Looking back on 2002: Plague and politics highlighted second half of year | SierraSun.com

Looking back on 2002: Plague and politics highlighted second half of year

Christina Nelson

This summer, Truckee was plagued with, well, the plague, but escaped the fires that ravaged the West.

Continued controversy over land use wafted in on the fall breezes and November’s elections saw some changes in local government.

The following is part two of the Sierra Sun’s year in review:

July

— Resort development stalled: After its approval by the planning commission and town council in June, East West Partners’ Old Greenwood development was challenged by a petition seeking to rescind the council decision or put to a vote ordinances related to the project’s approval.

Truckee SOS (Save Open Space) had to come up with signatures from 745 registered Truckee voters for the petition to qualify. Because some signatures were not valid, the group did not succeed in putting the Old Greenwood development on the ballot. Also, the Mountain Area Preservation Foundation filed a suit that would challenge the adequacy of Truckee’s general plan and its approval of the development. MAPF felt there were inconsistencies between the approved project and policies in Truckee’s general plan, that the general plan itself is inadequate and that it violated the California Environmental Quality Act.

— Triathlon draws athletes: Nearly 1,500 athletes descended on scenic Donner Lake for the 21st Annual Donner Lake Multi-Event Challenge. The race includes a .9-mile swim, 24.6-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run, as well as a 10K run and 2x5K relay.

— Suspected dog poisoner pleads: A Truckee man pleaded innocent to charges he poisoned a dog by baiting a bowl of antifreeze with dog biscuits. He was charged with one felony count of cruelty to an animal resulting in death and a second could to poisoning of an animal, a misdemeanor. His felony charge was later dropped to a misdemeanor, and in November, a jury found him guilty and sentenced him to 30 days in jail.

— Accidental bear shooting: Early in the morning on July 19, residents of Coachland Mobile Home Park were awoken by a shot that was used to divert a bear from the area. Truckee Police Department officers were in the area when they spotted the bear. But instead of the usual rubber bullets typically used to scare bears away, the officer accidentally used a real bullet and wounded the bear. Officials were not able to determine if the bear is dead or alive.

August

— Fire quickly snuffed: While much of the West was ablaze, the Truckee region suffered from only a few fires this summer. Aug. 19 a brushfire threatened a dozen homes in the Prosser Lakeview area, but burnt only three acres thanks to the Martis Peak fire lookout and a quick response from local fire agencies. Within an hour the fire had been completely extinguished.

— Plague closes state park: Donner Memorial State Park shut down Aug. 27 when rodents suspected of carrying the plague were found on park grounds. After park officials observed dead chipmunks and squirrels, as well as a cat with plague symptoms, the park was closed voluntarily in the interest of public health.

— Archaeologists gather data on Chinese in Truckee: Nearly a century and a half after the departure of Chinese from Truckee, local archaeologists and historians got an opportunity to study remains left by the Chinese population that helped build a railroad through Truckee and contributed to its timber industry for decades. Digging up what they believe were ovens used to make charcoal, archaeologists were able to get a look at this under-documented segment of Truckee’s past.

— Sierra College’s new Truckee branch: After years of using left-over space and Tahoe Truckee High School, Sierra College held a grand opening ceremony for its new $900,000 state-of-the-art facility on Pioneer Trail. The college expects to serve 500 to 600 students in its new space.

September

— One year anniversary of 9/11: Students, faculty and staff gathered at Tahoe Truckee High School along with local law enforcement, firefighters, emergency response crews, parents and community members for a special ceremony of remembrance.

— Hospital names new CEO: Bob Schapper was named the new Tahoe Forest Hospital Chief Executive Officer after longtime hospital administrator Lawrence Long resigned from the post. Schapper began his job in mid-October.

— General plan update kicks off: The general plan update began early in the month when town staff held a public workshop to introduce the almost two-year update process to the community. The general plan is a type of mission statement for the Truckee, and this update will guide land use and development within the town limits over the next 10, 20 or 30 years. The original general plan was adopted in 1996, and only addressed issues up to the year 2014.

