residents applied for the affordable units as early as February.* Tahoe Rim Trail dedicated: About 300 people gather below Martis Peak outside of Truckee on Sept. 22 to celebrate the opening of the Tahoe Rim Trail, and the completion of the 20-year volunteer effort to build a trail around Lake Tahoe. The celebration began with Rim Trail Association president Bob Wolf introducing a group of 18 hikers, led by Steve Anderson and Art Presser, who completed the inaugural trek along the 150-mile completed trail.* Olympic torchbearers chosen: Several local individuals are named to carry the Olympic torch as it passes through Truckee Jan. 20, 2002 on the way to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Seven individuals will represent Truckee as they cover two-tenths of a mile along the torch route, wearing an Olympic warm-up suit: Tyler Buschmann, Ronald Kato, Bob Horvath, Dana and Jeff Hunting, Patty Robbins and Tammie Thompson.October* Terrorism fears hit Truckee: Remember anthrax? October 2001 was the month that will be remembered as “America freaks out.” The biological terrorism scares across America didn’t leave out Truckee and Tahoe. There were many scares, including shutdowns of post offices in Incline Village and Olympic Valley, a mysterious powder discovered in the Rite-Aid in the Gateway Center on Donner Pass Road, closing the drugstore for over five hours, and countless others. The panic subsided by month’s end, for the most part.* Chamber honors locals: The Truckee Chamber of Commerce holds its 48th Annual Dinner and Pandora’s Auction, honoring outstanding Truckee businesses. Award winners included: Stefanie Olivieri of Cabona’s, Chamber Member of the Year, OB’s Pub & Restaurant for the Hospitality Award, East West Partners for New Member of the Year, White Buffalo for Small Business of the Year, John Hetz for Volunteer of the Year and Tahoe Forest Hospice for Non-Profit Organization of the Year.November* Two charged in Martis Fire: The Nevada County District Attorney’s office files misdemeanor charges against two 18-year olds over an illegal campfire that allegedly led to June’s Martis Fire. Morgan C. Cooper, 18, of Truckee and Christopher A. Austin, 18, of Hirschdale, were each charged with two misdemeanor counts for maintaining a campfire without a permit and leaving the fire unattended.* No snow for Thanksgiving: With unseasonably warm temperatures, ski resorts are left unable to open for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, losing tourist business. But the weather soon turned, and following Thanksgiving storm after storm allowed resorts to open and make up for the brief slump.* Wolverine champions: What a fall the Tahoe-Truckee Wolverines had. The football, boys’ and girls’ soccer teams all won state titles in the Nevada 3A division, providing cause for rejoicing for sports parents and sports fans all over town. (For more sports, see Sports Year In Review page C1.)December* The snow arrives: All by itself, the month of December pretty much makes up for a snow-free fall and a dismal winter in 2000/2001. Constant snowfall after Thanksgiving meant that by mid-December, state hydrologists said that the Sierra Nevada already had accumulated half the snow the region normally gets in the wet-weather season. And winter didn’t even officially begin until Dec. 21.* Florian becomes mayor: Truckee Town Councilman Ron Florian is selected Truckee’s new mayor by the council. Mostly a symbolic post, the mayor is appointed by the rest of the Town Council on a rotating basis. The mayor serves a one-year term.* Northstar housing agreement approved: The Placer County Board of Supervisors approves Sawmill Heights Dec. 4, a 380-bed employee housing project in Northstar-at-Tahoe. Despite objections from environmental groups, the board voted unanimously to approve the project, citing the region’s critical affordable and employee housing shortage. The project will include 96 units or 380 beds primarily intended for Northstar employees, and a second full-service access road from Highway 267.* Donner Lake water boil order lifted: It took 18 months, two water system owners and a seemingly never-ending frenzy of negotiations, repairs and legal maneuvering, but as of Dec. 14, the people of Donner Lake no longer had to boil their water to drink it. The boil water order declared in June 2000 was finally lifted following system repairs by the TDPUD, writing the final chapter in a long and bitter struggle to get clean drinking water at Donner Lake.