— Airport traffic up after 9/11: The Truckee Tahoe Airport saw a 24 percent increase in flight traffic in the last year. Some believe the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks actually helped with the increase because more people began looking for alternatives to long lines at major airports.

— Opposition to County Measure D grows: The Truckee Town Council drafted a resolution opposing Measure D – the Nevada County Property Owner Claims Reimbursement Process Initiative. The Grass Valley and Nevada City councils joined Truckee in opposition to the measure, which would have established a process for payments to property owners if a court determined a county regulation or action reduced the value of the property. The measure was defeated by voters in November.

— Fire exposes possible problem with transients: An abandoned campfire turned into a wildfire in nearby hills, which sparked some concern over problems posed by a growing transient population. The blaze, which occurred Sept. 14 in the Coldstream Canyon area, only consumed half an acre. An investigation into the incident traced back to an abandoned campfire surrounded by empty beer bottles.

October

— Pilot suspected in drug case: A commercial airline pilot and Truckee resident was a suspect in a marijuana-cultivation operation. The SkyWest Airlines pilot had been renting a Tahoe Donner house for only three weeks when officials reportedly found a hydroponic growing operation in a newly built garage. The pilot was out of the state when authorities discovered the operation. Eventually, the pilot was ruled out as a suspect.

— Bypass opens: The long awaited Truckee bypass opened on Oct. 24 with a ribbon cutting and speeches by local dignitaries instrumental in the bypass’ creation. The 1,500-foot-bridge spans Glenshire Drive and the Truckee River and offers drivers a shortcut between Interstate 80 and Highway 267.

— Report released on Prosser Creek Charter School’s finances: The FCMAT report on the school’s finances was released. The Placer County Department of Education commissioned the report after the county and district found out about a significant accounting error. The exact amount of the error has been hotly contested in recent months. Later in December a letter from the state of California Department of Education questioned the validity of that report. Prosser Creek worried the report could impact the renewal of their charter, which is up in June 2003.

— Senior meals program now controlled locally: After five years and five different out-of-the-area service providers, Truckee’s Senior Meals and Meals-on-Wheels programs are now controlled locally. The Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council assumed control of the program on Oct. 1. The program provides hot meals to more than 70 seniors and homebound residents daily.

— Learning from Tragedy: A memorial sign, commemorating the lives of three members of the Peckler family who were killed by a drunk driver on Highway 267, was unveiled Oct. 10. Tahoe Truckee and North Lake Tahoe high school students raised $1,000 to pay for the sign. The Peckler family will donate two annual $500 scholarships to NTHS and TTHS students who exemplify compassion, respect and kindness.

November

— Girls soccer takes state title: Winning against Boulder City and North Tahoe, the Wolverine’s took their fifth 3A state title in seven years. The championship game was played on Nov. 9 in Las Vegas.

— Truckee awarded grant to study mill site: The California Sustainable Communities Grant and Loan Program awarded the town $350,000 to aid redevelopment planning on the old mill site, just east of downtown. Truckee was one of only 10 communities in California to receive the grant, and was the only community with a population of less than 50,000 to receive the money.

— First big storm: Truckee saw its first big storm on Nov. 9, causing a few power outages, flash floods and toppling trees.

— Local elections hotly contested: The Truckee Town Council race saw nine candidates compete for three seats. After a close race throughout the night on Nov. 5, incumbent Ted Owens, former Planning Commission Chairman Craig Threshie and Beth Ingalls were elected. Winning narrowly, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Trustee Patricia Gibbons-Johnson was reelected after a race for the Area 1 seat against parent Sonya Retzlaff.

— School demographics see surprising changes: A demographics study commissioned by the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District showed that schools will see a continual increase in enrollment at the high school level, while numbers at the elementary and middle school sites will remain largely static.

December

— Storm wreaks havoc: What started as rain showers early in the weekend quickly turned into heavy snow by Monday, Dec. 16. High winds toppled trees and power poles, causing hundreds of Truckee residents to go without power – some for more than a week. Town officials quickly set up an Emergency Operations Center to make sure all local agencies were communicating during the storm. An emergency shelter was set up, but quickly shut when not enough people showed up. Snow continued throughout the week while power crews scrambled to get businesses and residences up and running again.